Below is an expanded and corrected version of a paper that appeared in Front Page Magazine on October 8th, 2002. A later version is here
John J. Ray (M.A.;Ph.D.)
In various articles that I have written from time to time, I have alluded to the fact that there are plenty of racially discriminatory attitudes and behaviour on the political Left and that Leftist racism is at least as vicious as any other form of racism. Leftists of course constantly condemn the slightest suspicion of racism in others in an apparent claim that they are holier than others in that respect. In this article, therefore, I draw together much of what I have said before in different sources and added a lot of new material in the hope of giving a single more comprehensive treatment of Leftist racism.
Nazism was Leftist
Probably the ultimate racist creed was Nazism. And one of the great confidence tricks of the 20th Century is the way in which 20th century intellectuals managed to get Nazism labelled as "Rightist". This is however utter nonsense. Take this description of a political programme: A "declaration of war against the order of things which exist, against the state of things which exist, in a word, against the structure of the world which presently exists". You could hardly get a more change-oriented or revolutionary programme than that. So whose programme was it? Marx? Lenin? Stalin? Trotsky? Mao? No. It was how Hitler described his programme towards the end of "Mein Kampf". And the Left pretend that Hitler was some sort of conservative!
And who was it who described his movement as having a 'revolutionary creative will' which had 'no fixed aim, . no permanency, only eternal change'. It could very easily have been Trotsky or Mao but it was in fact Hitler (O'Sullivan, 1983. p. 138). Clearly, Nazism was nothing more nor less than a racist form of Leftism (rather extreme Leftism at that) and to label it as "Rightist" or anything else is to deny reality.
To reinforce the point that Nazism was in fact Leftist, we might also note: Hitler always campaigned as a socialist and champion of the worker and the full name of Hitler's political party -- generally abbreviated as "Nazi" -- says it all: Die Nazionalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei ("The National Socialist German Worker's Party"). So, as a good socialist does, Hitler justified everything he did in the name of "the people" (Das Volk). The Nazi State was, like the Soviet State, all-powerful, and the Nazi party, in good socialist fashion, instituted pervasive supervision of German industry. And of course Hitler and Stalin were initially allies. It was only the Nazi-Soviet pact that enabled Hitler's conquest of Western Europe. The fuel in the tanks of Hitler's Panzers as they stormed through France was Soviet fuel.
And a book that was very fashionable worldwide in the '60s was the 1958 book "The Affluent Society" by influential "liberal" Canadian economist J.K. Galbraith -- in which he fulminated about what he saw as our "Private affluence and public squalour". But Hitler preceded him. Hitler shared with the German Left of his day the slogan: "Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz" (Common use before private use).
It is also a matter of historical record that, after the Nazi-Soviet pact, Communists worldwide immediately became actively pro-Hitler. So Leftist "principles" are obviously very flexible. It is reasonable to conclude therefore, that, if Hitler had won and Stalin lost the war, Leftists would now be justifying their constant clamour for change and their bids for power as furthering Nazi ideals rather than "humanitarian" ideals.
And we all know how evil Nazi eugenics were, don't we? How crazy were their efforts to build up the "master race" through selective breeding of SS men with the best of German women -- the "Lebensborn" project? Good Leftists recoil in horror from all that of course. But who were the great supporters of eugenics in Hitler's day? In the USA, the great eugenicists of the first half of the 20th century were the "Progressives". And who were the Progressives? Here is one summary of them:
"Originally, progressive reformers sought to regulate irresponsible corporate monopoly, safeguarding consumers and labor from the excesses of the profit motive. Furthermore, they desired to correct the evils and inequities created by rapid and uncontrolled urbanization. Progressivism ..... asserted that the social order could and must be improved..... Some historians, like Richard Hofstadter and George Mowry, have argued that the progressive movement attempted to return America to an older, more simple, agrarian lifestyle. For a few progressives, this certainly was true. But for most, a humanitarian doctrine of social progress motivated the reforming spirit".
Sound familiar? The Red/Green alliance of today is obviously not new. So Hitler's eugenics were yet another part of Hitler's LEFTISM! He got his eugenic theories from the Leftists of his day. He was simply being a good Leftist intellectual in subscribing to such theories.
The summary of Progressivism above is from De Corte (1978). Against all his own evidence, De Corte also claims that the Progressives were "conservative". More Leftist whitewash! See also Pickens (1968).
And are feminists conservative? Hardly. And feminists are hardly a new phenomenon either. In the person of Margaret Sanger and others, they were very active in the USA in first half of the 20th century, advocating (for instance) abortion. And Margaret Sanger was warmly praised by Hitler for her energetic championship of eugenics. And the American eugenicists were very racist. They shared Hitler's view that Jews were genetically inferior and opposed moves to allow into the USA Jews fleeing from Hitler (Richmond, 1998). So if Hitler's eugenics and racial theories were loathsome, it should be acknowledged that his vigorous supporters in the matter at that time were Leftists and feminists, rather than conservatives.
