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When Nikita Khrushchev sent tanks into Hungary to crush a grassroots uprising in 1956, many radicals chose that moment to stop apologizing for the Soviet Union. Ronald Radosh, a red-diaper baby who published seventeen articles in The Nation between 1966 and 1980, decided it was time to join the Communist Party USA.
Later, when sane people were celebrating the end of the Vietnam War, Radosh and those around him regarded the moment as “an occasion for deep melancholy.” They liked the Vietnam War, he explained in his memoir, Commies; it gave their lives meaning. Now that our country was no longer laying waste to Third World peasants, America, for these folks, “could no longer so easily be called Amerika.” And now that the exigencies of war could no longer excuse the communists’ human-rights abuses, their struggle could no longer be idealized as the heroic effort to create a model Marxist society: “The idea of an immediate, no-fault revolution, a fantasy of the previous decade, was no longer tenable.”
With that, Radosh doubled down again and traveled to Cuba with a group of revolutionary enthusiasts. One day, they visited a mental hospital. A doctor there boasted, “In our institution, we have a larger proportion of hospital inmates who have been lobotomized than any other mental hospital in the world.” Back on their bus, a flabbergasted therapist exclaimed, “Lobotomy is a horror. We must do something to stop this.” Another member of the American delegation shot back: “We have to understand that there are differences between capitalist lobotomies and socialist lobotomies.”
Radosh, of course, ended up on the political right. The final straw came when he published a book in 1983 arguing that Julius Rosenberg was indeed guilty of the crime for which he had been executed in 1953. Radosh found himself unfairly attacked from the left. Thus was he moved to “consider the ultimate heresy: perhaps the Left was wrong not just about the Rosenberg case, but about most everything else…. My journey to America was about to reach its final leg.”