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The Life and Work of David Horowitz: From red-diaper baby to New Leftist to the Left’s most formidable enemy

By Jamie Glazov

A shorter version of this essay was originally published by National Review Online.

David Horowitz was born in Forest Hills, New York, on January 10, 1939, the year of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, which shattered the illusions of many Communists and other members of the progressive left. But Horowitz’s school teacher parents, Blanche and Phil, remained steadfast in their commitment to the Party. They had met in Communist meetings in the early 1930s and engaged in what turned out to be a lifelong “political romance,” as David later described it in his autobiography, Radical Son, thinking of themselves as “secret agents” of the Soviet future.

Horowitz grew up in a Communist enclave in Queens called Sunnyside Gardens. As a child, he attended the Sunnyside Progressive School, a pre-kindergarten program the Party had set up and, as an adolescent, spent summers at a Party-run children’s camp called “Wo-Chi-Ca,” short for “Workers’ Children’s Camp.” In 1956, when Horowitz was seventeen, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev delivered a secret speech in the Kremlin about the crimes of Stalin. The “Khrushchev Report,” as it was subsequently called, was leaked by Israeli intelligence agents to the public, causing a crisis among the faithful. Party members who had previously dismissed claims by their opponents that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of millions as “slander,” now had no choice but to admit that the charges were true. They left the Party in a mass exodus that killed the Communist Party as a force in U.S. political life, although for many like Blanche and Phil Horowitz, it was impossible to give up the socialist faith.

Horowitz was a college freshman at Columbia University when the fallout from the Khrushchev revelations was causing a crisis in his parents’ circle. Opposed to Stalin but not to the socialist cause, he focused on his literary studies, taking courses with Lionel Trilling and other of Columbia’s distinguished faculty members. When he graduated in 1959 he married his college sweetheart, and moved to California where he began graduate studies in English literature at the University of California at Berkeley. There he met other “red diaper” babies who were determined to create a radical politics that would not bear the totalitarian baggage he believed had weighed his parents’ generation down and corrupted their political dreams.

Horowitz became an editor of a new magazine his circle of activists created called Root and Branch, which published essays embodying the political vision of the New Left two years before the Students for Democratic Society published the Port Huron Statement, which is generally regarded as the birth announcement of that movement. In 1962, he became one of the organizers of the first campus demonstration against the Vietnam War (at that point prosecuted by a few hundred advisors JFK had sent to support the Saigon regime), and in that year, while still a graduate student, he published Student, the first book to express the aspirations and worldview of the new radical generation.

Student portrays the university as the symbol of an oppressive corporate culture, foreshadowing the New Left critiques and campus eruptions to come. In dedicating his book to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black and stressing his commitment to democratic politics, Horowitz also crystallized a difference between the fledgling New Left and the old Communist vanguard. Horowitz criticized the Soviet invasion of Hungary and equated it with America’s intervention in Cuba, and he broke with economic determinism and the idea that socialism had to follow a centralized plan. He knew how far he had strayed from the political world he had grown up in when the book was attacked by a reviewer in the People’s World, the Party’s west-coast organ.

Horowitz saw himself as a dedicated socialist, but some of his intellectual work in the early sixties strayed from dogma in a preview of the second thoughts that would shape his perspective two decades later. His literary studies led him to publish Shakespeare: An Existential View in 1965, a book that follows the Hegelian idea that human existence is defined not just by what actually is, but also by what might be. He mined the work of Shakespeare to explore the tension between this romance of the possible and the skeptical out-look, which constantly reminds us of the brute facts of an existence from which we cannot escape.

In an article for Root and Branch called “The Question About Meaning” Horowitz rejected Marxist determinism and endorsed the view that values are created by human will, and therefore that consciousness also determines being: “Everywhere, value attends commitment. Where men do not address their condition in the fullness of its claim, their experience fails to cross the threshold of significance. For value can exist effectively only where there are men committed to it. It is the commitment of men to the possible, to what is loftier than their attainment, beyond what the present has achieved, that permits the realization of the potential whose seed is already there.”

The idea of a spiritual dimension in which consciousness determines being and not the other way around was a trope from existentialism that contradicted Marxist materialism, even though at the time and in the flush of enthusiasm created by the notion of a “new” left, Horowitz did not realize nor pursue the implications of his ideas.

After publishing Student, Horowitz left California, taking his young family (he and his wife Elissa had a son in 1961) to Sweden—in part because he admired the work of the great Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman. During the year he spent there, he wrote The Free World Colossus, a “revisionist” history of the Cold War. It was one of the first expressions of the New Left’s fixation with the repressive workings of an American “empire,” and was ultimately translated into several languages. In the U.S., The Free World Colossus became a handbook for the growing anti-Vietnam War movement, providing a litany of America’s “misdeeds” abroad—the coups in Iran and Guatemala, the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam—that became a staple of left-wing indictments of America.

Needing a publisher for his manuscript, Horowitz wrote the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and was somewhat surprised to receive a job offer. He spent the years 1964-1967 in London, working for the British philosopher and for the man some saw as Russell’s Rasputin, Ralph Schoenman, but balked at the International War Crimes Tribunal, which Schoenman organized. The Tribunal was headed by Russell, Jean Paul Sartre and other leftwing intellectuals whose goal was to condemn America’s “war crimes” in Vietnam but ignore those committed by the Communists. It was a small but potent sign of the New Left’s ongoing reversion to Old Left politics, which would lead to Horowitz’s eventual exit from the movement

Horowitz had only a casual relationship with Russell, but while in London became close to and profoundly influenced by two European Marxists – Ralph Miliband, whose two sons eventually became leaders of the British Labor Party, and the Polish Trotskyist Isaac Deutscher, the famed biographer of Stalin and Trotsky. Under the tutelage of Deutscher, Horowitz’s writing career as a New Left intellectual flourished. He edited two books,Containment and Revolution and Corporations and the Cold War and wrote Empire & Revolution: A Radical Interpretation of Contemporary History. Empire & Revolution was a reinterpretation of Marxism that offered a New Left perspective on imperialism, communism, and the Cold War. Heavily influenced by Deutscher and Trotsky, it represented Horowitz’s effort to rescue socialism from its Stalinist past and to reformulate a Marxist theory that would account for the horrors of Stalinism and yet still keep the prospect of a revolutionary future alive.

Horowitz returned to the U.S. in 1968 to become an editor at Ramparts magazine, the New Left’s largest and most successful publication, with a circulation of a quarter million readers. A liberal Catholic quarterly when it began in 1962, Ramparts revived the muckraking journalism of the Progressive era, becoming the voice of the anti-war movement. A few months before Horowitz was added to the staff (to provide “more theory,” in the words of then editor Warren Hinckle), Ramparts had caused a national furor with its revelation that the CIA had infiltrated the National Student Association and used it as a “front,” the first of several such exposes.

In 1969 Horowitz and his friend Peter Collier took over Ramparts in a palace coup against its editor Robert Scheer, whose peremptory style of leadership was creating major problems for its overworked staff. In 1973, Horowitz published The Fate of Midas and Other Essays, a collection of essays, which summarized his intellectual development up to that point including his attempts to integrate Keynesian economic theory with traditional Marxist analysis, part of his continuing project to provide the theoretical foundation for an authenticallynew left. The collection also featured personal appreciations of both Deutscher and Russell, and critiques of the violent Weather Underground and SDS.

By 1969, when he and Collier assumed the reins at Ramparts, the New Left was disintegrating into futile acts of “revolutionary” violence and rhetorical narcissism. Disturbed at the direction the movement was taking, but not yet able to contemplate a future as an outsider, Horowitz later said of his predicament: “I pretty well realized even at that time that you couldn’t really remake the world as the left intended without totalitarian coercion. But it was much more difficult to accept the consequences of that realization. For a long time, I simply could not face the possibility that there was no socialist future, that I was not going to be a social redeemer, and that we didn’t have the answers to humanity’s problems—in short, that I wasn’t part of an historic movement that would change the world.”

He thought that he had found an answer to the political paralysis of the early 1970s when he became close to Huey Newton, the leader of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, a group of black radicals that had jumped into the public view by making a point of carrying weapons in public and had been anointed the “vanguard of the revolution” by SDS leaders like Tom Hayden. Horowitz had avoided contacts with the Panthers in their overtly violent phase, but in 1970, Newton announced that it was “time to put away the gun” and turn to community activities. Seeing this as a constructive leftism, Horowitz found himself raising funds to purchase a Baptist church in Oakland’s inner city for the Panthers, which he turned into a “learning center” for 150 Panther children. He bought Newton’s view of incremental, community-based radical change, which seemed particularly salutary when juxtaposed to the nihilism of the Weather Underground’s bombing campaign that was reaching its height at the same time.

In September 1974 he recruited Ramparts bookkeeper, Betty Van Patter, to maintain the accounts of the tax-exempt foundation he had created to manage the Panther school. In December, Betty Van Patter’s bludgeoned body was found adrift in San Francisco Bay. The police were convinced she had been murdered by members of the Panther Party, but local prosecutors were unable to bring an indictment, and the federal government, under siege from the left, also steered clear of this crime, as did the press, which had largely bought into the notion that the Panthers had been targeted for destruction by racist law enforcement.

Entering what would become a ten-year, slow motion transformation from theorist of the left to its worst enemy, Horowitz undertook his own inquiry into the murder. As he collided with denial and threats of retribution if he continued to search, he was forced to confront three stark facts: his New Left outlook was unable to explain the events that had overtaken him; his lifelong friends and associates in the left were now a threat to his safety, since they would instinctively defend the Panther vanguard; and no one among them really cared about the murder of an innocent woman because the murderers were their political friends.

In the mind of the left, even questioning the Panthers’ role in Betty’s fate reflected disloyalty to the cause, since such curiosity could lead to devastating criticism of the Panthers and by extension the left itself, which had embraced the organization and turned its back on the truth that emerged from Van Patter’s death—that rather than a community service organization, Huey Newton had been running a black version of Murder Inc. in the Oakland ghetto.

Forced to look at his own commitments in a way he had never allowed himself before, Horowitz realized that it was the enemies of the left who had been correct in their assessment of the Panthers (just as they had been correct in their assessment of the Soviet Union), while the left had been disastrously wrong. The Panthers were not victims of police repression because they were political militants. They were ghetto thugs running a con on credulous white supporters, and committing crimes against vulnerable black citizens. It was the left and its “revolution” that had conferred on them the aura of a political vanguard, protecting them from being held accountable for their deeds.

