Liberal and Left are not the same thing, they are not interchangeable, each describes a different political position which is generally at odds with the other. In an age where the right is on the rise in all the highly developed economies, it is important to make this distinction. Many liberals are fine with fascism, as long as it is good for business, however the Left will never be fine with fascism or any system which concentrates power in the hands of an unaccountable few.

Liberals seem to be about freedom, because freedom is in their name.  Indeed, historically they were all about freedom, freedom from the social strictures of monarchy and feudal power.  The liberals were wealthy bourgeois who wanted the “freedom” to run the country.  In the early days, many of these used populist rhetoric to catalyse the power of the general population behind their campaign.  However, if you look at any of their writings, for example those of Locke, Adam Smith or Rousseau, you can see that the freedom of liberalism was intended not for everyone but specifically for an educated elite. Liberal freedom means even the queen is free to sleep under the bridge.

Once liberals had displaced hereditary feudal power and become ruling parties in the great industrial states, they changed the thrust of their emancipatory campaign. Instead of civic freedom for all, liberals used their power to entrench their economic position and began to apply another notion of freedom, free markets and free trade. To this day liberals “freedom” is principally about free markets and free trade, i.e. global corporatism and its rentier property system.
The Left, on the other hand, advocate an international solidarity economy, the evening out of the inequalities of wealth and opportunity, an economy where value is produced by each according to their abilities and for each according to their needs. The Left reject the false freedom of free markets which generate cabals of colluding monopolists who inevitably abuse their wealth to exercise inordinate political power over the many. The Left reject any form of nationalistic, racist, sexist, or any other normative discriminatory political disenfranchisement. The Left struggles for an economy where rentier title has been mutualized and the value of the productive contribution of each is set towards ensuring the best conditions of the flourishing of all.

In terms of freedom of expression, both the Left and liberals are permissive. However liberals believe in the freedom of the wealthy to make their expression heard louder than anybody else’s, and they exercise this “freedom”.  Liberals also believe in the super-national privilege of corporations to silence criticism of their business as being damaging to their profitability.[1]  The Left attempts to build utopian forums and other social forms of civic organisation where in principle everybody’s views can be negotiated. This highly democratic ideal is still in its infancy, it remains one of the most important sectors of social innovations of the Left.

In the US, it is said, there is a crisis of the liberal media. But the liberal media with their Purple Revolution is showing itself perfectly able to function and adapt to the new reality under Trump.  Times will now only get more difficult for the disenfranchised who voted for Trump and Sanders, and the liberal media will ignore them, because MSM are the voice of free-market bankers and free trade colonial business. Wall street revenues pay the paychecks of the news anchors researchers, journalists and actors on the liberal media, it is no wonder that Bernie Sanders was given such paltry coverage, unlike Trump who blamed illegal workers and minorities for the crisis facing the US, Sanders pointed his finger squarely at the 1%, the owners of the media.

The solidarity Left economy is small, it does not have the luxury to fund massive media juggernauts which crush popular opinion into submission. Nevertheless the movement which rallied behind the Sanders candidacy was able to break fundraising records of small contributions without any benefit of MSM publicity. This is because Sanders’ message, like that of Trump, resonated the suffering and represented the conditions to the vast majority, rendered despondent under liberal austerity economics. Whereas the MSM were fine to showcase the egregious, insulting and offensive excesses of the extreme right candidate, they ignored the one which threatened to truly undermine liberal power through advocating such things as progressive taxation and banking reform.

In the US, all the Left or “progressive” media is constrained, for budgetary reasons to the margins of the Internet.  Despite what we are told about the MSM being “dead”, it is still the authoritative source for news for the vast majority of people, especially the old, who still vote.  Even Wikipedia, apogee of democratic erudition, is biased towards mostly liberal MSM with their condition that only “reliable sources” be used as references in articles.  What are “reliable sources”? The academic publications, liberal media press and publications, or the conservative ones.[2]

The monopolization of broadcast media by a collusive wealthy oligarchy is illegitimate, as is all private rentier title. Unfortunately the Left can have no chance to politically challenge both liberals and conservatives without a truly Left media of scale. Under Trump, the majority of the American people will have it demonstrated again that their best interests will never be served by either the Democratic party or Republican party because they are two sides of the moneyed elite. The conditions of the vast majority will not improve and the emancipation of the human potential of the youth will be suppressed for another generation.

Only a truly Left and not a liberal media can coalesce the political movements which can withstand the crushing intellectual and physical assaults of the elites. We have seen during the democratic primary how independent media can play a transformative role in bringing people into and supporting communication, exchange and collaboration within a movement which truly has their interests at its core. But such media must burst into the mainstream, and this will require great economic resources. Organizations like TYT [3] demonstrate, as did the Sanders campaign, that progressive values can be supported long-term with small donations from a wide base. This model needs to be expanded and extended. In the meantime let us not confuse liberal with Left… it is not helping anyone face down the challenge from the right.

Notes

[1] see https://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/digital-journalists-legal-guide/can-corporation-sue-me-harm-its-reputatio

[2] see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources

[3] the Young Turks, originally a progressive political news network, now offers a wide range of programming primarily for millennials. https://tytnetwork.com/ Photo by david_shankbone

4 Comments Liberal is not Left

  1. AvatarFreya Jakobsen

    This is so reductive. Words are not so simple. Neither is the history of modern philosophy or political, social, and economic theory. I found this embarrassing to read. There’s more history to the word, and more meaning to it in our current context, than either classical or neo-liberalism. The meaning of “liberal” is complex, its history is inextricable from leftist politics, and a simplistic blog does a disservice to nuanced conversation.

    Organizations like TYT are not deemed credible by most people – across class and ideological landscapes – because they adopt propaganda techniques (hearsay reporting, ad hominem attacks, sensationalism) while spurning key liberal values like open discourse and evidence based reporting.

  2. Baruch GottliebBaruch Gottlieb

    This article was written to address the conflation especially in the US “progressive” media about the terms liberal and left. It was particularly intended to encourage those who see themselves as advocating “progressivism”, where progress means progress towards a social-economy where the wealth and capacities are more evenly distributed among the citizenry, to acknowledge that they rather Left than liberal, and to embrace the appropriate identification to their position. If you have a more nuanced distinction to make please publish one.

  3. AvatarPermReader

    Young man ,from the free society writings about the socialism are so sad (not to say ridiculouse) for the old socialism` bruised sceptic. Let you, deer never feel socialism on your skin. Don`t dream,please.

  4. Ozgur ZerenOzgur Zeren

    Baruch is unfortunately right.

    Especially in the US, liberal / progressive / left are lumped together as one term, and there is little of any actual left in the resulting mix.

    This mainly stems from the right wing (especially far right) segments, and it is used to vilify the entire package – by railing against things that are liberal or progressive, left is also smeared. Guilt by association.

    The ‘left’ in US does not help this at all either – a notable segment of them actually do define themselves as ‘left’ and what that ‘left’ amounts to, roughly ends up what you see as the Democratic Party mainstream. It is actually center-right in regard to anything in left ideology. Deregulation or absence of regulation, accommodating the power of corporations to the point of letting them stage corporate coups like TTP/TTIP, privatization – anything goes.

    This problem is propagating through anglo-sphere – the same problem can be seen in UK, where the center left party had become a center right party long time ago. Recent change of leadership and the light of hope in Labour may change this course, however the lumping of left with many things undesirable, neoliberal and irrelevant is something that can be seen in British public discourse as well.

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