But surely Hitler was at least like US conservatives in being a "gun nut"? Far from it. Weimar (pre-Hitler) Germany already had strict limits on private ownership of firearms (limits enacted by a Left-leaning government) and the Nazis continued these for the first five years of their rule. It was not until March 18, 1938 that the Reichstag ("State Assembly" -- i.e. the German Federal Parliament) passed a new Weapons Law (or Waffengesetz). The new law contained a lessening of some restrictions but an increase in others. Essentially, from that point on, only politically reliable people would be issued with permits to own guns. For some details of the very large number of controls in the new law, see here
Hitler was in fact even more clearly a Leftist than he was a nationalist or a racist. Although in his speeches he undoubtedly appealed to the nationalism of the German people, Locke (2001) makes a strong case that Hitler was not in fact a very good nationalist in that he always emphasized that his primary loyalty was to what he called the Aryan race -- and Germany was only one part of that race. Locke then goes on to point out that Hitler was not even a very consistent racist in that the Dutch, the Danes etc. were clearly Aryan even by Hitler's own eccentric definition yet he attacked them whilst at the same time allying himself with the very non-Aryan Japanese. And the Russians and the Poles (whom Hitler also attacked) are rather more frequently blonde and blue-eyed (Hitler's ideal) than the Germans themselves are! So what DID Hitler believe in? Locke suggests that Hitler's actions are best explained by saying that he simply had a love of war but offers no explanation of WHY Hitler would love war. Hitler's extreme Leftism does explain this however. As the quotations already given show, Hitler shared with other Leftists a love of constant change and excitement --- and what could offer more of that than war?
The idea that Nazism was motivated primarily by a typically Leftist hunger for change and excitement and rejection of the status quo is reinforced by the now famous account of life in Nazi Germany given by a young "Aryan" who lived through it. Originally written before World War II, Haffner's (2002) account of why Hitler rose to power stresses the boring nature of ordinary German life and observes that the appeal of the Nazis lay in their offering of relief from that:
"The great danger of life in Germany has always been emptiness and boredom ... The menace of monotony hangs, as it has always hung, over the great plains of northern and eastern Germany, with their colorless towns and their all too industrious, efficient, and conscientious business and organizations. With it comes a horror vacui and the yearning for 'salvation': through alcohol, through superstition, or, best of all, through a vast, overpowering, cheap mass intoxication."
So he too saw the primary appeal of Nazism as its offering of change, novelty and excitement.
And how about another direct quote from Hitler himself?
"We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions"
(Speech of May 1, 1927. Quoted by John Toland, Adolf Hitler, 1977, p. 306)
Clearly, the idea that Hitler was a Rightist is probably the most successful BIG LIE of the 20th Century. He was to the Right of the Communists but that is all.
Leftist denial about Nazism
The way contemporary "Western" Leftists constantly hurl the labels "Nazi" and "Fascist" at anybody they disagree with suggests almost an obsession with Nazism. Such an obsession is also suggested by the way TV programs about Hitler and Nazism always seem to be available from our Left-dominated media. Programs about Stalin's Russia are as rare as hen's teeth by comparison.
This continuing Leftist obsession with Nazism might make some sense if Nazism were uniquely evil but, horrible and massive though the Nazi crimes were, they were anything but unique. For a start, government by tyranny is, if anything, normal in human history. And both antisemitism and eugenic theories were normal in prewar Europe. Further back in history, even Martin Luther wrote a most vicious and well-known attack on the Jews. And Nazi theories of German racial superiority differed from then-customary British beliefs in British racial superiority mainly in that the British views were implemented with typical conservative moderation whereas the Nazi views were implemented with typical Leftist fanaticism and brutality (cf. Stalin and Pol Pot). And the Nazi and Russian pogroms differed mainly in typically greater German thoroughness and efficiency. And waging vicious wars and slaughtering people "en masse" because of their supposed group identity have been regrettably common phenomena both before and after Hitler (e.g. Stalin's massacres of Kulaks and Ukrainians, the unspeakable Pol Pot's massacres of all educated Cambodians, Peru's "Shining Path", the Nepalese Marxists, the Tamil Tigers and the universal Communist mass executions of "class-enemies"). Both Stalin and Mao Tse Tung are usually "credited" with murdering far more "class enemies" than Hitler executed Jews.
It seems an obvious conclusion, then, that the constant Leftist excoriation of Hitler and the Nazis stems not from the unique horribleness of Nazism but has as its main aim an effort at camouflage -- an effort to disguise or hide from public awareness the real kinship that exists between Nazism and other forms of Leftism. Modern-day Leftists do not want people to know that Nazism is their ugly twin. They just cannot afford to have people realize that ALL the great mass-murders of the 20th century were the product of Leftism.
Modern day Leftists of course hate it when you point out to them that Hitler was one of them. They deny it furiously -- even though in Hitler's own day both the orthodox Leftists who represented the German labor unions (the SPD) and the Communists (KPD) voted WITH the Nazis in the Reichstag (German Parliament) on various important occasions.
As part of that denial, an essay by Steve Kangas is much reproduced on the internet. Entering the search phrase "Hitler was a Leftist" will bring up multiple copies of it. Kangas however reveals where he is coming from in his very first sentence: "Many conservatives accuse Hitler of being a leftist, on the grounds that his party was named "National Socialist." But socialism requires worker ownership and control of the means of production". It does? Only to Marxists. So Kangas is saying only that Hitler was less Leftist than the Communists -- and that would not be hard. Surely a "democratic" Leftist should see that as faintly to Hitler's credit, in fact.
Some other points made by Kangas are highly misleading. He says for instance that Hitler favoured "competition over co-operation". Hitler in fact rejected Marxist notions of class struggle and had as his great slogan: "Ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Fuehrer" (One State, one people, one leader). He ultimately wanted Germans to be a single, unified, co-operating whole under him, with all notions of social class or other divisions forgotten. Other claims made by Kangas are simply laughable: He says that Hitler cannot have been a Leftist because he favoured: "politics and militarism over pacifism, dictatorship over democracy". Phew! So Stalin was not political, not a militarist and not a dictator? Enough said.
