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July-August 2024 (Volume 76, Number 3)

Monthly Review Volume 76, Number 3 (July-August 2024)

Beginning on October 1, 1964, thousands of students at the University of California at Berkeley sat down for a day and half around a police car to prevent former graduate student Jack Weinberg, then head of the campus chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), who had been staffing a civil rights table, from being carted off to jail. As Hans Koning wrote in his book Nineteen Sixty-Eight, “That blocked car, one of the organizers told us, had been like the stuff of childhood dreams of glory.” Out of it arose the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and “the very idea of ‘Berkeley’ between quotes which would reach around the world.” On December 2–3, 1964, eight hundred Berkeley students occupied the central administration building until arrested by police. According to a journalist who covered the movement, “It wasn’t exactly that Berkeley was the first place where this mechanism kicked in [political protest] but it was the place where it went critical” (“Free Speech Movement,” Bancroft Library Oral History Center, University of California, Berkeley,; Hans Koning, Nineteen-Sixty Eight: A Personal Report [New York: Norton, 1987], 20; John Bellamy Foster, “The Spirit of ’68,” Monthly Review 41, no. 7 [December 1989]: 47–54—much of the text in the following paragraphs draws on Foster’s article).

The Berkeley Free Speech Movement, emerging the same year as Freedom Summer, was a product of the civil rights movement then reverberating on college campuses. However, student protest was to attain a more massive national scale in the United States during the anti-Vietnam War struggles of the late 1960s and early ’70s, with campus rebellions erupting almost everywhere. The Vietnam War, as Koning wrote, “was a different and absolute issue, not about kids wanting to go to a decent school but about kids being flayed by napalm, at our supposed behest, with our tax money.” One person after another realized that it was not morally possible to close one’s eyes and stand idly by. Once this point had been reached, one had the sense that all normal life was poisoned. The result was a level of insight unusual for the U.S. population. Suddenly, the Empire had no clothes and was seen in its naked reality (Koning, Nineteen Sixty-Eight, 20, 23; Mukund Rathi, “The Free Speech Movement in Berkeley Was a Defense of Civil Rights Activism,” Berkeleyside, March 13, 2018).

What materialized at this time, however, was not simply an antiwar movement, but rather a collection of struggles, which the ordinary foot soldiers engaged in the battle at the time referred to colloquially as “The Movement.” The Movement evoked a radical vernacular that broke with the hypocrisy of July Fourth rhetoric and increasingly with a political order that, in the words of Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, was “democratic in form, and plutocratic in content.” The same Columbia students who protested in 1968 against the university taking part in the Institute of Defense Analysis’s research on “Night Vision for Counterinsurgents and Chemical Control of Vegetation (Agent Orange)” also organized against university plans to have a new gymnasium built in Morningside Park, establishing an effectively segregated facility the only park in a predominantly Black community. For hundreds of thousands of students and for people throughout U.S. society, these struggles against war and institutionalized racism, accompanied by struggles over the environment, women’s liberation, gay rights, and other radical causes, merged almost overnight into one single Movement against what was often called “The System,” a euphemism for monopoly capitalism (Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, Monopoly Capital [New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966], 155; Koning, Nineteen Sixty-Eight, 62).

The Movement of the 1960s and early ’70s was regarded by the power structure in the United States as extremely dangerous, and was thus subject to enormous police repression, with the most violent, often deadly, actions of the state directed against Black revolutionary organizations. Counterinsurgency operations were instituted in the United States, most notably through the FBI’s COINTELPRO. The overall repression forcefully imposed on the minds of Movement activists, if they did not know it already, the understanding that what they were fighting was not just a political entity, but the capitalist system as a whole.

