Notes on the Regressive Left, Part IV

A Collection of Important Articles


A collection of articles criticizing the regressive left from a variety of points of view.

Sommaire en français Un ensemble d’articles présentant une variété de perspectives critiques de la gauche régressive.

Here I present a variety of important articles published on the web within the last few weeks, each providing a critical view of some aspect of the so-called regressive left and related issues such as the Antifa movement, intersectionality, censorship and dogmatism, etc.

Although I agree with the general thrust of each one of these articles, that does not imply that I agree 100%. For example, I think Kneeland exaggerates when he says that Trudeau is “far more dangerous” then Trump, although the enormous difference in mainstream media treatment of the two leaders should be enough to set alarm bells ringing very loudly. I also wonder if Claudé is exaggerating when he accuses Antifa in Quebec of terrorism.

One does not have to agree with everything in an article in order to find it useful. Indeed, one of the worst aspects of the regressive left is its Manichaean division of any issue into completely separated poles, one absolutely moral and the other absolutely evil, so that debate becomes very difficult or even impossible. But in the real world, there are many shades of gray. Intellectual diversity is a fact of life.

Jonathon Kneeland

To say that Trudeau is far more dangerous then Trump is, I think, an exaggeration. Trudeau, unlike Trump, does not have direct access to nuclear weapons capable of destroying the planet (which Kneeland fortunately recognizes). I would say, rather, that each is very dangerous in his own manner. Neither is a statesman. Each is incompetent but in very different ways.

Kneeland accuses Trudeau of playing “the vile and always eventually deadly game called identity-politics” although the way Trudeau plays it is to deny that Canada has any identity at all, declaring that Canada is “the first postnational state.”

Trudeau: a “spoiled twit”

Referring to Trudeau as a “spoiled twit,” Kneeland’s criticism of Trudeau’s obsession with his favourite buzzword “diversity” is devastating, hilarious and refreshing:

To aid in Trudeau’s dangerous, nihilistic, and suicidal desire to transform our country into a borderless, ghettoized, and completely unrecognizable country, he prefers to use easily spreadable and empty platitudes and avoids serious and rational discussion. For example, he frequently recycles the phrase “diversity is our strength”. The glaring stupidity of the statement is quite enough to deal with. The fact that news outlets parrot the idiotic phrase on his behalf actually makes it dangerous.

Specifically, Kneeland decries Trudeau’s promotion of Bill C-16 which adds gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination—Kneeland says it forces people to deny basic biological science—and motion M-103 which condemns so-called “Islamophobia.” Kneeland characterizes both measures as “nightmarish Orwellian policies” which use incoherent language.

Diana Johnstone

  1. Antifa in Theory and in Practice, 2017-10-09
  2. The Harmful Effects of Antifa, 2017-10-25
  3. Les effets nocifs des Antifa aux Etats-Unis (French translation of the previous article), 2017-11-04

A few quotes from (1) and (2):

“Antifa attacks on dissidents tend to enforce the dominant neoliberal doctrine that also raises the specter of fascism as pretext for aggression against countries targeted for regime change.”

