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WSJ: Notable and Quotable – “What it Means to be a Conservative”

Reposted from WSJ.com

Jan. 13, 2014 7:36 p.m. ET

From “The Black Book of the American Left” (2013), by David Horowitz:

To be a conservative is first to understand that there is no solution to the dilemmas of the human condition. Second, it is to understand that to escape these dilemmas, human beings will inevitably embark on desperate quests for redemptions in this life. These redemptions, in turn, will require holy wars to purge the world of demons—of those who do not share their faith, and who stand in their way. In this regard, totalitarian Islam is really no different in its heart from totalitarian socialism or progressivism, even though the latter are secular and the former is pursued in the name of a vengeful and malignant God. Both seek to cleanse mankind of its irreparable imperfections.

To remain free beings, we are continually forced to defend ourselves and our breathing space, against the efforts of the redeemers to perfect us—against the armies of the saints who are determined to make the world a better place than it can ever be. That is how I see the political wars we face, and why they will never end.

The Weekly Standard: “A Good Fight”

Reposted from http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/good-fight_771511.html

David Horowitz is a political thinker and cultural critic who enjoys challenging leftist shibboleths. His main contribution to contemporary political discourse is a passionate commitment to an outspoken, unabashed, myth-breaking version of conservatism. If communism was the triumph of mendaciousness, he argues in this poignant collection of writings, conservatism cannot accept the proliferation of self-serving legends and half-truths.

This makes his public interventions refreshingly unpredictable, iconoclastic, and engaging. He is a former insider, and his views have the veracity of the firsthand witness. Horowitz knows better than anybody else the hypocrisies of the left, the unacknowledged skeletons in its closet, and its fear to come to terms with past ignominies. He is an apostate who sees no reason to mince his words to please the religion of political and historical correctness. His masters are other critics of totalitarian delusions, from George Orwell to Leszek Kolakowski; in fact, Horowitz’s awakening from his leftist dreams was decisively catalyzed by the illuminating effect of Kolakowski’s devastating critique of socialist ideas. Unlike his former comrades, however, Horowitz believes in the healing value of second thoughts.

Vilified by enemies as a right-wing crusader, Horowitz is, in fact, a lucid thinker for whom ideas matter and words have consequences. His break with the left in the late 1970s was a response to what he perceived to be its rampant sense of self-righteousness, combined with its readiness to endorse obsolete and pernicious utopian ideals. Born to a Communist family in Queens, Horowitz flirted with the Leninist creed as a teenager but found out early that the Communist sect was insufferably obtuse and irretrievably sclerotic. He attended Columbia, where he discovered Western Marxism and other non-Bolshevik revolutionary doctrines. From the very beginning, he had an appetite for heresy.

He joined the emerging New Left and went to England, where he became a disciple and close associate of the socialist historian Isaac Deutscher, author of once-celebrated biographies of Stalin and Trotsky. Thanks to Deutscher, Horowitz met other British leftists, including the sociologist Ralph Miliband (father of the current leader of the Labour party). Consumed by revolutionary pathos, he wrote books, pamphlets, and manifestoes, denounced Western imperialism, and condemned the Vietnam war.

Once back in the United States, he became the editor, with Peter Collier, of Ramparts, the New Left’s most influential publication. In later books, Horowitz engages in soul-searching analyses of his attraction to the extreme radicalism of the Black Panthers and other far-left groups. Under tragic circumstances—a friend of his was murdered by the Panthers—he discovered that these celebrated antiestablishment fighters were fundamentally sociopaths. What followed was an itinerary of self-scrutiny, self-understanding, and moral epiphany. He reinvented himself as an anti-Marxist, antitotalitarian, anti-utopian thinker.

Obviously, David Horowitz is not the first to have deplored the spellbinding effects of what Raymond Aron called the opium of the intellectuals. Before him, social and cultural critics (Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer, to name only the most famous ones) took the same path; Bertolt Brecht’s Marxist mentor, Karl Korsch, broke with his revolutionary past in the 1950s. Even Max Horkheimer, one of the Frankfurt School’s luminaries, ended as a conservative thinker. As Ignazio Silone, himself a former Leninist, put it: The ultimate struggle would be between Communists and ex-Communists.

In Horowitz’s case, however, it is a struggle waged by an ex-leftist ideologue against political mythologies that have made whole generations run amok. Like Kolakowski and Václav Havel, Horowitz identifies ideological blindness as the source of radical zealotry. He knows that ideologies are coercive structures with immense enthralling effects—indeed, what Kenneth Minogue called “alien powers.” Putting together his fervid writings is, for him, a duty of conscience. He does not claim to be nonpartisan and proudly recognizes his attachment to a conservative vision of politics. But he is a pluralist: He refuses the idea of infallible ideological revelation, admits that human beings can err, and invites his readers to exercise their critical faculties. He does not pontificate.

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WND: “A Life Transformed”

Reprinted from WND.com.

David Horowitz’s “The Black Book of the American Left: Collected Conservative Writings” should be read by every American who loves his country. This book is a unique wake-up call to the truth that America is being infected by the bubonic plague of Marxism, which once contaminated the author himself.

