NO, THE LEFT IS NOT EQUALLY AS EXTREME AS THE RIGHT
I had to interrupt a conversation the other day. I just had to.
The leader of the conversation said, “the problem is that both the Democrats and the Republicans are spending too much time listening to their crazy extremes…”
Two other people were there, nodding mindlessly. Clearly, this guy was being sensible. After all, he was blaming both sides for our political troubles. That’s the reasonable, unbiased position.
So I had to break in. I excused myself and then asked, “let me ask you. What does the extreme right want?” He answered honestly with a description of the Alt-Right. He even mentioned apartheid.
“Okay,” I said, “now what does the extreme left want?”
He stuttered, so I filled in the blanks, counting on my fingers. “Single-payer health care, publicly funded tertiary education and livable wages.” I could have thrown in a clean and healthy environment, and green-energy New Deal and…um…peace, but I think I made my point.
Look, I understand that this isn’t really the far left. We can definitely go further than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. To which I have two responses:
- The extreme left does not have a voice within the current political discourse that the extreme right enjoys. The Overton Window extends only about as far as Democratic Socialism. Communism and anarchism are outside of the realm of acceptable discussion. In the meantime, the President of the United States is referring to members of the Alt-Right as very fine people. Come on!
- Even if we extend the Overton Window to the extremes, what is it that the communists and the anarchists want as compared to the militia-driven, heavily armed apartheid ethno-state advocated by the likes of Richard Spencer? The extreme left ultimately wants a classless and stateless society in which, to paraphrase Marx, everyone contributes according to their ability and everyone benefits according to their needs. Which utopian vision would you rather find yourself in?
But, AntiFa! AntiFa!
Yeah. I’m not a fan of AntiFa, either. Even here, however, there’s no equivalence. AntiFa believes in using violence to defend the freedoms of marginalized groups. Many advocate offensively seeking out fascists for violence as a way of protecting the country from being taken over by Nazis. There’s some precedent supporting this position. If the Nazis do take over, and they can, it will be much harder and require a great deal more violence to dislodge them. Either way, despite the fact that I disagree with AntiFa’s, it’s intent is to protect the marginalized. The Alt-Right’s intent is to use violence to victimize, drive out and segregate the marginalized. There’s a difference. After all, the last time systematic violence was used against fascists, we refer to the perpetrators as The Greatest Generation.
The next time you see this false equivalence on social media, please feel free to use this meme to counter it. When you hear it in conversation, please say something. Equating the extremes of the left and the right may sound sensible, objective and unbiased, but it’s clearly and example of lazy thinking.
As one reader pointed out (see comments below), there is a slimy underbelly of the left that must be addressed, but was not specified above. Namely, the kind of state socialism represented by the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Maoist movement in Asia and now, arguably, playing out with the Chavez movement in Venezuela. Indeed, state socialism has been a bloody bane and a stain on left-wing discourse for the last hundred years. It is tantamount that the left soundly rejects this paradigm. Fortunately, I believe the vast majority of the left does reject this approach.
I might also add that there is a brand of militant anarchism, touched upon in the post above, but not really elaborated. This movement had its heyday in the early 20th century and was responsible for significant violence including the assassination of multiple world leaders, one of whom was American President William McKinley. This brand of anarchism was soundly rooted out as a result of the Palmer Raids and persecution of radicals in the twenties culminating in the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti.
That being said, I’m sure there is a corner of the left that does embrace the Leninist/Maoist approach. It can be argued that AntiFa echoes some of the themes of militant anarchism. Since my essay at Scum Gentry, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with some anarchists who are having a difficult time imagining a scenario in which capitalism can be overthrown without violence. I acknowledge that these currents exist, but they are minuscule and marginal voices as compared the Alt-Right. Their existence, in my mind, does not constitute an equivalence to an extreme right-wing movement that has a significant voice in one of our major parties and is at the very least acknowledge as legitimate by the Presiden of the United States.