James Burnham (1905-1987) was one of the most influential anticommunist figures of the Cold War era, as Daniel Kelly's fascinating biography makes clear. But like many anticommunists, Burnham first started on the other side. Beginning his career in 1929 as an Oxford-trained Thomist at New York University, Burnham soon joined his friend and colleague Sidney Hook on the revolutionary Left, becoming a dedicated follower of Leon Trotsky and a leading organizer of various communist political parties. Burnham would eventually break with Trotskyism and begin a slow journey to the Right, moving beyond the residual Marxism of his fellow Partisan Review intellectuals before becoming a founding editor at National Review, where he would remain until stricken by a debilitating stroke in 1978. Kelly tells the story of Burnham's political journey and intellectual transformation intoas Richard Brookhiser once stated it"the first neoconservative," including his relationship with Leon Trotsky, his intimate involvement with the CIA-orchestrated Congress for Cultural Freedom, and his role as mentor to William F. Buckley Jr. Including fascinating vignettes with characters as diverse as George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, André Malraux, and Ezra Pound, Kelly's lively and definitive narrative must be read not only by anyone interested in the life of this seminal conservative thinker and Cold War strategist, but by all those who want a better understanding of the forces behind the most important ideological clash of the modern age.
What They're Saying...
"Quite a story, worth telling, worth reading."
— Washington Times
"[A]s Daniel Kelly's book vividly reminds us, James Burnham's insights and attitudesabove all, perhaps, his allergy to political sentimentalityare needed now more than ever."
— New Criterion, September 2002
"The book['s]...focus does usefully enable one to follow the evolution of American conservative thought during the decades of its resurrection."
"It is a fine biographythorough but not overlong, lucid, carefully researched and documented, a work of scholarship that is also wonderful to read."
— Richard Posner, New Republic
"Kelly's is a deserved tribute to a major figure in the history of American conservatism."
— First Things
"Daniel Kelly has given us a superb account of both the man and his ideas. His biography is thoroughly researched, lucidly written, careful and persuasive in its judgments, and full of entertaining stories of left- and right-wing politics from the early Thirties onward."
— National Review
". . . detailed, sympathetic, and illuminating . . ."
— Peter Coleman, Quadrant, October 2004