In the 1970s, David climbed to the very top of the American leftist movements. Later he understood that Marxism was a lie – the first step toward stealing and killing – and after that he dedicated the rest of his life to warning others that Marxism was endangering American freedom and democracy. A Rasmussen Reports poll shows, indeed, that nowonly 53 percent of Americans prefer capitalism to socialism.

One of the most popular night clubs in New York City is the Soviet-themed KGB Bar. The place, adorned with the Soviet flag and a picture of “Comrade Lenin,” is jammed by a new generation of Marxist writers who read from their work. Just weeks ago this giant city overwhelmingly elected (73 percent of the votes) an openly Marxist mayor, and Seattle got a new council member who proudly stated that she wore “the badge of socialist with honor.” Russia’s post-Soviet newspaper Pravda, which knew that socialism was just a smiling mask for Marxism, chafed: “It must be said that like the breaking of a great dam, the American descent into Marxism is happening with breathtaking speed, against the backdrop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.”

America is still not really aware that Marxism is infecting the country because our main media have gone to great lengths to hide this truism, and because neither the Republican Party nor the tea party has called attention to the looming dangers of Marxism. Our main media are also deep-sixing the fact that the only thing Marxism ever left behind it is countries that ended up looking like trailer camps hit by a hurricane, and Marxist leaders roasting in Dante’s Inferno – all of them, from Trotsky to Stalin, from Khrushchev to Brezhnev, from Tito to Enver Hoxha, along with Mátyás Rakosi, Sékou Touré, Nyeree, Ceausescu and Hugo Chavez.

David Horowitz was born into a family of devoted Marxists, had Marxism in his blood and pursued a successful career as a Marxist activist, writer and journalist. In 1974, some of his Marxist comrades – leaders of the Black Panther Party – murdered a bookkeeper whom David had recruited to keep the accounts of a Panther school he had helped create. That horrible crime hit home and persuaded David to forsake his highly successful leftist career and to move over onto the other side of America’s political barricade.

The David Horowitz Freedom Center and its FrontPage Magazine, created by David in 1988, marked the beginning of his anti-Marxist crusade, which has never stopped. His book “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” (2006) and his Academic Bill of Rights (ABR) marked another milestone in his life: the beginning of his still-vigorous campaign against Marxist indoctrination at American universities. (Full disclosure: Although I have never met David, I do collaborate with his FrontPage Magazine, and I have repeatedly expressed my admiration for his break with Marxism. David had also publicly praised my split with communism.)

In the preface to “The Black Book of the American Left,” the first of a nine-volume memoir, David Horowitz wrote that “for better or worse, I have been condemned to spend the rest of my days” fighting Marxism, “from which I have separated myself.” In May 1989, he and two other former prominent Marxists, Ronald Radosh and Peter Collier, went to Poland to attend a conference calling for the end of Communism. There, David told the Polish dissidents: “For myself, my family tradition of socialist dreams is over. Socialism is no longer a dream of a revolutionary future. It is only a nightmare of the past. But for you, the nightmare is not a dream. It is a reality that it is still happening. My dream for the people of socialist Poland is that someday you will wake up from your nightmare and be free.” A few months later, the Roundtable talks between the Polish government and the Solidarity-led Polish dissidents led to the first semi-free elections in the Soviet bloc.

On Nov. 9, 1989, when I watched on television as the Berlin Wall was being torn down, my eyes were misty. I was so incredibly proud to be an American. The whole world was expressing its gratitude to the United States for its 45 years of successful Cold War against the Soviet evil. “Communism is dead!” I heard people shout. Indeed, Communism was dead as a form of government. But it soon proved that Marxism, which had just celebrated its 141st birthday, had survived.

French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who once claimed he had broken with Marxism but confessed to still being choked with emotion whenever he heard the Internationale, reminded us that the first noun in Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” is specter: “A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of Communism.” According to Derrida, Marx began “The Communist Manifesto” with specterbecause a specter never dies. David Horowitz concurred. “After Stalin’s death,” he writes in his memoirs, his parents – who had dedicated their whole lives to Marxism – learned that “they served a gang of cynical despots who had slaughtered more peasants, caused more hunger and human misery, and killed more leftists like themselves than all the capitalist governments since the beginning of time. … I was 17 at that time, and at the funeral of the Old Left I swore to myself I would not repeat my parent’s fate. … But my youth prevented me from comprehending what the catastrophe had revealed. I continued my fantasy of the socialist future. When a New Left began to emerge a few years later, I was ready to believe that it was a fresh beginning and eager to assist at its birth.”

