If you've ever wondered how people can remain Marxists after witnessing nearly a century of tyranny, mass murder and economic depravation, there is an anecdote about two-thirds of the way through Ronald Radosh's memoir, "Commies," that is revelatory - and possibly explanatory.
In the 1970s, Radosh, a Marxist intellectual of long standing who had by now begun to question the Stalinist wing of his political persuasion, was on a junket to see the Worker's Paradise of Cuba.
The tour of Americans visited a mental asylum in Cuba, and some on the trip were horrified to find an artist imprisoned there merely because he was homosexual.
Others were astounded by the amount of drug therapy - and the bragging of an administrator that this institution had the highest per capita number of lobotomies in the world.
When an argument over this cruel treatment erupted later on the tour bus, Castro loyalist Susan Ross glared at her comrades and declared,"We have to understand that there are differences between capitalist lobotomies and socialist lobotomies."
It wasn't until some time later that Radosh reversed his own socialist lobotomy.
That break came when Radosh, a New York-born, Jewish, "Red Diaper Baby" decided that to restore his leftist vigor, he would write the ultimate tome on how the Rosenbergs were not atom bomb spies but were executed by an anti-Semitic American government because of their communist beliefs.
As a teen, Radosh had handed out fliers demanding a new trial for the couple and had attended rallies featuring the popular communist novelist, Howard Fast, on their behalf.
Much to his chagrin, Radosh's research proved the Rosenbergs guilty. This made him an outcast with many on the Left, in whose eyes he had violated an article of faith.
Radosh began to doubt the basis for his life, figuring if the Left was wrong about the Rosenbergs, then maybe they were wrong about everything.
Radosh, who in 1980 feared that the election of Ronald Reagan was a precursor to American fascism, began writing about the Sandinistas in Nicaragua for the New Republic.
For the first time, however, he was writing for a magazine that encouraged intellectual curiosity and dissent rather than the communist rags he had founded, contributed to and edited.
Once Radosh began writing that Sandinista atrocities should be condemned as loudly as those of anticommunist forces, his final ties to the hard Left were broken.
By the end of the regime, finding far more evidence of Sandinista slaughter, he was even promoting Contra aid.
"Commies," however, is not an angry, expository tome. It is humorous and even affectionate. From his early days as the child of true believers who sent him to commie camp and commie school, where he learned socialist doctrine and even sang Marxist praise songs, Radosh illustrates better than many writers that Marxism is a secular religion with its own set of dogmas, which demand to be taken on faith alone.
Radosh names names, but is also merciless - and often hilarious - about his own foibles.
Whether its singing folk songs at commie camp with Pete Seeger, telling Bob Dylan that he can't crash at his apartment but finding him another place, seeing Bianca Jagger unbutton her blouse while extolling the virtues of the Sandinistas in an interview, attending a Sandinista victory party with Ed Asner the night Ortega was voted out of power, arguing with Michael Harrington over who was the purer socialist, organizing a music benefit for Salvadoran communist guerillas, going to a "sleep therapist" when his first marriage was in trouble, or going to Bob Scheer's wedding where "Smash Monogamy!" was the slogan on the cake, "Commies" is a lively read and a quick and entertaining ride through the myriad variations of the American Left.
This is an affecting political memoir of one man's journey to discover America - a home he had been taught all of his life to despise and work to destroy - and learn to love it.