Other denials of Nazism as Leftist
When all is said and done, however, the challenge by Kangas is really just too silly to take seriously. More serious is the strong reaction I get from many who know something of history who say that Hitler cannot have been a Leftist because of the great hatred that existed at the time between the Nazis and the "Reds". And Hitler's contempt for "Bolshevism" was probably exceeded only by his contempt for the Jews.
My reply is that there is no hatred like fraternal hatred and that hatreds between different Leftist groupings have existed from the French revolution onwards. That does not make any of the rival groups less Leftist however. And the ice-pick in the head that Trotsky got courtesy of Stalin shows vividly that even among the Bolsheviks themselves there were great rivalries and hatreds. Did that make any of them less Bolshevik, less Marxist, less Communist? No doubt the protagonists concerned would argue that it did but from anyone else's point of view they were all Leftists at least.
Nonetheless there still seems to persist in some minds the view that two groups as antagonistic as the Nazis and the Communists just cannot have been ideological blood-brothers. Let me therefore try this little quiz: Who was it who at one stage dismissed Hitler as a "barbarian, a criminal and a pederast"? Was it Stalin? Was it some other Communist? Was it Winston Churchill? Was it some other conservative? Was it one of the Social Democrats? No. It was none other than Benito Mussolini, the Fascist leader who later became Hitler's ally in World War II. And if any two leaders were ideological blood-brothers those two were. So I am afraid that antagonism between Hitler and others proves nothing. If anything, the antagonism between Hitler and other socialists is proof of what a typical socialist Hitler was.
Another difficulty that those who know their history raise is the great and undoubted prominence of nationalist themes in Hitler's propaganda. It is rightly noted that in this Hitler diverged widely from the various Marxist movements of Europe. So can he therefore really have been a Leftist?
My reply is of course that Hitler was BOTH a nationalist AND a socialist -- as the full name of his political party (The National Socialist German Worker's Party) implies. And he was not alone in that:
Other Leftist nationalists
From the days of Marx onward, there were innumerable "splits" in the extreme Leftist movement but two of the most significant occurred around the time of the Bolshevik revolution --- when in Russia the Bolsheviks themselves split into Leninists and Trotskyites and when in Italy Mussolini left Italy's major Marxist party to found the "Fascists". So from its earliest days Leftism had a big split over the issue of nationalism. It split between the Internationalists (e.g. Trotskyists) and the nationalists (e.g. Fascists) with Lenin having a foot in both camps. So any idea that a nationalist cannot be a Leftist is pure fiction.
And, in fact, the very title of Lenin's famous essay, "Left-wing Communism, an infantile disorder" shows that Lenin himself shared the judgement that he was a Right-wing sort of Marxist. Mussolini was somewhat further Right again, of course, but both were to the Right only WITHIN the overall far-Left camp of the day.
It should further be noted in this connection that the various European Socialist parties in World War I did not generally oppose the war in the name of international worker brotherhood but rather threw their support behind the various national governments of the countries in which they lived. Just as Mussolini did, they too nearly all became nationalists. Nationalist socialism is a very old phenomenon.
And it still exists today. Although many modern-day US Democrats often seem to be anti-American, the situation is rather different in Australia and Britain. Both the major Leftist parties there (the Australian Labor Party and the British Labour Party) are perfectly patriotic parties which express pride in their national traditions and achievements. Nobody seems to have convinced them that you cannot be both Leftist and nationalist. That is of course not remotely to claim that either of the parties concerned is a Nazi or an explicitly Fascist party. What Hitler and Mussolini advocated and practiced was clearly more extremely nationalist than any major Anglo-Saxon political party would now advocate.
And socialist parties such as the British Labour Party were patriotic parties in World War II as well. And in World War II even Stalin moved in that direction. If Hitler learnt from Mussolini the persuasive power of nationalism, Stalin was not long in learning the same lesson from Hitler. When the Wehrmacht invaded Russia, the Soviet defences did, as Hitler expected, collapse like a house of cards. The size of Russia did, however, give Stalin time to think and what he came up with was basically to emulate Hitler and Mussolini. Stalin reopened the churches, revived the old ranks and orders of the Russian Imperial army to make the Red Army simply the Russian Army and stressed patriotic appeals in his internal propaganda. He portrayed his war against Hitler not as a second "Red" war but as 'Vtoraya Otechestvennaya Vojna' -- The Second Patriotic War -- the first such war being the Tsarist defence against Napoleon. He deliberately put himself in the shoes of Russia's Tsars.
Russian patriotism proved as strong as its German equivalent and the war was turned around. And to this day, Russians still refer to the Second World War as simply "The Great Patriotic War". Stalin may have started out as an international socialist but he soon became a national socialist when he saw how effective that was in getting popular support. Again, however, it was Mussolini who realized it first. And it is perhaps to Mussolini's credit as a human being that his nationalism was clearly heartfelt where Stalin's was undoubtedly a mere convenience.
I think, however, that the perception of Hitler as a Leftist is more difficult for those with a European perspective than for those with an Anglo-Saxon one. To many Europeans you have to be some sort of Marxist to be a Leftist and Hitler was very clearly opposed to any form of Marxism so cannot have been a Leftist. I write for the Anglosphere, however, and in my experience the vast majority of the Left (i.e. the US Democrats, The Australian Labor Party, the British Labour Party) have always rejected Marxism so it seems crystal clear to me that you can be a Leftist without accepting Marxist doctrines. So Hitler's contempt for Marxism, far from convincing me that he was a non-Leftist, actually convinces me that he was a perfectly conventional Leftist! The Nazi Party was what would in many parts of the world be called a "Labor" party (not a Communist party).
