Understood to be an American movement, the New Left was a global one, catalyzed by international events that contributed to the rise of the military-industrial complex. As it spread across university campuses, the New Left directed its energies towards “the Establishment,” a term blanketing the paternalism associated with the government in the aftermath of World War II, and in the context of the Cold War. The movement’s methods of protest were drawn from those targeting civil rights; the February 1960 lunch counter sit in in Greensboro, North Carolina served as a model for non-violent protest, and inspired the formation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee the same year. [“Ideology of the New Left,” The University of California, Davis, accessed May 15, 2015, http://historyproject.ucdavis.edu/lessons/view_lesson.php?id=43] New Left movements that arose in succession employed similar ideological methods, but supporters were drawn to them for varying reasons, as the uneven overlay of the military-industrial complex on the American landscape resulted in grievances that diverged geographically.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the New Left distinguished itself through the Free Speech Movement, which emerged at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964, to protest the banning of on-campus political activities. Led by Mario Savio, the movement’s call to protect free speech and academic freedom was intensified by looming technocracy associated with Silicon Valley’s industrial system of knowledge production. The ban was thought to reflect the university’s complicity with the Cold War military-industrial complex, and a computational metaphor drawn from Silicon Valley reinforced the perceived threat to personal liberties in academic spaces. By drawing on the interplay between the military-industrial complex and the surrounding landscape, the FSM at Berkeley brought heightened awareness to the spaces students occupied, and the forces they competed with to maintain individual liberties. Through positioning individual interests, and their relation to physical spaces at the center of the movement, the FSM enabled a genealogy of social movements in the American West, characterized by a tighter focus than those elsewhere, which contributed to the strength of their legacy.
New Left movements on university campuses, particularly the FSM, responded to cold war military funding that created a material reality threatening to the liberal ideals of the 1960’s. In From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, Fred Turner writes that the military science of the mid-twentieth century was characterized by unprecedented paternalism, as “the need to control the flow of funding and the need to manage men and material led to a massive expansion of government bureaucracy.” The government’s fear of disorder, mirrored by the ban on campus political activity at Berkeley, was most visible through the expansion of military machines that threatened individualism. The nature of newly developed technologies embodied the Cold War anxieties, which drove their production. Turner writes, changes to “radar, the atomic bomb, submarines, aircraft, and even digital computers–tended to be large, complex, and under centralized command.” The machine that initiated the most panic was the digital computer. As it infiltrated the civilian sector, the computer coalesced individual knowledge production with what Turner calls a stratified and “depersonalized social order.” The FSM at Berkeley adopted the computer as a symbol of what intellect and reason had become in the context of the Cold War, and of the university’s manipulation of the individual to serve an information machine.
The military-industrial complex thrived on the East and West Coasts, but funding discrepancies contributed to its occupation of varied physical and social spaces, leaving members of the New Left with different understandings of its reaches. On the East Coast, funding for military advancements targeted the laboratories of esteemed universities, fostering collaborative research circles. In 1940, under the advising of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering professor Vannevar Bush, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the National Defense Research Committee, later to become the Office of Scientific Research and Development. The OSRD was academic from its outset, intending to coordinate scientific advancements with military interests during World War II. In the first half of the 1940’s, the OSRD poured $450 million into researching and producing wartime technologies. MIT, as a result of Bush’s advisory role, was an initial recipient of funding, and the entwinement of academia with military research resulted in communicative actions unprecedented to the development of wartime technologies. Turner writes, in research laboratories at MIT, “Scientists, soldiers, technicians, and administrators broke down the invisible walls of bureaucracy and collaborated like never before.” Advancements to military technologies made at MIT occurred in spaces which already had established processes of collaborative knowledge production, positioning government interests at the hands of academics.
