156 David Horowitz on the Left


               Few thinkers understand the American Left as well as David Horowitz.  Reared in New York as a  “baby diaper” Communist, deeply committed to Marxism, in the ’60s he edited the most widely-read counter-cultural periodical, Ramparts Magazine, helping to inspire and orchestrate the anti-war movement of that era.  Making an about-face in the ’70’s, he has become a trenchant critic of today’s Left.  He fully understands the its ideology and knows personally many of its most prominent spokesmen.  Horowitz’s latest book, Unholy Alliance:  Radical Islam and the American Left (Washington, D.C.:  Regnery Publishing, Inc., c. 2004) provides readers a valuable analysis of the latest fluorescence of radicalism and its influence on the liberal mainstream of this nation. 

            The debris from the World Trade Towers had barely settled before Leftists began to blame America for both the murderous attacks and the manifold woes of the world.  Rather than condemn the murderous Moslem terrorists, intellectuals such as Susan Sontag and Barbara Kingsolver decried the “root causes” responsible for terror.  Activists   staged “peace vigils” and teach-ins” to protest America’s villainy as her troops attacked the Taliban tyrants in Afghanistan.  Columbia University Professor Eric Foner, an unabashed Marxist who was elected president of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians in the 1990s, declared:  “I’m not sure which is more frightening:  the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House'” (p. 15).  President Bush’s “Manichean vision” was “deeply rooted in our Puritan past and evangelical present,” Foner declared, making it the moral equivalent of the fanaticism of Osama bin Laden. 

            When the war against terror shifted to Iraq, the Left mounted a furious attack on President Bush.  Anti-war demonstrations, organized by International ANSWER (an openly Bolshevik-style group noted for its support for North Korea), featured speakers who called America a “rogue” or “terrorist” state and likened George Bush to Adolf Hitler.  “No Blood for Oil,” the protestors screamed.  A handful of Democratic Congressmen, such as John Conyers and Charles Rangel, supported these radical protests, and professors in hundreds of universities paraded to various podia to revive and revise the anti-Vietnam War rants of the ’60s.  Along with the war, the protestors reviled capitalism–specifically the “globalization” of detested companies such as Halliburton–and demanded the implementation of their utopian visions of “social justice.”  Consequently, militant Leftists in America have sided with Islamists abroad as part of their endeavor to radically change their own country.  The Marxist critique of America suffused the radical Islamicism of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and (subsequently) his protégé, Osama bin Laden.  When Iranian students took American embassy hostages in Teheran in 1979, they referred to the U.S. as the “Great Satan.”  Enjoying the support of Iran’s Communist Party, Khomeini adopted a Leninist approach to transforming Iran, establishing revolutionary tribunals, purging dissidents, making friends with the U.S.S.R.  The only free, democratic states in the Middle East, Lebanon and Israel (the “Little Satan”) were targeted for destruction.  Christian Lebanon–a jewel of freedom and prosperity in that region–was soon destroyed by Syria and the PLO. 

When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan and Iraq, aging anti-Vietnam War protesters, heeding the call of Ramsey Clark and others, found new life, flying the Palestinian Liberation Organization flag much as they did with the Vietnam flag decades ago.  Horowitz notes that youthful protesters, trashing cities such as Seattle, when they host meetings of the World Trade Organization, are manipulated by hard-core communists in groups like International ANSWER.  Allied organizations, including the Coalition for Peace and Justice, blessed by the National Council of Churches, have brought a religious fervor to the anti-war movement.  Horowitz adeptly traces its nihilistic views to their ideological source:  Karl Marx, who said, “Everything that exists deserves to perish” (p. 50).  Undaunted hate for what is, unmitigated hope for what is not but is to come, marks socialism.  Thus part of the socialist agenda includes an Anti-Americanism intent on replacing the American system with something akin to Cuba.  Leftists at the beginning of the 21st century illustrate an affinity with their 20th century predecessors, when, Whittaker Chambers said, “men banded together by the millions in movements like Fascism and Communism,” determined to undermine their own nations.  Consequently, “treason became a vocation whose modern form was specifically the treason of ideas” (p. 48).

            Many intellectuals on the Left take Noam Chomsky (a Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguist) as the North Star for the movement.  “No individual has done more to shape the anti-American passions of a generation,” says Horowitz.  Professors cite him, thousands of university students flock to his lectures, and he enjoys an enormous international reputation.  Anti-American Europeans take particular delight in citing his analyses.  Chomsky claims to be an anarchist and certainly advocates a nihilistic agenda:  destroy the United States, whose history is laced with little more than atrocities and genocide, and something better (precisely what, he never says) will replace it.  America is the “Great Satan” to Chomsky, and his venom inspires both critics and enemies of this country.  Less than two weeks after American forces invaded Afghanistan, for example, Chomsky told a friendly crowd that that the U.S. was the “greatest terrorist state” on the planet.  He also predicted that American troops would orchestrate a genocide, annihilating millions of civilians in that country.

