American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation

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You say you want a revolution 
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
…But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right 

… You ask me for a contribution 
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait 

…But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow 

“Historian” Michael Kazin, who writes for such scholarly periodicals as The Nation, has written a book purporting to tell the story of both the successes and failures of the American Left.  It is about how the Left “Changed a Nation” but failed to ever get a majority of Americans to back an all-out socialist or communist government. Kazin completely leaves out the most important point — one crystallized by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in their 1968 song Revolution: “But when you talk about destruction/ Don’t you know that you can count me out…” Indeed, the author completely ignores the violence and destruction that characterized the political Left, not only in the 1960s, but throughout the century.

E.J. Dionne loves Kazin’s new book, calling it a “masterwork” that can inspire young progressives about their noble heritage.  Eric Altermann calls it a “tour de force of good scholarship.” One can’t help but wonder, however, how the victims of the American Left will embrace Kazin’s tactic of whitewashing the violence out of the history of American leftism. To be sure, what will the family of Betty Van Patter, who was murdered by the Black Panthers, think? Kazin only reports that the Panthers “advocated violence, but discusses none of the actual crimes of this criminal gang – spelled out powerfully by David Horowitz in his memoir Radical Son.

My guess is that the neither the family of Sgt. Brian V. McDonnell, the San Francisco police officer who was killed by a bomb set by the Weather Underground (run by Obama mentor Bill Ayers) nor Officer Robert Fogarty, who was severely wounded in the blast, would be amused by Kazin’s affectionate recounting of the terrorist group as the “most inept terrorists on the planet,” only mentioning the members who blew themselves up while making a bomb to plant at an upcoming Fort Dix dance to take out not only soldiers, but their families as well.

The people of Poland will also probably not consider the central tragedy of the Hitler-Stalin Pact to be the crisis of conscience and bad PR it caused for the American Communist Party.

This is not even mentioning the 150 million human beings murdered in the last century by the governments supported by the Communist Party USA, which Kazin romanticizes in “American Dreamers,” and without whom we would apparently be a society of slave-holders, surfs whose women would not be allowed to vote or get a job.

Under the guise of being frank about the political failures of the Left to rule under the banner of leftism due to– he would have us believe, romantic overreach– Kazin whitewashes the violence that also undercut their cause at every turn.  He omits one historical fact after another. For instance, he discusses early unions and is open about their socialist roots, but there is no mention of the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building by Iron Workers Union radicals that killed 21 people that was part of a concerted conspiracy of union intimidation.

Clarence Darrow also makes an appearance as a People’s Champion.  The inconvenient truth that the labor movement united behind defending the union terrorists and that Clarence Darrow was almost disbarred for trying to bribe jurors in the case probably kept what was for a long time one of the worst terrorist incidents on American soil on Kazin’s cutting room floor.

Margaret Sanger is lauded as a pioneer who “fought for the rights of women as well as the emancipation of the working class.” The fact that prominent Nazis were allowed to write about eugenics for her publication?  The fact that she wanted to limit numbers of people of particular ethnic backgrounds? Not worthy of mention.

Alger Hiss is described by Kazin as “the former diplomat convicted for lying about his communist past.”  This is technically true, but what goes unmentioned is that Hiss’s trial occurred because he was an agent of the Soviet Union who committed treason, and declassified documents have proven this to be an undeniable historical fact.

And the list goes on… and on.

Unforgivably, for a book written in 2011 that spends a big percentage of its space on American Communism, Kazin makes no mention of newly declassified material like the famed Venona transcripts, or any or source, foreign or domestic, that proves just how active Stalin and the Comintern were in the activities of these supposed idealists.

Kazin also mentions David Horowitz in passing, as an example of a former member of the Left who is now an active opponent of his former cause—but ignores the detailed first hand accounts of the criminality of the Panthers, contained in Horowitz’s milestone book with Peter Collier, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the 60s.  Read their account of the life and times of Huey P. Newton, Baddest, and then try to reconcile that with Kazin’s benign picture of anti-racist and anti-imperialist crusaders whose rhetoric went a bit too far.

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  • Tim k

    A Good Read Of The Truth THINKS. I Lived in them years and know what you are saying.

    I lived and was there but not with them and could see them for what they were…

  • StephenD

    Yeah, his work is right up there with Howard Zinn in terms of honesty. I expect in short order this will be mandatory reading in our tax subsidized schools. We keep feeding the snake and wonder why it lives.

  • tagalog

    "Serfs," not "surfs."

    Please don't bad-mouth Frank Capra. He was more a populist than a dupe of the communists.

  • erp

    … "scholarly periodicals as The Nation, … ." Please stop, my stomach hurts from laughing so much.

    BTW – the socialists are far from done with destroying our way of life. We're being set up for the worst kind of violent election in our history and I wouldn't be surprised if they determine that voter fraud won't buy them victory this time, that Gracious Leader will declare martial law and cancel the election.

  • mrbean

    The New Left, SDS, and their offshoots were all made up indoctrinates of Marcuse and his colleagues and of useful idiots who promoted them in the media.

  • Ben

    Halo of ramanticism often cover social extremists of both kinds as the result of their ideologies of the simple junior-type character.Artist too often fell in love with the charming lies.Rich Hollywood communists are the absurd example of the fact that the modern world is too complicated for an artist`s intuitive political opinion.

    • Richard Ong

      Good one.

