Michael Harrington - The game was considerably different in 1970.
Michael Harrington – The game was considerably different in 1970.

Harper’s Magazine: At Issue – Socialism vs. Liberalism – Michael Harrington – 1970 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

The word Socialism has been creeping into our national conversation a lot lately, along with a lot of opinions, conceptions and misconceptions as to what it is.

In 1970, Socialism was lumped in with the radical left and was the subject of a lot of opinions, conceptions and misconceptions. In 1970 there was a vigorous anti-war movement, while at the same time the country was drifting to the right, primarily in reaction to the level of violence which had overtaken the cities and campuses as protests spread over the country.

And much of the blame was placed on the media and placed on educational institutions, which were perceived as hotbeds of radicalism and catalysts in the undermining of social and political values supporting the war and maintaining the status quo.

So in 1970, Harper’s Magazine, as part of their At Issue radio series, did an interview with noted writer/activist/Democratic Socialist Michael Harrington, and asked him about those fundamental differences between Socialism and the then-current state of Liberalism.

Harrington expresses there was a very real difference between the two, and even though there was a considerable amount of crossover, the Liberal maintained that working within a Capitalist society could achieve change without attacking the basic fundamentals of that society. While the Socialist believed, as long as you had the fundamental structure of inequality, every reform introduced would be subverted and rendered moot by the hierarchy and economic elite.

But it gets a bit more complex than that – and in 2015 the issues are different – society is no longer the same as it was in 1970. The educational system has been gutted for the most part, priced out of reach for the majority. Media has become a hotbed of distraction – and society is at turns being dulled, agitated and infantilized.

To give you an idea the climate, as it stood in 1970 and where it has gone and how different it has become, here is that interview with Michael Harrington from Harper Magazine’s At Issue from 1970.

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