Left-wing politics

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Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy. [1] [2] [3] [4] It typically involves a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished. [1] The term left-wing can also refer to "the radical, reforming, or socialist section of a political party or system". [5] [ better source needed ]

Social equality is a state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in certain respects, possibly including civil rights, freedom of speech, property rights and equal access to certain social goods and social services. However, it may also include health equality, economic equality and other social securities. Social equality requires the absence of legally enforced social class or caste boundaries and the absence of discrimination motivated by an inalienable part of a person's identity. For example, sex, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, origin, caste or class, income or property, language, religion, convictions, opinions, health or disability must absolutely not result in unequal treatment under the law and should not reduce opportunities unjustifiably.

Egalitarianism, or equalitarianism, is a school of thought within political philosophy that prioritizes equality for all people. Egalitarian doctrines are generally characterized by the idea that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth or moral status. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term has two distinct definitions in modern English, namely either as a political doctrine that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social and civil rights, or as a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people, economic egalitarianism, or the decentralization of power. Some sources define egalitarianism as the point of view that equality reflects the natural state of humanity.

The term political radicalism denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary or other means and changing value systems in fundamental ways.

Contents

The political terms "Left" and "Right" were coined during the French Revolution (1789–1799), referring to the seating arrangement in the French Estates General: those who sat on the left generally opposed the monarchy and supported the revolution, including the creation of a republic and secularization, [6] while those on the right were supportive of the traditional institutions of the Old Regime. Use of the term "Left" became more prominent after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 when it was applied to the "Independents". [7] The word "wing" was appended to Left and Right in the late 19th century, usually with disparaging intent and "left-wing" was applied to those who were unorthodox in their religious or political views.

Right-wing politics holds that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically supporting this position on the basis of natural law, economics, or tradition. Hierarchy and inequality may be viewed as natural results of traditional social differences or the competition in market economies. The term right-wing can generally refer to "the conservative or reactionary section of a political party or system".

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Estates General (France) Consultative assembly in France, 1302 to 1789

In France under the Old Regime, the Estates General or States-General was a legislative and consultative assembly of the different classes of French subjects. It had a separate assembly for each of the three estates, which were called and dismissed by the king. It had no true power in its own right—unlike the English parliament it was not required to approve royal taxation or legislation—instead it functioned as an advisory body to the king, primarily by presenting petitions from the various estates and consulting on fiscal policy. The Estates General met intermittently until 1614 and only once afterwards, in 1789, but was not definitively dissolved until after the French Revolution.

The term was later applied to a number of movements, especially republicanism during the French Revolution in the 18th century, followed by socialism, [8] communism, anarchism and social democracy in the 19th and 20th centuries. [9] Since then, the term left-wing has been applied to a broad range of movements [10] including civil rights movements, feminist movements, anti-war movements and environmental movements, [11] [12] as well as a wide range of parties. [13] [14] [15] According to former professor of economics Barry Clark, "[leftists] claim that human development flourishes when individuals engage in cooperative, mutually respectful relations that can thrive only when excessive differences in status, power, and wealth are eliminated". [16]

Republicanism is a representative form of government organization. It is a political ideology centered on citizenship in a state organized as a republic. Historically, it ranges from the rule of a representative minority or oligarchy to popular sovereignty. It has had different definitions and interpretations which vary significantly based on historical context and methodological approach.

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

History

5 May 1789, opening of the Estates General of 1789 in Versailles Estatesgeneral.jpg
5 May 1789, opening of the Estates General of 1789 in Versailles

In politics, the term "Left" derives from the French Revolution, as the anti-monarchist Montagnard and Jacobin deputies from the Third Estate generally sat to the left of the presiding member's chair in parliament, a habit which began in the French Estates General of 1789. Throughout the 19th century in France, the main line dividing Left and Right was between supporters of the French Republic and those of the monarchy. [6] [ page needed ] The June Days uprising during the Second Republic was an attempt by the Left to assert itself after the 1848 Revolution, but only a small portion of the population supported this.

