Draft materials

Killing the Revolution
The Past is Prologue: Resistance, Rebellion, Reaction - Viet Nam and its Aftermath
This should be read with and compared to the excellent analysis by Steve Kangas at
especially "The Origins of the Overclass" at

An email  from Jerry Bass mentioned Michael Savage of "Savage Nation" (how apt), who is apparently a right wing radio talk host (how unique!).   Except for getting an occasional "Know Your Enemy" briefing from the Clear Channel stable of Felon Radio and Rash Limpbow fellow traveler talk show flacks available during my frequent drives across this great nation, I gave up listening to their unmitigated blather years ago.

Not many will recall HL Hunt's right wing broadcasts of the 60's, which were my last regular indulgence in this form of self flagellation.  (Save for a time in the late '80's when I subscribed to several publications put out by a rightist pseudo Democrat in Virginia, name gone missing right now, who is recently out of jail again.)

My grandfather immunized me to these rightist holy rollers as a child, when I sat at his knee listening to his arguments with  HV Kaltenborn and others of that ilk as they condemned Roosevelt and Truman.

Texan HL Hunt - then purveyor of HLH Foods (and father of the Hunt brothers [Hunt Oil Consolidated - $2 billion 2001 revenues, 93rd in family controlled businesses] infamous for the great 1980 "silver corner"


All that was necessary to destroy what the revolutionaries of the '60s were building (yes, he laid that out, but so framed as to 'restore what they were destroying') would be to encourage them in their most characteristic weaknesses, while providing an authoritative and authoritarian source of relief to counter the difficulties those weaknesses would produce for them.

Implementation appears to have followed these lines:

  • A major problem facing the ruling elite was the sheer size, energy, non-conformity and creativity of the "baby boom" cohort.   This group had the potential, if it remained cohesive and politically active, to transform the politics and social agenda of the US.  Reigning it in would be a long and arduous task, and battles would be lost, before the war against the new democracy and equality this group was promoting could be won.  (1), (2)
  • A good slap in the face for the perpetrators of this assault on the US ruling elates, at Kent State, where four students were murdered by Ohio National Guardsmen acting on the orders of the Governor, would begin the process of restoring the ancient regime.
  • A roughly simultaneous, orchestrated press propaganda campaign asserting the pointlessness and hopelessness of protests against the Viet Nam war, and of direct engagement in the nation's political life in general, accelerated the post Kent State withdrawal from active political engagement and initiated a cycle of political 'disaffection' of many former activists.   It is ironic that this disenchantment with engagement and activism occurred just as those strategies were forcing re evaluation, reconsideration, and finally abandonment of that exercise in imperialist folly, the Viet Nam War.
  • The atavistic cry for discipline and structure would be answered by "New Age Religion",  "Jesus Freaks" and, for the most emotionally vulnerable, by "cults" and the revitalization of fundamentalist religious traditions.

The residual issue of how to deal with those members of the 'boom' cohort who were immune to the authoritarian appeals of pseudo religious movements required another approach.  The intellectual basis for the radical analysis of US imperialism and racism would be weakened and narrowed by development an attractively anti authoritarian, but most importantly exclusives and at the core anti intellectual, movement in the Universities.   This pseudo progressive movement was both fomented, in that certain intellectual traditions unfriendly to rational 'enlightenment' values were selected for development, and controlled, in that its participants' opportunities for advancement and tenure in the academy were limited by University administrations to politically and economically irrelevant departments.  "Core" disciplines no longer had room for radical thought of any stripe no matter how rigorous, and governance was set in place to enforce that decision. (3)

This vestigial 'radical' movement in the Universities provided a highly visible and controversial target for rightist commentators and political activists within and outside the academy who made themselves out as the good guys by arguing against its so called obscurantism and for a return to (their version of) true intellectual rigor.   Despite its small size and ineffectiveness, it became a source for disaffection with the US system of University education by many lower middle class, conservative Americans (including Newsweek and John Leo).  (4)

In addition, the youthful and idealistic energies driving the protest by the boomer cohort against the Viet Nam war and US imperialism and racism would be redirected inward, against their own "guilty selves" (the rebellious child within).  Earth Day, 1970, marked the birth of a new and potentially very worthy environmental movement  -- but one which funders and organizers focused, not on institutional greed, pollution and environmental degradation but rather on the need for the  "guilty children" to form trash cleanup brigades and "recycle".  In other words:  'Save the world, pick up after yourselves!' (and leave corporate polluters alone).  Don't think I exaggerate, I was there.

A new motto encapsulated this redirection of energies and action:  "Think globally, act locally!"   This both played on the deep suspicion of government of this generation which resulted from the conflict over Viet Nam and further diverted its intellectual and political energies from possibilities for effective political action.

As a matter of course the institutional changes needed to make any individual and community effort to protect and restore the environment truly effective  (e.g. curbside pickup of sorted garbage,  changes in overall waste management and land use policies, etc. ) were to be rendered, in so far as possible, unattainable by the de legitimization and supposed 'futility' of global political activism and governmental action.    Certain businesses, notably "Waste Management" were primary beneficiaries of  this aspect of the movement.

