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  Wikipedia: Left-wing politics

Wikipedia: Left-wing politics
Left-wing politics
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

In politics, the term left-wing (or political left or simply on the left) refers to the segment of the political spectrum associated either with any of several strains of socialism, social democracy, or liberalism, (in the United States sense of the word), or with opposition to right-wing politics. The term is also often used to characterize the politics of the Soviet Union and other one-party communist states, although many (perhaps most) on the political left (even including some who call themselves Marxist) would not consider their own politics to have anything significant in common with those of these states. Similarly, most anarchists consider themselves part of the political left, but many others on the left would reject that connection.

This use of the terms "left" and "right" originated during the French Revolution. See Left-Right politics for the origin of the terms and for a summary of what political views would usually be characterized as "left" and "right". Many don't find the left/right dichotomy helpful to discuss contemporary politics (see Political spectrum for discussion of alternatives), but it remains a very common view of the political spectrum.

Ironically, the original "left" in 1789 were the largely bourgeois supporters of Laissez-faire capitalism and free markets. As the electorate expanded beyond property-holders, these relatively wealthy elites found themselves clearly victorious over the old aristocracy and the remnants of feudalism, but newly opposed by the growing and increasingly organized and politicized workers and wage-earners. The "left" of 1789 is in many ways part of the present-day "right", liberal only in the European sense of the word.

The inclusion of Soviet-style state communism in the "left" is particularly controversial. Many argue that (despite its use of socialist rhetoric), Soviet-style communism should either be viewed independently of the conventional left-right spectrum or be placed on the right as a type of authoritarian dictatorship. Critics of democratic socialism or of left-liberalism have often used the association of communism with Soviet-style politics to tar the political left has become tarred with what they see as the crimes of Bolshevism.

The European left has traditionally extended into Communist parties (including such hybrids as Eurocommunism), which have sometimes allied with more moderate leftists to present a united front. In the United States of America, however, no avowedly socialist or communist ever became a major player in national politics although the Social Democratic Party of Eugene V. Debs and its successor Socialist Party of America (in the late nineteenth and early twentiech century) and the Communist Party of the United States of America (in the 1930s) made some inroads. While many American "liberals" would be "social democrats" in European terms, very few of them openly embrace the term "left"; in America, the term is mainly embraced by New Left activists, certain portions of the labor movement, and people who see their intellectual or political heritage as descending from 19th-century socialist movements.

The "New Left" has had varying degrees of unity since its rise in the 1960s, and is a coalition encompassing several movements, such as feminists, Greens, some Labor unions, some Atheists, and exponents of identity politics such as Gay rights activists, minority ethnic and racially oriented Civil Rights groups, and some feminist groups. Many Greens deny that the "left" label provides is useful to describe them, and build their green politics on a different set of assumptions, usually asserting that local control improves on central control, and that only a few issues benefit from global unity. Nonetheless, when they have formed political coalitions, it has almost always been with groups that would generally be seen as, at least in some degree, on the left.

Rightists often use the term "left-wing" as a pejorative term. Many critics of the left have claimed that leftist movements lost their moorings after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Most leftists respond that they have never taken their inspiration from the Soviet model and rejoiced to see the USSR's system collapse -- as leftist writer Michael Albert put it, "one down, one to go". Certainly some parts of the radical left have associations with Soviet-style communism fascism or with terrorism, just as the radical right has associations with fascism or with terrorism. Of course, most groups on the left and right tend to vigorously deny any such linkages.

Some self-described leftists also subscribe to postmodernism, including deconstructionism, a philosophical point of view that claims that every text "contains the allegory of its own deconstruction" and thereby questions the possibility of rational discourse. (Most postmodernists see themselves as leftists, but most leftists are not postmodernists.) Critics on the right have generally seen this as an indication of the poorly thought-out, fashionable nature of academic leftism. However, many on the left say postmodernism makes no sense and offers no useful political lessons.

Some critics of the left also suggest that deconstructionism is not the only Nietzschean element in contemporary leftism, pointing to Nietzsche as the font of moral relativism and the "God is dead" philosophy, both of which they see as rampant on the left, and both of which these critics deplore.

Political groups on the left

One might normally characterize the following groups as on the political Left in their respective countries, though they might have relatively little in common with other Left-wing groups beyond their opposition to the Right.

Naturally, in all cases "left" and "right" are relative. For example, the Democratic Leadership Council (in which Bill Clinton was active) is generally considered to form the right wing of the U.S. Democratic Party, but in terms of the whole country he was generally perceived as being on the moderate left.


United Kingdom

United States

The following groups fall more within the self-described "liberal" or "progressive" center-left:

See also

External links

Other meanings

Left wing can also refer to a player's position in sports such as soccer and ice hockey.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona