05 July 2016
The Unique Evil of the Left
I had a hard time editing down the following excerpts from the full article at Lew Rockwell. It's that good:
Is it too much to say that since the French Revolution, the left has been the source of virtually all political evils, and continues to be so in our day?
There can be no doubt that great cruelty and violence can be and have been inflicted in the name of preserving the existing order.
But when we compare even the worst enormities of the more distant past with the leftist totalitarian revolutions and total wars of the twentieth centuries, they are in general a mere blip. The entire history of the Inquisition, said Joe Sobran, barely rises to the level of what the communists accomplished on a good afternoon.
The French Revolution, and particularly its radical phase, was the classic manifestation of modern leftism and served as the model for still more radical revolutions around the world more than a century later.
As that revolution proceeded its aims grew more ambitious, with its most fervent partisans demanding nothing less than the total transformation of society.
In place of the various customs and settled ways of a France with well over a millennium of history behind it, the radical revolutionaries introduced a “rational” alternative cooked up in their heads, and with all the warmth of an insane asylum.
Given that the left has sought the complete transformation of society, and given that such wholesale change is bound to come up against the resistance of ordinary people who don’t care for having their routines and patterns of life overturned, we should not be surprised that the instrument of mass terror has been the weapon of choice. The people must be terrified into submission, and so broken and demoralized that resistance comes to seem impossible.
Likewise, it’s no wonder the left needs the total state. In place of naturally occurring groupings and allegiances, it demands the substitution of artificial constructs. In place of the concrete and specific, the Burkean “little platoons” that emerge organically, it imposes remote and artificial substitutes that emerge from the heads of intellectuals. It prefers the distant central government to the local neighborhood, the school board president over the head of household.
As time has passed, leftists have bothered less and less to pretend to be neutral between competing social visions. This is why conservatives who accuse the left of moral relativism have it so wrong. Far from relativistic, the left is absolutist in its demands of conformity to strict moral codes.
And it is not simply that dissent is not tolerated. Dissent cannot be acknowledged. What happens is not that the offender is debated until a satisfactory resolution is achieved. He is drummed out of polite society without further ado. There can be no opinion apart from what the left has decided.
Now it’s true: the left can’t remind us often enough of the tolerant, non-judgmental millennials from whom this world of ubiquitous bigotry can learn so much. So am I wrong to say that the left, and particularly the younger left, is intolerant?
The leftist obsession with “equality” and leveling means the state must insinuate itself into employment, finance, education, private clubs — pretty much every nook and cranny of civil society. In the name of diversity, every institution is forced to look exactly like every other one.
The left can’t ever be satisfied because its creed is a permanent revolution in the service of unattainable ends like “equality.” People of different skills and endowments will reap different rewards, which means constant intervention into civil society. Moreover, equality vanishes the moment people begin freely exchanging money for the goods they desire, so again: the state must be involved in everything, at all times.
Moreover, each generation of liberals undermines and scoffs at what the previous one took for granted. The revolution marches on.