Notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. Fugitive terrorist murderer Assata Shakur, a.k.a. Joanne Chesimard. Would-be police killer Baba Sekou Odinga.
America’s top feminists – leaders of several well-attended progressive, gay and anti-Trump marches — openly and unapologetically admire the unadmirable.
“Will progressives have more spine than conservatives in policing hate in their ranks?,” asked Bari Weiss in a recent [August 1] New York Times op-ed.
My answer: “No!” It’s too risky.
Trump or no Trump, modern rank and file progressives simply do not challenge their radical party line – anti-west, anti-capitalist, pro-third-world, obsessively anti-Israel. Leftists may pride themselves as dissenters, but ever since the New Left displaced the moribund Old Left five decades ago, they have voluntarily relinquished their right to dissent.
In this timid conformity they contrast sharply with the Old Left, a fractious lot that analyzed Marxism with Talmudic thoroughness and splintered into numerous factions. Devoted to Marx and Stalin, they expected communism to deliver a better world. When it didn’t, and when it became increasingly clear that it wouldn’t, doubts led to disillusion, and deep disillusion led to outright defection – mass defections.
Stalin provided ample opportunities for disillusionment: the Spanish Civil War (1926-9); the Ukraine famine in the early 1930s; the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in 1939; Khruschev’s denunciation of Stalin and the Hungarian uprising, both in 1956. New recruits kept the numbers up, but after the Prague Spring in 1968, Western communism was no longer a viable movement.
But radicals were plentiful in the late 1960s, and they formed a New Left, led not by thinkers but by thugs who demanded total obedience. And got it, from followers who were too complacent or docile or intimidated to say boo, let alone defect. More interested in being, or being seen to be, progressive, they had little interest in or commitment to true progressive values. They still don’t. And they still neither dissent nor defect.
Such timorousness actually has antecedents in the complex, perhaps even contradictory Old Left.
When Hungarian-born British writer and communist Arthur Koestler (1905-83) toured the Soviet Union in 1932, he found misery and starvation pretty much every where he went.
How did he deal with his disappointment? He didn’t. “My Party education had equipped my mind with such elaborate shock-absorbing buffers and elastic defences that everything seen and heard became automatically transformed to fit the preconceived pattern.”
The bubble of self-deception eventually burst, exposing his own hypocrisy. He and his friends frequently criticized the judiciaries in their own countries – decent democracies – while remaining “silent…when our comrades, without trial or conviction, were liquidated in the Socialist sixth of the earth.” Communism had been Koestler’s god. It failed.
Soviet writer and ardent communist Lev Kopelev (1912-97) witnessed – and contributed to – the Ukraine famine, during which millions died of starvation even though food was available. Kopelev did not “curse those who had sent me to take away the peasants’ grain in the winter, or the spring. … Nor did I lose my faith.”
Why not? “I believed because I wanted to believe.”
Other western communists saw the same starving masses and denied it, either deceiving themselves or lying outright. Communist Utopia was around the corner and would make everything all right, would erase all sins.
Modern progressives similarly view the world through blinders and blinkers.
For example, is Israel gay-friendly? No, they claim. Mere public relations, pinkwashing.
Do Palestinians mistreat women and gays? An honest answer would puncture the progressive position, so they simply do not discuss this explosive issue. And if something is not talked about, it doesn’t exist. With breathtaking intellectual dishonesty, they condemn Israel and whitewash the Palestinians – on this and all other issues.
Old-left communists may have been naïve or misguided but most were altruists who genuinely sought social justice for all mankind. When they could no longer deny that Stalin was delivering tyranny rather than utopia, they had no choice but to fold their cards.
The main priority for many progressives is to retain their good standing – their radical bona fides – with their comrades. See what you want to see and the party line is never wrong. There is nothing to question, let alone challenge.