If you'd like to republish any of my articles, you are welcome to do so. Please add a link to the original post on my blog.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Illiberalism of "Liberals"

Sir Godfrey Kneller's portrait of classical liberal philosopher John Locke

This article was inspired by the reading of a piece by one of my favourite authors, Theodore Dalrymple, entitled "The Rosenbergs, Always".

Its subtitle is "Liberals remain soft on Communism."

The problem is that those who today, especially in America, are called "liberals" are not liberal; they are soft on communism because they are cut from the same cloth. The use of the word "liberal" to mean people on the Left originated perhaps from Norman Thomas, six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America, who, according to the newspaper The Spokesman Review of 26 February 1967, said:
The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of 'liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without knowing how it happened.
This quote is disputed, but not this other, from a 1951 letter to Norman Thomas from Upton Sinclair, the American author who ran for Congress for the Socialist Party twice and for the governorship of California for the Democratic Party in 1934:
The American People will take Socialism, but they won't take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to 'End Poverty in California' I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them.
Also undisputed is the fact that American socialists have tried to adopt other names for themselves, both to diguise the nature of their doctrine and because of American instinctive dislike for totalitarian ideologies like socialism.

Reassurances like the Social Democrats USA's "Social Democracy is a true American tradition" are felt necessary to overcome a natural American diffidence.

This is why US socialist Edward Bellamy inspired the formation of the Nationalist Clubs. The June 1898 edition of the organ for Fabian Socialists in the United States, the American Fabian magazine, observes:
In Bellamy, social science and imagination were combined at their best. He has given us a substantial revelation whose scientific deductions from economic phenomena are unassailable. In the work of speeding the light he has made the valued distinction between Nationalism and Socialism. Nations advance toward their destiny upon lines marked out by the temper of their peoples, the character of their institutions, the conditions of soil, climate, and surroundings. Consequently the forward movement must be by national rather than international pathways. Bellamy saw this clearly, and formulating his Socialism to a purely American applicability, named it Nationalism. What has been the result? We hear no more the philistine cry that Socialism is an alien product. The far-reaching influence of "Looking Backward" has given us a native development of this definite form of Socialism, and has made possible the realization of his dreams in the near future. [Emphasis added]
Whatever one thinks of real liberalism (or socialism, for that matter), classic liberalism is very different from socialism.

To see that it's sufficient to look at their respective concepts of human rights, for example. Liberals view human rights as negative rights, namely freedom from interference from the state or other individuals, whereas socialists and communists see them as positive rights, namely entitlements to the statisfaction of every man's need, following Karl Marx's formula for communism: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

No comments:

Post a Comment