As Horowitz considered the cynicism of his comrades’ reaction to Betty’s death, he recognized a familiar historical reality being played out on this smaller scale. Lies were being told to cover up murder. A collusive silence followed. Horowitz couldn’t help asking if there was something inherent in the socialist idea that led to the horrors committed in socialism’s name. He had to face the possibility that his entire life until then had been based on a lie. He had to face the connection between what he had experienced with the Panthers with the crimes his parents’ generation had defended, and thus to accept the fact that there was no “new” left, just a reiteration of the criminality that had been at the core of the left since Lenin – or the Jacobins and Babeuf. As he wrote: “It had been forty years since Stalin’s purges. The victims were dead, their memories erased. They were un-persons without public defenders, expunged even from the consciousness of the living. Those who knew the truth had to keep their silence, even as I had to keep mine. If we actually succeeded in making a revolution in America, and if the Panthers or similar radical vanguards prevailed, how would our fate be different from theirs? Our injustice, albeit mercifully smaller in scale, was as brutal and final as Stalin’s. As progressives we had no law to govern us, other than that of the gang.”

Everything Horowitz had previously believed, everything he had built his political life on, now crumbled before him. In a vignette that Horowitz wrote at the request the New York Times Magazine (which they predictably failed to print when they received it), he recounted the stages of his metamorphosis: “Being at the center of a heroic myth inspired passions that informed my youthful passage and guided me to the middle of my adult life. But then I was confronted by a reality so inescapable and harsh that it shattered the romance for good. A friend— the mother of three children—was brutally murdered by my political comrades, members of the very vanguard that had been appointed to redeem us all. Worse, since individuals may err, the deed was covered up by the vanguard itself who hoped, in so doing, to preserve the faith.”

“Like all radicals,” he continued, “I lived in some fundamental way in a castle in the air. Now, I had hit the ground hard, and had no idea of how to get up or go on.” Just as his progressive friends were indifferent to Betty’s death, so too the left as a whole failed to reckon with the horrifying toll taken by Communist-led and New Left-backed revolutions in Cambodia, Vietnam, and elsewhere. Radicals still considered themselves socialists, but exonerated themselves from socialism’s crimes.

In pursuing answers to Betty Van Patter’s death, Horowitz discovered that the Panthers had murdered more than a dozen people in the course of conducting extortion, prostitution, and drug rackets in the Oakland ghetto. And yet, to his growing bewilderment, the Panthers continued to enjoy the support of the American left, the Democratic Party, Bay Area trade unions, and even the Oakland business establishment. They were praised by prominent writers such as Murray Kempton and Garry Wills in the New York Times and by politicians like then Governor Jerry Brown of California, who was a political confidant of Elaine Brown (no relation), the Panther leader who had ordered Betty’s death.

Notwithstanding the media blackout and the silence of the Panthers’ supporters, the details of their crimes have surfaced over the years principally as a result of Horowitz’s efforts. The first notice of what had happened was a courageous article in New Times magazine by a left-wing journalist named Kate Coleman, whom Horowitz had approached and provided with information. In a 1986 piece in the Village Voice, Horowitz himself identified the Panthers as Betty’s killers, and in Radical Son, which appeared in 1997, Horowitz gave a detailed account of his Panther experience and Betty’s death.

These efforts had an impact even on some of the Panther survivors. In his last televised interview on 60 Minutes, Eldridge Cleaver, the former Black Panther “minister of information,” admitted the brutal ruthlessness of his comrades and himself: “If people had listened to Huey Newton and me in the 1960s, there would have been a holocaust in this country.” Years later, former Panther chairman Bobby Seale also made a public confession about Panther criminality and specifically acknowledged that the Panthers had murdered Betty Van Patter.

But for the most part, progressive keepers of the flame were silent. SDS leader and later California State Senator Tom Hayden and Los Angeles Times journalist Robert Scheer, who worked with the Panthers and promoted their agendas never wrote a word about Panther crimes in the forty-five years after Van Patter’s murder. Former SDS president and later UC Berkeley professor Todd Gitlin’s history of the 1960s fails to acknowledge Panther criminality or mention Van Patter, or the murders of police officers for which the Panthers and other leftist groups were responsible. Like other New Left historians, when Gitlin deals with the Panthers, he presents them as abused victims who sometimes were driven to indefensible (but unspecified) acts because of their persecution. In Kenneth O’Reilly’s Racial Matters: The FBI’s Secret File on Black America, 1960-1972, the Panthers do no wrong and are the targets of legal genocide.

In his essay “Still No Regrets,” Horowitz wrote: “A library of memoirs by aging new leftists and ‘progressive’ academics recall the rebellions of the 1960s. But hardly a page in any of them has the basic honesty—or sheer decency—to say, ‘Yes, we supported these murderers and those spies, and the agents of that evil empire,’ or to say so without an alibi. I’d like to hear even one of these advocates of ‘social justice’ make this simple acknowledgement: ‘We greatly exaggerated the sins of America and underestimated its decencies and virtues, and we’re sorry.’”

The political journey from left to right, of course, had been made before. But Horowitz’s change of heart was of a somewhat different character than the conversions of the ex-Communists who had traveled to the right before him. Unlike the contributors to The God That Failed, for instance, most of whom remained men of the left, Horowitz made a comprehensive break with the radical worldview. Horowitz’s “conversion” was actually his second. The first was his break from communism after Khrushchev’s revelations, while the second was from the socialist idea itself. For the writers of The God That Failed, Stalinism was a cruel socialist aberration. For Horowitz, the roots of Stalinism—and of totalitarianism—lay in socialism itself.

After Betty’s murder, Horowitz ceased his radical activism and his political writing for most of the following decade. Silence about politics became his refuge, as he painstakingly reassessed his life and outlook. He was already involved in a project with Peter Collier to complete a multi-generation biography of the Rockefeller family and this became his cocoon. In 1975, The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty appeared to widespread acclaim, including a front-page rave in the New York Times Book Review. It became a bestseller and a nominee for a National Book Award. The success of The Rockefellers led to a series of other books—The Kennedys: An American Drama (1984), The Fords: An American Epic (1987), and The Roosevelts: An American Saga (1994). These works earned Collier and Horowitz praise from the Los Angeles Times as “the premier chroniclers of American dynastic tragedy.”

During this period, Horowitz also wrote The First Frontier, The Indian Wars & America’s Origins: 1607-1776(1978), a book which remained somewhat within the parameters of the leftist outlook, while attempting to establish the idea that a nation’s character, as defined in its early history, shaped its destiny. While he was at work on this book, events in Southeast Asia were writing a final chapter to the narrative that had defined his own generation. After the Communist victory in Vietnam in 1975, the North Vietnamese began executing tens of thousands of South Vietnamese and setting up “re-education camps” where ideological offenders were held in “tiger cages.” The general repression prompted an exodus of two million refugees, unprecedented in the history of Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese boat people perished in the Gulf of Thailand and in the South China Sea in their attempt to escape the Communist new order that the efforts of the New Left had helped to bring about.

In Cambodia, the victory of the Communists led to the slaughter of some three million Cambodian peasants. More peasants were killed in Indochina in the first three years of Communist rule than had been killed on both sides during the thirteen years of the anti-Communist war. Horowitz later reflected on the cause of these events: “Every testimony by North Vietnamese generals in the postwar years has affirmed that they knew they could not defeat the United States on the battlefield, and that they counted on the division of our people at home to win the war for them. The Vietcong forces we were fighting in South Vietnam were destroyed in 1968. In other words, most of the war and most of the casualties in the war occurred because the dictatorship of North Vietnam counted on the fact Americans would give up the battle rather than pay the price necessary to win it. This is what happened. The blood of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, and tens of thousands of Americans, is on the hands of the anti-war activists who prolonged the struggle and gave victory to the Communists.”

As the Indochinese tragedy unfolded, Horowitz was struck by how the left refused to hold itself accountable for the result it had fought so hard for—a Communist victory—and how it could not have cared less about the new suffering of the Vietnamese in whose name it had once purported to speak. He became increasingly convinced, as his friend and colleague Peter Collier had tried to persuade him, that “the element of malice played a larger role in the motives of the left than I had been willing to accept.” If the left really wanted a better world, why was it so indifferent to the terrible consequences of its own ideas and practices?

In 1979, Horowitz wrote a column for the Nation, which its editors titled, “A Radical’s Disenchantment.” It was the first public statement by a prominent New Leftist that the New Left had anything to answer for. “A Radical’s Disenchantment” described his disillusion with the left, referring to many of the horrors that socialism had produced. Horowitz also confronted the silence with which the left had met these horrors, ending the piece with questions he had been asking himself: “Can the left take a really hard look at itself—the consequences of its failures, the credibility of its critiques, the viability of its goals? Can it begin to shed the arrogant cloak of self-righteousness that elevates it above its own history and makes it impervious to the lessons of experience?” He already knew, however, what the answer was.

In November 1984, Horowitz turned another corner. He cast his first Republican ballot for Ronald Reagan. Shortly thereafter he learned that Peter Collier had done the same. On March 17, 1985, he and Collier wrote a front-page story for the Sunday magazine of the Washington Post, “Lefties for Reagan,” and explained their vote by describing what they had seen and done while fighting against “Amerikkka” as part of the left. As they expected, the article inspired vitriolic responses from their former comrades and forced them to re-enter the political arena to wage what became a two-person war against the 60s left.

Dissecting the left’s hypocrisy now became a Horowitz métier. As a former believer, Horowitz could attack the progressive myth with the familiarity of an insider. He and Collier delivered their first stunning blow in Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties, a 1989 book in which they analyzed the legacy of the New Left and its corrosive effects on American culture. Destructive Generation represented the first dissent from the celebration of the 1960s that had been issuing forth in volume after volume from publishing companies now edited by former New Leftists. For years Destructive Generation remained both the definitive and the only critical work on the radicalism of the decade. In a summary indictment, the authors charged that the left had steadfastly refused to make a balance sheet, let alone a profit and loss statement, of what it had done. Progressives who preened their “social conscience” showed no concern for the destructive consequences of their acts on ordinary people like the Vietnamese and Cambodian peasants who had been slaughtered in the wake of America’s panicked withdrawal from Vietnam.

