Talk:Left–right politics/Archive 2

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How "general" is "generally?

In the section on the "meaning of the terms", User:Sam Spade recently added: "Generally however, it is usually assumed the left favors government intervention in the economy but not on social/political issues, while the right favors the opposite (economic nonintervention but rather social/political regulation)."

This may be more or less true in the context of contemporary U.S. politics, but does not seem to me to be "general".

  • The original "leftists" -- the Girondists and Jacobins -- were mostly laissez faire capitalists, although they did believe in minimal provision of the means of subsitence to the masses: at least as long as those masses were armed with pikes and ready to storm the Assembly.
  • The Nazis, whom I hope we can agree were on the right, had no aversion to government intervention in the economy. I realize there are a small number of people who say "therefore they weren't really on the right", but frankly I don't have much patience for that argument. It's certainly not "generally" accepted.
Well, if the standard for being "on the right" is total laissez-faire and economic non-interventionism, then hardly ANYONE has ever been "on the right". In other words, you can make the nazis part of "the left" if you expand "the left" to include almost every politician who ever lived. - Mihnea Tudoreanu
  • Barry Goldwater, conservative Republican senator and 1964 presidential candidate, does not seem to me to have been against most government intervention in social/political issues, if I understand yousr use of that term correctly. Towards the end of his life, he rather annoyed the emergent Christian Right in the U.S. by totally failing to endorse their agenda in these respects.
  • In the contemporary U.S., support for affirmative action -- certainly a case of government intervention on social/political issues -- gets its support mainly from the left.

That seems to me like a counterexample on each of the four possible combinations: a left economic non-interventionist, a right economic interventionist, a right social non-interventionist, and a left social interventionist. This was off the top of my head on a 15-minute break from work.

On this basis, I'd like to just delete the sentence, and / or farther down the article we need a much more extensive discussion of this. -- Jmabel 23:05, Aug 5, 2004 (UTC)

I go for "and", as in delete, and discuss farther down in the article. This is not my sentance BTW, but rather one I salvaged from an big delete I believe you (maybe someone else) recently made of an anons edit. Anyhow I agree it is complex, and for example I disagree w you about the Nazi's, which IMO were slightly left economic centrists, but strict authoritarians (I like the view on Sam [Spade] 03:01, 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Look again. The Political Compass ( has always defined the nazis as slightly right economic centrists, but strict authoritarians.
At any rate, that's not the point here. IMO, the two-scale model has obvious benefits over the one-dimensional Left/Right model, but it is still an oversimplification of the views each camp holds, so we shouldn't consider it the ultimate guide to politics. For example, where would you place the Anarchists? They are leftists - because they wish to abolish private property, and institute a communal system of ownership - but they certainly don't favour "state intervention" of any kind! The economic definition of the "left" as favouring "state intervention in the economy" is flawed precisely for this reason: Much of the left opposes capitalism and the state. The Left/Right axis would be better defined in terms of private vs. communal property, rather than state intervention in the economy. I've personally written to the Political Compass about this, and they agreed; hopefully, they'll change things accordingly on their website.
- Mihnea Tudoreanu
This article is very good, but why get bogged down classifying parties or complete ideologies in left-right space, when, as the article points out, the left-right terminology is very effective at classifying ideas on an issue-by-issue basis. And the section about the history of the terms should be its own section, as it is, but it shouldn't permeate the rest of the discussion: it's confusing. The fact that monarchists were right wing in 18th century France bears no resemblance whatsoever to the contemporary schema. More generally, however, the bulk of the article is focused on a rather lame debate about "what is" or "who is" left and right, when a simple, straightforward account of left and right on an issue-by-issue basis is probably all that's needed, or should at least be central, in an encyclopedic treatment. I mean, if we can't get an encyclopedic entry to agree that the Nazis were a "right-wing" party, the I'd suggest that the confusion here is of our own creation. The mainstay of the Nazi platform wasn't its employment policy, for example. In short, the article is very good in my view, but should probably be more parsimonious for the simple fact that political experts will get their treatment of the topic elsewhere, and the current article is probably confusing to the extreme for political neophytes. 00:26, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

Evolution of the terms

I took a shot at rewriting "Evolution of the terms". I think what I wrote is an improvement over what was there, but I think it still has a long way to go. Like what was there before, I have focused too much on America and Western Europe. Like what was there before, I have much more to say about the Left than the Right. I'll probably try to work on it a little further myself. I hope I'm not just triggering a big POV edit war here: I am genuinely trying to be evenhanded, but inevitably some of my own perspective will creep into this. Help welcomed, flaming not. -- Jmabel | Talk 02:56, Mar 30, 2005 (UTC)

It doesn't look bad, but it seems a bit, well, marxistant, to me. The description of the parties in the French Revolution, for instance, seems to be straight out of Lefebvre, complete with the rising bourgeoisie. I think the extent to which left and right in 1789 were ideological groupings rather than socio-economic needs to be emphasized more - in 1789, certainly, great nobles like Lafayette and parlementaires like Dupont were on the left, while a third estater like Mounier came to be on the moderate right. By 1791, the left of 1789 was now the right (as the Feuillants); by 1793, much of the left of 1791-2 (the Girondins) had become the new right. But after Thermidor things clear up again a bit, and the groupings are essentially ideological - Jacobins on the left, supporting the constitution of 1793; Monarchists on the right; and the Thermidorians in the middle. But what constitutes "left," "right," and "center" is always dependent on, particularly, the nature of the regime in question. Seems to me that key in the discussion of early 19th century leftism is the distinction between liberals and radicals/republicans. During the July Monarchy, say, I fail to see any real distinction in economic policy between, say, Lamartine on the republican left; Barrot in the dynastic left; Thiers in the left centre; and Guizot with the government on the centre-right. All were essentially liberals. The nature of right-left conflict, then, had little to do with economics - it had to do with the nature of the polity itself. I think the same can be said for the Third Republic - it was Clemenceau's government - a government of the "left" consisting of Radicals and former socialists like Briand and Viviani - that was most effective in fighting strikers. One might add that the various Progressists who became Dreyfusards in 1898-9 were not supporting the "left" due to economic reasons, but for ideological ones - Méline's attempt to join conservative republicans with Catholics and former monarchists failed because ideological issues still had greater saliency than economic ones. The Popular Front is almost the same - the Radicals, by now essentially a centrist group, allies themselves with socialists and communists because of their common support of the republican form of government, despite wildly different ideas of what France's economic policies should be. Sure, the Popular Front fell apart after two years, but that it was formed at all shows, I think, the extent to which left-right divisions were not simply a matter of economic factors.While France, with its extreme division over the Revolution, this prevalence of ideology over economics is probably in its most extreme form, I think you can see that the process is equally complicated in other European countries. That is to say - what is "left" and what is "right" in any given country is really not clear-cut at all. Of course, some things (socialism) are clearly and always on the left; while others (high "reaction," "legitimism" in whatever form it may take in different countries; "crown and altar conservatism") are always on the right. But that vast middle ground in between, which stretched from "radicalism" on the left to the kind of liberal-conservatism exemplified by a Guizot, may be left or right depending on the political contexts of an individual country. At any rate, forgive me for the long post which has little in the way of specific suggestions - practicing for my exams and thinking "out loud" as much as commenting on the article, I guess. But I'll definitely try to look over the section and make improvements. john k 06:09, 30 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I plead guilty to reading Lefebvre. And Soboul. And while I'm not a Marxist, I'm enough of a red-diaper baby to generally think of politicians in terms of whose interests they serve than their overt ideology.
As I said, I don't think I've got the definitive rewrite here, just something considerably more coherent than what it replaced.
As for Lafayette and Dupont: well, sort of. They were on the quite moderate left. I admit I don't know too much about Dupont or Mounier; Lafayette is a very interesting figure: he clearly wanted things to go just so far and no further. In general, I agree with your summary of the lefts and rights of the French Revolutionary era; it seems a bit much for this article, but perhaps it does belong, because it shows how problematic this all is. I also agree with you on early 19th century liberals vs. radicals/republicans: probably belongs in the article. But I'm weak on that. I'm pretty strong on the history from 1789 down to Thermidor, then I'm a lot weaker until 1848. (Hey, I was a Math major, what can I say?)
All in all, it sounds like you know more about this than I do. I'd very much welcome a rewrite by you. Just remember not to lose the forest for the trees! -- Jmabel | Talk 07:18, Mar 30, 2005 (UTC)

Yes, I agree with you that Lafayette was not very far left. But Dupont and the Lameth brothers, who with Barnave (not a nobleman) were the early leaders of the Jacobins, were certainly on the left. They only moved towards a more conservative position after the flight to Varennes. And of course, there's all that recent work which has shown how the differences between the kind of professional third estate types who were in the Constituent Assembly and the nobles were not necessarily economic, so much as status-based. I'll try to rework it at some point soon, but I say that a lot, and often don't get to it...I should really put a to do list on my user page. john k 23:35, 30 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I certainly agree that status was as important as economics. For example, the formal abolition of titles probably did more to alienate the nobility than the abolition (with partial compensation) of their feudal rights. That's more for the French Revolution articles than here, though.
Anyway, as I say, I'd welcome having you take a shot at that passage, as long as we don't get too bogged down in the details of French Revolutionary politics and focus on the shifts in the meaning of "left" and "right". -- Jmabel | Talk 01:00, Mar 31, 2005 (UTC)

And along these lines... has anyone looked at this edit by User:Pearlg? Seems to me to be a bit confused and confusing. Referring to the early left as a "movement" rather than an ideological tendency seems wrong to me. I don't understand the reason for dropping mention of the narrow franchise in French politics at the time of the original Left, and expansion of the franchise thereafter. And it seems odd to me to drop "the original 'Left' represented mainly the interests of the bourgeoisie, the rising capitalist class." What do others think? -- Jmabel | Talk 03:25, Jun 19, 2005 (UTC)

regarding the issue of franchise, please consult the policy on insinuation. It is POV speculation to say that the expanding franchise explains the changes in rhetoric (and consequent policy). I think you have a much stronger basis to complain that a blurred the enlightenment into more coherence than is supported: taking from the line of reasoning in Roads to Modernity, if you contrast the French and the British, you'll see that the differences foretell the emergence of the illiberal left. But if you don't accept that, then all the better for the changes I made. --Pearlg 07:33, 19 Jun 2005 (UTC)

And again "Eventually the Left evolved into Jacobinism and then into the precursors of socialism and communism and began arguing that economic inequality was inequity and in favor of granting the state plenary power and against classical liberalism." It isn't as if a large number of individuals "evolved" along that particular path. It's that politics arose that were seen as being "farther left" than those that had preceded them. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:16, Jun 22, 2005 (UTC)

I agree with Jmabel here - I think Pearlg's edits obfuscate far more than it clears up. As I noted before, I didn't find the previous version of the article to be completely convincing, and wanted to make some changes. But a kind of light marxisant discussion is certainly superior to a crude libertarianish reading. As to the expanding franchise - this is not "POV speculation." It is certainly true that elitist liberalism took a punishing whenever the franchise expanded, and that ideas further to the left, hitherto obscured, became more important. The forces of reaction and bonapartism also became stronger in universal suffrage - but that doesn't change the fact that universal suffrage pretty universally exposed elitist liberalism (and, really, classical radicalism, too) as without any real popular basis, and laid the groundwork for the appearance of a much more, well, leftist left. Now, of course socialist ideas were already around before universal suffrage. But it was suffrage's expansion that made them into mass movements - as, for instance, the rise of the Democ-Socs in the Second Republic. john k 06:20, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Let me add - as I find Pearlg's edits largely obfuscatory, I'm going to revert. john k 06:24, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Sorry, but on the point of expanding franchise you are dead wrong. Please see Correlation implies causation (logical fallacy). I stand very firmly behind the principle that the article may not say or insinuate a causal relationship here. Moreover, you should well know that defining left-right at any point of history as being based on totalitarianism is merely to repeat marxist propoganda. This article can only stand as NPOV by discarding the idea that left-right means anything per se and merely giving a history of different left-right systems properly credited to who used them and when they were in use--while adequately disclaiming against the political purposes for which such distinctions were made. --Pearlg 20:40, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I strongly agree that the article should be largely historical, and discuss how the term has been used - as you can see below, the ahistorical material irritates me deeply. I'm not sure what you mean about totalitarianism. As to allegations of post hoc fallacy, your use of it would seem to imply never imputing any kind of causation to anything ever. It is a fact that liberal movements had a very limited popular base, and that the advent of universal suffrage created vast terrains that were seen at the time as being politically to the left of liberalism. john k 21:55, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

 ::cough:: If you restrict yourself to France and those associated countries of europe enspired by the French Revolution then I agree liberalism has had a small political base. England, though, is a quite different matter--as is United States. I for one see a long tradition of liberalism tracing even as far back as the welsh wars. Sure, it wasn't a force to overthrow the monarchy, but it was definitely in support of liberalism. In a large sense liberalism is a conservative tradition in the british isles. But I digress... I do not mean to suggest one may never draw conclusions. I do mean to suggest that on this issue, the subject is far too political to safely draw conclusions from correlations and maintain a consensus that the result is NPOV. Thus my comment in the commit logs "there are no quasi-objective observers to opine on the issue" --Pearlg 05:19, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Fair enough on my continental bias. But the continent is where the terms "left" and "right" appeared. (As to England - well, there wasn't universal suffrage in England until 1918). Perhaps we should be more clear on the continental origins of the term. john k 06:54, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Well, I don't know that fact one way or the other... so let me believe that date is right. The situation is too uncontrolled then because you're only a few years past 1905 and 1917, socialist leftism was sweeping the continent by then. On the otherhand, you also have fascism gaining ground then. So perhaps there is a case that "the people" are neither left nor right but tend to be illiberal. In general I'd like to see two distinctions:
  • that economic-parity-leftism rose concurrently with expanding of franchise but not that this was "given" or an "obvious" consequence. Indeed it is almost circular because leftists had such a hand in expanding franchise but this says nothing per se about the interests, attitudes, etc of the working class. e.g., it could be explained merely on the limited basis that people desire suffrage. it *may* alternatively or also be because "the workers" believed in leftism or that leftism was in their favor or that prior order was against them. But this is speculation... and about aggregates--lumps of people if you will. I can live with it if it gets properly qualified.
  • that economic-parity-leftists believe they serve the interests of workers and garner support from the electorate on that assumption but not that their policies and positions are necessarily in the interests of workers though they *may* be.
fair compromise? --Pearlg 08:52, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
It is not a given or obvious consequence, but it was a necessary precondition for the emergence of mass socialist parties, certainly. Necessary but not sufficient, I'm willing to concede - whether or not "the workers" believed in leftism, it was certainly "the workers" who historically voted for socialist parties and gave them their mass support, and socialists were never able to get anywhere in places with very limited suffrage - Hungary before World War I, for example. I am perfectly happy to concede that socialist parties may not have necessarily acted in the interest of workers. I would very strongly prefer that we avoid the term "economic-parity-leftists," though. (The 1918 date is right, although there was household suffrage from 1884). john k 16:20, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

John and I seem to be in total agreement on this matter. And anyone who has watched our respective work over time should know that is by no means a given. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:09, Jun 23, 2005 (UTC)

The "Meaning of the terms" section

This section is generally awful. Perhaps my status as a historian is hitting me here, but these definitions are completely ahistorical. In particular, almost all of these definitions identify the right with classical liberalism. This is deeply, deeply problematic - through 1945, at least, the right was not associated with classical liberalism at all. The right was associated with authoritarianism and (in many countries, at least) protectionism. It was associated with monarchism, with fascism, with all kinds of horribly illiberal ideas. Up until 1945, even classical liberalism was very firmly an ideology of the center - it opposed the authoritarianism and traditionalism of the right just as much as it opposed the economic redistributionism of the left. If the left has to bear the assorted ideas of various anarchists, communists, and socialists, then the right should certainly not be identified as though it is synonymous with laissez faire. It is not, and was not. While laissez-faire liberalism is certainly a hallmark of the modern right in the developed world, this is a very recent phenomenon. It should be added that even since 1945 there has been a strong tendency of what has been, in many parts of Europe, the strongest faction within the center-right, Christian Democracy, against laissez-faire, and towards a much more paternalistic view of the role of government in society.

