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Friday, August 15, 2003

Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey

By David Horowitz

Review by Anna Gould:

"My second thoughts had led me through a night of the soul that involved the condemnation of my own life."

Who once occupied the leading ranks of the Leftist movement in the United States, but now praises The Heritage Foundation as "the right's most important policy think tank"? David Horowitz has traveled from one side of the political spectrum to the other. He chronicles this most unusual journey from leader and defender of the far Left to proponent and activist of conservatism in Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey.

In this captivating autobiography, Horowitz writes of the people, places, and events which shaped his life and philosophy. Spanning over 400 pages, this "public story" enhances the reader's understanding of the man who wrote it and details a seemingly impossible political transformation. Horowitz offers a masterfully written story, which leaves the reader tied to the book until the last page is read. It is the story of a prominent Sixties Marxist who eventually would walk "into the voting booth and, without hesitation, punch the line marked 'Ronald Reagan.'"

The grandson of Russian Jewish immigrants, his childhood in a heavily Communist/Socialist neighborhood in New York City influenced his political associations. Receiving his "instruction" from The Daily Worker, a Communist Party publication, Horowitz says his parents' friends were Communists who "invariably used the term 'progressive.'" The Horowitz family was very passionate and political. Hence, this explains why Horowitz's relationship with his father would forever change when they had a disagreement over the accuracy of news in the New York Times.

Gradually building a case against a cause he formerly prized, he writes of the "second thoughts" that led to his ultimate conversion. The Black Panthers' senseless violence (and murder), the apparent intolerance of the Left, and the wrongheaded programs they advocated contributed to Horowitz's break from the movement.

The Khrushchev Report, which exposed Stalinist atrocities, was purposely ignored by many radicals in the United States who were interested in propagating "the Party." Horowitz writes that while his parents "remained faithful in their hearts to the radical cause, they were really never active in politics again." Horowitz confronted his own "Krushchev Reports," or the glaring and dangerous aspects of the Left, when he could no longer ignore the destructive effects of the Panthers, the Weathermen, or Marxism in general.

These "second thoughts" led to his battle with friends and colleagues who did not support the open questioning of the Marxist doctrine. Indeed, he writes that one man told him that "even [raising] such questions [was] counter-revolutionary."

"As far as they were concerned, I was a renegade who had betrayed them - who announced today what he had denounced yesterday- and that was enough," he writes. "I ... had to face the savage personal attacks ... that were designed to warn others to remain within the fold."

But Horowitz refused to blindly accept a movement which was increasingly defined by its many failures and tragedies. He writes that he could not ignore that Marxist governments "produced the bloodiest and most oppressive regimes in human history." Instead of finding a forum for a lively debate, however, he found chilling silence and finally, alienation.

"Despite the uniform disasters of socialist revolutions, the socialist goal remained unexamined and unquestioned," he writes.

A controversial speaker and writer, Horowitz has successfully employed the tactics of famous radical Saul Alinsky for both the Right and the Left. This unique achievement sets him apart from most public figures, and leaves a fascinating tale. Radical Son is the story of a man, his time, and his struggle. As Horowitz writes, it is "not the complete record of a life, but an effort to make sense of one."

Anna Marie Gould, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, served as a 2002 summer intern for The Heritage Foundation and Townhall.com.

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