The Black Book of the American Left: Volume One — My Life and Times

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[To order The Black Book of the American Left, click here.]

Peter Collier’s note: The basic facts of  David Horowitz’s political odyssey, one of the most significant of the last forty years, are well known.  A “red diaper baby” who grew up in what he has called the ghetto of communism, he became a leading Marxist “theorist” in the early 1960s and one of the godfathers of the New Left.  But following America’s defeat in Vietnam, Horowitz  began to reevaluate the damage those commitments had done to the country.

The Black Book of the American Left is the result of that concerted intellectual effort. It collects all of  Horowitz’s conservative writings over the last thirty years—at once a sharp incision to the heart of the Left’s agenda; an exploration of routes conservatives might take in response to their permanent assault on America; and a unique trip log showing the evolving intellectual journey of one of our bravest and most original thinkers.

In Volume I of these writings, My Life And Times, Horowitz reflects on the years he spent at war with his own country collaborating with and confronting radical figures like Huey Newton, Tom Hayden and Billy Ayers, as he made his transition from what the writer Paul Berman described as the American Left’s “most important theorist” to its most determined enemy.

Preface to The Black Book of the American Left
By David Horowitz

The idea for these volumes came about as the result of a self-inventory undertaken to map the development of my political views over the last thirty years. This inquiry involved a survey of all the articles and essays I had written as a conservative, that is since the day Peter Collier and I published a cover story in the Washington Post Magazine announcing our “second thoughts” about the left and our departure from its ranks. These writings, which were assembled with the indispensable help of Mike Bauer, added up to more than 690 articles and essays, and a million and a half words. Some were lengthy considerations of “big” issues, others reactions to current events, and some were polemical responses to political opponents. But when I had looked over this body of work, I realized that virtually everything I had written was really about one subject: the American left.

The ancient Greek poet Archilochus was the author of a philosophical fragment that became the focus of a famous essay by the writer Isaiah Berlin, which he called “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” In his fragment Archilochus observed, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  For whatever reason in the many years I have been a writer I have never been a fox. It is true that my subjects have been varied, and I have even authored two volumes of philosophical reflections about mortality and life. But the primary focus of my work — and even of those thoughts on mortality and existence — has remained one big thing: the nature, deeds, and fortunes of the political left.

The first part of my life was spent as a member of the “New Left” and its Communist predecessor in which my family had roots. After the consequences of those commitments became clear to me in the mid-1970s, I came to know the left as an adversary, and — if sheer volume is the measure — its principal intellectual antagonist. Some have seen my efforts to define the left and analyze what it intends as an obsession. In a sense that is true: I had left the left, but the left never left me. For better or worse, I have been condemned to spend the rest of my days attempting to understand how it pursues the agendas from which I have separated myself, and why.

When I was beginning this quest nearly three decades ago, I paid a visit to the New York intellectual, Norman Podhoretz, who had had his own second thoughts a decade earlier, though not from so radical a vantage as mine. Podhoretz asked me why I was spending my time worrying about an isolated community on the fringes of politics. I should focus, he said, on liberals not leftists. This advice reflected what seemed an accurate description of the political landscape at the time. Many would have seconded his judgment when the walls of Communism came tumbling down shortly thereafter. But the progressive faith is just that, a faith, and despite the exceptions of individual cases no facts on the ground will dispel it.

When Podhoretz and I met, progressives and radicals had already escaped the political ghettos to which my parents’ generation had been reasonably confined. The massive defeat they then suffered in the fall of the Marxist states they helped to create had the ironic and unforeseen effect of freeing them from the burden of defending it. This allowed them in the next decade to emerge as a major force in American life. In the wake of the Communist collapse, this left has become a very big thing – so big that by 2008 it was the dominant force in America’s academic and media cultures, had elected an American president, and was in a position to shape America’s future. Because of its post-Communist metastasis, what Norman Podhoretz saw as a parochial interest in a fringe cause had become an effort to understand the dominant development in American politics culture over the last fifty years. That is the subject of these volumes.

The essays contained herein describe the left as I have known it — first from the inside, as one of its leading “theorists” (I flinch and blush at the same time in using this term), and then as a nemesis confronting it with the real world consequences of its actions. In all these writings I was driven by two urgencies: a desire to persuade those still on the left of the destructive consequences of the ideas and causes they promoted; and second, the frustration I experienced with those conservatives who failed to understand the malignancy of the forces mobilized against them. Most conservatives habitually referred to leftists who were determined enemies of the American social contract and its individual liberties as “liberals.” In calling them liberals, they failed to appreciate the Marxist foundations and religious dimensions of their radical faith or the hatreds it inspired. And they failed to appreciate their brutal imposture in stealing the identity of the intellectually pragmatic, patriotic, and anti-totalitarian “Cold War liberals” whose influence in American political life they killed off, beginning in 1972 with the McGovern coup inside the Democratic Party.[1]

When this syllabus of my conservative writings was finally assembled and I had read their contents through, I realized that even though collecting them would take up multiple-volumes, they added up to a single book, which my colleague Peter Collier quickly christened “The Black Book of the American Left.” Contained in these multi-volumes is a diary written over more than half a century that describes one man’s encounters with a movement, which — in the words of Barack Obama, its most prominent figure — is seeking to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” The diary records the progress of that transformation, documenting the changes of a shape-shifting movement that constantly morphs itself in order to conceal its abiding identity and mission, which, as these pages will make clear, is ultimately one of destruction.