Before Collier and Horowitz turned on the left, they had enjoyed front-page reviews in the New York Times Book Review and bestseller status for their multi generational biographies. But Destructive Generation marked their eclipse in the literary culture. As Horowitz later recalled, “Our books, once prominently reviewed everywhere, were now equally ignored. With a few notable exceptions, we became pariahs and un-persons in mainstream intellectual circles.” The last review of a Horowitz book in The New York Review of Books was in 1985, the very spring that Collier and Horowitz announced they had voted for Ronald Reagan.

Horowitz’s next work, Radical Son, published in 1997 was powerful enough that even his enemies had to admit that it called up comparisons to Whittaker Chambers’ Witness and Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. George Gilder called it “the first great American autobiography of his generation.” In this memoir Horowitz provided an account of his life, the details of which were already being distorted by his political enemies, and described the intellectual process of his political change of heart. Like Chambers’ classic, Radical Son is an eloquent and riveting narrative, providing a cogent moral and intellectual basis for the changes it describes. It engages in a fearless examination of self, which was almost unprecedented in political memoirs, when Horowitz’s book appeared. Going further than any previous narrative in demonstrating how deeply the Marxist fairy tale is entwined with the character and psychology of its believers, Horowitz reveals the seductive power of the progressive faith. He shows how the socialist lie reaches into every corner of a believer’s soul, and why the break from radicalism can be a personally devastating decision.

Horowitz’s next book, The Politics of Bad Faith, is a collection of six essays published in 1998 that provided what he called “an intellectual companion piece” to Radical Son—analysis counterpointing its narrative. A central theme of the book is the refusal of radicals to accept what the implications of the collapse of communism are for the future of socialism. “For radicals, it is not socialism,” Horowitz writes, “but only the language of socialism that is finally dead. To be reborn, the left had only to rename itself in terms that did not carry the memories of insurmountable defeat, to appropriate a past that could still be victorious.” Thus leftists now call themselves “progressives,” and even “liberals.”

The second chapter, “The Fate of the Marxist Idea,” is one of the most powerful essays Horowitz has written. An autobiographical segment, it takes the form of letters to two former radical friends. The first, called “Unnecessary Losses,” is to Carol Pasternak Kaplan, a friend since childhood who refused to attend his father’s memorial service because Horowitz had abandoned the socialist cause. (As Horowitz notes, “In the community of the left—it is perfectly normal to erase the intimacies of a lifetime over political differences.”) The second letter was to the English socialist Ralph Miliband. Titled “The Road To Nowhere,” it examined the Soviet experience, the refuted positions of the New Left, and the bad faith arguments through which leftists proposed to rescue their blighted dreams: “Wherever the revolutionary left has triumphed, its triumph has meant economic backwardness and social poverty, cultural deprivation and the loss of political freedom for all those unfortunate peoples under its yoke. This is the real legacy of the left of which you and I were a part. We called ourselves progressives; but we were the true reactionaries of the modern world.”

The fifth essay in the book, “A Radical Holocaust,” examined how the post-Communist left had revived the Marxist paradigm applying it to sexual orientation, gender, and race. Horowitz calls this maneuver “kitschMarxism” and in this chapter reveals how the left has revived the destructive force of the original paradigm as well. In “A Radical Holocaust,” Horowitz shows how the theory of “gay liberation” prompted leaders of the gay community to oppose and undermine proven public health methods for combating communicable diseases and in the process produced a public health disaster: “I think that the AIDS catastrophe is a metaphor for all the catastrophes that utopians have created. It’s about the delusion that thinking can make it so, that an abstract idea can be imposed on reality, that the laws of nature can be defied with impunity. The story of the AIDS epidemic reveals how powerful the leftist idea remains and how far reaching is its impact.”

Horowitz’s next book, Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes, published in 1999, quickly became the most controversial work the author had written. It addressed the new cultural dimensions of the radical cause, specifically the determination to make race function the way class had in the traditional Marxist paradigm. White males were demonized as an ersatz ruling class responsible for every social disparity between racial groups and genders. In the absence of actual racists in university admissions offices, for instance, the left created a myth—“institutional racism”—that was alleged to explain all disparities in academic test scores and university admissions. The creation of this myth was essential to keep alive “the discredited Marxist idea that an alien power separates the citizens of democratic societies into rulers and ruled, the dominant race and the races that are oppressed.” Behind the idea that all blacks are victims all the time, according to Horowitz, lies the desire to perpetuate the failed Marxist vision and the social war it justifies.

In an article in Hating Whitey titled “Up From Multiculturalism” Horowitz analyzes another post-Communist radical doctrine. Like socialism, “multiculturalism [is] an invention of well-fed intellectuals,” he writes. “It did not well up from the immigrant communities and ethnic ‘ghettoes’ of America as an expression of cultural aspirations or communal needs. Instead it was manufactured by veterans of the Sixties left, who had established a new political base in the faculties of the universities.” In the new multicultural version of the radical vision, racial and ethnic status replace class status as a political trump card. Horowitz points out that emphasizing ethnic identity over class solidarity situates the multicultural left squarely in the tradition of classic European fascism. Intellectually, he observes, the multicultural left “owes more to Mussolini than to Marx.”

In 1996, Horowitz, who had gradually embraced the cause of conservatism, was approached by a disaffected Democratic strategist who wanted to put his talents at the service of Ward Connerly’s campaign for a Civil Rights Initiative in California. The Initiative would ban racial preferences, the discriminatory laws and regulations functioning as a “progressive” version of Jim Crow, which had been reintroduced by the left into the American political framework in a slap against the civil rights movement and King’s vision of a polity where people were judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. The strategist was appalled by what he saw as his party’s defection from the principles of the movement he had supported as a young man, and he saw in Horowitz a kindred spirit. At their first meeting the strategist said to Horowitz, “Your side only wins when Democrats screw up big time. And that is because your position is always negative – against the policies of the left. You don’t give people something to vote for.”

This began a relationship that resulted in a new theme of Horowitz’s work – advice to conservatives on how to win the electoral battle and, more broadly, how to combat progressive ideas with a positive vision. Horowitz’s first effort in this vein was a pamphlet that appeared in 2000 in time for the election called “The Art of Political War,” later expanded into a book called The Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits (2002). George Bush’s campaign manager, Karl Rove, described the pamphlet as “the perfect guide to winning on the political battlefield.”

In The Art of Political War Horowitz observes that progressives have inverted Clausewitz’s famous dictum and treat politics as “war continued by other means.” By contrast, conservatives approach politics as a debate over policy. Conservatives generally and Republicans in particular, either fail to understand that there is a political war taking place, or disapprove of the fact that there is. Conservatives approach politics as a series of management issues, and hope to impose limits on what government may do. Their paradigm is based on individualism, compromise, and partial solutions. This puts conservatives at a distinct disadvantage in political combats with the left, whose paradigm of oppression and liberation inspires missionary zeal and is perfectly suited to aggressive tactics and no-holds-barred combat.

At the center of America’s imaginative life is what Horowitz calls “the romance of the underdog.” America loves those who struggle against the odds. Consequently a party that presents itself as a champion of the vulnerable and enemy of the powerful has an immediate edge in the political arena. Of course, when Democrats do this it is an expression of rank hypocrisy. Democrats and political leftists control the governing councils and public schools of every major inner city in America and have for fifty years or more. They are thus responsible for everything that is wrong with inner city America that policy can affect. Horowitz’s political strategy is to turn the tables on the left, framing “liberals” and “progressives” as the actual oppressors of minorities and the poor.

In How To Beat the Democrats and Other Subversive Ideas (2000), Horowitz returned to these themes, attempting to reformulate and clarify the ideas laid out in “The Art of Political War,” and offer them as advice to Republicans. He accompanied them with specific recommendations for Republicans on framing the issues. The new book collected a sampling of the 100 or so position papers that he was to write during the 2000 presidential campaign in a bi-weekly newsletter he called “The War Room,” which then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay posted on his congressional website. But the campaign caused Horowitz to realize that while Republicans were generous with praise for his advice, they were temperamentally unsuited to act on it.

In the spring of 2001, Horowitz put his own advice to the test by launching an effort to oppose the left’s campaign to secure reparations for slavery 137 years after the fact as “bad for blacks and racist too.” Horowitz conducted his opposition by taking out ads in college newspapers across the country – or attempting to. Forty college papers refused to print the ad, generating a furor over free speech. Donald Downs, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin summed up the reaction: “The Horowitz controversy has laid bare the cultural and intellectual splits that rivet the contemporary university.” No Republicans and – with the notable exceptions of Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams – few conservatives stepped forward to support Horowitz who was attacked by the left as a “racist” and whose speaking events were disrupted by protesters. At one appearance at the University of California Berkeley, university officials assigned 30 armed guards to protect Horowitz, who subsequently – and for the rest of his career – was unable to speak on campuses without a security presence.

Because the protests against the anti-reparations ads involved gross violations of free speech – at Brown University leftists destroyed an entire issue of the Brown Daily Herald after its editors published the ad – Horowitz’s campaign became the subject of 400 news stories. The attacks of the left made him a widely recognized conservative figure. In the fall, Horowitz published an account of these events, which he called Uncivil Wars. In addition to providing a narrative of his campaign, the book made the case against reparations and provided a vivid portrait of the American campus under the reign of political correctness.

The reparations campaign exposed the hostility of American campuses to ideas that challenged the orthodoxies of the left. One consequence of this was the absence of any university interest in Horowitz’s own work. To provide a guide to the growing corpus of his writings, he decided to publish a representative selection of his articles and excerpts from his books along with a bibliography of his writings to date. An essay-length intellectual biography by this author served as its introduction. The book was titled, Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey and was published in 2003.

The reparations campaign had revealed how a small minority of activists were able to dominate the campus debate by calling racists anyone who stepped forward to challenge their views. The anti-reparations ads that Horowitz placed contained “10 Reasons” for the view that reparations were a bad idea at a time when there were no slaves and the majority of the population were descendants of Americans who either opposed slavery or arrived after it was abolished. But the spring term of the anti-reparations campaign went by without a single response by Horowitz’s critics to the arguments and evidence presented in his ad. Only epithets and character slanders were hurled in Horowitz’s direction. Even though the claims of the ad were on firm historical grounds, not a single university professor with expertise in American slavery was willing to incur the risks associated with confirming those facts because it would entail opposing the campus left, and incurring similar insults. In other words in the current environment of campus “political correctness,” issues like reparations for slavery simply could not be rationally addressed.