            Aligned with Chomsky is Howard Zinn, whose “signature book, A People’s History of the United States is a raggedly conceived Marxist caricature that begins with Columbus and ends with George Bush.  It has sold over a million copies, greatly exceeding that of any comparable history text” (p. 102).  Praised by professors such as Eric Foner, Zinn has been feted by academics and touted by movie directors and music celebrities.  His historical treatise is required reading in hundreds of classrooms.  The New York Times Book Review endorsed it “as a step toward a coherent new version of American history.”  Zinn sees American history as a long record of injustice wherein the powerful have exploited the weak.  Indians, slaves, labor unionists, socialists, et al. have endured brutality throughout this nation’s history.  Following the lead of Chomsky and Zinn, “Entire fields–’Whiteness Studies,’ ‘Cultural Studies,’ ‘Women’s Studies,’ ‘African American Studies,’ and ‘American Studies,’ to mention some–are now principally devoted to this radical assault on American history and society and to the ‘deconstruction’ of the American idea'” (p. 106). 

            Veteran “movement” activists, such as Leslie Cagan, who brings 40 years of radicalism to her position as “national coordinator” for the Coalition united for Peace and Justice, celebrate the virtues of Communism.  She lived 10 years in Cuba, years that “made it seem like I died and went to heaven” (p. 173).   She and others in the current anti-war movement have embraced the cause of radical Islamists, ever supporting terrorists who are brought to trial, and rallying to the ACLU’s defense of Professor Sami al-Arian, who used his position at the University of South Florida to finance and promote terrorist groups such as Islamic Jihad.  One of the professor’s organizations, the Islamic Committee for Palestine, raised money to subsidize Palestinian “martyrs” by urging donations of  “‘$500 to kill a Jew'” (p. 190).  When the FBI arrested al-Arian, he instantly attained a “victim” status and was staunchly defended USF’s faculty union and the American Association of University Professors!

            Hysterical opposition to the Patriot Act is another Leftist trademark.  Bernardine Dohrn, who three decades ago helped lead the Weather Underground (responsible for bombings and various terrorist acts), is now a law professor at Northwestern University and enjoys the esteem of her colleagues in the American Bar Association.  In a 2003 article published in Monthly Review, a Marxist periodical, she urged resistance to the both American imperialism abroad and counter-terrorism at home.  She somberly warned against immanent McCarthy-type measures everywhere threatening our liberties–specifically evident in John Ashcroft’s moves against Islamic charities (clear channels, Horowitz says, for moving funds from the U.S. to Middle East terrorists). 

            Professor Dohrn’s views have been endorsed by prominent spokesmen in the Democratic Party.   House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Al Gore became stridently anti-Bush and anti-war as the war against Iraq developed.  Senator Ted Kennedy claimed that Bush and a cabal of conspirators concocted the plan for war in Texas in order to gain political advantages.  “This whole thing,” said Kennedy, “was a fraud” (p. 236).  Former President Jimmy Carter (revealing an affinity for the Left that would be manifestly evident when he sat in a special box with Michael Moore at the 2004 Democratic Convention) proclaimed positions that garnered for himself the Nobel Peace Prize.  Carter was praised by the Nobel Committee for “promoting social and economic justice” and condemning “the line the current U.S. Administration has take on Iraq” (p. 216).  Carter claimed that the Iraq war reversed 200 years of American foreign policy, which had “been predicated on basic religious principles, respect for international law, and alliances that resulted in wise decisions and mutual restraint” (p. 221).  All these principles, he said had been trampled under foot by George W. Bush. 

            In truth, Horowitz suggests, the anti-war movement has little to do with the specific situation in the Middle East.  It’s simply the latest edition of a century-long struggle between the socialist Left, committed to replacing the American system with a socialist utopia, and the patriotic (if oft-naïve) citizens who support their country’s economic and foreign policy traditions.

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            To understand Horowitz, reading a recent compilation of articles edited by Jamie Glazov, Left Illusions:  An Intellectual Odyssey (Dallas:  Spence Publishing Company, 2003) supplements his earlier autobiography, Radical Son.  The collection is taken from books and articles, often written for on-line publications such as salon.com and FrontPageMagazine.com.  The book features into ten sections, tying together essays on topics such as race, the new left, Antonio Gramsci (the Italian Communist who has deeply influenced American Leftists), the post-communist left, and the war on terror.  Introducing Horowitz, Glazov quotes Camille Paglia’s appraisal of him as an “original and courageous” thinker” whose “spiritual and political odyssey [will prove] paradigmatic for our time” (p. xii). 

