What do left wing and right wing mean in politics

What do left wing and right wing mean in politics

When people talk politics, they use overly complicated words to confuse their opponent into agreeing with them. It’s called cant, though Miss Deborah Taylor believes that’s a vowel or so away from the truth. This week, our Lady of Debs explains what goes on behind the terms ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’.

One of the most annoying things about politics is the terminology. When people talk politics, they use overly complicated words to confuse their opponent into agreeing with them. It’s called cant, though I believe it’s a vowel or so away from the truth. It’s not fair, so to help fight back, I’m going to explain some of the basics.

We’ll start with what we mean by Left Wing or Right Wing.

It all started in 1789, in the Parliament of Revolutionary France. When the Parliament sat, the President would be seated centrally, with the working, or at that time, the emergent middle classes, sat to his left, whilst the aristocracy, or more likely, noblemen, would sit to his right. As such, this method of describing political views has stuck and does not look like changing.

The left are the Socialists, or the ones with socialist tendencies. This means that they believe that a governing body should provide certain things for its populace. For example, free health care and education for all. Historically, they would favour a more closed economy, with nationalised industries, such as gas, electricity and water, providing the service on a not for profit basis, to ensure that everyone has access to such essentials. In Britain, this position has usually been held by the Labour party, in America, the Democrats.

The right are the Capitalists, or the ones with capitalist tendencies. They believe that Government should have as little involvement in people’s lives as possible, as this empowers them and frees them from state mandated services. They believe in a free market economy, in which all companies are privately owned, but into which anyone can buy shares. They believe that this allows people greater choice in the services on offer and will enable everyone to progress and prosper. In limiting the number of services for which the are responsible, they limit the tax burden on the populace. In Britain, this position has usually been held by the Conservatives (also known as the Tory party) and in America, by the Republicans.

There are extremes to both the left and right, neither of which are pleasant. To the extreme right, the Fascists, are such leaders are Hitler or Mussolini, and to the left, the Communists, you’ll find Stalin or Chairman Mao.

Now is not the place to discuss the relative merits of each position, though I will be doing so later in this series, trust me. You should also remember that none of these ideals are fixed, or even mutually exclusive. A political opinion can sit anyway on a fairly large scale and most people will tend to fall somewhere between the two. In Britain, such middle ground is home to the Liberal Democrats. There is no such third party in America, although they sometimes have independent candidates, they tend to be located one extreme of the political spectrum or the other.

Next time I’ll look at one of the major contributing factors to a person’s political stand point. Class…


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