David Horowitz now documents that a new generation of Americans, one that is not being taught history anymore and knows little if anything about our country’s long fight against Marxism, is giving this heresy – which killed over 90 million people – another lease on life. In 2008, the Democratic Party portrayed the United States as a “decaying, racist, capitalist realm,” unable to provide medical care for the poor, to rebuild her “crumbling schools,” or to replace the “shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race,” and it pledged to change it by drastically increasing taxes on the American rich, American businesses and their owners, in order to finance programs for the poor. This is Marxism at its best. In “The Communist Manifesto,” Marx painted capitalism as “a decaying, racist realm,” and pledged to eradicate it by advocating 10 “despotic inroads on the rights of property,” which became known as the “Ten Planks of the Communist Manifesto.” Among them: a heavy progressive or graduated income tax; abolition of all rights of inheritance; abolition of property.

If you know the “Manifesto,” as David does, you will think Marx himself wrote the Democratic Party’s economic program, which contains all of the above planks of Marxism. If you don’t know the “Manifesto,” glance through “The Black Book of the American Left.” Young people, as David was when he ignored Stalin’s unprecedented crimes, believe in free lunches. No wonder that during the 2008 election campaign, the U.S. Democratic Party easily filled entire stadiums with young people who demanded that the wealth of the United States be redistributed. Some of those electoral gatherings looked to me like Ceausescu’s revival meetings – over 80,000 young people were gathered in front of the now-famous Greek temple resembling the White House that had been erected in Denver, to demand that America’s wealth be redistributed. The Democratic Party won the White House and both chambers of the U.S. Congress.

People have come to look kindly upon the “redistribution of wealth,” but David Horowitz convincingly demonstrates that this is the quintessence of Marxism, and that Marxism always ended in economic collapse. I concur. “Stealing from capitalism is moral, Comrades,” I heard Khrushchev say during the 1959 “six-day vacation” he spent in Romania. “Don’t raise your eyebrows, Comrades. I intentionally used the word steal. Stealing from our enemy is moral, Comrades.” “Stealing from capitalists is a Marxist duty,” Romania’s president, Nicolae Ceausescu, sermonized during the years I was his national security adviser. “Capitalists are the mortal enemies of Marxism,” I heard Fidel Castro preach in 1972, when I spent a vacation in Cuba as guest of his brother, Raul. “Killing them is moral, comrades!”

In my other life I rose to the top of a Marxist entity – the Soviet empire – which was created by redistributing the wealth of its people, and I had to start my life from scratch, as David did, to escape its tyranny. Redistribution of wealth is disguised stealing – the next step toward killing – and stealing and killing became national policies on the day Soviet Marxism was born. Immediately after the revolution of November 1917, the Soviet Marxists confiscated the imperial family’s wealth, seized the land owned by the rich Russians, nationalized Russian industry and banking, and killed most of the property owners. In 1929, by forcing the peasants into collective farms, the Soviet Marxists stole away their land, along with their animals and agricultural tools. Within a few years, virtually the entire Soviet economy was running on stolen property. When people began protesting the theft, the Marxists transformed the Soviet Empire into a tyrannical police state. Over 20 million people were killed to keep that gulag empire quiet. In the long run, however, theft and crime do not pay even when they are committed by a superpower. The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union is strong proof to that.

On Feb. 7, 2009, the cover of Newsweek magazine proclaimed: “We Are All Socialists Now.” That was also what Ceausescu’s newspaper Scînteia proclaimed when he changed Romania into a monument to Marxism. Two years after seizing power, the U.S. Democratic Party’s Marxism produced the same results as the Ceausescu’s Marxism did – at a U.S. scale. Over 14 million Americans lost their jobs, and 41.8 million people went on food stamps. GDP growth dipped from 3-4 percent to 1.6 percent. The national debt rose to an unprecedented $17 trillion, and it is projected to reach $18 trillion by 2019. Scînteia went bankrupt. Newsweek was sold for one dollar.

So, let call a spade a spade: it is Marxism we are talking about. Marxism in America!

“The Black Book of the American Left” could not have come to life at a better time. Understanding that Marxism is a lie, and that lying is the first step toward stealing and killing, is what America needs right now.

Lt. Gen Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking Soviet bloc official ever to defect to the West. In 1989 Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu was executed at the end of a trial whose main accusations came out of Pacepa’s book “Red Horizons,” republished in 27 countries. His latest book, “Disinformation,” co-authored with professor Ronald Rychlak, was published last June by WND.

The Blaze: “The Horrific Story That Prompted David Horowitz’s Conservative Transformation

Reposted from TheBlaze.com:

David Horowitz, author of The Black Book of the American Left and the founder and president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, has spoken at length about how he was raised by “card-carrying communists” who always “described themselves as progressives.” He followed in their footsteps, becoming one of the founders of the New Left in 1960′s, which he described as an organization “formed by children of communists who wanted to get away from the taint that Stalin had put on (communism), and revive the vision.”

So what made the born-and-raised communist become the staunch conservative and defender of American liberties that he is today? Among other things, he explained on the Glenn Beck Program Tuesday, it was a deadly encounter with the Black Panthers.

It began in the early 1970s, Horowitz explained, when he was introduced to the leader of the Black Panther Party by “a Hollywood producer.” In short order, he helped raise the money to buy a white Baptist church that had been “overtaken by the inner city” in Oakland, and gave it to the Panthers for a school.

