Sweetness & Light

The Setting of Their Leftist Suns

betty van patterDepending on how deeply invested you are in leftism, the conversion to sanity can vary from painless to absolutely agonising.

David Horowitz was more deeply invested than most. Raised as a “red diaper baby” in New York by his communist parents—who were so wretchedly Stalinist they forced him to watch Soviet propaganda films rather than mainstream US fare—Horowitz followed them into a career of far-Left activism.

This led him, during the early 1970s, to become aligned with the Black Panthers, who used Marxism and Black Power as covers for what was essentially a criminal gang run by a sociopath. When Black Panthers killed a female bookkeeper who had become an obstruction to their activities, Horowitz was astonished by the activist Left’s lack of concern.

Betty Van Patter’s slaying — that’s her in the thumbnail above — provoked something of a political re-evaluation for Horowitz. “The existence of a Murder Incorporated in the heart of the American Left is something the Left really doesn’t want to know or think about,” he later wrote. “Such knowledge would refute its most cherished self-understandings and beliefs. It would undermine the sense of righteous indignation that is the crucial starting point of a progressive attitude. It would explode the myths on which the attitude depends.”

A wonderful section of Horowitz’s autobiography, Radical Son, tells of the precise moment all of the Left’s hypocrisies, deceits, corruption and dishonesty came together for him. Having worked for his whole life on leftist causes, Horowitz realised in one shattering instant that his life to that point had been in service to a lie:

Until now, I had been guided by a vision of the future in which an unjust world would finally be put right. It was the prism through which I judged the reality around me, and whose spectrum provided the justifications for everything I did.

Like all radicals, I lived in some fundamental way in a castle in the air. Now I had hit the ground hard, and had no idea how to get up or go on. I was, in fact, like a person who was already dead.

Horowitz survived, thank God, and since the mid-1980s has been an energetic warrior for conservatism.

For other ex-leftists, conversion is less dislocating. US satirist P.J. O’Rourke jokes that all it took for him to swing rightwards was seeing how much tax was deducted from his first pay cheque. A Jewish friend says he switched to conservatism “about one second after the first jet hit the World Trade Center”.

In my case, having been raised in one of Australia’s safest Labor seats and dutifully voted Labor in every election from 1984 to 1991, conversion was a gradual multi-step process. My fellow leftists got the ball rolling, as is so frequently the case in these matters.

In 1983, during my solitary year at university, a boring but worthy anti-war left-wing film was followed by a young feminist speaker who declared there would be no violence if women led the world’s governments.

“What about Margaret Thatcher?” I asked, this being only a year after the Falklands War.

“She’s a man,” the speaker shot back. I laughed, but she didn’t, and neither did anyone else in the screening room. Small note to self: my comrades are not inclined to face awkward facts.

In 1984, living in a Carlton share house with a batch of leftists, it was decided that the household as a collective would march against nuclear weapons. We earnestly stomped through the city behind a banner depicting planet earth and asking to preserve it for future generations.

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One week later it was decided we would march again. (I have no idea how these decisions were made. I just recall coming home from whatever work I could find at the time and discovering some sort of edict had been handed down. The house was run much as Kim Jong-un runs North Korea, and on much the same economic platforms.) This time we were set to march for abortion rights, but I was disinvited on the morning of the demonstration after asking what I thought was a reasonable question.

“Why,” I’d wondered aloud over breakfast, “are we worried about future generations being killed by nuclear bombs but not worried about future generations being killed by abortion?”

I might have added something about abortion victims being far closer to becoming future generations than were any unborn theoretical humans from decades forward. In any case, no march for me. I didn’t last very long at that joint. Small note to self: my comrades are not inclined to consider possible contradictions.

Little moments like that kept adding up, incrementally nudging me away from leftism but not yet to full conversion. In 1988, watching a John Pilger documentary with lefty friends, another such moment occurred.

Pilger, as usual, was complaining about colonialism and racism and Aboriginal injustice, so naturally we—uniformly white, urban and privileged—were lapping it up. The documentary then shifted to the former nuclear testing site at Maralinga in South Australia, where seven British bombs were detonated in the 1950s and 1960s. Pointing to a sign warning of radiation danger, Pilger observed mournfully that it was written in several languages—“but not in the Aboriginal language”.