And, as already mentioned, the moderate Leftists of Germany in Hitler's own day saw that too. The Sozialistische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) who, like the US Democrats, the Australian Labor Party and the British Labour Party, had always been the principal political representatives of the Labor unions, on several important occasions voted WITH the Nazis in the Reichstag (German Parliament).
What I have said so far about the Leftist character of Nazism is in fact only a small part of the evidence. A more detailed historical account can be found in my paper about Hitler.
So people like Adolf Hitler and Pim Fortuyn (the homosexual Dutch political leader assassinated by a Green activist in May, 2002) are Rightist only by arbitrary definition. What they advocated was generally Leftist. So Left-wing racism does not exist only insofar as it is DEFINED out of existence.
As Brunton and many others have pointed out, the late Pim Fortuyn advocated gay marriage, gender equality, liberalized drug laws and criticized a religion which he saw as intolerant and homophobic -- which sounds an awful lot like the Leftists of his era -- but because he also wanted to stop further immigration into his already densely populated country he became, "Hey presto!", a "Right-wing extremist"! Brunton also points out that there is much in the rhetoric of prominent French anti-immigrant politician Jean-Marie Le Pen which would get him described as a Leftist were it not for his racial views. Any Leftist who does allow that race might have some significance in some way is immediately relabelled as Rightist. Being racist is enough in the current Left lexicon to make you Rightist regardless of anything else you might believe or advocate.
So virulent racism CAN exist on the Left. Most Leftists are just dishonest about acknowledging it, that is all. They think that by relabelling it they perform some sort of magic trick that makes it go away.
Nonetheless, in pursuit of their usual "All men are equal" shibboleth, one of the proudest banners of modern-day Leftism is anti-racism. Leftists will grudgingly allow that one can be both a Leftist and a Nationalist -- Gough Whitlam, the great hero of the Australian Left, certainly was an unashamed nationalist, as were those great champions of the Argentinian " descamisados", Juan and Eva Peron, and as is the Communist Kim dynasty in North Korea with their catastrophic doctrine of "juche" (national self-reliance) -- but to allow any significance for race means automatically these days that you cannot be a Leftist.
It might be noted, moreover, that Leftists seldom seem to live among the minorities that they ostensibly champion. They are "limousine liberals" in Spiro Agnew's memorable phrase. What most Americans really think of at least some minorities is shown graphically by the phenomenon of "white flight" (US whites normally abandon suburbs that acquire more than a 5% Negro population) but we do not seem to see Leftists rushing to fill the houses left vacant by that. If deeds speak louder than words, this would tend to point to the Leftist's anti-racist advocacy as being mere empty rhetoric.
Leftist racism in history
There is much more in history that shows anti-racism to be a cloak that Leftists have only recently donned. To give just a tiny sample of what could be mentioned:
Before World War II, anti-racism was certainly NOT the mainstay of Leftist doctrine that it is today. Who was it who said: "What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money."? No. It was not Adolf Hitler but Karl Marx himself (Marx, 1844). See Blanchard (1984) for a full discussion of Marx's antisemitism.
And who was it who wrote this?
"Not until my fourteenth or fifteenth year did I begin to come across the word 'Jew,' with any frequency, partly in connection with political discussions.... For the Jew was still characterized for me by nothing but his religion, and therefore, on grounds of human tolerance, I maintained my rejection of religious attacks in this case as in others. Consequently, the tone, particularly that of the Viennese anti-Semitic press, seemed to me unworthy of the cultural tradition of a great nation".
Some kindly liberal wrote that, no doubt? Some anti-racist? Some Leftist? The sentiments are certainly ones that anti-racists could only applaud, are they not? But those words are actually the words of Adolf Hitler, writing in "Mein Kampf". And we all know what he ended up doing!
And from 1901 to 1966 the Australian government had an official policy known as the "White Australia" policy -- a policy which forbad non-white immigration into Australia. In other words, for most of the time that "slegs blankies" ruled as the guiding policy in South Africa, its English equivalent ("whites only") ruled in Australia too. And who were always the most ardent supporters of that policy? The Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. It was an Australian Labor Party leader (Arthur Calwell) who became famous for his remark that, "Two Wongs don't make a white". The policy was eventually abolished by a conservative government under Harold Holt. So Leftists can be as racist as anyone else if it suits them.
This is also shown by the way Jews were heavily oppressed up until quite recently in Russia under the Soviet system. The Soviet Gulag may not have been as regularly fatal as Hitler's concentration camps but that is about the best that one can say of it.
Only a few fragments of the history of Leftist racism have been given here but in any case a typical Leftist response to what has been shown would be: "So what? History is history. It has no relevance to Leftism today." There are many possible answers to that but any claim that modern-day Leftism is somehow different, that it is not and cannot be racist is of course being given the lie right now with the upsurge of Leftist antisemitism as a response to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
And some Leftists who are active and prominent in Left-wing politics right now also have a history of anti-black racism. Senator Robert Byrd, for instance, is such a favourite among US Democrats that he even serves as Chairman of the US Senate --- yet in his 20s he was an active and vocal member of the Ku Klux Klan! You can hardly get more racist than that.
And also note that the famously racist George Wallace WON Democrat primaries for US President in Michigan (1972), North Carolina and Florida (1976) and came close in Maryland and Wisconsin in 1964. So Leftist racism is no mere historical curiosity. Even prominent modern-day Leftists are perfectly capable of it.
There are exceptions to every rule, however, and there is one form of racism that modern-day "Western" Leftists DO enthusiastically allow themselves. A great Leftist cause for the last 30 or more years has been "affirmative action" -- which normally translates into deliberate discrimination against whites both in hiring practices and in admissions to universities and colleges -- a policy which is as blatantly racist as any policy could be.
