More on the inherent conservatism of the Left

I’ve blogged about the reactionary nature of the Left before, and in 2012 I went so far as to write, in response to a Marxist historian’s essay on capitalism and gay identity, that:

Capitalism has brought about the [gay rights] movement’s flourishing, and the government is holding it back. This fact is true not just in the realm of gay identity, but in the realm of all other social, political, and economic aspects of as well. Leftists would also do well to remember that their movement, as it stands now, as it stood three decades ago, is, for all intents and purposes, one of conservatism, obstinate ignorance, and embarrassing causality.

Many others have noticed the reactionary nature of the hard Left as well (and don’t forget to read Rick’s thoughtful musings on the Left-Right divide), but it is always nice to come across writings that bolster one’s own argument. James Peron has more on “The Lament of the Conservative Left” in the Huffington Post. Riffing off of an article by the prominent socialist David Selbourne, Peron writes:

Note the disdain for individual social freedom as being “without regard to the interests of the social order as a whole.” Doesn’t that sound just like a religious conservative?


Socialism was not a “revolutionary” alternative to liberalism. It was a conservative reaction against it. Ludwig Mises said: “It was Liberalism that undermined the power of the classes that had for centuries been closely bound up with the Church. It transformed the world more than Christianity had ever done. It restored humanity to the world and to life. It awakened forces which shook the foundations of the inert traditionalism on which Church and creed rested.”


Socialism […] grabbed the methods of conservatism, embracing state power as the means of planning permissable changes and preventing others. It embraced change to a limited degree, unlike conservatives, but wanted to direct it. Liberalism, to the socialist, meant unplanned change. It was this concept of an “invisible hand” that disturbed them. The socialist, in his heart, is a conservative, just one who wants some of what liberalism has to offer.

Indeed. Read the rest, and remember: “Liberalism” in much of the world means “classical liberalism” rather than the ideology of the Democrat Party in the United States.

One thought on “More on the inherent conservatism of the Left

  1. I forgot to make any mention of the brilliant sociologist (and socialist) Immanuel Wallerstein’s work on the “triad” of competing ideologies. In the spirit of fairness, I might as well share them here.

    In 1995 Wallerstein came out with a book, After Liberalism, that attempted to come to terms with the collapse of socialism. Most of the book was awful from an objective standpoint. Wallerstein argued that the USSR was actually a liberal project rather than a socialist one, and falls back on an obscure theory known as the Kondratiev Wave – which argues that economic cycles occur every 40-60 years and is not embraced by the economics profession – to justify his stubborn refusal to yield to reality (see also Francis Fukuyama’s short critique of Wallerstein’s book in Foreign Affairs; it’s funny to me that one failure in the prediction game, Fukuyama, is criticizing the faults of another failure in the prediction game, Wallerstein, but this is only a mere five years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union we’re talking about, so all is forgiven!).

    The one great aspect of Wallerstein’s book has to do with the triad of conservatism, liberalism, and socialism. He argues, contra Peron (and rightly if I am forced to be honest with myself), that each of the three triads are by their very nature anti-statist philosophically but, for practical reasons (there has never been a democratic parliament composed purely of liberals or socialists or conservatives) were very much okay with wielding the power of the state to push through their reforms or counter-reforms.

    Thus, in Wallerstein’s mind, the philosophical triad gave way to practical alliances between two of the sides, with the third side being the opposition. So, if socialists were in power they had to align – again for the practical purposes of governing – with either liberals or conservatives. Wallerstein argued that the socialist-liberal coalitions are the ancestors of today’s social democrats (the left-of-center parties in Western Europe, for example); that the liberal–conservative coalitions are the ancestors of today’s roughly free market parties (Democrats and Republicans in the US); that the conservative-socialist coalitions are the ancestors of today’s authoritarian parties (the Marxist-Leninists of the Soviet Union and the devoloping world’s anti-colonial regimes of the 1960s and onward). This observation, from Wallerstein, ties in quite well to Peron’s article in the Huffington Post, I think.

    If this doesn’t make sense, holla at me.

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