Current Reading

As always — but even more so than usual — I have piles of books on my desk and strewn throughout my apartment. The review pile by itself is fairly hefty, with volumes by Bill Kauffman, William F. Buckley Jr., Alan Crawford, Dan Flynn, and Paul Gottfried. Some of the reviews are for quarterlies, so it may be a while before they appear in print. (On the other hand, I have one or two pieces already queued up to appear in the next month or so. Will post details as soon as I know they’re out.)

On top of that, I have various bits of research reading ongoing at the moment. In what spare time I have left, though, the book that has my attention is Carl Oglesby’s Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Antiwar Movement. Actually, I’ll review it somewhere or other eventually too, if there are any editors interested. Or maybe I’ll see if I can get a magazine interested in a longer essay on the student Left and Right in the 1960s. Oglesby was a leader of SDS, for a while its president, and he made a point to learn about the anti-interventionist tradition on the Right. He even made the occasional appeal to YAF to join forces with SDS, which earned him denunciation from his Marxist colleagues. He wasn’t apologetic about it:

If it was an error, it was one I kept on making. I even put it into print at the end of my contribution to a two-part book Containment and Change, published in early 1967. The book had grown out of a “dialogue” with Professor Richard Shaull at Union Theological Seminary in February 1966. Shaull, whose specialty was the political history of Protestant theology, had recently discovered two historians who rang my bells and had talked about them a lot at the Union session. One was the liberal William Appleman Williams, and the other was the conservative Murray Rothbard. They were both libertarians, and that is what I had begun calling myself.

That’s from page 120 of Ravens in the Storm. Unfortunately, SDS and its spin-offs kept getting pulled further and further to the left, deep into Marxism and revolutionary rhetoric (as well as some comical, but occasionally deadly, attempts at revolutionary action). The damage that did to the noninterventionist cause is still being felt to this day — not least in that the backlash against such radicalism made the Right even more militaristic than it had been before. The hawks on the Right could now always set up a cardboard sixties radical as a symbol of everything that patriotic Americans had to oppose. On the other hand, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go against the war with the activists you have, not necessarily the activists you want.

Update: I should have linked to Bill Kauffman’s interview with Carl Oglesby before now.


4 thoughts on “Current Reading

  1. Brent Burk March 29, 2008 / 3:29 am

    Looks like I’ll add another book to my Amazon wishlist.

    60+ books now, hrm… I might want to cut down, considering I’ve only read 3.5(current reading Pat’s Day of Reckoning) books since Thanksgiving.

  2. dylan waco March 29, 2008 / 7:00 pm


    Read Ravens In the Storm when it first came out. I was disappointed. Oglesby always came across as one of the smarter and more sensical New Left figures. As someone who views himself as a decentralist leftist AND paleocon AND a small l libertarian I expected more from this book. Instead there was a lot of typical “it wasn’t my fault” talk and some really unbelievable nonsense.

    Things that stood out to me:

    -Oglesby claiming he read Soul On Ice and that it was brilliant in the same sentence that he says he had no clue Eldridge Cleaver was a rapist until much later..which essenitally means Oglesby was functionally illiterate or is a liar

    – The insane claim that the 68 convention protest was originally about drumming up support for RFK from outside the establishment and that the tenure of the plans only changed after his murder (literally I know of no one else who believes this).

    -Tons of silly Kennedy worship

    -Lots of a obviously dishonest talk about the revolutionary nature of many of his friends and allies.

    This is not saying the book doesn’t have its merits. It does. Talk about the early days of SDS is really interesting, my favorite part being that Oglesby is candid about the un-Marxist nature of early SDS (he was recruited by someone who said flat out that SDS was not socialist). The stuff on libertarianism and alliances with rightist and even some corporatist is interesting also. But the book comes across as really dishonest.

    It is sad that to this day the most honest SDS memoir was written by Billy Ayers.


  3. Daniel McCarthy March 29, 2008 / 11:34 pm

    I’ll have to keep on my toes when reading the Oglesby book. I got the impression from the Kauffman interview in Reason that Oglesby might not be as solid as I’d like to think — he’s a Clintonista, for one thing.

    Have you read Kirkpatrick Sale’s book on SDS? That’s one I’m eager to check out.

  4. dylan waco March 30, 2008 / 6:36 am


    Sale’s history of SDS is tremendous. It is a bit difficult to come by, but if you can track it down add it to your library. The only other book on the New Left/SDS that rivals it as a work of history is Jim Miller’s “Democracy Is In The Streets” and that book is even more difficult to find last time I checked.

    Still as a memoir, Oglesby’s book does not compare to that of Billy Ayers from the perspective of honesty. That may not be the sole ingredient needed for a good book, but it sure helps. I’m not a big fan of Todd Gitlin and I think David Horowitz is a pathological liar, but I’d rate both of their books on the exploits of their youth above Oglesby’s..and Oglesby is a guy who should have given us better than that.


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