“I was editing the largest magazine of the left, and I recruited my bookkeeper to do the books of the school,” he said slowly. “In December, 1974, Betty Van Patter disappeared, and by the time police fished her body out of San Francisco Bay five weeks later, I knew the Panthers had killed her.”

Horowitz has written at length about the topic, explaining how “the press made nothing of it” and how “the existence of a Murder Incorporated in the heart of the American Left is something the Left really doesn’t want to know or think about. Such knowledge would refute its most cherished self-understandings and beliefs. It would undermine the sense of righteous indignation that is the crucial starting point of a progressive attitude. It would explode the myths on which the attitude depends.”

Horowitz proceeded to explain on the Glenn Beck Program how, in the wake of Van Patter’s murder, he realized that “all my friends were a menace to me and my family, because I knew if I said I thought they killed her they would’ve called me a racist and a CIA agent, and the Panthers were capable of killing me.”

“It took me about ten years to recover somewhat from this and to become a conservative,” he continued. “I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984, and when I came out of the closet as a conservative, of course I knew that the left would be gunning for me, so the rest of my life has been spent fighting the left and defending this great country of ours which we are rapidly losing.”

Horowitz warned that while there are horrifically violent elements to the left, like the Black Panther Party, “you should not think that the bad forces are going to appear with black hats and it’ll be obvious who they are.”

Many, like his parents, he said, are “well-meaninged people” who will “speak with humanitarian tones,” but just believe “the ends justify the means.”

“When Lenin set out to transform, fundamentally transform Russia, he didn’t say he was going to kill 40 million people, create famines and concentration camps called gulags,” Horowitz remarked. “He said he was going to give them bread, land, and peace.”

Horowitz also warned that “you can’t understand what’s going on” in American politics today without realizing the history behind it – the world he was raised in.

“It’s the same people and the same vision. Barack Obama, Valerie Jarret, who’s his key advisor, and David Axelrod, who’s his political strategist — all of them were born into the same communist left that I was. They grew up in it; they were trained in it; they were trained to what I call the neo-communist new left, and they’ve never left it.”

Horowitz said he knows they still maintain such a worldview because “if you understand that you belong to a movement that has agendas which are evil and destructive … the first thing you want to do if you’re still political is to repudiate it and to warn others against it. And of course, Obama, Jarrett, and David Axelrod are comfortable parts of this left … They’ve carried on the agendas. That’s why the country is suffering the way it is.”

The full episode of The Glenn Beck Program, along with many other live streaming shows and thousands of hours of on-demand content, is available on just about any digital device. Get it all with a FREE TRIAL.


Daily Caller: “How the American Left Lost Its Nerve”

Reposted from DailyCaller.com:

They were Communists. Not liberals or progressives. They wanted the Russians to win the Cold War, and the Vietcong to defeat America in Vietnam. They didn’t even like liberals. The radicals of the 1960s were Communists. And today they continue to lie about it.

That’s the major takeaway from The Black Book of the American Left, a new book by David Horowitz. Horowitz, the son of two American Communists — with a capital C, meaning party members — was a radical student leader and the editor of Ramparts magazine in the 1960s and early 1970s. He began to turn politically in 1974, when he sent his friend Betty Van Patter to help the Black Panther Party only to have her turn up murdered soon after. For Horowitz it’s caused a crisis, then a conversion to conservatism.

Horowitz has been a well-known conservative activist for decades, but it’s quite bracing to have a lot of his internet writings compiled into one hardback volume.

And again and again in The Black Book of the American Left, he hits his main point: the “activists” of the 1960s, like the “progressives” of earlier eras, were Communists. They wanted to topple the government of the United States. Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground were not interested in mainstream Democrats like Hubert Humphrey or any liberal solution to any of America’s problems. They wanted to blow things, and people, up. They wanted a revolution.

I would argue that there is an important difference between the radicals of the early 20th century and those of the 1960s and today, and that Horowitz doesn’t capture this, but I’ll get to that shortly. For now it’s worthwhile just to sit back and listen while Horowitz, a compelling writer and honorable man, remind us that the people he rioted with in the 1960s were, yes, Communists.

Tom Hayden. Angela Davis. Bill Ayers. Noam Chomsky. Todd Gitlin. The Black Panthers. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary. The Weathermen. Reds, all. Some more violent than others, but all of them called for a revolution.

A few years ago Horowitz was on a panel at Georgetown University with Michael Kazin, who had been a leader in the Students for a Democratic Society, an influential leftist group in the 1960s. All the left wanted to do in the 1960s, Kazin said, “was give peace a chance.” Horowitz reminds readers that during the Vietnam era Kazin was a left-wing revolutionary who embraced the motto “bring the war home” — i.e., cause as much violence on American streets as possible. Kazin could care less about peace. At a 1969 rally he led the following cheer: “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is Gonna Win!” Give peace a chance? Kazin wanted nothing to do with it — or even with liberalism. Horowitz: “It had been liberalism that guided America to power in the postwar world. It was liberalism that had gotten America into Vietnam. Centrist liberalism was the balance wheel giving synchronicity to the entire political system. But now radicals assaulted the center; if it could not hold, America would fall.”

