The Inscrutable Campus and the New Left Background

Huey NewtonReprinted from

To order David Horowitz’s “The Black Book of the American Left, Volume I: My Life And Times,” click here.

One of the many frustrations that critics of ideological trends in higher education face is that so many of our audience do not recognize extreme cases as significant to the overall intellectual condition of the campus.  They hear about Ward Churchill and think, “Boy, he’s a wild one,” and that’s all.  Churchill ran a large “studies” department for many years at a flagship public university, overseeing personnel and curriculum, and prospering in a complex academic machinery, but outsiders don’t register the validation of his outlook and how it might have had a wide local influence.  Or they think the same thing about the Michigan State creative writing professor who ranted about Republicans who have “raped” our country, and the same thing about the American Studies Association boycott of Israel.  However heated and forthright are those extremists, they are quickly dismissed as wacky academics, a type that the campus environment has had and will always have, and the best thing to do is to tolerate them when we can and punish them quietly when we cannot, or if the story hits the media, make our punishment so circumspect and deliberative that the administrators look clean and upright.

One reason for this un-serious judgment of Leftist extremists, I think, is because people don’t see any genesis for their existence.  They are anomalous, wrong-headed, short-sighted, and local, the judgment goes.  They don’t have a history, which is one reason why they can be dismissed.

This is a mistake.  These behaviors are, in fact, a remnant of New Left words and deeds, but I don’t know of any way to impress outsiders of that origin without having them read direct and convincing reminiscences of those years.  How do you draw a line between kids at Brown University disrupting a guest lecture in 2013 and students shutting down classes in 1969 if people know nothing about campus protests back then?  How can you demonstrate the similarities between the Group of 88’s tactics and the conduct of faculty members long ago who commiserated with and supported disruptive undergraduates when nobody remembers the latter?

A new two-volume collection of David Horowitz’ writings has been published by Encounter Books, and it has this particular application to academia that conservative and libertarian critics need.  Entitled The Black Book of the American Left, it is part-memoir, part-diagnosis, and part-politics, ranging from the anti-Vietnam War Movement to Pinochet to Ann Coulter, but only a few pages on the college campus.

Here is a softer example which Horowitz served to illuminate. Several years ago, my institution Emory University hosted Elaine Brown for a couple of days of lecture, discussion, conversation, and meals.  I attended one event and don’t remember what Brown said, but caught firmly the demeanor and cadence of the delivery.  It was hip, knowing, coy, and canny, not an argument or a thesis, but clipped observations and half-articulated notions about racial and gender identity (if I recall).  The audience, on the other hand, was dutiful and attentive and admiring, the q & a producing none of the customary quibbling and speechifying.  To me, there was an unspoken understanding in the room, a silent awareness that produced a different atmosphere, as if something was going on beneath or above the ostensible activity.

I didn’t understand this odd deference, an exception to the disputatious mores that surface at the many other talks on campus—not until later when I read David Horowitz’ remarks about Brown in a reminiscence going back to Oakland in the 1970s.  At the time, Brown was a figure in the Black Panther leadership, a lieutenant of Huey Newton, and Horowitz was editor of the New Left magazine Ramparts.  In his essay, Horowitz described a menacing and erratic woman, with one personality for “the Party’s wealthy liberal supporters” and another for “the violent world of the street gang.”  He heard her utter death threats to people she wanted to control and he heard her conduct shrewd seductions of people she needed.  She charmed Horowitz for a time, using him to generate funds for a Black Panther school, but her “street passions” increasingly worried him until he came across evidence that Brown had conspired to murder a woman he had brought into the school to keep the books.  (Nothing ever came of the investigation.)

I don’t think that the people in the room at Emory that afternoon knew the details of Elaine Brown’s role in the Panthers.  By then she had developed programs to help underprivileged children and stood popularly as a dedicated enemy of racism, sexism, and poverty.  But one could sense more than simple admiration in the audience; it struck me as a subtle excitement over a former-Black Panther in the room (and a female one, at that).  It wasn’t quite “radical chic,” because none of the attendees earned any social standing from the support, but it certainly counted as a specimen of academic chic, a chance to make contact with genuine radicalism, even if it had ended years earlier.  Here was someone with first-hand experience of ideologically-motivated, morally dicey but ultimately sanctioned violent protest, and it heightened the excitement of the event.

Horowitz’ memoirs demonstrate where that frisson originated, and I think it applies to many cases of malfeasance on campus that have a political tenor.  Many of the outrageous acts of hard Leftists on campus have no effect except to degrade academic standards.  Nobody should, in fact, take seriously an English professor denouncing Republicans except the students in the room who expected something better.  But it did provide the actor a thrilling moment of participation in the old days of SDS, the Free Speech Movement, the Chicago Seven . . .  The extremes of the New Left, the descent into “days of rage,” the radical demands . . . they aren’t overtly common in academia, but they carry over as lingering resentment, feats of intimidation, coercive versions of political correctness.  To understand them, it isn’t enough to examine local conditions.  Observers need to go back to the Sixties.  This collection of Horowitz’ is an illuminating resource.


