Rael Jean Isaac and Erich Isaac: The Coercive Utopians: Social Deception by America’s Power Players; Regnery Gateway; Chicago.

For about the past 15 years it has gradually been dawning on an increasing number of Americans that the people who rule their country are not entirely under their control. Bureaucracies en­force regulations no legislature ever passed; legislatures enact laws no voter ever wanted; judges pronounce deci­sions foreign to law and conscience; and the mass media express opinions no one else ever thought. Although Rael Jean and Erich Isaac do not explicitly seek to account for this phenomenon, their book does provide at least a partial explana­tion of it. In the last generation certain key positions in the national elite have been unduly and rather cryptically in­fluenced or captured by elements of an alien and hostile ideological faction. This movement of “coercive utopians” harbors a profound hatred for the American social system and for the mainstream of American life; because it has been able, by force and fraud, to insinuate itself into positions of power, it has imposed several of its bizarre ideas on the Amer­ican people without asking or even wanting their consent.

The Coercive Utopians is a com­prehensive, methodical, and carefully documented study of the activities, political and cultural influence, funding, and interconnections of the assorted operatives who compose the American left. The Isaacs’ book is not only the most comprehensive but also undoubtedly the best of such studies, for it shows no sign of the characteristic faults of the genre. The authors resist the tendencies to fall into exhoration, to indulge in speculation or conspiracy theories as a substitute for research and careful thought, and to serve up ideological sermons. The Isaacs’ style is readable, the complexity and outright devious­ness of their subject notwithstanding, and remarkably free of rhetoric, given their evident distaste for leftist dogmas and pretensions. Their book contains a massive amount of information on the currently active left-wing groups and personalities in the United States, and it is indispensable for those who want to understand the background, strategies, and organizational linkages of people and groups including Ralph Nader, the Institute for Policy Studies and its satellites, the National Council of Churches, the environmentalist and anticorporate movements, and the anti­defense and nuclear-freeze campaigns.

Nor do the Isaacs indulge in the current fad of finding spies and terrorists behind every left-wing rally. It is true that the reader who is looking for terrorist cells sprouting from behind progressive facades or for KGB agents manipulating mass movements will not be disap­pointed. The Isaacs document how “the FBI uncovered a Puerto Rican FALN cell operating out of the Episcopal Church’s National Commission on Hispanic Affairs” in 1976; how the New York Time the Wall Street ]ournal, and the Washington Post uncritically and (presumably) unwittingly accepted Soviet and Cuban influenced forgeries and disinformation; and how members of the World Peace Council, the U.S. Peace Council, and the Communist Party as well as Soviet intelligence officers influenced and manipulated the nuclear-freeze movement.

Conspiracy and intrigue are not the Isaacs’ point, however. Their main purpose, aside from their morphology of the left, is to show the fundamental vapidity and dangerousness of what today passes for progressivism. The adherents of the left, they argue, are utopian because:

they assume that man is perfectible and the evils that exist are the product of a corrupt social system. They believe that an ideal social order can be created in which man’s poten­tialities can flower freely. They are ‘coercive’ because in their zeal for attaining an ideal order they seek to impose their blueprints in ways that go beyond legitimate persuasion.

The utopians “are forced to a devil theory to explain the gap between the desired and the real.” If men can be perfected, the left must offer an explana­tion of existing imperfections, and the most convenient explanation lies in the machinations of a powerful and mali­cious enemy. The corporations and the military-industrial complex become the handiest villains, but the ultimate foe is the American way of life itself and its values and institutions–its religion and morality, family structure, manners and hierarchies, work ethic, patriotism, and its complete lack of interest in utopian idols and crusades. The Isaacs concen­trate principally on the left’s attack on economic, national security, and policy­ making institutions, but they could also have added equally chilling chapters on utopian activities in areas including sex education, curriculum reform, homo­sexual promotion, feminism, children’s rights, and other engagements on what Rudi Dutschke called “the long march through the institutions.” Aside from the merits of these issues, they represent the utopian goal in its ultimate and most alarming form: not merely a radical transformation of the structure of power and the distribution of wealth in America, but also the destruction of the social and moral fabric of wealth and power mandated by popular will and democratic principle. The tactics by which the left pursues this goal parallel and were probably influenced by those of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, who, as the Isaacs point out, “urged.the need for ‘building a new collective consciousness by attacking, through ideological-cultural struggle and politi­cal action, all of the “intellectual moral” foundations of bourgeois society.”‘ It is in this sense, then, that the Isaacs’ title for their chapter on the utopian think-tanks, where progressivist brainstorms typically originate, is, appropriately, “America the Enemy.”

Yet the very establishment that the left challenges and threatens shares to no small degree many of the ideological premises of the left. The Isaacs show how certain large corporations and foundations have financed a number of utopian projects. Public relations, ignorance, guilt, and fear of blackmail may account for this funding of hostile forces, but it is also possible that the managers of the giant corporations and foundations feel at least some sympathy for and identity with the enemies of middle America (especially when cor­porate interests are not immediately threatened). Certainly such sympathy is evident among the left-leaning clergy­men and government bureaucrats of the establishment who also provide institu­tional funding for the utopians.

