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5 Bizarre Features of the Modern Left
Jeffrey Tucker

The political left that I came to know in college — that one that rallied around free speech, reason over faith, fairness to all and peace — seems to have evaporated completely.

I barely recognized what’s replaced it. Truth is, I cannot make heads or tails out of any of it. It seems like this chaotic assembly of seemingly random biases, all shoved together in a package like a grab bag of the bizarre and dangerous.

Here are five of the oddest doctrines you find on the left that make zero sense to me.

Russia. Coming of age during the Cold War meant that college was filled with debates about the character of what was called the Soviet Union, meaning Russia and many neighboring states.

The conservative right saw the Soviets as imperialistic communists hellbent on global domination through industrial supremacy and arms exports. It was the core of the revolutionary conspiracy that threatened to overthrow tradition and freedom, and that’s why it must be resisted and rolled back.

The left in those days had a different view, and it always intrigued me. They said Russia was a normal country with normal problems and issues. The United States and Russia were strong allies in the Second World War and the country made great sacrifices to defeat Nazism.

Since then, it’s not really been imperialistic so much as nationalistic, defending its economic and political interests. Moreover, they would say, communism in Russia is no longer a prevailing practice but more of a slogan.

They’ve reformed substantially and want to reform more, so it is time to make peace, which the nation desperately desires.

The main message of the left was, for many decades, stop demonizing this country and its foreign policy ambitions, and treat the Russians as just another country with its own distinct problems and issues.

That whole paradigm is now ancient history. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. conservatives generally adopted a new attitude much more in keeping with what the left once believed about the country.

Meanwhile, and gradually especially during the 21st century, the left holds a similar view to what the right once held: This country is a rogue state headed by a monster who supports reactionary politics the world over, interferes in elections and wars against progress.

The anti-Russia doctrine on the left is now ironclad and unshakeable. Even after the claim that Russia somehow got Trump elected in 2016 was shown to be completely rot the left won’t let go.

Anything that goes wrong anywhere is blamed on Russia. Any pundit who disagrees with the left is smeared as a Russian agent (yes, they have said this about me!).

I have no real explanation for this bizarre turn.

Oil, gas and coal. Another odd turn on the left is how within their circles of opinion, it is seen as incontrovertibly true that all energy to power the human experience should come from wind, water and sun. Nothing else. Digging up coal is bad. Drilling into the oceans of oil beneath our feet is bad.

I’ve gradually come to realize that these people truly do desire the complete end to the use of what they call “fossil fuels” and are hellbent on achieving it.

No evidence can shake their view. Raise doubts about this “climate change” story and you are dismissed as an anti-science crank, even though Nobel laureates have debunked the narrative too. It’s an article of faith among this whole crowd, a serious ambition and belief that the whole world should be purged of petroleum products.

As for electric cars, don’t be fooled: There’s no way the grid can be supported by sunbeams and breezes. It requires vast use of coal, which the left opposes. So it’s only a matter of time. First, convert the world to EVs and then, second, announce that coal digging and processing is massively throttled and third, explain that bicycles and Flintstones cars are really the only way to get around.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that these people have a strangely malicious hatred of the good life that oil, gas and coal enable.

Which is also weird because the mainstream left a century ago strongly believed in industrialization and material progress. That was the original vision of socialism: Through collective effort and a strong state, we will industrialize the world through man’s strength and awesome machines.

Look at old-time Soviet propaganda: It’s all about industrial strength, smokestacks and immense production. How did that ambition come to be converted to a deranged zeal for a state of nature where a tiny and immobile population forages for food and lives in caves?

I have no real explanation for this bizarre turn.

Below, I list three other perplexing features of the modern left that I can’t explain. Read on.

The Bizarre Transformation of the Left

Gender transitions. The idea of emancipating women from subjugation and subservience is certainly part of the liberal idea from the 19th century. This migrated to the women’s suffrage movement and later to waves of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s.

The message was always that women are normative human beings, distinct from men but deserving of full rights, dignity and respect. If men have sports teams, women should too. If men are paid high salaries, women should be too. The idea here was that society needed to recognize the distinct contribution that women as women make to the good life.

All fine. But then in a phantasmagoric twist, left-wing doctrine suddenly shifted. There is nothing biologically distinct about women at all. There is nothing about gender identity that is reflective of inner biological differences.