The policy is normally justified as needed in order to restore "balance" or "diversity" and so to reverse the discrimination of the past but if that were the motive such a policy would also be used to restore political balance in the social science and humanities schools of our universities and colleges -- given the huge preponderance of Leftists teaching in such schools and the virtual barring of Rightists there (Kramer, 1999; Horowitz, 1999; Redding, 2001; Sommer, 2002). Needless to say, no affirmative action policy leading to the preferential hiring of conservatives exists in any major "Western" university. Voltaire's famous declaration that: "I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it" obviously has no place in modern Leftist thinking. Clearly, then, affirmative action is a simple claim of righteousness and moral superiority for Leftists, nothing more. A Leftist will happily be racist if it enables him to make THAT claim!
A good reply to the Leftist arguments for "affirmative action" might be some very famous words:
"I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today".
To their shame it is the Leftists today who favour people on the basis of the colour of their skin rather than on the content of their character. The chief obstacles to the realization of Martin Luther King's dream today are America's so-called "liberals".
And why is the gross discrimination in favour of blacks that is euphemistically called "affirmative action" seen as necessary? Surely if Leftists saw blacks as genetically equal, all that would be needed would be to ensure that blacks had equal opportunity (equal access to education etc.) to ensure equality of outcomes. Instead, however, Leftists see it as necessary to enforce equal outcomes by the weight of the law. Their deeds reveal that Leftists obviously do NOT really believe that blacks are inherently equal to whites.
This Leftist racism would also seem to show in the current Leftist doctrine that preferential admission of blacks to universities and colleges is needed to ensure "diversity" on US campuses. No testing of the "diversity" of thinking in the relevant candidates for admission is done. Just their blackness seems to suffice as evidence that they will add "diversity". Their backgrounds could be thoroughly middle class but there is still that unshakable confidence that they will add "diversity". This implies that blacks think differently from whites just because they are black. That may well be true but acting on such a principle seems to betray precisely that belief in inborn racial differences which Leftists normally condemn vehemently in others.
That racism lurks just beneath the surface in Leftists is also shown vividly by their constant adoption of double standards when speaking of populations of European and non-European origins. There is always an acceptance of barbarity among non-Europeans and a corresponding expectation that people of European origin "should know better". For instance, Leftists constantly cast up the undoubted evils of (European) Nazism so that there can hardly be anyone in the Western world who is unaware of those evils. But how often do Leftists excoriate the simultaneous and arguably greater Japanese atrocities against the Chinese? I have never heard a single Leftist do so. And Western countries are often criticized by Leftists for their "harsh" treatment of illegal immigrants (treatment which rarely leads to any deaths) but we hear hardly a word about the mini-holocausts that are occurring all the time in Africa. Certainly no Leftist that I have ever heard condemns such holocausts. If they do it is nothing compared to the attacks that they mount on the much more benign countries of European origin. Clearly, Leftists have an underlying view of the difference between the "civilized" and "savage" races that is little different from the views of such heroes of past British Imperialism as Rudyard Kipling.
A more general point in this connection is made by Dalrymple (2002): "Socialist and anti-Semite alike seek an all-encompassing explanation of the imperfection of the world, and for the persistence of poverty and injustice: and each thinks he has found an answer. There are other connections between left-wing thought and anti-Semitism (usually believed to be a disease of the Right alone). The liberal intellectual who laments the predominance of dead white males in the college syllabus or the lack of minority representation in the judiciary uses fundamentally the same argument as the anti-Semite who objects to the prominence of Jews in the arts, sciences, professions, and in commerce. They both assume that something must be amiss - a conspiracy - if any human group is over- or under-represented in any human activity, achievement, or institution."
Another perhaps amusing exception for the poor old Leftist is that one of the many hatreds he is allowed is ALMOST racist: He is allowed to be anti-American. It might be objected that anti-Americanism is not racist because Americans are not a race but the essential point surely is that prejudice and hatred is prejudice and hatred, however the target group is defined.
And the events of September 11, 2001 surely show that hatred of America (whether by Muslim fantasists, Japanese Bushido fantasists, Leftist fantasists or any other fantasists) can be as malign, mindless and dangerous as any other form of prejudice. And it must be noted that Muslim fundamentalists are very much like the Greens and the Left in their dislike of the modern capitalistic world and in their dream of turning us all back to some sort of an idealized primitive past. No wonder so many Leftists condone Muslim terrorism! And if the Muslim fundamentalists want to return us all to a feudal state, the various Communist regimes actually did. Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung etc were as much God-kings in their time as any Pharaoh of Egypt ever was.
It might nonetheless be argued that, whatever their motivations, modern-day Leftists do some good by their vocal condemnation of "racism" -- and that could well be so. Racism can undoubtedly be a great and ignorant evil. But is it ALWAYS a great and ignorant evil?
Edmund Burke (1790) has some claims to being the founding theoretician of conservatism and he claimed that loyalty to one's group, tribe, nation etc is a basic human instinct. And the famous military theorist, Von Clausewitz (1972) noted over 150 years ago: that "Even the most civilized of peoples, in short, can be fired with passionate hatred for each other" (p. 76). So what does modern social science tell us?
Let us look initially at the literature of academic psychology in particular: Brown (1986) surveyed the large body of extant psychological research on the question and concluded that group loyalty and group identification are rooted in "universal ineradicable psychological processes". In other words, group loyalty is not only normal but universal. And another psychologist particularly active in research into feelings of group identity concluded: "Not only is ingroup favouritism .... not related to outgroup dislike, it also does not seem causally dependant on denigration of the outgroup" (Turner, 1978, p. 249). See also Brewer & Collins (1981, p. 350) and Brown, Condor, Mathews, Wade & Williams (1986).
