Quite a lot, and sadly more and more, people supposedly on the “Left” are clueless as to the fact that there is a socialist critique of Liberalism and a reactionary one. These critiques are radically distinct, criticize Liberalism from opposite points of view, and serve different political agendas.
The right-wing criticism, going back to the reaction against the French Revolution and the ‘Radical Right’ of the late 19th century, challenges Liberalism from a quasi-aristocratic, traditionalist, authoritarian vantage point. The reactionary view attacks Liberalism for promoting legal equality, and for advancing concepts of ‘modernity’ such as tolerance, and other social and cultural aspects of post-Industrial Revolution society. It seeks to promote elitism, hierarchy, irrationalism, and tradtional ‘order.’
The socialist critique was, basically, best encapsulated by the 19th century French socialist, Anatole France when he wrote “In our glorious republic, all are equally free to beg in the streets and sleep under bridges.” The socialist critique, philosophically, charges Liberalism with not going FAR ENOUGH. Liberalism’s vaunted individual political rights takes no account of social and economic rights, and serves as a smokescreen for capitalist exploitation. Freedom of the press, constitutionalism, and electoral politics puts no food on the table. And someone facing eviction, unemployment, and the fear of not being able to afford to pay for a doctor if they are ill, finds little comfort in the fact that they have a choice of two candidates to vote for.
That’s the socialist critique.
The problem today is that more and more supposed “Leftists” are ignorant of this critique and, in their hatred of Liberalism, are making common ground with reactionaries and fascists who are pursuing a retrograde agenda of anti-semitism and conspiracy theories, and a socio-cultural world view that seeks to place women in the kitchen and LGBTQ+ folks at the end of ropes. In short, there are too many so-called “Leftists” who, in their eagerness to “Combat Liberalism,” are abandoning the core Left values of egalitarianism, rationalism, tolerance, and modernity.
Call themselves what they will, mention Debs, Foster, and Newton, as much as they want, and “Combat Liberalism” the live-long day, these people have brown shirts hanging in their closets. And it’s only a matter of time before they go fully over to the other side.