It is almost a certainty that no other “book” will be written like this one, since it can only have been the work of someone born into the left and condemned Ahab-like to pursue it in an attempt to comprehend it. Yet it is not simply a project of monomania, as my adversaries will suggest, but of discovery — an attempt not only to understand a movement but to explore its roots in individual lives, including my own. While I hope this book may be useful to those fighting to defend individual freedom and free markets, I do not deceive myself into believing that I have finally set the harpoon into the leviathan, a feat that is ultimately not possible. Progressivism is fundamentally a religious faith, which meets the same eternal human needs as traditional faiths, and for that reason will be with us always. In the last analysis, the progressive faith is a Gnosticism that can only be held at bay but never finally beaten back to earth.

Notes:


[1] One consequence of this was the large number of conservatives who voted in 2008 for Barack Obama, a man whose political outlook was shaped in the same radical crucible as  mine – first Communist, then New Left. “Exit Polls Reveal Conservatives Abandoned McCain.” Newsmax, November 9, 2008, http://www.newsmax.com/InsiderReport/Conservatives-Abandoned/2009/12/14/id/342127; on Obama’s career in the radical left, see Stanley Kurtz, Radical In Chief, 2011

  • truebearing

    Growing up in the 60s and no fan of the Weathermen, the Black Panthers, or the people who spit on returning veterans, I was familiar with the name “David Horowitz,” but didn’t know much about him, other than his far Left politics.

    Seeing David Horowitz in an interview on television, somewhere in the 80s, strongly repudiating the Left, was something I had never seen before, and it left a lasting impression. To now be able to see through his eyes, the entirety of his journey to date, is a fascinating proposition. No one has done more…more relentlessly… more effectively…or more thoroughly in the fight against the Left.

    Given the intransigent, credulous nature of many on the Right, dedicating one’s life to enlightening people about the threat from the Left must frequently feel like the ultimate in sisyphean endeavor. We all owe David Horowitz profound gratitude for his persistence.

    • truebearing

      Tonight on Hannity, David Horowitz bluntly called Obama, Jarrett, and Axelrod communists. It was exhilarating to hear someone finally speak the unvarnished, irrefutable truth on a major news network, and precisely what this nation needs when it comes to leadership. Not that anyone would expect it, but there wasn’t the slightest hint of Political Correctness muting his comments. Just the unbendable truth. I love it!

      In the morning the Left will be up in arms because someone finally called Obama what he is. I hope it becomes a fad.

      • WillyWallace

        DH also said that on Lou Dobbs too. Missed him on Friends. I’ve been here for years and we’ve been calling Obama a communist for years too with proof to back it up. Now Axelrod and Valerie are being called out. If DH would have listened to us years ago, he would have been calling Obama a communist on these important media outlets then instead of scolding us for doing so because “you lose credibility” so he’d call them leftists and liberals.

        • MLCBLOG

          I think at that point we did lose credibility, but now that it is blatant what O is doing we can say it straight up.

  • Jason

    Great stuff David, I look forward to reading it. I have a question though. I know of several defects from left wing politics to right wing politics, from politicians all over the world, but have there been any right wingers becoming left wingers? I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

    • Smoking Hamster

      Charles Johnson of littlegreenfootballs…

    • Rob Hobart

      Andrew Sullivan, David Brock, Arianna Huffington are three that spring to mind. David Frum seems to be headed that direction as well.

      Also, there are conservatives who drift off into demented fringe crack-pottery, like Joseph Sobran, Paul Craig Roberts, and John Derbyshire.

    • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

      Hillary Clinton if you count her high school stint as a Goldwater girl.

    • Seek

      Also there is Michael Lind. Read his 1996 book, “Up from Conservatism.” Lind is not really a “Leftist,” but he is an avowed LBJ-style liberal. Also, Reagan-era supply-side economist/Treasury Department official Bruce Bartlett has more or less repudiated the Right. Like Lind, he isn’t a Leftie, but he’s not free-market anymore.
      Hey, stuff happens. I’m on the Right, but I accept reality. “Second thoughts” is a two-way street. People are different.

      • Jason

        That is true, it is a two way street. That’s what freedom is about, the ability to change your mind. I do wonder however if there is a pressure on leftists to not change their views and to stick with the group that is much higher than we put on our fellow conservatives.

        • MLCBLOG

          Yes, there definitely is social pressure. Nonacceptance is the penalty for speaking out.

