This article is written by Gauraw Kumar, a student of BVP-New Law College, Pune. This article covers the concept, origin and features of ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ political ideology and tries to explain each and every concept in simple and easy ways.
You must have heard the word ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ in political discussion or debate. Have you ever thought, what does it actually mean? An interesting fact is that very few people are actually aware of the real meaning of these words. What is Political Ideology? Ideology means ‘collection of ideas’. In social studies, a political ideology is a certain set of ideas, principles, doctrines, myths or ethical symbols of a social movement, an institution, a class or a large group that explains how society should work and provide a political and cultural model for a particular context of social order. Political ideologies have two elements:-
- Goals- How society should be organized; and
- Methods- The most favourable way to attain this goal.
Generally, each ideology contains certain ideas about what it considers the best form of government (i.e., autocracy or democracy) and the best economic system (i.e., capitalism or socialism).
In this context, we will try to discuss all the facts, use, historical background and current situation of the term ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’.
Origin of the terms ‘Left’ and ‘Right’
The word ‘left’ and ‘right’ were initially used in the French Revolution of the 18th century. At that time, France had monarchy (one king and his dynasty would rule the nation). Some people were in support of monarchy and some were against it and wanted democracy in their nation.
At that time, the sitting arrangement of France parliament was in the following way:-
- People sitting on the right side were those who were loyal to their monarch, mainly the wealthy class;
- People sitting on the left side were those who were poor and were not loyal to their monarch and wanted democracy in their nation. These people were not happy from the monarchy and wanted a revolutionary change in the existing system.
Therefore, the definition of left and right came from these historical facts and people used different words or tag for Left-wing and right-wing, which are the following:-
- Left-Wing- Reformist, Revolution.
- Right-Wing- Conservative, Establishment.
From those days to these days, there is a huge difference in the meaning and definition of left and right-wing. Nowadays, these two political ideologies are perfectly defined or described by American Political parties. There are two main political parties in America, namely Democrats and Republicans. Democrats are always called left-wing parties and Republicans are always called right-wing parties. There are some policies, decisions or thoughts which are different for left-wing and right-wing.
Who are the Left and Right?
The parties who want a change in the existing system. Generally, they are Liberals, Socialists, Democrats and Communist. Left wants pro-change and they are liberal.
The parties who believe in the existing system. The basic thoughts of the right-wing are social conservatism and economic liberalism and they are Conservatives, Nationalists and Republicans.
The opinion of Left-wing and Right-wing
On the basis of individual liberty and power of government, left-wing and right-wing are differ from each other.
Generally, Left-wing parties have the following opinion or policies:-
- A strong opinion to separate religion from the government;
- They support same-sex marriage;
- They oppose the death penalty;
- They want to open ways for immigrants;
- They want to increase the taxes on rich people;
- They support globalisation;
- There should be equality in society;
- Central planning;
- There should be an intervention of the government in the economy;
- Welfare state;
- There should not be free trade.
And, Rights wing parties have the opposite opinion from left wings parties which are the following:-
- They want ‘religion’ and ‘government’ to be hand in hand and want official state religion for the entire country;
- They are mostly against abortion;
- They want to keep minimum taxes, so as to give encouragement to innovation and entrepreneurship;
- They support capitalism;
- They want to keep immigrants restricted, so as to conserve the culture of the country as much as possible. Thus, they are called conservatives;
- They want the limited role of government in people’s life and economy;
- They support nationalism;
- There should be personal freedom of people;
- There should be conservation of religion and tradition;
- There should be equality for all. No special protection for minorities;
- They support religion;
- They promote the private sector for growth;
- They support low taxes;
- They support the death penalty;
- They oppose immigration.
It is normal for a political party to support some points of left-wing and some points of right wings. So, the concept of ‘left-leaning’ and ‘right-leaning’ evolved out.
- Left-leaning- Political parties support the maximum opinion of the left-wing.
- Right-leaning- Political parties support the maximum opinion of the right-wing.
Different way of classification
They can also be classified on the basis of their different opinion in the following ways:-
- Economically right;
- Economically left;
- Socially right;
- Socially left.
Social matter contains matter related to religion, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. The political parties who want to preserve their culture, religion and support the existing system will be socially right governments and the political parties who want revolutionary changes in the existing system will be socially left governments.
We can judge a government on the basis of economic matters by seeing interference of government in the economy of the country. More interference of government in the economy of the country will be more economically left government and less interference of government in the economy of the country will be the more economically right government.
The Political Spectrum
It is an imaginary line on which we used to put political parties according to their thoughts, views or policy. Like: political parties who keep the opinion of the left-wing will be put on the left side of the political spectrum.
