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48. The Revolutionary Mood

Anyone who has anything to do with the nation’s campuses knows that the atmosphere has changed drastically over the last couple of years; even over the last few months. The signs are everywhere.

Take Harvard, for example. Until a few months ago, the mood of Harvard students was, and always had been, cautiously well-buttoned and moderate; Harvard students know that they make up the coming elite of the nation, and they comport themselves accordingly. Radical writings or ideas were entertained by only a small hippie minority on the campus. But now, the New York Village Voice reports from Harvard that, under the spur of the failing Vietnam War and the Federal government’s decision to draft graduate students, an amazing shift has taken place on campus. Everyone is now radical, everyone not only deeply opposes the war and the draft, but talk of “resist,” “defy,” even “bomb” and “assassinate,” fills the air. The point is not so much that Harvard students will be carrying out such deeds, but that general campus opinion has so radicalized that they can now openly support such previously “unthinkable” views. A phenomenal number of college students, at Harvard and elsewhere, are now seriously considering emigrating to Canada to avoid the draft.

At every campus, radicalizing is going on at great speed. Iona College at New Rochelle, New York, until now a highly conservative Catholic college whose only political club had been the right-wing Young Americans for Freedom, recently had a demonstration against napalm-making Dow Chemical Company which mobilized no less than two hundred students, and YAF could only collect five students for a counter-demonstration. An old friend of mine, a graduate student at the University of Chicago whose arguments against the draft have always been cautiously moderate, stressing the economic efficiency of a volunteer army, now talks only of emigrating to Canada, and he reports that throughout campuses in the Midwest, the same kind of change is going on.

Not only students but also faculty; it is almost impossible now to find any intellectual who either favors the war in Vietnam or who has anything but loathing for President Johnson. Everywhere, young faculty members who have previously cared nothing for politics, now passionately oppose the war.

But not only that: This opposition to the war and to the U.S. government has, in surprisingly many instances, deepened into opposition to all government whatsoever — into a truly libertarian insight into the nature of the state apparatus. What began as purely a revulsion against the war has now started to deepen into an all-out opposition to the state itself.