More briefly: the "meaning of the terms" section is total crap. john k 06:35, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I love the way it's totally wrong. We should definitely keep it. My beef: "Fair outcomes are left; fair processes are right" - no! Free market economics is not fair - it doesn't claim to be - even Warren Buffet doesn't claim it's fair. The only reason it is used is because it works. Please can this point be illustrated with a single example of a fair process that is "classically" favoured by the right? Joking aside I found this section very thought provoking —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 10 July 2006.

Let me add - I notice that, in addition to the points which identify conservatism with classical liberalism, there is a rendition of a kind of Marxisant less privileged/more privileged distinction, as well as a number of very vague cultural/philosophical distinctions. The former should definitely be on the list. The latter seem to me to be so incredibly vague as to be nearly useless. Nature vs. nurture? Culture vs. Law? Loving Change vs. not loving change? At the very least, these ideas need some elaboration. At any rate, the whole set seems to take as given the idea that the right is for "liberty," "fair processes," "individual rights," and "smaller government," in a completely unproblematic way, except to point out a few exceptions. If we are going to have this section, it must be pointed out that large (if not dominant) elements of the right, until quite recently, was not in favor of any of these things. The basic problem, as I can see, is that we have one "leftist" materialist definition, and then a bunch of different definitions from classical liberals and libertarians, or else from conservatives who've read Burke. The materialist definition is overly crude, but is at least historical. The others are just attempts to reify things which are always changing and context-dependent. john k 06:45, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

This article needs to articulate that while Left-Right enjoy wide popular uaage in acamedia & media, it is nonetheless only a theory, an ideological construct, that often ascribes views to one side of the "spectrum" or other that do not exist. Numerous examples abound.Nobs01 17:31, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Sigh...of course it is a construct. That should be obvious from the article. john k 17:41, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Another point of stupidity: Also, there have been many governments opposed to both liberty and equality, but which are nevertheless characterized as "left-wing" or "right-wing". This seems to suggest that this is common on both left and right. While it is true that, in practice, there have been both left- and right-wing regimes that "opposed both liberty and equality," authoritarian left wing governments normally have at least some claim to be advancing equality, and practically all say that they are advancing liberty. For instance, Stalin's Soviet Union certainly did a great deal towards advancing a certain kind of equality (although, certainly, it was a rather crude equality, and a very imperfect one); and while it had very little liberty, it claimed to be in favor of liberty. This is not the case with most right-wing authoritarian regimes, which, until quite recently, were often explicitly and ideologically opposed to both liberty and equality. Treating the fact that some left-wing regimes have, in practice, not done much for liberty and equality, and often been quite horrible on the liberty front especially, and the fact that many right wing regimes and ideologies have explicitly reject both liberty and equality, as though they are equivalent is ridiculous. john k 17:41, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

This article does not articulate it as being only a theory. This theory, at the junior high school level, does not teach observations based historical experience, rather it assigns views to one side of the "spectrum" or the other. Put into use then, practicianers of this theory very often ascribe views to persons who do not hold them. And they cannot explain the contradictions that arise. Too often their prejudiced, not by issues of fact & substance, by how a person comes down on the "left-right" scale. Nobs01 18:01, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
It is not a "theory." To call it a theory doesn't make any sense - it makes no predictions about the world which can be tested. It is a model, or a construct of political ideology. It is a very influential model, it may be said, and one which influences the perception of politics throughout the developed world, at least, and perhaps beyond that. This article is not terribly good, and the introduction could use some work, but referring to it as a "theory" doesn't help any, since it doesn't make sense. The fact that school children (or whoever) interpret things wrong is neither here nor there. john k 18:13, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
1,790,000 Google hits for political+spectrum+theory Nobs01 20:58, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
That is the most useless google search of all time. Google hits for month+theory - 4,420,000. Shall I change our month article to indicate that months are only a theory, with google as my source? john k 21:57, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
A more refined google search shows only 56,000 matches that have both "political spectrum" and "theory" in them. Of these, the first page, which should show the closest matches, fails to reveal any that refer to the political spectrum itself as a "theory." john k 22:00, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
the only noticeable hit for "political spectrum theory" is some right wing blog that doesn't like communism, and wants to make fascism a left-wing ideology. john k 22:02, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
I've been working on my treatise "Fallacy of the Left/Right Spectrum Theory" now for a number of years and am reserving that for copyright commercial publication, so I can't use the best best material here. It is, nonetheless, no different than evolution or creationism, it is only a theory, and a greatly flawed one at that, that is taught as factual crap in American public schools. Nobs01 18:18, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
No, it is not a theory, because it does not attempt to explain how the world works. It is a model. Evolution and Creationism purport to explain the diversity of life on earth (or whatever). The idea of the left/right spectrum doesn't explain anything - it is a tool to describe. Nobody believes that the left/right spectrum is a "real" thing - it is a construct, a category for description. It is no more a theory than, say, months are. Like the left wing and the right wing, months have no real existence - they don't mean anything. But they are tools people use to divide up time. I suppose you could write a treatise exposing the fallacy of the month theory, but it would be pointless, because months aren't a theory - they are constructions. Similarly, the left-right spectrum is a construct used to describe the range of political ideology. Nobody believes it has any "real" existence, or that it can independently explain anything. john k 18:23, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

In dealing with proponents of the spectrum theory over decades I've witnessed thousands of times people use reasoning such as this (to use an illustration): "You beleive gun rights? You must be anti-abortion too." That goes far, far beyond a "model" to facilitate, analyze, or interpret understanding in the political arena. Contortions have been all over the map with this "model" or "theory". Witness: the God question. At one time atheism & godlessness were on the left, then a problem arose, National Socialism & Hitler. And Islam, as only one example, blows the whole theory out of the water. Or separation of church and state issues, especially if we wish to analyze the atheist, American Constitutional, British, Russian, Saudi Arabian, and Nazi positions on a "left-right" model. And I'm only bringing in some of the more obvious questions were this construct, as taught to school children, does not hold up. Nevertherless, schoolchildren get the message, "left" "good", "right" "bad", and one only needs to await how media organizations ascribe affiliations to make judgements. Then when discussing aging leftist octogenarians clinging to power in the Politburo in the 1980s, for example, in that leftist Utopia of the Soviet Union, if they are referred to as Kremlin conservatives, the message is clear, they are reactionary badguys. It's just all pure crap.Nobs01 19:20, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

The fact that people are stupid and misuse a model (as they are want to do) does not make that model a theory. At any rate, of course there have been contortions - I am not advocating that a left-right political spectrum identifies anything real, except to the extent that political movements see themselves as being on this spectrum. Which, it is very clear, many do. Beyond this, of course the theory doesn't fit all political spectrums all the time. I don't think we should say it does. I'm not sure we should say it ever fits. But we should not call it a "theory" because that doesn't make any sense. Are you suggesting that people are applying a "theory" by suggesting that pro-2nd amendment types are anti-abortion? This is just a foolish assumption, and has nothing to do with the idea of a left-right spectrum at all. john k 21:51, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Here's another problem: one can hold certain views like being in favor of tax-cuts; that does not mandate that they are required to hold any view whatsover on abortion, homsexuality etc. Believing in God does not require that one must have a position, pro or con, about (1) abortion, (2) abortion only in the cases of rape or incest (3) abortion only in the case of rape or incest & to save the life of the mother etc; nonetheless, the "Left/Right Political Spectrum Theory", inspite of attestations that its merely a model to facilitate observations in the real world, actively seeks to pigeon-hole views without examining the context. That is the record of this theory as it has been taught in public schools, and public higher education institutions.Nobs01 22:05, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Again, the fact that a model is misused does not make that model a theory. It can be a stupid model that doesn't work very well. But it's still not a theory. john k 22:10, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Nobs: (1) Neither gun control nor abortion are particularly left-right matters. It is true that at this moment in the U.S. both are stances more popular on the left than on the right, but only in a historically and geographically narrow view could anyone imagine these are essential to the left-right construct. (2) Toleration of homosexuality is, arguably a culturally left position (and has been associated with at least some left politics almost as long as the term "left" has existed), but cultural leftism and economic leftism -- especially since the latter has come to mean socialism and communism rather than classical liberalism -- don't necessarily go hand in hand. Many communist parties have actually been rather culturally conservative/repressive. Another way to look at this is that in terms of cultural leftism, there isn't a lot of new turf mapped out to the left of the Gironde or the Montagne, but in terms of economic leftism, there is.

John: I agree with you that many of these definitions border on silly, but when they are put forward by Norberto Bobbio, Eric Hoffer, or even merely Mark Latham, I don't feel we can easily say they don't merit mention in an encyclopedia. And I don't see how we can easily come up with a taxonomy dividing up the better definitions from the worse ones without falling into "original research". -- Jmabel | Talk 05:33, Jun 23, 2005 (UTC)

Jmabel:You have reiterated exactly my point; Left-Right rhetoric is not independent model based on observation of the political scene. It is an ideological construct by the group that calls itself "left" to perpetuate their views to the less politically sophisticated, i.e. youth. Nobs01 05:38, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I suppose you're entitled to this (rather silly) view, but you're not entitled to try to enforce it as fact onto wikipedia articles. The idea that the political spectrum is a notion of the "left" is completely wrong, though - at least through World War II, there were many people who were perfectly willing to describe themselves as being on the old school right. It was only when the revelation of the crimes of Nazism (and the acquiescence of old school conservatives and so forth in them) became clear that this kind of right died out. And in the United States today, the dominant elements of the Republican Party are perfectly willing to use the idea of the left-right spectrum. If anything, the Democrats in the United States are much more uncomfortable with the "left" label than the Republicans are with the "right" label. john k 06:59, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Jmabel: it's not so much a problem of mentioning these various views as it is of contextualizing them. In particular, it needs to be made clear that most of these definitions are defining the right in terms of a right-liberal/center-right conception. My biggest problem with these definitions is that the definitions of the left are vague enough to encompass everything from communism to reform liberalism, while the definitions of the right encompass only classical liberalism, so that what would have been considered up to 1945 the "real right" (which still exists in marginal ways throughout Europe) is explicitly excluded from nearly every definition of the right given here. Some sort of categorization and conceptualization of these definitions is clearly required. Obviously we can't say that some definitions are bad and others are not. But we can certainly say that some of the definitions are based on a very limited conception of what the right entails that is not really historically valid for describing right wing movements outside the English-speaking world prior to the Second World War. john k 07:08, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

  • I mostly agree with this last. As for "left" encompassing "everything from communism to reform liberalism", I think that's basically OK—from far-left to center-left—but as for the fact that many of these definitions exclude the more traditional right, those who felt a genuine affinity for the ancien régime, I think you are correct, and should be remarked on. -- Jmabel | Talk June 29, 2005 01:56 (UTC)

The Adam Smith paragraph and everything below it is utterly irrelevent to the section "The Evolution of Terms" and to the article in general. This article has nothing to do with the views of Marxists, Objectivists, and Austrian economists - or only insofar as they concern right/left terminology, which they do not. (Unisonus (talk) 13:21, 28 April 2009 (UTC))

absolute levelling of wealth

This clearly needs revision. There is absolutley no attempt to explain if this means (a) redistribution of property (which may have certain consequences on the future produciton of wealth), or (b) redistribion of income, i.e. the current produciton of "wealth". Essentially, when you use (or abuse) the term "wealth", are you speaking of assets or income. Nobs01 21:16, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Wealth would mean property, I think. A "wealth tax" would be a tax on property, not a tax on income. john k 21:51, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

