New far-left revolutionaries want to extinguish freedom of expression itself
Who would have guessed that a generation after communism collapsed in a groan not a bang, anti-capitalism would become a seemingly blameless force in the West? What is happening here?
On the one hand, there is a familiar infiltration model of the left that has not gone away even though the people who originally organized it are no longer run by the old organization. Or at least they’re not specifically led by a central command like those armies of Soviet assets and minions were in the more disciplined days of coordinated subversion. Now there is a much more chaotic and unruly crowd of malcontents and assorted opportunists ready to join in and exploit any movement (Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter) seems to present an opportunity to challenge what they would call it. the “power structure” of Western Society.
Unsurprisingly, some of the old lags are still there: those veteran travel companions who joined the CND at the behest of their Russian friends to discredit the West’s nuclear deterrent are now protesting the West’s environmental spoliation – while barely addressing the worst damage caused by the People’s Republic of China. But it’s the armies of younger recruits that are more alarming because, unlike older soldiers, they know next to nothing about the historic sins of the ideology they espouse. Or even the basic tenets of the authoritarian system they promote – perhaps unwittingly.
It is easy to forget that for most people under 40, the crimes of the Stasi, the truth about the gulags, the dangers of smuggling Samizdat literature out of Russia, the deliberate starvation of millions of peasants and corruption of the communist party autocracies are uncharted territory. Unlike the crimes of fascist Germany, which are rightly exhaustively taught to schoolchildren, the enslavement of the populations of Eastern Europe and the economic system in whose name it was perpetrated is largely ignored.
It is quite difficult to understand the objectives of what appears to be systematic propaganda aimed at deligitimizing market economies and presenting those who promote them as malicious forces. How serious does this mean? What would be the end result of their efforts for these agitators? Advocating for reform of employment practices is perfectly justifiable, as is socially responsible corporate governance. But these things have become common – in most Western countries these are legal requirements.
Something much more drastic and fundamental is demanded by the military wings of these movements: nothing less than the dismantling of the entire apparatus of free expression and the principles of economic freedom. The fact that capitalism, and not communism, has brought mass prosperity – and the self-determination that goes with it – on a scale unprecedented in human history is neither here nor there because the moral purity (as defined in perversely limited left terms) is more important than “private wealth”.
Stranger still than the obvious ignorance of the basic ideology that justifies their protests is the curiously narcissistic tone of their rhetoric. From what I can understand from the statements collected, this so-called social revolution is a form of personal development: a therapeutic cleansing of one’s own dangerous impulses or impure thoughts, a constant process of self-examination and moral renewal in which everyone must be engaged constantly if the company is to purge itself of inherited guilt. All of this rudimentary and rather aimless rage against the system that is supposedly opposed to selfish individualism seems to involve a self-centered and exaggerated sense of the importance of your own internal consciousness.
It’s so easy to take all this nonsense apart – it’s not even consistent in its own terms. But the Cold War is over and the West is no longer faced with a power bloc that poses an existential threat to its survival. Is this why no one bother to advocate for the benefits of capitalism – constant innovation, fostering choice, rewarding talent and effort? Having defeated a truly evil political system, the peoples who have won now accept the premises of the old enemy.
Capitalist companies feel compelled to declare themselves anti-capitalist in order to maintain their moral credibility. The very organizations which, through the miracles of entrepreneurship and competition, have made it possible to access this miracle of mass communication which makes the militant explosion possible, must now denounce themselves – in the great communist tradition – before to be able to be tainted. We have seen the absurd spectacle of companies whose businesses embody the spread of open access and consumer choice – mobile and broadband providers, nothing less – threatening to pull their advertising off a new channel. TV news, GB News, on the orders of a handful of ignorant people who declared it untouchable before its launch.
What sort of utopian society is this resurgent anti-capitalist lobby calling for? Or is it just lawless disorder for the fun of it? This is, of course, utterly pernicious: a reverse parody of McCarthyism in which to be accused of having, or being associated with, a forbidden opinion must be punished with ruin and internal exile.
This is perhaps the most sinister part: it is not just a campaign to suppress economic freedom. It is a request that disagreement and debate itself be prohibited. But all the progress of Western history has revolved around huge philosophical arguments that widen the mind: Plato against Aristotle, the Catholic Church against the Protestant Reformation, democracy against aristocratic power and yes – collectivism against the individualism. The West now seems ready to give up what is arguably its greatest gift in the world: reasoned disagreement. The idea that some views are too “toxic” to be heard, let alone disproved, is to extinguish what has made it possible even for people who don’t know what they are talking about to have a voice. This should really give Twitter warriors pause.