The Left’s Ruling Ideas
“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.”