Not the Real Leftism

USSR wasn’t real socialism. Cuba and Venezuela aren’t real socialism. CHAZ isn’t real leftism. New York Times isn’t real leftism.

Every single time it’s tried, the result is identical. Totalitarianism, persecution, violence, fear, silencing of dissidents, destruction of the cultural legacy. Every single time.

But instead of concluding that this is the nature of leftism, we keep hearing that it’s not real leftism. If only it were this mysterious “real” kind, things would be absolutely peachy.

58 thoughts on “Not the Real Leftism”

  1. “Real leftism” may stand for what Yael calls “liberal nationalism” providing the ideological basis for expectations of social protection from a (welfare) state.

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  2. I oppose socialism and generally agree with this post, but I fail to see how the capitalist agenda the NYTimes and co. pushes qualifies as left wing. Right now what we’re headed towards is the totalitarianism of the communist regimes without any of their economic agendas. Totalitarianism has happened under both socialism and capitalism, right now it appears we’re looking at the latter.

    I define left and right primarily in economic terms, perhaps you define it differently. I find it more helpful to use different terms for the cultural axis.

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    1. “I fail to see how the capitalist agenda the NYTimes and co. pushes qualifies as left wing”

      Lenin would no doubt agree. He wrote that “left-wing communism” was “an infantile disorder” of anarchist influenced petite-bourgeois revolutionaries and therefore “does not measure up to the conditions and requirements of a consistently proletarian class struggle.”

      Our current crop of “opportunist” middle class revolutionaries can dress it up their ideas as ‘leftist’ or ‘progressive’ or ‘identity politics’ or ‘critical theory’ or ‘racial justice’ or whatever other euphemisms they choose but it’s all really about providing political and ideological cover for global capital and its elite enablers in western societies. Sometimes crude Marxism really can draw the shortest line between two political points.

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    2. Yes, there is nothing leftist about the New York Times or the ridiculous identity politics that it is currently pushing on its editorial pages. Remember that it was a socialist newsite that brought our attention to the errors in the 1619 Project in the NYT. I recently saw a supporter of BLM on TV point out that there are so few Black CEOs at US companies. But if you’re arguing that there aren’t enough Black people running US companies–i.e., rich Black people–you’re simply not a leftist. The left is against gross income inequality, and therefore, its political vision doesn’t focus on helping more POC and women get rich.

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      1. Most of the institutional left does support the new totalitarianism, so I think Clarissa’s broader point is true (we can debate whether they’re “actually socialist” or not, but this is the reality of the so-called left.) However, I’m pleased to have discovered a community of socialists and left leaning people who strongly oppose the new totalitarianism. I consider anyone who does to be a political ally right now; labels of left and right don’t matter to me anymore (they haven’t mattered much for a while.)

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  3. This is something we need to be discussing more broadly. What books, films, music are particularly valuable? What’s likely to be purged? Perhaps we should have a post like this on here, but not just for children’s books.

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    1. // What books, films, music are particularly valuable? What’s likely to be purged?

      How can you purge anything in the age of World Wide Web?

      Can you imagine Amazon stopping to sell most books released less than 3 months ago? 🙂

      Huge tech companies don’t want to go after child pornography since it would hurt their bottom line; surely they wpn’t bother deleting all ‘unwoke’ songs, books and films.

      In the worst case, there are always English and Russian pirate sites.

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      1. Once people’s Amazon accounts (or brick and mortar bookstore purchases if they have a loyalty card) become publicly available, we’ll see extraordinary degrees of self-censorship in what people read.

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      2. Amazon has shown a willingness to stop selling books (I can link examples if you want.) And of course, streaming services delete stuff all the time; their business model is not based on forever having everything. And if something isn’t on Netflix, etc., people won’t watch it or even know about it. Books and entertainment are very centralized now.

        Of course, if you KNOW about something it’s often easy to pirate or buy elsewhere, hence why a list is useful. This is especially true of popular music, movies, and TV shows. Pirating (or even legitimately obtaining) somewhat obscure media, high quality cuts of silent films (the free versions available of these are often low quality), books of any kind can be harder.

