Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

The odd distortion of the Left-Right spectrum

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To temporarily conclude the discussions of Left and “Right”:

A severe problem in e.g. Germany and Sweden* is that the dominance of the Leftist narrative** and/or the cowardice of traditionally “Right-wing” parties (e.g. the German CDU) has distorted the understanding of the Left–Right spectrum***: increasingly it is seen as a division into two acceptable camps (the “Center” and the “Left”) and one unacceptable, irredeemably evil (the “Right”). Because the non-extremist, non-migration centric parts of the traditional “Right” want to avoid the taint of being labeled as “Right”, they refer to themselves as “Center” and leave the “Right” to parties already condemned by the Left, creating a parallel to a self-fulfilling prophecy—the “Right” increasingly becomes what the Left claims that it is because of the Leftist claims.

*The situation is (still…) better in e.g. the U.S.

**Notably, but not exclusively, considering any e.g. migration critic movement “Right” or “extreme Right” independent of other factors, and equating “Right” with extremism, Fascism, and Nazism. Imagine, e.g., the impact on Leftist rhetoric, if the Nazis had been classified as Left instead of “Right”, which is by no means an impossibility in light of the flaws of the Left–Right scale. (Also see the next footnote.)

***Notwithstanding that this spectrum is extremely flawed and simplistic to begin with, including the use of too few dimensions and a heterogeneity of the non-Left, which makes labels like “Right” unworkable (while “Left” is at least semi-workable, hence the different treatment of the words in my texts). Consider e.g. dimensions like attitudes to the individual vs. the collective, whether ends justify the means, whether citizens should have a free will or be guided like children, whether equality of opportunity or outcome is more important, etc. Notably, the extreme Left can usually be seen as a more extreme version of the “regular” Left, but the extreme “Right” and the “regular” “Right” often have little in common.

This is the more absurd, as the historically “evil” side of the spectrum is the Left and the historically more extremist side is the Left. Indeed, for a significant portion of the 20th century, even a (relatively speaking) moderate Leftist position often entailed ideas that were at best radical*, at worst insane. For instance, the Swedish Social-Democrats (the famous “third-way” and the “moderate” alternative to the Communists) introduced Löntagarfonderna (“employee funds”)—a backdoor approach to socialize businesses through an extra tax on profits, which was used to buy shares of the companies (effectively, using their own money to buy them).

*A radical position is not automatically wrong, although the likelihood is higher. An ever-recurring problem with radicals, however, is that they seem to insist on change-as-soon-as-possible, instead of taking things slowly.

It is also absurd, because the remaining portions of the spectrum that self-identify, or allow themselves to be identified as, “Right” to a considerable part consists of the same type of people who dominate the extremer parts of the Left—just like the Nazis had more in common with the Communists than with e.g. typical conservatives, these have more in common with large parts of the current Left than the current “Center”. Especially, both now and then, there is reason to believe that there is a great implicit competition in recruitment, that e.g. many extremists do not end up one the Left or the “Right” because of some natural preference but because they happened to fall victim to the propaganda of the one group before the other.*

*This including many who are weak critical thinkers, looking for something to be angry at, alienated by society, or similar. These are also disproportionately likely to be victims of e.g. religious sects and strong “causes” outside the Left–Right spectrum, e.g. independence movements.

What has happened to the label “Right” is what in a sane world would happened to the label “Left”: Positions like those of the Social-Democrats*, Communists, and the extremer parts of the U.S. “old Left” should have gone down the historical drain, uniformly condemned where still encountered, the (often outright insane) “new Left” should never have arisen, and e.g. the more moderate “old Left” should have considered themselves “Center” to avoid the taint of being Left; while e.g. Conservative groups should have continued to consider themselves “Right”, instead of cowardly proclaiming themselves “Center”.

*At least in the traditional forms. Modern Social-Democrats, in all fairness, have often become considerably more moderate in their opinions. (Then again, this has not led to the old opinions disappearing, but being taken up by other Leftist groups, e.g., in Germany, the less extremist portions of Die Linke. To boot, this moderation is often stronger in the party leadership than in the overall party.)


Written by michaeleriksson

December 10, 2019 at 9:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. […] Also note an earlier text on the odd distortion of the Left–Right spectrum. […]

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