Don’t miss David Horowitz discussing The Black Book of the American Left in The Glazov Gang’s two-part video series below:

Part I:

Part II:

To sign up for The Glazov Gang: Click here.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.  

  • alericKong

    Admiring a murderer at a university. Disgusting. Go back to the sewer.

    I think where we could be as a society without this evil. Would humanitarian egalitarianism and intellectual talent be commonplace if we held stronger against the worst of humanity?

  • Elizabeth Cape Cod

    What gets me is their bend-over-backwards tolerance of radical political views, but you talk about Christianity and you’re a vilian.

  • cacslewisfan

    Great article. Thank you freedom fighters of Frontpage Mag. I recommend Dan Flynn’s “A Conservative History of the American Left” for the education of a lifetime. Leftism continues to thrive despite countless failures and murders because it is a toxic cult which divorces itself from its history.

  • Clare Spark

    I fully concur with Bauerlein’s timing of the transformation. See “The New Left activist scholars.” Popular Front politics also played a role, but nothing but the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 70s could have given Third Worldism and Maoism a leg up in the humanities.

  • American1969

    The pot smoking, anti-war protesters from the Sixties are now the ones teaching at colleges and universities. They want to re-create the Glory Days of the Sixties using a younger, less-informed generation. And, of course, they don’t openly discuss their true agendas—–that gets buried and hidden behind something else.
    Every one of these Sixties radicals should be rounded up and charged with treason. Disgusting.

    • Erudite Mavin

      Those anti war Radicals of the 60s were the teachers of the 70s on through the next decades.

      Now is their children who are the teachers and Profs. today.
      I blame conservatives who keep sending their kids to Public Schools helping to prop them up while being fed Radical Left Propaganda and
      helping to keep these schools open while the government pays an average of $10,000 dollars a year+ for each student to the schools.

      Dry up their money, help shrink the Public Schools, put your kids in Parochial or Private Schools.

  • justquitnow

    “How do you draw a line between kids at Brown University disrupting a guest lecture in 2013 and students shutting down classes in 1969 if people know nothing about campus protests back then?”

    Then again…maybe no one cares about your comparisons anymore David. It’s not the 1960s. Your anecdotal wisdom of the way of things is OLD.

    • reader

      “maybe no one cares about your comparisons anymore David”

      It does not make any sense, of course. It would, if you tried to write it this way, “A nobody – meaning you – does not care…” But then again, if you don’t care, why are you glued to Davis’s site on the New Year’s Eve? Seen a shrink lately?

  • Paul Marks

    When someone used the words “the culture is corrupt – intellectually corrupt” conservatives nod, but many conservatives really do not “get it”. Academia (the sort of people who treat the “hip” ravings Elaine Brown as if they were profound intellectual statements) can not be reformed – can-not. They have to be defunded (no more tax money – by any route). This is not just libertarian dogma (although, yes, I am a libertarian) it is a truthful description of the situation – they (the “intellectual” elite) are on the other side, they are not just people who happen to have leftist opinions, leftists is what they are (who they are).

  • marvin boggs

    socialists targeted education in the early 1900’s;
    they’ve been working at it a long time,have been wildly successful at gaining control of it,and now we’re seeing the effects of that,all across our society.
    Legislators,judges,doctors,scientists,MEDIA,teachers,etc,all a product of a socialist education system. All indoctrinated in socialism,and applying it in their everyday lives.
    Never forget that the socialists have a dominance at nearly every university,and at most every public grade school.
    socialist indoctrination begins at an early age and continues throughout high school and college.
    THAT is what is really hurting America,and I’m not so sure we can overcome it,it may already be too late. it took a long time for the commies to become entrenched in education,and it will take a long time to weed them out,if it can be done at all.

  • Mark Caldwell

    Leukophobia: The irrational fear of whites organizing racially.

    Genophilia: The love of one’s own race. A natural instinct that Cultural Marxists want to deny (at least for whites).

    “Cultural Marxists have taken over the institutions of the media, education, mainstream Christianity (conservative and liberal), law, and finance. Their goal is the annihilation of Western Civilization in general and white people in particular.”

  • R Tumenggung

    The Leftist taint of the human and social sciences at US universities must account for the fact that the highly educated US populace (nearly one third have attained university degrees) is itself so outlandishly left leaning. Without this ideological propagandising at university, Americans would not now have such an advanced public health and welfare programme, its military bases would not be limited to its own territories, and atheism would not be the reported religious position of nearly three-quarters of the citizenry. Imagine what an America without this cancer would be like!

  • ignaciopxm321

    My Uncle Jacob got an
    awesome green Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab just by working from a macbook…
    great post to read B­i­g­2­9­.­ℂ­o­m