M.A. Thesis (2008), History, University of Chicago
Abstract: As the activism of the 1960s spilled over (or out) into the 1970s, Left movements around the world sought to draw their own lessons from the struggles of people who were very different from themselves. The particular situations of the Vietnamese, Palestinians, African-Americans, and other groups resisting specific and highly divergent constellations of oppression were universalized into a symbolic, global discourse about revolution and anti-imperialism. The universalist discourse radically simplified the real histories of the groups in question into a usually hagiographic narrative that had little to say about their internal contradictions and ambivalences. So distilled, the experiences of these radical, “revolutionary subjects” were then picked up and examined by movements elsewhere for whom the broad, revolutionary story served an inspirational and mobilizing function. The universal narrative was thus re-particularized as it was adapted to serve the specific contexts of the various movements that interpreted the revolutionary Others. In the crucible of the youth and student movement activism of the 1968 “world-historical moment”, the particular became universal, but the universal also became particular. This paper explores one instance of the “particularly universal” solidarity of that era: that between elements of the West German Left and African-American militants such as the Black Panther Party (BPP) and Angela Davis.