Ask yourself: why did left-wing demonstrators attack the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago? It wasn’t because they hated Republicans, although that was also true. They hated liberals because liberals at the time represented authority in America. Student radical Todd Gitlin, who now, like so many of his left-wing friends, is a professor, didn’t vote in 1964, even though Barry Goldwater was against the war in Vietnam, which was supposedly Gitlin’s top issue. So why didn’t Gitlin vote for Goldwater? In later years Gitlin would give a weak excuse, but the answer is obvious: he was a left-wing revolutionary who wanted to collapse the American system of government. These people were in no way, as Horowitz puts it, “mooning for Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King,” as they would later claim. They wanted to bring the war home, and topple the United States.

Horowitz connects the left of the 1930s and 1960s with the left of today. This is accurate as far as a lot of academics go, but I think that is different than the modern left in the media and popular culture. As historians such as Christopher Lasch and James Hitchcock have observed, there has been not just a political but psychological transformation in the United States over the last 40 or 50 years. Once communist radicals like Whittaker Chambers and the editors of The Nation believed in communism as a kind of mathematical religion; there were going to occur certain things as history marched towards its resolution, and the role of the revolutionary was to aid in that process. But this meant that when that system broke down, there was the chance that reason could  break through the cracks. Horowitz’s own Communist parents saw their worldview collapse in 1956 when Soviet leader Nikita Kruschchev made a speech denouncing the crimes of Stalin and the “cult of personality” that surrounded Stalin. Whittaker Chambers, as he chillingly put it, “heard the screams” and saw the lie that was communism.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/11/06/how-the-american-left-lost-its-nerve/#ixzz2rcfjHvnr

NRO: “A Witness”

Reposted from National Review Online:

“Write what you know,” people say. And what they know, mainly, is themselves. So people write about themselves. David Horowitz does, a lot. But you are glad he does, for several reasons. First, he does it very, very well. Second, he has led an interesting life. Third, his life has corresponded to our times.

The latest volume from him is titled “My Life and Times.” What’s the difference? What’s the difference between that life and the times? Not much. These have been interesting times too, and all too interesting, as in what is allegedly an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

This volume is the first of ten — ten volumes collecting the “conservative writings of David Horowitz.” He has been a conservative since about 1985, when he was in his mid-40s. Says David, “My life as a leftist began with a May Day Parade in 1948, when I was nine years old, and lasted for more than twenty-five years until December 1974 . . .” What about the other ten years? The decade between 1975 and 1985? In those years, David informs us, he was essentially out of politics, finding his way along.

The series overall is called “The Black Book of the American Left.” David says he is a hedgehog rather than a fox — someone who knows one big thing rather than someone who knows many things. I would dispute this. David knows a range of things, including literature, the discipline in which he was trained, academically. But it’s true he knows the American Left, inside and out, and, if you have to know one thing, that’s a big, big thing to know.

“In the course of my adult life,” David writes, “the American Left has gone from being an isolated community on the fringes of the political mainstream to a very big thing — so big that by 2008 it had become the dominant force in America’s academic and media cultures, elected an American president, and was in a position to shape America’s political future.”

I will not try to recapitulate Radical Son — David’s renowned autobiography, published in 1997. But let me give you a few basics from his life, drawn from the present volume. His parents were Communists, as you know: Not many nine-year-olds just wander into a May Day parade. David grew up “a sheltered child in a Marxist bubble,” he says. His parents believed in the Soviet dream. They thought they were fighting for the poor and the powerless, for a shining future. The Soviet dream was a lie, however.

After the mid-1950s, roughly speaking, few could deny that this dream was a lie. In reality, says David, his parents and their friends “had served a gang of cynical despots who had slaughtered more peasants, caused more hunger and human misery, and killed more leftists like themselves than all the capitalist governments since the beginning of time.” David vowed he would be a different kind of leftist: “I would never be loyal to a movement based on a lie or be complicit in political crimes . . .”

He went to Columbia University, in his hometown of New York. “I viewed my college education not as a step on a personal career path but as preparation for my life mission, which was to participate in a revolution that would change the world.” From Columbia, he went to Berkeley, for a master’s in English — and to further the mission, of course. He organized one of the first anti-Vietnam War rallies. That was in 1962, when the war was hardly yet a war. Then he went to England, where he worked for Bertrand Russell, the famed intellectual who had become a leader and symbol of the radical Left.

In this period, David met with a Soviet official, Lev, who, of course, turned out to be a KGB agent. At one meeting, Lev gave David a Parker fountain pen. “I didn’t know how to refuse it without insulting him.” At the next meeting, Lev stuffed an envelope full of cash into David’s pocket. This, David refused, indignantly. Later, Lev asked David to spy — which David refused even more indignantly. They never saw each other again. Whatever David was in that period, he was not a Soviet spy.

