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Jumping the Line: The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Radical [Paperback]

By William Herrick & Paul Berman (Introduction by)
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Item description for Jumping the Line: The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Radical by William Herrick & Paul Berman...

A vivid first-hand account of Left culture in America in the heady days of the 20s through the 40s. Herrick grew up in New York with pictures of Lenin over his crib and provides colorful stories of riding the rails during the Depression, organizing Black sharecroppers, working on the collective Sunrise Farm and as Orson Welles' secretary. Like many of his generation, he fought in Spain with the Lincoln Brigades, and his experiences there shattered his political world, as he recounts horror stories of the Stalinist purges of anarchist fighters. His depictions of the Spanish Civil War have made him "our American Orwell."-Paul Berman

William Herrick is the author of 10 novels, including Hermanos! and Shadows and Wolves. He lives in upstate New York.

Outline Review
William Herrick provides an eye opening and fiery account of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 in his powerful memoir Jumping the Line. Raised with Communism in his blood, it was inevitable that Herrick would volunteer to fight in Spain with the hope of quelling fascism and battling for the rights of workers. Young and idealistic, Herrick soon learned that both the fascists and Communists committed grotesque acts against humanity, and shame is etched in many of Herrick's accounts of the war. In the 1950s Herrick went on to testify against his former Communist comrades, and again a great sense of guilt pervades his account of this difficult decision.

Herrick's life is anything but dull. He has worked with Orson Welles, met Rita Hayworth, lived as a hobo, and almost died from a bullet wound during the Battle of Jarama. Herrick is a controversial figure who exposed Communist crimes to the media. At the same time he is honest--admitting he too would have done anything asked of him by the Communist party. This is a gutsy memoir told in plain prose, with enough wit to keep the subject from becoming overly dry.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   280
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.55" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2001
Publisher   AK Press
ISBN  1902593421  
ISBN13  9781902593425  

Availability  0 units.

More About William Herrick & Paul Berman

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! William Herrick currently resides in the state of New York. William Herrick was born in 1915.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Jumping the Line: The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Radical?

The realities of the Spanish civil war  Feb 19, 2008
A fascinating book written by a veteran of the Spanish civil war that strips it of both the idealism of the left and dismissal of the right.

While only roughly half of the book covers the Spanish civil war and the authors participation it is as a previous reviewer points out the "American Orwell" Herrick writes with the bitterness of a man whose ideals had been betrayed and who had seen for himself the betrayal of many of the men who went to fight for what they felt was the freedom of the Spanish people against the tyranny of dictatorship and fascism.

What many of them found was the growing Shadow of the 'dictatorship of the left' in the form of Stalin-ism ever encroaching upon them. Already men had began to be silenced by the Russian backed leaders of the Brigade and every day republican controlled land began to resemble tyrannical Stalinist Russia as its lackeys in Spain seemed to be far keener on dispatching left wing opponents in Spain than fighting fascists (It is well documented the destruction of the CNT and POUM by the Communist party)

Herrick also details the rise of military leaders placed in positions of power for little more than cosmetic reasons, to create an image to the world. One a University professor the other an African American. Concerning the second man it is particularly moving in that far from as some more cynical historians have painted him he was a simple man who resigned himself to 'follow party orders' while knowing full well his own shortcomings as a less than competent leader (This was later to prove true with a disastrous attack let by him that lead to heavy casualties) It is also interesting how one of Herricks friends another African American attempted to lead a protest against his appointment and how Herrick commentated on that he could as if anyone else did it would be perceived as 'racist'

The arguing, the incompetence and pointless political debates are all examined in full here. A fascinating read, this may be in many ways similar to Orwell's biography but the book "In red and green" is one I would also draw comparisons to. Especially in that book the part where Irish republican troops discuss shooting their commanding officer because he had once served in the Irish republic during the black and tan wars! (This in spite of the fact that he was now a committed anti fascist and ironically Jewish! Well, Ryan did go on to support the Nazis)

