Saturday, 10 September 2016

The Alternative Left - What it is.

On April 9, 2016 I created a Facebook page and called it Alternative Left.  Both before and since then, I've done online research into the prospect of rebooting the left in the same way that Richard Spencer has tried to do on the right.  The results have yielded a mixture of blogs and other sites that point to a growing discontent with the direction that left wing politics have gone since the demise of communism, among some people on the left.  Central to this discontent is a concern for civil liberties, freedom of speech and ideological pluralism in the face of in increasingly PC leftist establishment, a feeling that economic inequality and class based politics have been neglected due to an overemphasis on identity politics.

While I would like to take credit for being the left's counterpart to Richard Spencer, that honor belongs to one Robert Lindsay, whose blog defines the Alternative left more in terms of what it is not than what it is.  His list of what he feels would disqualify one from being an alt-leftist is, perhaps, lengthy, but basically boils down to a definition of the alt left as a rejection of the excesses of cultural leftism, rejection of social conservatism and support for social democratic kinds of economic policies.

In my months of involvement with this movement, spent primarily on social media outreach; building my page, this blog and Samizdat Broadcasts on YouTube, what I've noticed is a consistent core principle, with a broader variety of ancillary beliefs emphasized in varying permutations and combinations.  And that principle can, I firmly believe,  be neatly summed up as follows:
Alternative Left - Politics, so far confined to the internet and social media, centered around advocacy of a program of protecting western civilization from decline due to an erosion of humanist values caused by regressive leftism.  
Here I am defining humanism with the first line in the Wikipedia article on the same subject: "a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over acceptance of dogma and superstition."

The concept of a "regressive left" is essential, and is the key feature that demarcates the alternative left from mainstream progressivism. Examples of the kinds of regressive leftism that are of concern to alt-leftists include:

  1. Replacement of racial and gender equality with an exceptionalism based on white male guilt as the underlying ideology.
  2. A cultural determinism wherein people’s actions are judged solely on the basis of whether they belong to “privileged” or “marginalized” demographics.
  3. Tolerance and acceptance of Islamism both at home and abroad, and protection of Islamic doctrine and communities from needed scrutiny due to dogmatic strains of anti-rascist, multiculturalist thought.
  4. Embrace of mass immigration and multiculturalism without regard to the social problems caused by non-assimilation of migrant populations.
  5. Dogmatic and extremist strains of feminist and anti-racist thought and activism, that call for the curtailing of speech when it offends them (so called "safe spaces" and "trigger warnings") and the curtailing of civil liberties for people who commit acts they deem oppressive, such as support for strong hate speech laws or curtailing due process for men accused of sex crimes against women.
  6. Loss of free speech and intellectual diversity in Academia.
  7. Embrace of "postmodern" philosophies which undermine belief in rationalism and empiricism by accusing these of being white male European social constructs.
  8. Obliviousness to or tolerance of widespread economic inequality.
  9. A tendency to avoid addressing arguments posed against them and instead relying on name calling, willful misrepresentation of their opponent’s positions and other kinds of stonewalling and evasiveness when faced with opposition or criticism.
From here, come a number of ancillary beliefs around which there is general agreement, but differences of emphasis, nuance and proposed solutions.  These issues are generally:

  1. Skepticism towards economic conservatism, or in Europe, economic liberalism. Untrammeled capitalism is seen as generally destructive.  Proposed remedies range from a return to Keynesian social democracy to more thorough socialization of the economy, to third positionist economic theories not yet considered or implemented.  More generally, the kinds of dogmatic and quasi religious attachments to economic theories displayed by Marxists and Libertarians alike are frowned upon.  Note that it is the religiofication of these theories, not the theories themselves, that are seen as the problem.  Orthodox Marxists and libertarians, while definitely ideological minorities on the alt left, do exist.
  2. Anti-conservatism.  While the Alternative Left is demarcated from mainstream progressivism by its opposition to regressive leftism, we make no peace with the right!  Religion and traditionalism are eschewed in favor of enlightenment humanism (see above), although we absolutely oppose persecution based on religious or cultural affiliation (see below).  While the alt-left is not against rigorous and peer reviewed scientific study of hereditary genetic differences across race or gender lines, we unequivocally oppose discrimination against people of any and all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and so on, including straight white males.  In a similar vein, our opposition to Islamism is not a call for discrimination against Muslims, crack-downs on domestic civil liberties in the name of anti-terrorism or for the kinds of hawkish, interventionist foreign policies in the Middle East that have done far more to fan than to quench the flames of Jihadism both at home and abroad.
  3. Strong belief in civil liberties and free speech, especially though not exclusively in the face of the regressive left.
Frustration with the regressive left is palpable all across social media and in the broader society.  But this frustration cannot be allowed to be the impetus of a mass shift to the far right in the western world.  This will be an "out of the frying pan and into the fire" kind of solution.  The answer to the regressive left is not a re-embracing of racism, xenophobia and sexual puritanism.  It is a revival of classical liberal and social democratic principles.  That is what the Alternative Left is all about.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What's the Matter with Liberals?

Thomas Frank's 2004 opus, What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America is, perhaps, the single greatest...