Frontpage Interview is joined today by Frontpage’s founder and editor-in-chief David Horowitz to discuss his new book Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left. One of the founders of the New Left movement in the 1960s, he is a best-selling author, a lifelong civil rights activist, and today the president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.
FP: Welcome Mr. Horowitz. First let me congratulate you that Unholy Alliance has, at this moment, reached to 20 on the Amazon list -- out of several million books. What do you think accounts for this remarkable success?
Horowitz: Well, let's not get carried away here. The key here will be sustaining the success before concluding that it is remarkable. Nonetheless this book has started out with greater velocity than my previous books, which I suspect has to do with its subject matter. Everyone knows there is something strange going on when large numbers of individuals are protesting a war that liberated 25 million people from a sadistic monster, and when the Democratic Party has opted out of a war that we are winning and that we have to win.
FP: Ok, let’s begin. What inspired you to write this book?
Horowitz: In some ways, this is a book I was born to write. It distills more than fifty years of experience in the left or studying the left. I was struck by the audacity of radicals I had known in volunteering to be frontier guards first for the Taliban and then for Saddam Hussein. It was one thing to work as overt or surrogate allies of the Communist enemy. After all the Communists claimed to stand for social justice and other radical fantasies. But here were regimes and enemies who were Islamic and fascist fanatics and would as soon saw the heads of Medea Benjamin and Leslie Cagan -- two of the leftist organizers of the protect Saddam movement -- as give them the time of day. Why would people who thought of themselves as "progressives" and champions of human rights -- and these include many of my former friends -- volunteer so readily to put their bodies on the line to defend the forces of such primitive evil? That was one of the questions I set out to answer with this book. Another was how the hard left had managed to take so much of the "soft" left with it.
FP: Unholy Alliance touches on a truly bizarre contemporary phenomenon: the Left’s partnership with militant Islam. Islamism is a totalitarian ideology that extinguishes women’s rights, gay rights, democratic rights, and numerous other rights that are supposedly at the core of leftist ideology. Yet the Left has enthusiastically embraced this fascist despotism. Illuminate for us a bit the ingredients of this leftwing mindset.
Horowitz: In a long section called "The Mind of the Left" I attempt to describe its evolution from the Communist heyday to the present. I deliberately did not pick an easy (because mindless) target like Michael Moore, but selected figures like Eric Hobsbawm, Gerda Lerner, Noam Chomsky, Eric Foner and even Todd Gitlin, a leftist despised by the radicals themselves for his decent instincts, to show how a broad and in many ways intelligent cross-section of the left could be of a common mind-set. This common mind-set is a view of their own (democratic) homeland in terms that allow them to lend their support to Saddam Hussein by obstructing America's war to overthrow him. Allow me to say here, before I go any further, that I do not put all critics of the war in this category. It is possible to criticize the war as tactically unwise, as risky over-reach and so forth. What the above named individuals have in common is a view of America that is so negative that it approximates the image of the Great Satan that motivates the terrorist savages who want to kill us.
In describing the evolution of the left from Communist progressivism to contemporary anti-war progressivism I come to two conclusions. First that there hasn't been much of an evolution. The analysis of America that drives the left today -- even leftists as otherwise sensible and "democratic" as Todd Gitlin -- is remarkably similar to the views of America held by Stalinists fifty years ago (and of Hamas and al-Qaeda as expressed in their manifestos) . Of course they don't use quite the same language as the Stalinists or the Islamo-fascists. But the bottomline differences are really quite small. In all of their analyses of American history, there is the "genocide" of the Indians, the rape of the Africans, the oppression of the workers, and the imperialist crusade waged by evil corporations in quest of world domination -- in short the same mythology that one finds in Lenin and Stalin and Mao and Fidel and Osama bin Laden in their indictments of America and the West. And if this doesn't lead them to fly hostage filled planes into tall building, it does prompt them to find excuses for those who do, and for attempting to disarm the victims instead of defending them.
The second conclusion I come to is that the driving force of this leftism is a nihilistic assault on America rather than a positive agenda of socialist construction as was evident in the past. There is no unifying agenda or theme that solidifies the current leftist movement, a fact that often causes people on the left to claim that there is no left, absurd as that may sound. What actually unifies them is their hatred for the United States as it exists in the present. It is much like the election: they don't much like Kerry, but they passionately want to get rid of Bush. In the same way, they may not like the Islamic fascists (although many of them actually do), but they passionately want to get rid of the corporations whom they see as predators but who in fact organize what is the most prosperous, the most democratic, the most egalitarian societies that have ever existed.
FP: In your book, you demonstrate how the Left turned the Democratic Party presidential campaign around and reshaped its views on the War on Terror. Why do you think the Left has such a stranglehold on the Democratic Party? What do you think is the future of this party?
Horowitz: I describe in the book how this happened and I won't spoil the story by telling it here. However, I will say that the left has been taking control of the Democratic Party apparatus for more than thirty years ever since the McGovern campaign. The catastrophe of the Communist dream acted as a check on their arrogance for awhile. (And don't kid yourself, every progressive in one way or another thought of the Soviet Union as a progressive state that would evolve into a worthy future no matter how flawed they might have thought it. They did not disown "actually existing socialism" until it disowned itself. Up to the fall of the Berlin Wall they were prepared to defend it against the real villain, the United States. They were anti-anti-Communists; in other words, they knew who the enemy was, and it was us.) But a decade of low profile organizing in the Clinton era, and then the assault of 9/11 which they saw as the revenge of the Third World and the Iraq War (and which they as an Imperialist strike) and the fact that they then got away with attacking their own country under attack has emboldened and inspired them. Maybe it was the fantasy of the return of Vietnam that did it. In any case, they have openly revealed their power -- in the streets, in the media, and in the Democratic Party electoral apparatus -- and I hope my book has documented it enough for all to see. As to their future, I am sure a reckoning is coming at the polls. It may not be this election and it may be this election. But it will come. The Democratic Party are too far removed from reality for this reckoning to be delayed much longer.
FP: Like it does now, the Left sided with a totalitarian entity throughout the 20th century: Soviet communism. All historical evidence and empirical reality has completely delegitimized the Left’s position in the Cold War – which entailed siding with genocidal, despotic, sadistic and vicious enemies. And yet, as you point out, the Left remains completely unchastened and simply continues its same behavior. All that has changed is that Islamism has filled the void of communism. Why do you think the Left is so incapable of reflecting on its own record and mistakes?
Horowitz: As I have pointed out in all of my works, the left is really a crypto-religion; it is a collective delusion. It is based on the inability of its adherents to come to terms with the real world, the actually existing world, with their own mortality, with human limits. Leftists -- as I show in this book through analyses of the self-revealing memoirs of Eric Hobsbawm and Gerda Lerner -- leftists who are honest with themselves-- admit that they cannot live without the illusion of a social redemption, even if it is not anchored in any reality. They need to believe in a future redemption that will bring socialist world (or a world of social justice) to pass. This fantasy is as necessary to them as the air they breathe. But it is this fantasy of a redeemed world that also creates their hatred for the one they live in.
FP: Thank you Mr. Horowitz, we are out of time for this segment. We'll continue the second part of this interview tomorrow in our Friday issue. I welcome all of our readers to join us then. Take care for now. (To see Part II click here)
Get your copy of David Horowitz's new book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, for only $18 from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore.