The dichotomy in politics of “left” and “right” is perhaps one of the most confusing and misused in human history. A quick Google search will find articles that places Hitler both as an extreme left socialist, and as a far right facist. Often the left hail themselves as progressive, open minded, compassionate people, whilst branding the right as archaic and elitist. Equally, the right usually retort that they are committed to traditional values, individualism, and liberation from the state, whilst describing left wingers as thieving radicals and oppressive idealists. Many have argued that Hitler was far right as he followed eugenics, believing Germans to be a superior people (which clearly doesn’t sit well with a left view of equality) but sat at the head of one of the most oppressive societies in history (not very right either). So what is the left/right dichotomy really all about?
I believe that the people that say the right/left spectrum has been rendered obsolete in the modern era are missing the point entirely. The left/ right spectrum has naturally evolved as people have attempted throughout our history to balance (or unbalance) the delicate scales of society. Politics exists to balance two forces- FREEDOM, AND EQUALITY. The significance of this cannot be overstated- this is the point of politics, its purpose. The defining characteristic of the left is to fight for equality and champion the little guy, whilst right-wingers strive for freedom from the state as they believe we should be able to have as much say in our own fate as possible. There is a hunger in every humans heart for both, and politics has arisen as individuals have attempted to answer the question of which should be given precedence- which way should we tilt the scales?
All the other characteristics you tend to see with far left or far right groups are merely individuals acting on what they think equality or freedom should look like- that or they have a particular view on something they’ve decided to bring along with them into the political arena- e.g anti-semitism. This is why right wingers want lower taxes and deregulation- it gives individuals more freedom- the fact that it can cause unscrupulous business practices or render it difficult to maintain a functioning welfare state is not their aim (for most of them) it is freedom they really want. Equally, left wingers don’t want to take away all your “hard-earned” money with a progressive tax system or corrupt your children with overly permissive social attitudes- they just want a more equal world. It should be noted that there are glaring hypocrisies in the usual policies advocated by both sides. For freedom-loving Tories, traditional values really shouldn’t be as high on their list as it can lead to regressive social views, sometimes resulting in giving individuals less scope for personal expression and exploration. And equality-advocating Commies should really look at the centralising of unprecedented amounts of power in the hands of an elite few bureaucrats that their “utopia” would bring about.
Some may condemn all of what has been said as simplistic, or even politically illiterate- but I think they’d be missing the utility of such an approach. Of course there are many issues that separate left and right, and often these terms can be used arbitarily, but if we understand the unifying principle at the heart of each it becomes a game changer. It could open us to a whole new era of co operation across the political spectrum.
So yes I’m a leftie- but only for as long as the world needs me to be. I see a world that has taken huge leaps and bounds over the past 3 centuries towards freedom from oppressive rulers (though of course much work needs to be done.) but a staggering growth of inequality over the past 3 decades. For the present I’m a leftie because the world lacks equality far more than it lacks freedom- and much of the freedom it lacks is down to its inequality. Consolidation of economic and political power into the hands of a very few of the richest is granting them power over huge swathes of the worlds population like we’ve never seen before. So I call for right and left wingers alike to stand up against the threat of a rising corporatocracy, for it threatens to destroy our hard won freedoms far more than any government ever has, and because it’s becoming the biggest obstacle we’ve ever faced in our quest for equality. Whether your fight is a fight for freedom or equality or both, we must join forces against the rising corporate powers- the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and the enemy we face isn’t pulling any punches- so nor should we. And beyond this most vital of battles, perhaps we could settle down atop the rubble of Monsanto’s headquarters and get back to good old mud slinging from right and left. Maybe that’d even be OK. But maybe, we could enter a new era of understanding- of understanding the goals and passions of the other side, of understanding the complex intertwining of both equality and freedom, and recognise both motives as noble and worthy. Maybe we could even work together to try and find the right balance between the two. Maybe, just maybe, we could finally craft a free and fair society for all.