UP FROM COMMUNISM: Conservative Odysseys in American Intellectual History by John P. Diggins

UP FROM COMMUNISM: Conservative Odysseys in American Intellectual History

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Biographical profiles of four American writers who moved from Left to Right. First comes Max Eastman, the cheerful bohemian and gifted translator of Trotsky; the best known is the novelist John Dos Passes; the others are Will Herberg, who became a religious convert and attacked McCarthyism as reeking of plebeian democracy, and philosophy professor James Burnham, author of The Managerial Revolution. Eastman, who was what Wilhelm Reich would have called ""a phallic narcissist,"" tussled with Marxism, always upholding the duality of public and private life, aesthetics and politics. He became a Reader's Digest contributor and disciple of the free market. Burnham, an upper-class Catholic by origin, eventually added to his technocratic disposition an enthusiasm for Sorel's doctrine of heroic ""myth,"" and, after doing secret OSS studies, wrote cold war material for the Truman Doctrine. All these political migrations intersected the broader evolution of the Partisan Review stratum away from anti-Stalinist leftism toward sheer anti-Communism; as in his excellent Mussolini and Fascism (1972), Diggins provides a great deal of material stitched with rather smug commentary. The book underlines Dos Passes' protofascist elements even at the time he was most acclaimed by the Left: his fantasies of annihilation, anti-technological spirit, and romantic view of the lost individual craftsman, as well as his ""condemnation of humanity"" itself for the contemporary crisis. Diggins shows how two elements--antagonism toward liberalism and fascination with Trotsky's critique of Stalin--persisted throughout these lifetimes. He concludes with an assessment of the problems of American conservative philosophy. Unlike Mussolini, this long, densely written book will daunt general readers, since it bears all the difficulties of summarizing four men's ""positions"" over a span of decades. Nevertheless, it makes a suggestive source.

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1975
Publisher: Harper & Row