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Destructive Legacy of the Left: A Review by Barbara Kay

Horowitz’s magisterial “Black Book of the American Left” reaches its triumphant culmination.

January 11, 2019

Below is Barbara Kay’s review of David Horowitz’s new book, “Ruling Ideas,” which is the ninth and final volume of The Black Book of the American Left, a multi-volume collection of Horowitz’s conservative writings that now stands as the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to define the Left and its agenda. (Order HERE.) We encourage our readers to visit BlackBookOfTheAmericanLeft.com – which features Horowitz’s introductions to volumes 1-9 of this series, along with their tables of contents, reviews and interviews with the author.

Reprinted from Dorchester Review, vol 9, number 2, autumn/winter 2018.

Approaching his 80th birthday, anti-Marxist crusader David Horowitz is a “lion in winter.” His mental vigor remains undiminished, but one can see that consolidation of his prodigious intellectual legacy – articles, speeches, books, pamphlets, memoirs: the index runs to fifty pages – is his current preoccupation.

Beginning publication in 2013, Horowitz’s massive oeuvre of political writings has been organized into a nine-volume series, The Black Book of the American Left, with each volume focusing on a specific domain of the left’s crusade to “radically transform” a loathed America: the campus, racial relations, popular culture, the gender wars, the progressive-Islamist alliance, and so forth. The final volume of the series was published last year.

Book IX: Ruling Ideas is divided in two. Part Two offers a summary essay of his life and accomplishments by his anti-Marxist comrade-in-arms and editor of Front Page Magazine, Jamie Glazov. Useful in itself, it is not meant to substitute for Horowitz’s 1997 opus, Radical Son, which George Gilder called “the first great autobiography of his generation,” and which other critics rank at the same level for style and substance as Whittaker Chambers’ Witness and Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.

Part One comprises a number of carefully selected longer pieces meant to serve as a representative sample of the battles in which Horowitz acquitted himself with particular distinction. Many Horowitz fans will have read the entire Black Book series, but for those readers who haven’t, or who are new to Horowitz’s work – giving him a test run, so to speak – I can recommend Book IX as the volume to choose if it is the only one they read.

The first essay, “The Fate of the Marxist Idea,” originally published as a chapter of Horowitz’s and Peter Collier’s book, Destructive Generation: Second thoughts About the Sixties, takes the form of a long letter of response to that of a childhood friend, Carol Pasternak, a fellow “red diaper” baby raised in the Marxist dream palace of immigrant Jewish Communists. They had attended the same progressive schools and camps. (One such had the indigenous-sounding name, “Wo-Chi-Ca,” which stood, most un-exotically, for “Workers’ Children’s Camp.”) Horowitz famously bolted that palace and threw up the drawbridge against return; Pasternak remained.

Pasternak’s letter – reprised in the essay – sprang from her wish to further explain her refusal to attend a memorial service for Horowitz’s father. The telephone call in which the invitation was embedded had turned rancorous over political differences, ending with an abrupt cut-off by Horowitz. In unpacking the Marxist shibboleths contained in Pasternak’s letter, Horowitz took the opportunity to elaborate on the fallacies and hypocritical mindset of all committed Marxists.

The combination of his father’s death and Pasternak’s judgmentalism joins personal grief to more general anguish over Horowitz’s self-exile from his former Marxist tribe, resulting in powerful rhetoric.

Horowitz does far more here than attack the ideology he came to despise. His greater mission is to probe the mindset of those who could not bear to abandon their demonstrably false god, and to reveal the human vulnerability at the heart of the Marxist temptation in its diverse guises. The struggle to understand how it was that he, faced with proofs of Marxism’s poisoned fruits, was able to make the break when Pasternak and so many others could not, has been a principal driver of Horowitz’s political writing.

At his father’s funeral, his old friends spoke of a man “who made a contribution” and “tried to make the world a better place,” but nobody spoke of who he was as a human being. It was a wounding, and infuriating personal experience, but it served as further confirmation to Horowitz that the “radical heart” prefers political fantasies to actual emotions, and that he had made the right choice in choosing to throw in his lot with people rather than The People.

Unfortunately for Pasternak, her choice of words and thoughts, meant to assuage her old friend’s agitation, only fueled his contempt for what she stood for, triggering a history lesson and a general “j’accuse” for her lack of transparency in acknowledging the Utopian delusion that human beings can be socially engineered into collective goodness.

Having once been himself a master manipulator of language to avoid unpleasant truths, Horowitz is quick to pounce on Pasternak’s avoidance tropes. In her letter, Pasternak mentions “our common heritage.” Horowitz notes that the locution is “such a precious evasion. Our common heritage was totalitarianism, was it not?” and “Your need for this Orwelllian phrase is revealing.”

Pasternak says it was “compassion and humanitarianism” that inspired his parents. Horowitz responds: “They were not moralists, but Marxist-Leninists…For them, compassion outside the Revolution was mere bourgeois sentimentality…everything that is flesh-and-blood humanity is only the disposable past.” The New Left forgot the people in Indochina once their oppressors were Communists and “never gave a thought to the Cubans it helped to bury alive in Castro’s jails, which is still indifferent to the genocides of Marxist conquest – the fate of the Cambodias and Tibets and Afghanistan.”

Horowitz reminds Pasternak that their circle could not say they didn’t know the truth. Khrushchev’s 1956 report to the Politburo exposing the enormity of Stalin’s crimes revealed that “[o]ur parents’ political faith had been exposed as a monstrous lie.” Horowitz does not spare himself in chronicling the mistakes of the New Left, his political home for many years after abandoning Communism. The New Left sought to draw a veil over the Soviet experience and jettison guilt by association with Communism by rebranding themselves: “It was as though the radicals who came to politics in the Sixties generation wanted to think of themselves as having been born without parents.”

The left’s Utopianism and its capillary crime of “forgetting” are recurrent Horowitz motifs. In their obsession with transforming society, these were the dominant sins of the left then, and continue today. They are sins because both inevitably lead to inhumanity. A “humanistic Marxism” is a chimera, Horowitz concluded, camouflaging the indifference to human rights at Marxism’s core. Every society that has embraced Marxist tenets has failed economically and produced human wreckage on a grand scale.

But leftists find the dream difficult to forswear, regardless of the evidence. Because, Horowitz says, “it is not a matter of politics, but of self.” Of redemption (“Marx was a rabbi after all”). At his father’s memorial, the word “Communism” never passed the lips of any of his comrades. “To name it would make their lives to uncomfortably real. In their silence was their truth. What my father and his comrades were finally seeking in their political faith was not a new reality for the world but an old illusion for themselves. What they found was comfort for their lives of pain.”

Horowitz came to realize that “home” for his Communist parents was not geographical but temporal:  Their home was the future. “Clarity entered my father’s life through the Communist Party and the socialist Idea. The moment he joined the Party, he felt himself touch the shore of a land-mass that circled the globe and extended into the future itself. As a soldier in the Party’s vanguard and a prophet of its truth, my father gained wisdom and power beyond his faculty, and finally achieved what his own father had not: his self-esteem as a man.”


