This review appears in the Generation Positive Canada Blog, July 2010
by Gregory Klages
This book is not for everyone. It offers a detailed, acronym-heavy genealogy of the New Communist movements that populated the far left in the United States between the late 1960s and late 1990s. Some chapters are too detail heavy for the casual reader, while others offer refined, clear summaries of some of the major points of philosophical disagreement between these groups, and through which even someone with passing curiosity could gain a useful sense of the politics of the times.
What I found most interesting, however, was the approach to organizations on the far left through a form of network theory. Understanding how these groups intersected, shared and competed for resources (whether funding, members, volunteer time, etc.), and proselytized to converts and to potential adherents, made for particularly fascinating reading. While Elbaum in some respects keeps this facet of the book comfortably in the background (not letting an academic, organizational approach overwhelm a more historical narrative type of story), his conclusions and summary observations clearly indicate a sensitivity to these issues, and perhaps a struggle to find some sort of useful, functional advice for future organizers on the far left.