Horowitz viewed this as a troubling commentary on the state of the contemporary university and of university authorities who were afraid to enforce an educational decorum allowing both sides of controversial issues to be addressed in a campus setting. Horowitz’s encounters with students on more than 100 campuses he had visited in the previous decade made him aware that the intimidation and suppression of conservative views extended to the classroom itself where conservative ideas were ridiculed by faculty and fellow students and conservative texts were virtually absent from required reading lists.

As a result, in 2002 Horowitz launched a “Campaign for Fairness and Inclusion in Higher Education” to foster a pluralism of ideas and viewpoints, and in the spring of 2003 drafted an “Academic Bill of Rights” based on the classic 1915 statement on academic freedom by the American Association of University Professors. Over the next seven years Horowitz attempted to persuade universities to adopt a code to insure that students would have access to views on more than one side of controversial issues and that faculty would conduct themselves professionally in the classroom, and refrain from using their authority to indoctrinate students in partisan agendas. To advance these principles Horowitz wrote four books analyzing the situation he encountered on the several hundred campuses he visited during the seven years of his campaign: The Professors (2006), Indoctrination U(2008), One-Party Classroom (2009), and Reforming Our Universities (2010).

Of these texts, The Professors received the widest attention because it exposed a radical culture of academics who had corrupted the institutions of higher learning, using their faculty positions as platforms for political rather than scholarly agendas. Horowitz described this politicization of the classroom as the end of the ethos of the modern research university in liberal arts faculties. It represented, he wrote, a reversion to the doctrinal institutions of the 19th Century when colleges were training centers for the clergy, and indoctrination was standard academic procedure. No previous work had taken on the radical subversion of the university as directly and forcefully as The Professors, which is why the book became such a target of attack by the academic left, with the president of the American Association of University Professors going so far as to urge others not to read the book.

Indoctrination U unveiled the ferocity of the opposition to Horowitz’s campaign as leftist critics smeared it as a “blacklist” and “McCarthyism” and a “witch hunt.” Notwithstanding the fierce opposition it encountered, Horowitz’s campaign had some significant achievements. In June 2005 the American Council on Education, representing over 1,800 colleges and universities, issued a formal statement declaring that, “academic freedom and intellectual pluralism were core principles of an American education.” A Brookings Institution report made this comment: “Perhaps the peak of David Horowitz’s national influence came in June 2005 when a coalition of twenty-eight mainstream national education associations, led by the American Council on Education, approved a statement on academic rights and responsibilities that blended traditional concepts of academic freedom with an endorsement of intellectual pluralism and student rights as championed by Horowitz.”

In Horowitz’s view, however, the American Council’s statement did nothing to actually change the academic curriculum or ensure that it reflected the pluralistic values that the statement endorsed. In 2009, as his campaign entered its final year, Horowitz co-authored One-Party Classroom with Jacob Laksin, which examined more than 170 curricula from 12 major universities that could only be described as courses designed to indoctrinate students in leftwing politics. The problem remained what it had been at the outset: how to get university authorities to require liberal arts faculties to behave professionally in the classroom, to teach their students how to think and not tell them what to think. Horowitz concluded his campaign with a comprehensive account of his efforts, Reforming Our Universities, which was also a richly textured description of American institutions of higher learning and the forces within those institutions that had politicized the academic curriculum and were prepared to defend their “right” to indoctrinate students in their political agendas.

Having been part of a progressive movement that identified with America’s enemies, Horowitz was struck by the Democrats’ reluctance to stop Saddam Hussein’s aggression during the first Gulf War when only 10 Democratic senators supported the coalition that George H.W. Bush had assembled to reverse Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait. This was a sign of the commanding role the left had assumed in the Democratic Party. Since Saddam Hussein was one of the true monsters of the 20th Century and did not justify his atrocities by appeals to “social justice,” it also revealed the disturbing lengths to which the left would go to act on its hostility to America.

While he was writing his account of the reparations controversy in the summer of 2001, Horowitz was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In October, shortly after the 9-11 attacks, he underwent a radical prostatectomy and radiation treatments to remove the cancer. While recovering from the operation, Horowitz wrote a long essay titled, “How the Left Undermined America’s Security Before and After 9/11,” which traced the leftward march of the Democratic Party and its growing defection from the War on Terror. This essay became the background to two important books on the war in Iraq and the continuing transformation of the Democratic Party into a party of the left.

The first of these volumes, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left (2004), described the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq and set out to explain how a secular left that championed Enlightenment values had aligned itself with the Islamist enemies of those values and the West. Unholy Alliance also described how the radical left, which organized massive demonstrations against the war, had dramatically influenced the course of Democratic policy and caused a break in the bi-partisanship that had characterized American foreign policy over the previous half century.

Unholy Alliance was the first book to trace the evolution of American radicalism from its support for the Soviet bloc to its opposition to the War on Terror and explain how the left and Islamist movements share a common mindset that creates a bond between them. Both ideologies are utopian enterprises that require the suppression of dissent and/or the eradication of the opposition to achieve their vision of paradise on earth – the classless utopia for the left, and the Sharia utopia for the Islamists. For the left, America is the hated seat of global capitalism and individualism. For Islamists, America is the hated seat of Western values, a bulwark against the global domination of Islam and a wellspring of spiritual iniquity. Consequently, both of these destructive movements have a shared conception of, and contempt for, the “Great Satan” – America – which they identify as the primary source of evil in the world and find common ground in their desire to annihilate or “fundamentally transform” it.

Five years later Horowitz followed Unholy Alliance with a second volume written with Ben Johnson called, Party of Defeat: How Democrats and Radicals Undermined America’s War on Terror Before and After 9-11 (2008). Eighteen Republican senators and congressmen endorsed the book including the ranking members of the committees on intelligence, foreign relations and military affairs in both houses. Party of Defeat examined in detail what Horowitz was later to call “the great betrayal” – the unprecedented defection of a major political party from a war in progress that it had voted to authorize and then proceeded to sabotage. The authors provided the historical background of the Democratic Party’s defeatism, tracing its antipathy for America back to the Vietnam War and George McGovern’s notorious 1972 “America Come Home” campaign, which like the Wallace progressives in 1948, identified America’s resistance to Communism as the problem rather than the Communist aggressors themselves. The book is notable for its debunking of the major Democratic arguments against the war, and the detail it provides of the Democrats’ treachery in destroying intelligence operations, undermining morale and conducting a psychological warfare campaign “worthy of the enemy” against America’s war effort.

After the completion of Unholy Alliance in 2004, Horowitz turned his attention to an Internet project that would provide conservatives with a profile of the left, which he believed was effecting dramatic changes in the political landscape. “, which went online in February 2005, was an encyclopedia of the left that provided a map of its networks, funding, personnel and agendas, both overt and covert. The influence of “Discover the Networks” in shaping conservatives’ understanding of the left and making it possible for conservative journalists and authors to identify the thousands of organizations of the left is difficult to calculate. But there is no question that it has been enormous, particularly in providing an indispensable resource for journalists and other writers in identifying the constituents of the Islamist jihad, and describing the radical networks around Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership. Stanley Kurtz, the author of Radical-in-Chief, a seminal book on the president’s political career has said that he “could not have written Radical-in-Chiefwithout the information provided in Discover the Networks.” Aaron Klein’s and Paul Kengor’s work on Obama are similarly indebted. The rationale for this database and the uproar surrounding its publication are examined in Volume 2 of this series, Progressives.

In pursuing his efforts to document the left’s infiltration and eventual control of the Democratic Party, Horowitz’s attention was drawn to a recently formed network of funders and apparatchiks that the Washington Post had already described as a “shadow party,” taking a term from the British political lexicon to describe the government-in-waiting of the opposition party. In this case, however, the government-in-waiting was being formed inside the opposition party itself. With author Richard Poe, Horowitz published The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party (2006). Their book was an exposé of how billionaire George Soros had put together a coalition of wealthy funders, radical activists and political apparatchiks which quickly gained a lock on the Democratic Party’s political apparatus and began a behind the scenes effort to exclude moderates and to shape party policies in a radical direction. Horowitz had already described the ideological influence the left exerted on the Democratic Party; now he unveiled the mechanism by which it was implemented.

Following the publication of The Shadow Party, Horowitz continued this work with another book, this time co-authored with Jacob Laksin: The New Leviathan: How the Left-Wing Money Machine Shapes American Politics and Threatens America’s Future (2012). Drawing on the Discover the Networks database, the new book documented and analyzed what no other work of scholarship had even noticed – that the left had successfully built the richest and most powerful political machine in American history. The authors’ findings upended the conventional wisdom that conservatives and the Republican Party represent the rich and powerful, while progressives and the Democrats are “the party of the people.” To the contrary, their research proved beyond a doubt that the financial assets of the left directed at policy formation actually exceed by a factor of ten and more those of the right and are being invested in “transforming” America and reorienting it in a socialist direction. The New Leviathan reveals how a powerful network moves radical ideas like Obamacare from the margins of the political mainstream and makes them the priority agendas of the Democratic Party. In so doing, this network has shifted the national policy debate dramatically to the left and reconfigured the nation’s own political agenda. One chapter of the book, “The Making of a President,” documents how Barack Obama’s entire political career was shaped, funded and made possible by the financial and political network they describe.

In 2014, Horowitz resumed his strategic lessons for Republicans and conservatives in Take No Prisoners: The Battle Plan for Defeating the Left, which is a summary statement of his twenty years of thinking about political warfare. According to Horowitz, conservatives fail to employ a political language that speaks to voters’ emotions, and fail to highlight the moral imperative of opposing policies that are destructive to the poor and the vulnerable, and ultimately to all Americans. Picking up from where The Art of Political War left off, Horowitz analyzes the defeat Republicans suffered in the 2012 presidential election in which they were beaten by an incumbent who had only a failed record on which to run. Horowitz describes how this outcome is directly related to the fact that progressives and conservatives see the world differently. Progressives view themselves as social redeemers, as missionaries seeking to transform the world, which inspires their will to win. Conservatives are pragmatists whose goals are specific, practical and modest by comparison. But it is only by embracing an inspiring mission as defenders of freedom and champions of the victims of progressive policies that conservatives can confront the fire of the left with a fire of their own.

