The fascinating but exhausting political memoirs of Radosh (Divided They Fell, 1996, etc.), a classic Red-diaper-baby who lost faith in his parents’ ideals and became a neoconservative.
As a boy growing up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, Radosh was taught to look forward to the Revolution much as his ancestors had been told to await the Messiah. Both of his parents were ardent Communists who had made pilgrimages to Russia and worked for a variety of party causes in New York. Radosh himself spent his summers at Camp Wo-Chi-Ca (“Workers’ Children’s Camp”—where he learned revolutionary songs from Pete Seeger) and was expelled from the Safety Patrol at PS 173 for refusing to accept an academic award from the Daughters of the American Revolution. After high school he went to study at the University of Wisconsin (mainly because it was the only campus in America that had an above-ground communist student group in the 1950s), but he eventually returned to New York to teach history in the CUNY system. Taking advantage of newly opened government archives, Radosh began to research a study of the Rosenberg case, hoping to exonerate the couple (whose children he had known at summer camp) of the treason charges for which they were executed in 1953. Instead, he came to the conclusion that they had, in fact, passed atomic secrets to the Russians after all. In 1983, he published his findings in The Rosenberg File—and promptly became a pariah on the Left. His later doubts about the benevolence of the Sandinistas (and the political intelligence of their limo-liberal supporters in the US) helped clear Radosh’s mind, and he broke definitively with his old comrades. This caused him some distress, not all of which was personal, and he had a hard time finding academic posts afterwards. He now lives in Washington, DC, where he works for a policy research center at George Washington University.
Radosh is more interesting as an intellect than as a writer, and his account tends to drag on endlessly—especially when he is settling old scores.