There are two core strains to left-wing thought. Both of them can be seen as rooted in the evolution of the scientific method during the 18th and 19th centuries, although the essential ideas, of course, existed long before. The first is liberalism. Liberalism holds that we must always keep an element of self-doubt and criticism at the heart of our philosophy; that no-one has a monopoly on truth, so we must allow everyone into the social decision-making process, regardless of class, race, gender, sexuality, or other trait. The second is socialism. Socialism holds that there is an essential sameness, an essential equality amongst all people. There is no scientific reason and, therefore, no moral reason why any class, race, gender, sexuality or other group should be advantaged by the social order or subjected by another.
Now, on the Left we tend to hold both strains inside our philosophies, and they are largely compatible. The problem arises that liberalism taken to its extreme loses the ability to criticise or moralise. We’re all aware of moral relativism, where a blind adherence to liberal ideals prevents us from criticising behaviour in other cultures that would be viewed as abhorrent in our own culture or from a socialist perspective. You hear people defending brutal dictatorships by claiming this is just the way other cultures operate. But liberalism can also hog-tie us into not fighting illiberal forces within our own society. After all, ‘they might be right’ is something we can never discount. The problem is this prevents us from putting any moral force behind our beliefs. It is a constraint that socialism does not face it is free to argue any system that subjugates one group to another is immoral and can be attacked as such.
It is letting our liberalism make us weak kneed that has prevented us from making a moral argument for left-wing government. Instead, ridiculously, the moral high ground is associated with the Right. The Right fights for the established order against the forces of liberalism and socialism they fight against free universal health care, education, and basic income, against full employment and a whole suite of other policies. The result of them having power is that power and resources stay concentrated with the ruling (capitalist) elite and the rest living less healthy, more crime-ridden, poorer, shorter lives than need be the case. Yet overly liberal sentiments have prevented us from saying that the Right’s policies and methods are immoral. By failing to do so, we come to rule only by default; only when the people are utterly disgusted by the Right’s policies and manage to find a political alternative*. All the surveys and studies show that people overwhelming favour more socialist policies, the redistribution of wealth to moderate the unjust, unequal outcomes inherent in capitalism. Yet, we do not say that the Right stands against those value; we do not call the Right’s principles immoral. The Right should never win because they don’t stand for what most people want; as long as we continue to fail to show the immorality of their policies, they will continue to win.
*[in the 50s and 60s, the left-wing vote was split between Labour, Social Democrats, and Values, in 1978 and 1981, left-wing Labour won more votes than National but lost under FPP, in 1990, voters deserted right-wing Labour for any alternative NewLabour and National, in 1993 and 1996, the Left won more votes but failed to establish Parliamentary majorities]