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  4. Well, there is a new paradigm around. Strictly speaking, American BLM mobsters are right: it’s called Critical Theory Marxism. Still, though some of the books may be different, the language is the same. Regime change, anyone ?

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    1. // And what about « not real fascism »?

      ???

      Who talks like that?

      Fascist became a swear world, while BLM activists proudly (and wrongly) call themselves Marxists.

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      1. There is a small group of neo-Nazis in Russia who do say “we are the real Nazis, Hitler was great but he did make a huge mistake not recognizing the value of the Slavic people as real Aryans, etc.” This is a tiny and very marginal group. Other than these very small examples, to imagine mainstream people going around proclaiming themselves to be “the good fascists” is inconceivable. While “real socialists” abound.

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  5. Don’t know whether it’s a good interview.

    Карл Густав Юнг. Диагностируя диктаторов_Начало
    Интервью о природе диктаторов, взятое американским журналистом Х. Р. Никербокером журнала Hearst’s Intemational Cosmopolitan у всемирно известного психиатра Карла Густава Юнга в октябре 1938 года.

    https://storm100.livejournal.com/8002773.html
    https://storm100.livejournal.com/8003019.html

    I started skimming through it and this was funny, considering today’s situation:

    Никербокер: Ну а то, что уровень жизни в Советском Союзе значительно повысился и продолжает повышаться, начиная с низшей точки голода 1933 г., о чем сообщалось многими и что отмечал я сам?

    Юнг: Это так. Но Сталин вместе с тем, что он царь, может быть хорошим администратором. Было бы чудом, если бы кто–нибудь сумел привести такую богатую от природы страну, как Россия, к обнищанию.

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  6. ” the result is identical. Totalitarianism”

    Thinking with my fingers….
    Well no particular rigid ideology is that appealing for most people and the less appealing it is for the majority the more it has to be imposed…
    Leftism is usually built around…. units larger than the individual so that imposition has to be collectivized and collectives can’t let individuals have any elbow room, physical or mental….
    Unappealing rightwing ideologies maybe concentrate more on the individual or on smaller units like nuclear families recognizing a kind of private space that the left can’t allow.

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    1. Very interesting insights. I haven’t considered this but it definitely makes sense. Left-wing ideologies go after family links and friendships from the get-go. Familial loyalties are intolerable to them. This is why there’s so much glorification of single motherhood, divorce for ideological reasons, renouncing your parents.

      Yesterday I had an enlightening discussion on Twitter with progressives who believe that you can’t be married to someone with different political views. I was stunned by the degree of immaturity and the incapacity to see people as people. If you are ready to dump your husband over how he votes, you’ve got a gigantic problem.

      Forget husband, I’d never stop being friends with people I value over something this idiotic. Who cares who you vote for if we have a profound relationship?

      And since I know that people will immediately start with “but what if your husband supported Putin,” I’m deeply sorry for you if you have to ask.

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      1. How is wanting to support single mothers “glorification of single motherhood”? Nearly everyone agrees that it’s developmentally worse for the child and very difficult for the mother, but I don’t want to see those women and children literally starve to death.

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        1. You are really into gigantic generalizations. Who is that “nearly everyone who agrees”? I know it’s not an opinion I can express publicly under my own name without facing ostracism and persecution.

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              1. Have you ever considered that an appreciation of the difficult situation of single mothers and their children might be WHY some people want support for them?

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              2. “Have you ever considered that an appreciation of the difficult situation of single mothers and their children might be WHY some people want support for them?”

                • Have you considered that this is not what we are discussing at all?

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              3. This: “I know it’s not an opinion I can express publicly under my own name without facing ostracism and persecution.”

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      2. In some sense, though, right-wing ideologies are also incompatible with the family, as it has existed in most times and places. Tribalism is natural. And it’s totally incompatible with any kind of democracy.

        The reason America got off to such a roaring start as a democracy is because we were a nation of people who’d left their families behind.