In 2012 Horowitz published what with one large exception was to be a final episode in the work of the second half of his life—to understand the pathology of the left, its hatred of America, and its destructive agendas. He gave it the title Radicals: Portraits of a Destructive Passion (2012). Among its six chapters is a portrait of his friend, Christopher Hitchens, whose incomplete second thoughts about his radical commitments becomes for Horowitz a measure of what it means to be of the left, and what it means to have left the left. This poignant rendering of both the man and his evolving ideology explores the seamless fabric joining radical ideas and lives, and the destructive consequences of both.

The large exception alluded to is the series of nine volumes called The Black Book of the American Left, of which this is the final installment. It can be said with reasonable certitude that this is the most complete, first-hand portrait of the left as it has evolved from the inception of the Cold War through the era of Barack Obama and the Islamic jihad that is likely to be written.

Along with his political books, Horowitz began publishing in 2005 a series of four volumes of philosophical memoirs that reveal a different side of his personality and writing. Always known for his strong cerebral prose, in these volumes he shows a lyrical introspection that is unexpected. All four books engage issues of mortality and faith, and along the way show how the progressive quest for perfect justice, as Horowitz puts it, “is really an attempt to deny the permanence of injustice of which death is the exemplary case.”

The first of these volumes, The End of Time (2005), is all at once a meditation on the religious angst of the 17thCentury physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal, a journal of his own battle with cancer, a look into the mind of 9/11 terrorist Mohammed Atta and the story of a romantic relationship that Horowitz never expected to have. Literary critic Stanley Fish wrote of the book: “Most memoirs only mime honesty. This one performs it. Beautifully written, unflinching in its contemplation of the abyss, and yet finally hopeful in its acceptance of human finitude. And as a bonus, it gives us a wonderful love story.”

The second book in this series, A Cracking of the Heart (2009), is a moving tribute to his beloved daughter, Sarah, who died in her San Francisco apartment in 2008 at the young age of 44. Sarah was born with Turner Syndrome, a disability that often causes shortness of stature and progressive deafness, both of which affected Sarah. It also produced arthritis in one of her hips, which caused her pain, significantly limited her mobility and caused her to walk with a limp. It also produced a heart condition, associated with early death. Yet A Cracking of the Heart is witness to an extraordinary human being who rejected self-pity and complaint, and who chose instead to live a life of perseverance, hard work and independence. A talented writer and Good Samaritan, Sarah refused to allow these obstacles to stifle her dreams. With exceptional bravery and magnanimity she confronted the forces that tried to crush her. Horowitz reveals how, from an early age, while facing the cruel limitations imposed on her, she showed a tremendous compassion for the disadvantaged, became active in the Turner Syndrome Society, taught autistic youth, protested capital punishment, fed the homeless, and sojourned to Israel, where she twice climbed Masada. She also traveled to El Salvador to build homes for poor Catholics, to Mumbai to help sexually abused Hindu girls, and to Uganda to teach English to the 3-5 year olds of the Abayudaya, a tribe of African Jews, with whom she lived in mud-floor huts with no electricity or running water.

While celebrating Sarah’s life, A Cracking of the Heart movingly examines the tensions between father and daughter arising from their political differences and also the conflicts that arose naturally from a parent’s concern and a daughter’s fierce quest for independence. We are privy to their ongoing dialogue and eventual reconciliation, and to a father’s unassuageable grief, and brutal encounter with the finality of death.

Horowitz describes the next work in this meditative series as “a summa of my life’s work.” Subtitled “The Search for Redemption in this Life and the Next,” A Point in Time (2011) is about the all too human fear that our existence will vanish into oblivion – and the consequences of coping with this fear by acting as gods and trying to remake the world. It begins with reflections on the meditations of Marcus Aurelius and moves on to the 19thCentury novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky and his prescient vision of the totalitarian state.

In his fourth book of reflections on faith and mortality, You’re Going to Be Dead One Day: A Love Story, Horowitz takes us on an inspirational journey inside his personal world, sharing his remarkable and unlikely love story with his wife April, his relationship with his children, his philosophical reflections about gratitude and perseverance in the face of adversity and illness and his evolving thoughts on death. This book is about the choice each of us faces—whether to embrace this world we are given and make the most of it, or to live a life of bitterness (the fate of Horowitz’s own father) because we cannot live in a world of utopian fantasy that does not exist.

In You’re Going to Be Dead One Day, we see how far Horowitz has escaped from his father’s shadow and from the destructive discontent that lies at the heart of the radical creed. While looking unflinchingly at human limitations and the death that awaits us all, his story is nonetheless one of tenuous hope, even joy. His body may be failing him, but his spirit is strong; all his multiplicity of experience, belief and disillusion, has left him with one ineradicable truth: that the here and now is to be treasured; that death, while a dark and formidable word, does not carry the day. The last word is love—for his wife, his children, his friends and animals. This is a book in which Horowitz has fully followed Wordsworth’s ideal of recollecting one’s life in tranquility.

So how, finally to measure David Horowitz’s life and work? This question is complicated by the fact that in having second thoughts about the left and its catastrophic impact on American life, Horowitz has alienated the literary and cultural establishment that showered him with acclaim from the moment he burst onto the scene as one of the leaders of his radical generation. During the second half of his life he has worked against the grain as an outsider whose literary output, prodigious by any standard, has been largely ignored by the progressive cultural establishment except when it was being condemned in an effort to place it beyond the pale of respectability.

Yet despite the effort to deprecate and diminish him, Horowitz has succeeded in his main task of exposing the left’s agenda and decoding the way it seeks to control American culture and politics. He has never refused to do battle with his critics. But they have for the most part refused to do battle with him, launching hit and run attacks from the institutional heights of the mainstream culture, which made them difficult to respond to since Horowitz was denied access to that platform. To cite a few examples: when Garry Wills made an ignorant but damaging aside in a Time magazine cover story on the Sixties to the effect that Collier and Horowitz were merely “marginal” figures in the decade, the magazine refused to print a response. An irresponsible slander by Time columnist Jack White, who called Horowitz a “bigot,” was allowed to stand, despite the embarrassment of Time’s editor, who was familiar with Horowitz’s work and to whom Horowitz appealed. No letter to the editor was allowed to answer a malicious insinuation by Slate editor-in-chief, Jacob Weisberg in the New York Times Magazine. And so forth.

Rather than entering a tough but reasonable dialogue, Horowitz’s critics have often chosen contemptuous hauteur. When Horowitz dissected some writing by MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, for instance, Chomsky responded in an online venue, “I haven’t read Horowitz. I didn’t used to read him when he was a Stalinist and I don’t read him today.” Chomsky’s claim was mendacious on all counts. First, he knew that Horowitz’s “Stalinism” as a teenager was an accident of birth and that as an adult Horowitz had been an outspoken and visible anti-Stalinist. Second, Chomsky had not only read Horowitz’s work as a leftist but had admiringly cited his Rampartsarticle, “Sinews of Power” in his own book Problems of Knowledge and Freedom. Third, after Horowitz published “A Radical’s Disenchantment,” his farewell to the left, Chomsky sent him two nasty letters, consisting of twelve single-spaced typewritten pages, although he never answered Horowitz’s responses.

Dismissive snark was not unique to Chomsky. Eric Alterman, a commentator for MSNBC and a columnist for theNation, wrote a scathing review of The Politics of Bad Faith in which he failed to discuss the ideas in the text, but instead passed on to readers Paul Berman’s unhinged claim that Horowitz was a “demented lunatic,” a charge made in the course of a bitter attack in the pages of the socialist magazine Dissent. “When Horowitz finally dies,” Alterman wrote in the same review, “I suspect we will be confronted with a posthumous volume of memoirs titled ‘The End of History.’” The operative word here is the wishful finally. Leftists like Alterman now face a double bind: not only is Horowitz still with us, but he has given them the living summary of his work they dreaded in The Black Book of the American Left.

The tenured radicals of the university, perhaps because they have felt the sting of Horowitz’s attack, have chosen to ignore his significant role in the events of the 1960s and 70s while composing their political and social histories and filling their archives with primary documents. Despite a virtual cottage industry involving that radical era, he has received no more than a handful of inquires about his views, recollections, expertise, or work from any of the thousands of left-wing scholars and their students writing theses, articles, and books, or logging oral histories about this swath of history. At the same time, several faculty devoted to these historical pursuits have boycotted his campus appearances.

Similarly, the acropolis of our literary culture—the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, and the New York Times—have studiously ignored Horowitz’s work since he moved to the conservative camp. The New York Review of Books has not reviewed a Horowitz book since 1985, when The Kennedys was published; The New Republic stopped with Destructive Generation in 1989 and with the exception of one brief dismissive notice, theNew York Times stopped with the publication of Radical Son.

Some sectors of intellectual conservatism have also kept a distance from Horowitz, reflecting a discomfort with his aggressive political and literary style. Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary, who published several pieces by Collier and Horowitz in the 1980s, observes: “Some conservatives think he goes too far, and my guess is that some also believe his relentless campaign against the left focuses too much on the ‘pure’ form of it that has become less influential than its adulterated versions traveling under the name of liberalism. Then there’s his polemical style, which still resembles the one invented by the left. Even though it has made the left its target, there are conservatives, I think, who feel uncomfortable with it.”

The historian Richard Pipes is also puzzled by the failure of some conservative intellectuals to embrace Horowitz: “It may have to do with style and decorum. Conservatives do not like aggressive argumentation—they prefer to stand above the fray. For the same reason they ignore Rush Limbaugh for all his enormous success and influence. It is a weakness of the conservative movement, this fear of giving battle.”

Yet while some conservatives have kept him at arm’s length, it cannot be denied that Horowitz has enjoyed significant support in the conservative movement generally and even from the conservative media. While his later efforts may not always have received the attention they merit, Radical Son was a cover story in the Weekly Standard, Ramesh Ponnuru wrote an elegant and appreciative review in First Things and the book received very favorable notices in National Review and other conservative publications.

To overcome the many obstacles he has faced, Horowitz has been forced to create his own institutional base to carry on his work. He has done this with the help of a handful of conservative foundations and over 140,000 individual supporters who contribute to the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Its online journal,, is devoted to “News of the War at Home and Abroad” and receives over one and a half million unique visitors a month., another daily site that “hits and unmasks” leftists in the media; and a campus campaign website, tracks the growing anti-Semitism that has defaced the university and is creeping into mainstream politics.