And this is moderate compared with what can be found elsewhere in the social science literature. For instance, Hechter (1986) claims that all racism is rational while the prominent French anthropologist Levi-Straus (1983) not only claims that ethnocentrism is universal and inescapable but also claims that it is desirable -- on the grounds that it promotes cultural diversity. And the sociobiologists, of course (e.g. Mihalyi, 1984/5; Van den Berghe, 1981) regard ingroup favouritism as universal not only to man but to all social animals. Perhaps most extreme of all, Volkan (1985 & 1988) says that we all actually NEED group enemies and allies.
But few Leftists are interested in such findings and therefore often carry their condemnation of people's thinking about groups to a ridiculous and unfair degree. They tend to characterize as racist almost anyone who is honest about his or her perfectly normal feelings of group identity -- however harmless and non-malevolent those feelings may be. In other words, present-day Leftists tend to find racists under every bed. They are so wedded to exorcising the demons in the world about them that an imaginary demon will do if a real one cannot be found.
They do so because it is in fact just a ploy for them -- a ploy to obtain kudos. The reality that we all like our own group and our kind best (Park, 1950) is simply ignored by Leftists. A simple blanket condemnation of all manifestations of group awareness is the usual limit of their intellectual prowess. Leftists must need all of their talent for denying reality to avoid condemnation of the vast passions generated worldwide by international soccer matches!
So are Rightists and Leftists both equally racist?
It would seem to follow from the view of racism as being innate and universal that both Left-leaning and Right-leaning people in the general population would be equally likely to be characterized by racist attitudes. And survey research conducted among the general population in Australia, Britain and the USA does indeed show that the correlations between overall ideology and racist attitudes are negligible (Ray, 1984; Ray & Furnham, 1984; Ray & Lovejoy, 1986; Raden, 1989, Table 2). Leftists and Rightists are equally racist. Most research on the question has however been conducted among college students (e.g. Adorno et al, 1950; Duckitt, 1993) and, among students, those with racist views are highly likely to be conservative.
A paper by Sniderman, Brody & Kuklinski (1984) is therefore interesting and unusual in that it relied on U.S. general population sampling and separated people out in terms of educational level. These authors did indeed find some overall association between racist and conservative attitudes but found it only among well-educated respondents. Among those with only a basic education there was no association between ideology and racism to be found at all. Racists were equally likely to be of the Left or the Right. This is consistent with the view that any association between the two variable is produced in the educational system by teachers (both secondary and tertiary) who tend to be both liberal and anti-racist. People who acculturate best to the educational system will therefore show both liberal and anti-racist views and this will produce an overall association between the variables.
Further evidence that such a social context is crucial for any such an association to emerge is the fact that in Northern Irish samples (Mercer & Cairns, 1981) the association is found for Protestants only (not among Catholics). Conservatism, therefore, may be associated with negative racial attitudes under some particular circumstances and in some particular places but there is no reason to say that political orientation is related to racial attitudes in general. See also Weil (1985) and Gaertner (1973).
Weigel & Howes (1985) did report a strong relationship between conservative and racist ideology in a U.S. general population sample but their "conservatism" scale was more a Leftist caricature of what modern-day conservatives believe than anything else. Most of its items would be more accurately described as measuring "Jingoism" (exaggerated nationalism and contempt for foreigners) so the correlation found was largely artifactual ("built-in").
Vote and racism
Conservative or Leftist attitudes often do not translate well into the political party one votes for. Conservative Southern Democrats are of course well-known in the US. So let us look at vote directly and ask what attitudes characterize Right-voting and Left-voting people. And in US general population samples, the relationship between racial attitudes and vote has been known to be weak to non-existent (Williams & Wright, 1955).
Some more recent research reported by Eisenman & Sirgo (1993) is also of some interest here. They reported principally the responses of U.S. voters to a single survey question concerning the degree of help that the government should give to blacks. They found that more Democrats than Republicans thought that the government should help blacks more and it is this aspect of their findings that the authors themselves concentrate on. Another aspect of their findings that should be noted, however, is that although the most extreme anti-black response was endorsed by 43 Republican voters it was also endorsed by 49 Democrat voters! See Table 2 of Eisenman & Sirgo (1993). So is it Republicans or Democrats who are the racists? There seems to be no clear tendency either way. George Wallace Democrats are obviously still alive, well and easy to find.
Racist behaviour and ideology
So far attitudes only have been mentioned: not behaviour. If attitudes may not translate well into vote, they may not translate well into behaviour either. Regrettably, studies that examine behaviour as distinct from attitudes are rare. So a finding of some interest was by Gough & Bradley (1993). These authors were unusual in that they used a properly constructed scale to measure rated racist behavior. They correlated it with a form of the California "F" scale (usually described as measuring authoritarianism but perhaps more informatively referred to as measuring a type of old-fashioned conservatism. See Ray, 1988 & 1990). They found a correlation between the attitude and behavior measures of essentially zero (.08). Leftists and Rightists were then equally likely to behave in racist ways.
Racism is then universal and, depite their claims, Leftists are as racist in their attitudes as anyone else.
