WRITING THE RESISTANCE
BEHIND ENEMY LINES: DAVID HOROWITZ
1st May, 2020
Gage Skidmore - Peoria, AZ, USA
I met a traveller from an antique land…
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias
This is the first of a four-part series called Writing the Resistance, in which I will look at the work of four writers who should be widely read by the Right of whatever stripe, but have all been effectively censored to a great extent by an Alt. Left that largely controls Western civilisation, whatever its discontents. I will be concentrating on one text by each author, with some general biographical information if the writer is new to the reader. The series will feature readings of French New Right co-founder Guillaume Faye, American political contrarian Diana West, and English maverick autodidact Jonathan Bowden. Our first featured writer is American political journalist David Horowitz, and the featured book is Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey.
David Horowitz crossed the floor. The phrase is slang in Britain’s parliament for a politician who leaves the Labour Party to join the Conservatives, or vice versa. With Horowitz, though, the move from Left to Right in the USA was not a clean and determined break, but the process of disillusionment with the Left we also see in British journalists Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips, both of whom defected from their erstwhile ideological blocs.
Defectors are always the bearers of important news. Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, along with Medvedev and Sakharov in defecting, finally killed the malevolent lie spread in the West that Communism was a thing much to be desired or at least appeased. Horowitz was a staunch Left-winger who heard Solzhenitsyn’s voice in the wilderness;
‘The Soviet government is afraid of the truth. Since it cannot refute the facts, its only feasible strategy is to outlaw all efforts to publish truths not sanctioned by the official apparatus. The “universal, obligatory force-feeding with lies”, writes Solzhenitsyn in his appeal to the Soviet government, “is the now the most agonising aspect of existence in our country – worse than all our material miseries, worse than any lack of civil liberties”.’
Horowitz wrote that in 1974, his final year as a New Leftist.
David Horowitz was born in New York in 1939, and his parents had met unconventionally, at Communist Party meetings in the early 1930s. They weren’t the Rosenbergs, just two teachers who wanted what they believed Communism to be. Horowitz went to a Party-funded infant school and attended summer camps called Wo-Chi-Ca; Workers’ Children’s Camp.
His student years were spent in political activism, although favouring the ‘New Left’ over the old Communist cliques. Horowitz’s new brand of Marxism sought not to apologise for Stalin but to obviate the need for a Stalin. He spent time in London working for Bertrand Russell’s Peace Foundation, then returned to New York to edit heavyweight Leftist magazine Ramparts. Horowitz also amassed an impressive and intellectually competent book publishing list.
Then came the moment of clarity. In 1974, Horowitz was introduced to Huey Newton, leader of the quasi-terrorist Black Panthers, and soon became sympathetic. Then, in 1976, the Panthers murdered Betty van Patter, Horowitz’s Ramparts colleague, and threw her body into the Hudson River. Horowitz was devastated. From that moment, the question for Horowitz was not, should I leave the Left? Rather, it was, which door should I take?
From this seminal moment, Horowitz has published endlessly, and devoted his life to an exposition of the modern Left which has the imprimatur of experience. He is now responsible for The Center for the Study of Popular Culture and its flagship magazine, FrontPage Magazine. His voice is vital because, on the subject of the dangers posed by the Left, he knows whereof he speaks. His collected writings are entitled The Black Book of the American Left. Here, Horowitz is talking to himself;
‘The divisive crusades of the Left and its failed “experiments” must be seen now for what they are: bloody exercises in civil nihilism; violent pursuits of empty hopes; revolutionary actes gratuites that were doomed to fail from the start’.
What was Horowitz leaving behind? He describes the Left in jocular mood as all ‘broken eggs and no omelette’. But in more acerbic mood he skewered the Left with a merciless precision;
‘For behind the revolutionary pursuit of the impossible ideal lies a deep hatred for the human norm, an unquenchable desire for its annihilation’.
And what of the political coastline he was now sailing towards? Horowitz rarely stoops to defining the Right, but here, dialectically, the Right are defined by what their opponents say they are;
‘A key mentality of the Left is that it judges itself by its best intentions, and judges its opponents – America chief among them – by their worst deeds.’
