The Duality of New York Values in the Street


The atmosphere at these demonstrations in the first few days after the election is one of impending apocalypse. It has a different feel than what I’m used to on college campuses and Black Lives Matter marches, which have the feel of a circus or Marx brothers comedy. The protests that are happening now go beyond the usual clowns who are always protesting, and this time it’s real people with real fear for the future.

It is important to make such distinctions between real people and rabble-rousing astroturf. Rabble-rousers can be disregarded, since they would never challenge the NYPD. But with real people, anger and fear can lead to real consequences — for themselves and the city. They should be taken seriously, and their concerns addressed.

The problem is that — much like Hamas — the astroturfers use real people as human shields.

The image above — taken during the post-election anti-Trump protests — simultaneously shows the values of the Left at its finest and at its worst.

The sign says “Hands Off My P*ssy” — and she’s right. Women deserve to be treated with respect, and bless the people who fight for and jealously guard women’s right to live as equals, and with dignity.

Yet, a few feet away, is a man waving the Palestinian flag. The ruling Palestinian parties of both the Gaza strip and the West Bank reject the rights of women, the rights of minorities, the rights of children, the rights of dissenters, etc.

These two symbols are utterly incompatible with each other. One cannot sincerely believe in rights for women and support the Palestinian governmental bodies at the same time. The man carrying the Palestinian flag cannot truly care about the woman carrying the anti-sexual harassment sign. It is one, or the other.

Protesting in New York is different than protesting in California. First of all, it’s cold. Secondly, the NYPD does not mess around — step out of line and you’re under arrest. To brave the weather and the police, you have to believe in what you are demonstrating for. And yet here they are, side by side on Fifth avenue.

If I had my way, I would get hundreds of copies of George Orwell’s book Homage to Catalonia to hand out to the good demonstrators. It exposes in full the folly of trying to work with totalitarian movements who do not care for the interests of anyone but themselves. They turned on the liberals the moment they attained the power to do so.

Liberals, if you won’t trust this warning from an arch conservative like myself — or a foreign writer writing about a foreign land like Orwell in Spain — then heed the words of one of your own heroes, the civil rights pioneer, union leader and democratic socialist A. Philip Randolph. In reflecting on his betrayal by the Communist Party in the early 1940s, he declared that the civil rights movement “cannot logically and with sound wisdom tie up with a movement such as the Communist” because they followed their totalitarian goals “without regard to the national interests of any other group.”

It was right here in New York where the democratic socialists and the communists fought over the future of their movement. Paul Berman writes in A Tale of Two Utopias that:

“Beginning in 1919, a Bolshevik faction split away from the Socialist Party of America and formed a Communist movement, and in the 1930s and ’40s the Communist Party won a good deal of support and shaped the political imagination of any number of liberals and radicals who would never have acknowledged being under a Communist influence. But in America, Communism’s rivals on the left fought back with a special intensity. …

The battles between those two halves of the American left continued straight into the 1950s and even after, nowhere more violently than in New York. The biggest and strongest of the New York needle trades unions, the ILGWU, was built by the Socialists, but the Communists fought their way into power in the 1920s, and the Socialists and their allies among the labor anarchists fought their way back, and it was civil war on Seventh Avenue. The Communists filled Yankee Stadium for a rally; the Socialists, Madison Square Garden; and the wounds from those battles did not heal. On the topic of anti-Communism, the Socialists in a union like the ILGWU ended up strictly diehard.”

The battle even extended to Intellectuals, resulting in the emergence of the “New York Intellectuals”, a group of America’s top socialist thinkers, like Sidney Hook, who — through sectarian battles with the Communists — came to be the leading anti-communist philosophers of the era and ardent supporters of American democracy.

It was these battles that shaped the Truman administration’s response to Soviet aggression, which overcame the isolationism of Senator Robert Taft and devised a program that (with the catastrophic exception of China in 1949) stopped the march of totalitarianism dead in it’s tracks.

This is the duality of New York values. The good left and the bad left. At some point they will figure out — like they have in the past — that they are not friends. That is when they will determine what their true values are.