The Spine

From Bolshevism To Radicalism


Maybe this Spine should have been posted on the Open University blog. Or perhaps I should note on this one that this posting will primarily interest those who were, at least at some point in their lives, pre-occupied by the American left, pro or con. It was very rare to find people in the middle or neutral. Actually, I grew up despising communism and pitying communists. Which is also an expression of pre-occupation. I now know why I felt as I did about the doctrine and the doctrinaires, especially the Jewish doctrinaires. You see, I knew I was a Zionist when I was ten. And I knew also, even at that early age, that communism was not only antagonistic to Zionism but that, from Marx's Communist Manifesto on, communism was also antagonistic to Jews. (See my teacher Frank Manuel's brilliantly corrosive book, A Requiem for Karl Marx.)

But this is not about Marx or Manuel. It's about Herbert Aptheker, the leading American communist (and communist American) historian. Yes, he was an apologist for Stalin. He fit every wayward fact into the Marxist straightjacket. He really had zero appreciation of America. And he sexually abused his daughter, Bettina Aptheker, herself a historian at University of California, Santa Cruz. Another historian, Christopher Phelps, uses that fact--sensitively and without hypo-drama--to examine the relationship between father and child. But that relationship is also one between his generation and hers, and it is this particular relationship that bears examination, that is the attempt to tie a failed Soviet Bolshevism to a hopeful American radicalism.

In any case, here's a link to Phelps's quite empathetic review (in The Chronicle of Higher Education) of Bettina's book, Intimate Politics.

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