by Barry A. Liebling
Some false platitudes have been around a long time, and tenaciously persist despite overwhelming evidence that they are completely wrong. Many years ago as an elementary school student several of my classmates would repeat what they heard from their parents about communism. They explained that the repression and brutality that occurred in the Soviet Union and in The People’s Republic of China was terrible. Using ferocious violence to achieve goals is not justified. However, my classmates would tell me, the intentions of communism – everyone being equal and sharing wealth – was entirely commendable. The problem with communist countries is that they have the wrong leaders. If the right people were in charge – gentle, kind-hearted, scientifically competent leaders – the dreams of leftist enthusiasts could be realized and a socialist society would be far superior to what currently exists in the United States.
I heard similar sentiments from many of my teachers in middle school, high school, college, and graduate school. Extreme leftism is flawed, they maintained, because there is a tendency for things to get out of hand, for the rulers in power to overstep their proper roles and treat their citizens (subjects) brutally. However, the end goals of extreme leftism were noble. Anyone wishing for a communist or socialist society should be admired because that person is displaying high ideals.
What is wrong with the notion that leftists have noble intentions? Everything.
Perhaps the greatest blessing that Western civilization has contributed to the world is the philosophy that underlies the Enlightenment. The cornerstone is that every individual has natural rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Under this correct conceptualization of how people should act there are clear principles that should not be violated. The only way that people ought to deal with one another is by mutual consent. The purpose of government is to proscribe the use of force and fraud. Each individual should have full sovereignty over his or her own life – making decisions and taking responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.
Note well that the ideals of the Enlightenment are incompatible with the intentions of those with leftist sentiments. To a leftist the proper role of government is to plan, supervise, and direct the lives of the people. This will work out well (according to leftist partisans) if the planners are highly intelligent, have expert credentials, and focus not on bettering themselves but on “improving society as a whole.” Individual people cannot be trusted to run their own lives because they are likely to choose (foolishly) actions that are different from what the expert planners “know” is the proper way to behave. Note well that individual sovereignty – the bedrock of the Enlightenment philosophy – is precisely what leftist theorists accurately view as an obstacle to realizing their objectives.
So, in principle, leftists do not want you to plan and manage your own life. Instead, a ruling elite will decide what behaviors are mandatory and what is forbidden.
Recently, Professor Alan Dershowitz, the distinguished Harvard University legal scholar, wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal where he criticized both the “hard right” (Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, racists) and the “hard left” (anti-American and anti-Israel zealots, intolerant censors, violent anarchists such as Antifa). But he sees them as qualitatively different. The “hard right” that he identifies are just plain horrible, and have vile intentions (I agree with his specific examples). If they had their way the world would devolve into a dystopia. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-hard-right-and-hard-left-pose-different-dangers-1505073662
But the “hard left” is, according to the Professor, not so bad. He writes that, “the hard-left utopia would be a socialist or communist state-regulated economy aiming for economic and racial equality.” Professor Dershowitz further explains that “the hard-left utopia would be somewhat more acceptable to many on the center left, so long as it was achieved nonviolently.”
Wow. The Professor’s writing brings me back to my elementary school days. He explicitly says that while he is against violence he recognizes the “benign goals” of leftist zealots.
To his credit Professor Dershowitz seems to disapprove of the current push by leftists for “intersectionality.” That is the notion that a person’s worth should be calculated according to how many victim classes he or she belongs to. For example, a woman gets one point (because she is oppressed by males). If the woman is also a lesbian she gets another point since gays are persecuted. If she is an undocumented immigrant her point total moves up again. Of course, in the “intersectionality” universe straight white males are worth nothing since they are the historical and permanently guilty oppressors responsible for nearly everything that is wrong in the world. A straight white male can, however, partially redeem himself by being “woke” which consists of embracing extreme leftist ideology, endlessly apologizing for his “white privilege,” and demonstrating implacable hostility to anyone who is not part of the cabal. Here is a message to Professor Dershowitz. “Intersectionality” is a not a fringe or small part of leftism today. It is mainstream, and to denounce it is to risk being excommunicated from the “progressive” movement. So much for “benign goals.”
The Professor accurately remarks that, “Hitler, Stalin and Mao all killed millions of innocent people in an effort to achieve their goals.” But then he asserts that, “The hard right is dangerous largely for what it has done in the past” while “the danger posed by the extreme hard left is more about the future.” This suggests that the past crimes of the hard left partisans should not be counted so much in evaluating their demands. In fact, leftist, communist, socialist regimes have in the past murdered more people than the Nazis and fascists combined. Professor Dershowitz is certainly familiar with the 1997 Black Book of Communism which chronicles the gigantic twentieth century atrocities committed in the name of leftist ideals. The “hard left” has a track record that its enthusiasts intend to maintain (and those who value liberty attempt to expose).
A particularly insidious suggestion made by Professor Dershowitz is that if the left achieves its goals without violence, all is well. But government is, by definition, force. A leftist regime will generally ask its subjects nicely to get with the program. If people do not obey it will turn up the pressure threatening fines and imprisonment. The hope of leftists such as the Professor is that people will cave in to the “reasonable demands,” and violence will not be necessary. This is parallel to the situation where a gunman comes into your house and demands money. If the gunman never actually shoots, and you comply with his menacing request, does this mean he achieved his goals without resorting to violence? Not at all. The threat of violence is a violation of the Enlightenment value of individual rights.
Some false platitudes have been around a long time, and it is way past due that leftist intentions be recognized as malignant.
*** See other entries at AlertMindPublishing.com in “Monthly Columns.” ***