  • Since historic fascism no longer exists, Bray’s Antifa have broadened their notion of “fascism” to include anything that violates the current Identity Politics canon: from “patriarchy” (a pre-fascist attitude to put it mildly) to “transphobia” (decidedly a post-fascist problem). (1) [Mark Bray is author of “Antifa: the Antifascist Handbook”]
  • The masked militants of Antifa seem to be more inspired by Batman than by Marx or even by Bakunin. (1)
  • Self-appointed radical revolutionaries can be the most useful thought police for the neoliberal war party. (1)
  • By making mass immigration the litmus test of whether or not one is fascist, Antifa intimidation impedes reasonable discussion. (1)
  • Antifa follows the trend of current Identity Politics excesses that are squelching free speech in what should be its citadel, academia. (1)
  • […] criticism of the system that produced Trump vanished in favor of demonization of Trump the individual (2)
  • The events of Charlottesville resembled a multiple provocation, with pro- and anti-statue sides provoking each other, providing a stage for Antifa to gain national prominence as saviors.  Significantly, Charlottesville riots provoked Trump into making comments which were seized upon by all his enemies to brand him definitively as “racist” and “fascist”. This gave the disoriented “left” a clear cause: fight “fascist Trump” and domestic “fascists”. This is more immediate than organizing to demand that the United States end its […] trillion dollar policy of global militarization […] (2)
  • Antifa attacks on dissidents tend to enforce the dominant neoliberal doctrine that also raises the specter of fascism as pretext for aggression against countries targeted for regime change. (2)
  • […] the violence and the censorship which are the hallmarks of the Antifa brand (2)
  • In keeping with neoliberalism, Antifa is out to privatize censorship, by taking over the job itself. (2)
  • The verbal violence of Antifa is worse than their physical violence insofar as it is more effective. […] It is the verbal violence that succeeds most in preventing free discussion of controversial issues. (2)

J. Oliver Conroy

Conroy describes a panel discussion entitled “Identity Politics: The New Racialism on Campus?” and sponsored by Spiked as part of its “Unsafe Spaces” American tour. The event took place at Rutgers University in early October, a week after the first event of the tour was cancelled at a Washington D.C. college which disinvited Spiked. The Rutgers event was attended by a large number of students whose only purpose in attending was evidently to disrupt the discussion and silence the panelists. A few quotes:

“Intersectionality is a strange kind of essentialism that professes to hate essentialism. It assumes people are determined by inherited characteristics, which is exactly what racists also think.”

  • Many of the disruptions took the form of impromptu, condescending lectures on intersectionality, a once obscure academic theory that has over time become the driving doctrine of identity politics for a significant part of the progressive and radical Left. […] Many conscientious people will find it difficult to argue with intersectionality’s premise. […] But intersectional activists push the logic to its perverse extreme. They insist that some identity groups’ “lived experience” grants them unquestionable and unchallengeable authority, both moral and political. Members of other, historically ‘privileged’ groups (men, whites, heterosexuals) have little right to an opinion at all. If their interests come into conflict, the latter are morally obliged to yield to (certain, recognized) minorities. The intersectional worldview is obviously incompatible with the basic tenets of life in a liberal democracy. That doesn’t bother intersectional activists, however, […] There is a creepy authoritarian bent to all of this. For someone really steeped in the intersectional worldview, almost any tactic or behavior can be justified if it serves the purpose of fighting “oppression,” the definition of which is elastic and gets a little more capacious every day. Because many intersectional activists believe that exposing people to harmful ideas can cause them emotional trauma, they view speech as a form of literal violence.
  • The worst of the audience’s animosity was directed at Kmele Foster, who is black. “How can you deracialize yourself?” one student demanded, […] “It seems odd to me for one to invest themselves in a concept” – race – “that they agree has been contrived and invented,” he [Foster] reflected at one point.
  • One of the things that struck me over and over was the protesters’ complete intolerance of complexity. Despite intersectionality’s roots in academic theory, the politics of the intersectional Left are deeply anti-intellectual. It’s not just that many intersectional activists seem to have no capacity for nuance; they fear and hate it, because they hate anything with the potential to complicate their narrative. Things are right or wrong; you’re with us or against us. Human beings, rather than complex agents with independent motivations and intellects, are nothing more than the sum total of their identities. Get on the bus or get under it.
  • I’m not the first to notice that intersectionality has less in common with an academic school or political movement than a religion. It is a fundamentalist religion, with no tolerance for ambiguity and, like any newly founded religion, it is insecure. People who disagree are blasphemers; people who change their minds are heretics; […]
  • Like Marxism in its more vulgar forms, intersectionality is highly deterministic, with no allowance for individual human agency; […] Instead of class consciousness, intersectionality takes racial and sexual/gender identity as its chief conceptual categories.
  • Intersectionality is a strange kind of essentialism that professes to hate essentialism. It assumes people are determined by inherited characteristics, which is exactly what racists also think.
  • […] students today regard free speech – once one of the defining causes of the American Left – as a “rightwing” doctrine, and therefore suspect.

