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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Boomers to Millennials: Get Off My Lawn!

"Jacobin types hate the sixties, hate Bob Dylan, etc. But the politics then seems so much more advanced than now. And if you can believe it, some are arguing that the millennial DSA/Jacobin leftists are really throwbacks to the radicals of the 1930s. They couldn’t hold a candle even to the Gus Hall of that time. You hit the nail on the head when you say that perhaps these “leftists” really don’t hate capitalism all that much." - Michael Yates

The above quote was from a comment by Yates, to an article by Louis Proyect. The link to Proyect's article can be found at the end of this article. The reference to Gus Hall, refers to a long time leader of the Communist Party USA. Jacobin is an online magazine, whose editorial staff, for the most part, are members or sympathizers of Democratic Socialists of America, aka DSA. Reading between the lines I think Yates was casting a wider net, then merely "DSA/Jacobin leftists." My guess is he was going after millennial leftists in general. The give away is the part about "hate Bob Dylan." Horror of horrors! The younger generation has no interest in standing in line waiting to kiss the ass of a libertarian, misogynist, wealthy ego maniac! Oh the humanity!

Yates' comment drew a rebuttal from Farans Kalosar: "Bob Dylan (albeit an entertaining performer) is one of my own least favorites. What’s the big deal with this libertarian misogynist anyway? He used an electric guitar at a folk festival. That’s OK. But he also converted the authentic leftwing content of the folk movement into a gigantic moneymaking machine for himself personally–which is a big part of his very blurred 'message' if you ask me. IMHO, he’s about as revolutionary as a can of baby powder."
Were the politics  of the 1960's so much more politically advanced" than now? Do younger leftists "hate capitalism" less than their elders? It has to be noted that when the so called Boomers generation came of age during the sixties and early seventies, the post World War 2 boom was still in progress. Real wages, after inflation from 1946 to 1973 increased 74%.

This was a period of relatively low unemployment and in inflation adjusted dollars, higher income. When adjusted for inflation college tuition was less than 30% of current costs, rent less than two thirds of the  current cost, and health care probably less than one third. This was a period of time when even a degree in Under Water Basket Weaving was "marketable" or a high school graduate, could find a union job that paid enough, with benefits, for a decent standard of living.

Having come of age before the economy declined, beginning with the mid seventies, Boomer leftists for the most part, then, as well as now, discounted, and continue to do so, issues of  economic deprivation such as unemployment, homelessness, and poverty. While correctly recognizing that class oppression is not the only oppression that exists under capitalism, Boomers for the most part then and now, take this to the extreme, by insisting, that the only politics that matter are "identify politics and identity politics only". This had the effect of down playing the importance of class issues from the politics of the left, during that period. 

 Many of that generation of leftists, actually believe that the overwhelming majority of the US work force are either, computer programmers, tenured academicians, or high paid, unionized industrial workers. The leftists of that generation, who did well economically, have only contempt for their fellow Boomers, who didn't fare as well. One, a former Maoist, and a key leader in Progressive Democrats of America, actually posted on a leftist web discussion site, that the solution for unemployment was for the unemployed "to use their computers to generate $20-$60 self employment income"! 

The older leftists are totally at a loss to how to deal with the issues the younger generation face, such as, under employment, lack of affordable housing and health care, and declining income. They actually believe that the pay and benefits enjoyed by the highest paid in US society is the norm rather than the exception, and that all older workers retire with adequate pension. Some even claim, that the term "austerity" has no place in the vocabulary, of the US. It doesn't sound like those from the sixties really hate capitalism, all that much. In fact they seem to infer that we're all one big happy middle class family, here in their beloved, Murica.

Then we have the younger generation of leftists, who very much understand, having experienced, the ravages of capitalism. They acknowledge, unlike their elders, the existence of poverty, homelessness, lack of access to affordable health care, and crippling student debt. They know, from experience, that even an advance degree, is no guarantee to sustainable employment The younger generation know that the only use for a high school diploma, for the overwhelming majority of high school graduates,
is either a low paying job in the service sector, or enlisting in the military.

So who has the better politics, those who acknowledge the existence of austerity, or those who deny the existence of economic deprivation, in US society? Who hates capitalism the most, the refugees from the sixties who have made their peace with capitalism, or those whose hatred of capitalism, stems from their own experience? 

The article by louis Proyect.

Michael Yates' comment is number 8.  The full response by Farans Kalosar is comment number 14.

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