Everything can be moved around through pure volition such that men can become women and vice versa. All that a man needs to do to compete in women’s sports is grow longer hair, put it in a bun, wear some fun colors, affect a high voice with rising intonation and voila he is a woman!

With assistance of drugs and surgery, anything is possible.

For a while, this turn seemed to be about tolerating eccentricities. Most everyone can play along with that game, just as we indulge the family friend who suddenly picks up a high English accent for whatever reason. We are polite people and don’t normally want to shame people for their unique ways.

But then it became more than that. The codification of this wacky stuff came only recently when federal government documents, even from the CDC, struck the existence of women from reality altogether. Now there are only “people who are pregnant.”

The left, which had traditionally rallied around rights for women, has come full circle and is now literally deleting the existence of women as biological entities!

It’s gotten so extreme that the left is even fine with hacking off the genitalia of adolescents in the name of gender therapeutics — a barbaric practice from the ancient world designed to create eunuchs to guard harems and sopranos to sing in choirs. The same people who only a few years ago were raging about “blackface” are now thrilled about “womanface.”

Again, I have no real explanation for this bizarre turn.

Free speech. The idea of free speech was once settled doctrine on the left, from John Stuart Mill and forward. One hundred years ago, it was a rallying cry. The idea was absolute: No one should be throttled, much less censored.

To speak and be heard was the very essence of freedom itself. The most famous of all liberal organizations spent many decades litigating for the right. Nothing was as settled as this idea.

In 1965, this thinker named Herbert Marcuse wrote an essay called “Repressive Tolerance.” His idea was that freedom as we know it is really nothing more than a bourgeois slogan that was thrown around to cover up ruling-class domination.

The only path to real free speech was through the complete silencing of culturally dominant voices and the forced raising up of marginal voices. Only the vanguard of leftist elites know precisely how to achieve this so they should be in charge.

Nothing much came from this barrage of bilge and it was largely forgotten. It seems like some people found the essay a few years ago and, seemingly out of nowhere, the left became massive champions of censorship and speech control.

Now every major social media platform but one is routinely used as a censorship tool at the behest of the government. The left not only puts up with this but actively champions it too. Now this same gang says that anyone who pushes free speech is really just a sloganeer for bourgeois interests, probably paid by Russia or the fossil fuels industry.

I have no real explanation for this bizarre turn.

The Working Class. Let’s end this litany of the absurd with an obvious observation: The left has turned against everything associated with the working class. We saw this during the pandemic controls.

Everyone on the left seemed to agree that the professional class should luxuriate at home and watch movies while the working classes should drive around trucks with food and deliver it to the front doors of the progressive vanguard of pathogenic control. They simply cared nothing at all for those doing actual work. Later they came after them with experimental meds and tried to force them on all workers.

What a contrast from the past! The left had for many decades been the champions of labor over capital. This has been true from about 1880; indeed the core of socialist theory was that labor was entitled to a much greater share of surplus value that was being unjustly hoarded by capital.

This view was foundational on the left, all the way back from the mid-19th century until about 2016, when the working classes voted for a guy that the left didn’t like. Now, they have flipped sides: Favor capital over labor, provided that capital is funding their projects and nonprofits and helping to rig elections in their favor.

They are unapologetic about their status as the new robber barons who are entitled to rule the rest of us. For this bizarre turn, there really is an explanation. They like power. They want to retain and exercise power. For that to happen, they need money.

Capital is where the money is and, hence, that is where the left hangs out. Yes, that’s a cynical take but that’s where all the facts point.

Still there remains a fundamental theoretical problem with the 2020s version of progressive/leftist ideology. None of it makes any sense. It’s a hodgepodge mix of crazy that stands in complete contradiction to what everyone within this camp believed only a few years ago, dating back a century and more.

In this way, the new leftism is completely unsustainable from an intellectual point of view.

There can only be defectors from the group in the future. People with integrity will continue to flee, leaving this to become a tiny junta of bromide-rich babblers focused on wielding power for its own sake.

How can there be a future in this?



I'm executive editor of Laissez Faire Books and the proprietor of the Laissez Faire Club. I'm the author of two books in the field of economics and one on early music. My main professional work between 1985 and 2011 was with the MIses Institute but I've also worked with the Acton Institute and Mackinac Institute, as well as written thousands of published articles. My personal twitter account @jeffreyatucker FB is @jeffrey.albert.tucker Plain old email is [email protected]

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