Radical Son: A Generational Odysseyby David Horowitz
In a narrative that possesses both remarkable political importance and extraordinary literary power, David Horowitz tells the story of his startling political odyssey from Sixties radical to Nineties conservative. A political document of our times, Radical Son traces three generations of one American family's infatuation with the radical left from the Bolshevik… See more details below
In a narrative that possesses both remarkable political importance and extraordinary literary power, David Horowitz tells the story of his startling political odyssey from Sixties radical to Nineties conservative. A political document of our times, Radical Son traces three generations of one American family's infatuation with the radical left from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 to the collapse of the Marxist empire six decades later. 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 populates Radical Son with vivid portraits of people who made the radical decade, while unmaking America at the same time. We are introduced to an aged Bertrand Russell, the world-famous philosopher and godson of John Stuart Mill, who in his nineties became America's scourge, organizing a War Crimes Tribunal over the war in Vietnam. There is Tom Hayden, the radical Everyman who promoted guerrilla warfare in America's cities in the Sixties, married film legend Jane Fonda, and became a Democratic state senator when his revolutions failed. We meet Huey Newton, a street hustler and murderer who founded a black militia that became the Sixties' most resonant symbol of black power and black militance. Horowitz's encounter with Newton and his Black Panthers, the most celebrated radical group of the Sixties, becomes the focal point of the story when a brutal murder committed by the Panthers changes his life forever, prompting the profound "second thoughts" that eventually led him to become an intellectual leader of conservatism and its most prominent activist in Hollywood.
Born in 1939, journalist and biographer Horowitz (The Fondas, 1992; with Peter Collier, The Roosevelts, 1994; etc.) here turns in a study of intellectual development in a troubled time. He writes lovingly, but with some exasperation, of having been brought up by two Communist Party minor operatives; of a father physically and emotionally scarred by his own impoverished childhood, blacklisted and forced to leave teaching in the 1950s; of a mother who was trained as a lawyer but worked as a typing instructor, fearful of competing for work during the Great Depression. Horowitz continued their revolutionary tradition through the '60s and '70s, finally rejecting the left during the beleaguered Carter presidency. Along the way he recounts his years as an antiwar-movement leader and journalist (he was an editor at Ramparts magazine) and as an active sympathizer of the Black Panthers, with whom he later broke. Horowitz traces his disaffection to multiple causes, including the lunatic acts of violent groups like the Weather Underground and the lunatic rhetoric of the late-era Huey Newton, who called for the extermination of the "fascist insects" who stood in his way. He protests, however, that he did not, as one writer has charged, "escape into conservatism," and that, like Norman Podhoretz, he had to accept the label "neoconservative" because his preferred term, "liberal," had been coopted by the left. Horowitz is usually generous in his description of peers in the movement, although he clearly dislikes Tom Hayden and Todd Gitlin, and he is more likely to engage in self-criticism than to deride those who, in his view, have not yet seen the light.
Regardless of one's opinion on his present politics, Horowitz's searching reminiscences are a valuable contribution to the literature of dissent.
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