Radicals: Portraits of a Destructive Passion

To order David Horowitz’s new book, Radicals: Portraits of a Destructive Passion, click here.

Below is an edited transcript of David Horowitz’s appearance on Fairness Radio with Patrick O’Heffernan on BlogTalkRadio on January 24, 2013, Thursday, 11 AM:

Patrick O’Heffernan:  I’m Patrick O’Heffernan, your host on Fairness Radio with Patrick O’Heffernan, and again, I want to welcome our radio listeners on 1490 WWPR in Tampa Bay and KSKQ-FM in Ashland, Oregon, and I want to remind everybody that they can be part of the program — 424-675-6806, or you can e-mail us at FairnessRadio@Gmail.com.

Well, we often have conservative thinkers and writers on this program, and sometimes I just sort of grit my teeth and bear the books in the conversations as respectfully as I can, and sometimes I actually agree with some of their points.  But I think often that my time could be spent better on issues that need attention.

However, I recently sat down with David Horowitz’s new book, Radicals: Portraits of Destructive Passions, and I was mesmerized.  This book chronicles the lives of a handful of people who founded the New Left, mostly in the San Francisco area.  David was one of those people.

As editor of Ramparts magazine, he was one of, if not the, most respected and influential thinker and writer on the New Left.  David is now one of the most respected and influential writers of the conservative movement, and the time it took me to read this book was not only well spent, but it was a delight, beautifully written stories of people and times of the New Left and some in the present.  I put this book down with a new understanding of why David Horowitz is called “the most brilliant political mind in America today and also a national treasure,” and he’s with us today.

David, welcome back to Fairness Radio.

David Horowitz: Thank you for that introduction.  I was thinking as you were giving it that if there were more progressives like you, my life would’ve been different.

Patrick O’Heffernan:  But maybe not better.  Who knows?

David, from its title, I expected kind of a harsh critique of some of the Left’s intellectual leaders, but instead, this is almost a memoir, a book filled with sadness and joy and even sometimes love as it critiques people and thinking.  Was your experience in writing this a memoir experience in any way?

David Horowitz: I’ve written several books like this.  One was my autobiography, Radical Son. There are some pages in that book which are somewhat polemical, but most of the book is an effort to understand the characters (including myself!). It is written from what I would call a novelist’s perspective.  A novelist has to have sympathy for his characters even when the characters are on the wrong side of whatever it is they are on the wrong side of.

I used this voice and perspective also in The End of Time and A Point in Time. I wish I had been able to do more of this and wasn’t as engaged as I have been in political fire fights. A lot of people on the left have a greatly distorted image of me from those engagements.  Political battles leave a lot of blood on the floor, and a lot of scar tissue behind.

Patrick O’Heffernan:  Well, from reading the book, I could see that there was, but you’ve done a masterful job.  And I know that not all of the people have faded from the political scene — Cornel West, for instance — but many have, and before we talk about the individuals you write about, do you think that the New Left has passed from the scene, that there’s a new generation of leaders now who have no connection to the ’60s?

David Horowitz:  No, I actually don’t.  The left is a religious movement, seeking to change the world. Its mission is one of redemption, and its solaces are those of a church. Consequently, the Left is very conscious of its history and its traditions, and it really hasn’t turned its back on its past.  It hasn’t even turned its back on its Communist forebears.  Of course, it will condemn Stalin now and so forth, but even Khruschev did that. In Oliver Stone travesty on Showtime, there’s an attempt to resurrect Lenin as a put-upon and beleaguered progressive. There’s great continuity in the left. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that I left the left, because there was no willingness to break with a bad past.

Patrick O’Heffernan:  Interesting.  I guess we know different people. But I want to get back to the book.

The story of Susan Gordon Lydon is particularly poignant.  Now, you should know, I met Susan and Michael, but it was a surface meeting.  We spent an afternoon with a group of other people at my home in Marin.  Could you tell us about Susan and tell us, also, what the arc of her life symbolized to you and why you included it in this book?

David Horowitz: Susan was a very bright woman. She went to Vassar, and got involved in the drug culture. She was a writer who did music reviews, but she married Michael Lydon, and Michael just had a bigger reputation and she had he was writing for Newsweek and other major publications. They both wrote for Ramparts.  And Bob Scheer, who was the editor then, kind of pushed Susan into the background.  Anyway, she wrote an article which Peter Collier, who is now a conservative like me assigned to her and gave its title:  “The Female Orgasm.” And, of course, in the ’60s context, “The Female Orgasm” became a political statement.  Such were the times.

