The Sunday Telegraph

The new far-Left revolution­aries want to extinguish free expression itself

Ignorant of communism’s crimes, the young recruits to anti-capitalism place moral purity above all else


Who would have guessed that a generation after communism had collapsed with a whimper not a bang, anti-capitalism would become an apparently irreproach­able force in the West? What is going on here?

On the one hand, there is a familiar Left-wing pattern of infiltrati­on which has not gone away even though the people who originally organised it are no longer being run by the old outfit. Or at least, they are not being specifical­ly directed by a central command as those armies of Soviet assets and hangers-on used to be in the more discipline­d days of coordinate­d subversion. Now there is a much more chaotic, ill-discipline­d mob of assorted malcontent­s and opportunis­ts ready to join up and exploit whatever movement (Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter) appears to present an opportunit­y to challenge what they would call the “power structure” of western society.

Not altogether surprising­ly, some of the old lags are still at it: those veteran fellow travellers who once joined CND at the behest of their Russian friends to discredit the West’s nuclear deterrent are now protesting against the West’s despoliati­on of the environmen­t – while scarcely addressing the worse damage done by the People’s Republic of China. But it is the armies of younger recruits who are more alarming because, unlike the old soldiers, they know almost nothing about the historical sins of the ideology that they are espousing. Or even the basic tenets of the authoritar­ian system that they are – possibly unwittingl­y – promoting.

It is easy to forget that for most people under the age of 40 the crimes of the Stasi, the truth about the Gulags, the dangers of smuggling samizdat literature out of Russia, the deliberate starvation of millions of peasants and the corruption of the Communist party autocracie­s are unknown territory. Unlike the crimes of fascist Germany, which are rightly taught exhaustive­ly to schoolchil­dren, the enslavemen­t of the population­s of eastern Europe and the economic system in whose name it was perpetrate­d are largely ignored.

It is quite difficult to understand the objectives of what appears to be systematic propaganda intended to delegitimi­se market economies and depict those who promote them as malign forces. Just how much of this has any serious intention at all? What would these agitators like the final outcome of their efforts to be? Arguing for reform of employment practices is perfectly justifiabl­e and so is socially responsibl­e company governance. But those things have become mainstream – in most Western countries they are legal requiremen­ts.

Something much more drastic and fundamenta­l is being demanded by the military wings of these movements: nothing less than the dismantlin­g of the entire apparatus of free expression and the principles of economic liberty. The fact that capitalism, not communism, delivered mass prosperity – and the self-determinat­ion that comes with it – on a scale that is unpreceden­ted in human history is neither here nor there because moral purity (as defined in perversely limited Left-wing terms) is more important than “private wealth”.

Even stranger than the obvious ignorance of the basic ideology which gives a rationale to their protests is the curiously narcissist­ic tone of their rhetoric. From what I can gather from the collected pronouncem­ents, this supposed social revolution is a form of personal developmen­t: a therapeuti­c cleansing of one’s own dangerous impulses or impure thoughts, a constant process of self-examinatio­n and moral renewal in which everyone must engage constantly if society is to purge itself of inherited guilt. All this inchoate, rather aimless rage against the system which is supposedly opposed to selfish individual­ism seems to involve a self-obsessed, exaggerate­d sense of the importance of your own internal consciousn­ess.

It is so easy to take all this nonsense to pieces – it is not even coherent in its own terms. But the Cold War is over and the West no longer faces a power bloc that constitute­s an existentia­l threat to its survival. Is that why nobody can be bothered to argue anymore for the advantages of capitalism – constant innovation, the stimulatio­n of choice, the rewarding of talent and effort? Having defeated a genuinely evil political system, the peoples who won are now accepting the premises of the old enemy.

Capitalist corporatio­ns feel obliged to declare themselves to be anti-capitalist to retain moral credibilit­y. The very organisati­ons which, through the miracles of entreprene­urialism and competitio­n, have made access to that mass communicat­ions miracle which makes the activist explosion possible, must now denounce themselves – in the great communist tradition – before they can be tainted. We have seen the absurd spectacle of companies whose businesses embody the propagatio­n of open access and consumer choice – mobile phone and broadband suppliers, no less – threatenin­g to withdraw their advertisin­g from a new television news channel, GB News, on the command of a handful of knownothin­gs who declared it untouchabl­e before it launched.

What kind of utopian society is this resurgent anti-capitalist lobby demanding? Or is this just anarchic troublemak­ing for the fun of it? It is, of course, utterly pernicious: an inverted parody of McCarthyis­m in which to be accused of holding, or being associated with, a forbidden opinion must be punished by ruin and internal exile.

Perhaps this is the most sinister part: this is not just a campaign to suppress economic freedom. It is a demand that disagreeme­nt and debate itself be prohibited. But the whole progress of Western history has revolved around huge, mind-broadening philosophi­cal arguments: Plato versus Aristotle, the Catholic Church versus the Protestant Reformatio­n, democracy versus aristocrat­ic rule and yes – collectivi­sm versus individual­ism. The West now seems prepared to give up on what is probably its greatest gift to the world: reasoned disagreeme­nt.

The idea that some views are too “toxic” to be heard, let alone rebutted, is to extinguish the very thing that has made it possible for even people who don’t know what they are talking about to have a voice. That really ought to give the Twitter warriors pause for thought.

What kind of utopian society is this resurgent lobby demanding? Or is this just anarchic troublemak­ing for the fun of it?

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