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April 28, 2006

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David Osler

Surely the key issue is class? You'll guess I'm coming from a Marxist viewpoint here, of course.

That's why I 'm incredulous when the likes of Tebbit - presumably inspired by Hayek's position in The Road to Serfdom, which I read last year - make the case that fascist governments are actually 'leftwing' because they are somehow collectivist.

But under Hitler, the economy remained in the hands of private enterprise, even if it was heavily directed behind the war drive. Follow the money, as the saying goes.

Similarly, unless the BNP have changed their policy to democratic workers' control, they can't be considered left in any meaningful sense.

And if by 'clash between rich and poor' you mean good ol' class struggle - heaven forfend - then no genuine leftist has to think twice.

Backword Dave

"the economy remained in the hands of private enterprise..." Has there ever been a Labour government in this country, or a Socialist government in France where this hasn't largely been the case?

"When interests clash (as they do) who do you support? Rich or poor?" In the 1930s and 1940s, many fascist sympathisers were in the upper classes. This isn't so true now (unless my sociology is all wrong). The BNP probably hates everyone deep down, but as its supporters aren't rich, it's not so likely to back them.

I'd still call the BNP "right wing" if only for want of a better label. Actually, I think there are other considerations which Chris hasn't mentioned: authoritarianism and militarism for instance, where I suspect that the BNP is clearly on the right.

David Osler

Ah yes, other Dave ... that's why Marxists consider Labour/social democratic governments as 'bourgeois governments'. That they offer no serious challenge to capital is part of the job description.

dearieme

I disagree. What's "Left" is pretty well agreed widely, it's what's "Right" that varies so much, from Libertarians, to Capitalism-blue-in-tooth-and-claw types, to Fascists, to Nazis, to paternalist Tories, to Aristocracy/Church reactionaries, to .....
The only real difficulty with "Left" is the reluctance of some self-described Leftists to accept that Fascists and Nazis were, in so many ways, of the Left.

dearieme

And another thing. "When interests clash (as they do) who do you support? Rich or poor?" Neither: I support trying to find a suitable process for resolving the matter, suitability being defined in terms of, amongst other things, serving to minimise State (or any other) coercion or violence, avoiding retrospective legislation and whatnot. Much the same, really, as if the interests were those of, say, men and women, the beautiful and the ugly, the large and the small, the hale and the hearty, the arty and the farty or any two other groups. What's so special about the rich and the poor?

Robert Jubb

The progressive/conservative distinction strikes me as probably more helpful than the left/right one, because it, at least roughly, gestures at political moralities rather than sets of policy instruments, despite, generally, mapping fairly accurately on to the left/right distinction.

David Osler

Fascism is nothing to do with the left. That's pure Hayekian/Tebbite bollocks.

Fascism is, in the final analysis, always and exclusively a movement in the interests of the ruling class. It only ever comes to power where capitalism needs to hand over the state to violent thugs in order to oppress an insurgent working class.

True, it has a low-level existence among an ideologically-committed cadre at in most times in most countries. But it is something that the big bourgeoisie hold in reserve.

Matt M

The progressive/conservative labels are such broad churches however that they can become almost meaningless.

The political compass with its "liberal left" and "authoritarian left" seems to be the best distinction I've come across so far, but even that raises problems.

As for the BNP, I've always considered them to be on the right as they have an extremely nationalistic agenda.

Tim Worstall

"Socialism in One Country" wasn’t exactly non-nationalistic now was it?

I generally identify myself as progessive (yes, we can change the system to make it better), liberal (do whatever bollocks you like until you are infringing on the rights of others)and most certainly pro-poor: I’d like them (us) to be rich.

It always amazes me that people think I’m on the right, in the sense of being a Tory or something.

gandalf

I like Steven Pinker's analysis in the Blank Slate etc. (Chapter 16), which argues that…

The left is a sociological tradition, which sees society as a cohesive organic entity and its individual citizens as mere parts. In extreme cases - Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot - leftist regimes extirpate able people, the better to equalize its component parts. Less extreme leftist regimes just stealthily tax the more successful.

To the right, society is an arrangement negotiated by rational, self-interested individuals. Rightists say things like “There is no such thing as society”. In extreme cases rightists identify only their own race as worthy, and seek to extirpate others - the Nazis being the obvious example. Less extreme rightist regimes are just nationalistic - like the US and France.

This analysis puts the BNP on the right, along with French nationalists and US Red Staters, so for once I disagree with Lord T.

Incidentally, in the 20th Century, extreme leftist regimes killed about 3 times more people than extreme rightists.

Simstim

"The left is a sociological tradition, which sees society as a cohesive organic entity and its individual citizens as mere parts."

Surely the Nazis saw society as "cohesive organic entity and its individual citizens as mere parts" as well? I think trying to (definitively) define left vs. right is doomed to failure as they're classic cases of a Wittgensteinian "family of resemblances" (let alone Gallie's notion of an "essentially contested concept"), that's why you can get Tebbite seeing the BNP as leftwing and various others seeing Stalin as rightwing.

gandalf

Simstim

Good point on the Nazis - their atrocities against Jews, Gipsies etc could have been motivated by either - or both - of the "society" and "race" models.

And I agree the left/right model is broken.

The Pedant-General

Alternatively, look at the political compass.

The BNP are economically left and authoritarian. In other words, they are pretty much the same as communists and, notably, the absolute antithesis of proper conservatives - economically right and pro-individual freedom.

No wonder Prentis and other "left-wingers" don't want to draw attention to this...

PG

ivan

Both the great classical liberal Frederic Bastiat and the anarcho-socialist Proudhon sat on the left side of the French national assembly. They were both pro-poor and anti-statist i guess.

Devil's Kitchen

"Fascism is, in the final analysis, always and exclusively a movement in the interests of the ruling class. It only ever comes to power where capitalism needs to hand over the state to violent thugs in order to oppress an insurgent working class."

Aaaaaaaahahahahahahaha! Is anyone taking this guy seriously?

DK

edward astbury

Trade Unions should stick to defending the members and not playing politics. I was a member of UNISON for 14 years. I was wrongfully dismissed. The union did not help me one jot.

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