I have set out the case for what the actual motivations of Leftist ideologues are — but Leftists themselves would be very unlikely to salute any of it. It is of some interest therefore to try to see things from their own point of view. And Olavo de Carvalho has done sterling work there.
He deals principally with extreme Leftists (“Revolutionaries”) but points out that the same mentality pervades Leftist “thinkers” generally. He says that Leftists are fixated on a view of utopia. They justify themselves as seeking the betterment of mankind according to quite Christian standards. They want everyone to be loving and sharing to one-another at some future time.
And the fact that they are fixated on this beneficent vision excuses everything that they might do and gives them huge psychic benefits. It allows them to see themselves as kindly and wise even while they lie, cheat and brutalize others in pursuit of their goals. The vision is all and excuses all.
Utopia is of course unattainable but the thinking concerned is a powerful form of self-deception.
Lets consider Leftism in much more detail and focus on Leftist leaders and activists:
Because they are very influential, this monograph will focus primarily on Leftist leaders: Politicians, activists, ideologues, intellectuals, academics and preachers of Leftism generally. And there is no claim that what is true of them is also true of the average Leftist voter. Among the leaders too, there will be a variety of motivations but what the great majority of them say and do can be seen as fitting a common power-seeking and praise-hungry pattern — and that pattern is the one that is of greatest interest here. It will be seen that most Leftist policies can be traced back to that source
It is now clear that Rightists are not systematically opposed to change but that “Western” Leftists seek it eagerly — so attitude to social change is the defining characteristic of the political Left rather than of the political Right. Rightism (“conservatism”) and Leftism are not opposites or mirror images, however, so Rightists in general are neither for nor against change as such. When they do want change, the changes that they favour are usually ones that remove or reduce interference in their lives by others.
The Leftist’s dissatisfaction with the world about him and his burning desire to change it can come from many sources but for Leftist leaders and other preachers of Leftism in the economically successful “Western” democracies (“liberals” in contemporary North American terms), the major motivation is to fulfil the ego needs of the Leftist himself — needs for self-advertisement, self-promotion, excitement, influence and ultimately power. And the prime source of power is the state, so Leftists love the state.
It was all summed up rather well in the debate over ratification of the U.S. constitution that took place in the 1780s. The debate was between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists. The anti-Federalists distrusted central government power and could be seen as most akin to the conservatives of today — though both sides would be seen as conservative by today’s standards. With prophetic insight, the anti-Federalist “Brutus IV” wrote what could be seen as a pretty good description of today’s Democratic party leadership:
“…It is not to be expected that a legislature will be found in any country that will not have some of its members, who will pursue their private ends, and for which they will sacrifice the public good. Men of this character are, generally, artful and designing, and frequently possess brilliant talents and abilities; they commonly act in concert, and agree to share the spoils of their country among them; they will keep their object ever in view [government-controlled health care, anyone?], and follow it with constancy [sought since the 1930's]. To effect their purpose, they will assume any shape, and, Proteus like, mould themselves into any form – where they find members proof against direct bribery or gifts of offices, they will endeavor to mislead their minds by specious and false reasoning, to impose upon their unsuspecting honesty by an affectation of zeal for the public good; they will form juntos, and hold out-door meetings; they will operate upon the good nature of their opponents, by a thousand little attentions, and teize them into compliance by the earnestness of solicitation. Those who are acquainted with the manner of conducting business in public assemblies, know how prevalent art and address are in carrying a measure, even over men of the best intentions, and of good understanding. … It is probable, … the powerful influence that great and designing men have over the honest and unsuspecting, by their art and address, their soothing manners and civilities, and their cringing flattery, joined with their affected patriotism; when these different species of influence are combined, it is scarcely to be hoped that a legislature, composed of so small a number, as the one proposed by the new constitution, will long resist their force.”
And that was written in 1787!
Leftists do not like all changes. Because power is their underlying motivation Leftists/liberals dislike the power-reducing changes that conservatives favour — such as neo-liberal (pro-market) change. Change of that sort threatens the Leftist’s access to power. We also see the primacy of power in the old Soviet system. We saw there that Leftists who had gained power suddenly became very opposed to change. The desire for change is at its base the desire for one particular sort of change: Putting Leftists in power so that they can reshape society into a mould that feels good to them. And why is power sought so single-mindedly? Why the single-minded egotism? At the deepest level, the Leftist leader appears to be psychopathic — with the psychopathic disregard for all norms, morals, standards and ethics in the ruthless quest for personal praise and satisfaction.
It is because of their quest for power that Leftists come into conflict with conservatives. History shows that what has always motivated conservatives is resistance to government power — in particular government encroachment on individual rights and liberties. So conservatives may either favour or oppose change to promote that cause.
A description of the political attitude domain in terms of two dimensions rather than a single Left/Right dimension is rejected here on both empirical and theoretical grounds. The pervasiveness and evolutionary origins of egotism and reality denial generally are also briefly considered below.
The most detailed causal chain proposed for preachers of Leftism, then, is as follows: Psychopathic personality > high ego need > hatred of an indifferent world > need for change > need for power > love of the State
Psychopaths are normally seen as lacking in emotions so it may seem perverse to say that Leftist leaders are both psychopathic and motivated by rage — and it is certainly not asserted that ALL Leftist leaders are psychopathic. Psychopaths are however not totally lacking in emotions. What they lack is normal emotions. And one emotion that they do definitely display is rage — in particular outrage at what they see as poor treatment of themselves by those around them. And Leftist intellectuals in particular display feeling of that sort too. It really burns them up that they are not as well-paid or as influential as successful businessmen, for instance.
Note that I am talking about sub-clinical psychopathy above: psychopaths who are not so extreme as to get themselves into trouble with the law and the mental health system. Most human characteristics exist in degrees so a subclinical psychopath has normal human emotions to some degree rather than a total absence of such emotions. And there are, sadly, various avenues in life where some lack of normal human emotions can be advantageous — anything requiring deceit, for instance. And Leftist leaders need a lot of deceit if they are to persuade people of the benefit in what are actually destructive schemes.