The Curse of Lifestyle Leftism

The Curse of Lifestyle Leftism. By Thomas Fazi.

The left’s party in Germany (Die Linke) has crashed in the polls, which has forced a post-mortem. Sahra Wagenknecht was a prominent leader who resigned in 2019 as the ship went down. She nails it.

Over the past few decades, Wagenknecht argues, the left has undergone nothing less than a full-blown anthropological mutation.

“‘Left’ was once synonymous with the pursuit of justice and social security, resistance, and revolt against the upper-middle classes, and commitment to those who were not born into a wealthy family and had to support themselves through their (often backbreaking) labor. Being on the left meant pursuing the goal of protecting these people from poverty, humiliation, and exploitation, helping them climb the social ladder, and making their lives easier, more secure, and more grounded. Those on the left believed in the ability of politics to shape society within the confines of the democratic nation-state. They believed this state could and should shape and correct market outcomes.” …

Wagenknecht calls this the “traditional left.” Today, it has all but disappeared.

Rather, today’s progressive movement has come to be dominated by what Wagenknecht calls the “lifestyle left.” Its followers … “no longer place social and political-economic problems at the center of left-wing politics. In the place of such concerns, they promote questions regarding lifestyle, consumption habits, and moral attitudes.” …

They care about the climate and stand up for emancipation, immigration, and sexual minorities. They are convinced that the nation-state is, or should be, on the verge of extinction. Members of the lifestyle left also tend to prize individual autonomy and self-realization above tradition and community. Since lifestyle leftists hardly ever suffer real financial hardship, they show little real interest in working-class economic concerns. Of course, the goal remains that of a “just” and “nondiscriminatory” society, but the path to get there no longer passes through the old themes of the political economy — wages, pensions, taxes, unemployment benefits, and the like — but through symbols and language. …

Follow the money:

They are equally oblivious to the fact that the institutions and policies they support — the European Union, poorly managed immigration, “flexible” labor markets — have benefited big capital while making the lives of working-class people more precarious. Of course, these policies have also favored the material interests of academic and intellectual middle classes in metropoles, which, uncoincidentally, happens to be the social base of the new left.

“Radical” leftists in particular seem to ignore the ways in which their cultural outlook tends to reinforce the economic injustices they claim to fight. As Wagenknecht writes, “left liberalism and its identity politics, which urges everyone to define their identity on the basis of their origin, skin color, sex, or sexual inclination … creates rifts precisely where solidarity is urgently needed.” The result is a loss of “social union,” which everywhere is replaced by “separate and distinct groups. This doesn’t just undermine solidarity in workplaces; it also destroys the sense of belonging of the community as a whole, that is, the most important precondition for solidarity and social justice.” …

Wagenknecht laments the fact that, “to the extent that the well-off, big-city academics meet the less-advantaged in real life at all, it is in the form of cheap service workers, who clean their flats, carry their parcels, and serve them sushi in the restaurant.” While these militants and intellectuals claim to speak on behalf of “the workers,” in reality they despise and decry the values and lifestyle of the underprivileged — their problems, their grievances, their anger.

To the left’s eyes, every critic of immigration is a Nazi in disguise, just like anyone who feels an attachment to his home country; anyone who doesn’t believe in transferring more and more power to undemocratic institutions such as the European Union is a nationalist; anyone who criticizes higher fuel and heating-oil prices is a climate-change denier; anyone who doubts the wisdom of continued lockdowns and raises legitimate questions about the Covid vaccines is a conspiracy theorist and an anti-vaxxer; anyone who is afraid of the potentially disastrous consequences of a conflict with Russia is a Kremlin stooge.

Indeed, as Wagenknecht notes, extreme intolerance of dissent is another common denominator among all factions of the modern left. …

“What makes the representatives of this fashionable left so unpleasant in the eyes of many and especially the less fortunate,” Wagenknecht writes, “is precisely the innate tendency of liberal leftists to judge their privileges as personal virtues, and to present their worldview and lifestyle as the quintessence of responsibility and progressivism. It is the self-satisfaction of those who consider themselves morally superior, which happens frequently on the lifestyle left, the too-insistent conviction that they are on the side of good, right and reason. … It is the undeniable lack of empathy toward all those who have to fight much harder for a bit of well-being and who, perhaps also for this reason, tend to be a bit rougher around the edges.”

It’s no wonder, she argues, that “the left today no longer stands for justice in the eyes of many people, but above all for self-righteousness.” The instinctive repulsion many ordinary people feel for the left nowadays is, of course, one of the main reasons for its electoral decline.

However, the truth is even more uncomfortable, Wagenknecht suggests: Lower-middle working classes today tend to overwhelmingly vote for right-wing figures and parties, such as France’s Marine Le Pen and Law and Justice in Poland, because the latter tend to offer more redistributive and pro-labor — that is, more “left-wing” — economic platforms than nominally left parties.

The great realignment has swept the old politics aside. The globalists — led by Klaus Schwab and his ilk — have become the main political force throughout the West. They have captured the institutions, especially the government bureaucracies and media. They have colonized the left’s main party in each country, turning those parties into their vehicles, while ejecting the traditional left who championed the working class.

The other main party is then the right party, which becomes the party for all the people who aren’t addicted to signalling their virtue or don’t benefit from globalization — such as conservatives, workers, and those in private industry that isn’t geared to filling government contracts.