The designation of bureaucratic funding to MIT was significant to the New Left movements that emerged at Boston-area schools because students understood the military-industrial complex as an entity subject to pre-existing academic processes. MIT’s acclaimed Radiation Lab was established with a half million-dollar grant from the OSRD directly following World War II. The Red Lab, as it came to be known, was tasked with designing and implementing strategies to fell wartime bombers. Among the first university labs to receive wartime bureaucratic funding, the Red Lab’s egalitarian approach to dismantling problems were interlinked with those of other academics, defying notions of what bureaucratic influence entailed. Turner writes that in spite of government influence and wartime anxieties, freedom of thought, as well as collaboration, were not only permitted, they were recognized as pertinent to success. As wartime research moved into the academic realm, it became subject to the collaborative spaces and processes that pervaded university campuses, leading to less threatening perceptions of government influence.
As military research flourished in collaborative laboratory settings, it vitalized academic life in Boston, dissipating fears of bureaucratic influence on the individual. This played out most effectively through the flow of military research into unprecedented academic and social spaces. The time-contingent nature of developing wartime technologies encouraged academics to move through new circles and fields, cross-pollinating research. The relevance of their work to civilian life carried it off-campus, and as it travelled through local establishments and homes at the end of the day, it implicated students and non-academics into its processes of creation. Harvard University historian of science Peter Galison analyzes the unique nature of these spaces in “Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise.” According to Galison, “scientists, engineers, and administrators in the wartime laboratories worked not so much as members of a single culture, but rather as members of different professional subcultures bound together by common purpose.’ The invigoration that this purpose brought to exchanges of knowledge and civilian understandings of wartime technologies shaped public perceptions of bureaucratic funding for wartime research as aligned with the interests of research universities.
Academic ties to military research existed on the West Coast, but different uses of space and funding resulted in public perceptions of the military-industrial complex that were characterized by authority. The University of California, Berkeley’s Radiation Laboratory served as the initial site for uranium research and the beginnings of the Manhattan Project, the Allied initiative to construct the first nuclear weapon. Unlike the approaches applied to research at his respective university, Vannevar Bush, also involved in the project, prohibited foreign scientists from partaking in research, and banned the publication of academic articles. An aura of secrecy surrounding Western military research was compounded by the designation of less populous lands for classified work towards advancing nuclear weaponry. When the founding of the NDRC made the switch from private to government funding possible, General Leslie Groves moved the Manhattan Project away from Berkeley. The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico was constructed in 1942 to centralize the project, under the assumption that isolation from academia would expedite the process. Groves stipulated LANL needed to be geographically remote for safety concerns, but he also sought to buffer military scientists from civilian society, to restrict the flow of knowledge into the public sector. As the project moved away from the visibility of the American public, especially that of Berkeley affiliates, understandings of bureaucratic funding for nuclear research in the West came to be perceived with less transparency than those in Cambridge.
In the proceeding decades, fears associated with the secrecy of the Manhattan Project were transferred to the defense related initiatives of Silicon Valley, whose funding processes created similarly insular systems of knowledge production, now within Berkeley’s vicinity. Following Stanford University professor Fred Terman’s World War II collaboration with Harvard University to develop radar countermeasures, his work attracted government funding for electronics development in Silicon Valley. In the burgeoning technology capital, Terman’s example led the way for other companies to take on defense related initiatives at the height of the Cold War. Most projects did not attract government funding, and those that did faced significant startup costs and groundwork before they obtained support. The 1959 establishment of Draper, Gaither & Anderson in Palo Alto marked the first venture capital firm on the West Coast. The company, which invested in small technology firms, saw limited success, but its influence was far reaching because it set the precedent for funding in Silicon Valley. In contrast to the bureaucratic funding on the East Coast, which siphoned money toward professors and graduate students, democratizing access to the exchange of knowledge, venture capitalism fostered a culture that discouraged collaboration. Although it leveled the playing field for small companies who would have been overlooked in the East, it pitted them against one another to obtain resources, restricting them from adopting the collaborative approaches universities took to further their defense research.
