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Radical Son: A Journey Through Our Times from Left to Right Hardcover – February 10, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 152 customer reviews

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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.

From Publishers Weekly

Horowitz (The Rockefellers) has prominently charted his turn from leftism in Destructive Generation (both books co-written with Peter Collier), but here, he digs deeper to recount his intertwined personal and political odysseys. Because he has witnessed some elemental political battles, and because he tells his often painful story with candor and passion, his lengthy book remains absorbing. His teacher parents were New York City Jewish Communists full of angst and false conviction; young David emerged convinced at least that ideas were important. Married, Horowitz moved to Berkeley for graduate school, the New Left and Ramparts, the hot radical magazine. However, family man Horowitz was made uneasy by figures such as Michael Lerner and Robert Scheer, who rejected community; worse, though Horowitz found Huey Newton's courting of his advice seductive, he fell into "internal free-fall" when he realized that the Panthers were criminal thugs. His Jewish identity?at a time when blacks and the Third World were not allies?helped move Horowitz rightward, as did his disgust with dogmatic leftists. And in 1985, Horowitz and Collier publicly supported Ronald Reagan; the author considers himself a classical liberal. Particularly interesting is his score-settling with authors Todd Gitlin, Tom Hayden and Paul Berman, who, he argues, either sanitize '60s history or misrepresent his own views; now, with the help of foundations, he runs the magazine Heterodoxy and monitors what he views as liberal excess.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (February 10, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068482793X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684827933
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Horowitz grew up a "red diaper baby" in a communist community in Sunnyside, Queens. He studied literature at Columbia, taking classes from Lionel Trilling, and became a "new leftist" during the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. He did his graduate work in Chinese and English at the University of California, arriving in Berkeley in the fall of 1959. At Berkeley, he was a member of a group of radicals who in 1960 published one of the first New Left magazines, Root and Branch. In 1962 he published the first manifesto of the New Left, a book titled, Student, which described the decade's first demonstrations.

Horowitz went to Sweden in the fall of 1962 where he began writing The Free World Colossus, his most influential leftist book. In the fall of 1963 he moved to England where he went to work for the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and became a protege of the Polish Marxist biographer of Trotsky, Issac Deutscher, and Ralph Miliband, an English Marxist whose sons went on to become leaders of the British Labour Party. While in England Horowitz also wrote Shakespeare: An Existential View, which was published by Tavistock Books. Under the influence of Deutscher, he also wrote Empire and Revolution: A Radical Interpretation of Contemporary History, 1969.

In 1967, Horowitz returned to the U.S. to join the staff of Ramparts Magazine, which had become a major cultural influence on the left. In 1969 he and Peter Collier, who became his lifelong friend and collaborator, took over the editorship of the magazine. Collier and Horowitz left Ramparts in 1973 to write three best selling dynastic biographies: The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (1976); The Kennedys: An American Dream (1984); and The Fords: An American Epic (1987).

During these years Horowitz wrote two other books, The Fate of Midas, a collection of his Marxist essays and The First Frontier, a book about the creation of the United States. Following the murder of his friend Betty van Patter by the Black Panther Party in December 1972 and the victory of the Communists in Indo-China, which led to the slaughter of millions of Asians, Horowitz and Collier had second thoughts about their former comrades and commitments. In 1985 they published a cover story in the Washington Post called "Lefties for Reagan," announcing their new politics and organized a Second Thoughts Conference in Washington composed of former radicals. Four years later they published a book of the articles they had written about their new perspective and themovement they had left which they called Destructive Generation.

In 1997, Horowitz published a memoir, Radical Son(1996), about his journey from the left. George Gilder hailed it as "the first great autobiography of his generation," and others compared the book to Whittaker Chambers' Witness.
In 1988, Horowitz and Collier created The Center for the Study of Popular Culture (the name was changed in 2006 to the David Horowitz Freedom Center) -- to create a platform for his campaigns against the Left and its anti-American agendas. The DHFC is currently supported by over 100,000 individual contributors and publishes FrontpageMagazine.com, which features articles on "the war at home and abroad," and receives approximately a million visitors per month. In 1992, Collier and Horowitz launched Heterodoxy, a print journal which confronted the phenomenon of "political correctness" focusing on the world of academia for the next ten years. In the same year he and film writer Lionel Chewynd created the "Wednesday Morning Club," the first sustained conservative presence in Hollywood in a generation. In 1996 Horowitz created the Restoration Weekend, which for the next two decades feature gatherings of leading conservative political, media and intellectual figures. In 2005 Horowitz created the website,DiscoverTheNetworks.org, an online encyclopedia of the political left, which has influenced the works of a generation of conservative journalists and authors.