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          1. Yes, wife, kids. Not the whole tribe. We have this discussion sometimes with friends in Viet Nam. Despite decades of communism, traditional family culture is still alive there– though economic prosperity may in the end kill it. The younger set wants democracy. They want to finally slough off the decaying remnants of communism. But we ask: “If you had an election, and one candidate was the best man– virtuous, wise, good judgement, natural leader, the complete package… and the other candidate was connected to your family, who would you vote for? The answer, naturally, is the one to whom you owe family loyalty. Democracy is incompatible with tribalism.

            When those same people move to the US, they make fantastic and enthusiastic democracy-loving American citizens. Because they left the tribe in the old country.

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            1. “Viet Nam … traditional family culture is still alive there”

              A few years ago, a Vietnamese friend in Poland (late middle aged) returned home for the summer and found her house full of random people claiming to be relatives… her husband (university administrator) couldn’t say no when random cousins and cousins of cousins wanted a place to stay while in Hanoi. It had originally been one person who was supposed to help take care of the husband (some health issues) and it soon got out of control….
              She got things under control and got them out of the house but it took a couple of weeks and she was worried that the situation would repeat the moment she left…

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      3. \ And since I know that people will immediately start with “but what if your husband supported Putin,” I’m deeply sorry for you if you have to ask.

        At the risk of sounding bad, did you mean that developing a profound relationship makes one know in advance whether a person is a Putin supporter kind, enabling one to take distance before marriage, or that one forgives family many things, including this?

        Btw, my aunt is not anti-Putin. She once asked “who if not Putin?”

        May be it has changed now; I can ask her on the phone, but Russia is not a democracy and I am kind of worried to do that.

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        1. He isn’t at all religious, doesn’t want to go to church, and I’m probably never going to have a church wedding. And I’ve absorbed all that peacefully. Compared to this, something ridiculous like a political disagreement is on the level of arguing which side of the bed you prefer.

          Actually, the side of the bed argument was harder.

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          1. //And I’ve absorbed all that peacefully.

            But he is not against you taking Klara to church and raising her religious since earliest childhood.

            Children are a truly hard topic for religious \ secular couples

            I don’t want to raise my kids in religion, send them to religious schools, so marrying a religious person is out.

            I understand your religion is more ‘low key,’ but in Israel it is a totalizing experience. I cannot live a complete lie and see my kids taught what I don’t believe in at all, so practicing men are out.

            A religious wedding is a tiny thing in comparison, even in Israel where it gives husbands a power not to grant divorce and make any future children a wife may have with other men second sort, illegal, ‘bastards’ in short. One of the things I really hate about religion and state going together is this thing – giving husbands legal power to badly harm wives and prevent them from having kids that won’t be discriminated against by potential marriage partners in the future.

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            1. We don’t turn our kid into a battlefield, no. 🙂

              And I’m still hoping he will convert. Weirder things have happened. If he doesn’t, though, it’s fine, too. I lost the side of the bed argument as well. :-)))

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  7. What about centre-leftism? Plenty of countries with that ideology with much better living standards and political conditions than the US (I’m not from the US). Sure, allegedly threatening to doxx bloggers is bad and I’m 100% against it, but so is giving people $1 million medical bills, and the latter happens far more often and has a far more concrete negative effect on people’s lives. Perhaps the right-wing elites don’t just don’t hear as much about ordinary people as about stuff that allegedly happens in their blogosphere?

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        1. $1m seems pretty extreme, though. How many people have that much medical debt? I’m really curious what you’d have to do to acquire that much medical debt! I’ve seen members of my family go through crazy medical crises with and without insurance, and the truth is, once you get past a certain point, you can retroactively file for medicaid to cover your medical bills, if it’s more than your income can handle. Or, the hospital/doctors/surgeons/whatever have to put you on a payment plan, in which case you can pay them $20 a month for the rest of your life if you want. Pain in the arse, but not exactly serfdom. Sure, it ruins your credit. Plenty of people have got into that state without the help of medical debt. It’s not the end of the world.

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        2. Forget blogs. How many people lost their jobs because leftist mobs hounded them?

