What is the problem with the modern Left? This is a question with which many people are wrestling, in both politics and the media. It is a question of deep importance, especially since the majority of public institutions, from universities to the judiciary, are controlled by people who can pretty generally be described as ‘left-liberal’. Despite the 2016 victories of the populist right in the UK’s EU referendum and of Donald Trump in the USA, the liberal-left still maintains a tight grip on what one might call the ‘commanding heights’ of Western society. For example, in the UK all universities are controlled by a strange alliance between neoliberal and far-left academics. Similarly, in the media the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV push a left-liberal interpretation of societal norms and values. Most TV programming (which British children consume throughout their lives) is of a strident left-wing sort. Certainly, the left-liberal mode of thought suffers no restrictions in public life – it is, in every sphere, the loudest and most prevalent political voice. So, given the catastrophic nature of the reverses the left has recently suffered, just what are they getting wrong?
The Nature of Man
My main proposition in this piece is that left-liberals consistently misunderstand the basic nature of the creature ‘Man’. Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke, the modern left-liberal takes as his starting point for all political discourse, for all the fundamentals of his ideology, one idiotic proposition: that man is inherently good and it is only social conditions which corrupt his nature. Of course, this analysis falls down at the first hurdle, since if man was naturally good, how did he ever come to live in such corrupt social conditions? If the institutions which shape the society are corrupted and in turn corrupt the members of that society, how did they come to be so? For no institution is formed of anything other than a mass of individuals. If individuals were inherently perfect, they would create perfect institutions. This notion of the inherent goodness of man, which essentially arose during the Enlightenment, runs counter to all previous Western thought.
To the Christian civilisation of the West, Man is a fallen creature, possessed equally of the ability to do good or to succumb to the temptation to commit sins. This means that the moral failure is an internal feature of man – he knows the rules and can discover them by reason (and divine revelation) but he breaks them in spite of this; he is faulty (but not worthless). This lends itself to a much more nuanced assessment of the ultimate utility of politics, to a more gradual approach to social change and to a more limited belief in the effectiveness of social programmes to solve the fundamental problems of mans nature. On the other hand, the leftist makes the basic mistake of placing the source of moral failings externally; so rather than these moral failings and their consequences for societal faults lying within the interior life of Man, they are external to him and solvable by political action. If the social environment is altered, the man will not only improve (a fairly reasonable assertion) but he will become perfect. This belief leads to all sorts of problems. Let us imagine the leftist as a doctor: he comes across a man with a debilitating inherited illness with no possible cure, so what does he do? He has every faith that all conditions can be cured, so he gives the patient very strong drugs which do nothing apart from kill him. I’m not going to labour that particular analogy any further but suffice it to say that one effect of this belief in the ability to morally perfect Man is a tendency towards utopianism, or, more accurately (especially in the absence of religious belief) a tendency for the leftist to believe they can create ‘heaven on earth’. Hence the great leftist love affair with violent revolution, the father of that particular heresy being the French Revolution – which should have taught us that revolution, due to the nature of the human condition, cannot lead to the creation of paradise. Marx took this vision of an earthly utopia to its extreme, he created a religion which promised salvation in this life and so it is inevitable that the Marxist brand of this left-wing idiocy has been the most destructive. The revolutions inspired by Marxism have resulted in some of the most awful atrocities the world has seen. These revolutions should have taught the left that brutality and disorder will prevail until the old order re-instates itself in a new (and usually more terrifying) guise. In the meantime many people will suffer horrendously and many more will perish. Destruction pretty generally breeds further destruction.
But if you think that revolution is a thing of the past, that the left has learnt its lesson, think again. The leftist has never lost his belief in the success of revolution, in its ability to give birth to a perfect social order in which all will tend to the good. The only thing which has changed since the days of the fall of the Tsars is that this revolutionary tendency has been expressed through ‘soft-power’. Since the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s and the tumultuous events of 1968 in Paris, the various strands of revolution present in the West since the Enlightenment have coalesced into a maelstrom of cultural-Marxist ideological destruction. This destruction is predicated on a process of continual revolution, on a ‘long march through the institutions’ to destroy the ‘cultural hegemony’ of non-Marxist ideals. Until 2016, when political violence began to rear its ugly head once again, this revolution had been mainly non-violent. Instead, it was aggressive and repressive in a much more insidious way; defrocking academics, politicians and intellectuals who dared to question the viability of a civilisation committing collective cultural suicide. Unwilling to destroy the gift of their ancestors, or deny the inheritance of their children, these people had to be silenced and so they have been. In the absence of anyone willing to defend it, every university is replete with courses specifically designed to deconstruct western civilisation. It is like watching tree surgeons giving earnest lectures on how best to saw off the branch on which they sit. Simultaneous to this, the left has now become almost universally obsessed, not with economic inequality, but with identity politics. Evil is now the preserve of a certain identity and inequality the result of a privileged class defined not by wealth but by inherent characteristics of sexuality, gender and race. In this perverse ideology, the white, heterosexual male is the ultimate evil – if he is a Christian as well, then he is practically sub-human. It may be, that in 2017, just as liberal elites the world over were enshrining this mad creed into law, that the societal backlash began. Certainly, the clamour for group rights; for the rights of multiple different ‘tribes’ based on race, gender and sexuality, as against the unity of the society as a whole, appears to have reached a maddening crescendo. Indeed, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, many journalists spoke of a ‘whitelash’; that is to say, white people for the first time semi-consciously voted as a group for particular rights. In being treated for the last forty years as evil personified and being beset on all sides by an identity-driven polity, whites have begun to play the identity game as well. This can only be destructive for society. It is not at all certain that any society, let alone one so fractured as it is in the West, can survive such internecine conflict.
Perhaps the high-water mark of this manic identitarianism is the fin de siècle obsession with ‘transgenderism’ (so barmy that even feminists are recoiling from it) and the reborn Gnosticism of its advocates. If this is not the last gasp of social decadence and civilisational decay, then things can only get worse from now on. Indeed, I observe the collective madness of the left, its growing violence and obvious cognitive dissonance, with something approaching amused horror. In the beginning, the left denounced the moral corruption of the rich but insisted that wealth would heal the poor – now they care little if your rich or poor, just so long as you’re not white. They began by believing that you could educate a man out of his evil, now they decry the evils of educated men. We have gone from the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who fought for the rights of working men, to the modern left who instead of decrying the injustice of the work, denies the existence of the man.