“We should encourage the flower of liberty whether its petals be red, white and blue, or red and black.” -Karl Hess
This is an article of Karl Hess’s, which appeared in the October 1969 issue of the New Left magazine Ramparts, pp. 28-31, was recently recovered and posted to the Fair Use Blog by C4SS Senior Fellow Charles Johnson. A point of historical interest, on page 131 of David DeLeon’s The American as Anarchist there is the following curious passage without citation,
“We should not disregard the perennial flowering of such criticisms of power and idealistic demands for a personal politics of individual fulfillment simply because (as Karl Hess remarked) the petals appear to be red and black instead of formally red, white, and blue.”
We think that we have tracked down, if not the source, at least a source for the sentiment found in the DeLeon passage. After reading the following article and being impressed by Hess’s impassioned plea for radicalism from his old friend Barry Goldwater, we at C4SS had republish Hess’s article here. Hess had been a close friend of Barry Goldwater during the early 1960s and had worked as the chief speechwriter in his 1964 presidential campaign.
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It probably isn’t the highest or hottest item on your agenda, but every now and then you might think about why we are now on opposite sides of the fence—or why the fence is growing more like a barricade every day. My side is what is loosely called the New Left, a position to which you will undoubtedly refer a thousand times in a thousand speeches but about which, if the present is an indication, you will know less and less the more often you mention it.
The thing that first attracted me to the New Left was the familiar ring of what was being said there. Decentralization. The return to the people of real political power—of all power. There was also something very attractive in the New Left’s analysis of the American corporate system and its use of political power to preserve and enlarge itself. The way the largest corporations had so strenuously opposed you and supported Johnson, for instance, certainly made it seem fruitful to ask why. Could it have been that you might not have played ball quite so well as he?
There was, of course, a seemingly dissonant sound in the New Left’s attitude toward American adventures abroad. You had championed, and I had fully seconded, the notion that, morally, American arms could and should be used anywhere to fend off incursions by THEM. The crucial question which I permitted, even forced, myself to ask—and which you must never face if you are to hold onto your position in regard to THEM—was simply Who are THEY? And, lo and behold, THEY turned out to be a lot of US. …