Right-wing politics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
Right wing is also a term used in several sports; see winger (sport).

In politics, right-wing, the political right, or simply the Right, are terms that refer to the segment of the political spectrum typically associated with any of several strains of conservatism or Christian democracy. In addition it is considered the opposite of left-wing politics.

Fascism, as well as the nationalist ideology that many base it on, are often considered to be radical forms of right-wing politics. Most right-wingers however reject any association with fascism.

The term comes originally from the legislative seating arrangement during the French Revolution, when monarchists who supported the Ancien Régime were commonly referred to as rightists because they sat on the right side of successive legislative assemblies.

As this original reference became obsolete, the meaning of the term has changed as appropriate to the spectrum of ideas and stances being compared, and the point of view of the speaker. In recent times, the term almost always includes some forms of conservatism and Christian democracy.

Some consider it to include those forms of liberalism that emphasize the free market more than egalitarianism in wealth, but many free-market advocates, including most libertarians conceive of an additional spectrum (libertarianism-totalitarianism) upon which they place themselves which intersects the left-right political spectrum and places them 90 degrees away from traditional left and right, much as many anarchists (including "libertarian socialists") avoid placing themselves on the spectrum.

See political spectrum and left-right politics for further discussion of this kind of classification.


Right wing issues

In the 20th century, outside the United States, where capitalism was always supported by the many politicians and intellectuals, the most notable distinction between left and right was in economic policy. The right advanced capitalism, whereas the left advocated socialism (often democratic socialism) or communism. This distinction has shifted somewhat since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, as mainstream politicians now accept limited capitalism to a large degree, but in a socialistic form in which government mandates significant redistribution of wealth.

The dominant modern strand of right wing thought is concerned with traditional values (often Christian in nature) and preservation of individual and corporate rights through constraints on government power. In a hard-line form the second and third of these priorities are associated with libertarianism, but some on the right reject the most ardent assumptions of libertarianism, especially outside of the United States, and a small minority of libertarians do not consider themselves to be right wing.

A more obscure strand of right wing thought, often associated with the original right wing from the times of monarchy, supports the preservation of wealth and power in the hands that have traditionally held them, social stability, and national solidarity and ambition.

Both of the above strands of right wing thought come in many forms, and individuals who support some of the objectives of one of the above stands will not necessarily support all of the others. At the level of practical political policy, there are endless variations in the means that right wing thinkers advocate to achieve their basic aims, and they sometimes argue with each other as much as with the left.

The values and policy concerns of the right vary in different countries and eras. Also, individual right wing politicians and thinkers often have idiosyncratic priorities. It is not always possible or helpful to try to work out which of two sets of beliefs or policies is more right-wing (see political spectrum).

History of the term

Since the French Revolution, the political use of the terms "left" and "right" has evolved across linguistic, societal, and national boundaries, sometimes taking on meanings in one time and place that contrast sharply with those in another. For example, as of 2004 the government of the People's Republic of China claims to remain on the "left," despite an evolution that has brought it quite close to what is elsewhere characterized as "right," supporting national cultural traditions, the interests of wealth, and privately owned industry. Conversely, the late dictator of Spain, Francisco Franco, who was firmly allied internationally with the right and who brutally suppressed the Spanish left, nonetheless pursued numerous development policies quite similar to those of the Soviet Union and other communist states, which are almost universally considered to be on the "left." Similarly, while "right" originally referred to those who supported the interests of aristocracy, in many countries today (notably the United States) the left-right distinction is not strongly correlated with wealth or ancestry.

Fascism and right-wing politics

Despite the important differences from other right-wing ideologies, fascism is almost universally considered to be a part of "the right." This is somewhat parallel to the customary inclusion of Marxism-Leninism (and, in particular, that of the Stalinist Soviet Union and Maoist China) in "the left." Nonetheless, fascism differs significantly from other politics that are usually classified as right wing, and most right-wingers (even many far right groups) reject any association with it on the grounds that fascism is collectivist and statist rather than individualist. Most left-wingers (even many communists) reject any association with Stalinism and Maoism as well.

Many of the creators of Italian Fascism had originally been supporters of the political left. Philosophers such as Robert Michel, Sergio Panunzio, and Giovanni Gentile were originally syndicalists, a group normally identified with the left and whose tactical propensity for direct action became an element in Italian Fascism. In Gentile's treatise Doctrine of Fascism, fascism is identified as being of the "collective" century and it is declared that the 20th century will be the "century of the state". Benito Mussolini himself was originally a socialist, though he disavowed his ties by the time he was leading the fascist party and many of his old comrades were the first targets of his political police.

David Schoenbaum argued in his book Hitler's Social Revolution: Class and Status in Nazi Germany, 1933-1939 that Nazism contained certain revolutionary and socialist aspects (although more in rhetoric than in reality), and it was no coincidence that the Nazis often found themselves in a struggle with the Communists for the same constituency. The DAP, which later became the Nazi Party, was formed in response and in opposition to a brief Communist revolt in Bavaria. While the Nazis opposed individualism and laissez faire capitalism, vigorous opposition to Communism and Social democracy was a founding and continuing tenet of National Socialism.

