The Pied Piper: Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream
by Richard Cummings
Grove, 569 pp., $19.95
Documentation Concerning Serious Factual Errors In Forthcoming Book by Richard Cummings Purportedly About Allard K. Lowenstein
compiled by Gary Bellow, by Jeffrey S. Robbins, by Ronald J. Tabak
privately circulated, 390 pp.
People who get written about in newspapers know that a correction never catches up with a mistake. The correction, if it is made at all, straggles in days or weeks later, and is printed in an obscure part of the paper, under an unexciting heading like “Editor’s Note.” It is an imperfect procedure at best.
The victims of mistakes made in books are less lucky. Publishers occasionally promise a corrected second edition but they usually don’t regard themselves as responsible for the accuracy of what they publish; accuracy is something for authors to worry about. Nor do careless publishing houses pay much of a price in reputation. Most of us know what newspaper Janet Cooke wrote for. But how many people outside the book industry know who Clifford Irving’s publisher was? Apart from a lawsuit, there is little a person about whom an inaccurate book has been written can do; and if that person is no longer living, even the courts are closed.
Still, there are times when one must try to set the record straight; and seldom has the effort been made with such cause as in the present case. More is involved here than mere error. For Richard Cummings has committed, with the collaboration of his publisher, Grove Press, what is more than a series of mistakes, something closer to the attempted murder of a dead man’s honor.
Allard K. Lowenstein, born in Newark, New Jersey, on January 16, 1929, and assassinated in New York City on March 14, 1980, was a remarkable politician. He was the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. His father, who gave up a professorship of biochemistry at Columbia to join the family restaurant business, was an active socialist and a prominent supporter of Jewish educational charities. Allard Lowenstein went to the Ethical Culture School and to Horace Mann; to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose liberal president, Frank Graham, became his mentor, and where he got involved in civil rights and student politics; and to the Yale Law School. In 1950, at the age of twenty-one, Lowenstein became president of the National Student Association. For the next thirty years he was a restless samurai of American liberalism, moving from cause to job to campaign.
He agitated against fascism in Spain and racism in South Africa; wrote a fine book, Brutal Mandate, about a trip he took to South-West Africa; worked in reform Democratic politics in Manhattan. He was at one time or another a foreign-policy assistant to Senator Hubert Humphrey; a teacher at Stanford and at North Carolina State College; the national chairman of Americans for Democratic Action; a campaign organizer for many liberal politicians, including Adlai Stevenson, Eugene McCarthy, Jerry Brown, and Edward Kennedy; a lawyer in New York and Mississippi; a member of Congress; the only white board member of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and an ambassador to the Human Rights Commission of the UN under Andrew Young …