So a "levelling of wealth", based not on the past 200 years, but on several milleniums experience levels wealth to zero. It is "killing the goose that laid the golden egg". Hence, it is not "levelling wealth" at all, it is "destroying the means of producing wealth".
Sigh. We are writing an encyclopedia, not engaging in polemic. At least, that's what I'm trying to do. john k 22:10, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Damn, John, we keep agreeing. Nobs: It is a simple matter of historical truth to say that the "mass-based left stood… in its more extreme forms, for an absolute levelling of wealth…" Do I think this would have been a workable policy? No. But that's not the point. The point is that it is an accurate description of a view expressed by people with a certain politics.
I feel that most of the edits of the last week or two are damaging the article, making it less of a scholarly description of what the terms mean or have meant, in short, less of an encyclopedia article. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:43, Jun 23, 2005 (UTC)
It's a matter of explaining what "wealth" is beyond the junior high school level, which that phrase did not even attempt. "Wealth" can be either "current income", which is derived from the employment of capital (the accumulation of past income). Or "wealth" can mean "capital", or "assets", the accummulation of past income. If "wealth" in this context means "assets", that will have an effect on the production of future income, if the assets are consumed and not preserved, to produce future income. Hence, it cannot be labelled, "levelling of wealth", unless by "levelling" you mean "destruction", then that should be clarified. This is more a question of respecting "property rights", or lack thereof, which has been described as one of the primary basis of civilization and civil government.Nobs01 15:07, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Nobs, if all you care about is clarification then why are you making polemical arguments here about how "levelling wealth" is awful? john k 16:22, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Simple answer: the "levelling of wealth" obviously refers to legalized theft. Go ahead and make that simple clarification, please. Nobs01 16:46, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
What does that have to do with writing an encyclopedia article about what (some) leftists believe? john k 17:05, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
"Wealth" simply does not mean income. Period. Yes, it is wealth, not merely income, that some on the most radical left have proposed to level. As for this being theft, well, many of those who advocated this would agree with Proudhon that "Property is theft." (Not, by the way, that Proudhon consistently advocated the abolition of property, despite that aphorism.) -- Jmabel | Talk June 29, 2005 02:00 (UTC)
This needs clarification; are you referring to capital (accummulated "stock" from revenue, as Adam Smith says and Karl Marx calls the means of production, really the same thing), or revenue, the rude produce of production (also called "income"). Capital expropriation denies property rights; revenue expropriation is taxation. Civilized society organizes itself under a government to defend property rights, viewing the accummulation of stock from ones labor as an extension of oneself. Hence Courts of law and police are instituted to respect this. Expropriation of property by government is legalized theft, acting contrary to the established traditions of civilized society. This article uses stale and discredited Marxist rhetoric with the vague terminolgy "leveling of wealth", and denies the past 150 years of human experience. In the Marxist/Socialist scenario, the expropriated capital is consummed, leaving nothing behind to set into motion next years economic cycle. "Leveling", in the sense of an artillery barrage, is more appropriate.Nobs01 29 June 2005 19:29 (UTC)
Could I have been clearer? I am talking about capital, not revenue. I wrote "'Wealth' simply does not mean income. Period." I don't know how I could make it clearer. Your personal disagreement with this politics (or mine) is neither here nor there. We are not writing a manifesto, we are writing an encyclopedia. To paraphrase and reverse Marx, the point here is to describe and perhaps explain the world, not to change it. -- Jmabel | Talk June 30, 2005 15:57 (UTC)
Not to be arguementative, but if the reference is to capital (property, means of production, whatever), then it should say that. Not generic "wealth"). Afterall, we do have 150 years of experience now to put these ideas and this rhetoric into persepective. Even the term equality (referenced three times in the paragraph) is disputable. Nobs01 30 June 2005 16:05 (UTC)

communism advocating the interests of wage earners

This is another problemaic reference which has not been edited or deleted yet but placed here for comment. Communism, as instituted in the Soviet experience, did not "advocate the interest of wage earners" seeing it outlawed "capitalistic exploitation of labor" by disallowing one human being from employing another, i.e. exploiting their labor. No "wage earners" existed in the Soviet Union and no "wages" were paid. Workers were required to fulfill a "work norm" for which they were compensatede with rationing coupons and heroic titles like "Hero Worker". This needs revisionNobs01 03:49, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

  • I would agree that it is not strictly accurate to say that Communism advocated the interests of wage earners, but it would be accurate to say that Communism advocated the interests of the classes that historically relied on earning a wage. Whether, in practice, Communist regimes have ruled in those interests is another matter. Many have, in some degree (for example, Castro's Cuba, whatever else one thinks of it, has certainly brought unprecedented opportunities to Cuba's poor), others have not (as far as I can tell, North Korea is almost indistinguishible from an absolute monarchy, and its effective politics closer to those of Marie Antoinette than Karl Marx). -- Jmabel | Talk 05:50, Jun 23, 2005 (UTC)
    • Soviet workers were not generally recompensed with ration coupons which acted as script, but were generally paid in roubles and kopeks. Ration coupons were issued in times of war (as they were in the West generally), and for a short period in 1918-1921 (see: War Communism). Stakhanovite titles usually included hefty cash or kind payments. Most qualified historians freely admit that wage labour was not abolished in the Soviet Union. Fifelfoo 06:11, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
      • Ah, there's the rub. Nobs is not interested in what qualified historians say, just in advancing his anti-communist polemic. john k 16:16, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
    • So it's now a question of idiom, seeing one person employing another person was illegal; hence the whole idea of "money" changed. One could make the arguement that the entire population, who were not in gulags, somehow remained analgous to the traditional understanding of "wage-earner", because script, "in kind" payments, "waiting lists" and honorary titles did not fully replace "wages" paid in money. However, the incentive of a person who worked for money was clearly subversive Anti-Soviet agitation and jailable, so it's hard to say they were traditional wage-earners.Nobs01 16:43, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Egregious recent edits

Former text: "Although Adolf Hitler in Germany and Winston Churchill in the United Kingdom were both characterized in their own countries as right-wing, there was obviously a tremendous difference between the two leaders' policies, and even their opposition to socialism was expressed in radically different ways." Rewritten as "… and even their understanding of socialism was expressed in radically different ways." This is such a change of meaning as to amount to removal of the original (in my view, entirely valid) statement.

I agree, the original content made a useful point. --Pearlg 09:11, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
An alternative to "understanding of socialism" could be "opposition to Marxian collectivist socialism". Nobs01 15:42, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Ah, I see, you're going for the "Hitler was a Socialist" route. Wonderful. john k 16:27, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Recently added: "The Left-Right theory does not explain how international coalitions come about. For example, the Atlantic Charter which gave birth to NATO, was a statement of common objectives inaugurated by the progressive Franklin Roosevelt and monarchist Tory, Winston Churchill. Nor the common objectives pursued by George H. W. Bush and Shimon Peres of the Isreali Labor Party. Nor the alliance of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, to name only a few from a multitude of examples."

  1. What the heck is "the Left-Right theory"? This is like saying (in U.S. terms) "the Democrat-Republican theory" or (in UK terms) "the Labour-Conservative theory".
  2. "…does not explain how international coalitions come about." Nor does it predict the price of tea, nor who will win the World Cup. So? Did anyone say it did? International coalitions generally come about through coinicidence of interests, not through anything about overtly held views. This is not news.
  3. … and by the way, it's spelled "Israeli".
I agree it is not news. He only seems to be saying that people labeled left and people labeled right by their societies might have common interests and work together. It is definitely sort of "doh" but maybe its a point that deserves mention if only to save a few students from going off the deep-end into fanaticism. Obviously cut the business about "Left-Right theory". "Using a purely left-right dichotomy fails to adequately describe the intricacies of political positions and parties. e.g.... Please see that other article on multi-axis classification" --Pearlg 09:11, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
"People labeled left and people labeled right" supports the basis of the claim made elsewhere on this talk page (in several places) that Left-Right politics is not an independent observation of the political arena but a method used to assign views to persons and groups which they do not hold. It is a method of pigeon-holing stereotypes. Nobs01 14:54, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Recently added: "even if the terms aren't as globally meaningful as they used to be, they remain a convenient tool for indoctination of young minds into Leftist thinking without havig to examine the real issues." Besides the illiterate spelling, this is so POV it's had to express. Can anyone sincerely believe that adding remarks like this is how we build an encyclopedia?

yep. I agree--despite my own personal convictions that "leftism" highjacked and derailed liberalism and in present times people are tricked into believing that the only choices are essentially between social democracy/leftism and totalarianism (from the right)--assuming, that is, that that is actually a choice. e.g., the recent marijuana ruling by the US supreme court as demonstration that liberalism is in fact a third way distinct from social democracy. --Pearlg 09:11, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I'm not editing the article at this time. I've worked hard several times in the past to fix this article; it's someone else's turn. I hope someone will come to this who shows more talent for—and interest in—writing an encyclopedia article than has recently been on display here. -- Jmabel | Talk 06:04, Jun 23, 2005 (UTC)

Alright, this time I'll really try to overhaul the damned thing...let me just get some rest... john k 07:00, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Yeah, I was working a reorganization when these edits started happening. I stopped because I didn't have the time to check what I should be back-porting. What I noticed was that the article was very reptitive. I took it and made a historical section: gave the origin, then usage shortly after the french revolution, then around 1850, then around the turn of the century, the great war, post world-war II, post 1980. then a section on the modern quotes explaining how the terms might or should be used today. In an overall sense, I remember the article being much better a couple of months ago if still somewhat marxist in tone and style. --Pearlg 09:11, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

That sounds like a good approach. Perhaps you could put up what you've done on Left-Right politics/temp or some such, so others can have a look. john k 16:26, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Done. --Pearlg 00:12, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)


I've started a considerable overhaul, trying to revise (and much extend) the historical discussion of the term from the beginnings into the post-1815 period. I'm not finished yet, and currently the transition over to the old text is somewhat awkward. I also fear that I may be over-emphasizing ideological rather than material aspects of the left/right divide. But I think that what I've written is much more in line with contemporary thought on the subject of the early history of left and right than the older text, which was, I think, too heavily influenced by Marxist historiography. At any rate, have at it, please - I don't expect that my version is the best we can do. john k 00:37, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Might I make a suggestions so as to work towards a NPOV; somewhere, beginning in the French Revolution era, the "God question", the overthrow of the Divine Right of Kings, which gave the monarchists & aristocracy it's "legitimate" power, must be dealt with. To flatly ignore the influence of the church in peoples lives, as if the question has been decided and is inconsequential to this article, is POV. I ask this to be considered, please. Thank you. Nobs01 00:52, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)
I certainly wasn't suggesting that this should be "flatly ignored." Certainly the issue of the Church should be dealt with - the issue of the role of the Catholic Church was (and, to an extent, remains) one of the key divisions between left and right in most Catholic countries until quite recently. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to overemphasize this single aspect of things. john k 08:13, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)

clerical interests

"clerical interests" would be the interests of the "clergy", not the Christian body or "church" as a whole; while this is somewhat of an improvement over what existed, the idea of common people who believe in God, as the basis of thier political views (dating from the time of the French Revolution) still is clouded. Nobs01 01:37, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Hmm...I understand where you're coming from, kind of, but I think the interests of the "church as a whole" aren't the same thing as "the idea of common people who believe in God." There were always anti-clericals who believed in God, for instance, and saw themselves as Christian, in spite of seeing themselves as also on the left and opposed to the influence of the clergy. I'd say that the issue of the role of the clergy and the Catholic Church as an institution was always much more important than the issue of belief in God, per se. john k 08:16, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)
You've essentially got; yes the Roman Church has been more politically active than its members. But since this is a discussion about the orgin, history & evolution of ideological divisions, let me lift this quote from the text:
"the focus of ideological differences during the revolution had much more to do with attitudes towards the Revolution itself - whether it was a horror against God and Nature"
the so-called "leftist" elements were born out of the enlightened, atheistic, rationalistic trends that overran entrenced interests and entrenched thinking. What does it mean to be "enlightened"? It means essentially to wake up and realize there is no God, that the monarchy & church were set up to keep poor people & peasants (perhaps wage earners too) down on the farm. This enlightened view of "Leftism" is little changed in 200 years. Two problems (among several) stand out; (1) the rise of the an atheistic right, i.e. fascism; and (2) the failure of African-Americans to embrace aetheism.Nobs01 19:32, 26 Jun 2005 (UTC)

That there is no God? Although there were a few atheists among the leaders of the French Revolution, most were not. Robespierre, for instance, was a deist. An opposition to the Church and to organized religion was much more important than the question of belief in some kind of God, which most leftists (including even many socialists) continued to do until well into the nineteenth century. It may be added that there was not terribly much atheism in the Enlightenment, either. Diderot was an atheist, but few other major philosophes were. Let me add that fascism cannot be defined as an atheistic movement (unlike Marxism, say). Both Italian fascism and German Nazism had enthusiastic support from people who considered themselves to be Christians (including elements of the clergy, especially the protestant clergy in Germany), and there were other forms of fascism which were much more explicitly clerical - in Spain, for instance. Although in many ways fascism attacked some of the basic ideas behind traditional Christian beliefs, and there were certainly atheistic elements to both Italian and German fascism, I don't think it should be described as "an atheistic right." It should be added that given the percentage of the American population who view themselves as atheists or agnostic, there are a lot of non-black non-atheists who are voting for the Democrats. john k 19:49, 26 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I enjoy your analysis and it is concise; however the Deist movement can also be regarded as, what we would call today, a "code word", for something that was utterly unholy & unspeakable in the 1790s. Few upstanding members of any community openly professed atheism, but their challenge to the existing order (political, scientific, literary, academic) in thier "rationalizations" and writings, even today we can read it as an intellectualized atheism. All true what you said about fascism & nazism, but in its final distilled form it certainly does not adhere to traditional orthodox (Protestant or Catholic) Christian doctrine. As to contemporary African-Americans, I have wracked my brain trying to recall anyone openly profess atheism, and have failed. Nonetheless, if the object is to try and develope as clear a line as possible from the French Revolution to today of a "Left" & "Right", I think it may be found (with some deviations) by examining the school of thought known as rationalism (which stereotypically extends to atheism & "enlightened thinking"), or by examining Church/State issues.Nobs01 29 June 2005 02:09 (UTC)
I would agree that the issue of attitudes towards religion has been one of the most consistent issues in terms of left/right politics in the years since the Revolution, although in a rather complicated way. I would dispute that deism is atheism, however. Robespierre came down brutally on "anti-Christian" (atheist) elements, for instance. john k 23:07, 26 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Yes, Robespierre was certainly as opposed to atheism as he was to Roman Catholism, and each had its martyrs to show for it. -- Jmabel | Talk June 29, 2005 02:06 (UTC)
Once again you guys open my eyes. Permit me a digression; I ceased thinking in Left-Right terms years ago with the realization not all political views were ideologically based. But there are broad socio-political movements, some stridently ideological, some born of the practical necessity of the moment, with only an ideological veneer. Individuals can be hard to assign a category. Robespierre may be an excellent example. He opposed leftist anarchy & rightist restoration, yet understood society needed a political foundation. All the moderate-centrists of today would be offended to have Robespierre in their midst, but that's what he may well be, a centrist-terrorist, if there is such a thing, born of the practical necessity of his time (without forgiving him), of recognizing the need for some kind of order, and not being burdened with ideological inconsistencies.Nobs01129.24.60.180 29 June 2005 03:04 (UTC)
The interesting thing about "centers" during the French Revolution - Robespierre, and later the Thermidorians and ultimately Bonaparte - is that they were just as intolerant of dissent and disagreement as the left and the right. In the end everyone involved in the French Revolution proved to be fundamentally interesting phenomenon. I would suggest, though, that the fact that Robespierre occupied a middle ground in the politics of 1793-1794 does not say much about the nature of the center in other times and places. john k 29 June 2005 03:26 (UTC)
I would add that Robespierre was a fundamentally ideological man - it's just that the ideology that he held is not one which much outlived him. Even later "Jacobins" often looked back more to Danton than to Robespierre, and the (quasi-)Marxists who did idealize Robespierre were quite far from Robespierre's own views. john k 29 June 2005 03:28 (UTC)
Robespierre was certainly left of center, but once the Terror got under way, he was just as murderous toward those farther to his left as toward those to his right. -- Jmabel | Talk June 30, 2005 17:06 (UTC)