The second essay of Part One is also framed as a letter (1990), this time to Ralph Miliband (father of British politicians Ed and David Miliband), one of Horowitz’s political mentors during his sojourn in London in the early 1960s working for the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. This too is an explanation and apologia for his repudiation of their once-shared faith.

Some of the points in this letter cover ground trodden in the letter to Pasternak, but with additional aperçus worth noting – the kind that go “ping” in the reader’s brain and extract a nod of the head – such as the progressive belief that authoritarian socialist countries can change through reason (why, of course Castro will make good on his promises in time), but that “capitalist societies cannot change without revolution” (Pinochet and democracy could never have co-existed in harmony).

It’s also worth reading for its comparisons, with precise statistics, on life in Russia under the czars versus life after the Revolution. From 1876 to 1904 in Russia, 486 people were executed, including political actors – about 17 a year. From June 1918 to October 1919, more than 16,000 people were executed – about a thousand a month. In the years 1937 and 1938, half a million political prisoners were shot – about 20,000 a month. By contrast, the Spanish Inquisition, in the 80 years of its existence, saw an average of 10 heretics a month condemned to death.

Horowitz pays tribute here to the brilliant Polish intellectual, Leszek Kolakowski, whose long treatise on Marxism’s deficits persuaded Horowitz that, in Kolakowski’s words, “Marxism has been the greatest fantasy of our century.”  Horowitz writes that after reading Kolakowski’s rebuttal to Marxism, “this moment marked the end of my intellectual life in the left.”

Perhaps his intellectual life, but not his career. On his return from England in 1968, he took up the most dramatic phase of his adventures on the left, in becoming first an editor, and then the editor-in-chief of Ramparts, the New Left’s flagship publication and voice of the antiwar movement, with a circulation of 250,000 readers.


“Slavery and the American Idea,” the third essay, is Horowitz grappling with America’s cultural third rail, race relations. When Horowitz took control of Ramparts, he was seeking to harmonize support for socialism, in particular equality between the races, but in a form that eschewed the revolutionary violence of groups like the Weather Underground. Buying into their leader Huey Newton’s pitch of incremental, community-based change, Horowitz believed the Black Panthers would be a pivotal “vanguard” in effecting that goal.

In 1974 Betty Van Patter, a friend who, through Horowitz’s endorsement, found a bookkeeping job with an Oakland Panthers’school run by their tax-exempt foundation, was murdered to prevent her exposing the criminality for which the school was a façade. Law enforcement and media were loath to prosecute the Panthers for fear of appearing racist, and it was left to Horowitz to piece together his own inquiry. In the process he faced threats of retribution and learned that his political friends were prepared to sacrifice truth to protect the Panthers’ social-justice brand.

In its way, the Betty Van Patter incident had as momentous an impact on Horowitz’s psyche as the Khruschev Report had 18 years before. His progressive friends’ indifference to Betty’s death coalesced with the crimes of his parents’ generation. The Panthers got away with Van Patter’s murder and many others besides because of political correctness. These injustices, never redressed, did not make Horowitz a racist (he has black grandchildren), but they inoculated him against fear of being called out for racism in the pursuit of truth. And so, when the “reparations” movement, initially advanced as a fringe idea in 1969, finally gained mainstream support in the 1990s, Horowitz stepped boldly in where most conservatives feared to tread.

In the spring of 2001, Horowitz took out ads in university newspapers laying out ten reasons for opposing reparations as “bad for blacks and racist too.” Forty papers refused to run it. He had always been a controversial speaker on campus. Now he was a pariah. The ad was the subject of 400 news stories, and Horowitz could never again speak on campus without a security complement of up to thirty armed guards.

Reparations to individuals who suffered injustice as a matter of regime policy – interned Japanese-Americans, Holocaust-era Jews – is considered appropriate by all fair-minded people. Collective reparations to the descendants of regime victims is something else altogether. Whether one believes it is a good idea or a bad one, Horowitz did make one ineluctable point: Slavery is an odious practice, but was and remains a widespread phenomenon, still in existence in some parts of the world. Black Africans practiced it; several American Indian tribes practiced it (even persisting after the Civil War until a formal treaty ended it); some Islamic nations still practice it. If it were the institution of slavery itself that was the issue, then why is the vitriol against it directed solely against white practitioners? If the idea of reparations is defensible in general, should not reparations in particular be demanded from the African countries in which the original American slaves were sold? As Horowitz so often says of the left, and justifiably here, “the issue is never the issue.” It’s always about the Revolution and punishing the oppressor class.

Horowitz’s ten reasons are worth reading, because they are made in good faith and have logic on their side. As usual with his argumentation, they are based in facts. But, as Glazov notes, “not a single university professor with expertise in American slavery was willing to incur the risks associated with confirming those facts.”


Accusations of racism against Horowitz for his views on reparations contend for virulence with accusations of homophobia against Horowitz for his opinions on the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. I got a first-hand taste of that hatred, which I described in a review of Book V of the Black Book series, Culture Wars:

Some months ago, joining an online discussion initiated by a gay Facebook friend on the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, I countered a bitter remark about Ronald Reagan’s “homophobia” and his primary role in causing so many deaths by (as tactfully as possible) observing that gay activists had to bear their share of the blame for the epidemic in having obstructed public health measures to curtail its spread.

The hostile blowback to this remark startled me in its denialist fury, but the salient point here is the sneering tone in which more than one critic on the thread accused me of merely reiterating talking points raised by conservative polemicist David Horowitz. I was taken aback by the rapidity of the redirect to Horowitz in particular, as though nobody else at that time had raised the question of gay-liberationist complicity in maintaining a cone of silence over the elevated HIV risks inherent in unprotected, promiscuous anal intercourse. (Others did, but nobody else with the persistence, straight-talking candor and politically incorrect judgmentalism of Horowitz).

I conceded that my information about the role played by the gay liberation movement in the AIDS crisis was indeed based in Horowitz’s many public criticisms; but since, like all his writings, his accusations were evidence-based, what difference did it make, so long as his information was accurate? This question elicited anger of an even greater ferocity, and my original Facebook friend finally intervened to end the debate.

Horowitz saw the AIDS crisis as yet another branch of the Marxism-rooted tree that encouraged “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.”


In “America’s Second Civil War,” a short essay, Horowitz unpacks identity politics as a betrayal of America’s first principles and a form of “cultural Marxism,” extending Marx’s view that society is divided into warring classes to encompass races, genders and ethnicities. Here he makes the interesting observation that Mexico’s population is made up of two distinct groups: descendants of the Spanish conquistadors and Indians. But as soon as they cross the border, they are all “people of color” to progressives, proving yet again that facts are of less interest to ideologues than political game-playing.