          As for medical debt, divide it per capita, and see what the result is.

          I’m finding it hard to believe you read abd understood that blog at all.

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            1. Long enough to know that Scott frequently criticised the US healthcare system.

              But lovely, make personal attacks and assumptions about my intelligence based on a few comments that challenge your views.

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    1. The only countries I’d say that have “much better living standards” than America that are “center-left” are some of the very tiny Scandinavian nations, which also are more right-wing than many realize. Also, an inconvenient aspect about them (not PC) is that they are mostly white ethnically, not a bunch of different ethnicities.

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      1. “The only countries I’d say that have “much better living standards” than America that are “center-left” are some of the very tiny Scandinavian nations,”

        • And even then, it’s much better standards in some ways and much lower standards in other ways. I know Ukrainians who move to Norway or Sweden and discover that medical care is worse than in Ukraine. And it’s really bad in Ukraine. The selection of goods and services in these countries is limited. Services that are very cheap here are extremely expensive and hard to obtain there. It’s all relative. Then, there’s the issue of gigantic taxes.

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        1. What I don’t get is the burning need of some people to go to people’s blogs and repeatedly inform them that their country is stupid, their president is stupid, and they are ecstatic to be living elsewhere. I have never been tempted to do that even when certain countries are legitimately stupid.

          This is not directed at commenter PMan, of course.

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          1. People say it’s too impersonal, too rigid, makes you feel like an insignificant little cog, it requires the kind of stoicism Ukrainians don’t have. You need to have a very Nordic affect to deal with it.

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            1. \ People say it’s too impersonal, too rigid, makes you feel like an insignificant little cog, it requires the kind of stoicism Ukrainians don’t have.

              My family would take Norway or Sweden over Ukraine any time. I don’t want a doctor to be ‘nice’ to me (after taking a bribe); I want to receive good healthcare. Those are completely different things.

              Interesting how Israeli healthcare stands in this comparison.

              May be, whether the healthcare is private and limited plays a role too?

              Don’t know about Ukraine but in Russia healthcare is free only on paper (or even not there), while Sweden surely treats everyone. The info about Russia is from my aunt.

              When my grandmother was dying from cancer, her life was prolonged for a year due to surgery she received in Israel and probably would receive in Sweden too. But wouldn’t have received in FSU at her age of 70+.

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  8. We’ve seen the job wars and social ostracization among college educated professionals. But how do you see this affecting the working class? I obviously see this affecting cashiers, etc., but it’s less clear to me what form this takes.

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    1. The working class has already lost the job wars when the off-shoring of jobs and an importation of unskilled workers began. Nobody in the chattering classes paid attention because they thought they were too good for this to happen to them.

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      1. Why do you apparently identify “the chattering classes” with the left, when it was large companies in search of profits that drove the globalisation of supply chains?

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        1. “Why do you apparently identify “the chattering classes” with the left, when it was large companies in search of profits that drove the globalisation of supply chains?”

          • See, this is why I respectfully suggest that you are not where you need to be intellectually to have a discussion with me that will be of interest to me.

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          1. This entire discussion, you haven’t provided evidence, haven’t responded to evidence that I have provided, have called me a “fool” and accused me of “trolling”, and now claim that I am not intelligent or informed enough to talk with you.

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            1. “This entire discussion, you haven’t provided evidence, haven’t responded to evidence that I have provided, have called me a “fool” and accused me of “trolling”, and now claim that I am not intelligent or informed enough to talk with you.”

              • Exactly. Bye bye now.

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              1. For the record, I support centre-left economic policy but strongly dislike the culture wars, hence my long-term interest in blogs like Slate Star Codex. But I guess ordinary people like me aren’t welcome on blogs like this one either.

                Anyway, time to clock on at my regular boring job that helps regular boring people like me who are not intelligent enough to talk to academics like you.

                You are the “chattering classes” that you claim to despise.

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      2. I’m aware where we are as far as job wars go. I guess I’m just curious to see what my fate is over the next decade. Should I go back to college, or am I better off working a low wage job?

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