    • denfr

      John Roberts

  • http://www.clarespark.com/ Clare Spark

    I make a distinction between the original Progressives (anticommunist) and the New Left that was anti-imperialist. See http://clarespark.com/2012/05/15/progressive-uplift-vs-new-left-nihilism/. “Progressive uplift vs. New Left nihilism.”

    • Todd Clemmer

      lol

      • chukalukabus

        Might want to read a little of Ms. Sparks writtings. Doubt you have the intellect nor the historical facts to understand much of what she brings to the table… but give it a shot anyway.

  • Chezwick

    Looking forward to imbibing every last word, David….and seconding what Truebearing has offered by way of gratitude.

    David, I completely understand the single-mindedness in your global view. When you get right down to it, it is a matter of priorities. There are many forms of “sociological evil” out there and granted, not all of them emanate from the Left. But the most profound and pervasive do indeed, from fiscal profligacy and the abandonment of personal responsibility….to carrying water for Islamic supremacists. You focused on the Left because you had the vision and instincts to understand that there was no bigger fish to fry…there was no more worthy cause to justify your time and effort.

    One is left wondering about the relative permanence of your work here on Earth. I have the feeling that should the Left triumph (and all leading indicators point that way), your legacy will be consigned to a metaphorical (and perhaps literal) oblivion….(will books and ideas be erased from electronic access tomorrow the way they were burned yesterday?). If so, you fought the good fight and your warnings were prescient.

    Conversely, if individuality and human freedom are somehow preserved through the coming years, I suspect your work will be the study of historians for centuries to come, just as we today study the philosophers and theoreticians of the past.

    In ‘Radical Son’, you referred to that “library” where the social redeemers, yourself among them, would inhabit the top shelf, the apex, of intellectual worth. Betty’s death shattered such egotism, and your journey thereafter became one of truth-seeking and redemption. You deepened your capacity for introspection, did your level best to rectify your mistakes, and through intelligence, wisdom, and yes, attrition, you’ve left your mark on our times. That’s more than most could ever say.

    God bless you.

  • Wolfthatknowsall

    I first found out that there was a David Horowitz when I saw Hating Whitey on a bookstore shelf. The book title intrigued me. After reading the book, it is fair to say that I became “hooked” on David’s works …

    … if, indeed, I am addicted to the writings of David, then I’m a better person and understand the world we all live in to a greater degree than if all I had read was William F. Buckley and all I had listened to was Rush Limbaugh.

    David, I thank you for your insight, and the courage it must have taken to leave the Left behind you. I am grateful for your gifts of knowledge and insight to us.

    As Chez said, “God bless you.”

  • justquitnow

    I guess it’s only fitting that a summation of your life and times is named for your “enemy”. Without “the left”…what is Horowitz?

    “My child, you have come to me my son. For who now is your father if it is not me? I am the well spring, from which you flow. When I am gone, you will have never been. What would your world be, without me? My son.” – “The Left”

  • Steve Fair

    David Horowitz has the unique distinction of having been a far left asshole and a far right asshole during the same lifetime. The man is a bottom dwelling hustler devoted only to his own self-promotion.

    • MLCBLOG

      ..and you, of course, are the great example of wonderfulness.

    • Todd Clemmer

      You sound like your speaking of Al Sharpton boy.

      • Steve Fair

        Al Sharpton has been totally consistent in his beliefs whether you like it or not. But Horowitz was hardcore communist diaper baby when that was fashionable and then became a race baiting, far rightwing hustler when that became fashionable. The man is a slimeball.

        • Huldra-Nix

          Since when has being on the far right wing been fashionable in the last 20 or so years? Its not exactly a popular position with the public at large.

          • uptownsteve

            You never heard of Fox TV?

          • Huldra-Nix

            You can;t quantify the popularity by a news channel that even liberals watch if just to scoff at. Go by the voting polls.

        • Drancis

          Since when is/was conservatism “fashionable”? Left wing extremists such as yourself continually denigrate any hint of conservative ideas. And I see you use the typical extremist name-calling tactic. So unfashionable.

          • uptownsteve

            Name-calling? You mean like “leftwing extremist”? You righties are certifiable.

    • Cara C

      David Horowitz faced the facts of what was instead of living in the fantasy of what should be and had an awakening. Hopefully, you’ll have the same one day. The attempt to implement Communism has killed over 100 million people and has oppressed, impoverished, and terrorized hundreds of millions more. The only people who still pursue this fantasy are psychopaths and the deluded.

  • MLCBLOG

    “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir
    men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.”

    I love this quote and you have lived up to it, bringing many of us up to a higher level as you did. Kennedy – “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

    I have personally drawn strength from your constancy in this endeavor, having left the left myself years ago and just getting stronger and stronger daily to promote the ideas of American individualism (they want to put us down as “cowboys” for our heroic and brave ventures) and our wonderful free enterprise system (capitalism is a word coined by Karl Marx to go along with his words communism, socialism, and fascism, if I am not mistaken).

    Thank you, David. Bless you.

  • T funk

    I’m ready for it to be cool to be the counter-culture again.