The creation of the Freedom Center has enabled Horowitz to speak at over four hundred colleges and universities in the last twenty years – albeit in appearances that were ghettoized thanks to the protests and boycotts of the left – and to appear on well over a thousand radio talk shows and television programs. Through these efforts, Horowitz has been able to play a significant role in the battle of ideas. Paul Hollander, himself the author of notable books on radical politics, including Political Pilgrims and Anti-Americanism, has made the following comment on Horowitz’s contribution: “He played a very important part in the culture wars, and has been exceptionally courageous and paid a price for it by becoming the most detested ex-radical among his former comrades. Especially valuable has been his willingness to ‘dirty his hands’ so to speak by debating and addressing often hostile debaters and audiences. I know that many people think that he has embraced another extreme, that he has been too confrontational, etc. He exemplifies to some degree the dilemma of how to avoid becoming like one’s adversaries: how do you avoid the designation of ‘ideologue’ if you fight ideologues? Or avoid politicizing your own self as you fight the politicization of things, which should not be political? Would he have been more effective if he had been perceived as more ‘moderate?’ Hard to know. I basically applaud virtually all the stands he has taken, including most recently on the reparations for slavery.”

The left’s hatred for Horowitz’s achievement in exposing and crystallizing the pathology of radicalism is his reward for a quarter century of writing and argumentation. It has drawn the following appreciation from Norman Podhoretz: “David Horowitz is hated by the left because he is not only an apostate but has been even more relentless and aggressive in attacking his former political allies than some of us who preceded him in what I once called ‘breaking ranks’ with that world. He has also taken the polemical and organizational techniques he learned in his days on the left, and figured out how to use them against the left, whose vulnerabilities he knows in his bones. (That he is such a good writer and speaker doesn’t hurt, either.) In fact, he has done so much, and in so many different ways, that one might be justified in suspecting that ‘David Horowitz’ is actually more than one person.”

Podhoretz’s words explain why Horowitz continues to receive such tremendous praise from those who sense the left’s pernicious threat to liberty and who respect and admire what he has contributed to its defense. Academic and social critic Camille Paglia, herself an independent leftist, calls Horowitz “one of America’s most original and courageous political analysts,” reflecting that “as a scholar who regularly surveys archival material, I think that, a century from now, cultural historians will find David Horowitz’s spiritual and political odyssey paradigmatic for our time.” Roger Kimball, the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the publisher of Encounter Books, refers to Horowitz as a “national treasure.” Emmy Award-winning writer, journalist, and political pundit Bernard Goldberg, calls Horowitz “one of America’s most important and interesting thinkers.” Wall Street Journal editorial board member Robert L. Pollock, sees in Horowitz “one of America’s foremost defenders of free speech and free thought.” Publisher’s Weekly, meanwhile, describes Horowitz as “one of the best political writers on either side of the aisle.”

Horowitz exemplifies the irritating and threatening reminder to tyranny that human freedom and the triumph of the human spirit can ultimately never be suffocated or suppressed. Henry Mark Holzer, a libertarian lawyer who was Ayn Rand’s attorney and has represented Soviet dissidents fleeing communism for freedom in the West, has given expression to sentiments shared by many of Horowitz’s conservative supporters: “I don’t say loosely that someone is a hero. But in my view, David Horowitz fits the definition of that term. He is a man who has stood up, and for a long time stood up alone, for his values. And his confessions are invaluable. We didn’t have Alger Hiss providing us with a book about why he turned to treason. But Horowitz has expressed how and why many Americans betrayed their own country in the face of evil. In this sense, he has provided a great service. And this service is enhanced by the fact that he shows how this form of treason operated on the psychological level. I am not sure that this has ever been done before.”

Someone who has traced the arc of David Horowitz’s life cannot help but think that, despite all the efforts to silence him, he will ultimately be vindicated by history and that the principles behind his work, to use William Faulkner’s famous words, will not only endure but prevail.

Introduction to Volume I

The essays included in this, the first of nine volumes on the American left—a tenth will feature a comprehensive bibliography and index—are shaped by a biographical perspective, drawn directly from my life-experiences in that left.1 They contain reflections first on the political path my life took, and then on the course pursued by others who shared that path but did not have second thoughts that prompted them to leave it.

Because the left is a religious movement that engages an individual identity at the deepest levels, there can never be a separation between the personal and the political. Members of the faith know very well the implications of doubt: to leave the progressive faith is to invite expulsion from its utopia and the fellowship of its community, and forever after to be shunned as a person morally unfit for decent company. This is a daunting prospect that discourages challenges to its orthodoxy and keeps its adherents in line. This reality makes the narrative of one who departed its ranks not only a deeply personal document but also a political text.

Part I

In December 1974, my life was forever altered when members of the Black Panther Party murdered a bookkeeper named Betty Van Patter whom I had recruited to keep accounts for a Panther school I had helped to create. The tragedy threw me into a personal crisis, creating an ideological turmoil that was compounded five months later by the bloodbath in Southeast Asia following the Communist victory in Vietnam. The state of distress into which I was thrown by these events was such that for more than a decade I did not engage in any political activities. During this period I took time to reflect on the beliefs that had guided me and then betrayed me, and I tried to figure out how I was going to function without them. In 1979, I had dinner in Berkeley with the leftwing author E. L. Doctorow, whose novel about the Rosenbergs had referenced one of my books. I told him of my concerns about the left, and he suggested I write them up for The Nation on whose board he sat. The result was an article I called “Left Illusions,” which The Nation retitled “A Radical’s Disenchantment.” It put my doubts before a community with whom I still identified but was getting ready to leave, though I was still reluctant to concede that, even to myself.

My formal departure came in 1985 with the publication of our divorce-notice in The Washington Post. The following year I wrote “Why I Am No Longer a Leftist,” a more personal explanation of the events behind my turn. It was published in another progressive venue, The Village Voice, and is included as the second chapter in this volume. The decision to write the article was a particularly difficult one because it was the first public statement I had made about the murder. In publishing it I was concerned first of all about the safety of my family since the killers were still at large (as they are today). The fear was great enough that I did not name the individuals I believed responsible. This was something I would eventually do seven years later in a lengthy autobiographical article “Black Murder, Inc.,” which is included as chapter five in the present text.

My intention in publishing “Why I Am No Longer a Leftist” in a leftwing paper like the Voice was to encourage its readers to have second thoughts and to warn them about the dangers of failing to have them. What I elicited instead was an anathema upon myself— an excommunication from the progressive community. The anath-
ema was pronounced in the form of an article that appeared in the same paper shortly afterward called, “The Intellectual Life and the Renegade Horowitz.” It made clear that my words were not going to be taken as an attempt to retrieve a bitterly earned truth about what we leftists had done, but as the betrayal of a noble cause by a person who had gone over to the dark side. The author was the socialist writer Paul Berman; he began by praising me as an intellectual leader among New Leftists in the Sixties and concluded by damning me as one who now consorted with monsters, in particular with a homicidal member of the Nicaraguan contras whose nom de guerre was Suicida. This was, in point of fact, an individual I had never heard of, and whom the contras themselves had executed for his crimes, which were indeed heinous. This kind of reckless assault on my character was to prove typical of the left’s responses to my work in years to come.

A year after the Voice article appeared, Peter Collier and I organized a “Second Thoughts Conference” in Washington to which we invited others who had taken steps along the path we had chosen. Two years later we held another Second Thoughts event in Cracow, Poland, just months before the collapse of the Communist regime. The speech I gave, “Reality and Dream,” whose text is included as chapter three in this volume, was an effort to tell my story and summarize the case against socialism for an audience whose members were still prisoners of the Soviet occupation.

While focusing on the left, I also felt the need to define the new “conservative” outlook at which I had arrived. The article “My Conservatism” is a statement of the views I had developed, along with the reasons I did not regard this new perspective as parallel to the one I had abandoned but different in its very nature. I addressed the same subject in The Politics of Bad Faith, which was published in 1998, and which contains the fullest statement of the rationale for my political change.
The event that forced me to look at the reality of what I and my comrades had done is the subject of the memoir “Black Murder, Inc.” At the time the crime was committed, the Black Panther Party was regarded as a progressive vanguard and its leader Huey Newton was being compared in The New York Times to Martin Luther and Mahatma Gandhi. Even today, in respected academic texts like Henry Louis Gates’s African American National Biography, the Party is portrayed as a noble vanguard, victimized by a racist government. This is a reflection not of the facts but of the way the left dominates and has corrupted the academic culture— the subject of the sixth volume of The American Left, titled The Left in the University.

After the publication of the Post and Village Voice articles, liberal venues were for all intents and purposes closed to me as a “renegade” from their ranks. “Black Murder, Inc.” first appeared in a publication that Peter Collier and I had created, called Heterodoxy. We published it on the front page with a “Wanted” poster of Elaine Brown, the Panther most directly responsible for the murder, although I have no doubt that it was Huey Newton who ordered the execution from his exile in Cuba. One of the most unpleasant responses of the left to the article was to attempt to place the blame for Betty’s death on me. “Letter to the Past” is my reply to one of these accusations made by a lifelong friend of mine who had remained on the left and was obviously a friend no more. Our exchange reflects the raw emotions I felt at the time.

In retrospect, it is clear to me that the failure of the political culture and major media to take note of the Panthers’ crimes and be horrified by them, indeed the support the perpetrators received from the progressive ranks, was a small but ominous sign of the profound change that the Sixties left had worked on the American political landscape. The resurfacing in the 1990s of a violent radical like Weatherman leader Bill Ayers as the intimate political ally of a future American president is a parallel phenomenon. It indicates just how far the influence of the left has reached.

Progressives are necessarily forced to choose between the future they desire and the reality they inhabit. The primary moral obligation of a revolutionary is to destroy the existing social and political framework in order to prepare the revolutionary future; and radicals perceive America as the principal defender of the capitalism they hate all over the world. Consequently, a radical politics generally leads to uncertain loyalties to country and community. Yet leftists have succeeded in making the issue of their loyalties the most taboo of political subjects, deploying blanket charges of “McCarthyism” and “witch-hunt” as a way of silencing their critics. As someone who experienced the conflict between principles and country directly, I have inevitably made them a focus of my work. “Treason of the Heart,” an article written to promote my autobiography Radical Son, includes the accounts of three episodes, described in the book, which dramatize this conflict.

