Commies: A Journey Through The Old Left, The New Left And The Leftover Left

Commies: A Journey Through The Old Left, The New Left And The Leftover Left

  • Publish Date: 2002-06-15
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Ronald Radosh
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Commies is a brilliant memoir of growing up in the culture of radicalism. But it also about the hard decisions faced by those professing a radical faith. For Radosh himself, the crisis came when he concluded in his authoritative book on Julius and Ethel Rosenberg that the couple (in whose behalf he had demonstrated as a boy) had indeed been guilty of spying. Attacked as a traitor, Radosh began to question his political commitments. His disillusionment climaxed in the 1980s when he traveled through Central America as a journalist and historian and ran into his old comrades there still searching for the revolution.
Ronald Radosh, the scholar who is probably most responsible for showing that Julius Rosenberg was indeed a spy for the Soviet Union, offers this honest memoir of growing up a red-diaper baby in New York and, many years later, falling out of favor with his fellow travelers. Born into a family that was both Jewish and Communist, Radosh spent much of his life orbiting these worlds (especially the latter) as an activist for all sorts of left-wing causes. The FBI even began keeping a file on him.

There's a certain amount of score settling on these pages, much of it amusing. What makes Commies fascinating, however, is Radosh's virtual banishment from left-wing politics for publishing The Rosenberg File, a book that definitively showed Julius Rosenberg was not the innocent martyr of liberal mythology but a traitor to his country. Radosh actually started the book believing he could vindicate Rosenberg; through the course of his research, however, he concluded the man was guilty, and set about saying so. This was too much for many of his friends, who soon refused to be seen with him in public. Here is a man who viewed the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 as very possibly a portent of "extreme reaction, if not fascism," suddenly blacklisted by the Left. He became disenchanted with how he had spent his life and "started to question the whole project of the Left." He even suffered professionally: in 1993, Radosh was denied a job in George Washington University's history department. "If I had still been a Communist writing left-wing history, I probably would have breezed in. But faculty members practicing a politically correct version of McCarthyism blackballed me."

Radosh is not a left-winger who has become a right-winger, like David Horowitz, but he is clearly a person who has had second thoughts about what he once believed. America, he writes, is "a country where I was born but didn't fully discover until middle age." Commies is a valuable document describing radicalism in the 1950s and 1960s from the inside. --John J. Miller

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