“LK,Yes, there is a lot of truth to this. TheIllusionist has put his finger on a lot of good points here that need to be said.
I fear that the identity stuff will actually proliferate more and more [sc. amongst millennial cultural leftists]. It probably won’t take over the economic radicalisation that is occurring. I think that will stay. But it will greatly impair their ability to govern. They will hold fast to fringe causes that will alienate the rest of the population. As I think is happening in Canada.
The question of the commitments to these causes is interesting. Many started as genuine issues that, while I won’t go as far as to say they were civil rights issues as they are currently advertised, were pretty close to. So, gay rights pre-1967 was a genuine issue. I think it remained an issue during the AIDs pandemic of the 1980s. But today it has morphed into something else. It now seems to be an ideology in and of itself. Strangely it does not appear to be an ideology designed to do anything except hassle people who don’t conform. So we see all these stunts about wedding cakes in the US.
As this is pushed to its limits the cultural left start to try to find ever more fringe ‘identities’ and promote these, also misleadingly as civil rights issues.
The question is: why? I’ve come to think that this is a new form of morality. It really is about separating society into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. The ‘good’ support these causes. The ‘bad’ are painted as evil, hateful people – usually racist, misogynistic, backward and so on. They are not just wrong. But actively evil.
By this reading the causes that are sought out don’t matter much in and of themselves. So long as they annoy the ‘bad’ Other they should be actively pursued. The ideology seems designed to be divisive and is really all about painting the adherent as (i) virtuous and (ii) engaged in something resembling a ‘moral war’. I’m sure that these sorts of politics lift peoples’ self-esteem but they are anti-political in the sense that they are geared toward alienation of the Other.
I do not think that the left will be able to move away from this. The Brexit result brought that out to me particularly strongly. And since they won’t be able, they will not be capable of governing. I think that what will largely happen is that left economic ideas will permeate the right and be deployed by them. We’re seeing this now with Theresa May calling for an end to austerity and a promotion of industrial policy and worker involvement on company boards. I think that we must basically get used to the fact that this is what victory looks like. To my mind, it could be a lot worse.”
I only disagree on one point: I think the regressive left is doomed to collapse, and the Left will radically reform soon, maybe within the next 10 years. As young leftists age, they will come to see how stupid, petty, irrelevant and even unhinged most of their current cultural leftist concerns are now.
To be clear: I think the Old Left from the 1940s to the 1950s had a lot of things right (certainly on economics), and only needed moderate reform on certain social and cultural issues.
Take gay rights: the active persecution and criminalisation of gay people was cruel and immoral. Take the case of Alan Turing.
But now the regressive left has turned gay rights into obsessive gay identity politics, and totally trivial things – like the refusal of some conservative Christian baker to bake a gay wedding cake – are treated as the second coming of Adolf Hitler.
The regressive cultural left is often about virtue signalling and a Stalinist culture of political correctness to demonise not just conservatives, but even leftists who profoundly disagree with the excesses of cultural leftism.
This is especially pronounced in Third Wave Feminism, in which last year we had the comical spectacle of the regressive left turning around and eating members of the old 1960s New Left, as Germaine Greer discovered:
But TheIllusionist raises another issue about the possibility that the Right might capitalise on the inability of the cultural left to govern:
“I think that what will largely happen is that left economic ideas will permeate the right and be deployed by them. We’re seeing this now with Theresa May calling for an end to austerity and a promotion of industrial policy and worker involvement on company boards. I think that we must basically get used to the fact that this is what victory looks like. To my mind, it could be a lot worse.”This is certainly a possibility, and the new populist Right has clearly taken a lurch in this direction.
It’s well known that, say, Marine Le Pen has transformed the French National Front (FN) into anti-EU, anti-neoliberal, protectionist party. I think perhaps other populist European parties could be described as broadly social democratic on economics (e.g., the Danish People’s Party or Sweden Democrats?), though I could be wrong on this.
But the rest of them seem to be neoliberal or even libertarian on economics, e.g., UKIP or Alternative for Germany (AfD). I’m not holding my breath for these parties or even the mainstream Conservative parties to come around to sensible interventionist economics, or to speak sense on economics given their libertarian fringes.
In the end, I think it might be quite likely that the left can and will reform itself. That means throwing out all the regressive left insanity.
A reformed Left would look more like this:
(1) it would abandon neoliberalism. Return to strong Keynesian, full employment, and social democratic economic policies. It would become protectionist, and promote some kind of industrial policy to rebuild manufacturing. Labour market protectionism for our citizens in the First World, and of course no matter would their ethnic background is;I would be happy to see a Left like this by the 2020s.
(2) it will abandon regressive left nonsense: ditch cultural relativism, identity politics, race-baiting leftism, identifying culture with race, and the incredible abuse of the word “racism,” which is applied to trivial things that are not racist, such as wearing sombreros or “culturally insensitive” Halloween costumes. End the witch hunting which inevitably accompanies cultural leftism. Abandon the extreme social constructivism and the “blank slate” view of human beings, because it is simply not true: e.g., there are only two natural genders in genetically normal human beings, male and female, and encouraging this type of thing is neither healthy nor desirable;
(3) to put it bluntly, it will ditch the bizarre anti-white racism that characterises the cultural left in its the endless cultural leftist conspiracy theories that blame the capitalist, white-male patriarchy or universal “institutional racism” for all the West’s problems;
(4) it will end open borders and mass immigration, and end the bizarre cult of “diversity,” which seems to think that multiculturalism is some great good in and of itself (which it most certainly is not);
(4) it will promote the strong assimilation of immigrants who are here in the West, and abandon failed multiculturalism. Also, there is nothing wrong with sensible, liberal cultural nationalism. And, yes, even though it might provoke slanderous screams of abuse from the usual suspects, it will be strongly but sensibly anti-Islamist, and reject all regressive and illiberal values promoted by the conservatives and fundamentalists in that religion;
(5) it will totally re-assess the ideas of Third Wave Feminism, many of whose ideas will have to go.
(6) do something about rebuilding the nuclear family. This might require redesigning the welfare system to encourage stable marriages, and discouraging single parent families. No hateful rhetoric or demonising of single mothers, however. That B.S. belongs on the Right;
(7) it will be anti-imperialist and non-interventionist on foreign policy, but not isolationist. Anyone proposing any military intervention in the Third World would require a brutally strong burden of proof and anything proposed must be legal under international law. Paradoxically, anti-imperialism would require confronting and countering the brutal aspects of Chinese imperialism in the Third World.