Startled by this claim, I looked around the room. Everyone was silent, including a few who had studied Aboriginal history in considerable depth, and so must have known that Pilger’s line was completely wrong. So I just said it: “There is no single Aboriginal language. And no Aboriginal language has a written form.”

I didn’t last long with that bunch of friends, either. Small note to self: my comrades will deny even their own knowledge if it runs counter to a preferred leftist version of events.

Within another four years my conversion was complete. The best part of adopting conservatism after years of leftism, by the way, is how much easier life becomes. If you’re a conservative, facts are generally all you need to establish a case or mount an argument. If you’re a leftist, however, you always have to find a way around the facts, which is why combative lefties always sound like lawyers knowingly representing a guilty client.

Also, when you’re a conservative there’s a lot less marching. And the movies are better.


SPEAKING of political journeys, Mark Latham’s has been one for the ages. In the space of thirteen furious years, he’s gone from being a potential Labor prime minister to a man so scorned by his party that it’s banned him for life.

Entertainingly, many of Latham’s angriest critics would have voted for him in 2004. Then again, in an election against John Howard, your rusted-on Labor types would have voted for an animatronic flesh robot programmed to speak in a form of English known only to itself.

In fact, three years later they did.

Anti-Latham forces online are worth following for their sheer vehemence alone. “All those years of wishing for a chance to vote against Mark Latham,” wrote one Laborite after Latham announced he was joining the Liberal Democrats. “Thank you Mark for making an old man’s dream come true.”

Well, he could have made that dream come true thirteen years ago, but that would have meant voting for a candidate opposed to Labor. Certain boundaries must never be crossed.

It’s just a theory, but the Labor fans who are now so consumed by Latham hatred would probably not react so wildly if either Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard were to abandon the party. Neither of those two former Labor prime ministers are possessed of personalities that allow for Labor myth-making and hero worship.

To win Labor hero status, the perfect Labor leader must basically be a three-dimensional Australianised version of the toiling types found in Soviet socialist realism art—except not quite so physically imposing, because Labor heroes rarely labour manually. Either way, Rudd and Gillard don’t even come close.

Latham, on the other hand, excited Labor fever dreams like no candidate since St Gough himself. He was from Sydney’s western suburbs, so he had that whole Keating thing happening, and he looked completely at home in a pub, in the manner of a pre-parliament Bob Hawke.

Labor-loving journalists therefore felt able, back in the day, to decorate Latham with all manner of heroic imagery. On February 3, several months before the October 2004 election, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Alan Ramsey characterised Latham as some kind of holy ALP justice machine.

“Have a look at page three of the Australian Financial Review on Tuesday,” Ramsey wrote. “There is a photo there which shows John Howard like you’ve not seen him before. A little grey man burdened by, what? Responsibility? His conscience? The thought of the Mack truck bearing down?”

A couple of months later: “John Howard, by any measure, did nothing this week to avoid that Mack truck coming for him.” And in June, with the election drawing ever nearer: “Latham hasn’t budged. The Mack truck is still coming.”

Right there may be the reason why the loathing of Latham is now so intense. They absolutely idolised him. You might even describe their behaviour, to use a celebrated Lathamism, as being that of a conga-line of suckholes.

Too bad for them Latham turned out to be more flexible of mind and less reflexively tribal than standard-issue Labor devotees, who await their next God-truck rolling down the Hume.

Presently they’re fixated upon Anthony Albanese, of all people. Good luck with that, children.

29 thoughts on “The Setting of Their Leftist Suns

  • jonreinertsen@bigpond.com says:

    Nailed it! The issue for Labor is the prime directive! Win Power! Then, what now? Blame the opposition! You can only do that for so long. Fix the problems, let’s spend our way out of it. What, there’s no money! Ok, lets just let’s lose the next election, and make the conservative fix it. They will be so unpopular we are a shoe in. Prime directive again, “win power” and do?

  • bemartin39@bigpond.com says:

    An excellent, insightful analysis of the subject, made even better by the light-hearted style.

