The origins of the modern left can be traced back to the famous passage in Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality, in which he condemned the institution of private property:
“The first man, who after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, ‘this is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society.”
Added Rousseau: “How many crimes, how many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes and horrors, would that man have saved the human species, who pulling up the stakes or filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are lost, if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to nobody!”
Around the 1830s, a faction of French liberals gravitated toward Romanticism and the philosophy of the late Rousseau, proclaiming that capitalism, private property, and the increasing complexity of modern society were agents of moral decay — both for the individual and for society at large. This is essentially the worldview that has made its way, through history, into the collective mind of the modern left; it is a worldview calling for a revolution that not only will topple the existing capitalist order and punish its corrupt leaders, but that also will replace that order with a socialist regime where the utopian ideals of perfect justice and equality will reign. Such an ambition can be put into effect only by a totalitarian state with the authority to micromanage every facet of human life, precisely the end-point toward which the policies and crusades of the modern left are directed.
The contemporary left holds that non-socialist societies are composed largely of dominators and the dominated, oppressors and the oppressed. The alleged cause of this social arrangement is the economic system of free-market capitalism, which is viewed by the left as the root of all manner of social ills and vices — racism, sexism, alienation, homophobia, imperialism. In the calculus of the left, capitalism is an agent of tyranny and exploitation that presses its boot upon the proverbial necks of a wide array of victim groups — blacks and other minorities, women, homosexuals, immigrants, and the poor, to name but a few. That is why according to the left, the United States (historically the standard-bearer of all capitalist economies) can only do wrong.
To eliminate America’s inherent injustices, the left seeks to invert the power hierarchy, so that the groups now said to be oppressed become the privileged races and classes (and gender) of the new social order. The left’s quest to transform the “dominated” into dominators, and vice versa, draws its inspiration from the Communist Manifesto, which asserts that “[t]he history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.” The struggle identified by the Manifesto was that of the proletarians and their intellectual vanguard, who, armed with the radical utopian vision of socialism, were expected to launch a series of civil wars in their respective countries — battles that would topple the “ruling classes” and the illegitimate societies they had established.
According to Marxist theory, these conflicts would rip each targeted society apart and create a new revolutionary world order from its ruins. In an effort to bring about this utopia, the contemporary left has formed a broad alliance, or united front, composed of radicals representing a host of demographic groups that are allegedly victimized by American capitalism and its related injustices. Each constituent of this alliance — minorities, homosexuals, women, immigrants, the poor — contributes its voice to a chorus that aims to discredit the United States specifically — and Western culture generally — as abusers of the vulnerable. Nor is the left’s list of victim groups limited only to human beings; in the worldview of leftwing environmentalists and animal rights activists, even certain species of shrubs, trees, insects, and rodents qualify as victims of capitalism’s ravages.
The seeds of the contemporary anti-American left sprouted in the New Left’s rebellion against the classical liberalism of the post-World War II era. True to its tradition in the New Deal, that liberalism was strongly supportive of the civil-rights movement, the eradication of poverty, and other social causes based on an amelioration of inequality. And on the international front, this “centrist,” post-World War II liberalism stood firmly against communist totalitarianism. Indeed it was the “Cold War liberals,” rather than the conservative movement, that recognized the Soviet threat and engaged and fought the USSR through a policy of containment.
Then, in the 1960s, came the New Left, a movement that rejected classical centrist liberalism because of its gradualism in domestic policy and its anti-totalitarianism in foreign affairs. At its beginning, the New Left also rejected Stalinism (though it saw Stalinism as perilously close to being morally equivalent to the U.S.). But the New Left also romanticized the charismatic revolutionaries of the Third World as an alterative to the “red” on the one hand, and to the “red, white and blue” on the other. As a result, the New Left wound up romanticizing a whole new set of totalitarian heroes — figures such as Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, and Daniel Ortega.