The Mountain

The Mountain was a political group during the French Revolution. Its members, called the Montagnards, sat on the highest benches in the National Assembly.

A Jacobin was a member of the Jacobin Club, a revolutionary political movement that was the most famous political club during the French Revolution (1789–99). The club was so called because of the Dominican convent in Paris in the Rue Saint-Jacques where they originally met.

Estates General of 1789 Consultative assembly of France, summoned by Louis XVI

The Estates General of 1789 was a general assembly representing the French estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners, the last of Estates General of Kingdom of France. Summoned by King Louis XVI, it was brought to an end when the Third Estate formed into a National Assembly, inviting the other two to join, against the wishes of the King. This signaled the outbreak of the French Revolution.

In the mid-19th century, nationalism, socialism, democracy and anti-clericalism became features of the French Left. After Napoleon III's 1851 coup and the subsequent establishment of the Second Empire, Marxism began to rival radical republicanism and utopian socialism as a force within left-wing politics. The influential Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, published in 1848, asserted that all human history is the history of class struggle. They predicted that a proletarian revolution would eventually overthrow bourgeois capitalism and create a classless, stateless, post-monetary communist society. It was in this period that the word "wing" was appended to both Left and Right. [17]

Nationalism is an ideology and movement characterized by the promotion of the interests of a particular nation, especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation's sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power. It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics such as culture, language, religion, politics, and belief in a shared singular history—and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation's traditional culture, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. It also encourages pride in national achievements, and is closely linked to patriotism. Nationalism is often combined with other ideologies, such as conservatism or socialism for example.

Democracy system of government in which citizens vote directly in or elect representatives to form a governing body, sometimes called "rule of the majority"

Democracy is a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature. In a constitutional democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association.

Anti-clericalism is opposition to religious authority, typically in social or political matters. Historical anti-clericalism has mainly been opposed to the influence of Roman Catholicism. Anti-clericalism is related to secularism, which seeks to remove the church from all aspects of public and political life, and its involvement in the everyday life of the citizen.

Labour union demonstrators at the 1912 Lawrence textile strike 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike 1.jpg
Labour union demonstrators at the 1912 Lawrence textile strike

In the United States, many leftists, social liberals, progressives and trade unionists were influenced by the works of Thomas Paine, who introduced the concept of asset-based egalitarianism, which theorises that social equality is possible by a redistribution of resources.

Progressivism in the United States is a broadly based reform movement that reached its height early in the 20th century. It was middle class and reformist in nature. It arose as a response to the vast changes brought by modernization, such as the growth of large corporations, pollution and fears of corruption in American politics. In the 21st century, progressives continue to embrace concepts such as environmentalism and social justice. While the modern progressive movement may be characterized as largely secular in nature, by comparison, the historical progressive movement was to a significant extent rooted in and energized by religion.

Thomas Paine English and American political activist

Thomas Paine was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. He authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution and inspired the patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment-era ideals of transnational human rights. Historian Saul K. Padover described him as "a corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination". Born in Thetford in the English county of Norfolk, Paine migrated to the British American colonies in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin, arriving just in time to participate in the American Revolution. Virtually every rebel read his powerful pamphlet Common Sense (1776), proportionally the all-time best-selling American title, which crystallized the rebellious demand for independence from Great Britain. His The American Crisis (1776–1783) was a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. Common Sense was so influential that John Adams said: "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain". Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. He wrote Rights of Man (1791), in part a defense of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on Irish conservative writer Edmund Burke led to a trial and conviction in absentia in England in 1792 for the crime of seditious libel.

Asset-based egalitarianism

Asset-based egalitarianism is a form of egalitarianism which theorises that equality is possible by a redistribution of resources, usually in the form of a capital grant provided at the age of majority. Names for the implementation of this theory in policy include universal basic capital and stakeholding, and are generally synonymous within the equal opportunity egalitarian framework.