"Stalking Horse" Presidential candidates embodying both the disaffection of the boomer cohort from direct participation in the political processes, and the diversion of energies to environmental issues - including  John Anderson in 1980 and Ralph Nader in 2000 - have since drawn the votes of these politically 'disaffected', altering the results of our elections so as to further weaken the cohesion of their movement, defer achievement of the their social, political, and environmental goals, and convince them even more completely of the futility of political action.  (5)

It is a bitter irony that the administrations elected in 1980 and 2000 have been led by Presidents and Cabinet officers who derided the few institutional and public policy changes which had actually been  implemented through political action as the policies of "tree huggers" and "spotted owl lovers", incompatible with economic health and opportunity in a free enterprise system.  Every institutional reform resulting from global political action by the environmental movement has been or is being rolled back by the Reagan/Bush and Shrub administrations.  Only the responses of the individual "guilty self" are to be admitted as having any validity, government and corporate interests are to be held as untouchable.

Endgame in the Culture War!

With the anointment of the Shrubbyist government by the Rhenquist Court after the election of 2000, a group of neo conservatives, former junior members of the Reagan administration, moved into senior positions in government.  (Do a family history on the Rhenquists.  What you come up with will remind you of the family in Louisiana that used to spend Sunday dinners discussing  "killing Huey Long", except the object of Rhenquist hatred was Roosevelt and the New Deal.)

Finally, they were in a position to press the war against the boomer revolution of the 1960's to a conclusion, to roll back the social and political advances that had been achieved in and since the battles against racial segregation and the imperialist adventure in Viet Nam, and even to prosecute a new war - a war  against the social and political attitudes  which had supported the Roosevelt and Truman administration's efforts to build a social safety net in the US and defeat Nazi and Fascist ideologies abroad.

There was a problem - as an appointed, and not an elected government, their legitimacy was in doubt.  And they did not have an effective majority in the Congress.  The tragic attack of September 11, 2001 solved that problem for them, and the neo-con, neo-fascist, neo-medievalist juggernaut was on the roll - rolling back 80 years  of social and political progress in the US, and rolling over the rest of the world.

Back at the beginning, in Viet Nam, no one, not Nixon, not Johnson, not their Generals or their advisors would, despite the imprecations of extremists in this country, advocate to the American people the use of nuclear weapons to bring the Vietnamese people to their knees.  The neo-Cons running this Shrubbyist government, still bitter, full of resentment and even hatred of the military defeat of (and moral victory for) the US in Viet Nam are hell bent for leather to  "assure" the world that THEY lack no such resolve - they will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons in Iraq.

But even more important to these people, Perle, Wolfowitz, and company,  is their hatred of those Americans who fought against our involvement in that foolish, tragic, war.  Their primary aim is to destroy every last vestige of the institutions of liberty, equality and fraternity that were built by those who fought against our involvement in Viet Nam, to erase every trace of the culture and ideology of the hated '60s, both here and abroad.

It is this that drives them, and that provides motive to their war strategy. It is not the oil! (6)  It is politics, and it is a deep emotional need to reverse the transformation of  our political institutions and culture, the institutions and culture of the entire world, that drives these people.  The readiness with which opponents to their strategy seize upon oil as the motive for their desire for perpetual war is a real boon and convenience for them, as it delays and prevents recognition of the depth of the emotion driving, and the danger of their achieving their true goal.

(1) Besides having listened to HL Hunt's analysis and "predictions" regarding the fate of these idealists and reformers, my understanding is informed by the book "An Anatomy for Conformity", Edward L. Walker & Roger W. Heyns, A Spectrum Book, Prentice Hall,  Engelwood Cliffs, N.J. 1962.  See here for a summary of its findings.

(2) I have often regretted not accepting an invitation to attend a seminal conference of rightists, held in Colorado Springs, CO ca. 1980, at which many of the political and religious strategies designed to reverse the progressive advances of the previous half century were laid out, in some detail as I recall from the agenda.  This planning included balanced budget amendments and term limit amendments to State constitutions, to be followed by similar amendments at the Federal level; creation of a strong right wing political movement within susceptible churches; promoting measures such as "property tax relief" designed to starve the public sector of resources for public needs and benefits; etc.

Funding for the political campaign supporting term limits (and possibly the conference) was provided primarily by the Koch family of Wichita, KS.  Koch Oil is the second largest privately held company in the US, and would rank among the 25 largest public companies in the US with $40 billion in sales (and only 11,000 employees) in 2001.nbsp Don't tell these folks the US is not the land of opportunity.  Fred K. founded the company in 1940!

(3) I will note that much discussion of such pre-emptive and co-optive strategies was published and available in the records of academic conferences on student unrest at US universities during the late 1960's.  The published proceedings of one set of such conferences was on the shelves in the library of the Kennedy School of Government when I attended there in 1982 and 1983, and made very interesting reading.

(4) In parallel with the marginalization and degradation in quality of the  critique of US society in the Universities, a form of

(5) Though Carter's defeat in 1980 cannot be laid at anyone else's doorstep, it is easily forgotten that Reagan won with 50.7% of the popular vote.  Had it not been absolutely clear that Anderson would draw enough votes to guarantee Carter could not be elected, enough additional Carter voters might have shown up at the polls to swing the popular vote to Carter.  But Carter's inaction in dealing with the "Stagflation" hangover from the Nixon administration, with high unemployment, high interest rates, and high inflation, coupled with his passivity in the face of the Tehran embassy hostage situation, likely guaranteed his defeat under any circumstances.

(6) "People here will tell you openly that this is not just about oil. This is about controlling the Middle East and its 100 million Muslims. It is about subjugation. It is about the supremacy of the U.S. over an uncooperative world. It is about making the United Nations irrelevant and useless for future debates.  America, seen through the eyes of Arabs here, is presenting itself as the only true and capable leader of the entire world. And Iraq is to be the example of what happens when you fail to adhere to the commands and wishes of the "world's greatest superpower.""

Originated:  February, 2003