What the Isaacs do not articulate fully is that the American establishment operates on liberal premises and uses the liberal ideology of the New Deal-Great Society era as a political formula to justify its own power. There is only a difference of degree between liberal ideology and the utopianism of the contemporary left, and the left is constantly accusing liberals of “not going far enough” in their reforms, of being hypocritical in their commitment to liberal values, and of having been bought off by the right, by their own positions in the establishment, and by inertia and cowardice. Of course, the left is generally correct in this perception. The liberal establishment understands that it cannot fully imple­ment the ideals and values of liberalism and continue to survive while the utopians do not understand this (which is why they are utopian). Aside from these differences, however, the coercive utopians are not really as hostile to and distant from the American establish­ment as they want to believe, and the establishment itself nurtures the seeds of utopian ideology and policies. Increas­ingly since the 1930’s the American establishment–in both the private as well as the public sectors (e.g., in the academy, church, and media)–has gravitated toward a world view that permits or demands collective social engineer­ing by state or corporation, the abandon­ment of legal and moral norms for technocratic and materialistic goals, the appeasement of world communism, a universalist rather than a nationalist foreign policy, and a cultural pluralism that is “open” to all things on the left but to none on the right. This world view is shared by such superficially disparate figures as Andrew Young, John Lindsay, and Richard Barnet of the Institute for Policy Studies, and the congruence of the world views of the left and the establishment is the basic reason why the latter has so warmly received coer­cive utopians from the time of Lincoln Steffens and Alger Hiss to our own days of Orlando Letelier and Philip Agee.

The American establishment, then, is at best a weak reed in resisting the utopian challenge and indeed often collaborates with it and promotes it. It is noteworthy that the Isaacs’ heroes are not corporate officers who have intrepidly met the utopian threat or intellectuals and academics who have gutted ideology, but rather a few, some­ what plain individuals whose personal commitments and prodigious efforts have repeatedly exposed or resisted leftist frauds and intimidation–Reed Irvine of Accuracy in Media, John and Louis Rees of the Information Digest, and Petr Beckmann of Access to Energy. These figures–not the leaders of corpo­rations, main-line churches, prestigious universities, or large newspapers and periodicals–who work out of their homes and basements with mimeograph machines and packed filing cabinets are theAmericans who have provided the real “guerrilla politics” of our time and of whom no one will ever read in the Style Section of the Washington Post. The defenders of America are therefore not part of the establishment and indeed are excluded from it and resented by it.

In their concluding chapters the Isaacs have recourse to the idea of the “New Class”–”those who produce and distribute knowledge rather than ma­terial goods” and whose numbers and social importance have been increasing rapidly since the end of World War II–to explain the movement they are analyzing. “The coercive utopians,” the authors explain, “serve as the vanguard of the New Class.”

Yet, if it is true that the national establishment, or elite, shares basic elements of the world view of the left, then it is not clear how “new” the New Class is. It is more probable that the utopian movement in the U.S. is primar­ily an ideological rather than a sociological formation and that its social identity is essentially the same as that of the establishment that bred it. In the 1960’s the offspring of the establishment dis­covered that their parents’ liberal values were not being fully adhered to and that, through the same techniques of mass organization and propaganda on which the establishment rests, they could apparently advance the realization of those values. The coercive utopians of the 1970’s and 80’s are the New Left of the 1960’s, but for all their pretensions to revolution and change, they have never renounced their faith in funda­mental establishment ideology. They have merely made the callow mistake of taking the ideology too seriously.

Despite their pretensions and their offensiveness, the coercive utopians are not likely to go away. As the Isaacs emphasize, “they have an excellent understanding of the mechanisms of power and how to obtain it and are well versed in the tactics of political pressure. “Lodged in their tax-exempt think­-tanks, with access to the national media, with a foothold in the Federal bureauc­racy, the churches, universities, founda­tions, and increasingly in corporations and unions, the utopians can anticipate a bright future for themselves. The Isaacs show how successfully they penetrated the Carter Administration and how, either from within the bureaucracy or from outside the government, they have derailed a number of the policies and commitments of the Reagan Administra­tion: they have made the debate on defense center on a nuclear freeze and deployment of the missiles in Europe rather than on the Soviet arms buildup; they have made aid to El Salvador center on human rights rather than on com­munist aggression and terrorism; they have stopped significant changes in environmental laws and policies, forced out Anne Gorsuchat the Environmental Protection Agency, and prevented the abolition of the Legal Services Corpora­tion; and they have been instrumental in halting the revival and development of nuclear energy technology. As the utopians continue to flourish, it is unlikely that they will be attenuated as they come to grapple with the real problems of government. It is more probable that the utopian movement will continue to infiltrate and manipulate the national government and American society, and perhaps someday their offspring will revolt against them and eventually replace them in positions of power. If so, and if books are still written then, perhaps someone will anatomize that revolt as ably as the Isaacs have done in The Coercive Utopians.