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Radical Son: A Journey Through Our Times from Left to Right Hardcover – February 10, 1997
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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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Mr. Horowitz is a powerful writer who makes his life story gripping and fascinating; so much so, I read almost all of this book in one marathon overnight session. Anyone who really wants to read the truth about the forces that tear at this country's fabric needs to read this book!
Horowitz became a conservative and has devoted his life since to debunking the popular left-approved version of what happened in the 1960s. He says that SDS was the effort to revive Communist organizing in the US, while detaching it from connections to the Soviet Union and the discredited US Communist Party, and was entirely begun by red-diaper babies like himself, young people raised as Communists by their Communist parents. The sole exception, he says, was Tom Hayden, whose raison d'etre as a socialist seemed to be the bottomless anger he felt for his father having been a drunk. Hayden confided to Horowitz that police brutality was the exact goal sought in radical disturbances such as the Democratic Convention riots in Chicago in 1968; having their heads beat in, he said, would radicalize people. I wonder how many easily-led college students of that era realize their leaders wanted them hurt?
Horowitz is the Whittaker Chambers of our generation. Chambers was the more compelling writer and had a more dire message which was utterly new when he wrote it: that we faced a worldwide epic battle between Communism and God, that God seemed to be losing, that the U.S. didn't seem to realize the world around it was slowly slipping away, and that American liberals were the "useful idiots" empowering a revolution that would ultimately consume them. But Horowitz, a good enough writer whose story intersects with many of the noted personalities and events of the 1960s and 1970s, is more relevant to the more recent New Left. He had a fabulous vantage point to recount how destructive it was and how hypocritical in rationalizing the crimes of those like the Panthers and the Weathermen. It dawned on him that a society permitting even revolutionaries such liberties, didn't deserve the contempt the Left heaped upon it. His own card-carrying parents ultimately had their firings reversed and pensions reinstated, after losing teaching jobs just shy of retirement, by the very fascist state they had worked so hard to overthrow.
Horowitz's entire education and writing career focused on worshipping the now dead God of Marxism; when he left it, he was leaving everything he had ever known. A brave move it was and here he tells the tale.