Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On Liberals

A nice post from Z-Net blogger and radical historian Paul Street on the frustrations that those of us further to the left often have with those who identify as "liberals."

A sample:

My special distaste for liberals and Democrats isn’t just about closeness and power within the various liberal-run institutions I’ve inhabited over the years. It’s also about honesty and straight shooting.

Liberals would like this --- it fits their tendency to lump left radicals together with the right (as two peas in the same fanatical and overly "ideological" pod) --- but I've long tended to get along better with Republicans and "conservatives" (with the crucial exception a particular and rare kind of Republican: the ex-leftist turned reactionary) than with "liberals" and Democrats.

I’ve found Republicans more willing than Democrats to appreciate hearing a talk or even taking a class from an openly left and anti-capitalist speaker or teacher. They tend not to mind a presenter or professor who takes an openly political, forceful, and confident position about past and current events. They tend to agree on the basic nature of the underlying socioeconomic systemic: rapacious, selfish, business-dominated, exploitative, oppressive, racist, militaristic and imperialistic state capitalism crafted for and by the privileged few – the difference (yes, it's a big one) being that they want to get rich under that system and I want to overthrow it. They don’t mind conflict – open, honest, and forthright contestation about basics. When they disagree they do so openly, honestly, and (usually) respectfully and don’t act as if I were a threat to everything decent on earth.

Things have been different with liberals. They’ve tended to be very uneasy with the taking of open, confident, forceful and unambiguous positions. They recoil and shrink from honest and forthright discussion of the dominant, underlying system and its terrible imperatives, insisting on trying to put some sort of human face on horrific structures: Neoliberalism/State-Capitalism Lite; Racism/White-Supremacy Lite; Imperialism/Militarism Lite; Nationalism Lite; Ghettoization and Mass Incarceration Lite; Sexism Lite, etc. They warn about the horrors of “extremism” – one of their favorite words to describe the left project of furthering the ideals of classic liberalism by advocating true social justice (literal equality) and radical-democratic transformation.


Read the whole thing!

3 comments:

Todd said...

Heh! Slavoj Zizek says lots along that line in these:

http://www.egs.edu/faculty/zizek/zizek-human-rights-and-its-discontents.html

http://www.egs.edu/faculty/zizek/zizek-repeating-lenin.html

Kuri said...

Good article. I've often found it easier to deal with conservatives who aren't afraid to show their true opinions than with liberals who try to equivicate. I always thought it was my Albertan upbringing showing through, but this article sums up the differences well.

Scott said...

Hi Todd...thanks for the pointers to the Zizek articles...his is a name I've encountered in a number of different places, but I've never read much by him before...

Hi Kuri! No, I don't think it's just Alberta, I think it's pretty common...and personally, I think it goes beyond just the equivocation by liberals (though that can be extremely annoying) and, as Street says, extends to their need to paper over or outright deny some of the horrible aspects of current social relations even as they draw attention to others, while many on the right are willing to admit what's going on but take very different moral/political implications from them than we on the left.