on July 30, 2004
David Horowitz provides the reader with a unique perspective of political life on both the left and the conservative right. For half of his life he was one of the most prominent American leftists. He helped establish the New Left - a movement that sought to dissociate the socialist dream from the gulags of Stalin - and committed himself in various ways to its cause: organizing the first anti-war rally at Berkeley, editing the left's most definitive periodicals, and aiding such organizations as the Black Panthers. Personal tragedy (the murder of a close friend at the hands of the Black Panther, and the subsequent cover-up by the entire left community) made him deeply question his ideological commtiments, and after a period of several years, he emerged again as a figure of the conservative right.
It is a sad fact about the state of political discourse (especially on college campuses) that people of the left automatically brand people of the right as racists, bigots, fascists and sexist pigs. Read this book - it will disabuse you of such preposterous notions (if you indeed believe in them). Though there are certainly prominent right wing nuts (usually derided by other conservatives) you will quite clearly see the left's utter hypocrisy in levelling these accusations. With a clear, rational analysis - supported by facts - and made very readable by his lucid writing, Horowitz covers a broad range of issues in his debate with the left. He writes of their willingness to support the world's most oppressive regimes, and downplay or turn a blind eye to the deaths of millions (such as after the Vietnam War, the slaughter by the North Vietnamese government and also Pol Pot's regime - under these regimes, more Indochinese countrymen died in three years than they had in the thirteen prior years of war). He discusses the untenable nature of the socialist dream and how that dream has assumed various guises both before and after the fall of the Soviet Union; the Marxist doctrine is bound to be destructive when applied to the real world, as predicted even by contemporaries of Marx and seen by every regime that has espoused those doctrines (though again, the left pointedly does not learn from history and the deaths of millions and the oppression of millions more). There are essays on the dominance of the left in our culture, particularly in academia, where college conservative groups receive contempt and scant funding from administrators and other student groups, and professors regularly teach only the left side of the argument and demand that students adhere to left opinions while writing assignments for class; I had known of the bias on campuses before reading this book, but reading the statistical figures and personal experiences shocked me - so many college students graduate without being encouraged in independent thought and inquiry and without ever hearing both sides of the debate. You will also be able to read Horowitz's debate on the reparations issue (one of the many debates in which his opponents unfairly smeared him); here you can see what he actually wrote and judge for yourself.
The compilation of essays and excerpts, taken from an assortment of Horowitz's work, will show you his progression from radical leftist to conservative. Conservatives are for the most part a diverse body of people committed to a kind of classic liberalism: upholding private property, wishing for less government interference in private life, and supporting individual rights and individual enterprise.
on December 22, 2003
While this latest effort from the prolific Horowitz certainly contains autobiographical material, as one would expect of a book that follows an activist's ideological journey, it is really much more than that. The scope of the chapters range from the very specific (e.g., the propriety of reparations) to the demonstrated failings of ultra liberal, socialist or communist policies over the past century(as well as where they may well take us in the future if allowed to flourish). Conservatives will find their beliefs & suspicions reinforced by much of what the author writes. His appeal, however, lies not in simply stating time-worn principles from Conservatism 101. Horowitz has an uncanny knack for demanding of liberals the same consistency--in their theories/policies and the application of them--that they demand of others. He exposes demonstrably false assumptions, shows how they corrupt otherwise worthy goals, and in many instances work against the end they seek to achieve.
If there is one book I would buy in a minute after having read this one, it is a genuine, intellectually honest literary effort by Horowitz's opponents that exposes the factual or logical errors in Left Illusions. I suspect it would be a daunting task. I do not expect to see one. It is much easier to stick a label on someone, whether it be an accurate one or not, than take on discomforting facts that don't accommodate one's worldview. Horowitz has devoted countless hours and hundreds of pages documenting the errors of his past; not so much what he wanted for his fellow man, but how best it could be achieved. It's too bad some people are more interested in silencing or marginalizing him than in rebutting him and his work. I do understand their reluctance to take on that assignment, however. Name-calling has always been easier than debating.
on January 5, 2004
I spent all weekend reading this book and could not put it down. The insights into the root causes of leftist illusions are fascinating, and are backed up by an awesome display of scholarly knowledge.
The book starts off slowly as it features some essays from Horowitz's past, but that really allows the plot to thicken in a sense, as the reader becomes engrossed in what amounts to a sort of ideological detective story as Horowitz investigates both his own motives and reasoning as well as that of his fellow leftists as he gradually frees himself from his enthrallment to Communism, then from Socialism, and finally from the left as a whole.
This is a must read for someone who is willing to look beneath the surface of politics to try and understand what makes the whole thing tick.