The competitive nature of obtaining funding for defense research in Silicon Valley manifested through the spatial configuration of corporations and laboratories across the area, which conveyed insular and industrial knowledge production. Aerial photographs of 1950’s industrial parks in Silicon Valley reveal spatial isolation of infrastructure that refuted the possibility of establishing the networks of communication that developed between competing institutions in Cambridge. The geographic dispersal of industrial parks across Palo Alto, Mountainview, and Sunnyvale suggest a deliberate turn away from the spatial overlap that facilitated collaboration in military research in the East. The ability to create such spaces proved to be a privilege that evaded West Coast universities. Pressed with the same post war financial constraints as the fledging technology companies in Silicon Valley, Stanford University also saw economic return through supporting the development of industrial research laboratories. In 1951, Stanford allocated 209 acres of land to house young technology companies that would relieve their property taxes and develop under the influence of the university, while benefitting from its park-like setting. In addition to acting as a source of revenue, the Stanford Industrial Park sought to build the university’s reputation, and to establish industry connections for faculty and students alike. The park accomplished these goals, but the act of bringing the technology industry to campus imprinted students with understandings of knowledge production that raised concerns of personal liberties akin to those of Berkeley’s FSM.
Contrasting understandings of the military-industrial complex’s spatial and financial influence on knowledge production led the interests of New Left social movements to diverge geographically. At Berkeley, the FSM demonstrated that paranoia developed in response to the university’s relationship with the industrial laboratories and corporations of Silicon Valley, and the parallel models of governance they employed. Wilson Carey McWilliams, Oberlin professor of political science who conducted frequent research at Berkeley, became famed for his analysis of “the system,” that bridged generations within the FSM. While the New Left uniformly protested systems of power, the FSM targeted the effects of the military-industrial complex on the individual’s position in the academic sphere. It distinguished itself from other New Left movements, because rather than attacking the broader deployment of military technologies, it targeted their systems of production that implicated students into Cold War models of governance, stripping them of their personal and academic liberties. The spatial and financial implications of the military-industrial complex, which in the West modeled centralized systems of command, led Berkeley students to understand the university’s actions as reflective of authoritative systems of knowledge exchange that pervaded the surrounding landscape.
The proximal influence of Silicon Valley on the FSM was most apparent through the adoption of the computer as a symbol of Berkeley’s political workings, a machine that utilized students as faceless cogs of an information system. Mario Savio, the face of the FSM at Berkeley, explained to a reporter, “‘At Cal, you’re little more than an IBM card.’’ From the steps of Sproul Hall, at a December of 1964 sit-in, the largest of the FSM’s demonstrations, Savio delivered a famed speech, drawing a mechanical comparison to rally students, akin to his IBM card analogy. He urged,
There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
Students applied Savio’s mechanical comparison to their individual acts of protest. Turner writes of students who “took up blank computer cards, punched them through with new patterns of holes–’FSM’ and ‘STRIKE’–and hung them around their necks. One student even pinned a sign to his chest that parroted the cards’ user instructions: ‘I am a UC student. Please do not fold, bend, spindle, or mutilate me.’’ The applicability of the computer, which resonated with most students as a symbol of upward career mobility, to oppressive systems of knowledge, sparked an unprecedented level of university activism in the wake of the university’s ban.
Drawing from tangible elements of the surrounding military-industrial complex to convey imminent danger to personal as well as civil liberties, the computer metaphor enabled the FSM to build a foundation on which political activism remained relevant to individual livelihood. The FSM applied its demands to the same perceived injustices as New Left movements across the country. However, it did so with greater collective investment, as its actions were linked back to the incentive to protect individualism that anchored the movement. Michael Meyerson, an undergraduate at Berkeley whose political activity across student organizations emphasized the applicability of FSM principles to corresponding causes, believed the movement should restrict involvement to students of the university, so as to keep protests relevant. The lack of grandiose ideas of what the movement could achieve on a global scale, in favor of changing the system in front of them through metaphors that applied to the lives of those across university, enabled the FSM to adopt a relatable purpose that maintained the focus of those in its periphery.