  • Ian Matthews says:

    Is there no space safe from your wit and insight Blair? You’ve nailed it again mate.

  • Salome says:

    Very, very true. I confess I was always of a conservative disposition, as were my parents. My brother rebelled and together with his wife voted Labor. But then they grew up and had a family and had a sniff of reality, so they don’t vote Labor any more. So when the lefties post graphs on Facebook showing the proportion of the ‘youth’ vote that went to Labour in the recent election, I just say to myself, rather a lot of them are going to grow up. And I know they will, because they always have–otherwise there would not even be the apology for a Liberal-National Coalition government that we have now, and the Howard years would never have happened, either.

  • Adellad says:

    I was struck by this quote: “Also, when you’re a conservative there’s a lot less marching. And the movies are better.” I’d like to know where Mr Blair finds movies these days that are not dripping with social justice and “progressive” propaganda? It sure ain’t bloody Hollywood.

  • en passant says:

    A thoroughly enjoyable feast exposing the fallacies (or is it ‘phallacies’?) and fools of the leftard loonies. My cousin was a communist party member almost all of his life (until removed in a schism over whether Stalin should have invaded Hungary. My cousin supported Stalin, but wanted the reasoning clarified. This rebellious questioning was too much for the Party leadership so he was expelled or excommunicated). He said it was the worst time of his life, yet he remained a devout loony-left agitator until the day he died. From the family history:

    “I would probably have had it out with my cousin, a devout communist if it had not been for the intervention of his mother, after he unexpectedly arrived at his mother’s while I was there. He immediately launched into a tirade about my treacherous support of capitalism. KKK had a great deal of potential and intelligence, but he was blinded by his chosen social standing and his Marxist politics so he never missed a chance to miss every chance at improving his life. He could have managed his own business, but that would have meant joining the hated capitalists. He was also offered promotions to management positions, but he turned them all down and deliberately remained on the bottom rung of society, under achieving and keeping his family poor. That was his preferred religious option.”

  • Warty says:

    I preferred Mark on Sky’s Outsiders, perhaps because the trio of Ross, Rowan and Mark complemented each other. His own Mark Latham’s Outsiders lacks the dynamism of the other.
    I get the feeling that David Leyonhjelm would need a high level of tolerance to be able to work with Latham, such is the latter’s forceful personality. I wonder how long he’ll last there. I suspect he might only feel comfortable when running his own party, but then he’d need a leadership team that doesn’t mind being treated in a roughshod manner.
    So, yes, Mark has undergone a remarkable philosophical transformation, but he is very much a work in progress. I prefer to admire him from afar.

    • Keith Kennelly says:

      Mark hasn’t moved so much as the left and the managers have taken over the labor party.
      Mark always spoke pretty good sense. If he had not done that handshake and I wasn’t blinded by the shine from John I’d have probably voted for him.

  • Tony Tea says:

    “combative lefties always sound like lawyers knowingly representing a guilty client.”
    Sums it up for me.

  • joelane94@hotmail.com says:

    That road to Damascus is well-travelled. I suppose I did it, at first in the opposite direction, but soon enough trailing somewhere behind Tim. To get to this particular Damascus, requires a pretty thorough, painful and in many cases long re-assessment of what one believes and why. It’s a lot like conversion to another religion, some of us go all the way and become the most devout supporters of the New Beliefs, some of us hit atheism and are not sure where to go from there. Maybe I haven’t got quite to Damascus yet, but I can see it over the hill. But I certainly don’t want to go back where I came from.

  • Paul Kennedy says:

    Great stuff as always Tim. I’m a Werribee boy too. It’s dreadful there now – full of Leftards waiting for conversion, or poor 30 year olds that cannot read.

  • Jody says:

    What is never discussed is the fact that people NEVER move from Conservatism to the Left – it’s always the other way around. This suggests to me that as people mature they learn that the world doesn’t function according to the dictates of the Left and is rather more nuanced and that a special place is reserved in hell for all those who think they’re entitled to a free ride.

    • ian.macdougall says:


      What is never discussed is the fact that people NEVER move from Conservatism to the Left…

      Oh, I dunno. What about Donald Horne?

