A Socialist Approach to Free Speech

Samuel Farmer, reprinted from Jacobin by permission of the author

Following the Obama administration’s historic suppression of government whistleblowers, Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the media, and controversies on college campuses nationwide, Timothy Garton Ash’s Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World is well-timed.

Timothy Garton ash: Fre Speech - coverGarton Ash offers a wide-ranging exposition on the right to self-expression and a coherent defence of free speech from an explicitly liberal point of view. Socialist theory and practice has never satisfactorily established the place of free speech in the struggle for social transformation and in a future socialist society — all the more reason to seriously grapple with the challenge posed by Garton Ash’s new book.

Free Speech’s Foundations

Garton Ash’s analysis of free speech has two primary sources: Isaiah Berlin, who proposed that free expression is founded on empathy with and tolerance for multiple and conflicting values, and John Stuart Mill, whose defence of free speech primarily stressed its beneficial consequences instead of its intrinsic value as a right. Neither of these perspectives constitute a solid foundation for a defense of free speech. Continue reading “A Socialist Approach to Free Speech”