Patrick O’Heffernan:  It still is (inaudible – multiple speakers).

David Horowitz:  It became a very famous article.  The chapter in my book starts off with the obituaries for Susan, who eventually died of the consequences of her drug abuse.  From the obituaries you might conclude she was world famous.  Even her fame was based on one small article, which wasn’t an original article, and was put in the back of the book by the Ramparts editors at the time. It was a testament to its political correctness and hyped up political significance, rather than anything of merit in the article itself.

Susan went through a horrible drug period.  She was a heroin addict with all the personal debasement and degradation that that entails. Then she managed to come out of it, and had a second career as a knitter.  She wrote philosophical and practical books on knitting with Buddhist overtones.  She was a follower of Oscar Ichazo, a famous guru of the time.

My view of her story is that she was derailed by the political – by “the personal is political” idea of the time, the notion that your personal life should be governed by political precepts. In accordance with those precepts she liberated herself from her marriage to Michael. I say it was political because she was a member of a feminist group in Berkeley, where all the women did this and ended up destroying their marriages. I’m not saying that feminism is the only cause of a broken marriage, but in this case, it was pertinent.

I saw her as a victim of the political universe she inhabited and her life as a struggle to recover who she was, her authentic self, as opposed to the one that conformed to the political correctness of the hour.

Patrick O’Heffernan:  Do you see the arc of her life as having any parallels in the arc of the New Left?

David Horowitz:  Well, I think there were a lot of people who suffered similar fates. The chapter in my book on Bettina Aptheker shows how extreme such an intermingling – destructive intermingling of the personal and political can be. This is a woman who has no solid knowledge of herself really but preens as a political guru and thinks that she has found the key that unifies the political and the personal.

She wrote a memoir which was the basis for my chapter. It is one of the contributions that feminism has made to leftist autobiography to actually put in the details of a human life. Usually, if you read Communist autobiographies or really any leftist autobiographies, they skip over the personal, and really never try to assess the relationship between the two realms in their lives. There is no introspection. Oddly, Christopher Hitchens, intelligent as he was, falls victim to this myopia.

Patrick O’Heffernan:  Yes, I was going to ask you to talk about that.

David Horowitz:  — Christopher managed to write a 400 page memoir without mentioning the mother of his first two children. His second wife, Carol, is never properly introduced and barely referenced. Christopher never looks inside himself.

Patrick O’Heffernan:  David, since you brought up Christopher, I was going to ask you about the Christopher Hitchens — the Christopher Hitchens chapter is one of the, I think, the softest chapters that you wrote, although it has deep critique in it.  Why did you start the book with Christopher Hitchens?

David Horowitz:  It’s called “The Two Christophers.” As everybody listening to this show would know Christopher had some second thoughts about his Leftism.  He was an articulate and courageous supporter of the war against Saddam Hussein and his monster regime, which made him quite a few enemies on the Left. But Christopher remained a leftist to the end.

In my autobiography, Radical Son, I set myself the task of answering the question how could someone like me, someone who had been as committed to the left as I had, become a conservative? And there was Christopher, who had made some changes, but not all. So for me, looking at his life was a way of examining the whole idea of second thoughts. It was a way of looking at what being a member of the leftist church do to you intellectually and politically. And I think in Christopher’s case it led to intellectual and moral incoherence.

Patrick O’Heffernan:  David, we have to take a quick break, and when we come back, I have sort of a basic philosophical question for you, but don’t go away.  Stayed tuned.  You’re listening to Fairness Radio with Patrick O’Heffernan, and we’ll be right back with more of David Horowitz.

Patrick O’Heffernan:  And we’re back.  This is Patrick O’Heffernan on Fairness Radio with Patrick O’Heffernan.  We’re talking with David Horowitz.  We’re talking about his new book, wonderful new book, called Radicals:  Portraits of a Destructive Passion, and it’s available everywhere.  You can get it online and in bookstores.  Go to Amazon.com.  That’s called Radicals:  Portraits of a Destructive Passion. 

David, we only have about four minutes left, and I wanted to ask you about a statement that’s in your chapter six on “A Radical Machiavelli”:

“Conservative outlooks spring from observations about the past, and as a rule, therefore, are pragmatic.  Whatever first principles comprise such beliefs, they are or should be propositions that encapsulate the lessons of experience.  By contrast, progressive views are built on expectations about the future.  Progressive principles are based on ideas about a world that does not exist.  For Progressives, the future is not a maze of human uncertainties and unintended consequences but a moral choice.”  And you’ve written elsewhere that Progressives are constantly trying to change or improve upon a world that doesn’t exist.

