Home > Anarchism and Voluntaryism > There is no “alt-left”

There is no “alt-left”

The alt-right (or perhaps just the corporate media) have invented the term “alt-left” to smear leftists like antifa who actually do something (as opposed to progressives who just vote). They seem to think if you imply they are simply the left-wing version of the alt-right (whatever that would mean) they must be as bad as the alt-right. The problem is, the term is meaningless.

It might be useful to point the difference between right-wing and left-wing. These terms are somewhat hazy, but I might, after fifteen years of hearing the terms bandied about, have figured out the difference.

political chart compass

The standard “political compass” looks like the image above. The more libertarian (ie. believing in freedom for all), the lower down. The more authoritarian (ie. willing to impose one’s vision for the world on others) one is, the higher up on the chart one is. Right and left are less often defined but no less significant. Here is what they seem to mean.

The right wing believes different people deserve to be treated differently, and it is inevitable different people will have different amounts of wealth and power. The top right thinks it is fine to use force to keep these structures in place, while the bottom right thinks if you reduce the amount of force (usually by reducing the amount of government) it will (inevitably) mean inequality. That is why racist ideology is essentially right wing: it holds people should be treated differently, regardless of what they did to deserve it.

The left wing believes people are essentially equal and should be treated equally. People should have roughly equal social power. The top left thinks redistributing wealth and social power should be effected by authoritarian means, while the bottom left thinks the ideal is to eliminate structures of power and authority, as those are the root of the problem.

Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Tony Blair are not left wing, nor are the progressives and “liberals” who support them. They waged war all over the world, threw people in jail for selling and buying drugs, deported millions of people and gave trillions of dollars to large corporations. These are right-wing policies. The only reason they were ever called left wing is their political opponents were even further to the right, wanting more deportations, more incarceration and more war. Or perhaps more accurately, the people who hated Hillary, Barack and others like them did not realize how right wing they actually were. One could also argue these people are centrists: they stand for nothing.

Castro Tony Blair war left

The alt-right, being mostly in the top-right quadrant, are willing to use violence to remove from society those they believe do not fit in their vision for it. They want to ethnically cleanse whole countries of non-whites, non-Christians and leftists.

Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep, explains why “alt-right” is still a useful term.

Here’s why I call them the “Alt Right” instead of just “Nazis.” The Alt Right is a composite of a number of far-right tendencies including anarcho-capitalists, silicon valley neo-reactionaries, MRAs, Klansmen, and other forms of fascists. Broadly, it’s a fascist movement, but it’s a fascist movement of a certain character. Calling them the Alt Right makes a clear, descriptive identification specific, and shows that this is a discrete group, or rather group of groups, with a set of visible, self-proclaimed and established leaders.

Alexander might have added that many American conservatives approximate the alt-right position. Fascists know conservatives are easily manipulated by feeding their prejudices and do so through media such as Breitbart and Facebook pages.

You may have heard of the “[right-] libertarian-to-alt-right pipeline”. There are several possible reasons why many right-libertarians have joined the alt-right. (See this video for some of them.) One of them seems to be that racists have convinced libertarians only white people appreciate or can be taught to appreciate freedom. They have thus embraced Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s ideas about “physical removal” of anyone who they say does not believe in freedom, which in practice is anyone to the left of them, plus Muslims, plus anyone from another culture. You will likely hear much more about “anti-communism”, as many on the right label all those to their left communists.

The comparison between the alt-right and the left grows even weaker when you consider leftists are quite open about their beliefs, while the alt-right lie at every turn. Deception, just like racism, power and violence, is integral to fascist ideology. The left is not the same. For all the hate socialists, communists and anarchists take, they are quite open about who they are and what they believe. That is presumably because freedom, justice, anti-racism, anti-imperialism and so on are noble virtues, and giving all power to a white-supremacist elite is not.

Charlie Kirk socialism

The idea of the “alt-left” comes from horseshoe theory, the belief that the more extreme one’s politics get, the more one comes to resemble the other side. This theory is nonsense. The extreme left would never accept the enormous concentrations of wealth that have created so many problems in the world. The extreme left would not tolerate racism, discrimination against disabled or LGBT etc. people, class society, wage labor or slavery. I am thus bottom left and have nothing in common with the top right. There is no horseshoe.

the true political compass

  1. February 22, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    The horseshoe theory doesn’t say that the same groups are targeted. It just says the same logic is used, often with the exact same results. For instance, consider that the left is afraid of white supremacists while the right is afraid of Muslim terrorists. The same logic is used by both sides.
    The idea is that the extreme elements and extreme conclusions of radicals that vehemently oppose each other are either mirror images or actually come to the same conclusions. It holds up pretty well when you look at it. Factions of the far left today hates white people while factions on the far right hates the blacks. Amusingly, both the far left and the far right have major factions that hate the Jews.
    It’s why I trend towards pragmatism more lately. If an opinion isn’t useful, it probably should be ignored. I can’t act on most things, so it is best to identify what I can act on. Not following this principle can result in really pointless, heated battles over something that isn’t even truly your own idea.

    • February 23, 2018 at 1:56 am

      I see your point. There do seem to be a few similarities. Still, I think the two sides are too different to be compared in more than a few differences. Like in your examples, I may be wrong but I think it’s only very small numbers on the extreme left who are actually prejudiced against all whites or Jews, whereas it is a cornerstone of the extreme right.

      • February 23, 2018 at 12:39 pm

        It’s definitely not designed to be 100% accurate. A similar concept is said more elegantly by Nietzsche.

        “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

        The basic lesson for me is that you will be a product of your surroundings. The more you focus on the negative, the more you will reflect that. I think it also goes further, in that if you are trying to be perfect or perfect society your hubris will result in your downfall. I stop myself from acting when I am surest because of these things. Oftentimes when I think I am 100% right it is because I am missing something obvious.

        It is easy to justify evil if someone thinks the people you oppose are evil. It is also easy to think you have insight or knowledge that is unique. Both of those states may result in becoming becoming a person that ends up on the wrong side of history.

        The horseshoe theory reflects that. The reason the opposition to social justice activists is the Alt-Right is because it is the mirror image of the same topic. Neither side can address John Stuart Mill, John Locke, or Alexander Hamilton’s views on society. So, they ignore that level of criticism and fight each other. Both the Alt-Right and social justice activists miss that they share so much common ground even by choosing the arena in which they are fighting.

  2. February 23, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Lots of good points. The danger of becoming a monster is always there.

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