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“Here’s what I think”: My problem with the left

Tom Cleaver

Usually there is only a new one of these every Monday morning, yet here we are on a Wednesday and you have something new to read. This is because at the end of Monday’s column, I called on some of you to rethink your politics, after writing about your unwillingness to face the facts on Venezuela. The left’s ardent defence of Nicolás Maduro, and descent into nonsense arguments and whataboutery when challenged, has astounded me. The same arguments continued after I wrote the previous “Here’s what I think”, and I felt like I was talking to a brick wall.

As if they were Archimedes in a bathtub, people told me the same points of “low turnout doesn’t mean you don’t have a democratic mandate” and “if the Venezuelans wanted regime change why didn’t they just vote?” over and over and over again, completely missing the point of a boycott reducing the turnout from 80% in the 2013 presidential elections to an estimated 17% last year, and the fact that the politicians they supported were either in prison on flimsy “terrorism” charges or disqualified from running. Anyway, I’m not here to write for a third time about Venezuela, not yet at least. This is about the reaction of people here to it, and that maybe it isn’t some of you that need to rethink your politics, maybe it’s me.

You see if this is the left, and supporting Maduro is the official position of ΑΚΕΛ, ΕΔΟΝ, and the Προοδευτική, which other than myself seems to be going without opposition at all levels of the party, then am I really with them? I genuinely never thought this would be a question; anyone who went to school with me will be able to tell you what my views were and are, and I don’t feel like they’ve changed an awful lot in the short time since. It is, however, a question, and one that I’m seriously pondering.

“Ideology creates dogmatists of otherwise well-meaning people, and convinces them that they can defend the indefensible”

In all honestly, I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the far left. Whether it’s the hero-worshipping of Marx, Lenin, Castro and others who are mixed characters at best, dogmatism in the face of facts, or dog-whistle antisemitism, the far left has never sat quite right with me. Being looked over by a life size Karl Marx at meetings always felt like a throwback, like a hangover if you will, to a way of thinking that passed us by long before I was born. Like a religion with its icons and its rules, “socialism” is a way of life for these people. Calling each other “comrades” and following Marx and Lenin is their ideology, and this is why I don’t like ideology. Ideology makes people inflexible, and creates dogmatists of otherwise well-meaning people. Ideology convinces people that they can defend the indefensible, and its that which has led me to this point.

Being bound to an ideology creates problems when that ideology, or others following that ideology, make bad decisions. It is the truth that, for example, Cuba is not a proper democracy because it’s a one party state. Saying otherwise is a lie, yet you’ll hear it be said by too many on the left. In the same way, Nicolas Maduro was not elected fairly in Venezuela because he banned the party that was going to beat him in the elections from running. Yet again, people on the left will deny that fact, or defend his actions because “America is bad”, or something like that, and then tell me that I’m “speaking like a fascist” for daring to point it out. Views on South American countries alone aren’t enough to sow too many seeds of doubt in an ideology, but for me it is an example of something that cuts much deeper. Such an unwillingness to deal with facts; a closed-mindedness when an opinion is challenged and they are clearly in the wrong, is seriously worrying, and not a trait that I would want to associate myself with.

“What level of inconsistency in their worldview can I stand?”

The left’s saving grace here in Cyprus, up to a point, was it’s more open stance on the Cyprus Problem. The left is more open to a solution than the centre or the right, but when the left itself indulged in a little bit of what I perceived to be dog-whistling towards racists and anti-federalists in reaction to next month’s World Youth Summit being hosted in Kyrenia it lost a major one of its advantages, in my eyes. Sure, almost every political party in Cyprus indulges in a bit dog-whistle racism from time to time (with the exception of EΛΑΜ which doesn’t have a dog whistle), but when I perceived not doing that to be one party’s advantage, and the same party does that, it leaves me asking questions.

As I have already said, I don’t believe that my views have changed in any great way. Rather, I have realised the differences which exist between my own views, and the views of the far left, and that those differences in view make me an outlier, rather than a member under a broad umbrella. The question which I am asking myself now is to what extent can I stand the differences in viewpoint that exist between myself and the far left, and what level of inconsistency between their worldview can I stand. The lack of a serious centre-left party in Cyprus means that people who are, like myself, centre-left have a decision to make.

I had made my decision. I’m a card-carrying member of ΕΔΟΝ, and it suited me at the time that I became a member. However, I am a democrat and therefore respect my right to rethink at any moment. That isn’t to say I think any less of the people I’ve met in my time in the party, but knowing what I know now about the inconsistencies and antidemocratic stance of the party as regards to Venezuela, I would be lying to say that I don’t think less of their politics.

What am I going to do about it? I still don’t know the answer to that.

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