That odyssey is documented by Glazov in a short essay, describing Horowitz’s role in shaping the ’60s generation, followed by his turn to conservatism.  He slowly realized, in the ’70s, that “social engineers could not reshape human nature,” one of the core Marxist dogmas, and that the Left’s rhetoric and aspirations were, sadly enough, sheer illusions.  He lost the faith that binds together the revolutionary left.   Reflecting on it, Horowitz believes Sigmund Freud rightly understood (in Civilization and Its Discontents) the problem.  Socialists dream of a beautiful world wherein love and justice reign.  Consequently, Horiwitz laments, socialism is “an adult fairy tale.  Socialism was a wish for the comforting fantasies of childhood to come true.  I had an additional thought:  the revolutionary was a creator, just like God.  Socialism was not only a childish wish, but a wish for childhood itself:  security, warmth, the feeling of being at the center of the world” (p. 100). 

            In a chapter entitled “The Road to Nowhere,” Horowitz develops the arguments of a Polish philosopher, Leszek Kolakowski, an eminent former Marxist, who said:  “‘The self-deification of mankind, to which Marxism gave philosophical expression, has ended in the same way as all such attempts, whether individual or collective:  it has revealed itself as the farcial aspect of human bondage'” (p. 126).  Kolakowsky clearly saw the deeply religious roots of Marxist ideology, an endeavor to end man’s estrangement and bring into being a “new man.”  Frankfurt School Marxists, such as Herbert Marcuse, derided the “commodity fetishism” of the capitalist system that resulted in a truncated “one dimensional” man.  But we now know the pervasive ills that have resulted wherever the Marxist recipe has been followed.  For example, in 1989, Soviet citizens ate half the meat Russians enjoyed in 1913 under the Czars.  When you’re not eating anything, “commodity fetishism” looks more like blessed abundance!  Tiny Taiwan and Switzerland each exported more manufactured goods than the Soviet Union, whose “factories” were models of inefficiency.  South African Blacks under apartheid “owned more cars per capita than did citizens of the socialist state” (p. 133).  The socialist hopes were all illusions. 

Since he apostatized, Horowitz has suffered endless, venomous attacks from his former colleagues.  This results, in part, from Horowitz’s thorough understanding of the cause he once championed.  He recognizes how constantly the Left indulges in “Telling It Like It Wasn’t.”  In an essay by this title he focuses on a PBS documentary, “1968:  The Year that Shaped a Generation,” which was virtually dictated by former leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society such as Tom Hayden, who now defend their ’60s radicalism as a species of liberal reformism.  But  Hayden misrepresents himself, Horowitz says, for:  “By 1968, Hayden was already calling the black Panthers ‘America’s Vietcong’ and planning the riot he was going to stage at the Democratic convention in Chicago that August” (p. 76).  That riot, as scripted by Hayden and the SDS, shattered the calm of the city.  Consequently Hubert Humphrey lost the presidential election.  That, in turn, “paved the way for a takeover of its apparatus by forces of the political left–a trauma from which the party has yet to recover” (p. 77).

            By 1974, new-style Democrats–Ron Dellums, Pat Schroeder, David Bonior, Bella Abzug–asserted themselves.  Having helped shape the anti-war movement, Horowitz knows that the slogan “Bring the Troops Home” was merely a cover for the real goal:  facilitating the victory of North Vietnam.  “Let me make this perfectly clear:  Those of us who inspired and then led the anti-war movement did not want merely to stop the killing, as so many veterans of the domestic battles now claim.  We wanted the communists to win” (p. 111).  Mounting evidence indicates that the war was not lost on the battlefields, where America could have prevailed and saved millions from Communism.  America lost the war because it lost the will to persevere.  Democrats thwarted Nixon’s efforts to establish a negotiated peace in Southeast Asia.  They cut off funds for South Vietnam and Cambodia and “precipitated the bloodbath that followed” (p. 78).  “The mass slaughter in Cambodia and South Vietnam from 1976 to 1978 was the real achievement of the New Left and could not have been accomplished without Hayden’s sabotage of the Humphrey presidential campaign and the anti-communist Democrats” (p. 78). 