The relevance of the computer, and the surrounding military-industrial complex, to the individual was evident through the organizational principles that differentiated New Left movements on the East and West coasts. These discrepancies are most salient through contrasting the FSM at Berkeley to the rise of Students for a Democratic Society at Harvard in the mid 1960’s. A June 1966 Harvard Crimson article, “SDS–Harvard’s New Left–Feels ‘Underprivileged’ In Generation Which Prizes Making Own Decisions,” by Daniel J. Singal, examines why the FSM failed to take hold at Harvard. Singal identifies the divergence between the FSM and SDS as a matter of organizational tactics that reflected geographically distinct understandings of the relation between the military-industrial complex and the individual. Michael S. Ansara, head of Harvard’s SDS chapter, captured varied understandings through articulating the different nature of the roles students within each movement adopted. SDS members at Harvard, Ansara asserted, understood themselves as organizers, ideological spokesmen of an underprivileged class that spanned all groups whose decisions were made on their behalf. Berkeley students, in contrast, were protesters, targeting looming and nearby forces that threatened the freedom to move within the spaces they already inhabited. The lack of immediate relevance of SDS to the lives of students was witnessed through greater peer opposition to the movement. Nearly unanimous involvement at Berkeley was a testament to the immediate relevance of the movement to the lives of students, and reflected the ardor that characterized it, and increased its likelihood of survival.
Another force which distinguished the increased fervor of the FSM from SDS was the role finances played on university campuses in regard to activism, a reflection of the military-industrial complex in the movements’ respective locales. Another reason Singal highlighted in the divergence of the New Left movements Harvard and Berkeley was the contrasting understandings of the role that finances held at both universities, and the implications of financial entanglement with the military-industrial complex. In a May-June 1966 issue of Dissent Magazine, Reginald E. Zelnick describes the mid-twentieth century moneyed culture of the Ivy League that lulled students into a state of tranquility. Whereas Berkeley students arrived on campus in belief they were equal to the university, the Harvard student was awed, even paralyzed, by tradition. Archibald MacLeish, Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, echoed Zelnick in emphasizing Harvard’s focus on schooling for education’s sake, rather than vocational purposes characteristic to Berkeley. MacLeish argued that this caged Harvard in an age of traditional values, bringing about lesser mobilization on issues outside mainstream politics, such as the impending fears of technocracy that drove the FSM at Berkeley. Zelnick concluded that the resulting apathy precluded Harvard students from possessing the zeal that served as a guiding hand at Berkeley. Additionally, the correlation between finances and urgency of activism at Harvard and Berkeley can be observed through economic accessibility to the surrounding military-industrial complexes. Harvard students witnessed an oftentimes-democratic system of funding, resulting in egalitarian understandings of access to knowledge. To Berkeley students, the top down systems of funding fought for in Silicon Valley, spatially and intellectually distanced them from knowledge production. While financial disparities did not drive the FSM’s protests, unequal access in some ways acted as an invisible hand in the diverging courses of action taken by New Left movements on opposite coasts.
Following the Vietnam War, SDS dissipated at Harvard, as members ceased to find commonalities with the underprivileged class, but the continued relevance of the individual to political life at Berkeley lent itself to the flourishing of later social movements. As counter culture swept the country, its goals oftentimes defined by ambiguity, a continued concern of expanding industry in the Silicon Valley led to the flourishing of a counterculture movement whose principles were more directly aligned with those of the New Left. Intellectual roots in the FSM enabled Western counterculture to fill the spaces surrounding Berkeley with greater speed and more participants than similar movements elsewhere in the country, often defined by lack of methodology. Individualism served as the pull that drew many to counterculture, but at Berkeley, the organized focus on free speech and academic freedom provided a tighter focus and intellectual framework for involvement. In “The Hippies,” Hunter Thompson describes the pivotal role the FSM at Berkeley played in the rise of counterculture in the American West during the 1960’s. Thompson christens Berkeley “the axis of the New Left,” due to the “civil rights, economic justice, and… new morality in politics” that encircled their movement and was validated by the support of many faculty members. The promotion of free speech on the part of faculty facilitated the adoption of a counter culture, which drew upon ideals of the FSM, not only outside the university, but in the American mainstream as well. While the outward appearance of counter culture was comparable across America, the movement which permeated San Francisco was strengthened by an intellectual foundation that spoke to the deliberate nature and immediate interests of its congregation, much like that of the FSM in comparison to other movements of the New Left.
