That might be my most provocative title yet, and it seems this post might deliver the polemic promised in my tagline more than any other. Better late than never. Because while I’ve certainly been grumpy, ill-tempered, cynical, and aggressive in my previous posts, this time I’m angry. I mean really angry. Pissed-off, fuming, and disgusted.
I’ve talked about liberalism in my last four or so posts. I’ve reached the conclusion that not only is liberalism diametrically opposed to the left, but that it is an utterly absurd, incoherent, contradictory, reductive ideology that blinds us to the good, and pulls us only into the nihilist abyss. It must be utterly rejected.
I’d planned to talk about how Mana’s hitching up with those unashamed New Leftists attaching themselves to Kim Dotcom’s Trojan Horse (the Internet Party) would lead only to the subverting of Mana’s genuinely radical, leftist goals. Social justice, tino rangatiratanga, grassroots advocacy, empowering communities, ending exploitation. It’s hard to see where copyright reform, cheaper internet, and a government-backed digital currency fits in to that kaupapa (Sue Bradford gives an analysis that any right-thinking leftist would find hard to reject).
I’d planned to hold the Green Party up as an example of a New Left party whose liberal ontology was leading them to a capitulation to all that which the left stands against. Their climate policy, which looks like something that could’ve come from the National Party seems a great example. It’s a complete surrender to the economic system which is destroying the planet – analogous to treating the symptoms of the cancer rather than advocating for surgery to remove it. Spraying perfume on the fungating, necrotising tumour to cover up the smell. Putting a plaster on it and hoping it doesn’t get infected.
But it seems the Greens have been infected. The infection was extant, dormant from the beginning, and now it has bloomed into full, puss-y fruition. The Greens, in 2014, are taking into the election as one of their major policy platforms, an almost complete removal of restrictions on the slaughter of unborn children, and promoting eugenics as a response to disabled children. The gall, or sheer lack of self-awareness of a party that includes the only significantly physically handicapped MP (Mojo Mathers), and that co-opts the image of the unborn and the infant in their campaigns, whilst simultaneously advocating for their genetic cleansing and murder, is simply astounding.
To pin down why a party that is seemingly so concerned with the well-being of children and future generations would accept a policy so self-evidently destructive to them, we have to first examine the options. Either they are bad, and are consciously, willingly lying and misleading voters about their concern for the well-being of our children (which I don’t think is the case), or, their extremely inadequate New Left political ideology has caused a conceptual confusion, and led them to an absurd conclusion. This seems the more likely case. So let us examine whence, ideologically, came the New Left.
The New Left arose in the ’60s, a result of the privileged, middle-class counter-culture that rejected a social ontology of class, and rejected a Marxist analysis of material divisions in society, and material exploitation, and instead threw themselves with wild abandon into a philosophy that saw them accept the irrational and contradictory individualism of the liberal. Essentially it rejected the collective, communitarian substance of the left, that had been there since the dawn of man, and sought to overthrow the entrenched social structures of advanced capitalism by accepting the very same social ontology as it.
This decoupling of the left from collectivism, and instead attaching it to the moral destitution of liberal individualism produced a potent, radicalised form of liberalism, where the ‘old social order’ and the ‘old social institutions’ were opposed with the revolutionary zeal of the left, but with the directionless and absurd nihilism of the liberal. A sort of ‘I’m really angry, but I’m not sure at what’. These old, stultifying, social institutions they sought to overthrow were things as ridiculous as the concept that maybe sex shouldn’t be decoupled from procreation, that maybe gender is actually a real thing, and is linked to one’s biological sex, that maybe morality is actually real, and not completely relative, and it actually makes categorical demands upon us, that maybe actually the nation exists as the physical instantiation of a society’s culture, that maybe actually the Church has a place and role in society, that maybe actually marriage, and the family, and two parents who are around are good things, that maybe, actually a person is irreducibly and absolutely a person, not just a dehumanised object to hold labels, that are now debased and stripped of meaning – man, woman, black, white, heterosexual, homosexual, male, female, foetus, zygote.
