Socialism in America
"The struggle of History is not
between the bourgeoisie and the
proletariat; it is between government
and the governed."
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|Philosophy of Evil
Socialism In America
By Jerry McDaniel
The Johnson Era
The Great Society
The next big surge of Progressivism would occur in the 1960s with Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the antiwar
movement against the Vietnam War. On November 22, 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a
motorcade in Dallas Texas. His Vice-President, Lyndon Johnson succeeded him. Over the next five years, Johnson greatly
expanded the Vietnam War and introduced the most ambitious progressive social programs since FDR, known as the Great
The Great Society, in many ways, was an extension of Roosevelt’s New Deal, although there were some major differences
in both the conditions of society and in the programs. The New Deal was imposed on an economy that was deep in a
depression and many of the programs were only temporary. The Great Society was implemented during a time of relative
prosperity and many of its programs were permanent and irreversible without major upheavals in the economic and
political structures of the nation. The New Deal introduced a planned, controlled economy on much of America’s
industrial, agricultural and business establishments, but at the same time, its work projects provided millions of jobs to
people that would have otherwise been unemployed. The Great Society programs were, for the most part, simply transfers
of wealth in true socialist fashion. Both made giant strides in transitioning the nation from federalism to nationalism.
Following John Kennedy’s lead Johnson convened 14 separate task forces composed of government experts and
academicians to study all facets of the society. 13 of the 14 focused on domestic issues; natural resources, pollution of the
environment, agriculture, anti-recession policy, civil rights, education, health, income maintenance, efficiency and
economy. The reports from these task forces formed the basis for Johnson’s Great Society programs. Johnson received
61% of the popular vote in the 1964 election giving him political “capital” to pursue his progressive agenda. In addition,
Democrats controlled more than two-thirds of both houses of Congress.
Civil rights were a major issue during Johnson’s presidency. During the first two years, he signed three of the four major
civil rights bills that would be passed while he was in office; The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965
and the Immigration and Nationalities Act of 1965. He also launched an “unconditional war on poverty” with the
Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the creation of an Office of Economic Opportunity to oversee a variety of
community-based anti-poverty programs. Legislation passed by the eighty-ninth Congress created a number of Great
Society Programs including the Jobs Corps; the Neighborhood Youth Corps; Volunteers in Service to America; the Model
Cities Program; and Project Head Start. He also expanded the food stamp program and initiated a number of Community
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, for the first time began funneling large sums of money into local
school systems. The Higher Education Act of 1965 made more money available to universities and scholarships and low
cost loans available to students. Medicare and Medicaid were also established during 1965 along with National
Endowments for Art and Humanities. In 1967 we got the Public Broadcasting Act and in 1969 the Public Broadcasting
Service and National Public Radio. Johnson also made major changes in the nation’s transportation system and signed
eleven different environmental bills. Historians at the time credited Great Society Programs with bringing about a significant
decline in the number of Americans living below the poverty line. However, economist Thomas Sowell argues that the war
on poverty did irreparable damage to the African-American family and increased the number of out-of-wedlock births
The Antiwar Movement
The most obvious indicator of socialist and/or communist party influence is found in the progressive’s opposition to war.
Today’s American socialists do not oppose war per se, but only because war costs money that could otherwise be used
for social programs. The progressive anti-war movement usually limits its war opposition to those it perceives as
detrimental to the progressive agenda. For example, prior to World War II, in the period covering the German-Russian non-
aggression pact (1939-1941), progressives formed “peace” groups to demand America remain neutral and stay out of the
war in Europe.
During the London Blitz and the Battle of Britain, they demonstrated for the cut off of the lend-lease program and all aid to
the U.K. However, when Germany invaded Russia in June, 1941, progressives did an about face. They dropped their
“peace” efforts and suddenly began agitating for America to get into the war immediately.
They would follow the same pattern after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. After voting to use “all
necessary force” against the Hussein regime, they abruptly reversed their position and spent the next seven years in vicious
and unrelenting opposition to the Iraq War and the war on Terror. Socialist International and the Democratic Socialists of
America also opposed the war.
In the 1960s, the Johnson era generated significant progressive opposition to the Vietnam War on college campuses around
the country. Later progressives would oppose American actions in Honduras and Nicaragua. In all three of these conflicts,
progressives openly supported the communist enemy and demonstrated against American efforts. Progressives were slow
in ramping up their opposition to the Vietnam war at first, for fear of hindering the social policies proposed by President
Johnson. Prior to 1964, the presence of a progressive peace movement on campus was primarily the Student Peace
Movement, an outgrowth of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, founded by Norman Cousins and Clarence
Pickett in 1957. Its best-known member was Dr. Benjamin Spock, that generation’s guru of child rearing.
Another group formed in the late 1950s by Michael Harrington as a forum for laborers, African Americans and
intellectuals, would gradually replace the Student Peace Movement on campuses. This new group, Students for a
Democratic Society (SDS) was a revival of an older one, Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID) started by the
Socialist Party of America in 1930. In 1962, SDS was taken over by Tom Hayden and Al Haber, both of the University of
Michigan. That year, fifty-nine SDS members met with Harrington in Port Huron, Michigan in a conference sponsored by
the United Auto Workers. A “manifesto”, the Port Huron Statement, written by Haden was approved at the conference.