Anti-racism and "Equality"
So WHY is a present-day Leftist not supposed to be racist? Because even a Leftist realizes that it is pretty vacant simply to be against the status quo. He has to have something a bit more substantial to say than that in order to get any attention at all. But his best attempt at finding something substantial to say is still pretty pathetic. What he says is: "All men are equal" and "The government should fix it". The proverbial Blind Frederick could see that all men are NOT equal and anybody who thinks that governments are good at doing things can only be pitied. Nonetheless, "Equality" is the Leftist's claimed ideal and government action is the way he proposes to bring it about.
So given his slender intellectual and rhetorical resources, the Leftist has to make up for their emptiness by advocating them both blindly and vigorously. And, if all men are equal, then all races must be equal too, mustn't they? Obviously so, one would think. So, if he allows any recognition of racial differences, the Leftist risks having to give up one of the two slender straws that he clutches at in order to give himself something to say.
But how do we explain the fact that it only in relatively recent times that anti-racism has become a mainstay of Leftist agitation? Again some history helps: The "Levelling" idea that has always characterized Leftists had a very long history before Marx espoused it. Such different people as the Christian fundamentalist "Levellers" in Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army and the slave-owning gentlemen who framed and espoused the American Declaration of Independence were attracted by the idea of equality. The latter therefore even incorporated into their Declaration an assertion that it was an obvious truth that "all men are created equal".
"ALL" men? So blacks and whites are equal too? No. Believers in equality have always had to be good at ignoring reality and the American declarers had little trouble in reconciling equality with slavery -- with what most people might think was its diametric opposite! How did they and others after them do it ? They did it quite easily: Long before Hitler made it his central policy, the people of the world were for many thinkers divided up between "Menschen" (men) and "Untermenschen" (sub-men) and equality obviously did not apply to "Untermenschen". So when the Hitlerian catastrophe thoroughly discredited and made obnoxious the idea of classifying certain races as being sub-human and hence outside the magic circle of "equality", Leftists found it expedient to hop on to the anti-racist bandwagon -- no doubt with some relief. It did make their advocacy a lot simpler.
Clearly, however, their anti-racism is nonetheless mere opportunism: History shows that they have no intrinsic committment to it. When racism was generally regarded as sound and reasonable they were for it. Now that Hitler has made the very word obnoxious, they are against it.
So are we doomed to more racist evil?
The message in this article so far must sound like a dismal one. If we are all racists, does that mean that mankind is doomed to suffer forever from hate crimes and mass outbreaks of racist evil?
To answer that we need to realize that racist attitudes and racist behaviour are NOT automatically connected. Quite aside from the evidence from psychological research which shows that (La Piere, 1934; Stephan, 1985) there is the evidence of history.
To start our look at that, who knows that the first national leader to declare war on Hitler (Neville Chamberlain) was himself an unapologetic antisemite? Does that not require a doubletake? It surely shows that there is a long and winding path between racist attitudes and behaviour. And there are therefore lots of points where people can be led OFF that path.
The British Empire is the best case in point. Britons of that era regarded it as blindingly obvious that they were a superior race especially blessed by God (sound familar?). Yet did they therefore perpetrate pogroms or holocausts against anybody? Far from it. As Christians, they actually saw their superiority as giving them a duty to care for the "lesser" races (Kipling's famous "white man's burden").
Note also that both the Nazis and the 19th century British had antisemitic laws but, where the Leftist Nazis massacred Jews wholesale, the British Conservative party actually made a Jew (Benjamin Disraeli) their Prime Minister! It would be hard to think of a starker example of the difference between Leftist racism and Conservative racism.
Some will of course quibble that the Disraeli family "converted" from Jewry to Anglicanism when Benjamin was aged 13 but that was just a legal convenience and was almost universally regarded as such. The very surname of the family (D'Israeli) continued to proclaim their origins. Under Hitler, of course, the entire family would have been exterminated without hesitation. Comfortable British conservatives, by contrast, were satisfied by a formality, recognized Benjamin's brilliance and made him a Lord. Rather nicer?
Looking further back in English history we find another interesting contrast. The powerful Plantagent King Edward 1st expelled all Jews from England in 1290 AD. And it was the regicidal champion of Parliamentary government, Oliver Cromwell, who invited them back again in 1655 AD. And Jews have lived relatively unmolested in England ever since.
As I argue elsewhere at some length, the Parliamentarians who went to war against the Stuart despot in 1642 under the able leadership of Fairfax and Cromwell were England's first conservatives. Conservatives can fight wars for their causes too. So it was a despotic and centralized authoritarian government that was responsible for expelling the Jews and an anti-centralizing and anti-despotic conservative government that invited them back. Once again we can see that it is the individualistic conservatives who are infinitely more tolerant than the exponents of unlimited government power.
There can be no doubt that there were some ugly episodes under British imperialism. The tragic slaughter at Amritsar of men, women and children by General Dyer still makes me weep. And there was also the awful death from disease of Boer women and children in British concentration camps during the South African war. But let it be noted that General Dyer was cashiered over his actions. He did NOT act with British government approval. And the death of the Boer women and children was both unintentional and widely decried in Britain at the time. The whole South African war was in fact vigorously opposed at the time by such influential figures as Lloyd George (later to become Britain's Prime Minister during World War I).
So if we compare the Leftist racism of Hitler and the racism of the very conservative British, what is the obvious conclusion? The conclusion is that feelings of racial, national or group superiority are natural, normal and healthy and can as easily lead to benevolent outcomes as evil ones. It is only racists who harbour hate in their heart generally who are to be feared.
Adorno,T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. & Sanford, R.N. (1950). The authoritarian personality New York: Harper.
Blanchard, W.H. (1984) Karl Marx and the Jewish question. Political Psychology 5, 365-374.