            I’ve touched upon only a few of the themes Horowitz addresses in this book.  He has always been fiercely partisan, but, he says:  “I make no apologies for my present position.  My values have not changed, but my sense of what supports them and makes them possible has.  It was what I thought was the humanity of the Marxist idea that made me what I was; it is the inhumanity of what I have seen to be the Marxist reality that has made me what I am” (back cover). 

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            Horowitz and his long-term colleague Peter Collier have edited The Anti-Chomsky Reader (San Francisco:  Encounter Books, c. 2004) in an effort to expose the duplicity and destructiveness of one of the most influential members of the radical Left in America.  A MIT professor of linguistics, Chomsky early established his reputation as an academic.  Then, during the Vietnam War, he took center stage by writing impassioned indictments of America’s foreign policies.  “According to the Chicago Tribune, Chomsky is ‘the most cited living author’ and ranks just below Plato and Sigmund Freud among the most cited authors of all time” (p. vii).  In some circles he’s revered as one of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers, and he certainly has attracted multiplied thousands of devotees.  The “documentaries” of Michael Moore, the recent political machinations of billionaire George Soros, and web sites such as MoveOn.org. all reflect Chomsky’s views.  Horowitz and Collier contend, however, that Chomsky’s influence actually results from providing “an authentic voice to the hatred of America that has been an enduring fact of our national scene since the mid-1960s” (p. viii).  More perniciously, two linguists who have studied his academic work (Robert Levine of Ohio State University and Paul Postal of New York University) accuse him of “a deep disregard of, and contempt for, the truth; a monumental disdain for standards of inquiry; a relentless strain of self-promotion; notable descents into incoherence; and a penchant for verbally abusing those who disagree with him” (p. ix). 

            In the lead article of the collection, Stephen J. Morris, a Johns Hopkins University professor, accuses Chomsky of “Whitewashing Dictatorship in Communist Vietnam and Cambodia.”  Slighting scholarly literature, ignorant of the complex history of the region, Chomsky wrote about Vietnam on the basis of left-wing journalistic accounts and his own one-week visit to the country in 1970.  Applauding America’s withdrawal in 1974, he defended Communist rule in Vietnam in The Political Economy of Human Rights.  The book was, Morris says, “an attempt to reconstruct the anti-Western ideology of the New Left; it also is the most extensive rewriting of a period of contemporary history ever produced in a nontotalitarian society” (pp. 8-9).  More than ignoring the millions slaughtered as the Communists extended their control from Vietnam to Cambodia, Chomsky actually defended Pol Pot’s vicious regime by attempting to deny the genocide that transpired under its rule. 

            Thomas Nichols examines related issues in “Chomsky and the Cold War” and demonstrates the anti-American bias in his works, wherein he routinely delights to assert the moral equivalency of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.  During ’80s, he wrote with “almost pathological hostility” regarding President Reagan, dismissing him as an ignorant figurehead of a flawed Administration.  When Czechoslovakia’s courageous Vaclav Havel (an informed and articulate critic of socialism) spoke to the U.S. Congress in 1990, Chomsky called it an “embarrassingly silly and morally repugnant Sunday School sermon'” (p. 60).  Anti-Communist cold warriors were always wrong!

            In “Chomsky’s War Against Israel,” Paul Bogdanor documents the professor’s contempt for documentary evidence, making him an “intellectual crook” according to Arthur M. Schlesinger (p. 98).  Chomsky defended Yassar Arafat and the PLO and overlooked the genocidal rhetoric and terrorist attacks of Muslims.  Conversely, he routinely denounces Israel.  He ignored “the Saudi reaction to the capture of Adolf Eichhman, ‘who had the honor of killing five million Jews,’ or the Jordanian announcement that by perpetrating the Holocaust, Eichmann had conferred a real blessing on humanity,’ and that the best response to his trial would be ‘the liquidation of the remaining six million’ to avenge his memory” (p. 91).   Even more disturbing, in “Chomsky and Holocaust Denial,” Werner Cohn (a sociology professor at the University of British Columbia who has published a book-length study on the topic) charts links between Chomsky and a small coterie of European writers, including Israel Shahak, “the world’s most conspicuous Jewish anti-Semite” (p. 119) and Robert Faurisson, a neo-Nazi French writer. 

            These essays document what Horowitz labels Chomsky’s “Anti-American Obsession.” His life-long commitment to socialism has led him to support Marxist movements around the world, ignoring their failures while praising their objectives.  Even when forced to criticize certain glaring socialist catastrophes and brutalities, he laments them as forgivable failures to develop the socialist utopia of Chomsky’s dreams.  And that commitment explains the incessant Anti-Americanism which is perhaps the most distinguishing dimension of his writings.