Bob Dylan turns 70. Has the Left changed since 1963?

I love the ‘US out of Vermont’ slogan on the guy on the left and the rest of the cartoon made me laugh too. But it got me thinking, tactics on the left haven’t changed much since Dylan’s early days, have they? Back then it was civil rights marches. A few years later the anti-Vietnam War mobilizations were huge and had massive impact. Some of those DC protests drew a million people, and they were organized without email, Twitter, the Internet, faxes, or copiers. To use current jargon, word about the protests spread virally.

Not much has changed on the Left since then in terms of tactics and strategy. It’s all a bit calcified, frozen in amber. Protests, even huge ones, don’t have the impact they had in the 1960’s, when it was all fresh and new. Yet the left mostly plods along with the same old ideas – and wonders why its impact has waned. The world has changed, the American Left, not so much.

First off – and this has become abundantly clear since we moved to southern Utah – the American Left is almost entirely urban and seems allergic to going into rural areas. Along with this too often comes the unspoken assumption that anyone living in the country must be a right-wing, gun-toting goober (who needs politics explained to him by a leftie living in a city who doesn’t know the difference between hay and straw.) But the only thing correct about that is the gun-owning part. The Populist Revolt of the 1890’s came straight out of the Kansas farmer heartland. And I bet not a single left-wing organizer from the city ventured there to see what was happening or lend a hand.

And could we please toss out the tired old idea that mass organizing can only happen with the help of or be led by unions? Most unions today are ineffective and part of the problem. The leadership of major unions hasn’t the slightest interest in creating One Big Union to smash the bosses, as this could threaten their big salaries and private jet travel perks. The current protests in the Middle East and now in Europe aren’t coming from unions or even from just the left. They are arising spontaneously from a pissed-off populace.

The best thing the American Left can do is to nurture (not lead) such dissent. But as to when this could happen, the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.


  1. I marched on DC with AIM in ’76. A million people. Yeah, that’s me in the iconic photo.

    We dropped the ball, my generation did… we stopped The War!

    Our War. Viet Nam.

    But we didn’t stop War.

    We forced Nixon to accountability. Whoopee! Nixon quit, The War is Over! Let’s finish our law degrees, cut our hair, and buy beemers and half-million dollar houses on the high desert!

    We stopped The War. Our War. Viet Nam. But we didn’t stop War. We finished our law degrees and bought overpriced McMansions, and left the machinations in place, notably Bush/Carlyle, Cheney/Haliburton and Rumsfield/etal, that led to the Authoritarian State – the Fascist State – we are about to, if not have, become.

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