The International Workingmen's Association (1864–1876), sometimes called the First International, brought together delegates from many different countries, with many different views about how to reach a classless and stateless society. Following a split between supporters of Marx and Mikhail Bakunin, anarchists formed the International Workers' Association. [18] The Second International (1888–1916) became divided over the issue of World War I. Those who opposed the war, such as Vladimir Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, saw themselves as further to the left.

In the United States after Reconstruction, the phrase "the Left" was used to describe those who supported trade unions, the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. [19] [20] More recently in the United States, left-wing and right-wing have often been used as synonyms for Democratic and Republican, or as synonyms for liberalism and conservatism respectively. [21] [22] [23] [ full citation needed ] [24]

Since the Right was populist, both in the Western and the Eastern Bloc anything viewed as avant-garde art was called leftist in all Europe, thus the identification of Picasso's Guernica as "leftist" in Europe [25] [ page needed ] and the condemnation of the Russian composer Shostakovich's opera (The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District) in Pravda as follows: "Here we have 'leftist' confusion instead of natural, human music". [26] [ page needed ]

Positions

The following positions are typically associated with left-wing politics.

Economics

Leftist economic beliefs range from Keynesian economics and the welfare state through industrial democracy and the social market to nationalization of the economy and central planning, [27] to the anarcho-syndicalist advocacy of a council- and assembly-based self-managed anarchist communism. During the Industrial Revolution, leftists supported trade unions. At the beginning of the 20th century, many leftists advocated strong government intervention in the economy. [28] Leftists continue to criticize what they perceive as the exploitative nature of globalization, the "race to the bottom" and unjust lay-offs. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the belief that government (ruling in accordance with the interests of the people) ought to be directly involved in the day-to-day workings of an economy declined in popularity amongst the center-left, especially social democrats who became influenced by "Third Way" ideology.

Other leftists believe in Marxian economics, which are based on the economic theories of Karl Marx. Some distinguish Marx's economic theories from his political philosophy, arguing that Marx's approach to understanding the economy is independent of his advocacy of revolutionary socialism or his belief in the inevitability of proletarian revolution. [29] [30] Marxian economics does not exclusively rely upon Marx, but it draws from a range of Marxist and non-Marxist sources. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" or "workers' state" are terms used by some Marxists, particularly Leninists and Marxist–Leninists, to describe what they see as a temporary state between the capitalist state of affairs and a communist society. Marx defined the proletariat as salaried workers, in contrast to the "Lumpenproletariat", who he defined as outcasts of society, such as beggars, tricksters, entertainers, buskers, criminals and prostitutes. [31] The political relevance of farmers has divided the left. In Das Kapital , Marx scarcely mentioned the subject. [32] Mao Zedong believed that it would be rural peasants, not urban workers, who would bring about the proletarian revolution.

Left-libertarians, libertarian socialists and anarchists believe in a decentralized economy run by trade unions, workers' councils, cooperatives, municipalities and communes and oppose both state and private control of the economy, preferring social ownership and local control, in which a nation of decentralized regions is united in a confederation.

The global justice movement, also known as the anti-globalization movement or alter-globalization movement, protests against corporate economic globalization due to its negative consequences for the poor, workers, the environment and small businesses. [33] [34] [35]

Environment

One of the foremost left-wing advocates was Thomas Paine, one of the first individuals since left and right became political terms to describe the collective human ownership of the world which he speaks of in Agrarian Justice. [36] As such, must of left-wing thought concerning environmentalism stems from this duty of ownership, and this cooperative ownership means that we need to take care of it. This is reflected in much of the historical left-wing thought that came after, although there were disagreements about what this entailed.

