‘Hate speech’ laws are being considered in New Zealand. We believe it is important to defend free speech. This is an issue that the left should take up. If you’d like to be a part of the Left Network for Free Speech join here
Left Network for Free Speech statement:
“Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. The essence of political freedom depends not on the fanatics of ‘justice’, but rather on all the invigorating, beneficial, and detergent effects of dissenters.” – Rosa Luxemburg
The left is for freeing people. We believe that free speech should be a right and that speech restrictions reinforce the power of the state and the ruling elites.
It is an important left principle that people be free to politically challenge any idea. Free speech is essential for the development of knowledge and for social progress. It enables a culture of exchanging and debating of ideas, and encourages scientific, academic and journalistic freedom. Defamation and manifestations of violence are not included in free speech.
As partisans of the working class, we know that the working class has historically been denied democratic rights, including free speech. Even after hundreds of years of struggle, workers today face being fired for expressing, in their own time and on their own computers, views which their employers disapprove of.
As the class which has suffered the most from anti-democratic restrictions on movement, assembly, speech and other basic rights, the working class has a vested interest in fighting for the widest democracy possible. Exchanges of views, including through rigorous debate, are also necessary for workers to be able to work out their path to liberation.
Leaving the power to decide what is acceptable speech in the hands of employers and the state disempowers workers and oppressed sections of society such as women, Maori, gay people and migrant workers.
Free speech is necessary to expose racism, sexism and bigotry. In contrast, ‘hate speech’ restrictions don’t challenge these ideas. ‘Hate speech’ laws in practice are an arbitrary tool that are used to impose social regulation. They can be used to silence progressives on a range of issues.
Instead of helping further empower the state, we need to assert the rights of the people to free speech and to hear different and opposing views, so they can make up their own minds on important political issues.
“. . . without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, without the free battle of opinions, life in every public institution withers away, becomes a caricature of itself, and bureaucracy rises as the only deciding factor.” – Rosa Luxemburg