I think, in general, you’re right.  I agree with that, but I draw some different conclusions from it.  I’d point out that it’s absolutely true that progressives are constantly trying to change America.  We’re trying to make it better, but I think we’re following our Founding Fathers, who set up this enterprise to form a more perfect union, and I agree with you that there are first principles that do need to be determined but also that drawing your experience from the past can also mean that you embed past mistakes and that if you’re not progressive, you don’t try to change them.

And I think that America is successful because we blend Conservatives and first principles and the progressive movement to constantly improve and form a more perfect union.  We shouldn’t criticize either one; we should try to bring them together.

David Horowitz:  Well, this is a conversation I sure wish I’d been able to have over the years.  It’s the right conversation, and it’s too bad we have like whatever it is, three minutes, to do it. I would disagree with you about the Founders. The Founders were very conservative, and that’s why they created a system of government to frustrate the desires of people to change everything in a big way and in a hurry.  That’s why we have a system of checks and balances.  That’s why senators once were appointed. To insulate them from the popular will. Everything that the left hates about the Constitution was designed specifically by the framers to keep the left in check.

In the opening of the book I observe that the utopian aspiration to change the world is the chief source of the misery that human beings inflict on each other.  Certainly in the last 100 years, the horrific movements, genocidal movements of Nazism and Communism, were spearheaded by political missionaries, socialists attempting to defy everything that we know about human nature to make a “better world.” That’s why they killed so many people – to remake the world as it should be, ignoring what it is.

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  • cjk

    There's nothing new under the sun. Not only are leftists generally ignorant of history, but even the stuff they think they know is a twisted view taught to them by disingenuous ideologues pushing for their own advancement regardless of the truth..

    • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

      Leftist dogma is the same world over. It is a totalitarian, religious construct and herein lies its ultimate danger. Anything and everything can be sacrificed on its altar. Thus, its ideological twinning with Islam.
      http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/07/01/leftist-dogma

      Of course, there are few authoritative voices on the subject like David Horowitz. His books are masterpieces.

      Adina kutnicki, Israel – http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • κατεργάζομαι

    Experiment to post Names from David Horowitz's "Radicals" and the title of Chapter Four:

    Christopher Hitchens, feminist Bettina Aptheker , leftist academic Cornel West, totalitarian dimensions of radical feminism.and more.

    Chapter Four: Pardoned Bombers

  • guest

    David wants so desperately to be considered an intellectual, it's kind of sad and pathetic to watch, He's a half wit and will never be anything more.

    • ffighter13

      I wouldn't characterize David Horowitz an intellectual at all but a profoungly well rounded deep thinker.While I have not read all his work what I have read is illuminating.Mr. Horowitz is not only an American treasure he is a treasure for all of humanity and his depiction of the left is dead on.You on the other hand offer nothing to the conversation but a foolish indoctrinated rant.R.J.Farrell Sr.

    • Mo_

      Name calling and insults. Not a word about the substance.

      In other words, the typical Leftist that Horowitz talks about. Thanks for proving him right yet again.

    • κατεργάζομαι

      Replying to (gutless) guest – QUOTE: "David wants so desperately to be considered an intellectual, it's kind of sad and pathetic to watch, He's a half wit and will never be anything more. "

      SO! You are chopped liver denouncing Pâté!

      Want sum cheese wit dat whine?

    • Sandy Edwards

      You only sound like a envious fool.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "…it's kind of sad and pathetic to watch…"

      For whiny leftists who hate facts that also happen to be true.

    • Neils60

      Guest, It was so easy to throw stones and denigrate David with your idiotic remarks. But, there's no substance to anything that you've stated. Just name calling, just as one would expect, if you're still enrolled in elementary school. As a former elementary school educator, I can state, with some authority, you're suffering from an extreme case of arrested development. Grow up!

    • R.Nelson

      Are you Bill Ayers? No…Bernadine? Yes, Billy has no balls. Bernadine is the one with the balls.

    • Mary Sue

      You good sir, are projecting.