Both Karl Marx and the early socialist William Morris arguably had a concern for environmental matters. [37] [38] [39] [40] According to Marx: "Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together [...] are not owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations". [37] [41] Following the Russian Revolution, environmental scientists such as revolutionary Alexander Bogdanov and the Proletkult organisation made efforts to incorporate environmentalism into Bolshevism and "integrate production with natural laws and limits" in the first decade of Soviet rule, before Joseph Stalin attacked ecologists and the science of ecology, purged environmentalists and promoted the pseudo-science of Trofim Lysenko. [42] [43] [44] Likewise, Mao Zedong rejected environmentalism and believed that based on the laws of historical materialism all of nature must be put into the service of revolution. [45]

From the 1970s onwards, environmentalism became an increasing concern of the left, with social movements and some unions campaigning over environmental issues. For example, the left-wing Builders Labourers Federation in Australia, led by the communist Jack Mundy, united with environmentalists to place green bans on environmentally destructive development projects. [46] Some segments of the socialist and Marxist left consciously merged environmentalism and anti-capitalism into an eco-socialist ideology. [47] Barry Commoner articulated a left-wing response to The Limits to Growth model that predicted catastrophic resource depletion and spurred environmentalism, postulating that capitalist technologies were chiefly responsible for environmental degradation, as opposed to population pressures. [48] Environmental degradation can be seen as a class or equity issue, as environmental destruction disproportionately affects poorer communities and countries. [49]

Several left-wing or socialist groupings have an overt environmental concern and several green parties contain a strong socialist presence. For example, the Green Party of England and Wales features an eco-socialist group, Green Left, that was founded in June 2005. Its members held some influential positions within the party, including both the former Principal Speakers Siân Berry and Dr. Derek Wall, himself an eco-socialist and Marxist academic. [50] In Europe, some Green left political parties combine traditional social-democratic values such as a desire for greater economic equality and workers rights with demands for environmental protection, such as the Nordic Green Left.

Well-known socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales has traced environmental degradation to consumerism. [51] He has said: "The Earth does not have enough for the North to live better and better, but it does have enough for all of us to live well". James Hansen, Noam Chomsky, Raj Patel, Naomi Klein, The Yes Men and Dennis Kucinich have had similar views. [52] [53] [ page needed ] [54] [55] [56] [57]

Global warming was the cover story of this 2007 issue of Ms. magazine Ms. magazine Cover - Spring 2007.jpg
Global warming was the cover story of this 2007 issue of Ms. magazine

In the 21st century, questions about the environment have become increasingly politicized, with the Left generally accepting the findings of environmental scientists about global warming [58] [59] and many on the Right disputing or rejecting those findings. [60] [61] [62] However, the left is divided over how to effectively and equitably reduce carbon emissions: the center-left often advocates a reliance on market measures such as emissions trading or a carbon tax, while those further to the left tend to support direct government regulation and intervention either alongside or instead of market mechanisms. [63] [64] [65]

Nationalism and anti-nationalism

The question of nationality and nationalism has been a central feature of political debates on the Left. During the French Revolution, nationalism was a policy of the Republican Left. [66] The Republican Left advocated civic nationalism [6] and argued that the nation is a "daily plebiscite" formed by the subjective "will to live together". Related to "revanchism", the belligerent will to take revenge against Germany and retake control of Alsace-Lorraine, nationalism was sometimes opposed to imperialism. In the 1880s, there was a debate between those, such as Georges Clemenceau (Radical), Jean Jaurès (Socialist) and Maurice Barrès (nationalist), who argued that colonialism diverted France from the "blue line of the Vosges" (referring to Alsace-Lorraine); and the "colonial lobby", such as Jules Ferry (moderate republican), Léon Gambetta (republican) and Eugène Etienne, the president of the parliamentary colonial group. After the Dreyfus Affair, nationalism instead became increasingly associated with the far-right. [67]

The Marxist social class theory of proletarian internationalism asserts that members of the working class should act in solidarity with working people in other countries in pursuit of a common class interest, rather than focusing on their own countries. Proletarian internationalism is summed up in the slogan: "Workers of the world, unite!", the last line of The Communist Manifesto . Union members had learned that more members meant more bargaining power. Taken to an international level, leftists argued that workers ought to act in solidarity to further increase the power of the working class.

