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Causes and institutions go astray, inevitably

Reader comment on item: Harvard's Worst Class Ever

Submitted by Dave (United States), May 10, 2021 at 21:15

Have you ever studied the origins of the American labor movement? In the early 20th century, Samuel Gompers was the main organizer of the American Federation of Labor, or AFL. Early on, he noticed that non-working class radicals were exploiting the labor movement to advance their radical agenda. This resulted in disruptive, violent demonstrations; he was nearly clobbered by a policeman at one of them. From then on, he insisted that the labor movement be staffed by workers only, and that it limit itself to negotiating better wages and working conditions, and shun boil-the-ocean messianism.

This down-to-earth pragmatism served the movement well, and was carried on by George Meany of the AFL-CIO, who fought to exclude Communists and other radicals.
By maintaining a disciplined and well-defined program, and by keeping out extraneous goals and parasitical hangers-on, the labor movement thrived and demonstrated the right way to maintain an institution. It is an exception.

Causes are like dogs: they attract fleas. The SPLC and ADL have both allowed their goals of civil liberties and anti-antiSemitism to fall prey to political partisanship, making one wonder why anyone would bother joining them when they could get more of the same and better as Democrats? An egregious case is BLM, which has clearly allowed itself to be exploited by Marxists, charlatans and violent extremists such as ANTIFA, whose shrill demands merely antagonize. If it would limit itself to practical goals like police reform it could attract support accomplish something. The civil rights movement led by Dr. King is an example of an effective cause.

The same tendencies are seen in higher education, which has become infested by all sorts of eccentric intellectual fads and political activism. The original purpose of learning and dispassionate inquiry has been hijacked and corrupted by opportunists preaching their pet radical causes.

Universities, like empires, rise and fall, as they lose the thread of what led to their rise in the first place. There is no Samuel Gompers to maintain focus. They've had a good run these many years, but it's time now for new approaches.

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