by Peter Franklin
Friday, 28
May 2021
Debate
14:46

Should conservatives offer sanctuary to dissidents of the Left?

The Right can offer what progressives won’t: letting people be
by Peter Franklin
Glenn Greenwald has saddled up with the Right on a number of free speech issues

The road from Left to Right is a well-trodden path. Radicals who became conservatives include Kingsley Amis, Paul Johnson and Peter Hitchens. 

But more recently, the road has become choked not with converts, but refugees. They retain their affiliation as liberals, social democrats or even full-on socialists, but for one reason or another find themselves cast out by their former comrades. 

There is of course the whole Intellectual Dark Web thing which I don’t have the space to untangle here. Other refugees include radical feminists branded as TERFs just for defending women-only spaces; Jewish people forced out by Left-wing anti-Semitism; and old-fashioned Labourites sick of having their patriotism portrayed as bigotry.

The list is likely to lengthen as wokery tightens its grip. And thus, searching for a place where they can speak up without being shouting down, the dissidents of the Left find themselves rubbing shoulders with the Right. 

It’s not always a comfortable experience for either side. In fact, it can get downright weird. For instance, there’s the strange case of Russell Brand’s latest adventures — or how about this from Naomi Wolf:

How should conservatives respond to a confusing situation? 

First of all, with tact: don’t assume that every dissident is a potential defector. Secondly, with grace: the sharing of platforms with dissenting radicals is an opportunity not for point scoring, but to practice what you preach on free speech. Thirdly, with caution: not every new ally should be welcomed with open arms. For instance, the so-called Neocons — many of them former Trotskyites — did enormous harm to US conservatism by persuading it to embrace an adventurist foreign policy. 

At a time when so many people are finding themselves politically homeless, there’s a danger that conservative intellectuals might attempt a new synthesis of these unmoored strands of thought. But even if the dissidents wanted to be assimilated into an expanded conservatism (and most of them don’t) it’s an impossible task.

The Left is now so intolerant that it’s driving out dissident groups that are directly opposed to one another. For instance, anti-war Chomskyans like Glenn Greenwald and liberal interventionists like Christopher Hitchens. It’s also hard to see the Rad Fems getting on with liberals who believe the #metoo movement has gone too far. 

How can such a ferment of competing ideas ever be reconciled?

The answer is not to try. We should accept viewpoint diversity for what it is: a mass of contradictions. Conservatives must do what the woke Left won’t and that is let people be. 

Join the discussion


  • Well here in Blighty, if they join The Conservatives rather than with conservatives they’ll probably wonder what all the fuss was about, because The Conservatives seem to have forgotten what it is they stand for.

  • Either there is free speech and individual freedom or there is not. That is the fundamental difference between the Left and Conservatism. We believe in Live and Let Live. The Left Forces their opinions and ideology on the rest of us and insists, demands that we live as they dictate. There is no Live and Let Live with the Left.

  • I can’t imagine how Christopher Hitchens earned a name check here. AFAICT, his opposition to the Clintons earned him the lasting dislike of a section of the US left, and his contortions defending the Iraq War only widened the range of people against him. Meanwhile, strident atheism hasn’t aged well. But, in any case, he turned up his toes in 2011, when only subscriptions got cancelled.

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