This 2010 book is a worthy account of the life and works of one of America’s unsung working class heroes, Isaac Rabinowich, commonly known as Rab. Through the medium of his granddaughter’s personal account of Rab’s family life, it is particularly valuable to be able to view a Socialist such as Rab as a real person, tolerant and enlightened, not just a faceless propagandist. Well illustrated, this is a useful and thought-provoking book, carried out in a charmingly eccentric style. The story of Rab is, in a sense, the story of real Socialism in America.
Rab was born on 22 December 1893 in Boston, the old home of American ‘freedom’. His parents, Sheppie and Sarah, had recently arrived from the shetetls of eastern Europe but were literate and engaging, attributes which Rab inherited in spades. Rab also inherited his father’s socialist background, joining the Socialist Party of America at the age of sixteen. Despite his humble origins, Rab excelled academically and was accepted for Harvard. However, wanting to be a real worker rather than an academic drone, he headed instead to an agricultural college in Ohio. A chance flood destroyed his practical project and exhausted his financial resources, so, in the summer of 1915, he headed to Detroit, where a well-placed class mate acquired him a job at the Ford’s factory. Via the Detroit local of the SPA, he soon came into contact with Adolph Kohn and Moses Baritz, two SPGBers fleeing the effects of the First World War. The encounter was to change his life. Kohn and Baritz won Rab over to Marxism, to which he would dedicate the rest of his life.