Horowitz has isolated both a political truth and a dangerous metaphysical threat. The Left do employ, in their laboratory of experience, abstract nouns in preference to concrete ones: justice, equality, racism, transphobia, the list is a long one ever-lengthening. Their modus operandi is not pragmatic, and Horowitz may have been feeling the traditions of that very American school of thought known as pragmatism, the reductive philosophy of William James, C. S. Pierce and John Dewey which sought to judge thought by its resultant action and practice.
There is also a moral dimension to Horowitz’s post-Left reassessment, a sense of what is right and what is wrong that the Left always obscures and confounds. The soul of Communism, Horowitz believed, was so far steeped in its own utopian fantasies that it had parted company with anything other than a ravening hunger for power;
‘In all the socialist literature I had read, there was not a chapter devoted to the problem of how wealth is created. Socialist theory was exclusively addressed to the conquest of power and the division of wealth that someone else had created. Was it any surprise that the socialist societies they created broke records in making their inhabitants poor’.
This is a broad and two-edged sword. Is Horowitz just saying that socialism is doomed to failure due to utterly compromising internal faults, or is he also suggesting that ‘making their inhabitants poor’ could be a long-term program for the Left, creating an underclass for their amusement, like a little girl with a doll hospital?
Horowitz is philosophically literate, one of the intellectuals of the Left (we here pass over Sartre’s ignorant statement that there was no such thing as a Right-wing intellectual) who had read Hegel as well as Marx. He therefore has a grasp on politics as historical and something cyclical.
The ghosts of pragmatism seem to follow Horowitz in his analysis of the Vietnam War. When it was estimated that more peasants, more people, died in Indochina during the first three years of Communist rule than in the American wars conducted there, Horowitz wrote;
‘Every testimony by North Vietnamese generals in the postwar years has confirmed that they knew they could not defeat the United States on the battlefield, and that they counted on the division of our people at home to win the war for them’.
Horowitz had been one of ‘our people at home’. What did he help bring about?
There is not exactly penitence in Horowitz’s work. He has been quoted saying that his values remain unchanged, but his understanding of what maintains them has changed. And this is because he apparently noticed the cultish nature of the Leftist worldview;
‘[T]he core sense our community had of its political mission [was that] the world is cursed by ignorance, and the task of progressives like us is to set everybody right’.
This mission statement would be broadly acceptable to everyone from the Southern Poverty Law Centre to the Church of Scientology.
This is a necessarily reductive sketch of David Horowitz, but Left Illusions is an excellent starting point, and a fingerpost to the rest of Horowitz’s work. His work is still fresh and relevant now, through outlets undoubtedly policed just as Horowitz’s ex-allies would have liked.
It seems a natural link to finish with something from Horowitz which locates Communism at the heart of the current Left, and this will lead us on to the next writer in this series, Diana West, whose book American Betrayal deals specifically with that very topic.
Recognising that the resurgent Left are now preparing themselves against the only enemy that matters to them, their home country. The same stands for Europe, for that matter. The Left are the oikophobes, the mea culpists, the ethno-masochists. Horowitz writes;
‘If one looks at almost any aspect of this Left – its self-identified intellectual lineage (Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, Heidegger, Fanon, Gramsci – in sum, the totalitarian tradition), its analytic model (hierarchy and oppression), its redemptive agenda (social justice as state-enforced levelling), and its enemies (imperialist America and the American “ruling class”) one would be hard put to find a scintilla of difference with the communist past’.
Always listen to defectors. They know not just secrets about the enemy, but the psychology of those secrets. With the help of writers like David Horowitz, it may be possible to persuade those people who still think enough about such things, and yet find themselves beached on the bleak shores of the Left, to defect to reality.
Mark Gullick is a philosophy PhD from London, England, who went on holiday to Costa Rica four years ago and forgot to go home. He now works there as a musician. His debut novel, Cherub Valley, is available as an ebook here'.