As David Horowitz has said, the Left itself is a totalitarian movement. At first we didn’t understand specifically what he meant by that. Most leftists (i.e. “liberals”, “progressives”, the politically correct) we knew or knew of didn’t appear in any way to be totalitarians themselves. And many leftist organizations I’ve known over the years were mostly democratic in their operation. But over time we’ve learned more fully what Horowitz was getting at, and in stating this observation he was echoing the same viewpoint Austrian economist Friedrich A. Hayek had expressed in the mid-20th century: “Socialism can be put into practice only by methods of which most socialists disapprove”.
A similar way to phrase the idea is, Leftist movements tend over time towards totalitarian governing models. Hayek arrived at this realization from an economic perspective in early 20th century Central Europe. Horowitz arrived at the same conclusion through his activism as a political leftist in 1960s and ’70s America. The concept has been clear to some for many decades. For others it’s becoming clearer by the week in these more turbulent times of western politics and culture, namely: that leftist organizations, as if by some irresistible gravitational force, slowly but steadily repudiate the basic principles of free society, with Freedom of Speech being the usual first casualty.
Freedom of the press, of peaceable assembly, and everything else in Amendment 1 are typically at the top of the list of targets. We’ve seen in just the last 5 to 7 years how leftist groups which previously worked through lobbying, education, periodicals, and other avenues that are essentially vehicles for argument and persuasion (free speech), have begun openly to admire and sometimes use the violent, heavy-handed tactics of some of the world’s most brutal regimes. (And they did it again just yesterday to Ted Cruz when he was simply trying to eat at a restaurant.)
For easy-to-find, yet shocking examples sometimes we often need look no further than the Millennial generation. Young people are not just impressionable but idealistic and often passionate. Leftist ideology – a vision of human history as reducible to Oppressor vs Oppressed classes, the need for a revolutionary “reset” of society’s foundations, and the moral conviction that the urgency of this goal frees us from the traditional restraints on ethical methods of reform – can appeal powerfully to the young but has gained victory after victory at all levels of western culture, though with (politicized) youth often playing an enthusiastic role. Neil Davenport of the British libertarian publication Spiked UK reported recently on some fascinating developments in university politics.
It would be funny to read if we knew it was only college kids who say and believe this stuff, but it’s obviously adults too: tenured college professors, “diversity” administrators, HR departments of major (and minor) corporations, and who knows who else. Now they have gone and actually praised Josef Stalin, the man, the legend. The greatest murderer in the history of earth – most of his victims being his own people, and often poor people at that.
Why Students *HEART* Stalin
by Neil Davenport [Spiked UK] * 13 September, 2018
On Monday, the LGBTQ+ Society at Goldsmiths, University of London, tweeted in defence of Soviet-era gulags. Stalin’s forced labour camps, it said, would be an ideal mechanism for ‘dealing’ with TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). Far from being a brutal penal system with a high mortality rate, they were a ‘compassionate and non-violent’ form of rehabilitation, said Goldsmiths LGBTQ+, adding: ‘Educational work was also a prominent feature of the Soviet penal system. There were regular classes, book clubs, newspaper editorial teams, sports, theatre and performance groups.’ It concluded that TERFs could be ‘eradicated through education’.
Since these bizarre tweets, Goldsmiths LGBTQ+ has been suspended and disaffiliated from the Students’ Union, (although whether its members will be sent on a diversity-awareness training day is unclear).
On the one hand, it is hard to take such nonsense seriously. A key part of university for some undergraduates is the chance to talk rubbish in university debating forums, college rags or on the internet. A free and open society should be able to tolerate the young saying foolish things without taking it very seriously. In another era, it is doubtful whether this incident would make a local paper, let alone grab the attention of broadsheet editors, who then commission spreads on the ‘reality’ of gulags.
Yet, on the other hand, the very real hounding of radical feminists who refuse to acknowledge trans women as real biological women is no laughing matter. When veteran feminists have been hounded from college campuses for their views, or calls made for academics to be blacklisted for questioning the trans ideology, then Goldsmiths LGBQT+’s demand that TERFs to be sent to the gulag sounds all too unironic. After all, far from being excessive, Goldsmiths LGBQT+ was merely following through the logic of the culture of unfreedom that increasingly prevails across college campuses.
This incident sheds further light on a truly retrograde tendency among a lot of millennials; namely, their opposition to hard-won, long-standing freedoms. Indeed, to be opposed to traditional liberties has almost become a sign of radicalism. So, the louder one campaigns for the eradication of others’ free expression and free thought, the more noble and principled one is deemed to be. It does not matter whether the student in question is secular or devout. For Islamists, this intolerance of others’ views is a sign of how committed one is to an uncompromising vision of Islam; for the left, it is a sign of how committed one is to eradicating oppression. Thus, today’s leftists are uncomfortable with free speech because it is viewed as a conduit for their political opponents’ ‘objectionable’ views, and is therefore ‘right wing’.
Too many young people today mistake bans and restrictions for hardened political principles. This is why self-styled left-wingers increasingly feel no shame when alluding to, or even championing, Stalinism – especially the Stalinist opposition to a free press and democracy. Ironically, Stalinism used to be acutely embarrassing for those on the left. That was because, both as a social system and a set of ideas, it was anathema to anyone committed to expanding the realm of democracy and freedom. How fitting, then, that the gulag, the miserable apotheosis of Stalinism, should have been rehabilitated by those immersed in the campus culture of unfreedom.
Neil Davenport is a writer based in London.