A Witness, Part II
The meaning of David Horowitz


Editor’s Note: This year and next will see the publication of The Black Book of the American Left: The Collected Conservative Writings of David Horowitz. There will be ten volumes in this collection, each having a theme. The general theme of the collection is the American Left, from which Horowitz sprang. The first volume, now available, is called “My Life and Times.” Jay Nordlinger’s piece will be in three installments, the first of which we published yesterday, here.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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