Role-modeling socialist behaviour: the life and letters of Isaac Rab - Karla Rab

Role-Modeling Socialist Behavior: The Life and Letters of Isaac Rab

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.

role_modeling_socialist_behavior__the_life_and_letters_of_isaac_rab.pdf3.11 MB
role_modeling_socialist_behavior__the_life_and_letters_of_isaac_rab.odt445.72 KB
role_modeling_socialist_behavior__the_life_and_letters_of_isaac_rab.rtf2.69 MB
role_modeling_socialist_behavior__the_life_and_letters_of_isaac_rab.docx596.78 KB
Role-Modeling Socialist Behavio - Karla Doris Rab.epub394.71 KB
Role-Modeling Socialist Behavio - Karla Doris Rab.mobi653.96 KB

Posted By

Jun 11 2014 19:40


  • Isaac Rab (1893 – 1986) was a well-known agitator for Socialism in the Boston area, as a soap-box orator, a lecturer and a teacher, for most of the Twentieth Century. He was among the founding members of the World Socialist Party.

    Karla Doris Rab


Jun 11 2014 20:29

A very enjoyable book

Jun 12 2014 09:03

Is this being distributed by the SPGB or otherwise available elsewhere??

Jun 12 2014 10:35

Paperback edition of Role-Modeling Socialist Behavior: The Life and Letters of Isaac Rab (2010) is available from Amazon or slightly cheaper from directly

Jun 15 2014 13:08

Where did the mobi and epub versions of this go? It looks like removed them when you added the PDF, with this deliberate?

Jul 20 2014 21:59

I uploaded ones with messed up text formatting so deliberately removed them again. I know pdf sucks because its not reflowable. Hopefully I will be able to make available in epub, mobi and docx or odt soon as I have been able to do with some other documents here.

Feb 26 2016 21:15

Added formats docx, odt, rtf, epub and mobi.

Apr 17 2016 19:32

There was a session about him at last year's NYC anarchist book fair.

Apr 17 2016 20:27
petey wrote:
There was a session about him at last year's NYC anarchist book fair.

There are no details here

Oct 5 2017 15:52

I just found out that Karla, the author of this book and Isaac Rab's granddaughter, died on 9/15/2017.

Oct 6 2017 01:29
SamEmm wrote:
I just found out that Karla, the author of this book and Isaac Rab's granddaughter, died on 9/15/2017.

Sorry to hear.

Oct 8 2017 09:59

Sad news.

I had the good fortune to meet Karla and her partner, Ron, a couple of times when I lived in New York. She was a lovely person. Her biography of her grandfather, Isaac Rab, is a fine legacy to both her grandfather and to Karla herself.

Jan 19 2018 13:54

Eventually got round to reading this as whilst I never made it to North America my past association with the SPGB/WSM (and reading of the Western Socialist) made me curious enough to want to compare my more extensive knowledge of the SPGB history and personalities to that of the USA WSP and Canadian SP. The book is written with an understandable great warmth and affection for Rab and other of the early members and their persistence in promoting basic socialist understanding mostly against the odds, especially following the second world war. The open-mindedness of Rab in particular towards others he regarded as genuine socialists but with different views does come across well and it was interesting to hear about the close family relationships with Paul Mattick senior and junior, (although there was still expressed the usual disdain for the old SLP). I was surprised to note a brief mention of our old 'Libertarian Communism' discussion journal and to an old comrade from Holland in the letters. In passing also note there is no reference to the expulsion from the mainstream SPGB of several of the more notable SPGB members that visited the WSP over the years even though it does cover some of the more arcane organisational differences of opinion within the WSP itself.
That said this history of the WSP, over and above the personal history of Rab, was noticeable for the almost complete absence of reference to any significant or everyday aspects of the practical class struggle going on all around them over that extended period (except for a brief dismissive reference to the 'Civil Rights' movement) which says much about that organisation's and the author's simplified understanding of the relationship between class struggle and the potential for social change, such that it comes across largely as a history of abstract ideas divorced from real world struggles. To the outside observer there wasn't really much noticeable difference in the activity of the Workers Socialist Party from it's predecessor in the Socialist Education Society. In that sense they displayed much the same strengths and weaknesses of their larger companion in the SPGB.

Jan 19 2018 19:31

Good point but a more contextual history from WSPUS is in the pipeline.

Jan 19 2018 21:56

"Good point but a more contextual history from WSPUS is in the pipeline."

Is there? Who's writing it?