Proletarian internationalism saw itself as a deterrent against war, because people with a common interest are less likely to take up arms against one another, instead focusing on fighting the ruling class. According to Marxist theory, the antonym of proletarian internationalism is bourgeois nationalism. Some Marxists, together with others on the left, view nationalism, [68] racism [69] (including anti-Semitism) [70] and religion as divide and conquer tactics used by the ruling classes to prevent the working class from uniting against them. Left-wing movements therefore have often taken up anti-imperialist positions. Anarchism has developed a critique of nationalism that focuses on nationalism's role in justifying and consolidating state power and domination. Through its unifying goal, nationalism strives for centralization, both in specific territories and in a ruling elite of individuals, while it prepares a population for capitalist exploitation. Within anarchism, this subject has been treated extensively by Rudolf Rocker in Nationalism and Culture and by the works of Fredy Perlman, such as Against His-Story, Against Leviathan and The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism. [71]

The failure of revolutions in Germany and Hungary ended Bolshevik hopes for an imminent world revolution and led to promotion of "Socialism in One Country" by Joseph Stalin. In the first edition of the book Osnovy Leninizma (Foundations of Leninism, 1924), Stalin argued that revolution in one country is insufficient, but by the end of that year in the second edition of the book he argued that the "proletariat can and must build the socialist society in one country". In April 1925, Nikolai Bukharin elaborated the issue in his brochure Can We Build Socialism in One Country in the Absence of the Victory of the West-European Proletariat?, whose position was adopted as state policy after Stalin's January 1926 article On the Issues of Leninism (К вопросам ленинизма). This idea was opposed by Leon Trotsky and his followers who declared the need for an international "permanent revolution". Various Fourth Internationalist groups around the world who describe themselves as Trotskyist see themselves as standing in this tradition, while Maoist China supported Socialism in One Country.

European social democrats strongly support Europeanism and supranational integration, although there is a minority of nationalists and eurosceptics also in the left. Some link this left-wing nationalism to the pressure generated by economic integration with other countries encouraged by free trade agreements. This view is sometimes used to justify hostility towards supranational organizations. Left-wing nationalism can also refer to any nationalism which emphasises a working-class populist agenda which seeks to overcome perceived exploitation or oppression by other nations. Many Third World anti-colonial movements adopted left-wing and socialist ideas.

Third-Worldism is a tendency within leftist thought that regards the division between First World developed countries and Third World developing countries as being of high political importance. This tendency supports national liberation movements against what it considers imperialism by capitalists. Third-Worldism is closely connected with African socialism, Latin American socialism, Maoism, [72] [ third-party source needed ] Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism. Some left-wing groups in the developing world – such as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Mexico, the Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa and the Naxalites in India – argue that the First World Left takes a racist and paternalistic attitude towards liberation movements in the Third World.[ citation needed ]

Religion

The original French left-wing was anti-clerical, opposing the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and supporting the separation of church and state. [6] Karl Marx asserted that "[r]eligion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people". [73] In Soviet Russia, the Bolsheviks originally embraced "an ideological creed which professed that all religion would atrophy" and "resolved to eradicate Christianity as such". In 1918, "ten Orthodox hierarchs were summarily shot" and "children were deprived of any religious education outside the home". [74] Today in the Western world those on the Left usually support secularization and the separation of church and state.

However, religious beliefs have also been associated with some left-wing movements, such as the civil rights movement and the anti-capital punishment movement. Early socialist thinkers such as Robert Owen, Charles Fourier and the Comte de Saint-Simon based their theories of socialism upon Christian principles. From St. Augustine of Hippo's City of God through St. Thomas More's Utopia , major Christian writers defended ideas that socialists found agreeable.[ citation needed ] Other common leftist concerns such as pacifism, social justice, racial equality, human rights and the rejection of excessive wealth can be found in the Bible. [75] In the late 19th century, the Social Gospel movement arose (particularly among some Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists in North America and Britain) which attempted to integrate progressive and socialist thought with Christianity in faith-based social activism, promoted by movements such as Christian socialism. In the 20th century, the theology of liberation and Creation Spirituality was championed by such writers as Gustavo Gutierrez and Matthew Fox.

