Once upon a time, the left fought for the universal right to freedom of speech. Today, many self-proclaimed progressives cheer on the censorship of their political opponents. But it’s not just right-wingers who suffer from cancel culture. The left itself is often the primary victim. Dan Kovalik is a labour lawyer, peace activist and author of Cancel This Book: The Progressive Case Against Cancel Culture.
Spiked online interviewed him:
spiked: What inspired you to write the book?
Dan Kovalik: I’m a longtime peace activist and anti-imperialist. I was moved to write the book after the cancellation of another peace activist, a friend of mine called Molly Rush. She helped form a peace and justice group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called the Thomas Merton Center 50 years ago and has been a very prominent activist ever since. In May last year, a little after the George Floyd protests started, she reposted a meme on Facebook. It was a picture of Martin Luther King and some text explaining that MLK never rioted or looted, but nonetheless changed the world. Immediately, she was attacked on social media. People said she had shared a racist post. She was moved to apologise given these attacks, but this was not enough. Eventually, the Thomas Merton Center said it couldn’t work with her any longer.
The centre cancelled out all the good things this woman had done, including as an activist who lobbied for African Americans to be included in the construction industry. This was the last straw for me. This was not a productive thing to be doing.
spiked: What other examples of censorship of the left caught your attention?
Kovalik: A good example I mention in my book is Adolph Reed, a Marxist academic and long-time civil-rights activist. He has essentially been cancelled because he says that although race is important, class explains many things that people often try to explain through race. The Democratic Socialists of America, which is probably the biggest leftist group in America, cancelled a discussion he was going to lead at the end of 2019 due to an article he wrote, in which he said that class cannot be overlooked when discussing racial divisions. He was accused of being a class reductionist, which is just absurd. Today, if you even talk about class, you’re seen as racist and out of the loop. So he doesn’t get much of a hearing anymore. I rarely see him in publications or interviews. He’s been shunned, because he didn’t give in to the prevailing narrative on these issues.
spiked: Why is it so important for the left in particular to fight cancel culture? Read more