    • directedby1

      And you're a coward for not identifying yourself. Don't you understand the basic spiritual principle: what goes around comes around? Leftists like you are in for a horrific fate, just based on the hate and vitriol and lies you pump out into the world 24/7. I thank God & the Universe every day I'm not an American leftist idiot, there are so many buffoons like you destroying America. Your fate is so sealed, so absolutely sealed. Can't you see that? Do you think Americans are just going to sit around and let trolls like you destroy their country? Really, in the long run you can't win. Though you'll likely succeed in destroying this current version of America. And really, it's so easy to imagine a post-collapse America — the blue states as killing zones, the red states surviving and thriving, but in a very changed nation. And your fate? Well, it's so obvious, you'll likely be shot as you kneel pleading in a pool of urine, snot and tears running down your face. The fate of leftists like you is absolutely sealed. I've lived next door to the USA my entire life, and even I can see what's coming. And frankly, it's a fate richly deserved. The USA has been far too tolerant with deviant atheist traitor scum like you …

    • beez

      How did you arrive at these conclusions? I never seen DH say or write anything from which anyone could draw the conclusion that he wants "to be considered an intellectual." I'm sure he couldn't care less what anyone considers him, especially narcissistic leftists like you who are always claiming to be intellectuals. What a phony you are. Typical leftist, all criticism without substance to back it.

  • http://twitter.com/paulvmarks @paulvmarks

    People who think they can make things better by using force (government) are wrong – practically wrong and wrong in moral terms also.

    But the words "I think we are following our Founding Fathers" are (if honest) terrible in the level of self deception they show. The Founding Fathers were about limiting government (that was their "thing"), Progressives are about expanding government – that is their "thing".

    To try and do the opposite of what a group of people were trying to do is not to "follow" them – it is to OPPOSE them. That can be the right thing to do at times – but one should be honest about, understand (and say) that one is doing it.

    David Horowitz thought his way out of this trap – but many others are stuck in it.

  • Rostislav

    The Soviet supporters of Social Justice were much more honest in their lifestyle: whatever they were writing or saying for camouflage, everybody (SJ heroes including) knew perfectly well that in reality the scum was for one thing only: Power & Glory Unlimited. Well , – at least, the limited one in a village, factory, trade-union etc. Also, nobody here – Communists or anti-Communists – would believe that anything with the title “The Female Orgasm” could be a political statement. After hearing such a nonsense we would run not for KGB, but for an asylum ambulance. And my deep respect to the good old word "culture" is all atremble when I am reading sentence like "She went to Vassar, and got involved in the drug culture" – constructions kind of "Stalin went to Kremlin and got involved in the murder culture" or "His son went to restaurants and got involved in the vodka culture" would sound mind-boggling in the USSR, because all of us used to call things by their right names only (though in whispers sometimes) – drunk pigs were drunk pigs, murderers were murderers and both had nothing common with culture. But then I saw one construction in the article which was so familiar to me, being repeated by our dear Party again and again: "Such were the times" – they were laboriously enlightening us too that all the past faults were never with such henchmen, such cowards, such brainless enthusiasts, but always with absolutely irresponsible "such times" – a really sad coincidence of the Soviet sixties and America of 2013… But it was even sadder for me to read that even in 2013 Patrick O’Heffernan thinks that "America is successful because we blend Conservatives and first principles and the progressive movement to constantly improve and form a more perfect union". IS successful?! With $16trln. debt? With Communists-endorsed president? It's not my idea of success, though I guess all our Politburo would be wildly applauding to it. Rostislav, Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

    • Kevin Stroup

      Amen.

    • mlcblog

      Well said.

  • κατεργάζομαι

    Replying to (gutless) "guest" – QUOTE: "David wants so desperately to be considered an intellectual, it's kind of sad and pathetic to watch, He's a half wit and will never be anything more. "

    SO! You are chopped liver denouncing Pâté! Want sum cheese wit your whine?

    • WilliamJamesWard

      Yes "guest"……..dunce quote of the day, ignore the bozo he is not worth spit……….William

  • http://www.clarespark.com clarespark

    I reviewed RADICALS here: http://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-hist…. "Materialist history and the idea of Progress." I would argue that it is possible to be a classical libertarian without moving into conservatism. Hayek did it too. DH was kind enough to read my review and to welcome discussion, and he also added an interesting distinction. He does not equate "sexism" with "slavery" (or related forms of subjugation) as many feminists do.