But there is trouble assigning a label to persons. Another example: the NRA is commonly referred to as "right-wing". They may actually just be a group of assorted individuals who banded together of practical necessity believing they were being targeted by others who had an ideology. Whatever "ideological" coloring the NRA has, was installed after they responded to the situation they found themselves in; and it can be argued they are made up of Democrats, Republicans, Christians, atheists, Leftists, Rightists etc etc etc. Nobs01 29 June 2005 03:37 (UTC)
I think this is questionable. While the issue of guns, in general, is not one which is, per se, on the left or the right, I think it's clear that, as an organization, the NRA is pretty far to the right, and is mostly composed of people who are pretty far to the right. john k 29 June 2005 03:47 (UTC)
Um, what exactly are you calling "right". I'd assert the NRA has a large number of classical liberals. I'd also a assert they have have a large number of social puritans and majoritarians. --Pearlg 29 June 2005 06:54 (UTC)
The leadership of the NRA uses the rhetoric of the militia movements and the like. That is, I think, far right by any standards. The membership of the NRA is obviously more varied. I have no idea what a social puritan or a majoritarian is. john k 29 June 2005 16:12 (UTC)
See Majoritarianism. I get about 28,000 hits on google for the word. Recent usage in public discourse: [1]. Point of reference: Randy Barnett was the solicitor on behalf of Raich. -- 30 June 2005 20:37 (UTC)
I should have said "I have no idea what a social puritan or a majoritarian is in the context of the political leanings of members of the NRA." john k 30 June 2005 22:34 (UTC)
The NRA 25 or more years ago was not particularly an ideological organization (and much of their membership base still reflects that), but their leadership clearly cast its lot with the Right around 1980. It wouldn't astound me if that changed again: just as the fact that the US currently has an elected government that tilts to the right does not necessarily mean that the citezenry are all rightists. -- Jmabel | Talk June 30, 2005 17:06 (UTC)
The fear of being bobbittized has no ideological basis, but can be a potent political force.Nobs01 30 June 2005 19:31 (UTC)
Put in context,I've discarded the Left-Right theory decades ago, because it assumes all political views are ideological in origin. Some political views, actions, etc have no ideological basis, and thus cannot be classified as Left-Right. I use the NRA as an example; while NRA publishes literature on the Constitution, etc, this is cosmetic, and not a requirement; and most probably was added as a recruitment tool for persons more ideologically inclined. Their only "ideology" is of being victims of idealists who wanna take their guns away. There really is nothing Liberal-Conservative-Moderate about it, and none of those labels are required for membership. Yet the wiki article says "sometimes considered to be the most powerful single organization in the United States".Nobs01 29 June 2005 16:48 (UTC)


I just gave the article a serious kick in the behind, but it still needs alot of work. We;ve got plenty of info about the origins of left and right in france, that section is great. What we don't have is a useful and coherant explanation of left right politics today. What is missing? Only the DOMINANT form of politics... Neoliberalism, neoconservatism, and globalism. Personally, I see the Left-Right politics as a false dichotomy dividing the ignorant voters over contentious issues (like abortion or the iraq war) while the ruling parties steam roll their Neoliberal, globalist pro-corporate agenda thru. You may not agree w me on that, but you've got to see how the lack of discussion of Neoliberalism, neoconservatism, and globalism is a severe deficit for the article. ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 16:37, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Except that issues like abortion or the Iraq war have very little to do with traditional left/right distinctions. I do agree that these kind of current issues need some discussion. Of course, globalization has its critics on both left and right. john k 16:57, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Certainly, these issues create very strange bedfellows indeed, just see International third position, or consider the extreme anti-U.N. sentiment of both U.S. Militias and anarchist antiglobalist protestors... Abortion and the Iraq war were only examples relevant to people I know, there are as many examples as their are political machinations behind them. This is no simple subject, w hard and fast rules, but rather a window into the very science of lying ;) ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 17:28, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Hitler opposed socialism?

I think he, and the National Socialist German Workers Party would disagree, along with Hayek and many others. Lets just stick w anti-communism, something everybody (even you, from your edit summary) agree with. ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 29 June 2005 15:54 (UTC)

Oh, quit it Sam. How many times do you want to lose this freaking argument? john k 29 June 2005 16:11 (UTC)
Hitler was strongly opposed to any marxist ideology, he was a German Aryan nationalist, not a socialist. He even hated the Social Democrats that were in office prior to him taking over. So saying that "He, and the national socialist german workers party would disagree" clearly shows a misunderstanding of what the Nazis and what Hitler stood for. Hitler and Mussollini were in fact right wingers. xcurefiend 03 October 2006 (UTC)
To quote the NSGWP page... "Unlike some other party members, Hitler was not interested in the “socialist” aspect of the national socialist doctrine. Himself of provincial lower-middle-class origins, he disliked the mass working class of the big cities, and had no sympathy with the notions of attacking private property or the business class which some early Nazis espoused. For Hitler the twin goals of the party were always German nationalist expansionism and anti-Semitism." I don't care what the Nazis started as. By the time Hitler was in command, they were anything but Socialist. User:Drunk_on_life September 12, 2006, over a year after the remark it replies to

Never? ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 29 June 2005 16:42 (UTC)

Too late for that. john k 30 June 2005 18:59 (UTC)

Certainly under the logic of "The Theory of socialism and capitalism : economics, politics, and ethics" by Hans-Hermann Hoppe Nazi germany merely experimented with what was effectively a variant of socialism--disavowal of marxist rhetoric aside. Its not what you say or pontificate, its what you do. Socialism is most consistently the belief that the organization and allocation of production should be a political question--and that is precisely the enterprise Hitler et al undertook. --Pearlg 30 June 2005 20:48 (UTC)

That is not what socialism is, by any definition I have ever seen. By that standard, mercantilism was a form of socialism. Any definition of socialism which is that broad is completely worthless. john k 30 June 2005 21:10 (UTC)

Denying the Socialist roots of Nazism is deeply Anglocentric and goes back to the 1930s; one must rely on German texts. All the socially progressive doctrines are papered over, for example gays in the military, when top nazi's who assisted Hitler's rise to power, like Capt. Ernst Rohm, were openly gay. Or the fact that socially progressive Germany had its first Catholic head of state (Hitler) nearly 30 years before the United States (John F. Kennedy).Nobs01 30 June 2005 21:36 (UTC)
Huh, I thought that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation had Catholic heads of state for centuries. And that the Germanic Confederation was presided over by a Catholic for its entire existence. Plus, the modern state of Germany had a Catholic head of government in 1894 (Prince Hohenlohe). Which, given the fact that Germany was a monarchy with a protestant dynasty for 47 of the 63 years of its existence prior to Hitler becoming head of state, is probably a more useful thing to look into [ETA: Plus, Hitler was not a practicing Catholic at any point in his political career]. The gays in the military claim is patently ridiculous - and the idea that Röhm was "openly gay" in the modern sense is also ridiculous - it was widely known that he was a homosexual, but it's not as though he'd walk down the street holding hands with his partner, or take him to Christmas parties. As to anglocentrism, I have no idea what you're talking about. It is only in the English-speaking world that Hitler and Nazism are ever accused of being socialist, and largely because the Anglophone world doesn't have much real experience with the style of right wing extremism out of which Hitler arose. john k 30 June 2005 22:25 (UTC)
The reference is to a Catholic being elected in a modern constitutional democracy, which didn't happen in the United States til 1960 (and (1) not without some controversy (2) has not happened since). Nobs01 1 July 2005 00:14 (UTC)
Hitler was not elected head of state of a modern constitutional democracy. He became head of state after Hindenburg's death in 1934, when he'd already been dictator for more than a year. He was not the first Catholic Chancellor, either, even assuming we define him to be Catholic - that honor falls to Centre Party leader Konstantin Fehrenbach, who became Chancellor in 1920. Other Catholic Weimar chancellors include Joseph Wirth, Wilhelm Cuno, Wilhelm Marx, Heinrich Brüning, and Franz von Papen - about half of the Weimar chancellors. john k 1 July 2005 05:22 (UTC)
Apparently you don't understand Socialism then. And we can debate what you think Mercantalism means. If it merely means a policy of encouraging positive gold-transfer-balances then I disagree. If you have sort of a "merchantism" idea, then I agree it is a form of socialism, but then it is also a specific idea, much like communism or russian socialism is a specific form of socialism and social-democracy is a specific form of socialism. In any event, you've seen the definition now. You can read Hoppe's take on it (google will lead you to his book in electronic form). He goes so far as to say that feudalism is a form of socialism--far from being "unless" such an idea reframes the debate into the perspective of liberalism. --Pearlg 30 June 2005 22:16 (UTC)
Well, then, he's a crackpot. No responsible scholar believes that socialism means the same thing as "everything which is not laissez-faire liberalism." john k 30 June 2005 22:25 (UTC)
Way to go with an ad hominem attack. Perhaps you can break through the mold for a moment and realize how this is the classic linguistic debate as to whether words should be used historically or systematically--which ironically is what this entire article is about. Anyways, he isn't a crackpot. He's a professor of economics at the University of Nevada. Perhaps you should restrict yourself to arguing that it is a fallacy to draw an emotional connection between the nazis being socialist and socialism itself per se. --Pearlg 30 June 2005 23:45 (UTC
Exactly. The left has long set the debate between "left" and "right", and ever since nazism became a charicature of evil, they have placed it on the "right". I wish the article could explain "left right politics" for the false dichotomy / straw man that it is... hard to do that and still be NPOV tho, which is why I havn't yet... ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 30 June 2005 23:49 (UTC)

Hear hear!

Nazism was placed on the right well before it was seen as a caricature of evil. Socialists and Communists throughout Europe placed it on the right well before its accession to power. But that was not all. The German Right embraced Nazism, and welcomed it as a good-hearted, if perhaps over-exuberant, example of national renewal. Mussolini called his own movement a right wing one, and the racialist ideas of Nazism are even more obviously right wing than Mussolini's ideology. john k 1 July 2005 05:36 (UTC)
Nazism was placed on the right by communists and socialists because they were closer to the centre than communists and socialists were, yet STILL on the left wing. Although they certainly were not pure socialists, to analyze their economic policies that they implemented (including bans on firing workers and welfare programs) can not by any definition be defined right wing. Another false reason that Nazism is considered right wing because of is because of Hitlers opposition to Stalin, political infighting on the 'left' has a long history. Hitler (eventually, after the temporary pact 1939-1941) opposed Stalin and the communists not because he opposed all of their ideology, but because he equated communism with jewishness. To him, Bolshevism served only the agenda of the Jews. Also, I would challenge the view Hitler was a racist, I believe that 'supremacist' is a better term, because Jewishness is not defined by race (even though Hitler did). Jews are semites, as are Palestineans (which makes another argument/discussion quite interesting, if you consider it). Saying one is left or right doesn't actually make it so. It's what you eventually do that defines you. And neither racism nor nationalism can be placed anywhere in the classical left-right dichotomy. Racism is placed on the right by the radical left so that the radical left can justify it's own radical agenda. They can say, our programme is good because we are anti-racism. Henry Morgenthau said after WW II that the new fascists would call themselves anti-fascists. And what group these days is more intolerant of other views than theirs than the radical left? --Marcel1975 10:52:03, 2005-08-27 (UTC)
Ah, yes, socialists and communists like FDR. Oh, and Hitler wasn't a racist: his conception of Aryans had nothing to do with race, and he was soooo thrilled when Jesse Owens won at the 1936 Olympics. -- Jmabel | Talk 17:07, August 28, 2005 (UTC)

And for an answer to John k's false claims of victory and offhanded dismissal of the argument against him, see Talk:Socialism_and_Nazism and its many archives, Talk:Nazism/Revolutionary not Reactionary, and Talk:Nazi_Germany#Socialist_in_name_only, the list goes on and on... The frank truth is, you've never won, and never could, given honest debate and access to the facts. I've stepped back from Fascism for the nonce, due to a mediation, but in time I'll be restoring the following section there:

God help begins again. john k 30 June 2005 22:25 (UTC)

It's funny that the right-wingers who think the fascism was placed on the right after fascism was viewed as evil are now trying to place fascism on the left for the same reason. =) Anyway, fascists have defined fascism as a right-wing ideology. Are self-definitions always correct? No, but they do have a wide degree of validity and truth in them. --Armaetin (talk) 19:13, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

As I recall Hitler defined his ideology as opposed to liberalism and the free market, emphasizing state control of both the individual and society. That certainly is not enough to make it marxist but is enough to make it left-wing. Agrofelipe (talk) 16:02, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Sigh. By this logic the mercantalists were "left-wing" and the free market classical liberals were "right wing." This is an inversion of the historical political traditions in which these ideologies developed. In terms of Left and Right, National Socialism contained aspects traditionally associated with both sides. The notions of Left and Right, with its origins in the French Revolution, only really makes sense in characterizing factions in liberal democratic regimes. PStrait (talk) 22:08, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Well classic liberalism, as the ideology that supported individual liberty and free market capitalism, by any definition is right-wing. If you want to dispute that be my guess.

Now on mercantilism, as a state policy it certainly has a a lot to do with the left-wing, granted its origins were much previous to Marx, it shares with socialism the idea of the regulation and control of commerce by the means of political barriers that empower certain state monopolies. One could argue that socialism is nothing more than a backwards form of mercantilism, which is by the way the view of great economists and thinkers like Mises and Hayek.

