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Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties [Paperback]

Peter Collier , David Horowitz

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Book Description

Aug. 1 2009
As leading New Leftists in the Sixties, Peter Collier and David Horowitz were intimately involved in the radicalism of the day. Later on, they became the first of their generation to publicly reject the objectives of that revolutionary era and point out the cultural chaos it had left behind. Part memoir, part political analysis, part social history, DESTRUCTIVE GENERATION is the compelling story of their intellectual journey into and out of the radical trenches. Telling stories of the New Left's most famous (and infamous) personalities and events, Collier and Horowitz reveal the destructive legacy of the Sixties and the way in which that decade continues to cast a long shadow over politics and culture today. When it was first published more than a decade ago, DESTRUCTIVE GENERATION was a controversial bestseller that some critics compared to Whittaker Chambers' powerful political testament, WITNESS. This new edition contains new material which makes this classic work more relevant than ever in our own divided time.

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About the Author

David Horowitz is the author of Radical Son, The Politics of Bad Faith, Left Illusions, and other books. He is the President of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles, California.

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A WHILE BACK, WE WERE ON A RADIO TALK SHOW ABOUT FORMER Sixties radicals. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ghost of Betty Van Patter July 22 2009
By MJS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Looking back on one's past generally evokes one of two responses. Either a) "Wow, wasn't that a great time!" or b) "Dear God, what was I thinking?" Occasionally one can summon up a bit of both but at the very least we look back with a degree of bemusement. When self-professed "New Left radicals" Peter Collier and David Horowitz look back at the 1960s their reaction is decidedly "what was I thinking" sort. The result is that this book has essentially two speeds: bitchy and cranky.

The bitchy parts comprise some of the most enjoyable reading of the year for me.

Since this is a tale of apostasy the cranky parts are to be expected. The authors went from the New Left to embracing anti-communism in a big way, they're looking back in bitterness. Because they were insiders the perspective Collier and Horowitz aren't giving us the Woodstock and tie-dyed Sixties, they're telling stories that range from ironic ("Post-Vietnam Syndrome") to heartbreaking (Fay Stender) to verging on self-parody (The Weather Underground) to just flat out hilarious (the Berkeley City Council). The little known story of Fay Stender alone makes this book worth reading. How can the story of a nice Jewish girl who embraced every cause of the 1960s, became a major force in a prison rights, joined the feminist movement, found true love only to become the target of an assassination attempt by the very prisoners for whom she once so tireless fought have not been made into a movie yet.

The Weather Underground chapter, on the other hand, could make a fine absurdist comedy. What's more hilarious than upper middle-class white boys declaring themselves "crazy motherf*ers" devoted to "scaring the s* out of honky America"? I'll tell you what, it's an ENFORCED orgy that generates this morning after comment "I'm sure they have to do it this way in Vietnam." No dummy, they didn't. Say what you will about Ho Chi Minh, no one has accused him of directing the sex lives of the Vietnamese people like Benardine Dohrn and company. You'll hear less exhortations to arm yourself at an NRA convention than you will from a few pages of the WU. I guess polishing one's, ahem, gun helped pass the time between those required orgies. We find that, just like the Baader-Meinhof gang, the WU leadership had more in common with the Three Stooges than Marx or Lenin.

Nothing, however, prepares one for the laughs that are generated by the proceedings of the Berkeley city council. No since Eric Hobsbawm called Marie Antoinette "chicken-brained" have I laughed so hard at a serious history. The highlight is undoubtedly when the council, irked at having to tear themselves away from formulating their policy on Nicaragua, must deal with the growing issue of the homeless in the city. Those pesky homeless people just don't get the dialectic. Their rowdiness at a council meeting inspires the "radical" mayor to tell them "if we can't have order here, we'll just end the meeting and go home."

Guess what the homeless people said in response to that.

This isn't a single narrative but a collection of previously published magazine pieces (broadsides?) and essays on the author's journeys (literal and metaphorical), and as this was originally published in the 1980s quite a bit of time is spent on Nicaragua. When Collier and Horowitz are taking the humorless, gullible and inept to task, they're at their best. When they're on one of their anti-communist rants, well, it just feels dated.

