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Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey by David…

Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey (1997)

by David Horowitz

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David Horowitz is a fairly well-known commentator and activist on the Right. What many folks under the age of 50 may not realize is that he was one of the most influential and outspoken members of the radical Left in the 60s. Many of his writings were used as "textbooks" for many radicals of the time.

This book explores his life - starting with his parents - Jewish immigrants who were active members of the Communist movement of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Immersed from childhood in a world including some of the foremost communist/progressive activists of the time, Horowitz grew up a committed radical.

However, as the 60s progressed, he became more and more uncomfortable with groups such as SDS, the Weathermen, and especially the murderous Black Panthers. He eventually leaves and becomes an outcast among his former friends and colleagues.

Anyone, liberal or conservative, who is interested in the history of politics in the US should read this book. You may not reach the same conclusions Horowitz did, but he provides a fascinating glimpse into the 50s and particularly the 60s and some of the periods most famous people.

On a personal level, I found the book interesting because I too had a "conversion" of sorts in my life - not on the level of Horowitz - but similar in small ways. Once an ARDENT liberal, I noticed that less and less of what my liberal co-horts had to say and believed matched up with what I see as reality. I became much more conservative as I entered my late 30s and remain so (to some extent - labels are ridiculously limiting) to this day.

Aside from politics, what really appealed to me in this biography was his personal story. His relationships with family and friends over time are often described quite movingly and gave me occasion to reflect on the relationships I have in my own life (especially since I JUST turned 45). ( )
  Scarchin | Nov 12, 2013 |
Horowitz's journey from radical to, shall we say, right of center really resonated with me. Like Horowitz, my best friend in childhood was a "red diaper" baby, a child of committed communists. Her family would take me along to political rallies, including one featuring Angela Davis, a Communist candidate for president. It was as if my friend Jenny was an exile in her own country--terribly estranged from America. At one point, both of us as eleven-year-olds had a crush on Captain Kirk--that is until her parents explained to her that Star Trek was evil American militarist propaganda. Even All in the Family was not to be tolerated--as my friend earnestly told me, her mother reminded her it made people "laugh at racism." Of course humor is a time-honored form of political dissent--but there was something so solemn, so religious about their form of Communism. Every year, even though they were nominally Jewish, they'd have a Christmas Tree, and at the top of the tree--I kid you not--was a red star and anchor. And when my Puerto Rican working-class family saved enough to move out of our crime-ridden childhood neighborhood, my friend denounced me as a traitor to my class.

So you can see why I strongly identified with Horowitz's life-story. It made sense of so many things remembered from my childhood. And Horowitz definitely had an interesting perch. He was the editor for a time of the New Left magazine Ramparts and rubbed shoulders with lots of Marxist personalities in Europe and America. His turning point came in his involvement with the Black Panthers when a friend was murdered by them. Even after that, it took a while before he emerged as an activist on the right. I can remember him describing how he felt he was finally at home in America. I suspect the same could not be said of my childhood friend. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Sep 5, 2013 |
This is an exciting account of the political era in which David Horowitz grew up with personal touches that make the book more intimate than a mere history. It is thus an interesting read for those, like myself, with an interest in history and political science. His transformation from radical to conservative makes for fascinating reading and is a unique story. ( )
  jwhenderson | Aug 16, 2010 |
Among the best autobiographies I've read.
  ocianain | Mar 31, 2007 |
A page-tuner of a book that goes inside the dealings and treachery of the radical 1960'sd parties and ideologue. Written by a man who was raised by a communist mother and father and was on the front line in the radicall protests during these turbulent days. He came to understand that the cause he had fought for all of his political life was bogus and harmful to America. ( )
  fauxcajun | Nov 10, 2006 |
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This book is for
My children -- Jon, Sarah, Ben, and Anne --
Who lived this story with me;

My grandchildren -- Julia, Mariah, and Sophia --
Who will one day read it;

And for

April -- Who has already made the next chapter
a happy one.
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(Prologue): In the autumn after my mother died, I visited the cemetery where I had buried her alongside my father in the Long Island earth.
What my father left me, really, was a few stories.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684840057, Paperback)

Raised to be a committed Marxist by communist intellectual parents, Horowitz was in on the ground floor of Berkeley activism, and through his work as an editor at Ramparts magazine, he emerged as a key player in the New Left. He went on to become an active supporter of the Black Panthers and something of an intimate of their founder, Huey P. Newton. Yet today he is an outspoken political conservative who has supported many right-wing causes (such as the contras in Nicaragua) and been critical of '60s radicalism in general. It would be easy to conclude that Horowitz went from A to Z this way because he's superficial and unstable. Instead, as this moving, intellectual autobiography shows, his second thoughts about leftism emerged gradually as he experienced various aspects of the "Movement." The catalytic episode came when he discovered that the Panthers had murdered a friend of his, but even then Horowitz was slow to convert, primarily because he was heavily enmeshed in what he now views as the quintessential leftist habit of judging politics by its intentions, not its acts.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

David Horowitz was one of the founders of the New Left and an editor of Ramparts, the magazine that set the intellectual and revolutionary tone for the movement. From his vantage point at the center of the action, he provides vivid portraits of people who made the radical decade: world-famous philosopher Bertrand Russell, who in his nineties became America's scourge, organizing a War Crimes Tribunal over the war in Vietnam; Tom Hayden, the radical Everyman who promoted guerrilla warfare in America's cities in the Sixties and became a Democratic state senator when his revolutions failed; and Huey Newton, a street hustler and murderer who founded the most celebrated radical group of the Sixties, the Black Panthers. A brutal murder committed by the Panthers prompted Horowitz's profound "second thoughts" that eventually transformed him into an intellectual leader of conservatism and its most prominent activist in Hollywood.… (more)

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