Brewer, M.B. & Collins, B.E. (1981) Scientific enquiry and the social sciences. San Fran.: Jossey Bass
Brown, R., Condor, S., Matthews, A., Wade G. & Williams, J. (1986) Explaining intergroup differentiation in an industrial organization. J. Occupational Psychology. 59, 273-286
Brown, R. (1986) Social psychology. (2nd. Ed.) N.Y.: Free Press
Burke, E. (1790) Reflections on the revolution in France. Any edition.
Clausewitz, C. von (1976) On war. Princeton, N.J.: University Press
Dalrymple, T. (2002) The British Left goes antisemitic. City Journal. Vol. 12 (3), 23rd July.
De Corte, T.L. (1978) Menace of Undesirables: The Eugenics Movement During the Progressive Era", University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Duckitt, J. (1993) Further validation of a subtle racism scale in South Africa. South African J. Psychology 23, 116-119.
Eisenman, R. & Sirgo, H.S. (1993) Racial attitudes and voting behavior in the 1988 national elections: Liberals versus conservatives. J. Psychonomic Society 31, 268-270
Gaertner, S.L. (1973) Helping behavior and racial discrimination among Liberals and Conservatives. J. Personality & Social Psychology 25, 335-341.
Gough, H. & Bradley, P. (1993) Personal attributes of people described by others as intolerant. In P.M. Sniderman, P.E. Tetlock & E.G. Carmines (Eds.) Prejudice, politics and the American dilemma (pp. 60-85) Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Haffner, S. (2002) Defying Hitler: A memoir. N.Y.: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Hechter, M. (1986) Rational choice theory and the study of race and ethnic relations. Ch. 12 in J. Rex & D. Mason (Eds.) Theories of race and ethnic relations. Cambridge: U.P.
Horowitz, D. (1999) Calibrating the culture wars. Salon. May 24th. (See also here).
Kramer, H. (1999) The Twilight of the Intellectuals: Politics and Culture in the Era of the Cold War. N.Y.: Ivan R. Dee.
La Piere, R. (1934) Attitudes and actions. Social Forces 13, 230-237
Levi-Straus, C. (1983) Le Regard Eloigne Paris: Plon.
Locke, R. (2001) Rethinking History: Were the Nazis Really Nationalists?
FrontPageMagazine.com. August 28.
Marx, K. (1844) On the Jewish question. In most editions of Marx's works.
Mercer, G.W. & Cairns, E. (1981) Conservatism and its relationship to general and specific ethnocentrism in Northern Ireland. British J. Social Psychology 20, 13-16.
Mihalyi, L.J. (1984/85) Ethnocentrism vs. nationalism: Origin and fundamental aspects of a major problem for the future. Humboldt J. Social Relations. 12(1), 95-113.
O'Sullivan, N. (1983) Fascism. London: Dent.
Park, R.E. (1950) Race and culture. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.
Pickens, D. (1968) Eugenics and the Progressives. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press
Raden, D. (1989) Interrelationships between prejudice and other social attitudes in the General Social Survey. Sociological Focus 22, 53-67.
Ray, J.J. (1984). Half of all racists are Left-wing. Political Psychology, 5, 227-236.
Ray, J.J. & Furnham, A. (1984) Authoritarianism, conservatism and racism. Ethnic & Racial Studies 7, 406-412.
Ray, J.J. & Lovejoy, F.H. (1986). The generality of racial prejudice. Journal of Social Psychology, 126, 563-564.
Redding, R.E. (2001). Sociopolitical diversity in psychology: The case for pluralism. American Psychologist, 56, 205-215. (Summary here).
Richmond, M. (1998) Margaret Sanger's eugenics.
Sniderman, P.M., Brody, R.A. & Kuklinski, J.H. (1984) Policy reasoning and political values: The problem of racial equality. American J. Political Science 28, 75-94.
Sommers, C.H. (2002) For more balance on campuses. Christian Science Monitor. May 6th.
Stephan, W.G. (1985) Intergroup relations. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (eds.) The handbook of social psychology. N.Y.: Random House
Turner, J.C. (1978) Social categorization and social discrimination in the minimal group paradigm. In: H. Tajfel (Ed.) Differentiation between social groups: Studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations. European Monographs in Social Psychology, No. 14. London: Academic.
Van den Berghe, P.L. (1981) The ethnic phenomenon. N.Y.: Elsevier
Volkan, V.D. (1985) The need to have enemies and allies: A developmental approach. Political Psychology 6, 219-247.
Volkan, V. (1988) The need to have enemies and allies: From clinical practice to international relationships. Dunmore, Pa.: Jason Aronson.
Weigel, R.H. & Howes, P.W. (1985). Conceptions of racial prejudice: Symbolic racism reconsidered. Journal of Social Issues, 41(3), 117-138.
Weil, F.D. (1985) The variable effects of education on liberal attitudes: A comparative-historical analysis of Anti-Semitism using public opinion survey data. American Sociological Review 50, 458-474.
Williams, R.J. & Wright, C.R. (1955) Opinion organization in a hetero-geneous adult population. J. Abnormal & Social Psychology 51, 559-564.
Monograph on the psychology, sociology and history of Leftism:
Go to Index page for this site
Go to John Ray's "Tongue Tied" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Dissecting Leftism" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Australian Politics" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Gun Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Education Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Socialized Medicine" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Political Correctness Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Greenie Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Food & Health Skeptic" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Eye on Britain" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Leftists as Elitists" blog (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Marx & Engels in their own words" blog (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "A scripture blog" (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's recipe blog (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Some memoirs" (Occasionally updated -- Backup here)
Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of recent writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page (Backup here)
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs (Backup here)
Go to Another picture page (Best with broadband)