This is a history which can be found in the Paris Communes, the Peterloo massacre and the attempts to end colonialism in the early 1900s, events which saw those pushing and promoting liberation and progress standing in opposition to those who openly labelled themselves as liberals.

Some have been of the view that we on the left fight those who describe themselves as liberal because we have some deep-seated desire to be autocratic or despotic.

That could not be further from the truth, though those who call themselves liberal will deny this and point to the one-party states as evidence for us on the left secretly harbouring hopes of dictatorships.

Anyone who has read left-wing literature, be it communist, socialist, anarchist, black nationalist, etc will always be struck by the fact that these ideologies are built upon a foundation of liberal ideals. Which anarchist, socialist, or communist, for example, is opposed to freedom of speech, the right to housing, the right to see your accuser, habeas corpus, or any of the other noble goals espoused by liberals?

To my mind, no society built on those ideals has ever opposed liberal ideals and has in fact promoted them though this may come as a complete shock to many.

So why have liberals got such a bad rap among those on the left? For the most part, liberals catch so much flak from us on the left because they invariably are spineless, devoid of any true core to which they are tied, and are in the end hypocrites who dash their ideals as soon as the going gets tough.

A recent local example I think tells the complete story of why liberals have such a hard time in getting respect for their political stances and beliefs.

Jamaica is a country which proudly boasts of its long tradition as a liberal democracy, one that nearly went to the brink of civil war and challenged election results, but stepped back, and is now the envy of the region — or at least, so the story goes.

And that story has some merit. We have a system of elections which is the envy of many countries in the region. However, the peaceful transfer of power and confidence in results do not a liberal democracy make.

Also, part of a liberal democracy — a phrase which I personally have no time for — is the safeguarding of minority rights, the rule of law as opposed to rule by law, transparency and, of course, the guarantee of rights, come hell or high water.

A liberal democracy must guarantee all of these things, and to date, not a single so-called liberal democracy, including Jamaica, has managed this and in fact, are whittling away what guarantees they do offer on the altar of security (ironically running counter to all liberal democrats’ great icon Benjamin Franklin).

Jamaica has imposed lengthy and repeated states of emergency (SOEs) to curb its violent crime problem, which is a real problem. Many of the champions for the SOEs and new laws set to tackle crime are open and vocal liberals in positions of power. The regulations covering the SOEs allow for detention without charge, allow for warrantless searches based on suspicion and curtail movement.

Now, we can all argue about the level of crime in the country and the fact that it needs to be urgently dealt with, but one core principle of liberal democracies when crafting laws is “would I be comfortable with my worst enemy who wishes me ill to have the levels of power I am putting into law?”

Our Prime Minister, in an attempt at emotional blackmail and logical acrobatics, stated that SOEs are tools that countries regularly utilise and then proceeded to name France, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras as examples.

France’s two-years-long SOE, if we recall, was aimed at the yellow vests, that is the French people who decided to take to the streets and demand that the Government move back from its policies regarding gas taxes, farming, and retirement.

Whatever we think of the politics of the yellow vests, it shouldn’t be lost on us that they were exercising their democratic rights and while some protests did turn violent, on the whole, the protesters who lost eyes and hands were peaceful protesters.

The fact that our PM feels comfortable using the crushing of democratic dissent as an example of justification for the SOEs chips away at the facade of a “liberal democracy”.

Honduras and El Salvador are interesting points of reference as well. The very same US that our PM and his party kowtow to describe those nations as fragile democracies, that is democracies which have failed to live up to the “liberal” brand.

A big reason for their failure to live up to the brand is, among other things, the frequent uses of SOEs which invariably are used to scrape up the poor as the gang leaders whom they target have political support or have long since left the country. Any liberal who would like to live in the madhouse Bukele has crafted in El Salvador can step right up for a one-way ticket to bitcoin beach.

The real outlier in all of this though is Nicaragua, the nation which imposed an SOE due to an actual emergency as foreign-inspired plots were underway and there was a violent attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government of Ortega and the FSLN. Lest we forget, our very own ambassador to the OAS condemned the use of the SOE and the strategies which Nicaragua used to restore order because it breached liberal norms.

This is not a piece for or against the use of the SOE as a tool for policing. I have made my position on the matter clear. Rather, this is to point out how quickly liberals will toss ideas of a right to a speedy trial, the right to face one’s accuser, to know why you are being detained, to be able to freely walk about your community without fear of arrest or search due to rolling SOEs.

That is why we on the left have no time for liberals, they talk a good game but when push comes to shove everything gets thrown out to satisfy the base need of that group.

And what is the base need and impulse of that group? The protection of capital and everything it represents. We often forget — to our detriment — that liberalism is not this squishy feel-good thing, rather it is the tool of the capitalist class to rule over us. Capitalism and liberalism go together like bun and cheese. The liberals who overthrew monarchical and aristocratic rule were the proto-capitalists, the burghers who wished to remove the absolute monarch and establish their rule. To this day capitalism remains the economic tool of the liberal and democracy is here because it is what they prefer.

Liberals will sell you out when the going gets tough because they know — those who rule anyway — that their rights won’t be affected because they are the rulers. We who actually believe in all those fancy rights need to really ponder if we can trust that they will be guaranteed by a group which uses the violent crushing of demonstrations as justification for what some see as seven years under SOEs and enhanced security measures.

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