It is hard for those who did not witness it to grasp the depths of irrationalism and violence to which our culture—-or at least its leaders—descended in the late ’60s. This exposé by two defectors from the New Left shows in vivid detail the true nature of the “spirit of the ’60s.” What emerges is not the familiar fantasy about idealism, creativity and youthful high-spirits, but the reality of venomous hatred, nihilistic rage, brutality, arson, murder.
This is not a dispassionate documentary but a memoir that recreates the events of the time as seen from inside. You will hearJ.J., the “theoretician” of the “National Collective,” explain why “American revolutionaries must see themselves not as Bolsheviks or as Maoists on the Long March but as Vandals and Visigoths battering the gates of America from within,” and you will find him tantalizing his audience with glimpses of the future he anticipates: “people shouldn’t expect the revolution to achieve a Kingdom of Freedom; more likely, it would produce a Dark Ages.” You will follow the saga of Fay Stender, the Bay Area lawyer who spent years defending the Black Panthers, only to be paid off finally by five .38-caliber slugs pumped into her body by one of the Panthers’ followers.
These were times dominated by people whose psychology the authors know by introspection: “We hated our lives, despite all the talk of ‘love.’ We had projected that hatred onto everything around us.” The book also chronicles the authors’ growing unwillingness to perform all the 42 blank-outs that loyalty to the left demands. The book describes, for example, the left’s lavish praise for a “liberated” Vietnam—despite the fact that “more people had been killed in the first two years of communist peace than in the 13 years of America’s war.” What type of mentality was capable of such massive evasion? “To protect the faith is the highest calling of the radical creed. The more the evidence weighs against the belief, the more noble the act of believing becomes. In this sense, Tertullian is the true father of the radical church. ‘Credo quia impossible ‘: ‘I believe because it is impossible.’ ” However, in the process of repudiating the ideas of the left, Collier and Horowitz have come to be antagonistic toward ideas as such. Touches of conservatism’s religionism and anti-intellectualism appear in some of the essays. Their premise is, in effect: the truth lies either in the grand idea of socialism or in no grand ideas at all.
This book should be mandatory reading for anyone under the age of thirty— and for anyone who views the ’60s as a time of innocent idealism.
This review is made available by the Ayn Rand Bookstore (formerly Second Renaissance Books)