Revolution in the Air

Revolution in the Air

by Max Elbaum



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781859846179
Publisher: Verso Books
Publication date: 06/01/2002
Pages: 380
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Max Elbaum was a member of Students for a Democratic Society and a leader of one of the main new communist movement organizations. His writings have appeared in the Nation, the US Guardian, CrossRoads, and the Encyclopedia of the American Left. He lives in Oakland.

Table of Contents

Part IA New Generation of Revolutionaries: 1968-1973
1"The System" Becomes the Target15
2The Appeal of Third World Marxism41
3The Transformation of New Left Radicalism59
Part IIGotta Get Down to It: 1968-1973
4A New Communist Movement Takes Shape93
5Strongest Pole on the Anticapitalist Left111
6Elaborate Doctrine, Weak Class Anchor129
7Envisioning the Vanguard145
8Bodies on the Line: The Culture of a Movement163
Part IIIBattered by Recession, Restructuring and Reaction: 1974-1981
9The Momentum Is Broken183
10China's New Policies Split the Movement207
11Rival Trends Try Party Building, Round Two227
12Fatal Crises and First Obituaries253
Part IVWalking on Broken Glass: 1982-1992
13The Survivors Build the Rainbow269
14The Collapse of Communism287
Part VEnd of a Long March
15Movement Veterans Adjust to Civilian Life305
16Lessons from the New Communist Movement315
AppendixGlossary of New Communist Movement Organizations339

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Revolution in the Air 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
daschaich on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A solid history of the New Communist Movement: Max Elbaum's Revolution in the Air traces the history of the New Communist Movement (NCM) that grew out of the 1960s antiwar and antiracism movements in the United States. Embracing Marxism-Leninism but skeptical of the Soviet Union, NCM activists gravitated toward "Third World Marxism" as represented by the Cultural Revolution in China, the Cuban and Vietnamese Communist Parties, and several other national liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Arguably the most dynamic and racially integrated sector of the left in the late '60s and early '70s, the NCM had all but disappeared by the 1990s.The NCM is an aspect of '60s radicalism that is often overshadowed by SDS/Weatherman, and I found Elbaum's work interesting -- even engrossing -- from historical and "leftist trainspotting" perspectives. I appreciated two chapters in particular. The first full chapter of the book does an excellent job setting the scene, explaining what attracted NCM activists to Marxism-Leninism, in particular its "Third World" forms. As someone who came of age well after these ideologies had lost much of whatever credibility or appeal they may once have had, this discussion helped me understand how such politics didn't seem as crazy back then as they do today.I was also especially intrigued by Elbaum's chapter on the culture of the movement, titled "Bodies on the Line", and would have liked to see more about life in the NCM in other parts of the book. With so much of the discussion about the actual "rank-and-file" participants in the NCM confined to a single chapter, the rest of Revolution in the Air can sometime be overwhelmed with the expected alphabet soup of organizations, and chronicles of splits, squabbles, and ideological bickering.One of Elbaum's goals in this work is to refute what he calls the "good sixties/bad sixties" paradigm, which contrasts the idealistic early-sixties activism of SNCC and the Civil Rights Movement with more violent radicalism later on, especially that of the Weather Underground. While Elbaum effectively challenges this notion, I was amused to see a similar "good NCM/bad NCM" dynamic in his own presentation. He separates the period 1968-1973 from later years, arguing that the NCM's "pre-party formations" of the late '60s and early '70s allowed creative, dynamic, and flexible activity and debate about tactics, strategies, and the future Marxist-Leninist vanguard party.Starting in the mid-seventies, however, one group after another actually founded competing vanguard parties, which took it as a central tenet that there could be only one true vanguard, "the correctness or incorrectness of [whose] ideological and political line decides everything" (Mao). As China abandoned the Cultural Revolution (the true nature of which could no longer be denied), turned toward capitalism, and attacked protesters in Tienanmen Square, and the Soviet Union itself disintegrated, the New Communist groups were locked into dogmatism and sectarianism, unable to cope with the crumbling of their ideological base. (Not surprisingly, the years 1968-1973 are the most thoroughly discussed, receiving as many pages as the following two decades.)Elbaum wraps up with a chapter summarizing the lessons he wants young radicals to draw from the rise and fall of the NCM. I wasn't especially impressed by this conclusion, which largely recycles analysis and discussion from earlier in the book. Although Elbaum can't avoid identifying the NCM's "ideological frameworks" as central flaws, he still embraces Marxism-Leninism and "the vanguard-cadre model" of organization as the way forward for the left. I don't buy that, and find Revolution in the Air valuable primarily as a history of organizations and ideologies now in the dustbin.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Max Elbaum has written an amazing book about the '1968 generation.' He recaptures the national and international events that surrounded us, making the developments of American radicalism of the 1960's and 1970's understandable. I'm not from the same 'trend' but I found the account of those days well-researched and accurate even when he described other political tendencies. That alone is quite a feat. He also explains, lovingly but honestly, the weaknesses and failures of our generation's organizations, and the way the change in the American political scene limited our prospects. This account is so complex and packed with information that I would recommend today's activists to expect to spend some time with it. I lived through this period, and I had never seen such a clear account of the various local collectives and groups who formed the major national groups such as PL, RU, OL, CL, and how they interacted, changed, etc. Max is respectful of all the players, and reading this book is a healing experience. In these times, when an internationalist American movement against imperialism and injustice is so needed, Max's book is an important contribution.