  • visitor

    David's argument about the Founders being conservative and for that reason opposed to the direct election of senators should give his supporters pause. Does anyone really want to revert to 18th century America: a society in which only white males who owned property had the right to vote, no votes (or legal ownership of property) for women, chattel slavery for blacks, restrictions on religious freedom in many states, and on and on. The wonder of America is that over the past 200 years each generation of Americans has expanded the boundaries of who can be free, fulfilling the promise of the Declaration that we believe that all people are created equal and entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And of course it was progressives, broadly defined, who drove this process: the abolitionists, women's rights crusaders, and the civil rights movement. In his battle with his erstwhile comrades, I fear David throws the baby out with the bath water.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      " I fear David throws the baby out with the bath water"

      The "baby" you are concerned about is not under threat. We're focused on the salient issues of the day. Nobody is threatening the things you seem to fear. Nobody. Leftists are threatening to go back to 18th and 19th century France. Is that what you want? Is that "progressive" in your mind?

    • fanlad

      You left an important point out of your remarks. "endowed by their creator".

    • David Horowitz

      This is so politically correct and so brain dead. White males liberated black slaves who were mainly enslaved by other blacks, gave women the franchise, which was not denied them through prejudice but through social realities that it would be to tedious and pointless to describe (because social realities are the very last things that progressives even think about) and of course established in America the most religiously free society on earth. It was the conservative Founders who drove the abolition of slavery and did it for religious reasons.

    • beez

      Visitor, you engage in the presentism so typical of liberals. If the Framers had meant for Senators to be elected, don't you think they would have been so in the original Constitution? I see that you are unable to distinguish the genius of the Constitutional Framers from the flaws in the polity that developed out of it. Thus, in one paragraph, you manage to slime the Constitution, the Framers, the Founding, and the early Republic. Congratulations, and well done Mr. Visiting Deconstructionist.

  • mystified

    Oh dear visitor, you have you progressive glasses, or rather blinkers on;and, as usual you have the truth completely on it's head. It;s progressives who throw the baby out with the bathwater. You have a century of failed socialist states to draw knowledge from. Generations oppressed and murdered in the pursuit of your idealistic dreams. People, who like all of us who had ONE LIFE, and one chance to live it, DESTROYED, millions of times over in the pursuit of your utopian dreams. My questions to you are : Why are you so dishonest with yourself. It's absolutely obvious to anyone with an ounce of reason that socialism not only does not work, and not only that, it leads to a miserable existence for the whole population.People were willing to, and still are, risk death to escape it.Why can you not see that ?And why, when the facts don't fil your dogma do progressives always lie.? You must know that you are doing it America, the country that it used to be is rapidly being destroyed it is less safe, less prosperous, less pleasant to live in, horribly disunited, heading rapidly for the rocks, and you think it's great why? WHY ? I just don't understand you.The reforms you mention happened happened steadily, as the nation evolved, enacted by people that you would regard as very conservative, and above all CHRISTIAN in their motivation.They didn't completely wreck the nation to achieve it.I just don't understand why you want to swap the land of the free for the soviet union, certainly not so many of you.

    • Jojo

      I think you answered your questions when you wrote "christian;" and they are very good questions. The realization that humans cannot solve all their problems can be both devastating and liberating. It is devastating because it acknowledges a need that the human cannot himself fill and calls for an answer from outside himself. For some who accept that God is in control and we cannot complete the task of eliminating problems ourselves, this realization is a liberating relief. Some, however, will not accept their limits; and so they continue to try to "perfect" their and others' circumstances. They don't realize we will always have the poor with us, for example, but try to legislate them away/ridicule them away/equalize them away. They are unwilling to accept the best human answers to our problems and trust to God (the whole, really) the parts that cannot be solved due to sin. The reason: They are belligerently married to the idea of themselves as either perfect or perfectible. They are unwilling to acknowledge sin because then there would be a NEED for God. That they are unwilling to admit. Why? It would mean that they are sinners; and they WILL NOT have that.

  • Jake Tobias

    I wish every high school, and college student, in America, were required to read at least one book by David Horowitz. Hopefully either "Destructive Generation", or "Radical Son."

  • fanlad

    Thanks to David Horowitz for fighting the good fight, and staying engaged. May God bless you always.

  • Misfit

    I have high respect for David Horowitz, he is a true fighter. I read his book and it was quite a learning experience for me

  • hrwolfe

    This is called "Fairness Radio"? I have not yet read the interview but his intro sound a lot less than "fair."

    "Well, we often have conservative thinkers and writers on this program, and sometimes I just sort of grit my teeth and bear the books in the conversations as respectfully as I can, and sometimes I actually agree with some of their points. But I think often that my time could be spent better on issues that need attention."
    I do hope the interview goes better.