Other left-wing religious movements include Islamic socialism and Buddhist socialism. There have been alliances between the left and anti-war Muslims, such as the Respect Party and the Stop the War Coalition in Britain. In France, the left has been divided over moves to ban the hijab from schools, with some supporting a ban based on separation of church and state and others opposing the prohibition based on personal freedom.

Social progressivism and counterculture

Social progressivism is another common feature of modern leftism, particularly in the United States, where social progressives played an important role in the abolition of slavery, [76] women's suffrage, [77] civil rights and multiculturalism. Progressives have both advocated prohibition legislation and worked towards its repeal. Current positions associated with social progressivism in the West include opposition to the death penalty and the War on Drugs, support for abortion rights, cognitive liberty, LGBT rights including legal recognition of same-sex marriage, distribution of contraceptives, and public funding of embryonic stem-cell research. Public education was a subject of great interest to groundbreaking social progressives such as Lester Frank Ward and John Dewey, who believed that a democratic system of government was impossible without a universal and comprehensive system of education.

Various counterculture movements in the 1960s and 1970s were associated with the "New Left". Unlike the earlier leftist focus on union activism, the New Left instead adopted a broader definition of political activism commonly called social activism. The New Left in the United States is associated with the hippie movement, college campus mass protest movements, and a broadening of focus from protesting class-based oppression to include issues such as gender, race and sexual orientation. The British New Left was an intellectually driven movement which attempted to correct the perceived errors of "Old Left".

The New Left opposed prevailing authority structures in society, which it termed "The Establishment" and became known as "anti-Establishment". The New Left did not seek to recruit industrial workers but rather concentrated on a social activist approach to organization, convinced that they could be the source for a better kind of social revolution. This view has been criticised by some Marxists (especially Trotskyists) who characterized this approach as "substitutionism", which they described as a misguided and non-Marxist belief that other groups in society could "substitute" for the revolutionary agency of the working class. [78] [79]

Many early feminists and advocates of women's rights were considered left-wing by contemporaries. Feminist pioneer Mary Wollstonecraft was influenced by the radical thinker Thomas Paine. Many notable leftists have been strong supporters of gender equality, such as the Marxists Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, and Alexandra Kollontai; anarchists such as Virginia Bolten, Emma Goldman, and Lucía Sánchez Saornil; and socialists Helen Keller and Annie Besant. [80] However, Marxists such as Rosa Luxemburg, [81] Clara Zetkin [82] [83] and Alexandra Kollontai, [84] [85] though supporters of radical social equality for women, opposed feminism because they considered it to be a bourgeois ideology. Marxists were responsible for organizing the first International Working Women's Day events. [86]

The women's liberation movement is closely connected to the New Left and other new social movements that challenged the orthodoxies of the Old Left. Socialist feminism, as exemplified by the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women; and Marxist feminism, as with Selma James, saw themselves as a part of the left that challenged what they perceive to be male-dominated and sexist structures within the Left. Liberal feminism is closely connected with social liberalism, and in America, with the left wing of mainstream politics (e.g., National Organization for Women).

The connection between left-leaning ideologies and LGBT rights struggles also has an important history. Prominent socialists who were involved in early struggles for LGBT rights include Edward Carpenter, Oscar Wilde, Harry Hay, Bayard Rustin, and Daniel Guérin, among others.

Varieties

The spectrum of left-wing politics ranges from center-left to far-left (or ultra-left). The term center-left describes a position within the political mainstream. The terms far-left and ultra-left refer to positions that are more radical. The center-left includes social democrats, social liberals, progressives and also some democratic socialists and greens (including some eco-socialists). Center-left supporters accept market allocation of resources in a mixed economy with a significant public sector and a thriving private sector. Center-left policies tend to favour limited state intervention in matters pertaining to the public interest.