What hangs most over this book is not regret, but the ghost of Betty Van Patter. An accountant that Collier and Horowitz persuaded to work with the Black Panthers as a bookkeeper in one of their community projects, Van Patter was apparently murdered by members of the group after she uncovered evidence of embezzlement. Their crushing disillusionment with their own actions and their own illusions stems from this tragedy yet the authors don't oversell this story, they don't excuse or pity themselves. These are two very talent writers who can create a compelling narrative like few others.

Yes, they have their opinions and they couldn't be more up front about them. I enjoy diverse opinions but given a choice I'd rather read a balanced history book than one slanted to any political persuasions. There are exceptions, of course. Paul M. Johnson is an enjoyable writer who isn't afraid of a bit of research and he is a man of fixed opinions but he's quite upfront about his point of view. He doesn't pretend to be unbiased or dispassionate so even though I frequently disagree with his views, I enjoy reading his work. He makes his case and dares you to disagree. He's also frequently laugh out loud funny. The same goes for Eric Hobsbawm, Christopher Hitchens and Susan Jacoby. The tell it as they see it never forgetting to inform and engage along the way.

On occasion I found myself disagreeing with the authors' too sweeping dismissiveness of the possibility that anything positive came from the Sixties. The New Left represented only a portion of the events of that decade and while Collier and Horowitz effectively dismantle any illusions that might remain about that on occasion they write as if the New Left was the only story from that time. I kept coming back to the comments one interviewee made of Fay Stender "It should count for something that she wanted to be a force for good in this world." He could be speaking of a generation.

If you like smart writing with an eye for the absurd and are willing to read and decide for yourself whether or not you agree with the author, this book is highly recommended.
29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read April 1 2006
By Josiah RW Strandberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a superbly written history of American's 60's ordeal. It is a discussion from the inside of the movement and helps explain why we can't get over that decade. I'd rank it with Chamber's Witness as a must read for those who want to know the truth about what happened.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting March 5 2012
By Lisa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm still in the middle of the book but am haunted wondering if Horowitz and Collier would ever have imagined when they wrote this that Ayers and the militant left would have one of their own in our very White House! We are in diabolical times and the enemies are wandering the earth in search of souls to destroy.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An in depth look at Chaos Dec 18 2009
By Thinker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Collier and Horowitz provide a passionate, detailed, meticulously researched account of the days of insanity that plagued America 40 years ago. The work is made that much more poignant by the fact that the two were willing participants in the actions they describe. While others have derided this book because they disagree with the authors' political shift, the facts speak for themselves. The book is a must read for today's youth, caught up in self-importance and blind worship of iconic, but hollow leaders. The failure of those in the sixties to use reason and logic to understand the threats of mob rule and communist ideology echoes today in those who choose to "make history" without questioning the common sense of those they follow. Hopefully, if we are still around in 40 years, today's "activists" will be able to benefit from the same soul searching and reflection that encouraged Collier and Horwitz to issue this call to arms for those who believe in America as the last hope for the world. A primer text for those who want to change the world.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Self Righteous Left - left exposed April 28 2013
By RuggedShark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First, I'd much rather learn the history of the 60's from someone who participated in it - in the inner circles - than from any academic. There are some words that the human species finds hard to utter, "I'm sorry," "I don't know" and hardest of all "I was wrong." To write this, David and Peter have to muster up that big one - right at the start - "I was wrong." And that indicates the passion for truth and the kind of introspection that is rare - especially among those who were so thoroughly indoctrinated.
The book is concise, historical and revealing. It is a must read for anyone interested in present day politics and how we got here. It shows how the destruction of the structure of our society is not a collateral casualty of the left movement but is the murder of an inept victim too stupid to understand the brutal, robbery, rape and beating it has just taken. This is classic Marxism, to turn the people against each other and accumulate power. None of the ills the left sought to solve has been solved - because it is not about solving anything - its always been about power. In every case, those who Don Quixote portended to help are worse off.
No doubt the horrific road we are on is driven by the likes of these wanna be world dictators who propagate all that is vile and evil.
They are in the end-game now. And woe to us if they succeed. A MUST READ IF YOUR BRAIN IS NOT BEER SOAKED OR POT STAINED.

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