The evidence of the death of the Left is all around us. You can see it by the fact that on campus being left-wing means having blue hair and thinking a man can become a woman by having an operation. – Brendan O’Neill
From Back to Enlightenment values: An interview with Brendan O’Neill by Chris Mansour at Platypus Review. O’Neill is the editor of sp!ked “Britain’s first online-only current-affairs mag… a metaphorical missile against misanthropy.” With roots in the British new left (its predecessor was Living Marxism) sp!ked has moved far from its Trotskyist origins towards an idiosyncratic libertarianism and is now “a fan of reason, liberty, progress, economic growth, choice, conviction and thought experiments about the future, and not so big on eco-miserabilism, identikit politicians, nostalgia, dumbing down and determinism.”
The magazine has played a particularly positive role in its defense of “freedom of speech with no ifs and buts,” particularly in the UK, where the prevalence of speech codes and aggressive no-platforming by the left make US universities appear to be bastions of tolerance. (See, for example, its Free Speech University Rankings for 2018.)
Overall, sp!ked is one of those things you just have to keep reading, libertarian or not.
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive…
2017 seemed to open with such possibilities that it is difficult to see the year as anything other than a disappointment as it draws to a close. As 2017 began, Trump’s accession to power seemed to show that anything is possible, while alt.x movements achieved a prominence undreamed of even just a year before.
How different things seem today as the year comes to an end. The nationalist wing of the Trump regime has been utterly vanquished, while the administration has moved away from a commitment to the issues that attracted our support in the first place.
Meanwhile, the anti-system right, which, in spite of being the target of a concerted campaign to silence it, went from success to success in the early months and middle of the year, now seems to have run out of new ideas in its efforts to move from the internet into “real life”.
And yet, it is more accurate to critique the unreality of the expectations than the actual progress of events. They should remind us of all of the obvious things that we missed in the thrill of victory – that moving forward is not so easy as it might have appeared one year ago, that we are a small and weak movement, that our enemies will fight us every step of the way with every means at their disposal, and that we have a very long road ahead of us indeed.
With that in mind, let us value the very real gains of 2017 – mainly the qualitative metapolitical shift in the nation’s political discourse – and look forward to building on that for a productive 2018!
To my small group of readers, sorry to have neglected things for these past few months, but I’ve been too otherwise engaged to think of anything all that interesting. My pre-New Year’s resolution is to start posting again, so stay tuned…
I’ve been otherwise engaged the past few weeks and so have been neglecting my posting, in spite of the fact that lots of good things have been going on.
Across the Atlantic, the German elections and the extremely strong showing of the Alternative für Deutschland shows us the the wave of European national-populism continues to rise.
Meanwhile, here at home the victory of insurgent GOP senatorial candidate Judge Roy Moore over establishment favorite Luther Strange, in spite of Strange’s backing by Donald Trump himself, shows the essential strength of the populist revolt independent of the president. If there it is anything that will keep Trump remotely honest, it will be developments like this.
Finally, the growing NFL protests, due to their inescapable presence at the heart of America’s favorite pastime, will certainly help prevent the deplorables from slipping back into business-as-usual passivity, especially in light of the demobilizing effect of Trump’s betrayals.
Over the decades since we fled into the suburbs we lived in a state of denial, drugged by the the mass entertainment complex, the comforts of hyper-consumption and the general peace and tranquility of whiteopian life, while the demographic and political balance shifted against us. It is only the the increasingly aggressive actions of our enemies over the past decade or so that have led us to begin to accept the reality of our situation and the need for our own resistance.
Just as the spate of riots and Black Lives Matter-inspired protests between Fergusson and the 2016 elections undoubtedly played an enormous role in mobilizing the Trump base and arguably made difference between victory and defeat (indeed, I think that the Trump candidacy itself might not have happened at all without middle America’s response to the growing arc of protest which can be traced back to Trayvon Martin) the disrespect and fundamental hostility toward the traditional American nation and its history shown by the players and the craven and cynical connivance in this on the part of the owners can only be a salutary goad to our movement’s base.
There’s a challenging new article from long-time left scholar James Petras – Who Rules America? The Power Elite in the Time of Trump available on his website as well as The Unz Review, analyzing the unraveling of the Trump presidency.