With the support of the Center, Horowitz continued his writing about the nature and consequences of radical politics, writing more than a dozen books, including The Politics of Bad Faith (2000), Hating Whitey & Other Progressive Causes (2000), Left Illusions (2003), and The Party of Defeat (2008). His Art of Political War (2000) was described by Bush White House political strategist Karl Rove as "the perfect guide to winning on the political battlefield." In 2004 he published Unholy Alliance, which was the first book about the tacit alliance between Islamo-fascists in the Middle East and secular radicals in the west.

Horowitz has devoted much of his attention over the past several years to the radicalization of the American university. In 2001 he conducted a national campaign on American campuses to oppose reparations for slavery 137 years after the fact as divisive and racist, since the since there were no longer any living slaves and reparations were to be paid and received on the basis of skin color). His book Uncivil Wars (2001) describes the campaign and was the first in a series of five books he would write about the state of higher education.

In 2003, he launched an academic freedom campaign to return the American university to traditional principles of open inquiry and to halt indoctrination in the classroom. To further these goals he devised an Academic Bill of Rights to ensure students access to more than one side of controversial issues and to protect their academic freedom. In 2006, Horowitz published The Professors (2006), a study of the political abuse of college classrooms. Indoctrination U., which followed in 2008, documented the controversies this book and his campaign had created. In 2009, he co-authored One Party Classroom with Jacob Laksin, a study of more than 150 college curricula designed as courses of indoctrination. In 2010, he published Reforming Our Universities, providing a detailed account of the entire campaign.

Along with these titles Horowitz wrote two philosophical meditations/memoirs on mortality, The End of Time (2005) and A Point in Time (2011), which summed up the themes of his life. A Cracking of the Heart (2009) is a poignant memoir of his daughter Sarah which explores these themes as well.
Many have commented on the lyrical style of these memoirs. The literary critic Stanley Fish, a political liberal, has described The End of Time as "Beautifully written, unflinching in its contemplation of the abyss, and yet finally hopeful in its acceptance of human finitude."

In 2013 Horowitz began publishing a ten volume series of his collected journalistic writings and essays under the general title The Black Book of The American Left. The first volume, My Life & Times, was published in 2013; the second, Progressives, in 2014. The Black Book is filled with character and event--with profiles of radicals he knew (ranging from Huey Newton to Billy Ayers), analysis of the nature of progressivism, and running accounts of his efforts to oppose it. When completed, The Black Book will be a unique chronicle of the political wars between left and right as seen by an observer who has made a significant impact on both sides of the during his political and literary careers.

Cultural critic Camille Paglia has said of David Horowitz: "I respect the astute and rigorously unsentimental David Horowitz as one of America's most original and courageous political analysts. . . . I think that, a century from now, cultural historians will find David Horowitz's spiritual and political odyssey paradigmatic for our time."

Norman Podhoretz, former editor of Commentary magazine, says of Horowitz: "David Horowitz is hated by the Left because he is not only an apostate but has been even more relentless and aggressive in attacking his former political allies than some of us who preceded him in what I once called 'breaking ranks' with that world. He has also taken the polemical and organizational techniques he learned in his days on the left, and figured out how to use them against the Left, whose vulnerabilities he knows in his bones."