      …a special place is reserved in hell for all those who think they’re entitled to a free ride.

      Better not tell that to the likes of Gina Rinehart.

      • Jody says:

        Horne would be a rare exception. The vast majority move towards the right after toying with the left. I guess they grow up.

        Gina Rinehart a free rider? Putting MUCH OF her money and assets on the line in risky businesses to do with mining constitutes a free ride? I’m sure that would be news to many in that industry.

        • ian.macdougall says:

          Gina Rinehart a free rider? Putting MUCH OF her money and assets on the line in risky businesses to do with mining constitutes a free ride? I’m sure that would be news to many in that industry.

          In 1851 Edward Hargreaves discovered alluvial gold at Bathurst NSW, and according to the law, could only stake a claim of his own provided he disclosed to the government the exact location of the find. But that got the news of his discovery out, and it started a rush to Australia from all the lands on Earth. While the claim Hargreaves could stake for himself amounted in size to something less than a modern suburban building block, it took no real time at all for the Bathurst field to become a major population centre rivalling Sydney in size. That and subsequent discoveries made the foundations of modern Australia: in population and in its distinctive democracy and culture.
          Cut to 1962. Gina Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock is flying south from his cattle property in NW WA, gets forced low by a storm, and discovers the huge iron ore deposit of the Hammersley Range. But iron is not gold, and 110 years makes a lot of difference. Biding his time, and pulling a number of political strings attached to contacts on the ‘conservative’ side of WA politics, Hancock manages to score the whole Hammersley field for himself, his heirs and successors. Shortly after, he does a deal with Rio Tinto, and the responsibility for capital raising and developing the mining operation is off his shoulders. But his stake is still huge, and it becomes the basis for the Rinehart fortune.
          If Hargreaves had only been both willing and able to do something like that, it would arguably have pushed Australian social development more in the direction taken by Latin America, with hugely wealthy feudal oligarchs with private armies, politicians on their payroll and at their beck and call, and government by a revolving door of military juntas.
          I am not sure what the odds are between hitting the big time in the mining game and going broke. And I am sure that people in it manage to do both today. But there is more to it than rugged individualism, and the risks taken in the legends of free enterprise.

          • Jody says:

            These big time money deals and huge enterprises are all risk, make no mistake about that. Lang Hancock found that iron ore, but transposing that to the aboriginal people can you seriously imagine them making a success of it? Very easy to say once they’ve made their fortune, but it was never as easy as it looked.

          • PT says:

            My god but you are ignorant Ian, and wilfully so. Who are you so hostile to the resources sector? Also where do you get your “info” from? The “Australia Institute”????

            One, Hargrave did NOT find “payable gold”, just a few specs! Two he was paid a bounty by the NSW government, which specifically wanted gold to be found to spark a gold rush. Three, that huge gold rush you talk of was really in Victoria, far away from Bathurst!

            So having gotten eastern gold wrong, you then proceed to get WA iron ore wrong! First, the WA State Government gets royalties on mined ore – 7% by value. Second, Hancock’s supposed flight was in 1952, not 1962! Third, he and his partner spent the next decade surveying the area so they could know where to buy mining tenements. He also had to lobby the State Government (ALP for most of the ’50’s) to lift its ban on iron ore claims and the Feds to lift the export ban! Fourthly, he did NOT own all of the iron deposits in the Pilbara; none of the Newman/BHP mines were in his area, and Hamersley Iron/Rio has other mines outside too! Fifth, there is a huge difference between gold and iron ore. Iron ore is a mass commodity. Gold is worth more than 10x per ounce what iron ore is worth per ton! A prospector can make a good living (potentially at least) from a small claim for gold. Not a chance with iron ore! Only mass production makes it viable!

            You also don’t realise that Hancock was frustrated in his aims by Sir Charles Court! Court’s view was that the development of the Pilbara was “too important” to be dominated by one man (ie Hancock)! That’s one reason why Hancock supported Brian Burke!

            Finally, much of Gina Rinehart’s wealth (quoted estimates any way) are are based on the valuation given to Roy Hill, to which she has invested a great deal of time and money to develop the deposit!