Now if you think that Nazim contains aspects of "both sides", then why associate it with the "extreme-right"? doesnt that strike you as a little odd? Agrofelipe (talk) 02:38, 28 September 2009 (UTC)

Fascism and socialism

The adoption of this term by the Fascist Party reflected the previous involvement of a number of them in radical left politics. (See Fascio for more on this movement and its evolution.)

Fascism developed as a fascio, a form of radical socialism. While opposing communism and social democracy, fascism was rooted in radical leftist philosophy, including the theories of those such as Gabriele D'Annunzio (a former anarchist), Alceste de Ambris (influenced by anarcho-syndicalism) or former socialist Benito Mussolini.

The role of the state is sometimes said to be an example of potential conflict:

Marxism considers the state to be merely a "tool of the people," sometimes calling it a "necessary evil," which exists to serve the interests of the people and to protect the common good. Ultimately, according to Marxists, the state will "whither away" to be replaced by a truly communist society. Certain forms of libertarian socialism reject the state altogether. Fascism however holds the state to be an end in and of itself (see also statism).

Friedrich Hayek argues that the differences between fascism and totalitarian forms of socialism (see Stalinism) are rhetorical rather than actual.

Hannah Arendt asserts that fascism, Nazism and Stalinism are all forms of totalitarianism, and that "totalitarian movements use socialism and racism by emptying them of their utilitarian content, the interests of a class or nation." (The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, page 348).

Fascism rejects Marxism and the concept of class struggle in favor of corporatism. It is also noted that, contrary to the practice of socialist states, fascist Italy did not nationalize any industries or capitalist entities. Rather, it established a corporatist structure influenced by the model for class relations put forward by the Catholic Church. (For more on the influence of Catholicism on fascism see links between the clergy and fascist parties.)

Fascists rejected categorization as left or right-wing, claiming to be a "third force" (see international third position and political spectrum for more information).

Most of this information is present in the fascism article, even today. It has merely been rearranged so as to be less coherant for our unfortunate readers. You can blame wikipedia's leftist "Ministry of Truth" for that one. ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 30 June 2005 21:46 (UTC)

So it's come to this. Sam is channeling WHEELER. AndyL 30 June 2005 22:31 (UTC)

Ahahahahahahahahaha! Dammit, you two... we may not agree on much, but your funny as hell, I'll give you that. I appreciate the humor, I really do. Thanks, ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 30 June 2005 23:41 (UTC)

Hannah Arendt certainly does not argue that Nazism is a kind of socialism. According to Arendt, Communists use marxian socialism, and Nazis use racism, in much the same way as the ideological foundation to their totalitarianism. Both movements are totalitarian, but communism is socialist totalitarianism, while nazism is racist totalitarianism. I personally find totalitarianism theory to be over-simplified, but even it isn't arguing that fascism was socialist. john k 1 July 2005 05:39 (UTC)

As to fascism rejecting the label of right wing - it is true that fascists sometimes did this. At other times, Fascists were perfectly willing to declare themselves to be on the right. Mussolini did. Hitler certainly stole a huge quantity of his rhetoric from the traditional German right. And so forth. john k 1 July 2005 05:41 (UTC)

I will be glad to discuss Nazism's anti-aristocratic underpinings, and how, as the an American Encyclopedia states "espoused the virtues of the lower middle class", but it will have to wait til tomorrow. thxNobs01 1 July 2005 05:57 (UTC)

Perhaps I can get some assistance; reading throught the various theoretical doctrines of Old Right, paleoconservatives, paleolibertarians, neoconservativism, and other theoretical polemics in wikipedia about what non-conservatives think conservativism is, I am finding it difficult to place Robert LaFollette, Jr. in any of the categories. Of coarse his biographers conveniently left off his isolationism and the fact that he was a founding member of the pro-Nazi (as the wiki article suggests) America First Committee, or that he had 4 CPUSA members working on his subcommittee staff at one time or another (which he disavowed immediately after his election loss). I would like to dismiss him as a kook, but being from Wisconsin, the birthplace of the GOP, makes him significant. Nobs01 4 July 2005 23:02 (UTC)

  • Without trying to address all of this: America First were not specifically pro-Nazi. They were isolationist; in this particular case that may have served the interests of the Nazis, and some doubtless joined the group for that reason; the degree to which this was a factor is certainly in dispute; but saying that all America Firsters were pro-Nazi is a bit akin to saying that all opposed to the Gulf War were pro-Saddam (although I suspect that there were probably more Nazi sympathizers, or at least Fascist sympathizers in America First than there were Saddam sympathizers in recent anti-War movements). There was a lot of difference between America First and the German American Bund. -- Jmabel | Talk July 5, 2005 15:35 (UTC)

To wiki's credit, the America First article handles the subject very well. So, can we safely say that the America First Committee itself is another good example of the fallacy of the Left-Right Spectrum Theory, and that many so-called "moderates" and Progressives have been smeared with the charge of being pro-Nazi. And this is not a dead issue, seeing it was recently ressurected against Pat Buchanan. Nobs01 5 July 2005 16:02 (UTC)

Of course many progressive were in America First, and did not sympathize with the Nazis. LaFollette was not a conservative, either. As to Pat Buchanan, I must say it's a rather different matter to have been an isolationist in 1939-1941 than it is to now say that the isolationists were right. john k 5 July 2005 18:10 (UTC)

Very interesting, cause right+wing+america+first brings up 9,970,000 google hits (hell, lets just say 10 million). Similiarly the isolationist movement that opposes the current Iraqi opperation differs from the "Left-wing" opponents of Iraqi democracy and human rights in 2003, who infact, actively took to the streets to preserve the fascist Iraqi regime. On a question of clarity, when you state

different matter to have been an isolationist in 1939-1941 than it is to now say that the isolationists were right.,

does that refer to "right" as in "right-wing", or right, as in a correct moral judgement?Nobs01 5 July 2005 18:30 (UTC)

the latter. john k 6 July 2005 02:49 (UTC)

Socialism has a wide range of definitions, as do left and right. Generally they are defined arbitrailly by the person using them, and thus they are particularly unhelpful terms in honest debate. ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 6 July 2005 02:53 (UTC)
Yes, people like to sort things into categories, which is probably the true origin of "left" and "right." By general consensus, though, Hitler was a right-winger. He persecuted the left and used anyone who sympathized with the left as scapegoats. However, that does not mean dictators never come from the left. Hitler, Mussolini, and Saddam Hussein are some examples of rightist authoritarians. Stalin, Mao, and Kim Jong-il are some examples of leftist totalitarians. In my opinion, there are many more rightist dictators than leftist dictators, but the main reason for that is that leftists (aside from Stalin and Mao, who were very good at brainwashing people) are more inexperienced at controlling the masses. Over time, the number of leftist and rightist dictators should come out to be about equal once leftist get mastery over the art of propaganda. --Armaetin 00:01, 23 March 2007 (UTC)
FWIW, I don't see Saddam as particularly left or right. He was an almost complete opportunist, who temporarily embraced whatever ideology (including both secularism and Islam) suited his needs of the moment. - Jmabel | Talk 01:00, 11 April 2007 (UTC)
Baathism in all its forms, I think, is difficult to clarssify on a traditional left-right spectrum. john k 02:33, 11 April 2007 (UTC)


Anons' intro was a little dense but there is material to work with there, like the emotional attachment thing. Nobs01 2 July 2005 02:18 (UTC)

The problem is that it says nothing at all about the substantive issues that are normally taken to define left and right, or about which groups are normally considered to be on the right and which on the left. It is the introduction to an essay, not an encyclopedia article. john k 2 July 2005 02:23 (UTC)

Well, if the idea can be communicated that "left" & "right" are merely descriptive terms for more complex issues, and not things in themselves that a student should use as a starting point, that could be a good start. Nobs01 2 July 2005 02:27 (UTC)

But was it inaccurate or mere dicta? I don't think so. It seems to me that the "substantive issues" normally taken to define left and right can be explained in the main body of the article. It will be impossible to summarize them all properly in the opening, and placing only some of the specific ideas in the introduction would likely easily lead to POV problems. For example: consider how Justice O'Connor's and Thomas's--moderate "right-wing" and "right-wing" justices--dissents in Kelo reflect on whatever modern, simple, off the cuff definitions you could give in the introduction. Nor can you simply give the historical context of the French revolution as it is surely misleading in the modern context to associate "right-wing" with monarchists and "left-wing" with classical liberalism or the whole host of French revolutionary characters: Robespierre, Brissot, etc. There are complex relationships, and they should be hashed out in detail within the article, not burnished into simplicity as would be necessary for the opening. --Stefanbojark 2 July 2005 03:11 (UTC)

Associating right wing with monarchists and the left wing with socialists would be a perfectly appropriate starting point. That Socialism is on the left and Reaction on the right is hardly controversial, and still bears some relevance in defining the terms at present. An introduction which makes no effort at all to explain how the terms are actually used, but just includes a lot of vague discussion of how it's hard to define how the terms are used is pointless. john k 2 July 2005 14:58 (UTC)

To reintroduce my arguement, the "right" during the French Revolution should not be exclusively associated with monarchists, but with the church too; let's call it "established order", or "existing order", or "status quo".Nobs01 2 July 2005 18:07 (UTC)

I wasn't so much referring to the French Revolution, per se, as to the classic, mid-19th century continental political spectrum. But, yes, mentioning the Church is appropriate in that context. john k 2 July 2005 21:17 (UTC)

Yeah, I agree john. Though I find it unfortunate that you linked to that Reactionary article which is a rather severe piece of POV masquerading as if it belonged on the wiki. Reactionary is and has always been merely an epithet in political discourse. It traces back to Marxist propoganda and was selected to imply that opponents of marxism were unthinking, merely reflexive. OED gives the earliest usage as 1840. --Pearlg 3 July 2005 08:05 (UTC)

1840 would make the term pre-Marxist and I suspect you're only looking at its entry into the English language. What does the OED entry actually say?AndyL 3 July 2005 16:26 (UTC)

It is a term used by historians. Michael Broers uses it in his Europe after Napoleon to refer to the extreme right wing in various European countries - generally aristocratic elements who genuinely want to turn back the clock to before the Revolution - to the extent of favoring old aristocratic Estates, and so forth. They are contrasted by Broers with conservatives, who also favor the traditional monarchies, but are more concerned with centralizing power in the hands of the monarch. The "Ultras" in France would, I think, mostly qualify as reactionaries under this definition. The first reference in the OED, by the way, is to a quote by John Stuart Mill. However, what should really be looked at is the word "Reaction." The first reference in the OED to the political meaning of "reaction" is Arthur Young's Travels in France, which was published in 1792. Other early references include one by Walter Scott. john k 3 July 2005 16:40 (UTC)

Well, Broers is either blindly or knowingly making use of a line of propoganda. That's the trouble with things, eventually some people buy into the usage as more than it actually was. And as we've seen in our discussions here, such citation as you make are not entirely convincing. Anyways, surely you will recognize that calling something "a reaction" is not the same as calling them "reactionary". If you look at the usage (for reaction) cited by the OED, you see a steady march toward usage in propoganda. The 1792 usage you cite, reads like something out of adam smith (1776): he could just as well be talking about the invisible hand. In all it simply does not jive with the supposed systematic and objective view given by the Reactionary article. --Pearlg 3 July 2005 19:09 (UTC)
Yes, but Marxists and socialists of today can be be considered reactionary; they wish to turn back the clock to the good old days of seeing the world through a left-right prism, including stale, discredited left-right rhetoric (the "rich", "have & have nots", etc etc etc) and ignore the reality of a post-Cold War era. One of the sad legacies of the Cold War is that an entire generation has been raised to view Capitalism as an ideology, when in fact in never has been. This is truely a reactionary view.Nobs01 3 July 2005 19:45 (UTC)
This is worse than useless to the topic at hand. john k 3 July 2005 21:05 (UTC)

Pearl, Broers is not making use of a line of propaganda. He is using a readily available term to describe a very specific political ideology which was common in the early 19th century. There is not, so far as I am aware, any other obvious term to refer to these people by - Conservative is clearly not a propos. I agree that Young's reference is a bit vague - I have no idea what the connection to Adam Smith is, though. The Walter Scott usage, though, is clearly to a proper noun and it dates to 1816, exactly the period Broers is talking about. It is true (and our article acknowledges) that the term is generally used as a term of abuse. I don't think this is necessarily dispositive when we have no other term at hand to describe a specific group. The terms "Whig" and "Tory" also began as terms of abuse. I agree that Marxism has given the word a much broader spin than the rather circumscribed early 19th century meaning (or certainly than the very circumscribed definition Broers uses), and the original definition is certainly obsolete, because the question of whether the Old Regime should be restored is simply not an important political question in any European country at present. But that doesn't mean that the whole term is one only used in marxist propaganda. How would you describe the ideology of the French ultras, of Pope Gregory XVI, of Charles Felix of Sardinia, of the former Imperial Knights, of Chateaubriand, and so forth? john k 3 July 2005 21:05 (UTC)

freedom from coercion

Sam Spade: What is taxation if not coersion? Conservatives recognize the necessity of coersive taxes, yet oppose excessive taxes. Hence the necessity of some limited coersion is within conservative doctrine. Nobs01 6 July 2005 01:27 (UTC)

I was thinking of real rightwingers (Libertarians and paleoconservatives), not neoconservatives, who are pretty much the inverse of "conservative" ;) These terms all suck, what is conservative in todays world? ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 6 July 2005 02:57 (UTC)

The economic conservatives who complain about high taxation predate the New Deal and have long been the backbone of the GOP; what separates them from the conservatives of yesteryore is a conversion from protectionism (which spawned the Great Depression) to free trade policies, and the famous conversion of Republican Internationalists, beginning with Sen. Arthur Vandenberg supporting the United Nations Charter in 1945, and then President Eisenhower, perhaps the most famous Republican Internationalist of all. This ended traditional, conservative, isolationism (except for Pat Buchanan and anti-Iraqi war protestors of today). All this neo-conservative crap, is crap; because new-conservativism, i.e. the end of isolationism and Republican support of FDR's and Truman's activist, interventionist foreign policy began in 1945. "Neo-conservative" is perhaps the most disabused, and least understood term of the past 10 years.Nobs01 6 July 2005 03:24 (UTC)

Left / right, call them what you will, the repubocrats agree on 2 things: raising taxes and reducing freedom. ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 6 July 2005 03:34 (UTC):

footnote to above posting: thers is no wiki article on foreign intervenionism or military interventionism, which is the context in which this is spoken. those article may be sorely needed. The reference to Republican support for containment was also called "interventionist".