The game afoot in this case is multiculturalism. In an article, “Up from Multiculturalism,” included in his 1999 book, Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes, Horowitz described multiculturalism as another example of the familiar oppression-liberation paradigm and romancing of the underdog so central to American life, “an invention of well-fed intellectuals” rather than an organic expression of cultural aspirations. It was, he writes, “manufactured by veterans of the Sixties left, who had established a new political base in the faculties of the universities.”


“The Two Christophers” is a thoughtful exploration of Christopher Hitchens’ political odyssey. Unlike Carol Pasternak, Hitchens was an intellectual peer; he had, like Horowitz, written a memoir at a similar age; and he was a worthy opponent in debate. Which was doubtless the reason Horowitz wanted to have the last word on their differences in this summary volume.

Hitchens was something of a ‘frenemy’ to Horowitz, an often bewildering mixture of “unruly contradictions”: Hitchens opposed Vietnam, but supported the invasion of Iraq; he defended capitalism but admired Marx; he maintained friendships both with neo-cons like Paul Wolfowitz and with far-leftist Victor Navasky, editor of The Nation and, according to Horowitz, “apologist for Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs and Hamas.”

Hitchens was brilliant and entertaining. His unpredictability was for many of his followers proof of his political independence and authenticity. He seemed to judge each situation on its own merits, and respond accordingly. He slammed the Clintons and their entourage for their moral corruption in his book No One Left to Lie To – at some cost to his popularity amongst progressives – without reference to ideology or party. By contrast with his nimble fox-like frenemy, Horowitz is a bristly, one-big-idea hedgehog.

Hitchens was therefore not so easy an adversary to dispatch as Carol Pasternak, whose mental wattage and self-awareness were dim by comparison to Horowitz’s. But the core disputes are the same in both cases for Horowitz. Both refused to own up to the evil at the heart of the philosophy they had embraced. Hitchens wrote in his memoir, Hitch-22, “I am no longer a socialist, but I am still a Marxist.” This perplexes and offends Horowitz. (As it did Christopher’s brother Peter, who began on the left with Christopher, but later flatly renounced his youthful Trotskyite illusions. He wrote, recalling Horowitz’s words to Pasternak, “We pretended not to be who we were, and that the USSR was not what it was.”)

For his part Hitchens was ambivalent about Horowitz. In a review of Horowitz’s book, Left Illusions, he expressed impatience with Horowitz’s “twice-told tale about growing up in a doggedly loyal Communist family and his agonizing over the series of wrenches and shocks that had detached him from Marxism,” but, disgusted with the post-9/11 moral equivalencies of the intellectuals applied to America and the Taliban, he wrote, “I admit that I now find the sardonic, experienced pessimism in Horowitz’s book a bit more serviceable than I once did.”

Hitchens’ stony contempt for religion was a further source of irritation to Horowitz, because he knew Hitchens saw religion through a Marxist lens as the “opium of the people, a sigh of the oppressed.” Himself a secular Jew, Horowitz gives religion its due: “Christopher is blind to the way religion speaks to needs that are timeless and provides comforts that are beneficial, and has contributed to the most spectacular achievements of human culture, including those that are scientific. The very concepts of individual rights and democracy so dear to Christopher are contributions of religious thought.”

A more conciliatory view of religion might have given Hitchens something Horowitz noted as a failing in his life and writing: that he put his writing before his loved ones, and did not reflect on “final things” as Horowitz himself had. Indeed, those who have only been exposed to the default truculence of Horowitz’s political writings would be pleasantly shocked by the lyricism, wisdom, literary sophistication, and soul-searching humility that characterize his four volumes of philosophical memoirs: The End of Time (2005), A Cracking of the Heart (2009), A Point in Time: The Search for Redemption in this Life and the Next, and You’re Going to be Dead One Day: A Love Story (2015).


Many Marxist intellectuals have repudiated Communism, “the god that failed.” But most of them stayed on the left, considering Stalin a ruthless aberration from socialism, rather than the fruit of a tree with totalitarian roots as Horowitz did. Some social and cultural critics began merely on the left and moved rightward. But for most of the well-known Americans of this type – alpha public intellectuals like Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and Nathan Glazer – the journey was fairly seamless, and the embraced conservatism taken up robustly, in a spirit of optimism rather than existential crisis. These ex-leftists, especially the New York kind, were able to depend on a critical mass of like-minded followers and intellectual peers for a stable social life. They were welcome in certain salons, and embraced by influential politicians on the right. They live in the mainstream.

Horowitz didn’t merely walk away from an idea. He abandoned a world. His conservatism was embraced with a sense of liberation, which is not quite the same as optimism. Horowitz “came out” as a conservative by voting for Ronald Reagan in 1984, and “[d]issecting the left’s hypocrisy now became a Horowitz métier.” In 1989 he and his longtime collaborator, Peter Collier, in the writing of biographies of the RockefellerKennedy and Ford families (“the L.A. Times called them “the premier chroniclers of American dynastic tragedy”) analyzed the New Left and its deleterious effect on American culture in Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the Sixties.

That did for them. “[W]ith a few notable exceptions, we became pariahs and un-persons in mainstream intellectual circles,” Horowitz told an interviewer. Although he was to write many more books with Collier and by himself, the New York Review of Books never reviewed any written after 1985.

People often refer, jocularly and metaphorically, of movement or professional insiders who “know where the bodies are buried.” As a movement insider and disciplined researcher, Horowitz did know where all the leftist bodies were buried, both literally and figuratively. He has never stopped digging them – and every last incriminating detail surrounding them – up, to the embarrassment of many fellow radicals of the era who went on to respectability and power in academia and the inner circles of government. He has paid a high price for his unfiltered whistle-blowing, being persona non grata in mainstream media, whose refusal to grapple publicly with his well-annotated charges looks, given the number of media honchos who themselves began as campus radicals, very much like stakeholder wagon-circling.

It’s unfortunate for Horowitz that most of his polemical career played out in an arena whose platforms were controlled by powerful corporate bodies. Had blogging, vlogging and social media platforms been a feature of the culture in his heyday, he could have sidestepped the New York Times, the New Republic and NPR, while nipping at their elitist heels in full view of a million followers. He did arrive at that populist party, but somewhat late in the game. (As I write, word arrives that Horowitz’s Twitter account has been locked down for linking to an article about the Left’s use of Twitter for censorship.)

That’s not to say that Horowitz was ever without a significant “choir”; it’s only to say that for decades what would have been a fulcrum to much wider exposure for a thinker and writer of his talents on the left was constrained by hostile liberal cultural gatekeepers happy to offer space for hit-and-run attacks on him, but denying him a platform for rebuttal.

Nor, to be fair, has the much smaller conservative media establishment been full-throated in its support of what one of my editors called this “red-meat” conservative, even though they have from time to time published Horowitz’s writing. His take-no-prisoners style makes them wary. In a 2002 interview, Norman Podhoretz said of Horowitz, “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.”

