Thursday, 12 July 2018

Beyond Reasoned Discourse

Left-wing Zealots are Threatening our Freedom

Paul Embery
UnHerd, UK

As a socialist and trade unionist, I despair of the modern Left and its propensity to do everything in its power to alienate the very people for whom it purports to speak. So wrong is its stance on so many social and moral questions, that you wonder whether it even wants the votes of traditional left-wing voters anymore. Perhaps it would be happier as a self-indulgent protest lobby, its ranks of middle-class, city-dwelling, bohemian types smoking their weed and listening to Bob Dylan tracks.

These people preach peace and harmony, while reciting the mantra of ‘Live and let live’ and speaking of the need for ‘tolerance’, ‘diversity’ and ‘respect’ – all the usual buzzwords. Except that in practice they do the precise opposite of these things, openly frowning upon the lifestyle choices of working-class folk, while displaying a sneering intolerance towards their opinions and demanding rigid conformity of political thought.

The modern Left’s contempt for alternative opinions derives not only from an innate sense of its own moral superiority, but also from the absurd notion that to promote one way of living is to somehow discriminate against ‘the other’  Nowhere is this illustrated more starkly than in their attempts to be the moral arbiters on the question of what may be considered acceptable language in public discourse.

We are now a long way down the road to the modern Left’s desired destination – a place where the expression of traditional views that are still held by millions and were relatively mainstream as recently as 20 years ago are, to all intents and purposes, proscribed. 

For example, try discussing with these people – the self-appointed guardians of enlightened society – the idea that immigration levels are too high and should be reduced. You’re a xenophobe. Try saying that kids are better served being raised by two parents, one of each sex. You’re a homophobic bigot. Don’t believe someone with the anatomy of a man can suddenly become a woman just because he says he is? Transphobe. Believe multiculturalism, the active promotion of separation and difference, has been a monumental failure? Racist. (A bizarre one this, since one can of course be a committed multiracialist while disavowing multiculturalism.)

The modern Left’s contempt for alternative opinions derives not only from an innate sense of its own moral superiority, but also from the absurd notion that to promote one way of living – to suggest that society benefits more from one taking one path rather than another – is to somehow discriminate or show prejudice against ‘the other’.

The modern Left, with its hectoring, screeching intolerance, must be confronted.  There are no shades of grey in their world. You’re either with them or you’re a knuckle-dragger.

The purpose, of course, is to shut down debate and establish a public narrative that fits with their own worldview. It’s a pincer attack, which uses the ever-tightening grip of the law on the one hand – supporting increasingly draconian legislation designed to deter ‘hate speech’ (whatever that is) – and the threat of public condemnation and excommunication from polite society on the other.

And it’s working. We should be in no doubt that the paternalistic censors are winning the day.

It wasn’t always thus. In fact, the extent to which those who comprise the modern Left understand so little of the traditions of socialist politics is remarkable. They fail to realise that their dogmatic authoritarianism is, in fact, inimical to the best traditions of the labour movement, which understood from its early days that open discussion and debate around competing views and ideas was fundamental to building democracy and unity throughout its ranks. 

See, the modern Left thinks the world began in 1968 (or, for the younger ones, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader). Their Left is the one of ‘liberation’, of the cultural revolution, of liberal cosmopolitanism, of open borders, of the shaking off of ‘oppressive’ authority and disregard for the concept of personal responsibility and restraint. So far as they have any knowledge or interest at all in the labour movement’s roots in Christian socialism, its patriotism, belief in the centrality of family, community, reciprocity and personal morality, they are embarrassed by it.

Despite, or perhaps because of, this, the modern Left has seen its ideas achieve dominance not only throughout the Labour party – in fact, they infect all main political parties to a greater or lesser extent – but the trade union movement, liberal media and public sector too. Its long march through the institutions is well advanced.

But there will be a price to pay for this political and cultural hegemony when it eventually comes. And that price can already be seen in the utter estrangement of millions of hard-working families from the political process, ostracised as they are by a political class that not only fails to reflect their views and desires, but actively seeks to delegitimise and toxify them. The tragedy for some of us inside the Labour party is that many of these millions were once loyal Labour voters who saw the party as their natural home. They were our people. But no longer. These days, the party sees them as some kind of embarrassing elderly relative.

Such is the arrogance of the modern Left, it has never stopped to ask itself why this schism has occurred, less still to take any responsibility for it. So it ploughs on regardless, certain in its own moral rightness, intent on driving ‘unpalatable’ opinions from the public square and marginalising those who dare espouse them.

In the end, these zealots threaten the freedom of all of us. And that’s why they must be faced down remorselessly. To hell with their dictatorial assaults on free speech, with their echo chambers, safe spaces and phoney outrage. No more the craven apologies for having expressed a genuinely-held view. Make your case, stand your ground and be prepared to take the brickbats. If people are offended, tough. It’s time to hit back against the group-thinkers and no-platformers.

The modern Left, with its hectoring, screeching intolerance, must be confronted. It doesn’t speak for me, nor for millions of fellow working-class people. And it never will.

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