The Port Huron Statement focused on the Democratic Party and Universities as the most likely vehicles for change. It gave
special attention to the dangers of the cold war, the nuclear arms race and the evils of segregation. “Our work is guided by
the sense that we may be the last generation in the experiment with living”, the Statement opined. Among the specific
policy recommendations of the conference were:
1. “Universal controlled disarmament must replace deterrence and arms control as the national defense goal.”Up until 1964, SDS focused on domestic concerns, supporting Lyndon Johnson in his campaign against Barry Goldwater
2. "…An imperative task for these publicly disinherited groups, then, is to demand a Democratic Party responsible
to their interests. They must support Southern voter registration and Negro political candidates and demand that
Democratic Party liberals do the same… …Demonstrations should be held at every Congressional or convention
seating of Dixiecrats…”
3."The University and Social Change ….First, the university is located in a permanent position of social influence.
Its educational function makes it indispensable and automatic-ally makes it a crucial institution in the formation of
social attitudes. Second, in an unbelievably complicated world, it is the central institution for organizing,
evaluating, and transmitting knowledge. Third, the extent to which academic resources presently is used to buttress
immoral social practice is revealed first, by the extent to which defense contracts make the universities engineers of
the arms race. Fourth, the university is the only mainstream institution that is open to participation by individuals
of nearly any viewpoint."
and taking part in the civil rights movement. It was not a major participant in the antiwar movement until 1965 when the
U.S. began bombing in Vietnam. After that, the SDS became a major factor for the remainder of the War. They began
organizing marches and holding “teach-ins” at various locations. In March, they called for a march on Washington. On
April 17, 1965 between 15,000 and 25,000 people demonstrated in the nation’s capitol.
One of the major developments over the next few years was the expansion of the civil rights movement into the antiwar
movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Riverside Church in New York, complaining that the war was draining
much-needed resources from domestic programs and that there were a disproportionate number of African Americans
dying in Vietnam. As dissension over the war grew within the government, Johnson fired his Defense Secretary, Robert
The antiwar movement and the SDS reached a high point at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Johnson, perceiving that the nation and the Party had turned against him, announced on March 31, that he would not seek
reelection, leaving the field to Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy and George McGovern, all antiwar progressives.
1968 was a turbulent year. Riots broke out in some 100 cities following the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4.
Presidential hopeful Robert Kennedy was shot and killed June 5. When the Democratic Convention convened in Chicago in
August there were violent confrontations between antiwar protesters and the Chicago Police, reinforced by the Illinois
National Guard. The Chicago riot was widely covered in the media. Mike Wallace and Dan Rather were both roughed up
by the Police inside the Convention Center adding to the national news coverage.
The following year a split occurred among the leadership of the SDS. During its 1969, national convention an attempt was
made by Progressive Labor to take over the organization. A position paper circulated at the convention, called for the
formation of a clandestine revolutionary party. The document was signed by Bernadine Dorn, Bill Ayers, Karen Ashley,
Jeff Jones and seven others. The controversy within SDS leadership led to the formation of a more radical group led by
Dorn, an admirer of Charles Manson. The new group was named the Weather Underground, usually referred to as the
“Weathermen”. The group’s position paper described its overall purpose as:
“The most important task for us toward making the revolution, and the work our collectives should engage in, is
the creation of a mass revolutionary movement, without which a clandestine revolutionary party will be impossible.
A revolutionary mass movement is different from the traditional revisionist mass base of ‘sympathizers’. Rather it is
akin to the Red Guard in China, based on the full participation and involvement of masses of people in the practice
of making revolution; a movement with a full willingness to participate in the violent and illegal struggle.”
According to its founding document, the stated goal of the Weathermen was “the destruction of US imperialism and the
achievement of a classless world: world communism”. The Weathermen, headquartered in Chicago, would engage in a
series of bombings around the country over the next few years. On March 6, 1970, a bomb factory in the townhouse
home of a friend in Greenwich Village blew up, killing Ayers’ girlfriend, Diana Oughton, Ted Gold and Terry Robbins.
After the 1970 explosion, the Weathermen went underground. They would continue the “propaganda bombings” but
modified their strategy to exclude kidnappings and assassinations. Although the purpose of the bomb that blew up their
bomb factory was intended as an anti-personnel devise to be used at a non-commissioned officer’s dance at Fort Dix,
future bombings would be primarily of buildings and other structures unoccupied at the time.
In September, 1970 the Weather Underground accepted $20,000 from The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, to break Timothy
Leary out of jail and transport him and his wife to Algeria where they would join Eldridge Clever. In June 1970, they
bombed Police Headquarters in New York City. In 1972, they bombed the Pentagon. In 1977, five Weathermen were
arrested and charged with plotting to blow up the office of California State Senator John Briggs.
The Weather Underground disbanded sometime in 1981 and two of its leaders Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorn, who had
married during their years underground, went on to successful careers in academia at the University of Illinois. They were
never prosecuted for their activities with the Weathermen due to irregularities and illegalities in the FBI’s handling of the
|The Illinois Conservative