IT’S normally crass to attribute the actions of political opponents to mental illness. As well as being disrespectful to people who are actually ill, it tends to show up the poverty of your own arguments. But there are those whose actions seem so disconnected from reality that questioning their reason seems unavoidable.
Momentum, the Red Guard of the Corbyn wave, is splitting. Some of the comrades are worried that the movement is showing insufficient zeal and is in danger of diluting the socialist faith.
Do they live in the same world as everyone else? Only last December, Corbynism took a terrible kicking at the general election. Worse for zealous socialists, it wasn’t just the electorate who rejected them, it was the working class. A survey suggested that the Tories out-polled Labour by double-digit figures among manual workers and households with incomes below £20,000.
This produced cognitive dissonance on the grand scale. Their Marxist scriptures had once predicted that the workers would sweep away capitalism. And the modern Left continued the fantasy, believing that the people, enraged by savage austerity, would rise up electorally and smash the Conservatives. Sadly, the workers stuck up two fingers to them by voting in an Old Etonian Tory.
How to cope when reality crashes into your illusions? They retreated into aggressive denial, avoiding the unpleasantness of self-doubt. True socialism must be defended and reinvigorated by splitting the movement!
The doctrine doesn’t need reconsideration, it needs reinforcement. The sort you get by breaking up your party and retreating even further into the political positions that lost you the last election. But when you’re too fragile to stand much contact with the truth, that probably seems like a perfectly good option.
If you had sufficient interest, you could analyse Momentum’s split and the workings of Labour’s Left wing in terms of conventional politics. You could sift through their policies or the statements of their leaders, examine their programmes and assess tactical subtleties. But that would be an undeserved compliment. Their activities don’t come under the heading of normal politics; they are suffering from a disorder.
These are people unhealthily obsessed with politics. The cause is at the core of their identities; the proof their moral and intellectual worth. For many Lefties I’ve known, their politics are unavoidable.
In virtually every encounter and whatever the context, it seeps from their pores and surrounds them. Like a bizarre form of Tourette’s, they constantly remind you of their beliefs. Their conversation is wearyingly full of little digs, or mini-explanations of the faith. Everything comes back eventually to politics.
The obsession often mutates into narcissism, not a healthy state for anyone. Watch any Leftie protest march. The noise and colour, the drum-banging, whistles, costumes, ‘witty’ slogans on home-made placards, splendidly embroidered banners. They all demand, ‘look at me, look at me’.
Their capacity for believing nonsense is huge. Their social media or loopier internet sites contain beliefs no serious person could ever hold. With coronavirus, we’re told our Prime Minister has faked serious illness to elicit sympathy and to blunt criticisms of his record. More than one Labour councillor has been forced into publicly retracting and apologising for this sort of claim.
Far worse, those wicked Tories actively encouraged the spread of coronavirus to cull the elderly. Beneath his chummy and bumbling persona, the Prime Minister is an icy-veined mass murderer with a pathological hatred of the age group most likely to vote for him.
His Cabinet colleagues lack not just humanity, but the wit to realise that in parliamentary democracies, unleashing mass death is unlikely to gain beneficial electoral results. On Corbynista Twitter or Facebook, there are plenty who repeat this rubbish. How far from well-adjusted must you be to believe such claims?
Last year, they gave us the myth that Tory austerity had resulted in a ‘genocide’, with the claim (much debunked) that it had killed 120,000 people. Only it hadn’t. As anyone who has taken the time to do their reading should know. The worrying aspect is not that people were being deliberately dishonest with their numbers, but that they seem actively to want this to be true.
And their general bile and aggression are at levels beyond the normal. It’s okay if you’re a Corbynista to hope for the serious illness or death of Tory politicians, especially, but not just, Boris. Of course, people can have whatever opinions they like about him, but wishing an unpleasant death on a popularly-elected Prime Minister is something different. It’s pathological.
I haven’t even mentioned anti-Semitism, the fetish of dingy conspiracy theorists. Or the morbid self-loathing shown in their constant denigration of this country and culture. They often have a striking confidence in their own intellectual abilities, yet show ignorance of huge areas of history, economics and science.
I have yet to discuss politics with a socialist who understood how economies actually work, or whose knowledge of history was much wider than knowing that colonialism was bad and white people invented all the horrible things in the world.
Their faith can create an unjustified self-assurance that would be deeply worrying in a friend or loved one. Even their intellectuals have an ability to discount or ignore monumental truths. Their gullibility and blindness over the last few decades in dealing with some of history’s worst tyrannies has been staggering. Leftist apologia for totalitarian mass murder is a rich subject in its own right.
The vices the Left displays are common enough faults that anyone (I include myself) can sometimes suffer from. We can all be misinformed, mentally lazy, irrational or too quick to form opinions. That’s just being human and our beliefs reflect our weaknesses.
And of course, we should recognise that most who identify with Labour are perfectly decent, reasonable people. But the ideology you can find on Labour’s far Left is different. Its foundations are delusion, narcissism and resentment: more a subject for a psychotherapist’s consultation than for political debate.