In the above, foreign intervenionism should presumably be foreign interventionism.

The remark associating Negative liberty or "freedom from coercion" with the right seems to me to be utterly wrong. Historically, the original "Right", the supporters of the ancien régime, were hardly supporters of any sort of liberty, except that of the king, the artistocracy, and the upper clergy. In many countries at many times, the police and military—agents par excellence of coercion—are strongly associated with the Right. In the U.S., freedom from coercion is a major principle of the ACLU, which is hardly a rightist organization. Libertarians certainly do uphold this principle, but most of them would argue that in many non-economic areas this is exactly why they do not consider themselves part of the right. In fact, while I'm not a Libertarian, one thing where I do think they have it right is their claim that the U.S. Right tends to be laissez faire in economic matters and regulatory in matters they deem to be "moral", and that the Left tends to be laissez faire in these "moral" issues, but more regulatory in the economic realm. Accordingly, I am removing this change in the article. -- Jmabel | Talk July 7, 2005 04:14 (UTC)

Yes, I agree with Jmabel. I will note, though, that some strains of reactionary types were very concerned with the "traditional liberties" enjoyed by corporate bodies - whether it be estates of the nobility, or the liberties of town corporations, or guild rules, or the Church (quite frequently) or whatever. In fact, the transition between liberties as corporate privileges and liberty as an abstract right was very much what the French Revolution was about, so it stands to reason that the theorists of reaction, in particular, would look back to the older conception. This proved almost completely unworkable, though (I can't think of any country where this variety of reactionary was actually successful in achieving their goals, except perhaps Piedmont-Sardinia for a while), and had pretty much died out by 1848. It did have resurgences, though. Very often, liberals (on the center-left) and conservatives (on the center-right) were quite agreed that these things had to go. john k 7 July 2005 04:29 (UTC)

Let me associate myself with both your comments. There does seem to be a conflict between individual freedom and coersion, yet the very existence of governmenal powers rest on coersive taxation (all taxation is coersive). Conservatives fear the unrestrained coersive powers of government. Anarchists & libertarians may speak openly of "opposing coersion", but in a conservative context, (like their law abiding liberal friends) believe in limiting the coersive powers of government. Best to either just leave the whole idea alone, or go into a big discussion about the coersive powers of government vis-a-vis individual liberty.Nobs01 7 July 2005 04:43 (UTC)

P.S. "ancien régime" is a very good term, takes in monarchy, aristocracy & church.Nobs01 7 July 2005 04:47 (UTC)

Certainly though there are people--such as professor hans-hoppe--who claim that left-right measures freedom from coercion. With opposition to coercion increasing as you go Right. This is also the defining element of the Republican party in most Western states. The only flaw would be suggesting this is a traditional meaning. Nonetheless it does characterize some parts of the self-identified right and deserves mention. --Pearlg 7 July 2005 08:33 (UTC)

That is valid put it in the proper context; the word "coersion" cannot stand by itself in this article, it needs full treatment as a concept of "limited coersion", or "coersive powers of government", which then extends Left-Right politcs far beyond its limited scope. Those ideas would recieve more fair treatment in all the various so-called "right wing", conservative, neoconservative, articles of which wiki has many. Also, Anarchism is perhaps the ultimate form of "opposition to coersion", and I'm sure anarchism itself can be placed on a left-right scale, though most articles claim the majority of anarchists are so-called "leftists" (which, personally I view as more evidence to dispute the entire validity of the Left/Right Spectrum Theory). Nobs01 7 July 2005 14:30 (UTC)
  1. There is no "s" in "coercion".
  2. Following up on John Kenney's remark: this Rightist concept of "traditional liberties" of certain entities played out in interesting ways in Spanish history, with the Carlists during the wars of the 19th century simultaneously upholding royal absolutism over Castilla, Andalucia, León, etc., while simultaneously upholding the traditional fueros of the Basques and Catalans. The result was that many Catalans and (especially) Basques who had allied with the Right pretty much until 1900, ended up—without really changing their views on what they wanted for their own region—allied with the Spanish Left, mostly by 1920, and certainly by the time of the Spanish Civil War. That is, they shifted from a right-wing defense of their specific regional/ethnic liberties to a more universalist notion that would grant comparable liberties to the people of the rest of Spain. Probably something about that (with citations, which I do not have at hand) belongs in the article. Certainly, John is right to emphasize this difference between the ancien régime notion of specific liberties granted by charter and the late 18th century notion of "rights of man", and that this is historically relevant to a left/right distinction. -- Jmabel | Talk July 8, 2005 06:24 (UTC)

"The Republican party in most Western states"? Do you have any idea what you're talking about? As far as the parties of the right in European states, this is pretty dubious - they're all pretty much for more coercion on cultural/moral issues, but hardcore neoliberal/laissez faire economics are hardly universal - the FDP in Germany perhaps favors them, but the CDU, the main party of the right, generally does not. Among the various French conservative groupings, the neoliberal strand is only one of several - there's a christian democratic strand represented by the UDF, which certainly doesn't fit the model, and the bonapartist/populist/Gaullist strand doesn't really either. And the whole idea that neoliberal economics="freedom from economic coercion by the government" is a deeply POV statement - I think I will speak for most of us who are left of center when I say that I do not accept any conception which defines the existence of a social welfare system as "an exercise of the coercive power of the state" as a valid description of my views on the role of government. And historically, of course, the whole thing is nonsense. How does government stepping in to crush strikes at the turn of the last century fit into this model? There are numerous ways in which the government can use its coercive powers in economic matters for the benefit of what is traditionally seen to be the right. And I would suspect that, historically, over the course of the last two centuries, the coercive power of the state has been applied much more frequently by the right against the left than vice versa. john k 8 July 2005 06:42 (UTC)

Yes you know, such as the State of Arizona. Have you ever been there? Do you know many people from there? I do.
I don't doubt that you don't view welfare policies as coercion, but. alas John, that's because you don't understand your own policies. As for strike breaking, the proper phrase is combating "illegal combinations in restraint of trade". There is not one lick of difference between union monopolizations and other monopolizations, and monopoly is the FIRST act of coercion in those cases--indeed John, it isn't simply coercion from the government, it's from society. The standard libertarian principle is that the government can only use coercion to fight coercion not that the government mustn't coerce at all. --Pearlg 8 July 2005 12:46 (UTC)
I don't doubt that this is what libertarians believe. I do doubt that we should present libertarian POV as the objective truth. And please don't patronize me - just because we disagree does not mean that I do not understand my own political views. john k 8 July 2005 15:10 (UTC)

Joe - Carlists in Spain are a good example of what I was talking about - possibly the best example of a really vigorous ultra-reactionary political movement. At any rate, I think part of the problem here is that both the traditional right and the fascist right have lost so badly that, since 1945, their ideas are practically beyond the pale of contemporary political discourse (although both, I think, still exist to some extent - there are still a few monarchists in the Vendée or some backwoods parts of Bavaria, and there are a disconcerting number of neo-fascists in many European countries). Thus, the (American, primarily) right today is able to embrace liberalism and claim that the great enemy of liberalism is and always has been the left. john k 8 July 2005 06:42 (UTC)

BTW, the privilege article could use some real work - another thing for my to-do list. john k 8 July 2005 06:44 (UTC)

So a social welfare "system" achieved through the angels of our better nature rather than coercive taxation is the aim of those "left of center". How poetic! Nobs01 8 July 2005 14:58 (UTC)
I said nothing of the kind. What I will say is that those on the left of center aren't obsessed with the idea that any state action is "coercion." This is a particularly libertarian fixation. I also love the double standard whereby progressive taxation is "coercion," but the government using the army to crush strikes is just a necessary activity to prevent monopolies. Sigh. Basic point here: we should not present libertarian POV as fact. I don't care if you believe libertarian nonsense, and I will make no attempt to change your mind, as I figure that would be completely futile. But I will insist that the article not present what is, in essence, a fringe POV rejected by the vast majority of people both left and right (despite its vast overrepresentation among people on the internet) as though it is the objective truth. john k 8 July 2005 15:10 (UTC)
I am in agreement about the article presenting libertarian POV as fact; let me restate, conservative doctrine accepts a notion of "limited coercion" as a necessary evil to a civilized society, i.e. limited coercive taxation must be allowed to support police, military, civil service etc. This does not conflict with many who consider themselves "left of center". Where you and I may disagree, john, is that payment of those taxes, and what conservatives may deem excessive coercion, certainly is not done (in most instances, at least from those of modest means) from a kind and benevolent willing heart. Nobs01 8 July 2005 15:19 (UTC)
I suppose that, at some level, one could argue that all government authority is "coercion," but I'm not sure what the usefulness of this is. While the threat of coercion is perhaps necessary to insure that laws are carried out, I would submit that most people do not follow laws simply because of the fear of government coercion. Do you really think that most people, if asked, will say "I only pay taxes because I'm afraid that if I don't the government will use force to compel me to do so"? I believe polls have shown that most people are willing to pay their fair share of taxes, so long as they believe that others are doing the same. Of course, if there were no coercion at all, no taxes would end up getting paid, because nobody wants to be the sucker who's paying when everybody else is getting away with not paying. But that doesn't mean that everybody is only paying taxes due to coercion. Furthermore, at least in theory, in the United States and other democratic governments, taxation can only be levied with the consent of the governed as expressed through their properly elected legislature. Whatever the flaws of democracy in practice, this means that, in theory, people are voting for their own taxes. At any rate, I'm sure we'll not convince each other of our respective viewpoints. Again, my only point is we should not present libertarian POV as fact - only libertarians hold the idea that all government activity is coercion, that taxation is theft, and so forth. It is a perfectly valid POV to believe that this is not an accurate description of the function of government. As such, none of this coercion stuff can be presented as objective truth. Similarly, I don't think that we should present center-left political beliefs as fact. john k 8 July 2005 18:48 (UTC)

Except that most of the meaning of the terms section is POV. Its a collection of POV. We achieve balance by not prefering one entry over another. You desire to omit the libertarian POV is then in context POV. Either you need to advocate scaping all discussion of what left-right might mean in a modern context or you need to include mention of the libertarian position in the same manner as the other positions. Anything else biases the article. --Pearlg 8 July 2005 20:36 (UTC)

The whole meaning of the terms section is garbage, as I've noted several times, and should probably be discarded and restarted again from scratch. As it stands, I'm not opposed necessarily to mentioning this argument, especially if it can be attributed to somebody notable. But it should be made clear that not only this view of left and right, but this view of what "coercion" means, is a POV. john k 8 July 2005 20:43 (UTC)

I am in agreement with john on that; the word "coercion" cannot stand by itself as some ideological principal. The so-called "libertarian" meaning of it, as presented here, is just entirely too simplistic (simplistic is a more polite word than "juvenile"). Nobs01 8 July 2005 21:00 (UTC)

BTW, almost all of the views in the "Meaning of the Terms" section at present are right wing POV. To summarize:

  • Support for the economic interests of the less privileged classes (left) or of the more privileged (right). Originally, this meant the rising bourgeoisie (left) vs. the aristocrats (right), but it rather soon came to be seen as the working class and unemployed (left) versus all wealthy and/or aristocratic classes (right). As discussed in the next section, this issue of class interests was the original meaning of the dichotomy.
    • This is a primarily left-wing usage. It's also one of the few with any kind of historical grounding - that is, one of the few that can be applied throughout history and still make sense. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)
  • Whether the state should prioritize equality (left) or liberty (right). Two writers who characterize the distinction along these lines are Norberto Bobbio in Left and Right: The Significance of a Political Distinction (ISBN 0226062465) and Danielle Allen [2]. Note, however, that both the left and the right tend to speak in favor of both equality and liberty - but they have different interpretations of each of the two terms. There have been many governments opposed to both liberty and equality, but which are nevertheless characterized as "left-wing" or "right-wing".
    • A right wing usage - the idea that the right is about prioritizing liberty is one which can only be held by discarding 90% of the history of the right over the last two centuries. A lot of definitions would say that the right wing prioritizes order over liberty - and this would almost certainly be more accurate of the right in the longue durée than any association with liberty. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)
  • Whether law creates and subordinates culture (left), or culture creates and subordinates law (right). This formulation was put forward by US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
    • Hard to say what the political spin of this is, since I'm not sure I fully understand it. It seems potentially too clever for its own good, like much of what Moynihan said. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)
  • Whether the government's involvement with the economy should be interventionist (left) or laissez-faire (right). For example, the Nolan chart proposes this as one of its axes of distinction between left and right.
    • This is pretty clearly exactly the same argument as the one you're making about coercion, just in a more NPOV way. Again, to put this argument is to ignore much of the economic theorizing of both the traditional and the fascist right. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)
  • Whether the government should promote secularism (left) or religious morality (right).
    • This one is pretty narrow, and I think one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who feels like this is the main thing separating left from right. It is one of the few historically grounded claims - one can easily find examples of this issue separating left and right throughout the history of the idea of left and right in politics, but it's not a be all and end all. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)
  • Fair outcomes (left) versus fair processes (right). This view has been expressed at times by Australian Labor Party ex-leader Mark Latham. The distinction seems to correlate with Robert Nozick's own distinction between "historical" and "end-result" principles (see Anarchy, State, and Utopia, New York, 1974, pp. 153-155).
    • Again, a possibly too clever for its own good definition. Another one which ignores much of the historical right, which was not terribly concerned with fair processes. Perhaps a fair description of the Anglophone political divide, though. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)
  • Whether human nature and society is malleable (left) or fixed (right), or whether human nature is determined by nurture or nature. This was proposed by Thomas Sowell.
    • This is an old chestnut, I think, going back well before Thomas Sowell. It seems to usually be applied by conservatives - the left thinks it can improve mankind by changing his environment, but we conservatives know there is no hope. I would suggest that many elements of the contemporary right explicitly reject the idea that human nature and society are fixed. This is one that does work decently well historically, in that you can trace this kind of idea back to Burke and so forth. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)
  • Whether living standards can best be improved by taxation based transfer of wealth to the poor (left) or by job creation through greater economic activity (right).
    • Again, totally ahistorical. And, again, pretty much the same as your coercion argument, just put into different words. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)
  • Collectivism (left) vrs. individualism (right).
    • Yet again, the same as your coercion argument, but in different words. And again, totally and completely unhistorical. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)
  • Preference for a larger government (left) versus a smaller government (right). This does not take into account such leftists as the libertarian socialists, or anarchists, or the old right.
    • Again, unhistorical, and again, similar to the coercion argument. Fascists should almost certainly be added to the groups of which account is not taken. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)
  • Whether one embraces change (left) or prefers rigorous justification for change (right). This was proposed by Eric Hoffer.
    • Another old chestnut, and one that's hard to really justify. In systems basically dominated by right wing elements, of course it makes sense, and it makes sense for English history. It ignores the reactionary impulse of the right - the desire to change things back to the way they used to be.

