The First Problem with the First World Left
Recently, Nicky Reid observed:
My divide with most other far leftists seems to be largely a matter of priorities. The New New Left puts antiracism and antifascism at the forefront, while I still view American Imperialism as the greatest threat to humanity. The thing is, I very much consider myself to be an antiracist and an antifascist as well. I just happen to recognize that the American government is the greatest source of racism on the planet, and the American police state is the deadliest school fascism.
What Nicky says here pretty much summarizes the primary criticism I have of the Left, at least in the United States and other “First World” countries. The Left in the developing world, outside the West, and in the former “Second World” often assumes a much different character.’
The argument in favor of making “antiracism/antifascism” and other comparable ideas into the priority issue is that such things lead to genocide and genuine political oppression. Okay. So what about the millions of people killed by wars and state repression initiated or aggravated by the USA and its allies, or carried out by US client states? US wars in the Middle East during the past 20 years alone have created around a million casualties and tens of millions of injured or dislocated persons. That’s before we even consider the 20 million or so victims of US foreign policy in the Cold War.
Unbelievably, we have “progressives” in the US who are obsessed with “racism and fascism” to the point of pathology but who treat all of this as just another issue like where to build a new bicycle path or accusations of microaggression. A few years ago, a left-anarchist podcast did a series criticizing my work, and when this issue came up, one of them said they didn’t see how US imperialism is worse than what is happening to all of us in the domestic US. Uh, hello? Do we have tens of millions of refugees from aerial bombing and military invasion in Kansas or Florida?
For people who are so obsessed with one or another form of “privilege,” it’s amazing how lacking in self-awareness they are. For instance, when Madison Cawthorn was running in the GOP primaries, one of his opponents was the former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo. And progressives were waxing hysterical about Cawthorn (“OMG! A Nazi!”) and apparently oblivious that a real “Nazi” was running against him.
Most of the claims of “oppression” that are raised by the US left I would argue are relatively localized, depending on the cultural, geographic, socioeconomic, or institutional sector involved, and usually involve relatively mild forms of social or economic discrimination. Probably the closest thing in the domestic US that rivals world-historical forms of oppression like slavery, genocide, ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, the genuine oppression of women and gays in traditional societies, etc. would be mass incarceration due to overcriminalization. If we add up all arrests and incarcerations for “crimes” not involving violence and theft and lacking any mens rea component, we’re talking about a million+ arrests per year and about half a million incarcerated people at any one time. There are also obvious socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and socio-cultural disparities involved in that as well, although I don’t think that is the definitive element. I think all-encompassing statism, albeit with a liberal gloss (soft totalitarianism) is the real issue.
Unfortunately, the farce that gets passed off as the “Left” in the US is merely the liberal wing of the middle to upper classes, or as Thomas Piketty points, the Brahmin classes as opposed to the merchant classes.