A full bibliography of Horowitz's writings is available at: http://www.frontpagemag.com/bibliography

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is no surprise that David Horowitz is viciously despised on the left. He now attacks the left with the same persistence and self-righteousness that he once employed in service of radical causes. I can't help but notice, however, that many of his leftist critics choose to explain him in personal, psychological terms rather than discussing the truth of his claims about the left. Perhaps Horowitz leaves himself open to such an interpretation by including so much non-political material--his estrangement from his parents, his broken marriages--in his story. I believe the more important issues of contention are his various claims about the intentions and integrity of the leaders of the New Left, such as Tom Hayden, or their complicity in despicable acts of violence. His charges about the death of Betty Van Patter at the hands of the Black Panthers have brought a bitter exchange with some of his former comrades at salon.com. Say what you will about Horowitz, he is at least no coward and does not shrink from the most difficult issues. This book is important, because it is a necessary antidote to all the romanticized and hagiographic presentations of the sixties and its leaders stuffed down our throats by some of the Baby Boomers--too many people my age seem to swallow the myth that the sixties were about a bunch of idealistic, naive young people fighting against an oppressive system.
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Format: Paperback
(...) Radical Son is much more than an autobiography. It is a first-hand chronicle of the roots of the modern progressive movement, from one of the people who helped create it. His fascinating account of his parents in a communist cell in 1940’s New York will keep the thoughtful reader spellbound, and his insider account of the radical movement in sixties Berkeley is fascinating, enlightening, and highly entertaining. From Paul Robeson to Tom Hayden, from Bertrand Russell to Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, many of the famous, almost fabulous, names that have come to represent the sixties radical culture appear in this book, stripped of their half-mythical trappings and presented as the often deeply flawed people they really were.
Read this book. You’ll learn a lot that you didn’t know before, and you’ll enjoy the ride.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was so absorbing that I found it difficult to put down, reading several chapters before even leaving the bookstore. The amazon.com review of "Radical Son" does the author, David Horowitz, an injustice since every autobiography will potentially subject its author to accusations of self-absorbation, self-importance, or denial. However, contrary to that critical review, Horowitz is as painfully honest about himself and his own mistakes and personal shortcomings, as he is about those of his parents, friends, and former comrades in the New Left.
"Radical Son" is much more, however, than the political mea culpa of a former Berkley radical turned Reagan conservative. It is an invaluable political history of the Sixties' New Left Movement. Horowitz chronicles how his intellectual parents and their friends-- mostly immigrants or first-generation Americans --were drawn to the Communist Party in the 1920's and 1930's; how they passed their idealism and radical beliefs on to their children before becoming disillusioned themselves after Stalin's crimes were revealed in the Khruschev Report in 1956; and how those children-- including himself, Peter Collier, Todd Gitlin, Bob Scheer, Jerry Rubin and many others --established the New Left in the early 1960's, to replace the discredited "Old Left" of their parents' generation and to rehabilitate the Marxist idea.
Horowitz further points out why the revolution sought by the New Left never materialized-- the fantasy of utopian marxist-socialism could not overcome the reality of the bloody, totalitarian communist regimes. Revelations of the blood bath in Vietnam and the rest of Indochina, following the communist victories there, soon reached the West.
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Format: Paperback
`Radical Son' by David Horowitz is a stellar thought provoking work and a poignant first hand account of a life in many ways, dominated by non-conformity. Horowitz weaves the story of his life beginning with his formative New York years being raised in a strict Communist household through his Marxist revolutionary days in the counter-culture epicenter that was Berkeley, CA right up to his current status as a devoted fighter for academic freedom and honest intellectual dialogue. His life story is as compelling as any you'll find; from the relationships with former comrades including Tom Hayden, Bob Scheer and Black Panther leader Huey Newton to his long friendship and ultra-successful writing partnership with Peter Collier.

Sneak behind the scenes of the politically supercharged decade that was the `60's straight through the anti-communist Reagan dominated `80's. You'll experience the pain of loss and disillusionment with a life spent fighting the wrong battles and coming to grips with his own participation in the `destructive generation'. Mr. Horowitz also allows you insight into the highs and lows of thorough self-examination and in a way challenges you to assess your own belief system. `Radical Son' is an inspiring look at the idealistic pursuit of revolution from both sides of the political and ideological spectrum.

Read this book and I promise you'll be better for it. It's honest, compelling, thought provoking, passionate and possesses all the requisite qualities of a best-selling piece of fiction - but it's all real and the more amazing for it. Take yourself through the idealistic struggle of a life committed to zealously pursuing honesty and introspection. Experience this journey with David Horowitz and before you know it, you'll find yourself reading everything he puts out - he's just that good.
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