In conclusion, there are already several definitions here that are quite similar to your proposed one about coercion. Furthermore, most of the definitions suck. I'd suggest a thoroughgoing rewrtite, which explicitly discusses who holds each separate view of these things, and tries to do more to categorize them. For instance, I think that all the ideas along the lines of your coercion idea should be compressed into a discussion of the embrace of laissez faire liberalism by modern right wing movements, and how definitions have been created to explain these positions by the right. The libertarian position fits into this as probably the most extreme definition along these lines, but the ultimate similarity of these claims, and the fact that their similarity is because they derive from a particular, relatively recent, way of looking at the left-right divide, is really necessary. Similarly, the Marxisant class warfare interpretation ought to be presented as the result of, well, a Marxist framework for looking at political conflict. john k 8 July 2005 21:04 (UTC)

Proposal for Revision of "Meaning of the Terms" section

On further thought, I would suggest replacing the entire "meaning of the terms" section with a new, more synthetic approach. I would have it discuss two predominantly left-wing views of the meaning of the divide - class struggle and some sort of progress/enlightenment vs. backwardness idea. And then I would try to discuss right wing views, taking into account the fact that the right has changed so much that it sometimes becomes hard to specify specific arguments. I would point, however, to a) the early theorists of conservatism like Burke, Chateaubriand, and so forth, and the whole issue of optimistic/pessimistic views of human nature, the importance of tradition, and so forth; the issue of order vs. chaos, which was prominent in the 19th century (e.g. the French "party of movement"/"Party of order" distinction), which mirrors the progress/backwardness argument used on the left; social darwinist/nationalistic/racist definitions, which first took shape in the late 19th century and reached their apogee with the Nazis; and finally, the mostly cold war free market, equality vs. liberty type arguments (including the libertarian ones) that largely developed in the wake of the destruction of the old right and the threat of communism. I would suggest that some discussion of the various "third way" ideologies is appropriate here, too. If this sounds okay, I'll try to start on this as soon as I can. john k 8 July 2005 21:19 (UTC)

Scraping it is fine; I would suggests somewhere in your proposal we get back to "der Gott frage", as the Germans say, "the God question", cause as we agreed earlier, this may give the best clue as to a straightline over the past 200+ years. It will be interesting to see the treatment Jesse Jackson, who may be considered a God fearing Socialist, and probably represents the largest core bloc of the U.S. Democratic Party, recieves in building a coalition with secular atheists and homosexuals. Look forward to it. Nobs01 8 July 2005 21:42 (UTC)
I would probably discuss the religious question largely in terms of a) the progress vs. backwardness argument on the leftist side; and b) the early theorists of conservatism part on the right, especially in terms of the importance of tradition, because I think that this is normally how the issue has played out. Perhaps some discussion of the modern religious right in the United States is in order, as well, but I want to avoid making the thing too Americo-centric. But, yeah, obviously religion needs to come into it. john k 8 July 2005 21:54 (UTC)
Tradition yes, but of course the tradition of the monarchial & aristocratic privelege ended. I would hope to include the simple notion of belief in a higher power versus the secular notion of no final judgement or accounting for one's behavior. This, simply put, may be an explaination (theory, that is) for the large 20th century democides we've witness (Remember, "democide" is defined as a policy of government). Thank you. Nobs01 8 July 2005 22:02 (UTC)
This is indeed an argument which the right has used sinced at least the Terror, and should probably find a place in the discussion somewhere. john k 8 July 2005 22:12 (UTC)
I think we're on to something. Perhaps there are different understandings as to what the idea of justice is; Conservative do not believe that simply being born into the human race entitles a person to the fruits of other people's labor, whereas the respected opponents view of entitlements, fairness, equity, at times seem very, very different. I think we can work together for a balanced neutral article. Nobs01 9 July 2005 01:08 (UTC)
Of course, many conservatives in the past believed that being born into a particular part of the human race entitled a person to the fruits of other people's labor. But enough of the oblique political arguments. I'll try to work on the revision tomorrow. john k 9 July 2005 01:27 (UTC)
Please try to capture the distinction that they were conservatives in the context of their time. From the context of our time, we have other words for such people such as monarchists. Also, many of your earlier perceptions of complication with the term right hinge upon your classication of fascism as right. Frankly, there are generally few instances where the right has ever stood for authoritarianism and the classification of the fascism as "right" is arguable... and even in such cases, it would be wrong to say the fascists were right because they were authoritarian. I realize that such is the common leftist line, but that's their opinion. Going back to the roots, it be wrong to say that the supports of the old regime in France were advocates of authoritarianism, rather certain people saw institutions such as the church as oppressive, but that more incidential than consequential to the existant of royalists and conservatives. --Pearlg 9 July 2005 08:30 (UTC)
You said Frankly, there are generally few instances where the right has ever stood for authoritarianism - are you serious? Really? Are you at all familiar with the history of Europe in the nineteenth century? Are you saying that Charles X was not in favor of authoritarianism? Or Metternich? Gah. As to fascism, while I agree that its characterization on the right can be problematic, it certainly makes a lot more sense than a characterization on the right left. And, as I have repeatedly pointed out before, it is not just the left that classified fascism as a rightist phenomenon. If you asked admitted German rightists (e.g. Alfred Hugenberg, Franz von Papen, the German National People's Party, the Stahlhelm, etc.) in 1932 if the Nazis were a party of the right or the left, I have no doubt that they all would have agreed that the Nazis were a party of the right - although a rather obnoxious and odd one, that had to be reined in in some ways, and had some weirdos involved with it who tended towards vaguely socialistic rhetoric. john k 9 July 2005 08:40 (UTC)
I beleive the National Socialist party can be dealt with in context of the church again; true, the Nazi party had support of Christian church elements in the early days, up to about 1938. Once the German government, under Nazi Party direction, began the euthanasia program of mentally handicapped, severely disabled, elderly, and other "useless eaters", the true face of "right wing atheism" was apparrant, and the church began to separate itself from those who do not fear the judgement of God. I suppose the lesson here is these "ideologies" are organic, growing and changing, and one can't simply label a "belief system" left or right and expect it's gonna remain there forever. Nobs01 9 July 2005 17:24 (UTC)
I was quite serious. Please point to an example where a political movement (or monarch) was authoritarian for the sake of being authoritarian--of course there are incidentially authoritarian regimes. Further, please account for Stalinism. Groups are classified for political reasons. I happen to believe the case is much stronger that the fascists were leftists not rightists. Simply because a regime opposed socialism or populism and happened to be authoritarian does not then make the right authoritarian.
Reading carefully, I think the point of confusion is what I meant by "stood for". Your interpretation refers to for what certain individuals or movements are regarded in history--whereas I was discussing what their motivating idea was from their perspective. You see by classifying the right as authoritarian you're implicitly identifying the left and the right in two different ways: the former by what they wanted to be and the latter by how they were judged. I think it's near impossible to map left-right into illiberal and liberal without a case-by-case consideration, and ditto for authoritarian and non-authoritarian.
Again, these classifcation issues can be handled by how contemporaries saw the distinction, how the movements saw the distinction, by the ideological connections, or by their realization of their ideas. Unfortunately, the answers to each of those questions often just aren't very coherent. --Pearlg 01:25, 10 July 2005 (UTC)
The way that is explained I would have to agree; all governmental power is "authoritarian" to some degree, only anarchists oppose authoritarianism. "Authoritarian" has as its root "author", "to write", presupposing this means to author decress or legislation (law). Given that definition, "authoritarianism" is not a characteristic tendency which is limited to the so-called "right". Nobs01 18:20, 10 July 2005 (UTC)
Are you serious? The Tsars had "Autocrat" as one of their official titles. The explicit political philosophy of Tsarist Russia was autocracy. If you actually read the works of early 19th century French right wing philosophers, you'd note that they too advocate putting power in the hands of the monarch. Authoritarianism was the basic political stance of the traditional right until well into the 19th century. The explicit position of the right was against democracy of any kind, in favor of traditional authority, or order, or whatever. Fascism, rather later, was described by no less a figure than Mussolini himself as totalitarian and right wing. The ideology of both the traditional and fascist right has always been explicitly anti-democratic. This is distinct from Stalinism, which claimed that Communist-style "democracy" was the only true form of democracy. Now, you'll get no argument from me that this is absurd, and that Stalin's regime was much more effectively authoritarian than, say, that of Charles X in France. But there is a real difference here. The far left claimed to be in favor of democracy, but only in the form of a false pseudo-democracy that was nothing of the kind. The traditional and fascist right explicitly admit to being opposed to democracy. To note this is not to say that Stalinist Russia was better than regimes run by right-wing types. But it is to say that there is a substantive difference between their positions, and it is to say that anti-democratic authoritarianism was an explicit part of a great number of right wing ideologies. john k 18:29, 10 July 2005 (UTC)
Which, I might note, is part of why some have referred to Stalin as "pseudo-left": consistently using left rhetoric, but (in many people's views) using it as a mask for policies abhorrent to the left. He killed an awful lot of Bolsheviks. -- Jmabel | Talk 19:12, July 10, 2005 (UTC)
*Um, having autocracy or monarchy is not authoritarianism. I'd strongly object to the english government being regarded as authoritarian except for brief interludes, yet the monarchy persisted. Your statement "Authoritarianism was the basic political stance of the traditional right until well into the 19th century" is merely a reiteration of the question under debate here. To elaborate: an autocracy has an autocrat, an autocrat has unlimited power. Authoritarianism takes hold when said autocrat (or just the government) requires unquestioning obedience. Totalitarianism takes hold when the authocrat (or just the government) dictates all aspects of life. These three ideas: autocracy, authoritarianism, totalitarianism are distinct. None require or imply the others. So I agree that the Right has advocated autocracy--often in the form of monarchy as an explicit policy goal; however, authoritarianism is a very a different concept and it is wrong to say it that it characterizes the right.
*It is not at all clear that Mussolini considered himself on the Right, and further it is not clear that if he believed that he did so because he thought the right was authoritarian or totalitarian. A much stronger argument supports his Rightist self-idenfitication merely on his interest in distinguishing himself from the labor-strike practices of the Left.
*I agree many try to disclaim Stalinism from the Left, but I repeat that you have to use a consistent classification scheme. Again, I say you trying to place in the Left those who match what you want the Left to be and are placing in the Right everyone else. Sorry it can't work that way and be NPOV. --Pearlg 05:23, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
Aw, I see, we were using different definitions of "authoritarianism" - I was just using it to mean "any anti-pluralistic, anti-democratic, anti-liberal, governmental system." I am not sure that this definition is any more idiosyncratic than your definition. Certainly "unquestioning obedience" doesn't seem a particularly normal part of defining authoritarianism. As to Mussolini, although he started out on the left, he very explicitly aligned fascism with the right. Let's all remember that whole embarrassing Wheeler moment where it turned out the quote he was using to "prove" that Mussolini was on the left was actually a quote of Mussolini saying that the century of fascism would be a "century of the Right." I am not interested in debating again whether fascism was on the left or the right - it is enough to say that it is generally seen to be, to a greater or lesser extent, on the right. I was using the assumption of Mussolini as a rightist as an example of a right-winger advocating totalitarianism. Obviously, fascism is a bit complicated, but the basic fact is that fascism has generally been seen to be a right wing phenomenon for its entire history, and that it has been seen so both by the left, by the traditional right, and quite frequently, by fascists themselves (although certainly not always the last, I will admit, and some fascists have been more on the right than others). As to communism, I have absolutely no problem with saying that, so far as the terms "left" and "right" are to have any real meaning, communism is a phenomenon of the left. Like fascism, things can be more complicated. Nevertheless, if I accept Stalin for the left, will you accept Hitler and Mussolini for the right? john k 05:41, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
I'd accept those classifications as consistent--particularly if you give the turning point for Mussolini being in opposition to the Left. As a corrollary though, I take it we agree that neither left nor right should be characterized as implying "authoritarianism" or lack thereof. It would do well of course to say in which eras and places such a label would apply. FYI, my definitions are derived from merriam-webster and the american-heritage dictionaries, and, as a strong proponent of different words being distinguished, I am rather happy they describe different things. --Pearlg 20:30, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
Pearlg - perhaps we have been talking past each other. My concern is not to suggest that the right is implicitly and always (or even usually) associated with authoritarianism, or opposed to democracy. This is clearly untrue, especially in the post-1945 world, and in the anglophone world. There have of course been many movements on the right or center-right which have accepted liberal democracy as the basic form of government, and most mainstream right wing parties in the developed world today do so. I am more concerned with blanket claims that the right is equivalent to classical liberalism and its adjuncts - associating the right exclusively with laissez faire is just as wrong as associating it exclusively with fascism or 19th century reaction. john k 05:43, 14 July 2005 (UTC)
john: I think you maybe confusing auto, which has a Greek root (meaning "self", as in "self governing", "autocracy"), with author, which has an English root, I believe, meaning "writer" (or "originator of writing"). The Greek for "write" is graphos (graph). A common error. Nobs01 19:21, 10 July 2005 (UTC)
Also, be interested in hearing comments on both British and North American Whigs. Nobs01 21:41, 10 July 2005 (UTC)
Autocratic and Authoritarian are obviously not the same word, and have different roots. But their meaning is similar. The rest of my points all remain, and have nothing to do with this distinction. Let me add, also, that the Anglophone world has a rather substantially different political tradition than the continent, and that the continental meanings of left and right don't really establish themselves in the Anglophone world until the early 20th century or so. The Whigs in England, it should be noted, were vaguely leftish. It was the Tories who were on the right. And if you look at the activities of the post-Napoleonic Wars Tory government, I think it should be clear that even with England's liberal traditions, this was pretty far towards the authoritarian end of the scale. john k 22:32, 10 July 2005 (UTC)
Autocrat' and autocracy in this sense does not mean the same as the English-language term "self-rule"; it means a single individual his a sole ruler (rules by him/herself). -- Jmabel | Talk 02:48, July 12, 2005 (UTC)
Ah, yes, I didn't even pick up on that. I think Nobs may be thinking of autonomy. john k 02:59, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
Jmabel is correct, as the wiki article explains (I didn't fully expound). I thought there may have been some confusion between "auto" and "author", which rereading in context, may not be the case. Thanks. Nobs01 18:27, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

