Contrary to what most commentators would have you believe, the term post-truth is not a recent invention. As per the Oxford Dictionaries, it was used as far back as 1992 by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in an essay penned for the liberal journal, The Nation. However, since the international left coalition has been dealt with a series of stinging electoral hammerings across the world, the term has taken a life of its own.
The most recent surge in the usage of the term has been spearheaded by the American Left in an effort to explain the perplexing credibility which Donald Trump managed to maintain with a large part of the American electorate despite his erratic and duplicitous politics. Closer to home, the Indian Left and certain sections of the media which are pliant to the larger Congress-Left intellectual alliance have – as they often do with subjects in vogue amongst the Western elites – adopted the term as their own.
It is not difficult to see that the Left would look to such sophistry to explain why the sentiments of the common man have turned against them across the globe. The international Left is blessed with both smug self-assurance and a perpetual victim syndrome. Hence, in the face of such overwhelming defeat, the natural inclination is to blame the ignorance of public rather than make a case for honest introspection. For those who have convinced themselves of their own sole ownership over morality and truth, the plausible cause of defeat can only be found in the malicious lies propagated by their opponents onto the ignorant plebeian.
Such tear-jerking and chest-beating from the Left could have been worthy of at least some symbolic sympathy had it not been for the fact that misrepresentation of truths and facts for political gain has been part of the Left’s playbook all along. For decades, the Left has used the very same strategy which they cry about today in order to further their own agenda.
In fact, a deeper look into the truthfulness of some of the Left’s claim to fame would reveal that far before it became so fashionable, the Leftist had their own versions of ‘Post-Truth’ – a sort of ‘Left Truth’ if you may.
Starting with the first and most popular ‘Left-Truth’ – that the heart of the Left lies with the poor common man and more specifically, the innocent farmer from the rural heartland. Nothing could be further from actuality.
There is considerable evidence that, across the world, Leftist regimes have been the most brutal ones when it comes to dealing with the impoverished classes. One need not look beyond the 2 leading Leftist utopias, the former USSR and China, to corroborate this – the rule of Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao can be said to be two of the most brutal regimes of the modern world with a genocide count that more than that of Adolf Hitler.
During the time Stalin ruled the USSR, its common people were treated to the ‘Great Purge’, mass deportations, forced collectivization of agriculture and multiple famines. Although counts vary from historian to historian, according to Simon Montefiore (noted Stalin biographer), Alexander Yakovlev (former Politburo member) and Jonathan Brent (Director of director of Yale's "Annals of Communism" series), the Communist rulers of the Soviet Union were responsible for the death of around 20 million of their own people.
Chairman Mao was not far behind either. Mao forcibly subjected his citizens to numerous state programmes, where dissenters were brutally forced to fall in line. He initiated hugely unpopular land reforms - leading to wave of large scale killings – for which Mao is said to have envisaged the destruction of ‘one tenth of the peasants’ of China in order to ensure its success. He then attempted to forcibly push China from an agrarian economy into a socialist one through rapid industrialization and collectivization through the Great Leap Forward programme – which historians and economists believe to have directly resulted in the Great Chinese Famine which claimed 30 million Chinese lives.
Almost all those who lost their lives in the forced collectivization programmes, mass resettlements and state-caused famines under these two regimes where the common folk. Can these two deified Leftist regimes be termed to be for the impoverished masses? I think not.
Let us look at another popular ‘Left-Truth’ - that the Left is the champion of political dissent, free speech and artistic liberties.
Again, the evidence points much to the contrary. Both the USSR and China are famous for the manner in which its various autocratic rulers brutally crushed any sign of political Opposition. Communist Russia was witness to the Red Terror clashes and the Great Purge, where the Leftist establishment systematically and cruelly detained, tortured and eliminated political opponents in many hundreds of thousands. Chairman Mao, according to Frank Dikötter, orchestrated the torture and death of around 2.5 million opponents of his ‘Great Leap Forward’.
Leftist regimes have an equally terrible record on artistic liberties as well. The Soviet Union was famous for its use of multiple state agencies (the Goskomizdat, Goskino and the Gosteleradio) in order to ensure that media content reflected the official ideology and politics of the Communist Party. And China, despite having embraced an open market economically, still continues to rigorously police and censor the media, artists and even the internet.
And let us not assume that the above mentioned duplicities are restricted to just the Soviet Union and China. The pattern is the same the world over – East Germany, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea are other examples– where Communist regime assume power (often violently) in the name of the poor masses and then transform themselves into political monoliths which cruelly crush dissent through violence and destroy their nation’s economies through ludicrous Leftist schemes. More often than not - as with the Castros, Maos, Kim Jong Uns and Lenins - the regimes also devolve into a personality cults.
Finally, ‘Left-truths’ have its own desi versions as well.
Take the case of the Indian Communists, whose leaders constantly preach non-violence and Gandhi while taking on the Sangh Parivar and yet have unleashed political violence on a devastating scale in Kerala and West Bengal. Or the fact that while the Yechurys and Karats choose to castigate the Prime Minister while drawing comparisons to Hitler, Yechury himself is said to have refused to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial during a visit to Israel because he allegedly had qualms about ‘legitimizing Israeli propaganda about the Holocaust’.
‘Left-truths’ have been used to inflict political wounds as well – like how the RSS is still blamed by Leftists, and their friends in the media, for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi despite a court ruling to the contrary. And the fact that the current Prime Minister was vilified – and still is – for over a decade as a mass murderer when even a FIR had not been registered against him despite being subject to a plethora of investigations under a Congress regime.
Evidently, the weeping Leftists of today did not have much sympathy towards the quest for the truth for the past many decades. In fact, during this period they have willfully both suppressed and manipulated it – by doctoring school textbooks, coopting ‘useful idiot’ celebrities and infiltrating the press clubs – ensuring that the Leftist alternate reality slowly became the mainstream view.
Yet, the fact remains that what the Left has been selling for decades to the people has been a lie – plain and simple. And these lies are just like the ones Trump used while campaigning for the White House. To try to classify them as different would be just be another ‘Left-Truth’.
Praful Shankar is a political enthusiast and tweets at @shankarpraful.
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