In light of recent events, you may have been confused when people would throw around phrases like “left-wing” “Authoritarian” and “Damn Ineptocrats!”(Can we please make Ineptocrats a thing) hopefully, I will be able to help clear up all this confusion for you. Although maybe I’ll fail spectacularly and confuse you even further.
I’ll start by dispelling a common myth that the left is always progressive and the right is always conservative. A reason for this misconception is that it is simply the result of the political landscape at the time. We are living in a mostly right-wing structured society with capitalism in the west so the right is being conservative and trying to keep things the same while the left desires change. The left is able to be conservative if given the chance and the right can just as easily be progressive. When the status quo has been settled there will be those who want to conserve it and those who want to change it. The issue arises with the confusion of the term ‘progressive’ the definition of which being “favouring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, especially in political matters” so by this definition Benito Mussolini was progressive as he made pushed for vast changes to Italy one being attempting to ban pasta strangely enough. Alternatively, Raúl Castro could be defined as a Conservative, he is the brother of the previous leader of Cuba and hasn’t made many radical reforms. Progress is somewhat of a subjective term especially on the extremes of politics. A lot of the terms tossed about trying to label the left and the right can most often apply to both sides. For example, if the term reactionary is used to describe right-wing conservatives, could it not also be used to describe leftist conservatives when they defend their status quo?
Now that I have your attention hopefully, let us start by understanding what people really mean by right and left, you know the real meat of the issue. The right more commonly believes in less state control and more individual freedom, whereas the left most often believes in more state control and less individual freedom. Yes, there are exceptions. This traditional idea of the two sides goes out the window the further from the centre you stray. With extremes, you can see that communists and fascists will both suppress individual freedoms in the interest of the state and both are “Authoritarian” and “Nationalistic”. The interesting part is how both the left the and right achieve Authoritarianism with different aims. Progress and change often mean ignoring large groups of people, because extremes tend to attract angry mobs. They have to suppress certain groups for the sake of their own agenda.
Both the extreme left and right also end up with some form of a class system, the right usually wants one from the start, but the left ends up with one partly down to necessity and partly down to greed, George Orwell wrote an interesting book on this called Animal farm where he describes the similarity of the left and the right,he describes how the classes of society always shift but you will almost never end up with one social class when governance is required, what we know about humanity shows that greed almost always captivates the minds of those with some power over others, if not one person then the next. You should right about now, be realising that the left and right wing thing is kinda silly when it comes to extremes, it’s actually pretty hard to distinguish them at a certain point so here’s a handy chart to illustrate it. The main thing to remember is how they got to the extreme rather than focussing on the result of extremism when you are trying to distinguish them so let’s move onwards to the centre where both of them start out.
Ahh, the centre, the happy area where everyone agrees on most things but people just don’t get along. Weird I know. I guess the fighting is furious when the stakes are low. The main issue being is that nobody can agree on the solution even though they mostly agree on the goal. The right usually wanting a more “laissez-faire” approach (less government involvement), and the left wanting more government action and most often social and individual reformation. There are two aspects of politics that can make you decide to be left or right, social and economic. Economic unity or socialism is left wing, and meritocracy or capitalism is right wing. The key differences being that the left wants unity and equality (whatever equality happens to mean at the time) and the right traditionally wants Individual freedoms and meritocratic principles, however, merits are pretty subjective as they could range from work skill to skin colour depending on how extreme your views are. In principle, both sides of the scale in the centre desire some form of equality but tackle the issue in totally different ways. Left wingers will perceive equality as taking away certain monetary freedoms and distributing the wealth relatively evenly while treating everyone exactly the same. The right will try and give people monetary equality by giving them the ability to earn it based on their merits and giving individual freedoms. Really the right and the left aren’t too dissimilar in that they have one goal in mind, they can all agree that “Society should improve” problem is, no one seems to agree on what that looks like.