Thi s section may need a cleanup, but I am profoundly dubious that this is the right time, and right cross-section of users, for what is sure to require a POV bombsquad. ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ 13:57, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

Monarch vs. autocrat

Way back there: "I'd strongly object to the english government being regarded as authoritarian except for brief interludes, yet the monarchy persisted." Having a monarch does not mean being an autocracy. In the last century monarchs have had only a marginal role in UK politics—they are the farthest thing imaginable from autocrats. Even as early as the 17th century, the English parliament showed itself strong enough to remove (and execute) one monarch (Charles I) and, later in 1689, to establish significant limits on who could reign and, effectively, to choose a new king and queen. Nothing of the sort happened in France or Russia in the centuries before their respective revolutions. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:12, July 14, 2005 (UTC)

Indeed - well, the French tried in 1648-1653, kind of. But it was a rather miserable failure. The issue at question is not monarchy per se. Support for monarchy in 19th century (continental) Europe generally ranged from the far right to the center left. But the kind of monarchy supported by the far right was very different from the kind of monarchy supported by the center-left. The former wanted a monarchy that continued to govern the country. The latter wanted a constitutional monarchy on the British (or, more usually, Belgian) model, where the monarch has strictly limited powers and government is actually largely in the hands of a parliamentary majority. Now, there were always those to the left of the liberals who wanted to abolish monarchy utterly, but support for existence of a monarchy of some sort was not usually the issue dividing left and right, except in a few very limited cases. The more important quesiton was - to whom does sovereignty belong? If it belongs, in some sense (however limited) to the people, one was generally on the left (there are notable exceptions to this, however); those who believed sovereignty lay with the monarch were on the right. john k
I'm quite busy at the moment, so there are bunch of things I should reply to on this talk page that I haven't. I am in the last stages of preparing to go off on a university sponsored study tour to Italy for a few weeks, but let me mention that even this description of England misses some important features of 18th century British politics. The Monarchy was still extremely powerful throughout the 1700s. Calling the Monarchy of that century "limited" is rather mistaken. The crown was, however, actively policed. Furthermore, it wasn't until the late 1700s and then well into the 1800s that the idea that the parliament could even pass legislation that contradicted common-law. The evolution of this principle is difficult to pinpoint because it was very gradual. It began with parliament taking responsibility for merely organizing the existing body of common-law into statute form... from there their power expanded. Actually this was a very controversal development from the standpoint of liberalism--england having a rather liberal tradition under its customary law. It wasn't until after WWII when England did away with lay-judges that the rule of parliament was sealed.
regarding the entangling of the words autocrat and authoritarian. actually according to the oed, autocracy:
  • self-sustained or independent power (obs)
  • of states: posession of the right of self-government
  • absolute government
  • controlling authority of influence
  • autocrats collectively
authoriarianism -> authoritarian principles -> authoritarian:
  • favourable to the principle of authority as opposed to that of individual freedom
  • one who supports the principle of authority
under merrian-webster:
  • autocracy: government in which one person possesses unlimited power
  • authoritarian: 1) favoring blind submission to authority 2) favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an ilte not constitutionally responsible to the people
under american heritage:
  • autocracy: government by a single person having unlimited power
  • authoritarian: 1) characterizing by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom 2) of, relating to, or expecting unquestioning obedience
There is a distinction between these two ideas. an authoritarian is someone who does not tolerate dissent or civil disobediance. an autocrat tolerates dissent but not civil disobediance --Pearlg 03:05, 15 July 2005 (UTC)
I'm not sure - this seems like nit-picking here. The extent to which non-democratic rulers tolerate dissent in whatever form (parliaments, press, or whatever) seems almost always to be a pragmatic, rather than a principled decision. Bismarck tolerates the existence of the Prussian Diet, and later of the Reichstag, not because he believes in these things more than Prince Hardenberg and Frederick William III, but simply because it was utterly impractical to go back to the old way of doing things. Napoleon III moved from the autocratic empire of the 1850s to the more liberal one of the 1860s largely because of the dramatic drop in his popularity over the course of the latter decade. He tried to sugarcoat it by saying that he wanted to restore democracy (and, I will admit, Napoleon III was an inconsistent enough character that he may have believed it), but the key difference was in the external situation, not in a principled difference. john k 06:34, 15 July 2005 (UTC)

A quick last point - I talk a lot about 19th century continental Europe. This is partly, I will admit, because this is what I study. However, I think there's a more important reason for this - although the terms left and right originated during the French Revolution, the basic idea of it really fully elaborated itself in 19th century continental Europe. This is, as it were, the home terrain of the idea. In the 20th century, the political landscape has changed a great deal. The left-right distinction has remained an important conceptualization of how politics play out, but there have been a large number of phenomena which really have not fit very well into the left-right spectrum as devised in the 19th century - fascism, as an ultra-populist, nationalistic, right wing movement is rather anomalous; so is Leninism - it should not be underemphasized the extent to which the regime established by Lenin and elaborated upon by Stalin was an innovation that in many ways did not fit with the previously existing idea of what even the radical left was all about. Furthermore, the fall of many of the traditional European monarchies in the wake of the First World War left the traditional right to slowly wither and die. The traditional right-left spectrum managed to adapt to incorporate these anomalies, but in so doing it lost much of its coherence. in the 19th century, by contrast, while there are a few notable anomalies (most importantly, Napoleon III, who is incredibly hard to categorize), there is a degree of coherence and logic to the idea which is simply missing in its later incarnations. john k 05:56, 14 July 2005 (UTC)

Seems john put his finger on something again. All government is both authoritarian and coercive, something only anarchists and proponents of chaos oppose. For the record let me insert Oxford definitions.
  • autocracy: A regime in which power is concentrated in the person of a single individual—as, for example, in the case of ‘the Stalinist autocracy’. The term is thus loosely applied, and will be found in discussions of a variety of state structures and political regimes, including in particular totalitarian, fascist, real socialist and monarchical examples.
  • authority: The right or the capacity, or both, to have proposals or prescriptions or instructions accepted without recourse to persuasion, bargaining, or force. Systems of rules, including legal systems, typically entitle particular office-bearers to make decisions or issue instructions: such office-bearers have authority conferred on them by the rules and the practices which constitute the relevant activity. Umpires and referees, for example, have authority under the rules and practices constitutive of most sporting contests. Law enforcement officers are authorized to issue instructions, but they also receive the right to behave in ways which would not be acceptable in the absence of authorization: for example, to search persons or premises. To have authority in these ways is to be the bearer of an office and to be able to point to the relation between that office and a set of rules. In itself, this says nothing about the capacity in fact of such an office-holder to have proposals and so forth accepted without introducing persuasion, bargaining, or force. A referee, for example, may possess authority under the rules of the game, but in fact be challenged or ignored by the players. A distinction is therefore drawn between de jure authority—in which a right to behave in particular ways may be appealed to—and de facto authority—in which there is practical success. A different distinction is drawn between a person who is in authority as an office-bearer and a person who is an authority on a subject. The latter typically has special knowledge or special access to information not available to those who accept the person's status as an authority. Sometimes the two forms are found together: for example, the Speaker of the Commons possesses authority (to regulate the business of the House, under its rules of procedure), and is also an authority (on its rules of procedure). Attempts have been made to find common features between these two usages. These focus primarily on the ‘internal’ relationship between the authority-holder and the authority-subject, the process of recognition of the status involved, and on the willingness of the authority-subject to adopt the judgement of the authority-holder (instead of his or her own, or in the absence of the ability to formulate one). Nobs01 18:02, 15 July 2005 (UTC)

Slight modifications

I've added a contrasting viewpoint to the subpoint on fair outcomes versus fair processes in "meaning of terms" (I know what the intention is here, but the difference between 'fair outcomes' and utilitarianism seems obscured in this point) and embellished a contrasting viewpoint on the subpoint regarding government intervention. There seems to be some confusion over the difference between "rightism" and "libertarianism", though I am sure that some people consider the two to be the same, I would disagree. The preceding unsigned comment was added by Cicero83 (talk • contribs) 25 Oct 2005.


Recently added, in with some good edits; I think this one is confusing: "However, some types of intervention such as most types of corporatism are more opposed by the left than the right."

I'm not at all sure how the author of this meant "corporatism", and in this context it is very unclear. To me, its primary meaning in the context of political theory is the guild-like "corporatism" that was loosely associated with fascism, but I doubt that is what is meant here. But I'm not sure what is meant. Could the person who wrote this please clarify? -- Jmabel | Talk 02:08, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Hi Jmabel, I was generally referring to government decisions percieved to be, among other things, the result of corporate influences, such as failing to close tax loopholes, lawsuit protections against an industry, such as the gun industry, the corporate influence in the military-industrial complex (especially in the U.S.), or subsidies given to companies to help them to compete in the international marketplace. Though, this would certainly be opposed by libertarians as well, so it might be true to say that many types of this are opposed by both the "right" and the "left". Hope that helps. 19:23, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Then maybe "government intervention on behalf of corporate interests"? "Corporatism" used this way is at best a neologism. Or, better yet, "business interests", since it doesn't seem to be particularly relevant that the businesses in questions are structured as corporations: presumably government intervention on behalf of sole proprietorships would be equally objectionable to the left. So I will edit to "However, some types of intervention, such government intervention on behalf of business interests, are more opposed by the left than the right."-- Jmabel | Talk 19:46, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

Article has a liberal bias

Evidence: "The contemporary right in the United States is usually defined by its...pessimism about the benefits of governmental regulation.

Hmm... yeah. Definite bias. Obviously a sensative issue in modern day America. I'll try to change it to say who uses the term in which ways.

Fuzzform 03:12, 3 December 2005 (UTC)

This section needs reform!

Hehe.. sort of a political joke. But seriously, the "Modern American use of the terms" section is contradictory and misleading. Its some sort of odd mix of the views of those who are on the left and and those who are on the right. I think it needs to be more clear who uses the terms, and with what implications. It says in one part, for example: "The contemporary right in the United States is usually defined by its opposition to violations of constitutional law, removal of fundamental rights, excessive governmental regulation and income redistribution,"

Opposition to violations of constitutional law and removal of fundamental rights? Constitutional rights are fundamental rights. I'm no supporter of the right, but this needs clarification. I'll see what I can do.

Fuzzform 03:20, 3 December 2005 (UTC)

I'm trying, buts its really hard to find words that are not semantically loaded, and therefore useless for an NPOV article. I can't really say that traditional values are important or not, either way it would be totally subjective. But using the word "percieved" makes it sound like the importance is not really there (which obviously may offend some people). Guess I'll just wait for someone else's input. Fuzzform 04:27, 3 December 2005 (UTC)
I believe this has only gotten worse. And I believe you misunderstood the sentence that you quoted above, which calls for copy editing, not a wholesale rewrite. Clearly the sentence meant "The contemporary right in the United States is usually defined by its opposition to violations of constitutional law, to removal of fundamental rights, to excessive governmental regulation and to income redistribution." -- Jmabel | Talk 10:23, 3 December 2005 (UTC)
Whoops, guess you're right, I did misread it. I'm not sure in what way it has gotten worse, though. Could you give some specifics, or take a shot at editing it? In any case, it still needed clarification, especially if people (like me) were misreading it like that. I don't think that it "clearly" meant that. One could argue the act of changing the constitution to prohibit something (e.g., gay marriage, a controversial issue indeed), instead of upholding the right to something, could be considered a removal of fundamental rights. Also, it seemed to deride the right quite a bit, which didn't seem appropriate for an encyclopedia article. It is beyond arguement that these terms are used in different ways by different people. What I was trying to do was represent the views of both sides. Its far from complete, and it clearly needs a lot more work, but I would appreciate constructive criticism instead of insults. - Fuzzform 19:58, 13 December 2005 (UTC)
No insult intended. I just inserted "to" over and over in the article like I did above. "Clearly" only in the sense that there was only one reading of the sentence that made sense based on what positions U.S. conservatives hold, but I can easily see how someone could have misread. And probably still could: I'd be glad to see a better wording, too.
Please, saying that part of the article has gotten "worse" or "better" isn't an insult. It's directly germane to what we are here for. I'm not saying "some evil or incompetent person is messing with the article" (and while I've occasionally been known to think that, I'm pretty certain you aren't one of the people I've been known to think that about; it's a short list, and I tend to remember them). I'm saying (or think I was saying: it's 10 days and about 1000 edits ago) that the passage got worse. Period. (Can I throw in some more parentheses? It's late. I'm tired.) -- Jmabel | Talk 07:45, 14 December 2005 (UTC)


Does "dialectical" in the first sentence really add anything? If I'm a reader coming to this article for information, will I get something useful by following that link? Does the presence of the word make the sentence clearer? Offhand, my answers are "no", "no", and "quite the opposite", but I'm open to hearing a case for the other side; we might find a better way to fulfill the same purpose. -- Jmabel | Talk 07:25, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

I think that its nature as a dialectic is very much integral to the whole concept of left-right politics. If people don't know what the word means then they can either skip over it and still understand the basic meaning of the sentence (and likely deduce the word's meaning from the context) or they can click on the link to find out more, which I think provides a great service to the readers... Blackcats 09:20, 15 December 2005 (UTC)

Meaning of the terms

Two points about the organisation of this section:

  • I think it would be better if the discussion of the history of the term preceded the list of issues at stake, and a very brief summary of the key issues were put in the lead section.
  • The second through the fifth point are mainly concerned in practice with free markets. Should we add some hierarchical structure to the list, grouping similar sorts of issues together? Free markets are probably the best example we have of an issue that has crossed the parliamentary divide: we should say so somewhere, but I'm not sure where is best. --- Charles Stewart 22:43, 15 December 2005 (UTC)
(I believe Chalst asked the same at Talk:Right-wing politics and I responded there.) -- Jmabel | Talk 23:19, 16 December 2005 (UTC)
I removed a section that purported a Biblical basis for the terms. It was a copyvio from this site:[3], and presented an unusual theory of the origin of the terms. To the extent that the material belongs it should perhaps be re-written and placed in the "origin" section. -Will Beback 23:03, 7 March 2006 (UTC)