2023 has exposed the moral depravity of the radical left
Jews, women, the working class – leftists have betrayed everyone they once claimed to speak for.
What does it mean to be radical, left-wing, progressive? Well, in 2023, it meant making excuses for a genocidal anti-Semitism, refusing to believe evidence of mass rape and naysaying about the terroristic murder of infants. This was the year the ‘right side of history’ brigade exploded their phoney moral superiority for good.
When Hamas sent men on paragliders, motorbikes and in jeeps into southern Israel on 7 October – murdering, raping, mutilating and kidnapping as many Jews as they could find – I thought those on the anti-Israel left would be forced to reassess. Forced to rethink their years of Hamas apologism – their thinly veiled support for these Jew-hating maniacs, who they have long whitewashed as a ‘legitimate resistance movement’ in Palestine.
After all, that dark day these supposed leftists were – or rather should have been – confronted by the barbaric consequences of their own luxury beliefs. They were shown, beyond doubt, that Hamas’s genocidal founding charter was not just talk – that Hamas was not in fact ‘dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people and long-term peace and social justice in the whole region’, as one Jeremy Corbyn once put it.
But they didn’t reassess. Many leftists openly celebrated the pogrom, hailing it as a ‘day of celebration’. The Socialist Worker called on its nine readers to ‘rejoice’. Many initially giddy tweets were deleted, as the more savvy left-wingers settled in to blaming Israel for being attacked and refusing to believe women were raped. It was victim-blaming on a geopolitical scale; atrocity denial for the Twitterring, TikToking age.
These supposed anti-racists happily provided cover for the world’s oldest bigotry. Many openly engaged in it themselves. Meanwhile, these supposed anti-fascists turned a blind eye as ‘pro-Palestine’ protests turned our streets into an open sewer of Jew hatred. Genocidal slogans were chanted. Swastikas were brandished. Hate crime soared. And they just didn’t care.
The unholy alliance between radical leftists and radical Islamists isn’t new, of course. Over recent decades, the left has come to confuse anti-imperialism with anti-Westernism. Failed Western revolutionaries began to outsource radical agency to Islamists – turning these Jew-hating, misogynistic, gay-bashing theocrats into ‘freedom fighters’, locked in some grand conflict between the West and the rebellious global Other.
Left-wing anti-Semitism isn’t anything new, either. As the author Jake Wallis Simons has argued, many of the tropes of today’s left-wing ‘Israelophobia’ – his term for the new, supposedly ‘anti-Zionist’ form that anti-Semitism now comes in – have their roots in Soviet propaganda, developed to shore up alliances between Moscow and allied Arab states during the Cold War.
But there was once fierce internal resistance to this poison from Marxists and leftists, not least Jewish Marxists and leftists, who rightly saw anti-Semitism as a betrayal of humanity and reason itself. Leon Trotsky was among the most potent critics of both Stalinist and Nazi anti-Semitism, warning with chilling prescience in 1938 about the ‘extermination’ which awaited Jews. Not too long ago, it was still entirely legitimate to be on the left and implacably opposed to both Islamism and fascism.
Today, by contrast, Jew hatred on the radical left looks increasingly like a feature, rather than a bug. Since the birth of the new millennium, all of the big, nominally left-wing movements – from Occupy Wall Street to the anti-Iraq War demos to the anti-Trump Women’s March to Corbyn’s Labour – have been pockmarked by anti-Semitism scandals or dodgy associations with hardline anti-Semites. In Corbyn’s case, his apparently high threshold for Jew hatred was no small part of what sunk his leadership and his party in 2019.
Those who do speak up against this are either ignored or monstered. Particularly those who are Jewish themselves. Jon Lansman, founder of Momentum and former bag carrier for Tony Benn, has spoken of his ‘sorrow’ following 7 October and the obscene response from ‘much of the left’. Academic David Hirsh, an expert on left anti-Semitism, has been called a ‘racist’ and ‘white supremacist’ by the students’ union president and his own academic union at Goldsmiths.
This is not to say that all left-wingers are anti-Semitic. But the Jew hatred is undoubtedly coming from inside the house. Anti-Semitic leftists aren’t falling under the spell of dashing jihadists, they are imbibing malign intellectual trends that have been festering, largely unchallenged, on the radical left for decades.
Leftists have come to see capitalism not as a structure of economic relations, but as a plot hatched among nefarious bankers – a manichean vision which maps all-too-neatly on to age-old anti-Semitic tropes. Their deranged hatred of Israel – and their patronising tendency to treat Muslims as the violent, benighted children of world affairs – means they now treat anti-Semitic pogroms as the voice of the unheard.
Meanwhile, the left’s embrace of woke racial identity politics has merely replaced the old racism, which treated Jews as scheming genetic inferiors, with a new racism, which treats Jews as the hyper-white butchers of Palestinians. This strips Hamas of responsibility and refuses Jews the status of victims, even when the former is waging an apocalyptic assault on the latter.
The socialism of fools, the anti-imperialism of fools, the anti-racism of fools… in 2023, we learned that these ideologies represent a kind of intellectual and moral death for the left. As the left has disappeared up its own fundament, further into academia and the media and away from the civilising influence of ordinary people, it has come to embrace some truly depraved ideas.
The left has also come to betray pretty much every constituency it once claimed to speak for. When working-class Brits revolted against the neoliberal European Union, leftists smeared them as racists and rubes. When women spoke up in defence of sex-based rights, leftists called them ‘TERFs’ and ‘transphobes’ and demanded rapists be put in women’s prisons.
The betrayal of the Jews – though a long time coming – feels particularly poignant. This year, leftists who will still get all misty eyed about the Battle of Cable Street – when Jewish and working-class leftists faced down Oswald Mosley’s fascists in the East End – made abundantly clear which side they are actually on.
What’s left? A movement once devoted to the liberation of mankind has become authoritarian and misanthropic. A movement once devoted to the abolition of racism is now the enforcer of racial hierarchy and an apologist for genocidal anti-Semitism. A movement once fuelled by the radical promise of the Enlightenment is now ‘decolonising’ itself of all of those supposedly ‘Eurocentric’ and ‘white’ values and thinkers.
In 2023, the radical left surrendered the moral high ground once and for all. For whether we like it or not, this is what the radical left is now. The conspiratorial Israelophobes and the woke racists run the show. The word ‘leftist’ has, with good reason, become a term of abuse among the very people leftists once aspired to liberate. Those who still find inspiration and meaning in the ideals the radical left has so spectacularly betrayed would do well to start marching under a new banner.
Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
Picture by: Getty.
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.