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Left-wing politics
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 (prioritarianism) as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished (by advocating for social justice).[1] The term left-wing can also refer to "the radical, reforming, or socialist section of a political party or system".[5] The political terms "Left" and "Right" were coined during the French Revolution (1789–1799), referring to the seating arrangement in the 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[8] usually with disparaging intent and "left-wing" was applied to those who were unorthodox in their religious or political views. The term was later applied to a number of movements, especially republicanism during the French Revolution
French Revolution
in the 18th century, followed by socialism,[9] communism, anarchism and social democracy in the 19th and 20th centuries.[10] Since then, the term left-wing has been applied to a broad range of movements[11] including civil rights movements, feminist movements, anti-war movements and environmental movements,[12][13] as well as a wide range of parties.[14][15][16] According to author 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".[17]

Contents

1 History 2 Positions

2.1 Economics 2.2 Environment 2.3 Nationalism
Nationalism
and anti-nationalism 2.4 Religion 2.5 Social progressivism
Social progressivism
and counterculture

3 Varieties 4 See also 5 References 6 Further reading 7 External links

History[edit] See also: History of political thought, Left–right politics, and History of the Left in France

5 May 1789, opening of the Estates General of 1789
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 Estates General of 1789. Throughout the 19th century in France, the main line dividing Left and Right was between supporters of the French Republic
Republic
and those of the monarchy.[6][page needed] The June Days Uprising
June Days Uprising
during the Second Republic
Republic
was an attempt by the Left to assert itself after the 1848 Revolution, but only a small portion of the population supported this. 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
Marxism
began to rival radical republicanism and utopian socialism as a force within left-wing politics. The influential Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
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.[18]

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. The International Workingmen's Association
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.[19] The Second International
Second International
(1888–1916) became divided over the issue of World War I. Those who opposed the war, such as Vladimir Lenin
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.[20][21] 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.[22][23][24][full citation needed][25] 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[26][page needed] and the condemnation of the Russian composer Shostakovich's opera (The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District) in Pravda
Pravda
as follows: "Here we have 'leftist' confusion instead of natural, human music".[27][page needed] Positions[edit] The following positions are typically associated with left-wing politics. Economics[edit] Leftist economic beliefs range from Keynesian
Keynesian
economics and the welfare state through industrial democracy and the social market to nationalization of the economy and central planning,[28] 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.[29] 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.[30][31] Marxian economics
Marxian economics
does not exclusively rely upon Marx, but it draws from a range of Marxist
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.[32] The political relevance of farmers has divided the left. In Das Kapital, Marx scarcely mentioned the subject.[33] 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 are 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.[34][35][36] Environment[edit] Main articles: Green politics, Eco-socialism, and Green anarchism Both Karl Marx
Karl Marx
and the early socialist William Morris
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 Aleksandr Bogdanov and the Proletkul't
Proletkul't
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
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
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
Barry Commoner
articulated a left-wing response to The Limits to Growth
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
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
Siân Berry
and Dr. Derek Wall, himself an eco-socialist and Marxist
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
Bolivian President
Evo Morales
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
The Yes Men
and Dennis Kucinich
Dennis Kucinich
have had similar views.[52][53][page needed][54][55][56][57]

