History on the Printed Page

Against the Current, No. 135, July/August 2008

Paul LeBlanc

A SMALL VOLUME could be produced listing the books dealing with the times I have written about here. I will offer only a couple dozen.

Key starting-points are Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas, eds., Encyclopedia of the American Left, and Van Gosse, Rethinking the New Left: An Interpretative Essay. I am inclined to add, for even broader context, my own A Short History of the U.S. Working Class and Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience. One of several excellent works providing a rich portrait of the times, by a well-informed British journalist, is Godfrey Hodgson’s 1976 shrewd account America in Our Time.

Van Gosse has termed Martin Luther King, Jr. “the defining radical figure of the entire Cold War era” and “the paradigmatic New Leftist.” See Vincent Harding, Martin Luther King, The Inconvenient Hero, but especially James M. Washington, ed., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. Essential for the vibrant Black nationalist challenge to aspects of King’s orientation are The Autobiography of Malcolm X and George Breitman, ed., Malcolm X Speaks.

A major source for important new left materials from the era can be found in Alexander Bloom and Wini Breines, eds., “Takin’ It to the Streets”: A Sixties Reader. Among the best histories of SNCC and SDS are Clayborn Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s and Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS. A richly detailed account of the inner workings of the anti-war movement, helping to illuminate many old left and new left currents, is Fred Halstead’s Out Now! A Participant’s Account of the American Movement Against the Vietnam War.

A valuable discussion of the new left’s emergence is provided in Maurice Isserman, If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left. Max Elbaum’s Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radical Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che provides much detail on what happened after the collapse of SNCC and SDS.

Among the many memoirs, from different perspectives, adding to the understanding of old left/new left realities are those by Bettina Aptheker’s Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech, and Became a Feminist Rebel, James Foreman’s The Making of Black Revolutionaries, Michael Harrington’s Fragments of a Century, A Social Biography, Tom Hayden’s Reunion: A Memoir, John Lewis’s Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, Michael Meeropol’s An Execution in the Family: One Son’s Journey, Ronald Radosh’s Commie: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left, and the Leftover Left, Barry Sheppard’s The Party: The Socialist Workers Party, 1960-1988, vol. 1, Tim Wohlforth’s The Prophet’s Children: Travels on the American Left. Also see Judith Kaplan and Linn Shapiro, eds., Red Diapers: Growing Up in the Communist Left.

ATC 135, July-August 2008