Politics and Antagonism 3: Bullying the People

So, self-identifying Left-wing activists have good reason to believe they are the only ones with principle and probity, or, at least, the only ones who strive to act in a principled way. On the other hand, if you are pursuing a moral activity so you can worship at the altar of your own virtue, integrity is nothing but selfishness and self-indulgence. Nobody benefits but yourself, if your campaigns to change society stay true to your principles, but antagonise and alienate everyone else. People are the substance society is made of, and they’re all going to disagree with you about something. You need to persuade them if you are going to change society. Imposing change is persecution, coercion, and suppression. 

This is the error made by Jeremy Corbyn’s sanctimonious leadership of the Labour party. By making himself unelectable, he simply allowed another Conservative government to continue to dismantle any last remnants of progressive policy and legislation. He colluded in Conservative rule. 

Unfortunately, campaigning groups have always existed in bubbles, even before the rise of social media. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded people, for safety and comfort, all we hear back are rousing cheers of support. We think we are talking for the masses until the election results come in.

As Andrew Rawnsley said of Tony Blair’s New Labour, “It is sometimes said their key insight was that principles are redundant without power. This could only be called an insight in reference to Labour, a party too often populated with people who believe winning elections has to entail betraying their values. To Tories, it is not an insight to say that achieving office matters. It is a statement of the bleeding obvious.” (The Observer, 01/05/22)

And anyway, surely one of the core principles of left-wing Humanist Liberalism, part of the principle of equality itself, is that other people’s political beliefs and opinions are as valid as your own and should have as much weight. To forcibly impose your principles on others, assuming they are always entirely superior, is a form of imperialism. Being willing negotiate and compromise, to alter your position and your legislation to accommodate some of your opponent’s beliefs is, itself, a higher principle. 

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