It was the New Left that in decoupling progress from morality (the social realisation of which is justice), destroyed our metric with which to judge and measure progress, and instead equivocated progress with a simple forward temporal movement. ‘Old-fashioned’ was equivocated with regressive, and reactionary, while modern – defined by the rejection of whatever institution of human experience the nihilist wants to reject next, is seen as compulsorily good. Milbank makes the point that without our conception of these things as having real extant moral worth, then they become fair game to be commercialised, that without reference to a real importance, a real goodness, then “…persons, land, and money become, as Karl Polanyi pointed out, either idols or else mere instruments to be exploited—or both at once”. In this way the New Left lay the groundwork for the New Right (something Bryce Edwards discusses here and here). Milbank argues here that we must return to a politics of the good, where we reaffirm a new sense of the inviolability “… of land, people, and even money as real goods, though not things to be worshiped in themselves. We also need to realize that humans are gift-exchangers seeking mutual recognition before they are self-seekers.” The rampant spread of the market (property relations) into all the inviolably important aspects of human life is something lamented by the rightist, Roger Scruton too, who agrees with Marx in asserting that “…that things with a value ought not to be degraded into things with a price.”
The identity politics which the Greens exploit, can be seen in this light also. It is the degradation of those inviolably important parts of human life, those things with value, into things with a political price. It is important to note here that the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, against segregation in the U.S., and for tino rangatiratanga in New Zealand are not naturally parts of the New Left’s identity politics, but have been co-opted, misunderstood, and patronised by these social liberals. These are genuine, revolutionary struggles against a material-cultural imperialism, not objects of sympathy for colonial guilt.
The same goes for the struggle for a real, genuine feminism – the fight for an actual, genuine recognition and celebration of the integral place that motherhood, womanhood, and femininity hold in our society. This relies on a real conception of the woman, and the female, as distinct from, as different from, and as of equal value to, the man. This is radically different from that of the New Left’s radical feminism, which seems to approach gender in the same way that Don Brash approaches race, to be ‘gender-blind’, or ‘colour-blind’. That the recognition of distinction or difference is tantamount to discrimination, and that we should close our eyes to what is actually there, right in front of us, and in us. The major problem with this is that what it means to be colour-blind, or gender-blind is inherently coloured by the prevailing social hegemony. One country, one nation, one culture, in a New Zealand context means all Māori must be like Pākehā, just as what it means to cease the recognition of gender, in our language, in our social interactions, in our social institutions, is going to be coloured by the patriarchy. Genderlessness is defined in favour of the patriarchy, and success for women is measured according to what success is for men. This means that to be successful in the patriarchy, a woman must become like a man – barren, motherhood, pregnancy, and fertility are seen as burdens, women are made to feel that unless they enter the workforce, that they are being servile, and worthless, women are ostracised for daring to be mothers from home, and this option is made economically unviable. Feminist philosopher, Dr. Anne Maloney, outlines the paradox of this androgynous gender ideal in radical feminism here, and outlines a case for a truly pro-woman, pro-child feminism.
The pro-life position is one that is demonised by those social liberals who mistakenly lay claim to the left. It is one that is inaccurately decried as necessarily being the view-point of misogynist, conservative, religious men (typical of the New Left’s identity politics), that respect for life is not something that could possibly co-exist with respect for women (which MUST be the self-contradictory radical feminist’s conception of women). In fact, one is regularly denied the right to even talk about abortion unless one has a uterus – as if the uterus endows its owner with some magical insight as to the nature of personhood and humanity. The natural facts as to when a human comes into being are settled. The moment that two 23 chromosome gametes form a 46 chromosome genetically unique human individual, we have just that, a real human individual, a real human life. That argument usually goes on for the first hour or two, and those of the pro-choice position inevitably fall back onto a reductionist ‘my body, my choice,’ property claim which is the absolute epitome of just the sort of very ‘illiberal’ absurdities that the liberal ontology commits one to.