Horowitz eventually decided that if you couldn’t join them, he would beat them by creating his own communications industry. With support from followers and a few conservative foundations, he created the David Horowitz Freedom Center, his “School for Political Warfare,” an umbrella for its own online journal, FrontPageMag.com, which receives over 1.5 million unique views per month, and multiple other single-issue organs, such as Jihad Watch and the Israel Security Project. Like many journalists, I find the lavishly researched and meticulously annotated site, discoverthenetworks.org, which “describes the networks and agendas of the political left,” to be a source of great professional utility.

Creation of the Freedom Centre allowed Horowitz to take his anti-leftist battle directly to the campuses, where his pugilism in defending freedom of speech rights for students via a proposed Academic Bill of Rights (which got Horowitz a hearing at the Ohio Senate) has been an inspiration for many campus freedom fighters.


Once having crossed his personal Rubicon, Horowitz knowingly took the path of greatest resistance in settling political scores. He is not what the estimable Heterodox Academy would consider a clubbable colleague. But in the light of what is happening on campuses today – indeed, in the light of what is being passed into (Canadian) law today – will history judge him an “extremist”?

In 1968, the Radical Left was a youth movement, turbulent to be sure, but confined to campuses. In 2018 the “tenured radicals” of David Horowitz’s Berkley circle have no need for turbulence, as they rule on campus and far beyond (although in many cases, to the shock of old-school leftists who find they are no longer radical enough for today’s leftist militants, the Revolution is devouring its children).

The “long march through the institutions” predicted by Marxist Antonio Gramsci has succeeded. Our institutions – pedagogy, bar associations, social services – are permeated with Identity Politics, Marxism in its cultural guise. The New York Times, the “newspaper of record,” just hired – not as a columnist, but to its editorial board, representing the newspaper’s reigning philosophy – a woman with a nugatory journalism background, but a years-long social-media history of profoundly repulsive racism. She was not hired in spite of this history; she was hired because of it.

Will History be kinder to Horowitz than today’s “chattering classes”? If present radical trends continue, I believe it will. Academic and cultural critic Camille Paglia – herself no stranger to controversy – said of Horowitz: “as a scholar who regularly surveys archival material, I think that, a century from now, cultural historians will find DH’s spiritual and political odyssey paradigmatic for our time.”

The last word goes to Henry Mark Holzer, a libertarian lawyer who was Ayn Rand’s attorney and has represented Soviet dissidents fleeing to the West:

“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.”

And so say many of us.


David Horowitz’s Curtain Call?: Review of “Ruling Ideas” by Richard Kirk

Originally published in The American Thinker, June 23, 2018

Unlike Columbia president Nicholas Butler, who, when asked around 1913 if he had seen Progressive historian Charles Beard’s last book, responded, “I hope so!,” I myself won’t be happy to think that Volume 9 of The Black Book of the American Left, Ruling Ideas may be David Horowitz’s final salvo directed at the political left.

This work reads like a curtain call composed of a few important works that summarize the career of a man passionately devoted to two diametrically opposed missions during the first and last parts of his life.  Aside from a few edits, introductory remarks, and postscripts, all the Horowitz material in this book was published previously – the first chapter in The Politics of Bad Faith (1998), the second in Uncivil Wars (2002), and the other two chapters on Horowitz’s Frontpage website (2010, 2017).  Part Two of this work begins with an overview of Horowitz’s life and work written by the author’s friend and colleague, Jamie Glazov.  Then comes a complete bibliography of Horowitz’s writings, a list so long one wonders when this brilliant political pugilist found time to eat and sleep.  The book ends with an extensive index that locates major topics (from Academia to Zionism) discussed by the author in his nine-volume opus.

Anyone unfamiliar with Horowitz’s biography must read his classic work Radical Son in order to understand the psychological trauma he experienced after being raised in a communist home, experiencing the public revelation of Stalin’s crimes, becoming a literary figurehead of the “New Left,” then having his socialist faith undermined after his friend Betty Van Patter was murdered by Black Panther associates.

Horowitz’s break from socialism and his ostracism by former friends is the focus of the first chapter in Ruling Ideas, “The Fate of the Marxist Idea.”  Two extensive letters (the first addressed to a red-diaper friend, Carol Pasternak Kaplan, and the other to his political mentor, Ralph Miliband) explain the historical, intellectual, and personal reasons for Horowitz’s break from the left as well as his ultimate act of betrayal: publicly supporting Ronald Reagan in 1984.  The former missive is revealing of the way not only “renegades” become nonpersons to fellow leftists, but also loyal party members like Horowitz’s father, who was remembered with banal political phrases at his sparsely attended funeral.  This portrait in miniature illustrates how leftists disregard flesh-and-blood humanity for the sake of an ideology.  As Horowitz puts it, “[t]otalitarianism is the crushing of ordinary, intractable, human reality by a political idea.”

The letter to Miliband focuses primarily on the monumental failures of socialism.  In addition to the tens of millions murdered for the cause around the world, Horowitz provides scores of facts that undermine the persistent belief that the USSR nevertheless made huge economic strides.  For example, “after 70 years of socialist development, 40 percent of the Soviet population and 79 percent of its older citizens” were living in poverty – though almost 100 percent of the populace was poor by U.S. standards.  Moreover, in 1989, “the average intake of red meat for a Soviet citizen was half of what it had been for a subject of the czar in 1913.”  Amazingly, “blacks in apartheid South Africa owned more cars per capita” than citizens of the Soviet Union.  In page after page, Horowitz documents socialism’s failures, including the fact that 70 percent of the USSR’s atmosphere was “polluted with five times the permissible limit of toxic chemicals.”

As a symbolic coup de grâce, Horowitz notes that glasnost-era Russians gathered outside Moscow’s new McDonald’s “in lines whose length exceeded those waiting outside Lenin’s tomb.”  These customers waited four hours and spent half a day’s wage to enjoy this most ordinary of capitalist pleasures.  Horowitz ends the letter to his former mentor and “ex-comrade” by noting that the Iron Curtain dividing “the prisoners of socialism” from the free West has now been torn down; however, “[t]he iron curtain that divides you and me remains.  It is the destructive utopian fantasy that you refuse to give up.”

Chapter Two, “Slavery and the American Idea,” is an edited version of Horowitz’s 2002 refutation of the reparations argument.  This extended essay provides a comprehensive defense of America’s role in eliminating slavery and promoting civil rights for black Americans.  It also destroys the bogus claims that American slavery was a uniquely cruel instance of the institution and was largely responsible for creating the nation’s wealth.  Horowitz analyzes both the prevalence and severity of slavery throughout history and observes that “the responsibility of American slave-traders amounts to a fraction of one percent of the black African slavery problem.”  Additionally, the author discusses how race has become a “primary weapon” in the left’s attack on America’s constitutional system.

Horowitz’s analysis of race-based politics is expanded in his subsequent chapter, titled “America’s Second Civil War.”  In this piece, the author links the “deep division of America’s political life” to “the adoption of ‘identity politics’ as the left’s ‘progressive’ creed.”  Horowitz also deals explicitly with the “resistance” to President Trump and observes that the Democratic Party for the second time in its history “has opted to secede from the Union and its social contract.”  In this instance, Democrats have replaced Marx’s vision of warring classes with a narrative of victimized races, genders, and ethnicities.  That party now employs the banner of “social justice” to achieve its ultimate goal – a utopian, socialist, and thus totalitarian future.

