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Review: The Black Book of the American Left, Volume II

Rare intellectual strengths characterize the second volume of David Horowitz’s collected writings.

by
Janice Fiamengo

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May 16, 2014 - 12:01 am
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The first volume of David Horowitz’s nine-volume The Black Book of the American Left focused on the author’s personal journey out of the leftist faith and its community of adherents — a courageous, disorienting rejection of all he had once believed — and into a reasoned and pragmatic conservatism that has been his creed ever since. Analyzing the various forms of delusion, bad faith, and pathological self-hatred that leftism inspires and demands, the essays in that volume chronicled Horowitz’s decades-long crusade to unmask progressive fantasies to reveal their devastating real-world consequences. In documenting the monumental failures of leftist regimes and the illogic of leftist ideology, Horowitz’s writings have made a vital contribution to the conservative movement in America.

In the second volume of his oeuvre, Horowitz turns his attention to individual progressive, showcasing the destructive extremism and Communist roots of their so-called liberal beliefs (actually the opposite of “liberal” in both philosophy and political tactics) and revealing the deep anti-Americanism that has become a part of the Democratic agenda. Here, Horowitz documents the historical falsifications and distortions of purpose necessary to the left’s salvationist program. In essay after essay, his acute understanding of the leftist passions he once shared is arrestingly on display.

One of the particular strengths of Horowitz’s writing is his commitment to disabusing fellow conservatives and genuine liberals of false notions regarding leftists’ aims and beliefs. To this end, he is expert at revealing the obfuscatory rhetoric, deceptive use of terms, and outright falsehoods that are not only an occasional tactic but in fact an intrinsic feature of the progressive program. Thus Columbia University history professor Eric Foner, a founding member of Historians Against the War [in Iraq], can declare himself a “patriot” according to Paul Robeson’s definition that “The patriot is the person who is never satisfied with his country.”

Such a statement might seem to justify a stance of loyal opposition, and bolster Foner’s righteous self-image as a man of conscience. It takes a Horowitz to reveal, however, that Paul Robeson was a fanatical admirer of the Soviet Union and his attitude towards his own country was unrelentingly critical and destructive. Likewise, Professor Foner’s love of country has often been so bound up with corrosive dissatisfaction as to prevent him from taking its side when under attack. Only in the Alice-in-Wonderland progressive lexicon can a willingness — even eagerness — to see one’s country defeated by totalitarian foes be classed as a patriotic emotion.

As Horowitz demonstrates throughout this collection — chronicling in vivid detail the upside-down logic of so many leftist activists and intellectuals — such justifications are straight out of the Communist playbook, by which two generations of radicals “rationalized their disloyalty to America as a higher loyalty to the socialist revolution.” It is here that Horowitz’s familiarity with America’s Communist past enables him to puncture present-day progressive subterfuge. He shows how the Communist certainty that America’s future as a collectivist utopia was already determined has continued to galvanize modern progressives, for whom fanatical devotion to a future ideal, even if that means destroying a vibrant democratic nation, is indeed a higher loyalty.

As Horowitz reveals in his first-rate article on Wen Ho Lee, a nuclear weapons scientist who stole secrets about the U.S. nuclear program for China, and who was zealously proclaimed innocent by leftist journalist Bob Scheer, there is a significant “tolerance, sympathy, and even support for treason […] in the mainstream liberal culture.” Because leftism posits a future in which all imperfections will be abolished, the destruction of the present (imperfect) society is not only acceptable but necessary; and this is why, in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a significant anti-war movement could arise that focused its anger on America rather than on Islamic extremism, and that envisioned peace as occurring through the disappearance, not the survival, of the United States. Horowitz’s ability to reveal the commitment to America’s destruction at the bottom of progressives’ benign-seeming and peace-proclaiming bafflegab is a particularly salient contribution to conservatism.

Equally crucial is his tracing of the continuities between the Old Left and the New Left. What has changed about the progressive faith since the collapse of the Soviet Union is not any diminishment of revolutionary commitment, but instead an increase of utopian fervor in proportion to the abandonment of specific social and economic blueprints for change. The ragtag collection of eco-radicals, queer and feminist militants, class warriors, anarchists, Maoists and the like who make up the anti-war and Occupy movements has become a purely nihilistic phenomenon dedicated to destroying capitalism, with no clear idea of the preferred system that would replace it. As an example, Horowitz profiles acclaimed Communist historian Eric Hobsbawm, whose last book, Age of Extremes, provides a detailed defense of Communist ideals yet who has openly stated his continuing commitment to a project that, in his own words, “has demonstrably failed, and as I know now, was bound to fail.” What does it mean to remain committed to a system bound to fail? Through such a statement, Horowitz argues, Hobsbawm admits “the religious nature of radical beliefs” — in other words, the commitment to a world with no connection to reality.

