I think Ron Radosh makes an excellent point about the hard left when he quotes Herbert Marcuse on his doctrine of “repressive tolerance”:

Marcuse developed the theory of “repressive tolerance.” As he explained, tolerance of the speech of those who are fascist or conservative is not acceptable for a democratic society. To liberate tolerance means “intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.” This gobbledygook, remember, was viewed by serious intellectuals as brilliant.

If sophistry can be called brilliant, then I guess I would have to concede Marcuse’s sophistry is brilliant. Obviously, Marcuse hated tolerance as would any principled Communist, but he realized that the Western ideal of tolerance lies at the heart of what makes America free and different from much of the world. He hated America, but he realized the overarching importance of tolerance as an primary American virtue standing stubbornly in his way. Simply dismissing tolerance along pure Marxist lines (Soviet style) would have been crass, crude, and unpersuasive. So, rather than condemn tolerance outright, Marcuse had to redefine it. In the lengthy essay Radosh cites, he explains that tolerance really is not tolerance unless it is intolerance.

Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left. As to the scope of this tolerance and intolerance: … it would extend to the stage of action as well as of discussion and propaganda, of deed as well as of word.


…the alternative to the established semi-democratic process is not a dictatorship or elite, no matter how intellectual and intelligent, but the struggle for a real democracy. Part of this struggle is the fight against an ideology of tolerance which, in reality, favors and fortifies the conservation of the status quo of inequality and discrimination. For this struggle, I proposed the practice of discriminating tolerance. To be sure, this practice already presupposes the radical goal which it seeks to achieve. I committed this petitio principii in order to combat the pernicious ideology that tolerance is already institutionalized in this society. The tolerance which is the life element, the token of a free society, will never be the gift of the powers that be; it can, under the prevailing conditions of tyranny by the majority, only be won in the sustained effort of radical minorities, willing to break this tyranny and to work for the emergence of a free and sovereign majority – minorities intolerant, militantly intolerant and disobedient to the rules of behavior which tolerate destruction and suppression.

He probably thought he was pulling off a pretty slick trick. No one wants to tolerate opinions they disagree with, but if you can be intolerant — to the point of violently repressing those opinions — by possessing the moral authority to call your acts of repression “tolerance,” why, you have real power. And it goes without saying that you’re more tolerant than those you silence. After all, they are the ones who are intolerant, and because you are right and they are wrong, they have no right to their evil opinions.

Shooting them would be the ultimate act of tolerance.