A fascinating insight into one mans history on the left during the first half of the last century. After reading the books of Orwell, In Red and Green and Jumping the line you will come to the conclusion that it was no surprise that Franco won, the only surprise in fact being that he took so long to do it.
The American Orwell  Mar 17, 2002
"Jumping the Line" is a hobo phrase for "riding the rails," or hitching a ride on a freight car. It also brings to mind crossing boundaries, maybe even switching sides. Herrick has done both. Beginning life as a rail-riding hobo, Herrick developed an awareness of the plight of the downtrodden and eventually became not a member but employee of the American Communist Party. Herrick was hard-working element of the Party and an able union organizer and cell initiator. Willing to put his life on the line in backing his beliefs, Herrick traveled to Spain with the Abraham Lincoln brigade to fight the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Comintern, the International Communist Party, hoped this effort would lead to a home for Communism in Spain. While Herrick's soldiering was brief (he quickly took a bulled to the neck, nearly crippling him), the Communist atrocities and double-dealing there made him see the Party in an entirely different light. Returning to the States an anarchist at heart, Herrick had a wife to support and was tied to the Party for a paycheck. His outspokenness about the Stalin-Hitler pact led to his dismissal and his full emergence as an anarcho-social democrat. Appearing in these pages as Herrick formalizes his distrust of all power is such figures as Emma Goldman, Cole Porter and Herrick's former employer Orson Welles. This fascinating work is historically enlightening and a textbook in the formation of practical anarchism from an adventurer-author struck from the same mold as George Orwell.
An Honest Account of an Abraham Lincoln Battalion Veteran  Feb 21, 1999
"Jumping The Line" is a brutally honest and frank account of William Herrick's life on the American Left - as a young Communist who quickly became disillusioned with the excesses of Stalinism and of Soviet Anti-Semitism. An early volunteer in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion fighting Fascism in Spain, Herrick was badly wounded in the first major battle fought by the Lincolns at Jarama. Transferred to a hospital, Herrick witnessed firsthand the betrayals and backstabbing policies of the Soviet Secret Police and their minions. In one horrific episode, Herrick recounts how, as an "unreliable" he was forced to be involved in an GPU\International Brigade execution of accused "Trotskyist" civilians, an event that has haunted him to this day.

Returning home, Herrick then suffered the emotional wound of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, and being Jewish, promptly broke with the Party - courageously demonstrating as "a veteran of the Spanish Civil War - victim of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. He went on to adventures serving as a majordomo of sorts for Orson Welles - and some of the tales told here about "Citizen Kane" are quite hilarious. Herrick once told Life Magazine that his reasons for going to fight Hitlerism in Spain were that "As A Jew I know what Hitler is doing to my people".While he later admitted that it was the Party who instructed this to say the aforementioned remark, his pride and emotional attachment to his people clearly stands out in "Jumping The Line" as well as his "no prisoners taken" attitude towards both Fascism and Communism. This is indeed a memoir that Jews and all interested in the Spanish Civil War worldwide should read and while Herrick is a man who will admit his faults with candor, he is nonetheless a brave man and excellent writer - "Hermanos" is also strongly recommended by this reviewer.
The best memoir of the Spanish Civil War by an American  Sep 8, 1998
This book is, very simply, the best memoir ever published by an American volunteer in the Spanish Civil War. It is a relentless autopsy on the murdered idealism of the young Communists who went to fight the fascists in Spain but ended up serving as hard guys for Russian dictator Josef Stalin and his secret police. It also shows clearly that the native supporters of the Spanish left were out for more than just a repudiation of fascist aggression: they were fighting for a social revolution, based on the labor movement, of a kind Stalin hated and feared much more than he did the fascists. This book also stands as a uniquely truthful and beautiful account of the lives of American and international Communist cadres; Bill Herrick speaks for every comrade who risked his or her life fighting for the world revolution in the 1930s, only to be brutally betrayed by Stalinism. It is extremely doubtful that a better book about the appeal of revolutionary Communism or the experience of its youthful militants will ever be written, at least in English.

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