Horowitz articulates the irrationality of such a commitment with salutary clarity: “So strong is the psychological need for the utopian illusion and its project of destruction, it does not matter to Hobsbawm that the noble future to which he devoted his life and talent did not work and could not have worked, or that when put into practice it created monstrous injustice.” The Left’s utopianism can countenance, and even long for, the defeat of America despite the fact (or because of the fact) that leftism can formulate no viable alternative. No wonder such beliefs are often impervious to reason.

In the individual profiles assembled in the volume, Horowitz documents in compelling detail the misrepresentations, aversion to reality, and vicious dishonesty that characterize many of the world’s most committed left intellectuals; and he shows, disturbingly, how their lies are allowed to pass as truth by a complicit media and academic culture. An incisive essay on Noam Chomsky, “Guru of the American Left,” picks apart the multiple distortions and shocking fabrications in What Uncle Sam Really Wants, Chomsky’s tendentious account of American foreign policy since the Second World War; Horowitz decisively rebuts Chomsky’s ludicrous claims concerning American pro-Nazism and U.S. support for murderous regimes. And yet Chomsky, who has justified al-Qaeda’s attacks by proclaiming the United States to be the greatest terrorist entity in the world, and who actually visited New Delhi and Islamabad after 9/11 to stir up hatred and encourage attacks on American soil, is widely lauded and influential, perhaps the most important public intellectual alive today.

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Gnosticism is far more pernicious than you state, BuckWheat, but you are correct that its foundational ideas and rhetorical strategies date back to Classical Greece.

Gnosticism emerged in the early centuries AD as a radical inversion of Chistianity. The gnostics claimed that once there was the Eternals, but that one of them, named Elohim or Yaweh in the Old Testament (there are two different narratives interwoven in the Bible), rose up and created the material cosmos, trapping all the other Eternals in the dungeon of matter.

The gnostics believed there remains a divine spark of an Eternal within every created being. They argued that Jesus was not the Son of God, but an Aeon, a special power, sent from Eternity, to reveal a secret knowledge, gnosis, that would allow Man to cast off the prison of matter and free the divine spark within him.

So, basically, the gnostic texts claim that God is a tyrant, that the Creation is evil, that the physical world is a dungeon, and that the only way to free the divine spark imprisoned within is through gnosis, understanding the secret knowledge the Aeon revealed.

It was a quite popular mythology in the early years of Christianity, and there were several sects, among them the Zoroastrians. You could call it comic book Christianity. It was refuted by Augustine in the late 300s, around the time Jerome translated the Bible into Latin in 383.

In fact, it was the gnostic texts that caused the formation of the Bible. There were all these texts and sects, and the Church had to determine what was true and what was false. So, the Church leaders convened a council and agreed on a test, the test of roots and fruits. If a text could be traced back to one of the Apostles, it passed the test of roots. If a text revealed the Gospel as taught by Jesus, it passed the test of fruits. The Book of Timothy, for example, one of the many gnostic texts, passed neither, which is why it isn't included in the Bible. And so gnosticism was refuted and the Bible was codified.

But you're right, the gnostic heresy exists to this day, and it manifests itself on the left. From the Gnostics to Rouseau to Hegel to Marx to Obama, who presented himself as a new messiah, the heresy persists. You might recognize the Matrix triology as a high-tech retelling of gnosticism on the big screen.

But, hey, anything to undermine and invert Christianity, right? It's even infected the Church, what with liberation theology, which is nothing more than communism dressed as Christianityl. And that was started by Jesuits!

I haven't read this book by Horowitz. I have read others, and I did read his interview with Rush on this book in the Limbaugh Letter. No one understands the left better than Horowitz. He knows how they think. He knows how they argue. He concentrates maily on their communist origins and their propaganda, but he has not yet identified the gnostic elements of those origins. I applaud you for doing that, but the problem is far more serious than you think.

It's inversion rhetoric. Simply turn everything upside down and throw a fit. It's as simple and as pernicious at that. Good is evil, right is wrong, it runs the gamut.

27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Leftism is a religion in the deepest sense. It seeks to allow humanity to transcend mortality and achieve spiritual perfection. It is the modern manifestation of maybe the oldest religious lineage in human history: gnosticism.

Gnoticism teaches that human spirit was God, was cast to earth as a million points of light and is now trapped in the evil material. Only through the sufficient knowledge, can we return to be God. The process of being removed from God is called "alienation", a theme that should be familiar to students of Marx, even as he put a secular interpretation on it. Humanity could return to God when it achieved the perfect socialist condition. The foundational ideas of Gnosticism go back to the time of Plato.

Here is a succinct explanation of this process from British philosopher R.T. Allen:


"To understand [alienation] we have to go back behind Hegel, the immediate
source of Marx's ideas, to Hegel's own ultimate source: viz. Gnosticism.
For alienation is the central theme of Gnosticism, along with the
saving knowledge of how we became alienated, and from what, and of
how we can escape from it. That theme is summarized in the Valentinian
formula:

'What liberates is the knowledge of who we were, what we became;
where we were, whereinto we came; what birth is and what rebirth.'