Global warming
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
Nationalism
and anti-nationalism[edit] See also: Internationalism (politics), Left-wing nationalism, and Proletarian
Proletarian
internationalism 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
Georges Clemenceau
(Radical), Jean Jaurès (Socialist) and Maurice Barrès
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
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 all countries, 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
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
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
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
Rudolf Rocker
in Nationalism
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
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
Nikolai Bukharin
elaborated the issue in his brochure Can We Build Socialism
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
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
Trotskyist
see themselves as standing in this tradition, while Maoist China
Maoist China
supported Socialism
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
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
Third World
anti-colonial movements adopted left-wing and socialist ideas. Third-Worldism
Third-Worldism
is a tendency within leftist thought that regards the division between First World
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
Third-Worldism
is closely connected with African socialism, Latin American socialism, Maoism,[72][third-party source needed] Pan-Africanism
Pan-Africanism
and Pan-Arabism. Some left-wing groups in the developing world – such as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
Zapatista Army of National Liberation
in Mexico, the Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa
South Africa
and the Naxalites
Naxalites
in India – argue that the First World
First World
Left takes a racist and paternalistic attitude towards liberation movements in the Third World.[citation needed] Religion[edit] See also: Political science of religion, Anarchism
Anarchism
and religion, Buddhist socialism, Christian left, Jewish left, and Islamic socialism The original French left-wing was anti-clerical, opposing the influence of the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
and supporting the separation of church and state.[6] Karl Marx
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
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
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
Charles Fourier
and the Comte de Saint-Simon
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
North America
and Britain) which attempted to integrate progressive and socialist thought with Christianity
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
Gustavo Gutierrez
and Matthew Fox. Other left-wing religious movements include Islamic socialism
Islamic socialism
and Buddhist socialism. There have been alliances between the left and anti-war Muslims, such as the Respect Party
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
Social progressivism
and counterculture[edit] See also: Socialist
Socialist
feminism and Socialism
Socialism
and LGBT rights Social progressivism
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, as well as support for legal recognition of same-sex marriage, cognitive liberty, distribution of contraceptives, public funding of embryonic stem-cell research and the right of women to choose abortion. Public education was a subject of great interest to groundbreaking social progressives, such as Lester Frank Ward
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
New Left
instead adopted a broader definition of political activism commonly called social activism. The United States New Left
New Left
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
New Left
was an intellectually driven movement which attempted to correct the perceived errors of "Old Left". The New Left
New Left
opposed prevailing authority structures in society, which it termed "The Establishment" and became known as "anti-Establishment". The New Left
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 was what they saw as the misguided and non- Marxist
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 their contemporaries. Feminist
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
Clara Zetkin
and Alexandra Kollontai; anarchists such as Virginia Bolten, Emma Goldman
Emma Goldman
and Lucía Sánchez Saornil; and the socialists Helen Keller
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
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
Socialist
feminism, as exemplified by the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women; and Marxist
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
Liberal feminism
is closely connected with social liberalism and the left wing of mainstream American 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
LGBT rights
include Edward Carpenter, Oscar Wilde, Harry Hay, Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin
and Daniel Guérin among others. Varieties[edit] 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
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
New Left
refers to cultural politics. In the United Kingdom
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
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
British Labour Party
who were perceived to be more moderate. Under the leadership of Tony Blair
Tony Blair
and Gordon Brown, the British Labour Party
British Labour Party
rebranded itself as New Labour
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] In 1996, physicist Alan Sokal wrote a nonsensical article entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity".[95] The journal Social Text published the paper in its Spring/Summer 1996 issue, whereupon Sokal publicly revealed his hoax. While this action was interpreted as an attack upon leftism, Sokal (who was a committed supporter of the Sandinista
Sandinista
movement in Nicaragua
Nicaragua
during the 1980s) intended it as a critique from within the left.[96] Sokal said he was concerned about what he saw as the increasing prevalence on the left of "a particular kind of nonsense and sloppy thinking [...] that denies the existence of objective realities". Sokal also called into question the usefulness of such theories to the wider left movement, saying he "never understood how deconstruction was meant to help the working class".[96][relevant? – discuss] See also[edit]

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References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

Encyclopedia of the American Left, ed. by Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, Dan Georgakas, Second Edition, Oxford University Press 1998, ISBN 0-19-512088-4. Lin Chun, The British New Left, Edinburgh : Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1993. Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850–2000, Oxford University Press 2002, ISBN 0-19-504479-7. "Leftism in India, 1917–1947", Satyabrata Rai Chowdhuri, Palgrave Macmillan, UK, 2007, ISBN 978-0-230-51716-5. Neither Washington Nor Stowe: Common Sense For The Working Vermonter, by David Van Deusen, Sean West, and the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective (NEFAC-VT), Catamount Tavern Press, 2004. The Rise and Fall of The Green Mountain Anarchist
Anarchist
Collective, 2015.

External links[edit]

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