Imperial Japan in the 1930s and during World War II, while a distinct phenomenon, is also ordinarily understood as an expression of a right-wing philosophy; but like other forms of fascism, it is only unequivocally right wing if the terms of comparison are limited.

In contemporary politics, neofascists and neonazis are said to be far-right. Authoritarian conservatives such as supporters of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet or supporters of the military juntas that ruled much of Latin America in the 1970s are also said to be far-right.

The Right and the War on Terror


In some countries, the contemporary Left-Right dichotomy is characterized more by contrasting positions on international conflicts than by economic differences; some thinkers, both of the left and the right, see this as a worrying tendency. For example:

Reasons for support

In the United States, most of the political right support the use of military measures against terrorist organizations — by which they mean not only paramilitary groups like Al-Qaida, but also groups like Hamas, which combine paramilitary activities with more conventional political and social organizing — and "terror-supporting states", including some Arab dictatorships. However, the Far-right and the Paleoconservatives generally oppose all or some of these campaigns and some of the left-wing approves a proactive stance against terrorism and dictatorship, while questioning whether the Iraq war is a useful part of such a stance.

The Neoconservative argument is that a hard line is the only correct approach to deal with terrorists and dictators. The rhetoric in support of this view often invokes the persistent stance of Sir Winston Churchill to fight Adolf Hitler instead of trying to appease him. Churchill himself clashed over this issue with fellow members of the UK Conservative Party during the period before Hitler's 1939 invasion of Poland. Critics rarely disagree that Churchill was right about Hitler; instead, they further reject the appeasement analogy, arguing, for example, that whereas Hitler in the late 1930s likely had the military means to conquer Europe, Iraq in 2003 was no longer a serious military threat.

United States politics, in particular, has long had a current that claims to believe it is their moral obligation to free nations from dictators and undemocratic regimes. This has not always been particularly associated with the right: it can be found in Cold War Liberalism and many trace the roots of this thinking back to the French Revolution and, especially, the French Revolutionary Wars. The tradition owes more to classical liberalism than to conservatism, but in the U.S. today, many advocates of this position are on the political right.

Those who subscribe to this view argue that the Western enlightened values of freedom, democracy and justice are the only means tending to protect rather than exploit the individual, and that the West should spread them around the globe. In this, they claim to oppose cultural and moral relativism, although critics argue that they are selective as to which countries the West should attempt to change. Neoconservatives and their allies advocate that the defense of individual liberty must be backed with a credible commitment to military action against certain states, such as those that were branded by G.W. Bush as "the Axis of Evil", which they say violate human rights, and which they describe as threats to the world's (or their own state's) security. This ideology has been articulated by right-wing leaders such as Natan Sharansky, Ronald Reagan and Richard Perle. The Bush Administration's official policy is to call for democratic reforms in all undemocratic governments; former Secretary Powell publicly called for democratic reforms in meetings with Arab and Islamic states; again, critics charge that practice does not live up to this rhetoric.

Many groups on the left agree with the ideal of spreading democracy and freedom, but disagree with the methods employed by the right. Some also mistrust what they see as the right's new-found belief in spreading democracy--much as some on the right doubt the left's commitment to liberty given communism's frequent entanglement with totalitarianism. These leftist groups argue that the US has a history of supporting foreign dictatorships where that support is seen as being in the "national interest", both throughout the Cold War and (in such cases as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Uzbekistan) during the present "War on Terror". These leftist critics argue that many of the causes of Islamic terrorism lie in previous military or clandestine interventions by the United States.

Conversely, many right-wingers dispute the left's commitment toward human rights, claiming that the left has consistently opposed action against terrorist regimes and attempted to silence criticism of atrocities by leftist third world insurgent movements. They accuse the left of apologising for terror and atrocities justified on the ground of "struggle against imperialist oppression."

Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Mainstream American right-wing groups also tend to support Israel's actions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as they perceive Israel as being the only stronghold of democracy and stability in the Middle East. The terrorist attacks that struck Israel after the Camp David 2000 Summit and the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. increased this sympathy for, and support of, Israel. Some on the Christian right, many of them Judeo-Christians or Christian Zionists, support Israel because they believe its existence is essential to bring the Messiah. (See also dispensationalism.)

There are also many Far-right groups and militias in the United States who vigorously oppose any assistance towards Israel, and go so far as to call the United States government a Zionist-Occupied Government. Similarly, Muslim right-wingers and Islamists support the Palestinians, as they see Israel and the Jews as "enemies of Islam" and the Arab people. There has been some intermingling of ideas and sympathetic rhetoric between these two groupings.

Political parties on the right

See: Right wing political parties.

See also

External links


  • Hitler's Social Revolution: Class and Status in Nazi Germany, 1933-1939 by David Schoenbaum, ISBN 0393315541
Personal tools