            You lot over east don’t realise that WA iron ore companies build the railways and ports to transport the ore from hundreds of k’s inland to the coast and onto ships for export! Your taxes have contributed zip to all of it! It isn’t like New England coal! The only contribution is a pittance in federal grants for road funding, and if you saw the state of the Great Northern Highway, you’d see how small it really is!

    • mburke@pcug.org.au says:

      I’ve only ever known one in a long life. He was on the radical fringe on the right before his relatively sudden conversion to the radical left. For him, just a short jump across the heels of the horseshoe.

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    Moving to the conservative now a days isn’t that far from the left.

    Look at how similar they are when it comes to the realities if governing.

    The next journey is to reality. Fir both left and right are now giver ended by the Managerial class.

    Who among us want cheap affordable power, cheaper petrol, and to be able to afford a first home.

    These things are kept artificially high by both left and right today.

    Aren’t these fools supposed to protect us?

    Is that what most of us want?

    I bloody doubt it. So how do we get these same coloured political parties bureaucracies and big business to do as we want?

    Don’t vote for them and bring the bastards to account.

  • ian.macdougall says:

    PT (or whatever your real name is) @ June 19, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    You lot over east don’t realise that WA iron ore companies build the railways and ports to transport the ore from hundreds of k’s inland to the coast and onto ships for export! Your taxes have contributed zip to all of it! It isn’t like New England coal! The only contribution is a pittance in federal grants for road funding, and if you saw the state of the Great Northern Highway, you’d see how small it really is!

    The present population of WA is 2.589 million, over half of whom live in Perth. I have not driven the GNH, but I have driven from Perth up to Geraldton and back, and through the wine region of the Southwest to Cape Leeuwin. At a guess, I would say your response to that would be “those tiddly little tracks! They ain’t a highway!”
    I am very well aware that a traditional game played in the various regions of Australia is that of Comparative Importance. (We Melbournians are far more important than Sydneysiders because…..Melbourne Cup, Phar Lap, Aussie Rules…)
    I am also aware that a fair part of iron ore mining expenses in WA is building of private railways, financing private trains and handling facilities in ports etc, etc, etc. BUT I am also aware that without the federal taxes paid by us depised “… lot over east” there would for a start be no phones, postal services and airports in WA, and precious little by way of petroleum fuel supply. But MOST IMPORTANT, without the defence forces and port controls largely financed by eastern layabouts like us, and the defence alliances sponsored from Canberra, WA would probably have been grabbed long ago by the Javanese, Chinese, Arabs; even the French or the Russians.
    Also, overrun with noxious weeds and vermin brought in by smugglers.

    • PT says:

      Ian, you do love the straw man don’t you! “Layabouts” is your term, not mine! I object to your wilful ignorance and hostility towards the resources sector, and typical eastern ignorance about WA in general!

      But let’s get things straight. The iron ore producers actually built the ports. It’s not like Newcastle where coal is exported through what was a publically funded facility! The iron ore mines are mostly supplied by the Great Northern Highway. No doubt you turned onto the Brand Hwy to get to Gearldton. But if you’d kept on past the turnoff towards New Norcia, you’d quickly see how narrow the road is given the size and number of the road trains that use it! Smaller than the road to Margaret River.

      The notion that WA only has a post office due to eastern taxpayers is utterly ridiculous. There was a postal system before Federation! Port services are paid for by port fees (user pays) as are phones. What are you on about talking about petroleum? You surely don’t think the Feds subsidise petrol in WA do you? The Kwinana refinery opened in 1955, a decade before iron ore got going, so even the refined products don’t come from over east.

      As for defence: one, you surely don’t think Australia is adequately defended at present do you, with the miserable 1% of GDP? Also a couple of days ago you claimed “colonialism” has “very few defenders”, yet it looks like you think half the world is straining at the leash to do it. Very bizarre! It was Britain that kept others out in the 19th century – there wasn’t a Commonwealth Government back then, so you’re not talking about that era.

      But all these excessive claims (and the totally made up) are really besides the point. Federal money was NOT used to subsidise WA iron ore. On the contrary, income taxes in the mining workforce and iron ore’s share of company taxes far exceed the Federal grants going to support roads etc, which are not solely servicing the iron ore mines anyway!

