3 NOVEMBER 1967, Page 17

Extinct volcano


Over lunch in New York the other day,,,,a young, attractive New Left university girl are-. scribed her unhappiness about the Negro problem. At a recent interracial meeting, the Negro chairman asked all whites to sit together.. Then—would all the whites move to the back of the hall and the blacks to the front? Shuffling of seats. 'Now all of you whites get the hell out of here; we don't need you here.' and the whites left. Why was the girl so un- happy, because she thought. the Negro was right in expelling the whites from the meeting? Wck yes, but she couldn't blame him for what hi did any more than she could blame the Negroes at another political meeting who voted to con- demn the Israelis in the war against the Arabs, even though she was pro-Israel. She had just read Franz Fanon (the other New Left literary heroes are C. Wright Mills, Paul Goodmari, Herbert Marcuse and Albert Camus) and Awl' now understood the need for black violenqa because there was `no other Way.' And if 'they' attacked her nice middle-class parents in their nice St Louis suburban home, would she also understand? Yes, even though her parents Or serve lynch mob justice less than most whites.

If all this sounds mad and sick, it is and is not. The girl is intelligent, serious and is not involved in 'politics' (it is one of the pleasant facts of American university life that you can be New Left at the same time that you have opted out of politics) and is affianced to a medical student, white; she has no Negro friends. She is unhappy at the confusion in nag_ life but hers is a new kind of confusiort- acceptance by a white girl of black power as the only way out—out of what, to what? Mr Newfield, who does not believe in violence by anybody, has no answer on behalf of the New Left. Neither does Susan Sontag, who wrote in a recent Partisan Review that 'the white race is the cancer of human history,' a political pronouncement whose Hitlerian echo is in- audible to those who have now transformed racism into the new mandate of heaven.

. I do not mean to burden Mr Newfield with

the foregoing observations. His book is an in- formative, impressionistic catalogue of 'who was who' on the New Left (the batting order changes weekly). He is, however, writing about an extinct volcano like those other extinct vol- canoes, the beats, the hipsters, MeCarthyism, George Romney. While volcanoes have a way of suddenly exploding into life, there is little more than an occasional lava dribble from the New Left. Its latest efflux is Mr Newfield's report that one of the New Left leaders has pro- posed an alliance between the New Left and the 'individualist' New Right, a logical sugges- tion, since without some ethical system or at -least the consciousness of need for such a system, who knows what is right, left or centre? The New Left may yet revive another extinct volcano, the John Birch Society, as its con- tribution to the total transformation of Ameri- can society, their existential aspiration.

Why nobody will say it I don't know, but there is no New Left in America except for a lot of rhetoricians who write about the New Left. Despite Mr Newfield, the 'New Left' is not imbued with the innocence of Billy Budd but with the passivity of that frightened mob which made way for the Grand Inquisitor. Yet there is a new left in the world and they include Djilas, Mihailov, Daniel, Sinyavsky, Brodsky, the memory of Pasternak, Alex- ander Ginzburg, the Polish intellectuals, Ladislav Mnacko, Ludvik Vaculik, Jan Pro- chazka, the Peteifi Circle remnants, the intel- lectual victims of Mao's cultural revolution. The totalitarian system which oppresses this new left fears its adherents because they will not be silenced, but America will easily buy off and scare off the giggling pyromaniacs of Detroit, Newark, New Haven and their New Left flower-power narcoleptics. Pathetic, not prophetic, minority.