Note: This report on my remarks has to be taken with a large grain of salt, as should be evident by the text. Please read my letter to the editor of the Harvard Crimson. David Horowitz
THE DANGEROUS BELIEFS OF THE NEW LEFT are destroying American universities, according to neo-conservative author David Horowitz, who spoke to around 40 people in Harvard Hall last night.
The address was co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe College Democrats, the Harvard-Radcliffe Republican Club, the Young Socialist League, and the Young America's Foundation.
Co-organizer Clark R. Bowers, a former Schwarz Visiting Fellow at Harvard, said Horowitz was at one time "one of the two or three most important leaders of the New Left, by any count." Bowers said Horowitz's ideas, detailed in his autobiography Radical Son, are "intriguing . . . because he had gone across the political spectrum."
Joseph N. Sanberg '00, president of the College Democrats, said his hope was "to foster open dialogue. We're very comfortable with our own philosophy."
Horowitz said the New Left philosophy starts from the idea that "we all live under an oppressive regime, ruled by an alien power, the Ruling Class." This belief, he said, leads to the assumption that "if you're decent and believe in human progress, you must be at war with the oppressive power, which is called the 'patriarchy' or 'institutional racism' today."
"No group is oppressed by another group in America today," Horowitz said. "One of the most terrible things the Left has done" has been through affirmative action "to take an achieving black middle class, and undermine its achievement," he said.
Horowitz said the Left believes in "a fantasy, a crypto-religion. It doesn't believe in a divinity, but in itself." The Left's vision, he said, "is about transformation, to achieve a heaven on earth."
He said this is why New Leftists "lose sight of the real problems."
"The cry of 'racism' takes everyone's eyes away from the failure of the inner-city schools," he said.
Horowitz said the New Left "believes you can change social institutions to change people."
"Inside every Leftist lurks a totalitarian," he said.
Horowitz also criticized Harvard for its complacency with the Left. "If I were black, Communist, spent my time serving police states and receiving awards from them like Angela Davis, I would be received with a red carpet by the Harvard administration," he said.
He also cited the wealth and influence of Oprah Winfrey over millions of people as evidence that American society "allows a woman who grew up as a sharecropper's daughter, in the most racist state in the country, to rise to a position of power over the people who would have been her 'oppressors' a generation ago."
Horowitz said he realized the Left's answer would be that Winfrey is "a token." However, Horowitz countered, "Oprah Winfrey isn't a token Cornel West is a token. He's an empty intellectual suit, he's not that smart, and he got his place because of the scramble for black faces in the university by the liberal administration."
"The universities," he added, "are the most retrograde institutions in American society. They are the least free, and the most segregated."
Bowers said memos were sent to a number of Harvard departments, including Philosophy, Government, and Afro-American Studies, inviting their faculty to come and respond to Horowitz. However, no department faculty attended the event. Co-organizer Bradley L. Davis '00, a former vice president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Republican Club, said he was hoping "there would be a lot of different people attending. We want [Horowitz] to be challenged," he said.
Students who attended the speech had varied opinions on Horowitz's ideas.
Gareth E. Driver '01 said "I think [Horowitz] was most powerful in his critique of the New Left, and his personal experience. His analysis of contemporary politics was not always as penetrating. Sometimes he seemed inclined to turn a blind eye to the sins of conservatism."
John D. D'Amore '02, who said he is a liberal, said while Horowitz "tries to make reasonable points," he was also "slanderous about the liberal position. He didn't attack the positions of the Left, but stereotypes. . . . I don't support Marx's violent overthrow of the system, and I don't believe that all liberals do either."