Finally, the chapter titled “The Two Christophers” offers an analysis of the life and political peregrinations of Horowitz’s sometime friend, Christopher Hitchens – an analysis that draws a clear distinction between Horowitz’s decisive rejection of leftism and Hitchens’s self-regarding vacillation.  This ambivalence allowed Hitchens to retain a romantic attachment to the socialist ideals that motivated most of his life’s work and thus to keep open a few leftist doors.  Admirers of Freud will be drawn to Horowitz’s analysis of Hitchens’s family dynamics, especially Hitchens’s attachment to his “exotic” and “sunlit” mother, Yvonne, who committed suicide after (and, in Hitchens’s mind, possibly because) several calls she placed to her then-adult son went unanswered.  Horowitz thus fills in yawning psychological gaps that Hitchens tellingly fails to address in his often duplicitous memoir, Hitch-22.  Horowitz, for example, notes that Hitchens viewed Trotsky as “the arch-romantic, the incarnation of the lost Yvonne.”  Moreover, this Trotskyite pose allowed Hitchens to assert, “I am no longer a socialist, but I am still a Marxist.”  Horowitz observes, more honestly, that Hitchens’s Trotskyism meant “that he could regard himself as a Marxist and a revolutionary without having to say he’s sorry.”

By contrast, after honestly evaluating the historical and logical consequences of socialism, Horowitz’s life and writings constitute an enduring and intellectually compelling apology for actions and writings that occurred prior to his renunciation of an unspeakably destructive doctrine.

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: “Who’s to Say?”  is also available on Kindle.

The Left’s Ruling Ideas: A Review of Volume IX by Mark Tapson

The core motives of their forever war against America.

Below is Mark Tapson’s review of David Horowitz’s new book, “Ruling Ideas,” which is the ninth and final volume of The Black Book of the American Left, a multi-volume collection of Horowitz’s conservative writings that now stands as the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to define the Left and its agenda. (Order HERE.) 

“This is the ninth and final volume of my writings about progressivism, a movement whose goals are the destruction of America’s social contract at home and the defeat of American power abroad.”

That blunt statement from Freedom Center founder David Horowitz begins Ruling Ideas, the just-published, concluding volume of his series of collected works titled The Black Book of the American Left. Horowitz, of course, is the red-diaper-baby-turned-conservative-firebrand and the author of many other books, including the classic autobiography Radical Son, the battle plan for political victory titled Take No Prisoners, and the recent New York Times bestseller Big Agenda: President Trump’s Plan to Save America.

In his introduction to this volume, Horowitz notes that The Black Book of the American Left series was conceived as a corrective to the frequent inability of conservatives “to appreciate the anti-American animus of the left and its apocalyptic goals.” As a former radical leftist himself, Horowitz has a deep appreciation for that animus and a unique grasp of the left’s religious fervor for a society built upon the utopian dream of human perfectibility. Ruling Ideas is the latest addition to his ongoing illumination of the left’s often deceptive animating principles.

Part One of the book includes three essays which Horowitz says “have more or less defined my life’s work.” With “The Fate of the Marxist Idea” he reprints two letters to former fellow radicals announcing and explaining his break with the left, one a childhood friend whose father was a cell leader in the local Communist Party, the other his political mentor and friend Ralph Miliband, the father of future British politicians David and Ed. The letters were impassioned attempts to awaken former comrades from their radical intoxication by presenting the undeniable, sobering realities of their failed dream.

“Slavery and the American Idea” addresses the Progressive determination to “destroy the American social contract and the constitutional system that supports it,” primarily by weaponizing the issue of race. Horowitz’s aim in the essay – first published as the closing chapter of Uncivil Wars, Horowitz’s controversial denunciation of slavery reparations, and updated for inclusion here – is to celebrate the vision of American exceptionalism behind this country’s successful ending of the near-universal human practice of slavery. The essay remains as vital today as when it was published, thanks to a revival among black intellectuals and politicians of the demand for reparations.

In the short essay “America’s Second Civil War,” Horowitz discusses the collectivist creed of identity politics as “the antithesis of the principles that are the cornerstones of America’s social contract.” A “reversion to tribal loyalties” and a condemnation of the anti-American mythology of “systemic racism,” identity politics is now the tip of the spear of the Democrat Party’s divisive platform and agenda. In contrast, Horowitz closes the essay by quoting President Donald Trump’s unifying call, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

“The Two Christophers” is a deeply thoughtful and personal essay about “radical contrarian” writer Christopher Hitchens, whom Horowitz befriended near the end of Hitchens short life. It is not so much about the stretches of an intellectual journey they shared as it is about their divergent paths. To the very end Hitchens clung, writes Horowitz, to “the romantic idea of a revolutionary transformation” that shaped his political choices. Horowitz hopes that the essay will serve as “a useful guide to the great schism of our times.”

“In the quarter-century since I published these reflections,” Horowitz writes about the essays in Part One (and this equally could be said of his work in general analyzing and opposing the left’s totalitarian vision), “there have been no attempts by progressives to answer them.” The left’s usual response to its critics instead has been what he calls “an intellectual omerta,” an attempt not to engage them in reasoned debate but to obliterate them as “un-persons.” In all of the left’s flood of virulent condemnations of Horowitz personally, “[w]hat is lacking is an intellectual argument to refute my views and specifically my reasons for rejecting the left; or reference to a historical record that would provide a critical response to the case I have made.”

That failure exposes the left’s inability – not unwillingness or indifference – to counter Horowitz’s analyses, because he knows the left better than they know themselves. Having been steeped in their Communist ideology and then having become an activist for their cause himself, even working with the Black Panthers, he knows every power-mongering aim, every subversive strategy, every linguistic manipulation, and every thuggish tactic of the Progressive agenda. They know he knows, and that’s why he is their most hated apostate and why they have no choice but to resort to the politics of personal destruction rather than reasoned argument.

Part Two includes “The Writings of David Horowitz,” a bibliography by Mike Bauer of Horowitz’s books, articles, pamphlets, and online writings that runs an astonishing 56 pages; an index for this volume as well as a very useful summary index by David Landau of key terms that span the entire series of The Black Book of the American Left, terms such as academic freedom, black reparations, identity politics, race profiling, and Stalinism, and key figures and groups such as Saul Alinsky, Hillary Clinton, Hezbollah, Huey Newton, and the Weather Underground; and a brief end note in which Horowitz explains that he had decided, early in his conservative career, to leave three aspects of the left’s agenda for other conservative writers to cover: constitutional issues, the market economy, and the environment. Instead, he chose to “focus on dissecting those aspects of the radical agenda which either remained opaque to the conservative perspective, or whose malignancy was not fully appreciated by the conservative temperament.”

