The terms “Left” and “Right” wing originated in the French National Assembly in the late 1700s.
The assembly of representatives sat in a semi circle before the person who was chairing its sessions.
On the Left of the chairman sat those who wanted radical change from the way society was, and how it was governed. On the Right sat those who wished to maintain or to conserve the traditional order.
In front of the chairman and towards the Centre sat those who were prepared to entertain change, but not the sort of radical alteration of the existing order and practice which the ideologically geared Left wanted.
It is absolutely critical to distinguish the principle of Left and Right here from the policies associated with Left and Right in the context of France in the late 18th century.
France in the late 18th century had a virtually absolute monarchy, and to be right wing was to be monarchist and authoritarian. This was not the case in Britain or the English speaking nations, even at that time. Britain already had an established limited and constitutional monarchy. To be Right wing in the English speaking context is to maintain limited government subject to the rule of law – to stress Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights.
The Brexit vote in 2016 in the United Kingdom was a vote for the straight Right – there was nothing extreme about it. It was simply an assertion of national, democratic self government in the face of the bureaucratised, top down, ideological project of the European Union whose objective is to establish a European super state, and eliminate the nation state. Such an objective is extremely radical, destroying what we have known for centuries.
But the ideological Left characterises the Brexit vote as extreme. That exalts partisan propaganda to the level of objective truth; it is an attempt to displace reality with the terms of a particular worldview. It is to cast politics not in the terms of the assembly’s seating arrangement but in the terms the Left want the political debate to be seen. It is to characterise a democratic choice of reasonable alternatives as if one were the only reasonable, civilised choice and the other irrational and barbaric. That is patent nonsense, but it is the sort of unrealistic thinking the Left want us all to adopt.
The Left, the Right and the Centre all sit at the same distance from the chairman in a parliamentary semi circle – none is further than any other from the chairman. If people are sitting as representatives in a parliamentary assembly, then they have forsaken extremes like violence and opted for dialogue, rational debate and a common accord in coming to conclusions and decisions. They are seeking to regulate their differences in a civilised and mature manner.
The use by the media and many politicians today of terms like “far Right” or “extreme Right” is misconceived and misleading. This usage reflects, not the reality of the situation, but the predisposition and prejudice of those using the terms. They want people on the Right to be seen as extreme because they are not prepared to tolerate Right wing thinking. In refusing any legitimacy to Right wing thinking, they are actually themselves adopting an extreme – indeed totalitarian – mindset.
The true, straight Left seeks a situation based on its radical ideology. The dominant ideology of today’s Left is Marxism – a paradigm of thinking and practice which is proven to have devastating consequences: note the dire predicament in Venezuela in 2018/19.
This brings us to the very crux of the issue between Right and Left worldviews.
The critical questions we must ask of those proposing radical change are:
What sort of change, according to what criteria, and in what direction ?
Does it work ?
For Right Wing thinking, the key reference point is what is known, what is proven, what has worked. It is the reality of the past and the present which determine its outlook; and it’s sentimental attachment lies with tradition – it values what has developed over time.
Its approach to change is practical and pragmatic, not idealistic and dogmatic.
The straight Left, however, rejects the past and present order, seeking an ideological vision of what society should be like.
It is a noticeable feature of the Left that it is restlessly critical of what actually is, always judging what happens according to how they want it to be rather than according to how it actually is.
Today, the vision of how society should be is dominated by Socialist thinking, and usually by the authoritarian strand inspired by Karl Marx – although the libertarian strand of Socialism espoused by Anarchists does have adherents, most notably Noam Chomsky.
Marxist Socialism seeks to use the State mechanism to control the economy and society in order to conform everything to its ideology.
This writer notes that this State centred mentality was central to Bolshevism, Fascism and Nazism [the National Socialist Workers Party] and that each of these movements gained control of their respective countries through a strategy of not just stigmatising democracy and all opposition, but by calculated use of physical force and intimidation.
This right wing writer is English and values the English tradition. That attachment is not merely sentimental but immensely practical, and most certainly preferable to the hypotheses of ideology which have failed seriously each time attempts are made to implement them: note the former USSR, China and today’s tragedy in Venezuela.
The English tradition constitutionally and politically goes back at least to the Magna Carta of 1215, and to the later but no less significant Bill of Rights in 1689.
Left wing politically correct thinking has become so ubiquitous today that the historically understood significance and value of these two documents has been lost for the vast majority of British people today.
That is a fundamentally serious loss of collective memory which can only lead to the erosion of historic benefits.
Magna Carta established the fundamental necessity for the Executive power in the State to be subject to Law.
Power in England was to be exercised according to custom and law, not according to the whim of the Executive, exercised by the Monarch.
Authoritarian, arbitrary rule by any king was outlawed in England in the 13th century; but subsequent experience on the European continent proved to be quite different.
Magna Carta also states the following critical commitment by the Executive:
“to no-one will we sell, to no-one will we deny or delay right or justice”
When we stop and consider events in contemporary Britain, that fundamental provision is shown to have been dangerously neglected in our education system and our collective consciousness.
That ignorance has brought about a climate in which serious miscarriages of justice have been possible. Cases in point include
the scandal around the Windrush generation – black people with an established right of residency in the UK for decades were treated by a government department of State as illegal immigrants – and some were actually even deported !
the appalling abuse of vulnerable young girls in major English towns by grooming gangs of young men steeped in a foreign religion and its associated culture – this was allowed to continue for at least two decades without challenge because the Left wing politically correct mindset precluded any question being placed on the actions of people with a different racial or religious background – Magna Carta was not just eclipsed, it was denied !
The 1689 Bill of Rights [which is actually an Act of Parliament] confirmed the essential effect of Magna Carta and was, as it declares itself to be,
“An act for declaring the rights and liberties of the subject and settling the succession of the crown.”
This Act established the current system of constitutional monarchy for England and Wales, and also for the United Kingdom – ie that the crown and the power of the Executive are constrained by the will of parliament.
The Act also confirmed and defined certain constitutional guarantees for the rights and liberties of the subject – this a full 100 years before the famous and much vaunted French Declaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen.
The abuses cited above have occurred in a climate dominated by the assertion of minority Rights, fostered by the materialistic and humanistic world view of the Socialist Left. See the Philosophy Page.
That is contrary to the best of our proven tradition, and contrary to true liberty. As Edmund Burke observes in the final pages of his Reflections on the Revolution in France,
But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice and madness, without tuition or restraint. Those who know what virtuous liberty is, cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads, on account of their having high-sounding words in their mouths.
Paragraph 396 of this writer’s accessible edition of Edmund Burke’s classic work on Conservatism, titled
“CORE CONSERVATISM: Edmund Burke’s Landmark Definition” published by Westbow Press