In several countries, the terms far-left and radical left have been associated with varieties of communism, autonomism and anarchism. They have been used to describe groups that advocate anti-capitalism or eco-terrorism. In France, a distinction is made between the left (Socialist Party and Communist Party) and the far-left (Trotskyists, Maoists and anarchists). [87] The United States Department of Homeland Security defines left-wing extremism as groups that want "to bring about change through violent revolution rather than through established political processes". [88]

In China, the term "Chinese New Left" denotes those who oppose the current economic reforms and favour the restoration of more socialist policies. [89] In the Western world, the term New Left refers to cultural politics. In the United Kingdom in the 1980s, the term "hard left" was applied to supporters of Tony Benn, such as the Campaign Group and those involved in the London Labour Briefing newspaper, as well as Trotskyist groups such as Militant and the Alliance for Workers' Liberty. [90] In the same period, the term "soft left" was applied to supporters of the British Labour Party who were perceived to be more moderate. Under the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the British Labour Party rebranded itself as New Labour in order to promote the notion that it was less left-wing than it had been in the past. One of the first actions of the Labour Party leader who succeeded them, Ed Miliband, was the rejection of the "New Labour" label. However, Labour's voting record in parliament would indicate that under Miliband it had maintained the same distance from the left as it had with Blair. [91] [92] Likewise, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader was viewed by some as Labour turning back toward its socialist roots.

Leftist postmodernism opposes attempts to supply universal explanatory theories, including Marxism, deriding them as grand narratives. It views culture as a contested space and via deconstruction seeks to undermine all pretensions to absolute truth. Left-wing critics of post-modernism assert that cultural studies inflates the importance of culture by denying the existence of an independent reality. [93] [94]

See also

Related Research Articles

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The left–right political spectrum is a system of classifying political positions, ideologies and parties, from equality on the left to social hierarchy on the right. Left-wing politics and right-wing politics are often presented as opposed, although a particular individual or group may take a left-wing stance on one matter and a right-wing stance on another; and some stances may overlap and be considered either left- or right-wing depending on the ideology. In France, where the terms originated, the Left has been called "the party of movement" and the Right "the party of order". The intermediate stance is called centrism and a person with such a position is a moderate or centrist.

Marxism Economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Libertarian Marxism economic and political philosophies that emphasize the "anti-authoritarian" aspects of Marxism

Libertarian Marxism refers to a broad scope of economic and political philosophies that emphasize the anti-authoritarian aspects of Marxism. Early currents of libertarian Marxism such as left communism emerged in opposition to Marxism–Leninism and its derivatives such as Stalinism and Maoism, among others. Libertarian Marxism is also often critical of reformist positions such as those held by social democrats. Libertarian Marxist currents often draw from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' later works, specifically the Grundrisse and The Civil War in France; emphasizing the Marxist belief in the ability of the working class to forge its own destiny without the need for a vanguard party to mediate or aid its liberation. Along with anarchism, libertarian Marxism is one of the main currents of libertarian socialism.

Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful as well as opposing authority and hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations. Proponents of anarchism, known as anarchists, advocate stateless societies based on non-hierarchical voluntary associations. While anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful, opposition to the state is not its central or sole definition. For instance, anarchism can entail opposing authority or hierarchy in the conduct of all human relations.

This is a list of political topics, including political science terms, political philosophies, political issues, etc.

Left-wing nationalism or leftist nationalism, also known as social nationalism, nationalist socialism or socialist nationalism, describes a form of nationalism based upon social equality, popular sovereignty and national self-determination. Left-wing nationalism can also include anti-imperialism and national liberation movements. It stands in contrast to right-wing nationalism and often rejects ethno-nationalism to this same end, although some forms of left-wing nationalism have included a platform of racialism, favoring a homogeneous society, a rejection of minorities and opposition to immigration.

