Home inFocus Agenda: America (Summer 2024) This is the Way 1968 Ends…

This is the Way 1968 Ends…

Benjamin Kerstein Summer 2024
United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: GPA / Carol M. Highsmith)

There is a terrible logic to radical movements. They begin as expressions of a sort of idealism or at least what their followers perceive to be idealism. But they run headlong into a world that is not ideal: A world that, in its fundamental indifference, is not interested in idealism. A world that is, in its way, immovable.

This cannot but frustrate and enrage the radical, who is not capable of accepting a world in which everything changes and nothing changes; in which all is flux but everything ultimately returns to itself. As a result, radicalism ultimately arrives at a point at which it can no longer stand the frustration of its messianic ambitions. Out of bitter vengeance, it decides to destroy the world, and, along with the world, itself.

The most powerful and influential form of radicalism in the Western world today has no real name in the United States. It does in France, or at least its adherents do: les soixante-huitards, “the ‘68ers.”

The term refers to the radicals who took part in the 1968 student riots in Paris, as well as their ideology and the movements that emerged out of it: Third-worldism, environmentalism, anti-Americanism, anti-racism, etc. In many ways, the ethos of this kind of 1968-ism defines the modern left. It has rarely achieved outright political power; it rarely wins elections; but it exercises hegemony over culture and higher education, as well as the activist industry.

The ‘68ers may go unnamed in the US, but their influence is no less powerful. Above all, their primary post-1968 tactic has met with more success than in perhaps any other country. They called it “the long march through the institutions,” though it was essentially a barely modified adaptation of the old communist tactic of “entryism.” Put simply, it involves the infiltration by radicals of more moderate institutions to conquer and colonize them. Once successful, they use the facade of moderation and the prestige of these institutions to consolidate power and pursue radical ends.

It hardly needs to be said that the American ‘68ers’ greatest success was in academia. During the 1960s, American radicals realized the power of the campus. They mobilized thousands if not millions of students, most of them wholly ignorant of the ideologies they claimed to advocate, in service of the movement to destroy South Vietnam and install a communist government in its place. In many ways, they succeeded.

Along the way, they also destroyed the Democratic party for a generation, committed numerous acts of terrorism, and forged a counterculture that continues to wield immense cultural power even after the passage of half a century.

But their greatest success was the Long March. Named for the Chinese communists’ legendary trek to northern China that ensured their survival and eventual takeover, the plan was simple: Conquer the universities, install radicals at all levels of faculty and administration, and then consolidate a totalitarian regime – a dictatorship of the professoriate that would colonize and control the mind of America’s elite.

This takeover would be enabled by tactics drawn from the radical movements of the past: They would purge all dissenters by means fair or foul. Those they could not purge, they would ostracize and isolate. They would subject even those who remained neutral to rituals of public repentance and submission in the style of the Chinese Cultural Revolution—Mao’s brutal campaign against “ideological deviationism” that maimed and murdered thousands. If necessary, they would resort to outright violence and terrorism. In other words, they would construct and impose a suicide cult “by any means necessary.”

Their success was spectacular, and we are seeing the results today. As we speak, antisemitic mobs have conquered and colonized many of America’s most elite institutions of higher learning. They advocate terrorism and genocide; brutally intimidate, abuse, and physically attack Jewish students; and call for not just the destruction of Israel but the annihilation of America itself.

Even though all of this is a direct violation of these universities’ alleged codes of conduct, as well as numerous local, state, and federal laws, those who have the power to stop them have refused to do so. Many have endorsed the mob and more still are too terrified to take action against what they know to be evil.

They have good reason. They know quite well that if they were to take effective action, if they were to enforce their own codes, laws, and alleged principles, they would have to expel large sections of their student bodies. They would have to fire equally large numbers of faculty. They would have to cleanse their administrations of enablers and collaborators. They would have to break the regime. This, they are utterly unwilling to do.

The reason is 1968. Even if they know that the mob is immoral and indeed monstrous, those who should know better—who do know better—are still ‘68ers. They believe in the basic tenets of 1968ism: America is corrupted by racism, imperialism, patriarchy, and their attendant evils. Radical action is necessary to change this. There are no enemies to the left. The chickens come home to roost by any means necessary. Ideological deviationism cannot be tolerated. Ideological deviationism is whatever they happen to disapprove of at any given moment. If all else fails, exterminate all the brutes.

The result of all this is now clear: The ‘68ers and the radical left as a whole have collapsed into something very like Nazism. Whatever their protestations otherwise, the parallels are obvious: Theirs is a minority movement that wields the mob to impose its ideology on the majority. It sees the past as compromised and corrupt and will redeem it by any means necessary. It looks to a glorious future of tyrannical virtue. It takes over institutions of education, government, and culture and uses them to destroy those institutions and impose a totalitarian regime. It is perfectly willing to use horrific violence to achieve this. Its capacity to tolerate dissent is nil. And now, it has embraced racism, antisemitism, and genocide.

Exterminate All the Brutes

All of this was probably inevitable. Radical movements always compound their radicalism, and the world always resists them because that is the nature of the world. In the end, their compounded radicalism results in compounded and enraging failure. Indeed, despite their best efforts, the ‘68ers have succeeded in only partial conquest of elite institutions.

A strong conservative movement parries them at every turn. They know that to impose a totalitarian regime on a nation with a 250-year history of political and social liberty is all but impossible. The only recourse is vengeance through apocalyptic violence. If they can’t have the country, no one else can either. They feel compelled towards a seppuku, a glorious suicide, a mass self-immolation, and they intend to take everyone else down with them.

In such a situation, however, an enemy must be found, a focus of all the inchoate energies of hate and violence buried deep in every human psyche. There must be someone to blame, a scapegoat for all the ills that the radicals have failed to overcome. And like the Nazis, they have found the ready victim, the eternal villain, and the eternal scapegoat. They have found the Jews.

In such a situation, the Jews have no choice but to defend themselves – not just for themselves but for everyone else the ‘68ers plan to force into a civilizational Jonestown. And everyone else must defend themselves as well. If the ‘68ers loathe the Jews, loathe their country, and loathe the world, that is their right. If they feel suicide is their only recourse, that is their right as well. But they have no right to demand that the country and the world do the same.

Thus, the rest of us have only one option: Smash the regime. The ‘68ers must be, at long last, relegated to the far corners of the dark web and their fellow Nazis’ gated compounds in the Midwest. This will be a difficult and extended struggle. The ‘68ers have the mob, powerful institutions, and vast financial resources to call upon. They will scream and weep that they are being oppressed by malign forces, especially perfidious Jews.

But this is a lie. To smash the regime is not oppression. It is not a Jewish conspiracy. It is a reassertion, at long last, of freedom, of liberty, of anti-totalitarianism, of the right to be human even in an inhuman world.

Throughout its history, Americans have successfully risen up against threats to liberty not just without but also within. This eternal vigilance, is the price of the republic. It is a price worth paying and Americans—indeed all people around the world—who believe in liberty, including the liberty to be human, must now pay it once again.

We should take comfort in the fact that we did not seek the fight. But the fight is here all the same. We must not shrink from it. The ‘68ers and their descendants devoutly believe that we are the brutes who must be exterminated. We must inform them that they have picked a fight that, despite their best efforts, they cannot win.

Benjamin Kerstein is an Israeli-American author. He currently writes a weekly column for The Jewish News Syndicate (JNS.org)