Beware the Left – and the Right

“For decades, the Left tried to glorify murderers and thugs like Lenin, Mao, and even Stalin. They are discredited today because people know about their evil deeds. Che is more obscure. He is one notorious figure who is idolized by the Left and hailed as a “hero,” yet most students never learn the truth about his cult of violence.”

When you read a website that conveys the message “Beware the Left” or “the Right”, stop and think.

Terms like “the Left” and “the Right” are often used as a blanket term for anyone of a particular leaning, criticising millions of people and their positions in one fell swoop. An organisation can be left-wing or right-wing but when you talk about “the Left” and “the Right”, you talk about anyone and everyone of a left-wing position. It is becoming common to refer to “left-wingers” and “right-wingers” in huge generalisations. Left-wingers don’t like the generation of wealth or right-wingers oppose immigration would be examples, both of which are of course fantastically ill-informed.

This website in particular was that of the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organisation “committed to ensuring that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values”. It is astonishing to claim that “the Left” loved the dictators of the last century. Who are the Left? By making this claim, are you suggesting that anyone of a left-wing disposition willingly promoted the dictatorial and in some cases totalitarian measures of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and so on?

This kind of language tars everyone with the same brush, and ignores, in this example, the left-wingers who fought against these figures. Many Bolsheviks stood up to Lenin between 1917 – 1924 over disagreements in policy and approach, and some left his company and escaped to the West. Dismissing “the Left” as fans of this brutality also ignores some philosophers such as Slavoj Žižek, who are Marxists and discuss history and philosophy from a socialist or Marxist perspective, but reject what happened in Russia, China and Vietnam as phony, deluded variations of a tremendous theory.

Claims of this nature require thorough evidence to back them up. I’m sure that conservative organisations like the YAF could provide enough paperwork to fill our university library to explain the atrocities committed by Castro and Guevara (especially if you consider “socialism” to be an atrocity) but I wonder if even the university library café could be filled with the evidence to suggest that “the Left” as a whole held them up as heroes and icons “for decades”. It would be stupid to deny that Castro and Guevara were responsible for heinous acts, just as it would be stupid to deny the acts of Pinochet.

Not all conservatives are in favour of a free market economy; not all socialists are ready to call for the abolition of private property; some left-wingers embrace capitalism in some way or another – the greatest example here might be Tony Blair’s governments’ approach to economics, hence the nickname ‘Thatcher’s Greatest Legacy’ by some right-wing pundits!

Sometimes the same kind of language applies to parties as a whole. Though many examples can be found on YouTube, it’s not fair to say that all Republicans are daft or racist, or that all Democrats know nothing about economics.

Above all, if you read a claim like, “Religious people reject evolution,” “capitalists are greedy” or “the Left glorify murderers”, ask the claimant – where’s the evidence?

One comment

  1. 7 Jan ’15 at 7:47 pm

    Connor Donnithorne

    Beautifully philosophical investigation into the morality of using general terms to categorise people’s of certain leanings. However, I think you are over thinking it slightly. To make absurd comments aimed at generalising a certain group of people is idiotic. But to say the ‘left’ and ‘right’ when engaged in political discussion is fine… How about an article of your 10 ways to change Britain? This article, whilst written well, doesn’t really change anything. Why don’t you write about something meaty like policy instead?

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