Having rejected the left, I quickly discovered that the political center where I expected to find a home had vanished, while outlets for my work that I had expected to be available had shut their doors to me. “A Political Romance” was written at the request of an editor at The New York Times Sunday Magazine, who wanted a piece for the weekly “Lives” feature located at the back of the issue. I undertook the assignment as a challenge; another attempt to sum up in succinct fashion the hard lessons I had learned. But when I submitted the article, the editor rejected it by saying that it wasn’t the “type” of piece The Times had in mind for the feature.

I was skeptical of this explanation, and suspected that what the editor really didn’t like about the article was its political conclusion rejecting the left. This was borne out a few weeks later when the “Lives” page featured another piece, which was also about the left and was written as though it had been commissioned in reply to mine. The author was a leftist who admitted to some second thoughts about what she and her comrades had done in the Sixties but, in contrast to me, resolved not to abandon what she still regarded as a noble cause. This episode provided a particularly dispiriting indication of the media environment in which I was now operating. Despite my quarantine as a conservative, I was still interested in engaging younger leftists, hoping I might help them avoid the painful lessons I had been forced to learn. “Think Twice” is an open letter to young people who protested against an American response to 9/11 within two weeks of the attacks.

Almost a decade after publishing Radical Son, I again turned inward in a series of books that I regard as my best writing. They include The End of Time and A Point in Time, along with the memoir I wrote about my daughter Sarah, A Cracking of the Heart. Those reflections articulated the themes that have animated my life’s work. The “End of Time” in this volume is a presentation I made to promote the book. It consists of excerpted passages interspersed with commentary, and provides a glimpse of how I came to connect the personal with the political in the autumn of my career. “What My Daughter Taught Me” describes the dialogue I had with Sarah before her untimely death about the way in which human beings might make the world “a better place.” My daughter Sarah was a compassionate soul and our discussions were the kind of dialogue I missed on the infrequent occasions when liberals bothered to address my work.

The most unpleasant aspect of my political odyssey has been the relentless, often malicious distortion of the positions I have taken by those who disagree with my political conclusions. Three of the last four articles in Part I deal with this phenomenon. The first, “Getting This Conservative Wrong,” is my response to an academic historian named Kevin Mattson, who profiled me in a book called Rebels All! as the exemplar of a “post-modern conservatism,” ascribing to me views I simply did not hold. This was typical of the responses to my work by critics from the left who rarely engaged my ideas in an intellectual manner but picked at them hoping to find ways to discredit their bearer. The only real interest they showed in my work, or that of other conservatives, was to make it a symbol of something to despise and suppress. “Something We Did” is my response to a caricature of me in an Off-Broadway play about the Weathermen terrorists called Something You Did. The intention of the play was to exculpate the guilty and indict those who attempted to hold them accountable. Like Kevin Mattson, the playwright had no interest in defending, let alone correcting, his distorted views when I confronted him with the facts.

Another example of this syndrome is described in “Who I Am,” which is my response to a cover story that appeared in The Tablet, an online magazine for Jewish progressives. The Tablet’s editors had assigned a very young leftist the task of doing my portrait. The piece he finally produced, “David Horowitz Is Homeless,” was an attempt to portray me as a hapless figure whose fortunes were declining as he approached the end of his life, where he found himself lost between the warring camps of left and right, unable to find a home in either. “Who I Am” is my attempt to put the facts back in place. The Tablet declined to publish it, but this self-portrait provides a reasonable facsimile of my state of being in what was then my seventy-third year.

Peter Collier has been my friend for fifty years. He was my collaborator at Ramparts and in the launching of my literary career with three dynastic biographies we co-authored about the Rockefeller, Kennedy and Ford families—all New York Times best-sellers, The Kennedys reaching the top of that list. Peter was also my confidant and partner in the joint transition we made from left to right, organizing the “Second Thoughts” conference with me, coauthoring our démarche in The Washington Post and co-writing Destructive Generation, which we published in 1989. Peter has also been my collaborator in guiding the David Horowitz Freedom Center, although he took a ten-year hiatus to create Encounter Books, an independent publishing company. During that time, he continued to edit our magazine, Heterodoxy. “Peter and Me,” an introduction I wrote to a talk he gave at the Center’s Wednesday Morning Club about his biography of Jeane Kirkpatrick, is my tribute to a valued friend and colleague and the impact he has had on me.

Part II

The essays that make up the second part of this volume begin with “Goodbye to All That,” our swansong to the left. The article was published by The Washington Post under the title “Lefties for Reagan” and was our formal “coming-out” as conservatives, although it was based on second thoughts that had been gestating since the mid-Seventies.

The next two essays, “My Vietnam Lessons” and “Semper Fidel,” belong to this genre, and are attempts I made to confront our radical cohort with the harsh realities of what we had actually done. Vietnam was the defining issue of our generation but the events that unfolded proved that those of us who were active in the anti-war movement had been wrong on every critical point, and that our actions had tragic consequences for the people we claimed to be defending. My decision to vote for Ronald Reagan and join the conservative cause was also inspired by events in Nicaragua where Castro Marxists had seized power through a political coup. “Semper Fidel,” originally titled “A Speech to My Former Comrades on the Left,” was about those events. It was given at a conference organized by Berkeley radicals who probably didn’t realize what they were in for, and who shut off my microphone before I could finish.

Following the appearance of our Post article, Peter and I were repeatedly forced to defend our conservative views. “Keepers of the Flame” is one of these defenses, written following our return from a trip to Nicaragua and in response to a review of Destructive Generation that appeared in The New Republic. The essay reflects our continuing effort to understand what had happened to us—not only why we weren’t welcomed into what we thought would be the political center, but also why our anti-Communist politics were treated with such hostility by the liberal press. The review
that provoked our response was written by Paul Berman who insinuated that the sins we described in Destructive Generation were basically our own, and did not reflect the general behaviors or attitudes of the left.

This attempt to revise the past was a common tack of the leftists we now faced. In “Carl Bernstein’s Communist Problem and Mine,” I drew on my personal experiences to expose the misrepresentations in the memoir this Watergate reporter had written about his Communist childhood. The article has even more resonance today than it did when I wrote it because it describes, from the inside, the milieu in which the 44th president of the United States also grew up, along with his chief advisors David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett.

A series of attacks on the political right by the writer Michael Lind provided me with an opportunity to describe what a political conversion actually entails and also to correct the distorted picture of the right that was becoming commonplace among its leftist opponents. I responded to Lind’s defamation of conservatives in an article called “Political Cross-Dresser.”

Time and again as I attempted to describe my experiences as a radical, I encountered the resistance put up by leftists to any candor on the subject, their inability to face up to the past, and their penchant for rewriting it instead. “Still Lying After All These Years” and “Repressed Memory Syndrome” are efforts to address this resistance to historical truth. I am not referring here to differences in interpretation of what happened, but to the deliberate suppression of facts or inversion of facts in the service of a political cause.

The article “Fidel, Pinochet and Me” is another attempt to confront my former comrades with the results to which our political advocacies had led. In this article, I compare the achievements of Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet, whom progressives loathed, to those of Cuba’s dictator Castro, whom they adored and whose excesses they excused. Comparing those histories provided a measure of progressives’ disconnect from reality in the service of a destructive illusion, and of their blindness to the human consequences of their ideas and actions. Shortly after publishing the article, I found myself on a radio show with Christopher Hitchens who at the time was one of the radical harassers of the terminally ill Pinochet, calling for his arrest and extradition for crimes he had committed as Chile’s dictator decades before. When I pointed out that Pinochet’s dictatorship was no worse for Chileans than Castro’s was for Cubans, and arguably a lot better, Christopher burst out on air: “How dare you, how dare you!” I was taken aback by this fervor but replied in as amicable a tone as I could muster: “Christopher, aren’t we getting a little old for ‘how-dare-yous’?” This was the first time Christopher and I had spoken in nearly twenty years and it was to his credit that the next time we did we became friends.6
It was a continuing source of fascination to me that progressives, who had been so demonstrably on the wrong side of history during the Cold War, were able to maintain their air of superiority when it was over, while simultaneously marginalizing conservatives in the academic and literary cultures they dominated. The essay “Marginalizing Conservative Ideas” is another facet of my ongoing effort to identify the differences between the two perspectives that lead to such different outcomes.

In the two articles “Can There Be A Decent Left” and “The Left and the Constitution,” I analyze the nature of the left by engaging the ideas of two of its more intellectually interesting figures, Michael Walzer and Hendrik Hertzberg. Regrettably, neither one responded to these overtures, a not uncommon occurrence. The nature of the left is also the subject of the three essays on “Neo-Communism,” which were written after the onset of the Iraq War—an American intervention vigorously opposed by almost the entire progressive spectrum, with notable but rare exceptions such as Hitchens and Paul Berman. (The latter was steadily moving from his earlier positions and was no longer an antagonist of mine.) That war proved to be a defining political crossroads, and I used the occasion to articulate my understanding of what the “post-Communist” left shared with its Communist precursors. The continuities of the left by now had become a central theme of my work.

“Neo-Communism,” a term I chose to characterize the left, failed to catch on, as I had suspected it would. This was a credit to leftists’ success in embargoing attempts to link them to their Communist predecessors by associating their critics with problematic figures like Senator Joseph McCarthy. The very use of the word “communist” is taken to be evidence of “McCarthyism.” But the effect of accepting the preferred euphemisms, such as “progressive” and “liberal” (a term applied by The New York Times even to card-carrying Communists like Angela Davis) has had the dual effect of obscuring their agendas and burying the lessons of their past. The second volume of this series, Progressives, returns to these issues.

The chapter “Discover The Networks” is the defense of an online encyclopedia of the left I created by that name, and a further attempt of mine to provide a taxonomy of the species.7 “Keeping an Eye on the Domestic Threat” is a further explication of this database, and thus another inquiry into the nature of the faith.

Part III

The essays in this section, “Slander as a Political Discourse,” address several attempts to distort the facts of my life in order to discredit my ideas and neutralize my criticisms of the left and its deeds. It includes an exchange provoked by Sidney Blumenthal’s libel suit against Matt Drudge, which throws light on the techniques leftists employ to defame and then quarantine critics, and reflects the particularly low state of political discourse at the time. I knew John Judis, the author of one of these attacks, when he was an editor of Socialist Revolution. Later he became an editor of The New Republic, and was able to write a fairly objective biography of William F. Buckley. The fact that he would advocate a boycott of the magazine Peter and I published is just one indication of the determination of progressives to create a wall of silence around our work and prevent us from reaching the next generation with what we had learned.

