The New Left and the Marxian Legacy: Early Encounters in the United States, France, and Germany
In the mid-1960s, as the Cold War seemed frozen into place after the Soviet repression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, and the stalemate that defused the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the spirit of a ‘New Left’ began to emerge in the West. Although encouraged by events in the Third World, its common denominator was the idea that the misunderstood (or misused) work of Karl Marx must have offered a theory that both explained the discontent with the present among a new generation of youth and could also offer them guidelines for future action. At once personal and social, critical and political, this expectation was encouraged by publications of the writings of the young Marx as well as the discovery of non-orthodox theorists and political activists whose critical work had been ignored or suppressed by Soviet-dominated communist parties. These theories represented an ‘unknown dimension’ that became the object of vigorous debate in the 1960s and early 1970s. The searching candle burned bright for a decade before it flamed out.