Trump’s mealy-mouthed ‘wrong on all sides’ semi-condemnation of violence in Charlestown has been – rightly – condemned for ignoring the overwhelmingly greater weight of responsibility of the white supremacist neo-Nazi organisers (and especially the terrorist murderer James Fields) for the horror of the last few days:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides.” Donald Trump
Many of us suspect that Trump has some degree of sympathy with that hateful ideology. Even if he does not, he is unprepared to condemn the evil of Charlestown in case he alienates those racist neo-Nazis who voted for him.
Progressive politics must distinguish itself from that of the right by always holding as sacrosanct the principles of honesty and moral integrity – principles that the right abandoned long ago in favour of unprincipled cage-fighting tactics. Sometimes that integrity means recognising that progressive experiments have failed – almost always from the corruption of leaders entrusted with power beyond democratic accountability.
One such case is the reluctance of UK Labour to unequivocally condemn the corrupt rule of Venezuela by totalitarian dictator Nicolás Maduro. Half an hour or so of intelligent critical analysis of Maduro’s (and before him, Chávez’s) rule leads one to the inevitable conclusion that those leaders damaged their country’s economies and democracy beyond measure.
And yet, UK Labour’s position can be summed up by Jeremy Corbyn’s late and equivocal statement:
“What I condemn is the violence that’s been done by any side, by all sides, in all this. Violence is not going to solve the issue.” Jeremy Corbyn
The two quotes are disconcertingly similar. Neither of them are honest and both damage the moral integrity of the politicians and their parties.
We could all learn from the discipline of science: adopt a hypothesis. Devise a test for that hypothesis. Test it. If it fails, abandon the hypothesis and adopt another. No sentimentality, no undeserved loyalty, no hubris. No place for wish fulfilment.