Tuesday, May 11, 2010

marcuse: silence the right

Excerpts from Herbert Marcuse's essay "Repressive Tolerance".

Within the framework of such a social structure, tolerance can be safely practiced and proclaimed. It is of two kinds: (i) the passive toleration of entrenched and established attitudes and ideas even if their damaging effect on man and nature is evident, and (2) the active, official tolerance granted to the Right as well as to the Left, to movements of aggression as well as to movements of peace, to the party of hate as well as to that of humanity

I guess it's pretty plain that he considered the right to be the "movements of aggression" and the "party of hate".

Surely, no government can be expected to foster its own subversion, but in a democracy such a right is vested in the people (i.e. in the majority of the people). This means that the ways should not be blocked on which a subversive majority could develop, and if they are blocked by organized repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently undemocratic means. They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc. (

And we see where he is going--some people's rights to speak and assemble should not be tolerated. How odd, that though this essay was written in the 1960s, he should say that "withdrawal of toleration" should be exercised against those who "oppose the extension of...medical care". We saw something like that happen not too long ago, and indeed is still happening.

The comparative evaluation in terms of the number of victims is the quantifying approach which reveals the man-made horror throughout history that made violence a necessity. In terms of historical function, there is a difference between revolutionary and reactionary violence, between violence practiced by the oppressed and by the oppressors. In terms of ethics, both forms of violence are inhuman and evil--but since when is history made in accordance with ethical standards? To start applying them at the point where the oppressed rebel against the oppressors, the have-nots against the haves is serving the cause of actual violence by weakening the protest against it.

Again, something we're seeing today, but in an even more telling way. The left almost can't have any sort of rally or gathering without it degenerating into violence--attacking law enforcement, attacking those who speak out against them. But those on the right, who gather in peaceful and responsible ways, are labelled the violent ones.

See, as well, how some supposedly life-affirming liberals of a religious bent came down in favor of the current US President during the presidential campaign, even though the candidate was not only pro-abortion, but also pro-infanticide. Perhaps this was not so much an affirmation of the pro-abortion position as it was turning a blind eye, yet that blind eye was turned upon the unborn victims, and they rejoiced and largely still do in this administration.

Here is a bit more Marcuse writes about that.

With respect to historical violence emanating from among ruling classes, no such relation to progress seems to obtain. The long series of dynastic and imperialist wars, the liquidation of Spartacus in Germany in 1919, Fascism and Nazism did not break but rather tightened and streamlined the continuum of suppression. I said emanating 'from among ruling classes': to be sure, there is hardly any organized violence from above that does not mobilize and activate mass support from below; the decisive question is, on behalf of and in the interest of which groups and institutions is such violence released? And the answer is not necessarily ex post: in the historical examples just mentioned, it could be and was anticipated whether the movement would serve the revamping of the old order or the emergence of the new.

This is one reason why I don't trust the peaceniks on the left. While some may genuinely be pacifists, I suspect most are not; rather, as they have shown in the past, they will use violence when they think it will serve their ends. Or, more likely, simply because they want to. One need only note that the former domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers, is a current hero.

The question, who is qualified to make all these distinctions, definitions, identifications for the society as a whole, has now one logical answer, namely, everyone 'in the maturity of his faculties' as a human being, everyone who has learned to think rationally and autonomously.

We're getting closer to the point. Here, we are told that only those of certain opinions are considered qualified to run society. Since Marcuse was a Marxist, one need not made a difficult guess what kinds of opinions make one 'qualified'.

Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left. As to the scope of this tolerance and intolerance: ... it would extend to the stage of action as well as of discussion and propaganda, of deed as well as of word.

And here, I think, we have the main point of the whole mess--the left should silence the right by any means necessary. Instead of having a free exchange of ideas with people deciding for themselves, instead of freedom of speech for all, freedoms should be taken away from the right.

Despite the lack of foul language in this essay, I consider it hate speech of the worst sort.

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