The foundational role that the FSM played to the strength of later social movements in San Francisco was most visible through the rise of hippie culture, tied together by an arts community that reflected an intellectual framework as the basis and driving force of this faction of counterculture. The spatial role that Silicon Valley played in centering the FSM’s interest to protect personal liberties in academic spaces was not outwardly recognized by those who flocked to San Francisco as part of the counterculture movement. However, the focus on the individual put forth by the FSM reflected the freedom of expression and movement valued by hippie culture, luring interested parties to participate in a counterculture which operated under a more organized framework than similar movements elsewhere in the country. San Francisco and the surrounding areas became a hub for creativity, and the cohesiveness and purpose of its artistic community reflected the ardent demands for individualism pushed for by protesters at Berkeley. A 1967 issue of San Francisco Magazine described the visibility and momentum that characterized the movement as akin to a “spiritual order.’ The rise to prominence of Alan Ginsberg, Bruce Naumen, Stan Brakhage, and the Grateful Dead in the area legitimized the existence of hippie culture in San Francisco through its contributions to the artistic community. The recognized importance of the works of these artists, which were both driven by and reinforced the individualistic values rooted in the FSM, dissipated the disdain for hippie culture that was pervasive elsewhere in the country.
The spatial continence that tied the FSM’s focus on the individual to the establishment of San Francisco hippie culture’s artistic community distanced this faction of Western counterculture from the skepticism that targeted other movements. Elsewhere in America, despite shared ideals, hippie culture lost credibility in the absence of communities grounded by organizing principles. Assessing Random House’s definition of “hip,” Thompson observes a question mark following the words “informed, sophisticated, knowledgeable,” as “a sneaky but meaningful piece of editorial comment.’ Despite the widespread appeal of their freewheeling ways, no one could pinpoint exactly what hippie culture stood for on the national scale. The spatial role that the military-industrial complex served in tightening the focus of the FSM, and thus, San Francisco hippie culture, was observable through the oftentimes nomadic nature of hippies elsewhere, which contributed to the loss of their credibility through attracting the attention of authorities. The artist communities of San Francisco were not immune to the disdain directed at hippie culture, but their gravitation towards the FSM’s unifying principles that were entrenched in relativity to the surrounding areas, precluded Western counterculture from the aimlessness attributed to similar movements.
Over time, the notion of the machine as derived from its physical surroundings, that drove the FSM at Berkeley and radiated purpose into a legacy of successive social movements, lost traction. Hippie culture in San Francisco remained loosely tied to the overarching principles of the New Left, but it changed character in its consistency, as it lost the urgency associated with the impending threats of the physical occupation of the military-industrial complex. The widespread applicability of these fears, initially a product of conscious realization, and later, an inherited understanding of the value of individualism amidst Cold War governance, were responsible for the succession of FSM ideals into the mainstream. However, as they moved further from their nexus, social interests overtook the political undercurrent, which had bestowed Western social movements with a tenacity not exhibited elsewhere. Thompson wrote of the changing ideals of counterculture, “No longer were young, idealistic citizens fighting for their rights, but the demonstrations turned into parties. It was fun, it was cool, it was the time of Haight-Asbury and the hippies and drugs and rock-and-roll.’ As the political fervor of the FSM petered out, hippies became what Thompson describes as “part-time political activists.’ Increased political apathy seemingly contradicted the FSM’s legacy, but as hippies became more interested in dropping out of society than partaking in it, the effects of the military-industrial complex on the landscape continued to distinguish Western counterculture.
