Image: Elyas Pasban / Unsplash
Image: Elyas Pasban / Unsplash

The prevalence of bigotry in left-wing spaces

Some of the worst people I’ve known have been leftist men. Not all of them that would be a reductive position to hold, but a notable percentage of them.  

There seems to be a position held among some of them that their ability to cite Marx and Lenin is a justification for the perpetuation of different forms of bigotry. They earnestly support the notion that the ability to attach oneself to one particular form of liberation, that being from a system of classbased oppression, is to grant them the ability to separate themselves from the other forms of liberation that are inherently interconnected with these forms of emancipation. To be a leftist is to be aware of how class can interact with race, gender, or other marginalised groups – something that they overlook.

Their view of activism doesn’t emerge from a true desire to reach equality

A clear way that the hypocrisy that they hold is made overt is the view that some leftist men hold of sex work. While fundamentally understanding that as a form of labour, sex work is inherently exploitative, they use this as a façade to hate on sex workers themselves rather than on the society that pushes these people into sex work. Often these individuals do not enter sex work out of a desire to partake in the industry but a simple route of making enough money to survive when they have very few other options. However, these leftist men have not taken this view and instead opt to see these women through a deeply misogynistic lens as though they are choosing to engage in this industry and ‘degrading’ themselves as a result. They are aware that these individuals are engaging in this labour as a means to operate in a capitalist system and yet instead of viewing them through the same lens of exploitation they would view a factory worker and instead view them as sexually promiscuous. Of course, this view is not of any help to anyone: a migrant working in a brothel or with clients or doing porn is not going to be helped because you called a porn star a whoreon Twitter. 

Their treatment of sex workers is, of course, a microcosm for their wider view of marginalised groups. It is not a self-contained issue but a clear example of the way many leftist men use their class consciousness to justify their mistreatment of minorities. The men who operate in these spheres, calling themselves leftists’, fundamentally misunderstand the entirety of leftist or liberal ideology as a whole. The systems they are aligning themselves with do prioritise the fundamental equality of differing groups, but instead of viewing it through this lens, they have contorted it to their own benefit. Their view of activism doesn’t emerge from a true desire to reach equality but simply be the most right and align themselves with these ideals that are in conflict with the enforced ideology of capitalism.  It is an inherently selfish pursuit rather than one that is searching for greater equality. 

“To actively challenge sexism and misogyny, they would be required to change their behaviour”

– Tom Farr, campaigner

Of course, there is the understanding that the ideals that these men spread would need to be analysed through an intersectional lens. The views perpetuated by a leftist man of colour or a queer man would not be influenced by the same experiences as a cis white guy so would position these views through a slightly different lens. However, it is clear that these men are still opting to position their ideology as part of the attempt to align themselves with the most correct view. They remove their connection to their marginalised identities and instead opt to align themselves with their leftist ideals and the connection to their ideology instead of their identity. The end result is the same, they present themselves as seeking to abolish class systems in order to be viewed as leftist when in actuality, they are pushing those ideals further away. 

This emergence of bigotry among some leftist men, particularly younger cohorts of them, is immensely disturbing. The progress made by marginalised groups should, if nothing else, highlight that progress for a better future should be guided by a desire for the abolition of all intersecting forms of oppression, not just class. However, these men seem unwilling to engage in this process, which ends up being detrimental to themselves and those around them. As Tom Farr, a campaigner against violence against women, states: “to actively challenge sexism and misogyny they would be required to change their behaviour and own up to their own contribution to male oppression and exploitation”. 

While there is a clear growth in leftwing and liberal ideologies in our current landscape, particularly with the current socio-political makeup of the country, it should be made a priority to prevent this behaviour from being perpetuated. A leftwing or liberal ideology that cannot frame a fight against patriarchal oppression, imperialism, racism, homophobia, or bigotry and instead simply focuses on the achievements of a small group is not a truly progressive ideology. It is merely a collective of people at the top of society refashioning the paintwork so they can maintain their position at the top without having any widespread, effective change. Even if these ideals are not reflective of all men who align themselves with leftist ideology it is a pervasive enough group that it needs to be addressed and interrogated. 


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