March 17 , 2014
Roots and Origins
o Dates back to 1917 with the Russian Revolution.
o In 1917, the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government in Russia, and
were led by Lenin. Lenin had two main hands: Stalin and Trotsky. The idea of the
revolution was to fulfill the Marxist idea of historical revolution. For Marx,
history was comprised of various societal organizations (feudalism ▯bourgeois
capitalism ▯socialism ▯communism). For Marx, this was the trajectory of human
o For neocons, this trajectory would end at bourgeois capitalism. The Bolsheviks
thought that this timeline was taking too long. They overthrewthe government to
intiaties the revolution necessary between each stage in Marx’s trajectory. For
Marx, if this revolution were to take place, it would catch on with workers all
across the world. This did not happen in Russia. They took over the modes of
production, but the phenpmenon would not become global.
o Lenin became sick. Stalin and Trotsky had two different objectives: Trotsky
promoted maintaining the current path of the revolution (all the way to
communism); Stalin advocated socialism in one country – focus on making this
revolution successful in Russia, and THEN we can worry about other revolutions
around the world. These are known as the Marxist debates.
o Stalin took over, and Trotsky was exiled to Mexico where he was eventually
o With many immigrants coming to US, the majority of people are facing the
depression, and socialism appeals to them. This revolutionary mentality catches
on in the US.
o The Marxist debates take place in New York City at the City College of New
York. This was like the poor man’s Harvard.
o Many of the poor and ethnic ended up at City College – note: poor not stupid.
This was a very intelligent institution, and the Marx Debates made their way into
the cafeterias known as Alcoves.
o Alcove 1: Where the Trotskyites would meet.
o Alcove 2: The Stalinists (socialism in one country).
o These two groups constantly engaged in debate at lunch, and would skip class to
do so. This particular group of Trotskyites were standing up in front of crowds at
the young ages of 13. Bigname Trotskyites include – they were the first
o Irving Kirsto
o Daniel Bell
o Irving Howe
o Nathen Glazner
o Philip Selznich o In the 1930’s Stalin grew far more vicious, eliminating opponents, and executions
or condemnations to labour camps. As news of this came to the US, the
Trotskyites began to question the socialist project as a whole. They still wanted to
see a socialist system, and were largely against FDR, the US, liberalism,
capitalism…anything associated with typical Americana. However, as Stalin’s
brutality became more obvious, Trotskyites began to question socialism in
general. What was the connection between Leninism and Stalinism? They all
concluded that any major social engineering project would lead to bad
results – it didn’t reject the ideas that it was pushing, but the projects ended
poorly. EXCEPT for Irving Howe.
o They slowly start making their way to the political right. Then comes WWII.
o The US entered the war in 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbour. By this point,
many original NeoCons had stopped believing in Marxism – all for socialism but
against “the means”.
o They began to recognize these social engineering projects in Hitler’s work, but
also weren’t sure if they could support the US in fighting Hitler. How were they
supposed to support the effort? Their writings were quite absent during this time –
didn’t have much to say (ironic because most were Jewish).
o America emerges from the war on top, and were faced with a pivotal moment:
How was American able to defeat Hitler and bring a moral end to WWII? The
original neocons could not ignore this, and embraced American Liberalism –
free market, human rights, capitalism, etc. These were the things that made the
US able to defeat Hitler. They still believed in socialist aims (e.g. Helping the
poor, dispersal of wealth, etc.). They then found themselves in the Democratic
Party. It is now the 1950’s.
o Americans and neocons were now rejecting communism. They continued to
teach and write in academic journals.
o By the 1960’s, America saw the Civil Rights Movement through to the 1970s.
This time also sees the War of Vietnam, Women’s Rights Movements, and Hippies
along with counterculture. This all combined to create THE CULTURE
o The culture wars were coming from the left (antiwar movement, student
radicals, Black Panther Party, feminists, hippies, etc.) and challenging the
establishment. The US itself is their target.
o For neocons, the establishment represented American Liberalism. They
are on the defensive.
o American soldiers in Vietnam are turning on the US, priests calling the US
a nation of genocide, the issue of slavery emerging, etc. America
ultimately has no good history to fall back on.
o The neocons engaged in a battle with these counterculture enthusiasts.
The neocons embraced the massive American military force for using it
to defend morals. o At this time, Linden B Johnson started introducing social reform (help the
poor), but the neocons claimed that this would produce unintended
consequences of “the liberal welfare state”
The First Generation NeoCons: Argued that the rise of welfare
– instead of being seen as an emer