The political parties who keep their views slightly turned towards left-wing are said to be Center-left like liberalism and who keep views which are very much turned towards left-wing are said to be Far-left like socialism. Then, Communism came in the picture. After communism, Dictatorship came, which is considered as the extreme endpoint of left-wing ideology.
The political parties who keep views slightly turned to right-wing are said to be Center-right like conservatism and those who keep views which are very much turned towards right-wing are said to be Far-right like libertarianism. Then, Fascism came into the picture which is considered as the extreme endpoint of right-wing ideology.
The political parties who keep views or opinions of moderate nature (some views from left-wing and some from right-wing) will put Center or moderate points on the political spectrum.
- Communism is defined as an extreme left political ideology because it wants total control of the government over the economy of the country;
- Socialism is defined as Center-left because it wants slight control of the government over the economy of the country;
- The Center-right and extreme right want the gap between government and economy as much as possible. They want the market to be independent which is better for country development.
Classification of Political Parties in India on the basis of Left-wing and right-wing
- Socially right-wing: There are three socially right-wing parties in India on the aspects of religion. These are:- the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), Shiv Sena, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM);
- Socially left-wing: Remaining parties are socially left-wing because they are secular parties. These are:- the Indian National Congress (INC), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Janta Dal-United (JDU), All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M);
- Economically left-wing:– Almost every party in India is economically left-wing because they support subsidies and want to increase taxes. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was closed until the 1990s in India.
At the same time, they oppose the death penalty and support same-sex marriage which shows characteristics of left-wing ideology. But, parties do not support or oppose any issue openly in India.
So, Left-wing or right-wing is the very worst way to classify Indian political parties. It is better if we do not use these words while discussing political issues and use individual policies in order to determine true or false.
Which is the Best? (Left v/s Right)
Now, the question which arises is, which ideology is the best? The correct answer is CENTER. It is 100% true that neither left-wing or nor right-wing is best for a country.
We can understand this by examples:-
We have seen countries following the extreme left-wing ideologies like China and Russia where Mao and Stalin ruled respectively. Both are famous for their mass killings.
We have also seen countries following the extremely right-wing ideologies like mostly middle eastern countries, who define themselves by one religion. If you live in these countries and do not follow their specific religion or make a mockery of their faith, then you will be liable and punished for the same.
Hence, extreme left-wing and extreme right-wing are both dangerous to follow. It is better to pursue both of them. But both the right and left have some good views which can benefit the Center.
- It is better to be economically right-wing as it keeps the country market open. Most successful countries like the Nordic countries (i.e., Finland, Sweden, Netherlands etc.) keep their markets fully open and liberalized. Thus, being economically right-wing is better to follow as it encourages entrepreneurship too,
- But in some areas, the government should necessarily intercede in some sectors and higher taxation is very much required where the left-wing, like in the sectors of healthcare or education, where the increase of taxes result in profitability. So, the left-wing is necessary here,
- Immigration is another such policy where it is observed that following the right-wing views are better for the country. It is seen in the case of European countries who were till now left-leaning in immigration policies and had an open refugee policy which did not regulate the intake of refugees, which caused them heavy losses and a marked increase in crime rates,
- Here, the issue of culture preservation also arises regarding which, views of the right-wing are mostly correct. But, when they include their religion in culture preservation, the right-wing ideology becomes wrong,
- Moreover, the issue of supporting or opposing the death penalty is very much open for debate and can be argued for true and false.
There are many political parties in India. Different parties have different views, policies, thoughts and ways to rule people. Some want to combine government and religion and some want to separate them. Some parties want the government to interfere in the economy but some parties oppose the same. Some parties want to conserve their culture but some want to change the existing system. On the basis of their thoughts and policies, parties are put on the political spectrum. If a party’s thoughts are related to the left-wing, they will lie on the left side of the political spectrum and if a political party’s thoughts and views are turning towards the right, they will be lying on the right side of the political spectrum. Left-wing and right-wing originated from the French Revolution of the 19th century.
Generally, political parties of India are very difficult to divide in left and right because they follow some opinions of the left-wing and some from the right-wing. They change their policies freely without thinking that they are left-wing or right-wing. So, it is better to judge any political parties according to their policies and thoughts. But in America, there are only two parties, namely Democrats and Republicans. Democrats are left-wing and they used to follow policies of left-wing ideology only and Republicans are right-wing and they also used to follow policies of right-wing ideology only. Political parties can also be classified further on the basis of thoughts and opinions in the Socially left-wing and right-wing; and Economically left-wing and right-wing. There is also a different way to classify political parties which are given by our different political scientists. On the basis of examples of another country, it is 100% true to say that neither left nor the right-wing is best for a country. So, a country should adopt good opinions from left-wing as well as right-wing. A political party should adopt a moderate way for progress and development of the country.