Photo by Roger Viollet
Artillery Row

On the side of Engels

Suffocated by a neurotic with-us-or-against-us mindset, the huddled masses of today’s Left brook no dissent

I used to be a bigot, all my friends were bigots and it was comforting. We simply knew that we were not only on the side of Engels, but of the angels.

As with thousands of others in the UK, my fall from grace came when I insisted that being born into the class of male or female has a bearing on life. Today, being progressive is a package deal. Marxist analysis will no longer cut it; one is also expected to champion critical race theory, decry climate change and venerate the NHS.

I should add a caveat at this point — my intention isn’t to sneer at every left-leaning person, but rather to take aim a pernicious groupthink that has taken hold online.

For a long time, I felt the need to apologise, to explain that “I was still a decent person” despite sharing articles from right-wing outlets when I happened to agree on certain issues. Without even being aware, I had been dragged into the suffocating, neurotic with-us-or-against-us mindset.

Whether it’s a minority view on Palestine or Brexit is irrelevant — the huddled masses of the online left brook no dissent. To question is to be branded either pitiably ignorant or an irredeemable bastard, and to be treated accordingly. The result is a dense singularity of woke toward which the well-meaning and hard-of-thinking are inexorably pulled.

I felt the need to explain that ‘I was still a decent person’

This febrile atmosphere has been stoked by left-wing pundits like Owen Jones, who once wrote in a 2019 Guardian column that “the hate preachers, recruiting sergeants and useful idiots of right-wing extremism are located in the heart of the British, European and American establishments”. Similarly, on Sunday UCU leader Jo Grady claimed that the British government are “fascist” and seeking to “disenfranchise voters” and “suppress opposition”. The online left live in a constant state of anxiety, eyeing neighbours and colleagues with suspicion.

Undoubtedly, the popularist thrall of Orban and Putin is alarming, but are such right-wing leaders any more of a threat than Biden, who is so blinded by “progressive values” that on his first day of office he signed away women’s rights? Or Trudeau, who is presiding over what many consider the sterilisation of a generation of lesbian and gay youth? Ironically, there’s more than a tinge of xenophobia to the lefty fear of the faceless right. From Russia to Hungary, barbarous, fascist hoards from the East are amassing, infiltrating our institutions and threatening our civilisation.

Even these “enemies at the gate” are far removed from the temperate, tea-and-biscuits brand of the moderate right within the UK. Yet, according to the left’s hyperbolic fear mongers, without exception Conservative voters want homeless people to die in the streets, gay men and lesbians to be pushed back into the closet and for women to be forced into giving birth whilst chained to the kitchen sink.

But these racist, sexist, homophobic folk demons are not representative of modern British conservatives. They are no more characteristic of the right than the fringe liberal academics pushing for paedophiles to be recognised as a persecuted minority are of today’s left. They exist, but their influence has been exaggerated in the service of the greater good.

It’s far simpler to blame capitalism than it is to create policy

Ideology is a shield from the real world: because a dead German political philosopher wrote all the answers two hundred years ago there’s no need to think of practical solutions to the problem of people drowning en route to a better life. It’s far simpler to blame capitalism and make the futile ideological demand for an end to borders than it is to create policy. Such vacuous moralising wins support online, but the cost is failure at the ballot box.

Whether killed by Francis Fukuyama or the digital shift, the left as it once was has passed away. Its spectre now haunts social media, and it howls sloganeering soundbites into the void. But offline, in the real world, it is on the right where debate is alive. Reading Mary Harrington’s astonishing speech from Nat Con or Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s critiques of the harms of immigration is invigorating. And there is no expectation that one must agree with each point or be damned.

Perhaps this is because the right prizes individualism, and as such deviating from the one true path is not a sign of moral degeneracy. Arguably, freedom of thought on the right is also a product of confidence that comes with having been in power for so long. The left in Britain seems tragically addicted to victimhood, stuck wallowing in the bitter thrill of hating the Conservatives without providing an electorally attractive vision.

Many of my former comrades now cross the street to avoid me. I’ve been blocked by friends who celebrated my civil partnership with me. I miss the certainty of knowing who the bigots were, and never once suspecting that it might have been me. But whilst I might have given up my place at the left-hand side of a beardy autocrat in utopia, I’ve learned to love living in political limbo.

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