Socialist patriotism is a form of patriotism promoted by Marxist–Leninist movements. Socialist patriotism promotes people living within Marxist-Leninist countries to adopt a "boundless love for the socialist homeland, a commitment to the revolutionary transformation of society [and] the cause of communism". Marxist-Leninists claim that socialist patriotism is not connected with nationalism, as Marxists and Marxist-Leninists denounce nationalism as a bourgeois ideology developed under capitalism that sets workers against each other. Socialist patriotism is commonly advocated directly alongside proletarian internationalism, with communist parties regarding the two concepts as compatible with each other. The concept has been attributed by Soviet writers to Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.

Democratic socialism is a term used to refer to the socialist political philosophy that advocates political democracy alongside a socially owned economy, with an emphasis on workers' self-management and democratic control of economic institutions within a market or some form of a decentralised planned socialist economy. Democratic socialists argue that capitalism is inherently incompatible with the values of freedom, equality and solidarity and that these ideals can be achieved only through the realisation of a socialist society. Democratic socialism can support either revolutionary or reformist politics as a means to establish socialism.

Internationalism (politics) movement which advocates a greater economic and political cooperation among nations

Internationalism is a political principle which transcends nationalism and advocates a greater political or economic cooperation among nations and people.

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective or cooperative ownership, or to citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, though social ownership is the common element shared by its various forms. Socialist economic systems can be further divided into market and non-market forms. The word socialism thus refers to a broad range of theoretical and historical socioeconomic systems and has also been used by many political movements throughout history to describe themselves and their goals, generating numerous types of socialism.

French Left

The Left in France was represented at the beginning of the 20th century by two main political parties: the Republican, Radical and Radical-Socialist Party and the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO), created in 1905 as a merger of various Marxist parties. But in 1914, after the assassination of the leader of the SFIO, Jean Jaurès, who had upheld an internationalist and anti-militarist line, the SFIO accepted to join the Union sacrée national front. In the aftermaths of the Russian Revolution and the Spartacist uprising in Germany, the French Left divided itself in reformists and revolutionaries during the 1920 Tours Congress, which saw the majority of the SFIO spin-out to form the French Section of the Communist International (SFIC). The early French Left was often alienated into the Republican movements.

Eco-socialism, green socialism or socialist ecology is an ideology merging aspects of socialism with that of green politics, ecology and alter-globalization or anti-globalization. Eco-socialists generally believe that the expansion of the capitalist system is the cause of social exclusion, poverty, war and environmental degradation through globalization and imperialism, under the supervision of repressive states and transnational structures. Eco-socialists advocate dismantling capitalism, focusing on common ownership of the means of production by freely associated producers, and restoring the commons. Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, has described her party's brand of socialism as appealing to both middle-class environmentalists as well as working-class socialists.

Revolutionary socialism is the socialist doctrine that social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. Revolutionary socialists believe such a state of affairs is a precondition for establishing socialism and orthodox Marxists believe that it is inevitable but not predetermined.

Proletarian internationalism Marxist social class concept

Proletarian internationalism, sometimes referred to as international socialism, is the perception of all communist revolutions as being part of a single global class struggle rather than separate localized events. It is based on the theory that capitalism is a world-system and therefore the working classes of all nations must act in concert if they are to replace it with communism. Proponents of proletarian internationalism often argued that the objectives of a given revolution should be global rather than local in scope—for example, triggering or perpetuating revolutions elsewhere.

The history of socialism has its origins in the 1789 French Revolution and the changes which it wrought, although it has precedents in earlier movements and ideas. The Communist Manifesto was written by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels in 1848 just before the Revolutions of 1848 swept Europe, expressing what they termed "scientific socialism". In the last third of the 19th century, social democratic parties arose in Europe, drawing mainly from Marxism. The Australian Labor Party was the world's first elected socialist party when it formed government in the Colony of Queensland for a week in 1899.

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Further reading