Part Two also includes an absolute must-read, 40-page essay by the Freedom Center’s longtime FrontPage Magazine editor and host of the internet show The Glazov Gang, Jamie Glazov. Titled, “The Life and Work of David Horowitz,” Dr. Glazov’s essay spans from Horowitz’s childhood in a Communist enclave in Queens, New York, through his time as the editor of the foremost radical publication Ramparts to his political epiphany and “slow-motion transformation from theorist of the left to its worst enemy.” The essay is, as Horowitz puts it in the book’s introduction, “accurate and insightful,” but more than that, it is compelling reading.

This final volume of the Black Book of the American Left collection is a concise, must-read capstone to David Horowitz’s writing about the destructive utopian delusions – the “mirage,” as Friedrich Hayek put it – of Progressivism. Ruling Ideas, like the preceding volumes, highlights the epic clash between what Horowitz calls the two ideas – the American and the Marxist – that “constitute an ideological thesis and antithesis of the modern world. The resolution of the conflict between them will shape the course of human freedom for generations to come.”

Reprinted from PJ Media.

Inside the Mind of the Left: A Review of Volume IX by Michael Ledeen

David Horowitz’s magisterial series concludes with a deeply personal ninth volume.

Originally published at City-Journal.org

I knew David Horowitz in his “second thoughts” years, when he turned away from the Left and became a conservative; he often came to our house to satisfy his craving for Chinese takeout and to structure his new political movement. My wife Barbara worked closely with him and Peter Collier, and we’ve been friends ever since. I’ve often seen him offstage, and much of this fascinating, significant, and highly readable new book contains important material that reflects the man. His passions and intellect are on full display.

Ruling Ideas is the ninth and final volume of Horowitz’s collected conservative writings, and in many ways it is the most important. It contains an invaluable guide to Horowitz’s work written by Frontpage editor Jamie Glazov and several short essays on current events. Readers are also treated to two extended glimpses into Horowitz’s life, one having to do with his touchy friendship with Christopher Hitchens, the other the sad end of a long relationship with Carol Pasternak, a former comrade for whom he cared deeply. The volume also contains three long letters, retelling crucial events in Horowitz’s life and linking those events to his political evolution. Regrettably, diaries and letters are largely vanishing from our culture. We’re fortunate that these letters have survived, because without them, readers wouldn’t understand the drama and pain that brought Horowitz to anti-Communism after growing up in a Communist Party home, attending a Party school, fraternizing with almost exclusively like-minded peers, and finally becoming a leader of the New Left.

Horowitz’s odyssey wasn’t purely ideological. His break with the Left resulted from the Black Panthers’ murder of a friend and comrade, bookkeeper Betty Van Patter, in the winter of 1974. This incident ended my own career in the Left. I suspected that the Panthers had done it, and some members later confirmed this. Others knew that the Panthers had killed others, like Ellen Sparer, a teacher murdered in her bed by a “troubled student.” In his letter to Pasternak, Horowitz mulls over Sparer’s case, musing: “You and I were able to share our grief over the friend we had lost, but we were never able to share an understanding of why she was dead. In your eyes, Ellen died a victim of circumstance; in mine, she died a martyr of a political faith that had made her blind.”

Horowitz’s embrace of conservatism came directly and powerfully from real events—the murder of people he knew and his discovery that even these powerful facts were insufficient to make many of his friends reject the cause. The Left’s ideas are essentially a political religion, and for true believers to reject them is spiritually impossible. Even Christopher Hitchens couldn’t do it. Hitchens could deny God, but he could not deny leftism.

Horowitz’s discussion of Hitchens is respectful and affectionate but unflinching when it came to Hitchens’s desire to have it both ways: a sometimes-outspoken critic of the Left, he remained a follower of the politico-religious faith that one day, the dream of freedom, equality, and true socialism would be fulfilled. Hitchens’s family life contained both themes. His father was a military officer; his mother was an exotic. Thus, he was buffeted back and forth between “fight or flight” in family events. “More accurately,” Horowitz writes, “it left him with a sense of flight and fight on all occasions.” In a memorable passage of his essay, “The Two Christophers,” Horowitz reflects: “The utopian romance [Hitchens] never gave up was the perfect prescription for continual fight in the present, and a never-ending flight into the future.”

No one with Hitchens’s intellect could fail to recognize that the Left had enthusiastically imposed tyranny whenever it had the chance. Yet, in the end, Horowitz pulls back from a full-throated denunciation, not wishing to consign his late friend to the Dantean level of hell to which the great essayist had dispatched many others.

Ruling Ideas offers a unique and uncompromisingly personal view into the mentality of the Left. It makes a fitting capstone to David Horowitz’s magisterial work on the criminal conspiracy of American Communism, a series that deserves to be read in full.

David Horowitz Explains the Ruling Ideas of the Left: A Review by Richard Baehr

Below is Richard Baehr’s review of David Horowitz’s new book, “Ruling Ideas,” which is the ninth and final volume of The Black Book of the American Left, a multi-volume collection of Horowitz’s conservative writings that now stands as the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to define the Left and its agenda. (Order HERE.)

Many people I know grew up in liberal households, and at some point in their lives, they gravitated to the right politically.  Many others were nurtured in conservative homes and moved left politically.  These shifts are not too surprising.  What made someone start in one place and move one way or the other is a function of many things, including the political thinking of one’s spouse or partner; the community where one lives; the schools one attended; the company where one works; the political environment of the country, which has shifted left and right at different times; and whether someone was religiously observant and became more secular or moved in the other direction.  In general, most people are not obsessed with politics.  They may have strong political views, but they don’t choose politics as a career path or live and breathe it to the exclusion of other interests or passions.

David Horowitz has had a fundamentally different life experience.  He grew up in a communist household with parents who were true believers in the superiority of Marxist-Leninist thinking and the model of the Soviet Union as a pathway to a better world for those who could break the bonds that held them captive to ruling-class capitalist ideology and government.  Horowitz’s parents were committed ideologues whose allegiance to the hard left never wavered.  While they were momentarily upset with the revelations in 1956 of the mass murders committed by Stalin’s government in previous decades, they considered this at worst an aberration, not a reflection of the tyranny and destruction routinely associated with Marxist regimes.  Their lives were too tightly wound in the narrative of the communist collective in the Queens neighborhood where they lived as public school teachers to allow themselves to rethink or reconsider their ideological faith.

David Horowitz, on the other hand questioned things from the start of his politically conscious years.  While he remained on the left for another two decades after the news of Stalin’s crimes, his allegiance was never so tight or his mind so closed as to be unable to challenge his belief system when presented with new evidence or arguments.