Given that the individual forms the starting point for the entirety of liberal philosophy, he becomes unable to relate to, or recognise the other outside the context of, first, a narcissistic self-relation. The view that because you ‘own’ something you are entitled to completely disavow, with the use of violence, your moral obligations to others is typical of the liberal’s reasoning. By the same reasoning, these New ‘Leftists’ should have defended the right of the Government to murder the occupiers at Bastion Point. It was the Government’s property, the Government’s right.
It becomes clear that this sort of liberal reductionism belongs nowhere on the left, which has, throughout history, sought to recognise our collective rights and responsibilities, recognise that we are nothing without others, and realise social justice on the basis of the absolute respect for the dignity of every human person. This sort of liberal reductionism is the proper territory of liberal parties, like ACT. It is the sort of reasoning that leads to ‘feminists’ defending sex-selective abortion, literally the defence of murdering a child because of its sex (usually because it is a girl). Great feminists they are.
Pro-life socialism begins and ends in the recognition that the dignity of human life must be affirmed with the utmost conviction – in every circumstance. It is a consistent life ethic, where abortion is opposed, where unjust and nuclear war is opposed, where exploitative social and economic systems that seek to objectify, denigrate and destroy the value of mothers and children are opposed, where capital punishment is opposed, where the denial of the value of the elderly and ill through euthanasia is opposed. Such views are expounded upon here and here. These are the people who take seriously the ontological and moral commitments of the left, not those liberals who seek to co-opt the tradition of the left for electoral gain.
This announcement makes the Greens, I’m pretty sure, the only New Zealand party with an explicit policy on abortion, certainly amongst the ten largest political parties at least. Not even the Conservatives have an explicit party position. Although the Greens have always quietly held a pro-choice position, to suddenly develop explicit pro-abortion policy, campaign on it as a central part of their electoral manifesto, and to demand that a vote on abortion be made a party vote, and not a conscience vote, surely shows that the Greens have well and truly accepted the demands of their New Left liberalism and abandoned the left. It is in acceptance of this liberal philosophy that they accept a radical rejection of the strong morality that the left has always been soaked in. It is the rejection of this radical leftist tradition, and the acceptance of a philosophy that sees progress as a simple forward movement in time, that the Greens have become truly untethered from any position of moral authority. The left has always been, in a way, radically conservative. It has never seen the rejection of tradition and the past as a matter of point, but has instead looked back to those best aspects of our folk tradition, of the existence of ordinary, humble people, as a blueprint for the future. The legendary Scottish socialist and nationalist, John Maclean epitomised this view in his slogan:
“Back to communism and forward to communism.”
One can only hope that the Greens listen to their leftist forebears, reject their betrayal of the left, and turn back now, before all hope is lost.
That’s another day gone by, son, close your eyes
For the moon is chasing clouds across the skies
Got to sleep and have no fear, son
For your mam and dad are near, son
And the giant is just a shadow on the wall
Go to sleep and when you wake it will be light
There’s no need to fear the darkness of the night
It’s not like the dark you find, son
In the depths of some men’s minds, son
That defies the daily coming of the dawn
Lie easy in your bed and grow up strong
You’ll be needing all your strength before too long
For you’ll soon be on your way, son
Fighting battles every day, son
With an enemy who thinks he owns the world
Stop crying now, let daddy dry your tears
There’s no bogeyman to get you, never fear
There’s no ogres, wicked witches
Only greedy sons-of-bitches
Who are waiting to exploit your life away
Don’t you let ’em buy you out or break your pride
Don’t you let yourself be used then cast aside
If you listen to their lying
They will con you into dying
You won’t even know that you were once alive
No more talking now it’s time to go to sleep
There are answers to your questions but they’ll keep
Go on asking while you grow, son
Go on asking till you know, son
And then send the answers ringing through the world