Helen Pluckrose

  1. The State of the Campus and Women’s Self-Censorship, 2017-10-24
  2. When Intersectionality Silences Women, 2017-11-07

A pair of articles which explore how censorship and intolerance of ideas which diverge from the reigning dogma of intersectional feminism are widespread on campuses in the English-speaking world and the disastrous consequences of this situation for female academics themselves. Here is a quote from the first article:

“in terms of obstructive protests, calls for censorship, banning or firing, the justification appears to be a very specific leftist ideology and the targets to include both the right and the left”

There is clearly much evidence of campus censorship and it has been common to describe this very simply as “leftist” or “liberal” (often used interchangeably in the US) censorship of conservatives. Whilst this certainly is part of the story, it does not seem to be the whole story. Evidence has been provided by academic faculty members that intimidation and threats can come from both right-wing and left-wing students but in terms of obstructive protests, calls for censorship, banning or firing, the justification appears to be a very specific leftist ideology and the targets to include both the right and the left. As seen above, gender-critical feminists and ex-Muslim critics of Islam have also been targeted. Gender-critical feminists are usually radical feminists, often referred to pejoratively as “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” or “TERFs.” They are nearly always decidedly left-wing and include anti-capitalist analysis in their feminism. Ex-Muslim critics of Islam are politically diverse and Maryam Namazie is a communist. The situation on campus is clearly more complicated than a dominant left suppressing a minority right.

Yves Claudé

[…] the Antifa movement over the years […] has degenerated into something very closely resembling what it claims to oppose […]

This article is particularly important because it deals with the Antifa movement as it has developed here in Quebec. The author became actively involved in the early days of that movement some three decades ago, at a period when there was indeed a local neo-Nazi skinhead movement which the Antifa opposed, but which has now almost completely disappeared. Claudé describes the evolution of the Antifa movement over the years, how it has degenerated into something very closely resembling what it claims to oppose, having adopted practices, symbols and violent methods similar to those of fascists.

Here are a few quotes (translated by me), ending with Claudé’s damning indictment of the movement:

  • The “antiracism” of the Antifa movement is very dubious, because it sees itself as a fraternal coalition of different “races” which are distinct, separate entities. […] This racialist representation of society is objectively racist and is in fact basically similar to that of neo-Nazis. This racialism, when combined with the shared cult of violence, explains why we see such a remarkable back-and-forth between the two camps.
  • [In] 2012, the Antifa movement expanded into the student community. It diversified by including a Maoist component as well as an alterglobalist contingent. It then became imbued with postmodernism which was spreading thoughout the universities, thus overvaluing ethno-cultural differences and contributing to the racial segregation of individuals, to the detriment of social and political citizenship. The movement thus made a definitive break from its libertarian roots (“Neither God nor Master”) and began to ally itself with fundamentalist religious groups as these groups mobilized to oppose secularism.
  • It thus becomes increasingly obvious that the Antifa movement is an adversary of modern Quebec, of Quebec’s emancipatory and feminist values and its aspirations for national souvereignty. […] In the absence of true “fascists” (who have become very marginal, divided and disorganized), the main targets of Antifa’s threats and physical violence are increasingly independentists, secularists, etc.
  • In 2016, the Antifa movement […] developed an explicitly terrorist orientation, […]
  • The Antifa movement, having taken a path towards criminality and terrorism, indulging in fantasies of armed struggle, currently represents both a break with democracy and a serious problem of public security for Quebec, threatening companies as well as the physical integrity of many citizens, progressives, feminists, independentists, first-nations people, etc., but also that of media professionals. It must therefore reorient itself radically, in order to be socially and politically legitimate.

Next blog: Notes on the Regressive Left, Part V: The Vicious Circle of Islamophilia

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