Unrepentant Leftist

Victor Rabinowitz, Author, Rabinowitz, Author
Victor Rabinowitz, Author, Rabinowitz, Author University of Illinois Press $29.95 (346p) ISBN 978-0-252-02253-1
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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Americans have ""never been kind to radicals,"" writes Rabinowitz, a founder of the National Lawyers Guild, defender of prosecuted Communists, friend of trade unionists, the first lawyer the Rosenbergs turned to (though as he was already representing an accused spy, he advised other counsel) and ""the lawyer for Cuba."" Rabinowitz has taken on the government often, beginning with the notorious section 9 (h) of the 1945 Taft-Hartley Act restricting union collective bargaining and then the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Rabinowitz represented some of those called up by HUAC and in so doing faced public scorn and the combined malice of Joseph McCarthy (a man who, says Rabinowitz, ""showed not the slightest hint of humanity"") and Roy Cohn (whom he calls the most vicious of ""all the evil men I've encountered""). Rabinowitz persuasively describes the devastating consequences of the Cold War mentality on the First Amendment rights of federal employees, Army personnel, aliens, teachers and the Hollywood set. Later, in 1964, 70 lawyers went south under the auspices of the National Lawyers Guild to help the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). For his efforts, Rabinowitz was arrested (""only once"", he says), but then his stand against McCarthy had already been awarded with a HUAC investigation into his activities and with FBI surveillance that extended nearly 20 years beginning in the early 1950s. Even the FBI described Rabinowitz as ""an agile-minded labor attorney,"" but he was also clearly a man of courage and commitment. This an inspiring, engaging memoir appropriate for a time when ""liberal,"" let alone ""leftist,"" is almost as sure a condemnation as ""Communist"" once was. (Dec.)
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