Back in California, David edited Ramparts, the leftist magazine, with his friend Peter Collier. (As luck would have it, David and Peter moved rightward at the same time. They were partners as radicals and again as anti-radicals.) David got involved with the Black Panthers, those glamorous thugs who, when not killing, robbing, and raping, talked “social justice.” Writes David, “Just as Stalin had used the idealism and loyalty of my parents’ generation to commit his crimes in the ’30s, so the Panthers had used my generation’s idealism in the ’60s.”

He continued to participate in the anti-war movement, but that’s a misnomer, really: It may have been an anti-war movement for some, but certainly not for all. “Let me make this perfectly clear,” said David in 1985: “Those of us who inspired and then led the anti-war movement did not want just to stop the killing as so many veterans of those domestic battles now claim. We wanted the Communists to win.” Not only did they want the Communists to win, they thought they would, according to a popular chant: “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is gonna win.” (The initials stood for National Liberation Front.)

In the years and decades after the war, many American radicals prettied up the record: They had simply wanted to “bring the boys home,” you see. In reality, they loathed the “boys,” and what they wanted to bring home was the war — as in the slogan “Bring the war home.”

David Horowitz had two Kronstadts, I think. One of them was more important and more personal; the other was more global, if you will. “Kronstadt”? This term refers to the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921, in which Soviet sailors, soldiers, and others turned against Lenin and the Bolsheviks and were, of course, crushed like bugs. Since then, some ex-Communists and ex-leftists have spoken of their “Kronstadt.” The term has a couple of definitions: It can refer to the moment of one’s disillusionment with the Party; or it can refer to the moment at which one took a stand against the Party. In any case, this moment, for some, was the Nazi-Soviet pact. For others, it was Khrushchev’s “secret speech.” For others, it was the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution, or the suppression of the Prague Spring. Many, of course, have never quite had a Kronstadt.

Let me tell it very briefly: David arranged for a woman named Betty Van Patter to work as a bookkeeper at a Panther-run school. Soon, they murdered her. You recall David’s dates for his “life as a leftist”: May Day 1948 until December 1974. That was the month of Van Patter’s murder.

Get this: “Betty’s friends in the Bay Area progressive community, who generally were alert to every injustice, even in lands so remote they could not locate them on a map, kept their silence about this one in their own backyard.” And here is a confession, or testimony: “My dedication to the progressive cause had made me self-righteous and arrogant and blind. Now a cruel and irreversible crime had humbled me and restored my sight.”

David’s other Kronstadt, I gather, was Vietnam — the results of that war, I mean. As David himself puts it, “More people — more Indo-Chinese peasants — were killed by the Marxist victors and friends of the New Left in the first three years of the Communist peace than had been killed on all sides in the 13 years of the anti-Communist war.” He quotes Jeane Kirkpatrick, a Truman Democrat who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Ronald Reagan, and, afterward, joined the Republican party: “How can it be that persons so deeply committed to the liberation of South Vietnam and Cambodia from Generals Thieu and Lon Nol were so little affected by the enslavement that followed their liberation? Why was there so little anguish among the American accomplices who helped Pol Pot to power?” In David, there was anguish.

He and his friends had wanted the New Left — their Left — to be different from the Old Left — their parents’ Left, the one that had served and revered Stalin. But those two Lefts were “virtually indistinguishable,” David saw. They were alike in their “Marxist underpinnings,” their “anti-Americanism,” and their “indiscriminate embrace of totalitarian revolutions and revolutionaries abroad.”

David, remember, vowed to be different from his parents: He would never “be loyal to a movement based on a lie or be complicit in political crimes.” It had not worked out that way, however. And “the William Buckleys and the Ronald Reagans and the other anti-Communists” who told the world that life was ghastly under Communist regimes — they were right. They were routinely denounced as liars, but they were right. Those denouncing were the liars.

In 1984, David cast his first Republican ballot — for Reagan, who was running for reelection against Walter Mondale. “I did so because he was opposing the efforts of the Sandinista Marxists to turn Nicaragua into a socialist gulag like Cuba. I had supported Fidel; I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.” Foreign policy was vitally important, yes, but David’s thinking at large had shifted. In 1999, he wrote, “As a leftist, I had developed habits of mind that caused me to look at ‘classes’ rather than individuals, at social structures and general paradigms rather than particular events and personalities . . .”

That 1999 article was long after his coming-out. In 1986, he wrote a piece for theVillage Voice called “Why I Am No Longer a Leftist.” More than 20 years later, David Mamet would come out in the same publication in a piece called “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal.’” The response to David — David Horowitz, I mean (though the same applies to Mamet, really) — was not thoughtful consideration. Not many asked, “Does our old comrade have a point?” The response was furious, embodied in a piece for the Voice by Paul Berman called “The Intellectual Life and the Renegade Horowitz.” That word “renegade” was a high honor for David: It was what the Stalinists had called doubters and dissenters in the 1930s. (After 9/11, Berman did some political sobering up.)

A switch from left to right is not necessarily a bright career move. You give up a lot: including entrée to the most respected publications. David found doors shutting in his face — not just at Left publications, but at “mainstream” publications, particularly the New York Times. In going from left to right, you go from the Kingdom of the Cool to the Kingdom of the Much Less Cool, at least. The New Leftists, David’s old comrades, found homes in all the respected publications. They prettied up, airbrushed, and prospered.

