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IF I HAD A HAMMER: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left Paperback – March 1, 1993

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Paperback, March 1, 1993
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Isserman's provocative theme is the New Left's unacknowledged ties to the Old Left that it has repudiated. His scholarly history is useful in tracing the roots of contemporary U.S. radicalism. Conscientious objectors who refused to fight in World War II participated in postwar communal experiments. Their Americanized version of Gandhi's pacifism would inform the civil rights movement as well as civil defense protests of the early 1960s. Author of Which Side Were You On?, a study of the American Communist Party, Isserman here examines the CP's collapse in the late 1950s. He portrays renegade socialist Max Shachtman, mentor of Michael Harrington and Irving Howe, as a manipulative recluse fond of sectarian squabbles. The author takes his story up to Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a common ground where New Leftists forged a politics of personal morality while members of the old guard discarded outdated dogmas.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This excellent study focusing on the Communist Party, Max Shachtman, Dissent , and the peace movement demonstrates that the left of the 1950s had an important influence on the next generation of American radicals. A central assertion is that "the early new left emerged from the old left in ways that made it difficult to perceive where one ended and the other began." The author believes that while the upheavals of the 1960s resulted from a "complex interaction of demographics, economics, and politics," the actions of an earlier generation of American radicals also had an important influence. A provocative reexamination of postwar American radicalism that will stimulate controversy and further study. Recommended. John R. Sillito, Weber State Coll. Lib., Ogden, Utah
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 259 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition (March 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252063384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252063381
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,423,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on February 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
In this wonderful history of how the ghost of the old American Communist movement informed and influenced the birthing and early history of the so-called New Left of the late 1960s and beyond, scholar Maurice Isserman shows how the contradictions and themes motivating the socialist of the late 1940s and 1950s profoundly affected the birth and growth of the new cultural critique emanating from the several leftist movements of the turbulent 1960s. Is so tracing the social history of the leftist movements within the domestic political scene. Isserman helps to make greater sense of many of the predominating themes of later domestic radicalism, as with the notorious rise of the Students For A Democratic Society (or SDS) movement, one that transpired largely on large, metropolitan college campuses.
Indeed, several of the founders of the SDS organization such as sociologist Todd Gitlin and California politician/social activist Tom Hayden were sons of socialist radicals themselves, raised in middle class households in which spirited intellectual discussions centering round the plight of the ordinary working man and his or her exploitation at the hand of capitalism was `de rigueur' for dinnertime conversation. We are treated to an inside look at how the wartime pacifism of Gandhi-like non-violent opposition played out over several decades to become the largely non-violent protests of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements of the sixties. Isserman has also authored other interesting tomes about the times, including both "Which Side Were You On", a study of the American Communist Party, and the provocative "America Divided", a study of the rise of the American Counterculture of the later sixties.
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Format: Paperback
I first read this wonderful and deeply involving work of history when I was 22 years old -- a young radical who wanted to know his roots. Today, I am 49 and my wife just asked me for a copy. This is as enthralling as historical writing gets, filled with keen insights into personalities, decisions, and frictions that shaped the sixties political culture, and swaths of our own. Isserman is a rare historian who writes with deep human texture. He is unfailingly temperate and careful in tone, judicious toward all the parties involved but gently persuasive in his measurements and judgments. This was, for me, one of those rare historical works where the pages just keep effortlessly turning and each page delivers a new detail. I am eager to return to the book. If it was still in print I would've bought two!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
top notch writer. Lived through the issues.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A view of the enemy within, and how the radical left took control of the Democrat Party. Written by one of them...
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