Bob Dylan probably had no idea how much the times really were a’ changin’.
The first one now will be the last, for the times they are a changin’. –Bob Dylan
A new generation of radicals has been spawned from the chrome womb of affluent America. Any lingering doubts about this evaporated last month when 20,000 of the new breed pilgrimaged to Washington, D. C., to demand a negotiated peace in Vietnam.
These were the boys and girls who freedom-rode to Jackson; who rioted against HUAC; who vigiled for Caryl Chessman, who picketed against the Bomb, who invaded Mississippi last summer; and who turned Berkeley into an academic Selma. They are a new generation of dissenters, nourished not by Marx, Trotsky, Stalin or Schachtman but by Camus, Paul Goodman, Bob Dylan and SNCC — the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Their revolt is not only against capitalism but against the values of middle-class America: hypocrisy called Brotherhood Week, assembly lines called colleges; conformity called status, bad taste called Camp, and quiet desperation called success.
At the climax of the Washington march, arms linked and singing “We Shall Overcome,” were the veterans of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, freshmen from small Catholic colleges, clean-shaven intellectuals from Ann Arbor and Cambridge, the fatigued shock troops of SNCC, Iowa farmers, impoverished urban Negroes organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), beautiful high school girls without make-up, and adults, many of them faculty members, who journeyed to Washington for a demonstration conceived and organized by students.
During the rally they heard the visionary voices of the new radicalism, Staughton Lynd, a young professor at Yale, who explained why he wasn’t paying his income tax this year, Paul Potter, the brilliant president of SDS, who told them they must construct a social movement that will “change our condition”, Bob Parris, the poet-revolutionary of SNCC, who urged “Don’t use the South as a moral lightning rod, use it as a looking glass to see what it tells you about the whole country.” And there were Joan Baez and Judy Collins to sing the poems of Bob Dylan.
This is literally a New Left — in style, momentum, tactics and vision. As Potter said in Washington, “The reason there are 20,000 of us here today is that five years ago a social movement was begun by students in the South.” The two other major student groups of the New Left — SDS and the Northern Student Movement (NSM) have no roots in the organizations and dogmas of the 1930s. The student groups affiliated with the old sects — Communist, Trotskyist, and Socialist — remain small and isolated and are seen by the New Left as elitist, doctrinaire, and manipulative. The enthusiasts of SNCC and SDS do not engage in sterile, neurotic debates over Kronstadt or the pinpoints of Marxist doctrine. They are thoroughly indigenous radicals, tough, democratic, independent, creative, activist, unsentimental.