As a result, the shape of U.S. society was altered for more than a decade, with those in the corridors of power bemoaning what they labeled the “Vietnam Syndrome” in the popular consciousness, which effectively blocked U.S. military interventions abroad. The 1960s protests had a direct effect on the Vietnam War itself. In October 1969, President Richard Nixon planned to initiate a massive escalation utilizing nuclear weapons. Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger secretly delivered a nuclear ultimatum for November 1 to Hanoi. However, the absolute scale of the antiwar protests taking place in October 1969, as Nixon acknowledged in his memoirs, prevented him from going forward with the planned nuclear escalation (Richard Nixon, RN [New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1978], 393–414, cited in Daniel Ellsberg, “Call to Mutiny,” Monthly Review 33, no. 4 [September 1981]: 15–16, 23–24).

The shock to the U.S. ruling class and its power elite was palpable. Political scientist Samuel P. Huntington—best known today for his notion of the “clash of civilizations”—wrote in a report to the Trilateral Commission that the United States was suffering from excessive democracy. He argued that “democratic surges” had to be curtailed for the sake of the maintenance of the democratic order, ensuring that “people would obey” those “superior to themselves.” Subsequently, the U.S. ruling class has spent decades enhancing police power and abridging the rights to free speech and assembly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. This was especially the case on college/university campuses, where limitations on assembly were increasingly imposed as part of the overall “taming of the American crowd” (Samuel P. Huntington, “The United States,” in Michael Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission [New York: New York University Press, 1975], 74–75; Al Sandine, The Taming of the American Crowd [New York: Monthly Review Press, 2009], 163–69).

It is against this historical background of a half-century ago that the eruption of student protests and encampments across the country in April and May 2024—directed against both Israel’s genocide in Gaza and Washington’s ironclad support of its ethnic exterminism—has generated a near panic among the powers that be. The growing fear in ruling circles can be seen, almost from Day One, in the steps that Congressional committees, the White House, the corporate media, state and city officials, police, and university administrations have taken to undermine and forcibly remove the student encampments, with thousands of arrests and suspensions of students across the country. As billionaire Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir Technologies, a CIA-backed surveillance and data-mining corporation connected to the U.S. deep state and to Israel, declared on May 7: “We kind of just think these things that are happening, across college campuses especially, are like a sideshow—no, they are the show. Because if we lose the intellectual debate, you will not be able to deploy any army in the West [that is, by and for the Western capitalist powers], ever” (Caitlin Johnstone, “Empire Managers Explain Why This New Protest Movement Scares Them,” Caitlin Johnstone [blog], May 9, 2024,

What empire managers and money moguls like Karp fear is the emergence of a Palestine Syndrome (like the Vietnam Syndrome before it), leading to a general anti-imperialist sentiment, which would have the effect of blocking military interventions by Washington and its Western allies, thereby undermining the U.S. imperium. In the view of President Joe Biden’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, the danger is that Washington and Wall Street are losing control of “the narrative,” meaning that there is a dangerous break in the hold of the received ideology imposed by Western governments and corporations that needs to be addressed. Social media, despite the state and ruling-class controls imposed on it, has, he argues, ruptured the firewall imposed by the corporate media, with “an intravenous feed of information with new impulses, inputs every millisecond.” Occurring in a time of increased labor revolt, concerns over climate change, and the rise of neofascism, a grassroots revolt could reach uncontrollable dimensions. Every effort thus is being made by the U.S. power elite to put out the fire (Johnstone, “Empire Managers Explain Why This New Protest Movement Scares Them”).

A key approach utilized by the powers that be to delegitimize the pro-Palestinian movement and as a justification for repression has been weaponizing an expanded definition of “antisemitism,” interpreting any criticism of the Israeli government’s genocidal war on Palestinians as an attack on Jews, despite prominent Jewish participation in much of the overall opposition movement. This tactic, however, is losing force every day in the face of the exterminism being directed at the Palestinian people. It is increasingly evident that the pro-Palestinian movement is too strong to be defeated outright, and that attempts at repression are backfiring almost everywhere. Consequently, more and more people are suddenly seeing the fog lifted and learning about the realities of imperialism and racism, along with misogyny, class struggle, state repression, and capitalism.