All the Gnostic texts, though they differ in details, declare that we are
strangers, aliens, sparks of Light or Spirit trapped in evil matter. They
recount the cosmic process whereby the circles of the world have been
created, by ignorant or evil creators and not by the Light, and whereby
we have become entrapped in the midmost or deepest dungeon. Finally
they impart the knowledge needed to escape back to the one Light
whence we have come and which is our real home.

This is the pattern of thought that Hegel took over. But, rejecting all
other-worldliness, he sought to reconcile men to this world, of nature
and society, from which they had become estranged. We are the vehicles
of a self-creating Geist which, in order to become and to know
itself, has gone out into what is most alien to itself—the merely physical
world of Newtonian science—and is progressively coming thence to its
full self-realization and self-knowledge in and through human life and
history. With this knowledge, given by Hegel's own philosophy, man's
alienation from the world is in principle, overcome although Geist has
not yet fully realized itself in the world.

Marx took from Hegel two basic themes of Gnosticism, which Hegel
had secularized, and re-interpreted them in his own way: viz. the
cosmic drama of a fall into alienation from nature and one's fellow men,
and the saving knowledge, Marxism, which explains this and the way
out of alienation back to an unalienated existence. But in one central
respect Marx did not fully learn the lesson that Hegel had to teach him
about modifying ancient Gnosticism.

The Gnostic texts state that we are sparks of Light or fragments of
Spirit (pneuma), and imply that we are distinct from each other and
from the Light or Spirit only because of our fall or seduction into the
circles of the world. As we fell through each circle, we were clothed
with an outer covering. The return to the Light will be a reversal of that
process, so that, as we pass back through each circle we shall strip off
each coating. Consequently, but this is never stated, as far as I know, at
the end of that process each spark or fragment will cease to be distinct
and will merge back into the One Light or Spirit. Hence the End will be
the same as the Beginning."

From Flew, Marx and Gnosticism, by R.T. Allen,
Philosophy Vol 68, No 263, (Jan, 1993),
pp. 94-98
The full article is available on Jstore and others behind a paywall.

("Flew" is Antony Flew, 1923-2010, a British philosopher)



see also:

Marx as Millennial Communist by Murray N. Rothbard
http://mises.org/daily/3769
or
http://mises.org/journals/rae/pdf/R4_5.pdf

Early Secular Communism by Murray N. Rothbard
http://lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard294.html

27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Chomski and his ilk are treasonous commies who belong in a pile at the bottom of a wet ditch….
Its time we start applying the same tactics to THEM they freely espouse should be done to us.
Tit for tat, blow for blow, kidnappings, reprisals the whole enchilada.
You want to talk the talk, then bring it Fat Man.
Only thing is, Professor, I don’t think you and your kind can tie your own shoes…
But we’re all pretty good with our hands...
So lets play this little game, shall we?
I cant wait.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, it's what happens when you've got Humanities teachers teaching Marx...

As the poem on Marx's grave has it, give him your tired faculty members (taught four whole hours last week), your poor graduate student (good luck with that Humanities degree, bud), your huddled undergraduates yearning to get laid...
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Forget Marx, this is precisely what happens when you let the likes of Rousseau, Voltaire, and Diderot have even a minor influence on the education system. Voltaire actually had created schools, books, and took over the French Academy specifically to propagate anti-Christian rhetoric, as Timothy Dwight made clear in his speech.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Leftism/communism is NOT a religion and as a religious person I'm offended by the notion. The root of leftism is uber anti-religious and anti-God. This is what motivates them. Apply other spiritual aspects and personalities to this idea if that suits you.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not so. Most socialism I've encountered or experienced stems from the Christian concept of charity, warped by a controlling personality. It's no surprise that Socialism occurs mainly in what are very strongly religious groups. See South America for the perfect example, and many places in Europe.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's a satirical jab because political correctness is based on faith in a Messiah no one has ever seen. That faith of course lies in the equality of the Third World. The jarring truth is Leftists wouldn't and don't use their cultural relativism in reality any more than conservatives do. Show me one liberal who'd have Brazilian armies guard their families because they're just as good as Americans and I'll show you a liar.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Of course it's not. The issue here is it turns out to be because it acts as and has all the tennents of one.

Get it now?

Put your self-righteous offense back under your blankie now and go back to sleep.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
The title, The Black Book of the American Left, ironically misses the boat, since this is not fundamentally about communism/socialism/Marxism, but about the straightline journey from Critical Pedagogy to Critical Race Theory to intersectional QUILTBAG feminism.

In short: they don't like whites, and that has been successfully mainstreamed by utilizing a legitimate reaction to Jim Crow to hide and then promote racism across 6 decades.

The Dem Party is making no secret of their interests and priorities. You just have to read them. That commie stuff, though still an undercurrent, is as old hat as Ozzie and Harriet. This isn't that fight - not at all.

Zinn? Modern leftism doesn't care about Zinn. He's just another straight white man - an ally at best.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
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