  • joy52

    "How the Left Changed a Nation" for the worse…

  • Ghostwriter

    I remember a guy named Daniel Flynn covered some of the same ground in "A Conservative History of the American Left." It's a pretty good read. It also left in the material Kazin left out. Still,I wonder how Mr. Flynn feels about another book that documents the same history but from a leftist point of view.
    Also,I doubt that Polish-Americans would have been too happy with the American Communist Party anymore than the Polish were happy with theirs.

  • Rifleman

    I’m rereading Ayn Rand’s “The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution,” written from 1965 to 1970. The flea baggers are just new-left retreads, claiming the same lack of ideology, the same enemies (banks, Wall St., big business, the military industrial complex), and the same ‘solutions’ that are always socialist/collectivist in nature, while pointedly disregarding the rights and property of others.

    • Richard Ong

      Sums it up.

  • mrbean

    The basic rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Rights pertain to individuals, not groups. They derive from the basic nature of each individual human. So, they do not pertain directly at the “group” level of, say, country, tribe, religion, or race, because all those groupings are made up of individuals. Individuals can change the groups they belong to, but the groups can’t make do without individuals. Most fundamentally, it is individuals who think, act, and choose, not groups. Moral responsibility lies within individuals. Statists, even well meaning ones, all support what has been called a right but is not, called "freedom from want". This means what one man will not or cannot provide for himself becomes the forced burden of another, thereby negating the another's real rights, his life, his liberty, and his pursuit of happiness.

  • Richard Ong

    Outstanding article, illustrating the truth that if you want to know the truth of what is being said or written, focus on what is being left out.

    Every liberal I've ever met in my life is utterly indifferent to the Gulags and killing fields of the left. If there's the least bit of awareness of the basic facts, it nevertheless won't be factored into any political analysis of any question. A new program, law, or bureaucracy? What could go wrong? The children will benefit. Or the arts. Or the environment. Or the "disadvantaged." Or some foreigner. The sacramental "Yes, but . . . ."

    Mostly though, to liberals the horrors of successful leftism rank with events in Andromeda or the lives of wildebeests, Matters of idle curiosity.

    • geoplaten

      Nice post.

      "Mostly though, to liberals the horrors of successful leftism rank with events in Andromeda or the lives of wildebeests, Matters of idle curiosity."

      Somehow they think it could never happen to them, or never happen here.

  • nunyainct

    Another great book that covers the left and their deleterious effect on society is the Long March, by Roger Kimball who examined academia and how the left said we will get to you (Conservatives) through your children. Absolutely the lefts influence on society has been a cancer. They tout equal outcome without equal effort, and see all acts as relative with no true condemnation. Having read Radical Son, I would wish EVERYONE would read it because of the insight into Leftist ideology and seeing it for what it is, puerile and destructive. Having lived in New Haven CT for many years, and having known Warren Kimbro, I do believe there was no compunction ever for his actions, and as with most Leftists, the rules of society did not apply to him.

    • Richard Ong

      Gertrude Himmelfarb in her "One Nation, Two Cultures" quoted Vaclav Havel to the effect that our current civilization is shortsighted with its boundless trust in humanity's ability to "embrace the Universe by rational cognition." This amounts to a loss of God, of "the loss of respect for the order of existence of which we not the creators but mere components." Man is thus answerable for irrationality but not for violation of any external moral code, other than the moral imperative that no thinking may be engaged in that allows for humans to make discriminating judgments about other humans. Engage in that kind of thought crime and you will soon find yourself in the realm of civic death..

      Men having sex with men. Women with women, Men with two women, Men with boys. Men with girls. All acceptable. Witness the honored participation of the North American Man-Boy Love Assn. in the last gay "pride" gathering in D.C. in the '90s. No antibodies against that perversion whatsoever. Part of the great Rainbow Coalition.

  • Ghostwriter

    MKULTRA BRAINCHIPMAN,has anybody ever told you that you're a weirdo? If not,let me be the first to tell you,you're a weirdo.

  • Ghostwriter

    I have no idea what you're talking about.

  • Ghostwriter

    Uhhh thanks,if have had any idea what you meant.

  • Ghostwriter

    What I meant was,if I had any idea what you meant.

  • Richard Ong

    Not quite. Capitalism can be revolutionary, destructive even, as new techniques of production and agriculture are developed. Capitalism focuses on efficiency and marketing to make businesses successful but does not focus on cultural preservation. Producers and innovators are neutral on matters of culture and politics but are still chained to the realities of physics and markets.

    Liberals are not so chained and their focus is on change or revolution according to an intellectual assessment of the desirability of the goal. If the goal can be conceived and is seen as good, then the liberal will pursue it regardless of custom, history, human nature, physics, or economics. Should workers be treated "fairly" as the liberal defines fairness? If so, money can be found to achieve that goal by plunder, expropriation, taxation, limitless borrowing, or inflation, plus varying degrees of coercion to prevent old political choices.

    The capitalist acting rationally stays alive by satisfying consumer wants and obeying the laws of physics, economics, etc. and does not actively seek the destruction of old ways, only more efficient new ways.

    The liberal acts irrationally to achieve fanciful goods and ignores the realities of the world in the process and, as history has shown, resorts to coercion to prevent consumers from making free choices inconsistent with the delusional goals favored by the liberal.

    Capitalists do good with unintended negative consequences. Liberals do evil with an intent to destroy.