      You also seem to have an obsession with Gina Rinehart. Why? The green eyed monster? The fear she was going to push Fairfax to the right (won’t be happening now, so don’t worry)? Or is it because you hate the mining industry and the media has made her into the personification of it? She’s far less extreme than her father was, and is a smaller player than the likes of BHP.

  • ian.macdougall says:


    PT, I am aware that I am a bit offside as far as the trickle-down economic philosophy of this curate’s egg of a site is concerned, and old-fashioned enough to have the view that countries with a low Gini index like Norway are better to live in than those with a high GI, like Haiti.
    That the mining ‘barons’ of Australia are free to lay and sustain a private claim to so much of the nation’s store of mineral wealth is in my modest view a problem, if not a total scandal. But you appear to have no trouble with it, possibly because you have been awarded a place and a ranking in this neofeudal order of things that you find, however humble or unhumble, nonetheless satisfactory.


    • PT says:

      Neo feudal? What are you on about Ian? You don’t seem to have a problem with vast pastoral properties like the Kidmans. Nor do you have an issue, or it seems, with various governments manipulating immigration and land release strategies to bring about extremely high housing costs.

      First, as I’ve tried to point out, Hancock did not “own” the Pilbara. Second, the State remains the formal owners of the resource, and gets 7% of the value per tonne! Hancock and Wright essentially on sold some of their minerals claim to Rio Tinto in exchange for a percentage of the value.

      What do you propose?

      • ian.macdougall says:

        Neo feudal? What are you on about Ian? You don’t seem to have a problem with vast pastoral properties like the Kidmans. Nor do you have an issue, or it seems, with various governments manipulating immigration and land release strategies to bring about extremely high housing costs.

        Wrong on both counts. And as the Kidman Empire has now become the property of said Gina, where does that leave you in respect to her?

        • PT says:

          Yet it’s always mining you complain about! Why?

          As I pointed out, the minerals are still the property of the State. Companies simply secure the right to mine certain tenements, and pay the State the going royalty. That’s the incentive to explore for mineral deposits, and then go to the trouble of getting all the financing and paperwork needed to get projects off the ground. Iron ore is not like gold. An individual can’t go out and make a living from what you dig out yourself.

          As I asked, what’s your alternative? The Government do it all, and find the cash for it? If so, say so.

          • ian.macdougall says:

            Yet it’s always mining you complain about!

            What you describe, PT, is textbook economic fantasy. A good deal of the criticism of Big Mining and particularly Rinehart’s part in it, came from the Fairfax press. So surprise, surprise! Rinehart’s response, using the stupendous funds at her disposal using the remarkably generous financial terms on which hers and other mining operations are carried on, was to attempt to buy Fairfax out. Then someone apparently suggested to her that it would not be such a good move, as Fairfax and print media generally were going the way of the dinosaurs. So she switched into cattle in a big way. Give her time, and I am sure that she will reach a position where she can ride a quad bike or drive a Range Rover or 4WD Rolls Royce or something from Cairns to Cape Leeuwin without ever having to get off her own land.
            I am not against capitalism; after all, I am one myself. But an age old problem with it is the tendency to concentrate capital

          • ian.macdougall says:

            into a diminishing number of hands. This heads us into a less and less equal society, for which situation history knows a number of cures, none of them particularly attractive.
            I do not have the answer myself, but to find an answer one first has to frame the problem.
            One approach is to go with the flow and say it is all a Good Thing. But that is the Ostrich Approach: not unknown in other domains of interest on this curate’s egg of a site.

  • Sos says:

    why are not all the socialists in the ALP like Albanese ever talking about socialist Venezuela
    Venezuela the lived experience of socialism for all to see

    Travel warning from Australian foreign affairs department

    “Do not travel to Venezuela due to the unstable political and economic situation, food, water, medicine and petrol shortages and high levels of violent crime. Many hospitals are closed. Power and water outages are common.

    • Venezuela has one of the world’s highest crime rates. Violent crime, including murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, drive-by shootings and car jackings, is common muggings and kidnappings by criminals posing as taxi drivers and other violent crimes”

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