Horowitz’s path from left to right, and then his role as a spokesman for conservative ideas, has been documented through his enormous collection of articles and books, a full bibliography of which totals 56 pages in this ninth and final volume of his Black Book of the Left.  The Horowitz catalog includes nearly 80 books authored, co-authored, or edited.  While David Horowitz once enjoyed critical acclaim from the book-reviewers of America’s elite newspapers and magazines, since his shift to the right, his books are never even considered for review.  Why would the New York Times Book Review waste time finding a reviewer to combat Horowitz’s arguments when it is so much easier to fill pages with laudatory reviews of those who have stayed on the left’s plantation and parrot its talking points?  Ignoring someone is also a way to say that such person and his views do not matter. And certainly no left-wing media outlet cares to encourage apostasy by others.

This last volume in Horowitz’s series of books on the American left reinforces his central argument that the left is different from the right in the totality of its commitment to advancing its agenda and destroying its enemies.  Conservatives are conservative not only in political orientation, but in how they do battle.  Preservation of what is good requires a different kind of motivation and energy from revolution or upheaval. The battle is not between two sides who agree on ends, but see different ways of getting there.  The left, according to Horowitz, is ruthless both in pursuit of victory and when given the reins of authority.

Naturally, there are gradations on the left as there are on the right.  There are moderate, centrist Democrats, a declining group for sure, who remain committed to some of the same things as many on the right.  These “collaborationists” are despised by the true believers on the left.  The energy and the firepower on the left belong to more absolutist types, who accept far less of any consensus view of what American represents, its uniqueness, the trajectory of its history, and what needs to be preserved or destroyed.  There is little or no pride in America on the left, since so much remains to be fixed and so much power remains in the wrong hands.  The resistance to Donald Trump is a reflection of how grating the concept of American greatness is to the left.

Volume 9 of the Black Book series contains four chapters written by Horowitz and one chapter by Jamie Glazov, which provides a history of Horowitz’s political evolution as seen through his writings.  The longest chapter, “The Fate of the Marxist Idea,” includes two letters Horowitz wrote to former friends and mentors in the communist movement, and were initially published in 1998.  The first is to a member of the Sunnyside, Queens collective whose parents worshiped communism in the same “church” as David’s parents.

Horowitz’s former friend chose not to attend the memorial service after the death of David’s father in 1987, seeking to ignore any need to debate any of the political ideas that both had once absorbed and that Horowitz had since abandoned.  Instead, she wrote a short letter saying the personal and the political cannot be separated, that socialism is better than capitalism, that she had abandoned Stalinism (what courage!) and socialism had not really been tried, the real reason why it had “not worked” so far.  And then she added the insults, accusing Horowitz of having lost the compassion and humanism of his youth, which always motivated their parents, evidenced by his support of Ronald Reagan’s vile policies.  Horowitz’s lengthy point-by-point refutation of her letter was never answered except by threat of a lawsuit.

A more comprehensive analysis of the failures of the left was sent to Ralph Milliband, a Marxist writer who was a mentor to Horowitz when he lived in London in the ’60s.  The letter outlines the cold reality of communist-socialist rule wherever it had been tried and the enormous death toll attributable to the tyrannies and tyrants associated with these regimes – whether in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Venezuela, North Korea, or Cuba among others.  These countries are not and were not similar to the social welfare states of Western Europe that emerged after World War 2.  These states have moved much farther along the continuum toward higher taxes, and a larger government share, and bureaucratic control of the economy than in the United States, but they still sustain a reasonable commitment to preserving the political freedoms of individuals and the belief in democracy and a free people.

The true believers on the left say they want nothing more than equality and better lives for the masses, but communist equality has always meant equalizing the suffering, reducing living standards, and eliminating dissent or political opposition.  Milliband also ignored engaging with Horowitz, obviously a lost cause in his eyes as far as rejoining the legions on the left.

Horowitz devotes two chapters to issues concerning black Americans.  The first provides a commentary on the campaign for reparations, advanced by Randall Robinson, among others, 15 years back, and now getting new life from support by the likes of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the current black intellectual designee by the major media and their partners in universities.  Coates is the author of a commentary on the 9-11 attacks that concluded that the police and firefighters who died “were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could – with no justification – shatter my body.”  So the men and women who entered burning buildings, and climbed dozens of flights of stairs with 75 pounds of equipment on their backs to try to get people out of the buildings before they collapsed, were really just biding their time until they could get on to their real task of destroying black bodies.  This is what qualifies one as a thought leader in elite circles these days.

Horowitz destroys the argument for reparations, and in a second chapter, he challenges the victimization logic that offers white racism as the excuse for any “underperformance” by the black community.  There is no one alive today who held any slaves or personally was a slave.  Many black Americans in the country today have no ancestors in America who were slaves.  A majority of Americans are descended from people who came to the United States after the Civil War and bear no guilt for the ugly practice in one region of the United States two centuries ago.  Those who are descended from people who lived in the states that did not join the Confederacy have 400,000 dead Union soldiers, plus many hundreds of thousands injured, as their sacrifice to liberating the slaves and preserving the Union.  Reparations for Japanese-Americans in the United States or Holocaust survivors in Europe were paid to people who had themselves lived through specific horrors or criminal behavior by governments.  Must all Americans today pay for something that ended over 150 years ago and for which a bloody war was fought?  Are all African-Americans equally entitled to compensation for something that impacted some of their ancestors seven generations back?

The victimization theme – that white racism is solely responsible for the economic situation of black Americans, their higher crime rates and poor academic performance, eliminates any agency for individuals to beat the odds or take advantage of the increased opportunities that are now available, including trillions spent on social welfare programs over the past half-century, much of that designed to address the needs of African-Americans.  These programs include affirmative action admissions to universities and similar approaches to hiring by corporations and other firms.  Martin Luther King was aware that racism and discrimination were present in 1960s America, as was segregation in large parts of the country, but he believed that these should not be an excuse for black American behavior that only worsened their plight.  Charlatans and race-hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have dominated the civil rights movement since King’s death, always pushing the white racism bogeyman, while those more in line with King’s legacy, including Jason Riley, Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, and Glen Loury, are ignored or condemned as sell-outs.  Arguing that cultural norms within a community can be damaging to the success of future generations is simply a forbidden theme – witness the recent campaign against University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax.

Horowitz’s final chapter is a review of Christopher Hitchens’s book Hitch-22 and the British author’s political path from a Trotskyite of sorts to something a bit more nuanced and sane.  Horowitz is clearly disappointed that Hitchens’s movement did not follow his own trajectory, which resulted in abandonment of the left and a commitment to fighting it.  Instead, Hitchens’s politics at the time of his death from cancer was something of a confused palette: anger at Islamic extremism and hostility to Israel, appreciation for American uniqueness but fondness for the collectivist ideal.  Hitchens tried to hold a place in two camps – not an easy task, and one that can lead to incoherence.  Most people would not get too upset or frustrated about someone who moved some way toward their worldview, but Horowitz’s life experience has been consumed with politics, first from the left, and for the last three decades from the right, and he prefers enlightenment to cautious mush.

There is a passion among the politically most active, and when their politics shift, they often have a story to tell about the illusions and lies they encountered and addressed that motivated the change in allegiance.  The nine-volume series, The Black Book of the America Left, including this final volume, is a unique outline, filled with many chapters and verses, about why the left has been consistently wrong and produced so much destruction in its wake.  Someone who never started on the left, and did not understand its convictions, its messaging, and its tactics, could not have written such a series.