Part IV

This volume concludes with the texts of two talks I gave on autobiographical themes. The first was given over the fierce objections of my leftwing classmates to my 50th class reunion at Columbia College. In it I attempted to weigh the changes that had taken place over the course of the half-century since we had graduated, and explain the conservative viewpoint to an audience that remained steeped in the presumptions of a progressive culture. The second is a speech I gave at the annual dinner of the Zionist Organization of America, which provided me an opportunity to reflect on my identity as a Jew, my attitudes towards Israel and America, and to the war against them.

Introduction to Volume II

All the volumes in this series of my collected writings called The Black Book of the American Left are about individuals who call themselves progressives. This volume focuses on the nature of the progressive outlook and its realworld consequences.

The progressive label is one that its adherents wear proudly. It appeals to their amour propre, identifying them as people who are forward-looking, therefore enlightened and modern. “Progressive” fits their sense of themselves as apostles of hope and change, in fact as a species of social redeemers. Consequently, the basic premise of their politics is that “forward” is necessarily a good direction, and that a fundamental transformation of social relationships is both possible and desirable. As an expression of this self-image, progressives commonly refer to themselves as being “on the side of history,” as though history was steadily moving towards beneficent ends. Inevitably, the term “progressive” has the added advantage of putting the best face on their collective achievements, although these have frequently entailed consequences that were destructive on an epic scale. It also leads them to make alliances both formal and informal with the enemies of the relatively enlightened democracies in which they actually live.

In addition to examining an outlook that leads to such regrettable results, the essays in this volume pay particular attention to the connections between progressive movements of the present and their antecedents in the past. Bearing these continuities in mind and retaining a sense of past results are essential to understanding the real-world consequences of the progressive faith.

No greater obstacle to clarity about current progressive movements exists than the habit of detaching them from their ideological antecedents, specifically those in the Communist past. A common attitude regards Communist ideas as passé, and any attempt to link them to present company as politically dangerous. But this lazy thinking (to put the best face on it) makes any understanding of contemporary progressives impossible. When they are in their own company, progressives themselves are not shy about their debts to Marx and his disciples. When they are in position to determine academic curricula, they give the Marxist tradition pride of place. Their politics are directly and self-consciously inspired by the intellectual tradition—Marx, Hegel, Gramsci—that produced the totalitarian results. Many of today’s progressives, and certainly their teachers, were actively involved in supporting and defending the 20th Century’s totalitarian “experiments” and in opposing the anti-Communist cold warriors who helped to bring them to an end.

Progressives have an understandable interest in separating themselves from the destructive consequences of their past behaviors. But conservatives should not contribute to their efforts by referring to them as “liberals,” or regarding their own differences as merely policy matters that can be compromised and adjusted, rather than as the result of a philosophical divide that leads to consequences both predictable and tragic.

Part I: The Mind of the Left

The essays in this volume begin with an introductory section, “The Mind of the Left,” which re-establishes the missing connections between current progressive movements and their Communist predecessors. Through profiles of some of its prominent intellectual figures, this introduction traces the continuities between the Communist left of the Stalin era, the New Left that followed, and the contemporary left that emerged following the fall of the Communist empire.

These intellectual portraits are set in the context of the events of September 11, 2001, when Islamic jihadists launched a surprise attack on American soil, killing three thousand civilians. Progressives responded to this heinous assault by organizing protests directed not at the perpetrators but at their own country. The protesters opposed an American military response, and justified the enemy’s aggression by attributing it to “root causes” that could be traced to America’s imperial ambitions. Not all progressives joined the initial opposition, which was organized by a radical element. But a year later, as hundreds of thousands of activists poured into the streets to protest America’s war against Islamists in Iraq, the opposition spread through the entire progressive spectrum to include the leadership of the Democratic Party.

If an inability to grasp the left’s historical antecedents is one obstacle to understanding its behavior, a close second is the failure to appreciate the connection between its utopian and nihilist agendas. The belief in a perfect future inevitably inspires a passionate (and otherwise inexplicable) hatred towards the imperfect present. The first agenda of social redeemers is to dismantle the existing social order, which means their intellectual and political energies are focused on the work of destruction. Several passages in “The Mind of the Left” explore this theme.

Antagonism towards the existing social order inevitably leads to uncertain loyalties towards the body politic, and then to uncertain loyalties towards one’s country at war. This is a subject that makes everyone uncomfortable, but cannot be simply ignored because of that. Along with the opening section, several essays deal with the issue of patriotism, including “The Future of the Left,” “Spies Like Us,” “Spy Stories,” “The Lawyer Who Came in From the Cold,” and “The Left on Trial.” Another, “The Trouble with Treason,” recounts my differences on this subject with conservative author Ann Coulter in her book of that name.


Between Past and Present

The essays in Parts II & III are arranged in chronological order and begin with the text of a presentation I made to an Accuracy in Academia conference in 1987, titled “Activists Then and Now.” It was written just after Peter Collier and I held our Second Thoughts Conference for former radicals. In this text I describe the continuities between the New Left and the then current left, stressing what I thought conservatives should understand about the protesters and probably did not. It is a theme that runs through the course of the present volume.

This is followed by the text of a speech I gave at Dartmouth University, where I had been invited by conservative students to join a panel defending The Dartmouth Review, a student paper under attack for its conservative opinions by the Dartmouth administration. The panel included Peter Collier, Michael Medved, and one other conservative. My remarks were focused on the warm welcome the Dartmouth administration had given the communist Angela Davis who had recently spoken there. At the time the Dartmouth administration was conducting a virtual war against the conservative students who ran The Dartmouth Review for transgressing the boundaries of “political correctness,” i.e., the progressive party line. Despite its leftist sympathies and censorious attitude, the Dartmouth administration was universally referred to as “liberal.” This environment—supportive of totalitarian agitators like Davis and hostile to conservative students—was in my experience typical of most universities, and reflected the general tenor of the intellectual culture.

The essay, “Mercy for a Terrorist,” describes how the broad progressive community is ready to embrace domestic terrorists if

the motivation for their criminal activity is “progressive.” A variation on this theme appears in “The Destructive Romance of the Intellectuals,” which is a review of Martin Amis’s book about Stalin, and his conflict with Christopher Hitchens over the latter’s lingering romance with the totalitarian “comrades.”

Tom Hayden was a leader of the New Left and a violent revolutionary who advocated guerrilla war in America’s streets and organized a riot at the Democratic Party convention in 1968. Shortly after that riot destroyed the electoral chances of Hubert Humphrey, Hayden led a generation of radicals into the Democratic Party with the idea of transforming it into a party of the left. As a direct result of their success, Hayden was awarded the Medal of Freedom by Democratic president Jimmy Carter and became a Democratic assemblyman in the state of California. After being term-limited from the Assembly he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Los Angeles, which was the occasion for an op-ed column I wrote, called “Tom Hayden, Los Angeles and Me,” which opposed his candidacy. In achieving this acceptance by mainstream Democrats, Hayden had not jettisoned his radical views, including his fundamental hostility to America and its social framework. It was thus the Democratic Party that had undergone a significant change, not him.

In “The Future of the Left,” I examine another revealing case of the progressive mind-set. Its subject, Richard Rorty, was born into the Trotskyist left but was philosophically an anti-totalitarian skeptic. Rorty wrote a book criticizing the left for its lack of patriotism and corrosive hostility towards American society, both of which he regarded as counter-productive. But in the end Rorty remained a prisoner of the same attitudes because he could not let go of the fantasy of a utopian future and its ancillary hostility for the unredeemed present. The full flowering of this hatred is manifest in all the works of Noam Chomsky, whose intellectual dishonesty is dissected in the essay, “Guru of Anti-Americanism.”

A hallmark of the left is its reliance on deception both in the presentation of its agendas and in its attitude towards the past. Because of the religious nature of its ambitions these deceptions are intrinsic and not merely calculated. Animated by the fantasy of a future perfection, the left depends on extreme myths to sustain its salvationist illusions. Facts that do not fit its indictments must be made to do so; historical records that question its vanguard status must be challenged or suppressed. Several examples of the historical falsifications that flow from these imperatives are explored in the essays “I, Rigoberta Menchú, Liar,” “Three Political Romancers,” and “Progressive Education: Panther Style.”

When members of the progressive faith do break ranks and dissent from its myths, they are immediately shunned, and often summarily cast out. “The Secret Power of the Leftist Faith” explores this ritual in the case of Christopher Hitchens, although Christopher, a double agent of sorts, was ultimately able to retain his progressive bona fides. A related essay, “Ordeal by Slander,” illustrates how the left—in this case represented by the editor of Slate, a Washington Post publication—insulates its mythologies from damaging scrutiny by labeling its critics “McCarthyites” and witch-hunters. The result of these maneuvers and the fear they induce is a hermetically sealed intellectual environment that prevents progressives from considering alternative views.3 This phenomenon is explored in “Guilt of the Son,” which tells the story of one of the children of the Rosenberg spies who embarked on a quest to prove his parents’ innocence and wound up embracing their guilt.

In 2012, the film director Oliver Stone produced a ten-part television series and 750-page text titled The Untold History of the United States. Co-authored by leftist professor Peter Kuznick, this so-called history regurgitated the Stalinist version of the Cold War’s origins and conduct, and then the views of America’s Marxist and Islamic enemies. It was shocking enough that a major network would fund and promote a propaganda project like this. But its absurd fabrications were embraced with only a handful of dissents by the progressive culture and its academic establishment. The essay “Oliver Stone’s Communist History” reviews the Stone-Kuznick phenomenon as a watershed moment in the devolution of American liberalism and the American left.

The final section, “Identifying the Left,” reviews the ferocious reaction that occurred in February 2005 when I published an online encyclopedia of the left. The encyclopedia was called “Discover the Networks,” and provided a database of progressive individuals and organizations, ranging from radical to moderate. The three essays that conclude this volume were my responses to leftist critics who focused their attention on an index of individuals accompanied by thumbnail photos, which were featured in the database. This index was subsequently removed for reasons unrelated to the controversy, when leftists began filing copyright infringement complaints over the use of the photos. Since the index was an incomplete listing, designed merely as an advertisement for the contents, it seemed prudent to simply remove it. But the reaction itself was revealing, showing how sensitive the left is to having its agendas and networks described.