In the course of My Life and Times, David quotes some famous words of Kundera: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” David is a rememberer, not a forgetter. “Oh sure,” he says, “like Gitlin and Hayden I would prefer to recall the glory days of my youth in a golden light” — referring to Todd Gitlin and Tom Hayden, two stars and definers of the New Left. But “for me the era has been irreparably tarnished by actions and attitudes I vividly remember, which they prefer to forget.” David is like a witness to a crime — to many crimes — who won’t shut up about what he saw while others just want to glide on.

He makes the Left hugely uncomfortable, for instance in his use of the words “we,” “us,” and “our.” A sample: “The results of our defense of the Cuban revolution are indisputable. Cuba is an island prison, a land of regime-induced poverty, of misery and human oppression greater by far than the regime it replaced.” Who on the left could stand to hear that?

When people talk of the Sixties, they tend to talk of “crazy times” that were also “idealistic times.” Yes, yes, some people went too far — but those people were few in number, and most people’s hearts were in the right place. David spoils the party by saying, No. The fog machine operates ceaselessly; David dispels the fog.

In 1990 or so, someone introduced him to an audience as “a former peace activist and civil-rights worker.” David got a kick out of that: He had been a Marxist revolutionary! Today, fog covers the Black Panthers. Huey Newton was basically MLK with an edge. Just as the Communists had been “liberals in a hurry,” the Panthers were civil-rights activists with a streak of impatience. This myth is intolerable to anyone who knows about the Panthers.

You may enjoy this aside: Elaine Brown, a blood-soaked Panther, once admitted to David, privately, “The poorest black in Oakland is richer than 90 percent of the world’s population.”

No one, but no one, wants to remember the Vietnam War — meaning, again, the aftermath of that war. George W. Bush gave many speeches in his eight years as president. Probably the Left liked none of them. But there was none they hated more than a speech Bush gave in 2007, in which he spoke of Iraq and the Middle East in the context of Vietnam and Indochina. Here are some inflammatory paragraphs:

. . . many argued that if we pulled out there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people.

In 1972, one anti-war senator put it this way: “What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince, or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they’ve never seen and may never have heard of?” A columnist for the New York Times[Sydney Schanberg] wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the Communists. “It’s difficult to imagine,” he said, “how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone.” A headline on that story — dateline Phnom Penh — summed up the argument: “Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life.”

The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea.

The squeals following that speech were long, loud, and livid. And guilt-tinged.

After 1985, David’s writing was “driven by two urgencies,” he says: “a desire to persuade those still on the left of the destructive consequences of the ideas and causes they promoted”; and “the frustration I experienced with my new conservative peers who did not seem to understand the malignancy of the forces that were mobilized against them.”

Early in his career, he did some teaching at Berkeley and elsewhere — but he has done most of his teaching in his writing. The term “public intellectual” makes some of us gag, but that’s what David is. He has read a lot, across the spectrum: He knows his Marx and his Mises, his Gramsci and his Kolakowski. He wears his learning lightly, though: It peeks out now and then, as when he quotes one of these gents (or quotes Shakespeare, for that matter). One quality of David’s writing is self-criticism — not in the Maoist sense, but in a true one: David is unsparing about himself and the mistakes he has made. Would that his critics were half as honest.

I’ll tell you what the “smart” view of David is: He was a radical of the Left who became a radical of the Right. He was an extremist then and is an extremist now, with the same nasty and flamboyant style. Express this view, and almost every liberal and conservative head will nod: “Yup, yup, that’s how it is.” It is nonsense. No one will contradict you if you say it — but you’ll be a fool.

I cherish a comment that Hendrik Hertzberg, the New Yorker writer, once made to Collier & Horowitz. He said, “You were apologists for Communism then and you are apologists for anti-Communism now.” They are not merely apologists for anti-Communism; they are anti-Communists, as all decent people are (though they will not necessarily be published in The New Yorker).

If you want to classify David politically, you can call him a conservative — with a healthy dose of Hayek in him. “My life experience had led me to conclude that not only was changing the world an impossible dream, but the refusal to recognize it as such was the source of innumerable individual tragedies and of epic miseries that human beings had inflicted on each other in my lifetime through the failed utopias of Nazism and Communism.” Seldom will you read a more conservative sentence. And you will read many more like it, in David’s collected writings. He is constantly inveighing against ideologies, party lines, rigidities.

David is known as a hothead and flamethrower. A rhetorical goon. He can be that. He can also be coolly cerebral. And he can be elegiac, lyrical — as in personal memoirs such as the one about his late daughter, A Cracking of the Heart. He has many moods, many styles. And make no mistake: He can do style.

Christopher Hitchens was supposed to be the most stylish writer and polemicist of his time. But consider an exchange between him and David on the radio. David said something rude — i.e., something true — about Castro. And Hitchens, with his practiced sneer, said, “How dare you? How dare you?” David replied, “Christopher, aren’t we getting a little old for how-dare-yous?” The more stylish person in that exchange was not Hitchens (who, like Paul Berman, would do some political sobering up).