This article was originally published in the American Thinker

Ruling Ideas and Annals of Evil: A Review by Bruce Bawer

David Horowitz’s “Black Book of the American Left” reaches its triumphant culmination

Below is Bruce Bawer’s review of David Horowitz’s new book, “Ruling Ideas” which is volume 9 of The Black Book of the American Left, a multi-volume collection of David Horowitz’s conservative writings that will, when completed, be the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to define the Left and its agenda. (Order HERE.) 

The last five years have seen the publication of a landmark shelf of books – namely, the collected conservative writings of David Horowitz under the title The Black Book of the American Left. Others may know as much about this subject as Horowitz does. But no one could possibly know more. And no one could possibly understand it better. Nor could anyone be more gifted at finding just the right words to explain it all.

In short, Horowitz has knowledge, insight, and eloquence. And that’s what makes these books indispensable.

Each of them takes up a different theme. Volume One explored Horowitz’s personal history as a leading figure of the left and his subsequent struggle with his intellectual loyalties – a complex, probing experience that made him uniquely qualified to elucidate both the appeal and the folly of the leftist dream. Subsequent volumes focused on leftist ideology; the left and race; the left and Islam; the left after 9/11; and the left in government, on campuses, and in the general culture.

The ninth and last volume of Horowitz’s Black Book, entitled “Ruling Ideas,” has now been published. Among its highlights is a 1987 letter written to a childhood friend, Carol, who, like Horowitz, was raised in a Communist household in Queens. In a note to Horowitz, Carol had stated that while she had (supposedly) given up on Stalinism, she continued to embrace what she called “our common heritage,” persisted in the belief that “socialism is better than capitalism,” and regarded Horowitz’s apostasy from the faith of their youth as a loss of “compassion and humanism.”

Horowitz’s 29-page reply to Carol could not be improved upon as a philosophical account, moral critique, and psychological analysis of the long-distance love of Soviet Communism on which both of them had been brought up. Horowitz discusses the then-recent death of his father, who had devoted his life to the Party, and whose friends had gathered at the Horowitz family home after his passing. These people had known Horowitz’s father for decades and shared his politics. Yet once he was gone, they could only speak of him, to his mourning son, in trite ideological cliches: “Your father was a man who tried his best to make the world a better place…your father was a man who was socially conscious.

Nothing that they said suggested that they ever, for a moment, had been capable of viewing the elder Horowitz as a complex human individual rather than a fellow exponent of a dehumanizing ideology. During all those decades, their minds had been so completely in thrall to an abstract concept that it was as if they were now, Horowitz observes, “unequal to the task before them: to remember my father as a man.” Horowitz saw, as clear as day, that this cruel obliteration of personal particularity by a political idea was one of the ultimate curses of the cult of Communism.

Horowitz’s friend Carol had referred to their “common heritage,” which, as she apparently still deluded herself, had something to do with a concern for humanity. But Horowitz, as he explained to her, had come to perceive that “the very humanity that is [Communism’s] alleged object of ‘compassion’ is a humanity it holds in contempt.” Indeed, what lay behind that cozy turn of phrase, “common heritage,” was nothing less than the monstrous evil of totalitarianism, which, as Horowitz puts it, amounts quite simply to “the crushing of ordinary, intractable, human reality by a political Idea.”

There is more in this letter, much more: it is eminently quotable from beginning to end. Suffice it to say that Horowitz dissects his father’s – and his friend’s – Communism with the skill of a master surgeon. And what makes the dissection all the more powerful is that, unlike his friend Carol, who has accused him of abandoning his humanity and selling out for money, Horowitz is kind and restrained throughout, contemplating his loved ones’ Communism more in pity and grief than in anger. The result is a deeply poignant human document – a human document about a thoroughly inhuman creed.

Less personal but equally estimable is Horowitz’s “Slavery and the American Idea,” which seems to me a definitive response to those who would use America’s history of slavery to deny the nation’s status as “a beacon of freedom.” Then there is “The Two Christophers,” which is by far the best thing ever written about Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011). After Hitchens died, I wrote a brief sendoff for Front Page that focused with admiration on the fact that, after 9/11, he broke free from his pals at the Nation to excoriate Islam and defend America. I didn’t know Hitchens personally, and pre-9/11 I frankly hadn’t paid that much attention to him; Horowitz, however, knew him for a long time and followed his work carefully, and in his essay he recognizes his old friend as a puzzle – and does an absolutely fascinating job of putting the pieces of that puzzle together.

Perusing Hitchens’s 2010 autobiography, Hitch-22, Horowitz notices a number of curious things. Why does he write so much about his parents and so little – almost nothing, in fact – about his brother (the writer Peter Hitchens), his two wives, his three children? Horowitz zeroes in on the chronic lack of introspection in Hitch-22, and particularly on Hitchens’s refusal to renounce Trotskyism. Horowitz had spent years interrogating his own deepest political convictions – challenging himself, excoriating himself, enduring a veritable dark night of the soul, and ultimately offering up a very public mea culpa and making a very public change of course. By contrast, even as Hitchens walked away from the Nation, junked some Marxist baggage from his ideological backpack, and became a cheerleader for America, he saw no need for any such personal reckoning.

Which is especially weird when one considers that over the years, in innumerable articles, book reviews, media interviews, and public debates, Hitchens relentlessly challenged other people’s ideas and clobbered them for their self-contradictions, ingrained prejudices, and unexamined assumptions. Yet even as he was doing all this, Hitchens himself was a mass of contradictions, which he appears to have preferred not to examine too closely. Horowitz notices, for example, that in one passage of Hitch-22 Hitchens declares his abiding love for free expression and his everlasting hatred for “dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation” – only to proceed, shortly thereafter, to fulsomely praise as one of his “heroines” none other than the execrable Jessica Mitford, who, as Horowitz quite rightly points out, was “a Communist hack who spent her life supporting dictatorships, stupidity, demagogy, bullying, intimidation and censorship.”

Anyway, there’s much more here on Hitchens (almost fifty pages’ worth), and it’s all incredibly acute and absorbing – a remarkably perceptive case study of a writer who trained his mind mercilessly and incisively on pretty much everything other than himself. But let’s wrap up. In addition to these splendid pieces, this book contains a good deal of useful back matter: an adept 40-page summary of Horowitz’s life and work by Jamie Glazov; a comprehensive 56-page bibliography by Mike Bauer of Horowitz’s writings from 1951 to 2017; and a thematic index to all nine volumes.

The Oxford English Dictionary originally ran to 10 volumes. Over the years, as the English language changed, several more supplementary volumes were published. The left, alas, isn’t going to go away any time soon. With any luck, David Horowitz will continue to chronicle, explain, and criticize it all –  and, like the editors of the OED, will add more and more volumes to this extraordinary set of books.