After an interesting analysis of the various contending blocks within the elite and the defeat of the Economic Nationalist wing represented by Steve Bannon, Petras concludes:
Trump had already lost on all accounts. The ‘final solution’ to the problem of the election of Donald Trump is moving foreword step-by-step – his impeachment and possible arrest by any and all means.
What the rise and destruction of economic nationalism in the ‘person’ of Donald Trump tells us is that the American political system cannot tolerate any capitalist reforms that might threaten the imperial globalist power elite. [Emphasis in the original]
He goes on to indict the left:
Writers and activists used to think that only democratically elected socialist regimes would be the target of systematic coup d’état. Today the political boundaries are far more restrictive. To call for ‘economic nationalism’, completely within the capitalist system, and seek reciprocal trade agreements is to invite savage political attacks, trumped up conspiracies and internal military take-overs ending in ‘regime change’.
The global-militarist elite purge of economic nationalists and anti-militarists was supported by the entire US left with a few notable exceptions. For the first time in history the left became an organizational weapon of the pro-war, pro-Wall Street, pro-Zionist Right in the campaign to oust President Trump.[emphasis added] Local movements and leaders, notwithstanding, trade union functionaries, civil rights and immigration politicians, liberals and social democrats have joined in the fight for restoring the worst of all worlds: the Clinton-Bush-Obama/Clinton policy of permanent multiple wars, escalating confrontations with Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela and Trump’s deregulation of the US economy and massive tax-cuts for big business.
He closes with a very faint optimism:
We have gone a long-way backwards: from elections to purges and from peace agreements to police state investigations. Today’s economic nationalists are labeled ‘fascists’; and displaced workers are ‘the deplorables’!
Americans have a lot to learn and unlearn. Our strategic advantage may reside in the fact that political life in the United States cannot get worse – we really have touched bottom and (barring a nuclear war) we can only look up.
I’m getting a little tired of the whole antifa vs alt-right thing at the moment and am in the mood to move on, however, in fairness, I wanted to acknowledge that since my last post there has been a considerable increase in the commentary from the left critical of antifa violence. A certain discomfort with the violence and intimidation on the part of a sector of the left has been growing over the past few months. In the wake of Charlottesville and the recent antifa behavior in Berkeley – which was so outrageous that even the usual mainstream media outlets were unable to sustain the “clash of extremists” meme (although a number initially tried), let alone the even more preferable (to them) claim of “neo-nazi violence” – dissenting voices on the left have become more widespread.
While most the objections still focus on the arguing that antifa violence is strategically ineffective, alienating potential supporters and allowing the detestable deplorables to assume the role of victims, etc(1), a few actually condemned the acts in themselves(2). Even before the Berkeley events Noam Chomsky had called antifa behavior “often wrong in principle” and after the events he was joined by others, including Chris Hedges, who argued in How ‘Antifa’ Mirrors the ‘Alt-Right’ that the black bloc and the alt-right share “the same lust for violence….”
Carl Boggs, long-time left scholar and activist, went even further, arguing against the left’s propensity to attempt to silence offending voices in a Counterpunch article The Strange (and Tortured) Legacy of “Free Speech”
“The irony is that while the [Free Speech Movement] and its heirs did everything possible to expand the realm of free speech, new social forces – extreme identity groups, Antifa – want to restrict or deny freedoms.”
Today’s rampage in Berkeley by antifa thugs is one more opportunity for the left to disavow the practice of brutal physical assault on any opponent they can get their hands on, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting.
Almost none of even those few on the left who publicly dissent from antifa tactics can actually bring themselves to just say that it’s simply wrong to beat people up because you disagree with them.
A good example of this is to be found in the “democratic” socialist magazine In These Times‘ (hardly the voice of the black bloc) debate Should We Deny Fascists a Platform? Even the most moderate of the 3 interlocutors, Nathan Robinson, can still only manage in his contribution We’ll Beat the Fascists With Ideas, Not Fists an argument based on expedience:
The appeal of shutting down right-wingers is easy to see; after all, nobody should want to see these speakers’ poisonous doctrines spread. But in the short term it’s counterproductive, and in the long term it’s suicidal.
It hardly needs repeating that to significant sections of the left the definition of a “fascist” is extraordinarily broad, exceeded only by that of a “racist”. And so, as I have argued elsewhere (for example, here and here) for the vast majority of the left, free speech for the deplorable 1/2 of the country that voted for Trump is something to be allowed only when and if it suits our various radical and now even our not-so radical would-be Big Brothers.