The Black Book of the American Left, Volume I: My Life and Times dwelt heavily on author David Horowitz’s personal journey from the hard left as a “red diaper” child of Communists to leadership in the New Left movement. We followed the anguished transitional trajectory that began with Horowitz’s reflections on the New Left’s role in America’s Vietnam defeat, and his visceral recoil from the criminal excesses of the Black Panther Party. These attacks on his settled convictions provoked profound self-interrogation, leading to an intellectual pivot away from the theories, antipathies and loyalties that had for so long defined his identity.
Volume II surveys the wreckage blotting the landscape of “progressivism,” a barrier island to Communism’s landmass. Here we find the unbroken bridge linking Communism to the received wisdom of the vast majority of academics in the West, who download them into vulnerable students en masse. The Marxist vision that sustained Stalin’s supporters in the 1940s and 1950s is alive and well in the post-colonialist and identity obsessions of postmodern theorists. Utopians then, utopians still, Horowitz finds their vision of social justice is still attended by the same suppression of “incorrect” thought and speech, the same self-righteousness, the same illiberalism in dealing with critics and apostates that were – are – the hallmarks of Communism.
Progressives may refer to themselves as “liberals,” but that is a misnomer Horowitz strenuously proscribes. Classical liberalism in our culture was largely vanquished in the counter-cultural revolution, though the odd grey-haired academic adherent pops into view now and then, seeming baffled by what has become of the noble assumptions of his youth. Referring to leftists as liberals launders their intellectual and political lineage. Real liberals – especially liberal scholars – don’t excommunicate their peers for deviating from the party line. Communists did; New Leftists did (as Horowitz learned first hand when he left the movement and his entire circle of “friends” renounced him); and progressives still do.
Take the case of feminist scholar Aileen Kraditor, Professor Emerita of History at Boston University. Aileen who? Precisely Horowitz’s point. Even though much of my journalistic effort is spent in exposing the misandry and other cultural crimes springing directly from feminist theories, I had never heard of Aileen Kraditor prior to seeing her name in Volume I of The Black Book (she is mentioned again in Volume II).
According to Horowitz, Kraditor, a feminist historian in good – even iconic – standing during the years she was a card-carrying Communist, was virtually “disappeared” from the feminist movement when she renounced Communism. Horowitz provided a mere thumbnail sketch, praising her work, and explaining why this once-admired scholar of the suffragette movement now languishes in near-obscurity, but it was enough to pique my curiosity.