The question of David’s reputation, or standing, is interesting: He has legions of fans, and legions of detractors, some of whom occupy high places. The Left won’t deal with him, of course. He has their number, he has kept book on them — and they resent it. Writes David, “An ideological omertà is the Left’s response to its vindicated critics, especially those who emerged from its own ranks.” I’m reminded of something a liberal intellectual and policymaker once said to Abigail Thernstrom (who migrated from left to right). He said, “I don’t like debating you, Abby, because you always know what I’m thinking, and you know what I’m going to say before I say it.”

And the conservatives? Have they welcomed David with open arms, gratitude, and delight? Not really. They have often been snippy and scornful about David. Grudging about him. How to explain it? I’m sure I can’t, satisfactorily, but I will have a go:

David, they say, can be harsh, obnoxious, and generally impossible. I have no doubt he can. He can also be a peach. Furthermore, David is an activist — not just an intellectual, but an activist. And some conservatives are uncomfortable with activism. They would rather observe, opine, and sigh. David wants to take up cudgels and win. He says to lazy or defeatist conservatives, “Wake up! Fight back! The Left is eating your lunch, but it need not be so!” David is fearless in an environment marked by some fearfulness. He is an upsetter of the apple cart, and the upsetting of the apple cart is not very conservative. When David goes into a university and makes a fuss about the curriculum, some conservatives are embarrassed. They say, “Stop making a fuss. It may cause them to dislike us even more. Plus, aren’t we born to be an oppressed minority?” Some conservatives are content with dhimmitude. And, frankly, there are conservatives who have the sneaking hope that they will be approved by the New York Times et al. “Look, I may be on the right, but I’m not an extremist and nuisance like Horowitz, you know. You can bring me home to dinner.”

Willmoore Kendall once made a wicked remark about Cleanth Brooks, his colleague at Yale: “Cleanth is always the second-most-conservative person in the room.”

In a way, David is a man without a home — an independent, a republic unto himself. Speaking at his alma mater in 2009, he said, “Fifty years ago, my radical views caused me to feel like an outsider at Columbia. Returning as a conservative, I find myself an outsider still — and again it is because of my political views.”

As I was reading My Life and Times, I kept writing in the margins, “True, true!” And as I read about David’s thoughts and experiences, I couldn’t help thinking of my own. Other readers will find the same, I’m sure. I kept thinking, “Yes, that’s what I saw, that’s what I heard, that’s what I felt.” Take the matter of human rights: The people around me constantly yelled about Pinochet’s Chile, Marcos’s Philippines, and, above all, apartheid South Africa. And yell they should have. But what about the people behind the Iron Curtain? And in China, North Korea, and Vietnam? And in Cuba? If you prick or torture them, do they not bleed? Aren’t human rights for them, too?

Obviously, no one can agree with David on every point in the hundreds of pages of Volume 1, or in the thousands of pages of the volumes to come. That would be absurd. In all likelihood, David doesn’t agree with David on every point. (Do you agree with everything you’ve said for the past 25 or 30 years?) But I always want to know what David has to say. Early in that Columbia speech, he praised a professor, saying, “He was there . . . to teach us how to think and not to tell uswhat to think — therefore to respect the divergent opinions of others. I am afraid this is a vanishing ethos in our culture and a dying pedagogical art in our university classrooms today.” Oh, yes. Like everyone else, David will sometimes tell you what to think. But he is more interested in suggesting how you should think.

Once he was asked, “Do you ever feel that you are wasting your breath? Do you think that truth will ever matter? No matter what you prove or disprove, in the end the truth will remain in the shadows of what people want to hear and want to believe.” David answered, “I agree more than I care to with this observation.” For my part, I can say that David has not wasted his breath. He learned important things in the first stages of his life, and has learned important things since. He has wanted to impart what he knows, and he has many beneficiaries. Everyone? Of course not. Enough beneficiaries, though — more than most ever have.

What has driven him, I think, is what drove Whittaker Chambers and lots of others who left Communism and dedicated themselves to anti-Communism: a desire to tell the truth, and to have other people know the truth. A desire to be free of lies, and to counter them. “Live not by lies!” Solzhenitsyn implored, during the long years of the Soviet Union. Lies want to govern everything, and do, if you let them. David was sick of lies: about the Soviet Union, about the Panthers, about Vietnam, about everything. And he burns to know and tell the truth, insofar as that is possible.

This quality — a respect for the truth, an aversion to lies — has always existed in him, even if it has been suppressed or superseded at times. Age 14, he was walking across the Triborough Bridge to attend a rally for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the atomic spies for the Soviet Union. A political mentor was explaining to him that lying was justified, for revolutionary purposes. David knew this was wrong — felt in his stomach that it was. “The renegade Horowitz,” even then!

“Great is truth,” they say, “and will prevail.” It will, yes — but even if it didn’t, it would still be great.