Is There an Alt Left?
Having spent the last year digging into the alt right and its various sub-communities, it is clear that a small but growing segment of the right is looking for something different from the philosophical perspective offered by mainstream conservatism in America.
This got me thinking: is there such thing as an alt left? What would an alt left look like?
The simple answer is that there are many alternative left wing perspectives that differ from mainstream liberalism and social democracy. We have anarchists (both of the socialist and primativist varieties), Maoists, Trotskyites, New-Age spiritualism, post-leftism, and God knows what else. An alternative left has existed for decades. Spend a week engrossed in radical politics in any metropolitan area and you would be astounded by the litany of organizations and ideological perspectives you encounter. Last weekend, my daughter and I attended the Anarchist Book Fair in Oakland. Shockingly, those of the anarchist persuasion are inclined towards fragmentation and ideological delineation. If anarchism alone can produce such philosophical variation, one can comfortably say there are many homes for those looking for an alternative to the left wing mainstream.
The reason these various movements are dissimilar to the alt right is the fact that the left, as a larger political force in world politics, has been far more successful in the 20th century than its right wing counterparts. After the defeat of fascist and nationalist governments in WWII, the radical right was crushed physically and philosophically. To support ideas even reminiscent of fascism resulted in exclusion and marginalization. Small cadres of radicals perpetuated those ideologies, but only on the fringes of society. Mainstream conservatives, having seen the destruction radicals in their midst had wrought, worked diligently to minimize and exclude these actors from “the right.” With the exception of a few outliers, the radical right was a spent force in western politics after 1945.
With the success of liberalism and socialism, ideological alternatives to the left of those doctrines were given social leeway within society. As these movements often borrowed similar egalitarian language used by the mainstream political left, they could politely sit next to their more mainstream counterparts. Treated as a stimulating intellectual exercise by some and a curious oddity by others, the “alternative lefts” developed comfortably alongside liberalism and socialism. No real effort was made to crush and expel these movements from the public sphere.
The AltLeft exists in that small space where Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan begin to meet. It’s that point in time where Mussolini ditched marxism and moved toward fascism.
That is a lot to take in. The intersection between Nader and Buchanan is a world away from the transformation undertaken by Mussolini on his path towards fascism. In fact, the gorge is so vast between those two ideological visions that it renders the analogy useless in any meaningful way. Nader and Buchanan shared protectionist principles and aversions to centralized political and economic power, but Mussolini’s vision of a fascist state was a completely different philosophical beast. One can comfortably stand at the Nader/Buchanan crossroads and be miles from the fascist mark.
Additionally, the alt right’s ideological underpinnings differ significantly from mainstream conservatism. While many conservatives look to Locke, Hayek, Burke, Buckley, and Kirk for their philosophical foundations, the alt right takes from Evola, Nietzsche, and Devi. These works provide a clear ontological differences thus establishing them as radically different movements. As the alt left envisioned by the author above does not differ from the core foundational texts of the left, I would argue that it does not meet this criteria the alt right does in defining its core differences with conservatives.
The author goes on to propose the basic principles, as he sees them, of an alt left perspective. Largely, the outlook he describes hardly justifies the “alternative” preface. With its support of smaller participatory democracy, artistic expression, technological advancement, feminism and religious rationalism, there is not much to differentiate this movement from a litany of other left wing perspectives. The crucial differential is race. The author writes:
The postmodern left is defined mostly by it’s ceaseless advocacy of ethnomasochism for ancestral Europeans. It claims to promote egalitarian values but in both net effect and rhetoric has become implicitly anti-white. The AltLeft is for racially aware whites who don’t feel like they have anything to apologize for. Culture is a biological expression of race.
Here we see the true definition of “alt” in both the left and right variations: an overly stringent view of race marks the bedrock of its organizing principles. I have criticized this understanding of identity in the past, so there is no need to rehash those arguments again. One can surely be on the left and be skeptical of mass migration and uphold the culture and ethics of Western European society; I see little conflict between those aforementioned principles and other leftist ideals. But to build an entire ideology simply on a genetic understanding of community surely excludes this ideology from its left wing brethren. In that sense, this is an “alternative.”
What I would ask of the author is this: how do your principles actually differ from the alt right? We have seen many deviating quarrels over religion, technology, sexuality, homosexuality, economics and the environment on the alt right. No standard yet exists on any of those issues that define the movement other than its fixation with race. The alt right may have anarcho-pot-smoking capitalists, traditionalist Catholics and homosexual pagans, but they all agree that white Europeans are superior to everyone else and should avoid integration with other communities. The article’s author also briefly mentions Jewish “tendencies to oppose white people,” demonstrating that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are a staple of the “alt” movement and cannot be divorced from its core worldview. Most ideologies provide a rejoinder to the state of society, but the alt right (as well as its fascist forbearers), conceives of a fantastical world in which a nominal group is responsible for all social infections and convulsions. It takes a special type to see the world in such rudimentary tones, and they are not exclusive to any one philosophy.
(Image: Anti-fascist graffiti in Oslo – Wikicommons)