Since emerging in the mid 1980s as one of America’s most distinct conservative voices David Horowitz has written almost 20 books as either the sole or co-author.
These texts have explored a wide variety of subjects in numerous styles. Destructive Generation, co-written with Horowitz’s longtime friend and collaborator Peter Collier, collects journalistic pieces and personal essays which deliver an overwhelming indictment of the New Left. Hating Whitey: And Other Progressive Causes is a selection of hard-hitting polemical pieces written throughout the 1990s. The End of Time and A Cracking of the Heart are gentle, spiritually-oriented memoirs. Uncivil Wars told the story of Horowitz’s activism opposing reparations for slavery 150 years after the fact. It also articulated Horowitz’s understanding of the American Idea more thoroughly — and convincingly — than any of his other works. And The Politics of Bad Faith is Horowitz’s definitive explanation of his political philosophy — his rejection of the Left and his justifications for his variation of conservatism.
So to those just discovering Horowitz’s work there’s a simple, obvious question: Where does one start?
Well, why not begin with a sampling of them all? Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey, originally published in 2003, is now available for a steal of a price — $4.99 — on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. Left Illusions features excerpts from Horowitz’s books — including writings from when he was still a Marxist — and also previously unpublished essays. Twenty-eight of the pieces featured had never been included in a book before or were generally unavailable.
The book begins with the single best introduction to Horowitz and his work. The thoughtful essay was written by FrontPage Magazine‘s longtime managing editor Jamie Glazov who would go on to further develop Horowitz’s critique of the Left in 2009’s United In Hate (also available on Kindle for only $7.99 here.)
In accepting responsibility for what the left did, Horowitz is almost alone among its public intellectuals. Only a handful of others, including Peter Collier, Eugene Genovese and Ronald Radosh have taken his path.
The journey from left to right, of course, had been made before. But Horowitz’s conversion took on a somewhat different and more acute character than those of the ex-Communists who had traveled to the right before him. Unlike the contributors to The God That Failed, most of who remained socialists, Horowitz made a comprehensive break with the radical Weltanschauung. This was because Horowitz’s “conversion” was actually his second. The first was his break from Communism after Khrushchev’s revelations, while the next was from the socialist idea itself.
His comrades who remained on the left continued to believe that the idea could succeed by transcending the failures of “actually existing socialism.” This was the disposition shared by the writers of The God That Failed. For them, Stalinism was a socialist aberration. For Horowitz the roots of Stalinism – of totalitarianism – lay in the idea of socialism itself.
Thus, in his momentous personal journey, Horowitz moved from Communist to New Leftist to a conservative position in which he rejected the utopian idea. His odyssey would cause him to see the left from a unique perspective, enabling him to make an important contribution to its historiography in the works he subsequently wrote. In particular, Horowitz played a seminal role in rescuing the history of the New Left from the distortions of leftist historians who had come to dominate the academic profession.
Left Illusions touches all the bases of Horowitz’s thought up through 2003. The whole journey described by Glazov is covered.
Excerpts from Horowitz’s memoir Radical Son discuss how a grade school David analyzed his classmates based on the communist thinking he picked up from his parents. Pieces from Student, Horowitz’s first book (written when he was 21,) illuminate the approach of the New Left. And essays, articles and book excerpts from the ’80s and ’90s explain why Horowitz had to abandon the movement.
Particularly important pieces in Left Illusions include:
- the titular essay, which originally appeared as “A Radical’s Disenchantment” in the December 8, 1979 issue of The Nation. This was Horowitz’s farewell to the Left.
- “Questions” is an excerpt from the chapter of the same name in Radical Son, Horowitz’s autobiography. It explores Horowitz’s personal struggle with the reality that the Black Panthers had been responsible for the murder of his friend. (And that the Left chose to cover up the crime.) It places the event in the context of understanding the nature of the Left.
- “Memories in Memphis” comes from the introduction to Hating Whitey and places Horowitz’s views on race within the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Horowitz then explains how such racial understandings have been marginalized in the modern civil rights movement which has drawn greater inspiration from the racial separatism of the Nation of Islam and Marxism of Black Power rather than the colorblind unity of King.
- “Can There Be a Decent Left” is a response to Dissent’s Michael Walzer’s reaction to 9/11 and acts as an antidote to the smear that Horowitz paints the Left with one broad brush.
- “Michael Lind and the Right Wing Cabal” is a defense of the Conservative Movement and helps explain why Horowitz considers himself a part of it.
- “Conservatives and Race” is a potent rebuttal to so-called conservatives who think the movement to defend America is actually about keeping the country white.
- “Neo-Communism” is a vital essay for understanding how the communist ideology of Horowitz’s parents is still with us today in an only slightly mutated form.
But Left Illusions is not only a reflection of where Horowitz had been from 1962 through 2003. It would also point to the territory he would explore in the last seven years. Themes from Left Illusions were further developed in the books Horowitz wrote in the years following its release. Horowitz’s commentary on the war on terror saw expansion in 2004’s Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left and 2008’s Party of Defeat (co-written with Ben Johnson.) Horowitz’s critique of the Left’s occupation of the university — typified in pieces like “Missing Diversity” and “Wake Up America: My Visit to Vanderbilt” — was expanded in three books: 2006’s The Professors, 2007’s Indoctrination U, and 2009’s One-Party Classroom.
By reading Left Illusions new Horowitz readers will get an effective overview of his thinking and will then know which of his intellectual interests to first pursue in greater depth.
Left Illusions is one of several Horowitz books currently available on Kindle. In the coming weeks several other titles will be released. Keep an eye here at FrontPage for future articles discussing the newest titles available.