Elbaum wrote Revolution in the Air in 2001 to reclaim the lessons of the new communist movement for contemporary militants who, like their early sixties’ predecessors, became activists when the radical left was fragmented and weak. How relevant is this history and the lessons he draws for us now, in this new period of left upsurge?
The history of the NCM’s engagement with fascism and groups like the KKK is a complex one. But at a time when issues of fighting fascism, Nazis, and the alt-right are of concern to so many, a look back at some of the lessons of the NCM experience may prove useful for today’s activists.
In one sense the history of the NCM can be summed up as “a moment of sectarianism and dogmatism.” In another sense, however, the NCM was more than the sum total of its sectarian and dogmatic errors. It attempted to keep alive the remnants of the mass movements of the 1960s, it organized workers, built left caucuses in unions, mobilized struggles around fundamental issues of racism, women’s rights, immigrant rights, and built movements in solidarity with liberation struggles around the world.