Authoritarians of the “Left”

Authoritarians of the “Left”

In an authoritarian age it is almost inevitable that manipulative and bureaucratic modes of thought should stain the writings of those who oppose society as much as they debase the writings of those who support it. Nor do we speak here of the Stalinists: they are a separate problem. We have in mind many people who begin with more-or-less socialist and democratic premises, yet, by a curious route, end with authoritarian conclusions.


The original impetus of 19th-century socialism was—with some familiar, significant exceptions—profoundly democratic. Marx and Engels, though not they alone, looked toward an awakening of the masses of humanity from the stupor of centuries. Their aim was to transform passive objects into articulate subjects. The high level of economic development they desired had meaning for them not as a “final end”—they were never economic fetishists—but as a means by which to approach the one truly human goal: the humanization of humanity.