I think the issue here is not, ‘Can there be “good” people in an evil system?’ Of course there can be, especially considering that everything is relative. The question is, is the phenomenon we call ‘American liberalism’ or ‘the American Left’, some sort of unchanging, abstract, metaphysical ‘Evil’, within which there are inexplicably-decent people? This view of politics is, I suppose, the best that certain boneheads can do. It makes them feel good about themselves to hold such a world-view – like the Catholic priest who excoriates evil every Sunday morning, while diddling schoolchildren during the rest of the week. (Let’s not let the Proddies off the hook here, either: here’s my favorite Protestant oh-so-virtuous anti-Communist fire-eater, Billy James Hargis, who was very successful at squeezing lots of money from poor dumboes who probably couldn’t afford it — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_James_Hargis (At least he wasn’t a ‘homophobe’ – he liked both girls AND boys!)
But if you’ve got any sort of brain at all, you want to try to analyze political movements – especially big ones with tens of million of adherents which persist over decades. You want to understand that they believe and what they think they believe. Why do ordinary decent people support them?
In the case of American liberalism, one thing they used to be consistent about, was civil liberties, at least in America. (They did have a weak spot – some of them were not so serious about civil liberties in Communist countries. Thus Roger Baldwin, the founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, originally believed that the suppression of free speech and civil liberties in the Soviet Union was all right … but he wised up during the 1930s and became a consistent civil libertarian. The two flagship publications of American liberalism, the Nation and The New Republic, both endorsed the legitimacy of the 1936 Moscow Trials.)
But in America, they were consistent. The ACLU even supported the right of the American Nazi Party to march through a Jewish neighborhood. [Full story here: https://www.aclu.org/issues/free-speech/rights-protesters/skokie-case-how-i-came-represent-free-speech-rights-nazis] I doubt that they would do the same now, by the way.
However, this has now changed. There are still some liberals around who believe in free speech, but they’re a dying breed. The new generation of left-of-center Americans does not hold this belief any more. Remnants of the old position remain, and it has not been replaced with a new, worked-out, elaborated theory of what is permissible and what is not … but the direction of motion is clear.
If you do not hold progressive views, forget about working in academia, forget about working for a major corporation, unless you hide your views. The political center of gravity on the Left now is firmly in the camp of the ‘thought police’.
And, by the way, this shift by no means includes only Marxists and other Hard Leftists … who are still a minority within the self-described Left, let alone the whole Democratic Party. It is becoming the common consensus for everyone left of center: no ‘hate speech’ allowed, and ‘hate speech’ is defined as anything that makes a snowflake ‘uncomfortable’.
Furthermore, you are also a ‘hate thinker’ unless you enthusiastically endorse the idea that the current standards of the Left must be applied, without modification or acknowledgement of historical circumstance or progress, to everyone in the past.
Nor must you acknowledge anything but totally negative aspects of the episodes where more advanced peoples – or rather, more advanced European peoples – encountered less advanced, or at least militarily weaker, peoples. Never mind that these peoples themselves were just as, or even more, brutal to those that they were able to subdue. None of this must be mentioned.
Such a regime is intolerable to anyone with any intellectual integrity. So we will see revolts against it, within the Left. We should support and encourage them.
By the way, anyone who knows the least little bit about American history knows
that the Right has never, in reality, been very enthusiastic about civil liberties.
In the past, rightwingers would happily have closed down, with violence, meetings of the Left, if they could. And they did. This new-found appreciation of basic rights for all, on the part of the Right, is still welcome, even if we may allow ourselves an ironic smile at the sight of rightists ardently proclaiming the importance of the right to free speech and assembly even of those with views we find abhorrent.
Better late than never.