New Communalists exhibited political apathy uncharacteristic of the New Left and the FSM, but their turn from mainstream society stood as an act of protest to the physical manifestation of consumerist landscapes that rose in conjunction with the military-industrial complex in the West. Turner states in an interview with Columbia University that the political apathy of the New Communalists led them to eschew “party politics, bureaucracy, and big organized social worlds as inherently corrupt.” Similar to the back-to-the-landers who prevailed in equal numbers on the East and West coasts, New Communalists left Western cities en masse to live in collective societies, ideally thriving and profiting off their lands. Unlike back-to-the-landers, their exodus was marked not by individual pursuit for a life embodied by counterculture values, but a collective renouncing of the Western consumer culture that materialized as a product of military-industrial research. The political dissonance that contrasted the activism surrounding the New Left and the FSM was reconciled with the emergence of landscapes that through consumerism, superimposed the political mainstream onto New Communalists. The movement was distinctively Western because in the East, where the military-industrial complex occupied pre-existing spaces, the rise of suburbia reflected the aftermath of the New Deal and the return of soldiers from World War II. While suburban developments on the East and West coasts appeared outwardly similar, their implications for consumer culture were different. Housing developments in the West directly tied the rise of consumerism, and the landscapes it repurposed, to the emergence of military-industrial complex. As West Coast consumer culture could be aligned with Cold War models of governance, New Communalists responded to the geographically distinct overlay of the military-industrial complex.
The numbers in which New Communalists fled Western cities in response to consumer culture, marked the most dramatic response by a social movement to the physical manifestation of the military-industrial complex. Historians estimate between the years of 1765 and 1965, five hundred to seven hundred communes were established in America. Between 1965 and 1972, as many as 750,000 people populated over 10,000 communes, most existing on Western lands. The largest collective movement onto communes occurred following the 1967 “Summer of Love.” Spawning out of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, thousands left for communes together the next fall. The apparent political indifference that drove New Communalists away from mainstream society suggests a severing from the ideals of the FSM, but the continued role the military-industrial complex played in relation to individual liberties exemplifies the hereditary nature of physical spaces in Western social movements. Concern for the effects of these spaces on individual liberties resulted in further parallels between New Communalists and the FSM, as they held onto the fierce individualism valued by protesters at Berkeley.
The New Left arose in America in response to global interactions that facilitated the rise of the military-industrial complex, which unfolded across the American landscape following World War II. The movement quickly distinguished itself geographically, as discrepancies in military research interests and funding resulted in diverging physical and social spaces. In the context of universities, these differences meant contrasting understandings of wartime knowledge production. While these were perceived as collaborative on the East Coast, on account of funding for university laboratories, the use of the West for classified nuclear research and the creation of industrial technology parks in Silicon Valley led to the discernment of the government as an information machine. In the surrounding areas, students perceived the actions taken by Berkeley through a lens of institutional authority, and the school came to be understood as a microcosm of Cold War governance. The use of the computer as a metaphor for the university’s implication of students into a system of industrial knowledge production centered the individual and their relation to physical spaces at the core of the movement. The relevance of participant to place granted the FSM a focus and incentive that evaded New Left movements at other universities, as evident by the widespread dissolution of many in the late 1960’s. At Berkeley, the adoption of FSM principles by academics and graduates resulted in the movement’s defining principles to subsist as the basis for social movements that emerged in the New Left’s wake. The aspects which strengthened the FSM on account of its continued relevance to the relationship between the individual and the evolving military-industrial complex enabled the success of a genealogy of social movements, as marked by hippie culture and the strength with which New Communalists organized.