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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 10. 1967.

New insight, reiteration

New insight, reiteration

American Politics: A Radical View by James R. Flynn, Published 1967 by Blackwood and Janet Paul. Auckland.

Dr. Flynn says in his preface "there exists in the United States an independent left that includes a fair number of young academics who, like myself, tend to divide their time between active participation in protest movements and plying their trade in the universities"

Flynn appears to have carried this credo out. He will be known to most New Zealand students for his speeches over the last few years on civil rights and Vietnam, and now as Professor of Political Science at the University of Otago.

He has had an impact on New Zealand intellectual and academic life as no other young immigrant academic has had. Well qualified academically he has been a tireless speaker, travelling all over the country to speak on the American negro and civil rights issues, contributing to radio and television discussions, and has been an active member of the Vietnam protest movement.

In the US he was active in student politics, the American Socialist Party and CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality).

He remains throughout this book an American. He has an American outlook, uses almost exclusively American sources, and has a patriotic admiration for things American — especially those developing American "folk heroes" Eugene Victor Debs and Norman Thomas.

Most of the selections in the book are from articles, speeches and papers presented in New Zealand and Australia over the past three years.

Some speeches are considerably expanded, brought up-to-date and extensive footnotes included.

The book will primarily appeal to students but should be of use and interest to New Zealanders interested in obtaining a concise and scholarly review of such subjects as the Cold War—with essays on the US and the USSR, America and China, the Cuban invasion; the American Left; and a final long essay on American Politics and Politicians —a brilliant "radical analysis" of American politics.

This last essay, so the author says "hopefully brings (C. Wright) Mills's description of American political types up to date."

Flynn says his analysis might be described as "C. Wright Mills revisionist."

One wonders however what Mills would have thought about Flynn's agreement with Douglas Cater's so-called "disruption" of Mills's analysis of the military-industrial power complex. Flynn says that the Cuba blockade is an example of a foreign policy decision where the President had a personal effect, and the military-industrial complex wasn't so powerful as Mills's theory would have us believe.

Flynn apparently agrees with Cater: "Mills failed to give any specific examples of the military-industrial elite making decisions of any great importance."

This seems an unnecessary point to make when others have supplied the examples for Mills.

In many cases Mills readily admitted he didn't supply cases or examples, but surely his theories have become generally accepted and formed a basis for the study of power?

It is difficult to consider Flynn a "C. Wright Mills revisionist" when he agrees with Cater and states (p 203) "It would be difficult to argue that the escalation of the war in Vietnam and the resulting increase in military spending were primarily as a result of military-industrial pressure." Surely this escalation Is a prime example of Mills's theory? It's obvious that the President has succumbed to pressure from this sector—e.g. the most recent announcement on troops.

The President's personal decision making power may be significant or noticeable in some particular incident, but the trend of decision is often influenced mainly by the military-industrial complex, especially in foreign policy issues.

Because the book is so condensed Flynn makes other bald assertions. One hopes that some who heard his speeches did tackle him on them—but he talks at such a rapid rate that it's difficult to keep up with him.

Thus this reproduction of his speeches in print will be an invaluable tool for future reference.

On the point of references, he has made a great use of some references. For instance in Chapter One on the US and the USSR, he uses Spanier and Neal. Chapter 3 on the Cuban invasion makes particular use of Cook's book on the CIA, and Wise and Ross's on The Invisible Government, as well as memoirs by Sorrenson and Schlesinger.

It is a pity that the references were not extended, and over-much use is made of obscure reviews (for New Zealand at least) as "New University Thought."

Since Dr. Flynn wrote the original speeches much new material has become available.

I feel his view of Cold War developments may be considerably modified after reading Gar Alperovitz's "Nuclear Diplomacy—from Yalta to Potsdam," or even such a polemical work as David Horowtiz's "The Free World Colossus."

It is difficult to find such new reference or source material on the Cold War in this book, and this is a pity, for without this the book doesn't present a complete picture.

As an example, in Chapter One on the US and the USSR and the development of the Cold War, the author feels he has to take a compromise line (down the middle) and state that both the US and the USSR are equally to blame for their part in the development of the Cold War. Alperovitz and other books published over the last year would indicate that the USSR was much less at fault than the US. Though interesting, and valuable as concise summaries. Dr. Flynn's first two chapters on the US and USSR, and America and China aren't as important or comprehensive as the rest of the book. His chapters on the American Left and the negro question are all the more important because we don't -get this high standard of writing (or information) on these subjects in New Zealand.

But Flynn remains throughout thoroughly American. He thinks China ought to be contained, and even though for peace in Vietnam sees the Americans needing to maintain a military presence in Vietnam "for a very, very long time."

He seems to lack understanding of Asian problems, and the consequences of American foreign policy for others but Americans. One wonders how different in this respect an "American Socialist" is from other bright, intelligent liberals who read Newsweek? On internal American issues he has offered New Zealanders a new insight but in other issues merely achieved reiteration and a slightly different emphasis from that usually offered by young vaguely liberal Americans.

Alister Taylor