At Monthly Review, we have been involved and active on the ground in support of the pro-Palestinian student movement. At the student encampment at the University of Oregon, where he is an emeritus professor, MR editor John Bellamy Foster gave teach-in presentations on settler colonialism and radical protest movements on May 2 and 9, respectively. Such events are emerging on campuses across the United States and around the world. The University of Oregon, along with a few other colleges and universities, such as Northwestern, Brown, Rutgers, the University of Minnesota, and the Evergreen State College, were able to institutionalize processes meant to negotiate the terms of divestment from Israeli assets, scholarships for Palestinian students, and support for hiring faculty in Middle East studies, which led to peaceful conclusions of the protests on these campuses.

Naturally, it is difficult at present to know whether we are actually witnessing the emergence of a new broad Movement such as that of the 1960s, though the recent determined actions of students at Columbia University; the University of California, Los Angeles; and elsewhere suggest this may well be the case. One thing, though, is certain: the central contradiction of world capitalism in the twenty-first century is the world population itself, which will increasingly be compelled to rebel in the face of the catastrophic conditions being imposed in our time.

Longtime Monthly Review author and leading U.S. cultural historian H. Bruce Franklin died on May 19, 2024, at age 90. Franklin received a doctorate in English from Stanford University and was hired as an assistant professor at Stanford in 1965. Beginning in 1968, he was active in various revolutionary movements, including the Revolutionary Union and Venceremos. He obtained international notoriety in 1972, when Stanford fired him for allegedly inciting students to riot in the context of anti-Vietnam War protests. Franklin is said to have inspired students to shut down Stanford’s contribution to the war effort by sitting down in the university computing center, an occupation that led to the students being dislodged by massed police. Franklin was hired as a full professor with tenure by the English department at Rutgers in 1975, where he was to remain for the rest of his academic career. His creativity was marked by the fact that he won prestigious awards in fields as various as American Studies, prison literature, science fiction, and marine ecology. He authored/edited some twenty books, wrote hundreds of articles, and participated in the making of four films.

Franklin’s first article for Monthly Review, “The Lumpenproletarian and the Revolutionary Youth Movement” was published in January 1970. His last article/interview for MR, appearing more than a half-century later, was “H. Bruce Franklin’s Most Important Books,” a piece written with Doug Storm. But perhaps Franklin’s most significant contribution to MR was his November 1982 article “On the Rewriting of History.” Here Franklin examined changes in Encyclopedia Britannica’s twenty-six-page article “Colonialism (c. 1450–c. 1970)” as it had appeared in its 1974 edition. The first and shorter part of that article, ending with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, had been written by Charles E. Nowell, emeritus professor of history at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The second part, covering the more than two hundred years after that, including the Vietnam War, had been written by Harry Magdoff, editor of Monthly Review. Franklin examined how in the 1979 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, the Magdoff portion was lopped off beginning in 1919. The later parts of Magdoff’s article were replaced by a piece by the Berkeley professor Richard Webster. Seeking to dispel any sense of U.S. imperialism entirely, Webster, in what Encyclopedia Britannica said was meant to update Magdoff’s contribution, excluded the U.S. War in Vietnam altogether, ending the piece with the French Defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954! Franklin’s conclusion was devastating:

The full implications of this kind of blatant rewriting of history in the late 1970s are ominous indeed. Tens of millions of people in the United States were awakened into consciousness by the events of the 1960s and early 1970s. A massive assault on this consciousness has been underway for several years now, marked by quite successful attempts to gain total control of the media, book publishing, and education. Integral to this offensive is the rewriting of history to conform to the interests of neocolonialism, which is constantly assuming new shapes and disguises. One of these disguises is in fact the cloak of phony “objectivity,” which is used to cover up the vital knowledge we won and need to reclaim. (Bruce Franklin, “On the Rewriting of History,” Monthly Review 33, no. 8 [November 1982]: 46–47)


In John Bellamy Foster’s, “Einstein’s ‘Why Socialism?’ and Monthly Review,” Monthly Review 76, no. 1, May 2024, page 18, paragraph 3, line 5 from the bottom, “October 7, 2024” should read “October 7, 2023.”

2024, Volume 76, Number 03 (July-August 2024)
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