Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey by David Horowitz
About the Author
David is now a prominent champion of academic freedom and political diversity on college campuses through his organization, the David Horowitz Freedom Center (which I am a small contributor to).
Father’s Side of the Family
Paternal grandfather: Morris (Moishe) Horowitz was a tailor in Mozir in Western Ukraine. Morris and his wife Anna left Russia 1905 and emigrated to the United States. In New York City he worked in the garment industry at a sweatshop. Morris and Anna lived at first in the Lower East Side, later moving to Yorktown Heights. Their son Phil (Fivel) Horowitz suffered from childhood rickets due to malnutrition. In 1932 the New York Teachers Union organized a trip to the Soviet Union that Phil partook of. The Bolsheviks put on a false show of worker prosperity for the visitors.
Mother’s Side of the Family
Blanche’s father was Sam Braunstein, who walked from Vaslui, Rumania to Amsterdam, where he took a ship to America. The Braunstein family split into Stones and Browns. The Stones opened a chain of stores. Blanche’s mother was Rose Abramowitz. Blanche Brown obtained a law degree from Hunter College. Blanche met Phil Horowitz at Seward Park High School, where Phil taught English, and Blanche taught stenography and typing.
Red Diaper Baby
David was born in New York City in 1939 to Phil Horowitz and and Blanche (Brown) Horowitz. Family conversation at home were mostly about politics, rather than about family life. Phil Horowitz was lonely, unhappy, and felt insignificant. Being part of a political movement gave his life meaning. The parents attended neighborhood cell meetings of the Communist Party. Even when speaking only with each other, the neighborhood Communists called themselves Progressives not Communists. Blanche’s younger brother Harold was a Trotskyite, with whom David enjoyed political discussions. David’s family watched Soviet propaganda films at a neighborhood cinema. The Communist Party had its own summer camp called Wo-Chi-Ca for Workers Children’s Camp.
The 1956 The Khrushchev Report, admitting to Stalin’s atrocities, caused widespread disaffection among American Communists and sympathizers. David struggled to find a way to continue to believe in socialism, because socialism was the only philosophy he knew that provided one with a moral code and which promoted justice.
Leaving the Communist Party
Phil Horowitz lost his job as a public school teacher when he refused to answer whether he was a member of the Communist Party. Phil was bothered by the fact that the Soviet Union would not let him proudly proclaim his belief in Communism and felt badly treated by the Party. He eventually left the Communist Party. The Communist Party treated many loyal members badly, including John Lautner, Albert Maltz, and Bella Dodd. Blanche Horowitz also lost her teaching job, but afterwards things looked up for her. She obtained a degree in library sciences and founded the Margaret Sanger Research Library.
Berkeley and the New Left
After graduating from Columbia University, David pursued a masters degree at the University of California at Berkeley. While at Berkeley in the early 1960s, David helped create the New Left. He sought a path to the left of social democrats, but to the right of the Soviet Union. He still had a vision of a utopian society without private property, but politically free, unlike the Soviet Union. While the 1962 Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society was not released from Berkeley, nevertheless, the Berkeley radicals and children of the Old Left played a major role in influencing its authors. For the New Left, anti-Americanism replaced pro-Communism.
The Free World Colossus
David spent the mid-1960s in London, where he spent time with Isaac Deutscher, a Trotskyite, and with Bertrand Russell, an anti-nuclear-weapons activist. In 1965 David published The Free World Colossus, a description of how America had misused its power around the world. For example, in 1954 the CIA overthrew the democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala. The ostensible reason was that the U.S. feared that Arbenz would lead Guatemala into the Communist fold. But the United States had a hidden agenda: Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA chief Allen Dulles had been attorneys representing the United Fruit Company. Arbenz had taken land from United Fruit to give to landless peasants. From reading what John Loftus and Mark Aarons have written about the Dulles brothers, it appears that some of the critiques of American power that David made when he was on the Left still stand.
Return to Berkeley
David and his family moved back to Berkeley during the middle 1960s. David and his friend Peter Collier were editors at the New Left’s Ramparts magazine. David talks about his fellow Leftists at the magazine: Sol Stern and Bob Scheer. Ramparts was an advocate of the Black Panthers.
David describes his involvement with the Black Panthers, an Oakland, California street gang that promoted itself as a champion of Black Power. Betty Van Patter was a bookkeeper at Ramparts and later at the Educational Opportunity Corporation, which was run by the Black Panthers. David asserts that Betty was murdered by the Blank Panthers because she had discovered financial irregularities in their books.
Betty’s murder caused David to have second thoughts about a life devoted to the New Left. He came to understand that the root cause of social injustice is the evil part of human nature, not private property and not the institutions of capitalism. He realized that forcing people to be more equal than they naturally are can be done only at the expense of personal freedom. Together with Peter Collier, David organized the Second Thoughts Conference in Washington, D.C. during October 17-18, 1987. Former radicals talked about their change of heart.