Review: Elbaum’s Revolution in the Air

Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che

Max Elbaum

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Students for a Democratic Society dissolved, some young leftists took the path of nihilistic armed struggled and joining weatherman, and other such groups. Others decided to take their lessons from Lenin ad Mao and began building small, vanguard organizations. Members of these groups often left school to work in factories and mines in an attempt to organize the working class for revolution. These groups are usually brought under the umbrella of “New Communist Movements” or “NCMs”. There members were dedicated, deeply interested in revolutionary theory, and totally, totally wrong.


As far as I know, this was the first real serious look at the new communists movements. It’s an incredible accomplishment relying on scores and scores of interviews with other participants, original documents, and Elbaum’s own involvement in the movement, especially the formations around “Line of March” on the west coast (of which Elbaum was a member) and the Communist Party (Marxist Leninist), one of the largest maoist groups to arise in this moment. Elbaum covers lots of new ground here that will be new to most of us. I’m pretty into this stuff, and have been for many years, but when I read this much was new material.


Elbaum does more though than chronicle a particular moment in leftist politics, he tries to use them to teach today’s activists to not make the same mistakes, to avoid the pointless skirmishes, to balance ideological purity with real life execution, to be better. I hope people are listening.


Recommended for the enthusiast.

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