The politics of betrayal

Renegades and ex-radicals from Mussolini to Christopher Hitchens

Author: Ashley Lavelle

The radical who is transformed into a conservative is a common theme in political history. Benito Mussolini, the Italian socialist who became a fascist, is the best-known example, but there have been many others, including the numerous American Trotskyists and Marxists who later emerged as neo-conservatives, anti-communists or, in some instances, McCarthyists.

The politics of betrayal examines why several one-time radicals subsequently became parts of the establishment in various countries, including the former Black Panther Party leader turned Republican Eldridge Cleaver, the Australian communist Adela Pankhurst who became an admirer of the Nazis, and the ex-radical journalist Christopher Hitchens, whose defection to the camp of George W. Bush’s neo-conservatives following 11 September 2001 offers one of the most startling examples of the phenomenon in recent times.

How and why do so many radicals betray the cause? Is it simply a reaction to political defeat? Were their politics always problematic, even as radicals? Were the ex-radicals psychologically flawed to begin with? What implications does it have for left politics? This book, the first of its kind, answers these and more questions.

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