Before I return to the Critique, one final word, prompted by M's heartfelt cry from Utah. I fear we are all living in Utah now, for all that the scenery may vary. No, it is useless to burn police cars or trash neighborhood convenience stores. The most reliable incubators of progressive change in America, for all their faults, have been the labor unions. The dying embers of the Tigger in me await the results today of the Wisconsin recall elections, which more than anything else were prompted by attacks on hard-won union rights. Perhaps if those recalls are successful the scores of millions of progressive Americans will begin to stir. They are out there, and in the American electoral system, every vote counts for one [more or less, of course], regardless of the intensity with which it is cast. Preference intensity is expressed by turnout, and if enough progressives can be troubled to vote, we might begin to make a change in at least some of what is wrong with this country. Not with the foreign policy -- that would require the reintroduction of the universal draft and -- for real effect -- the elimination of the college deferment. Fat chance. The military learned its lesson in Viet Nam and will not return to a citizen army.
But the larger structural problems remain. Even a fairer, less unequal America would still be a capitalist America with an increasingly large unemployed and unemployable population. I tried to analyze the reasons for the failure of the socialist dream in my paper, "The Future of Socialism," available on box.net. Nothing I have seen lately leads me to change what I wrote there.
Still and all, I am reminded that when Herbert Marcuse wrote One-Dimensional Man, he was convinced that there simply was not a movement on the ground that could undergird a progressive politics. Almost the next year, young people in Europe and America awoke and took to the streets, and for a few delicious moments one could again believe in the possibility of radical change.
On the title page of the first volume of my Memoirs, I quoted a poignant passage from Erik Erikson's great book, Childhood and Society: "An individual life is the accidental coincidence of but one life cycle with but one segment of history." Had I been born in 1883 rather than in 1933, I might have lived the last years of my one and only life during the upheavals of the late sixties and early seventies. I could have taken part in the dramatic events at Columbia University of 1968 not as a young professor in my thirties, but as an old professor emeritus in my eighties. I would have died believing that the dreams of my grandfather were finally coming true. I would have been wrong, of course, but since I am an atheist, I do not believe I would have ever known that I was wrong. Perhaps the most we can hope for is to have the good fortune to die deludedly happy.