on January 3, 2004
This is the first of Horowitz' books that I've read, and to anyone similarly unfamiliar with his writing it will serve as an important introduction and guide to the evolution of his thought over the past four decades. The work includes essays on his philosophical beginnings as a 'red diaper' baby, his intimate and instrumental involvement with the New Left, his principled and forceful repudiation and break with it, but it also extends to theoretical critiques of Marxism and can serve as supplemental reference to readers of any ideological orientation. The essays also cover his firsthand experiences with subjects that are currently hotly debated and matters of daily news coverage, especially his well-documented and controversial travels to college campuses throughout the United States. Horowitz' perspective is firsthand, his reasoning is clear and lucid, and his moral concern with the reconciliation of the past to the present is powerfully and honestly conveyed. This book will be valuable to any student or reader interested in the philosophical, cultural and political currents and countercurrents of the past forty years in America, and should be included at any University that suggests a reading list to undergraduates. Horowitz presents compelling and thoughful essays on subjects ranging from Solzhenitsyn to Martin Luther King, the Arab/Israeli conflict to the Reparations movement, from the War on Terror to the cultural battles being fought on college campuses, always with an eye toward historical context, personal significance, and the interrelationships between these subjects. My only serious criticism, which others here have stated, is that some of the material has previously been made available in other media. However, as a compendium of his thought, a wide-ranging survey of Horowitz' controversial views, and a forceful argument in favor of conservative principles, the book is well worth owning. As Horowitz says, he makes no apologies for his current position. The index, select bibliography, and footnotes by themselves are worth the cover price. I highly recommend this book to anyone concerned with the politics of our time, written from a perspective of principled dissent.
on January 5, 2004
What seems to bother the left so much about Horowitz is they have a difficult time using their typical propaganda to marginalize him. (Typical propaganda includes any way the left can tear a person's ideas down for an irrelevant reason -- for example: He's religious!; His ancestors owned slaves!: His family owned an "evil corporation!") One reviewer tries this tactic, but the only thing he can spew is that Horowitz was somehow disrespectful to his deceased parents in an earlier book. (Of course, Horowitz was not disrespectful, but this is how most of the left operates because they have little or no valid critique and certainly have no ideas.)
Generally, conservatives come by their beliefs through honest, organic intellectual analysis. However, liberals can never acknowledge this because to do so would expose the truth that fair, intellectual quest is the almost exclusive province of the right, while the left relies on indoctrination, brainwashing, and intimidation to create lemmings and keep them in the "talking points" fold. This is why communist regimes execute and imprison educated persons with anti-communist points of view. This is the same reason the left wants to teach 1st-graders that homosexuality is a "natural" alternative, that America (and particulary Republicans) are going to destroy earth through global warming, etc.
Horowitz's clean, clear thinking is too much for the liberal who wants to stay brainwashed.. More important, it is a challenge to the conservative to keep the mind sharp.
on December 1, 2003
David Horowitz is amazing in his passion for political truths and his intellectual honesty. He spoke out when no one would against the left and their mixed-up visions of a socialist utopia on earth. He is brave, brilliant and an excellent writer!
on January 4, 2004
I have been an enthusiastic Horowitz fan for some years now. I've read every book, and followed his career from a small indepedent magazine to this wonderful book. I respect him because he has sat on both sides of the aisle. This book is a great culmination of all his work. David exposes the Black Panthers for the murderous marxists that they were, and uncovers the dishonesty and hypocrisy of liberalism. This book is highly concentrated and, much like his other books, is full of shocking details and stories. Horowitz is one of the greatest intellectuals in politics today because he has seen it all, he pays attention, and devotes great sincerity to his work.
This is a thoughtful piece. I was disappointed when it ended. From Ramparts to Left Illusions, Horowitz brings light to a very darkened truth. You will find yourself completely engrossed in this book, chapter by chapter, one unveiled lie to the next, one stunning truth to the next, observation and clear logic. David is making great contributions, and this book is another notable source. I applaud him for his brilliance in writing and oration, the work he does with SAF, and his bravery and dedication to dismantling the lies and offering truth.
Thank you David.
on February 11, 2004
As I read the author's accounts (actually a series of personal essays) of his gradual transformation from radical to conservative I found myself reliving my own metamorphosis, albeit with a blander backdrop.
Horowitz writes lucidly without resorting to diatribe. He is far from a party hack which Orwell, whom he often cites in this work, would have appreciated. He is incisive and passionate in his views without resorting to polemics. Above all, he is logical and informed in his opinions by good old common sense.
His essay on the lack of diversity on college campuses, especially as it relates to the funding and support for student organizations, is alone worth the price of the book. He makes a very compelling case for the left-wing McCarthyism that now pervades academia.
The book is arranged chronologically, allowing the uninitiated reader to consider his ideological transition in the historical context of contemporary American life.
Unfortunately, while this work should be required reading in many an undergraduate political course, it isn't likely to see the light of day in the halls of ivy, reconfirming the author's belief that most academics no longer sift and winnow in their supposed search for truth and illumination.
Horowitz is an intellectual in the best sense of the word and this work (among dozens he has scribed) will prove seminal in cementing his reputation for some future generation not chained to political correctness.
on January 5, 2004
Excellent, passionate, meticulously well-reasoned. No one gets to the heart of the matter like David Horowitz. Should be required reading in every political science or American history course
on May 25, 2004
David's journey was a remarkable one. A full life that has brought him from the communist party to conservative activist. Although this book is more of a biography and life-story, the ideas he expoused decades ago are still important to him today. he just realized that the liberal ways of confronting problems usually do not work, and can make things worse, even though their intentions are good. For instance, conservatives have been labeled as uncaring of the poor and the 'welfare mothers' and demonized for wanting to take away their benefits when they pushed the Welfare Reform Act. However, with Bill Clinton's help, that Act has delivered the lowest rate of poverty in minority single-parent homes since Welfare was initiated -- even during this latest recession. David has realized that conservatives did not 'hate' the poor, but knew that Welfare was a trap to keep them poor and keep voting Democratic. Once he realized this as well as other political beliefs, he realized that conservatives do care as much about these things as liberals do; they just disagree on how to fix them. A very interesting read, more than just a reaffirmation of the conservative's ideals.