The "Right" versus "Left" convenient but capricious political arrangement came from the seating position of delegates to the National Assembly during the French Revolution, but it is at times a confusing concept and too often subject to media and academic bias and even misinformation. I have found it easier to have a political spectrum based on degrees of government control.
In the political spectrum concept of degrees of government control, the Total State or totalitarianism, exemplified by practical communism (i.e., as opposed to the theoretical, anarchistic communism, where the state is supposed to disappear once property rights are abrogated and which has never existed) becomes the extreme left. Anarchism (no government) is on the extreme right. Direct democracy (e.g., as practiced by the ancient Athenians) is center left; a representative republic (e.g., in the model of the ancient Roman Republic, which the American Founders imitated to some degree and adapted for a growing continental nation) occupies center right. Here roughly is my conceptualized political spectrum:
But I believe that the presumed evanescence of the political spectrum actually becomes a solid iron horseshoe, as we move to the extremes. The horseshoe then becomes over-bent and the tips of the extreme Left and Right come ever closer to almost touching at the ends. The gap between the tips of the horseshoe is the paradoxical chaos: anarchism and tyranny. Let us borrow the term coined by the late conservative journalist, Samuel T. Francis, Anarcho-tyranny, a state whereby the wildfire of anarchy is attempted to be squelched by the repressive fire of a police state of absolute tyranny.
In today's political climate, most American conservatives, I surmise, would fall into the category of Republicanism. Most modern liberals would fall in the range between democracy and socialism. In my estimation, one-third of all Americans tend to favor modern liberalism; one-third more lean toward conservatism; and the final one-third are "centrist," not because of conviction or superior knowledge, but because of superficiality and inattention. They tend to be the least informed of the electorate, and yet by another quirk of fate, these Americans frequently decide elections! And despite the liberalism of academia and the bias of the mainstream media, they frequently vote conservative. Nevertheless, the inattenstion of the middle electorate and with the media pulling lefward causes party leaders to become consensual, pragmatic, and morally flexible. Thus we continue to drift leftward. That in a nutshell is America today!
A word of caution is in order: The "classical liberalism" of the 19th and early 20th centuries would be more akin to today's conservatism than modern liberalism. Consider the tenets of classical liberalism: laissez faire capitalism, free trade, maximum individual liberty, minimal taxation, lesser government. "Modern liberalism," on the other hand, is more akin to the socialism of today's social democracies and favors more government involvement in the affairs of citizens, wealth redistribution via taxation, protectionism, and labor unions. I have placed Objectivism to the left of Libertarianism because of its founder, Ayn Rand. As a Russian expatriate, Rand never lost sight of the danger of collectivism and totalitarianism and never succumbed to the naiveté of the Libertarians.
Where is Monarchy? Absolute monarchy is to the left; constitutional monarchy is to the right in the political spectrum, specific placement depending on time, place, and culture.
Communism and Socialism
In modern political theory, though, there is a distinction between socialism and communism, and thereby their relative positions I have assigned them in the political spectrum. In Communism, the State, incarnated in one political party, owns all means of production, distribution, and even consumption, ostensibly under an egalitarian and "on need" basis. In practice, communist party officials, as political elites, are "more equal than others," and reserve to themselves their "fair share" at the expense of the masses. Moreover, communism comes about by the "class struggle" and imposition by force, popular revolution, for the establishment of the "dictatorship of the proletariat."
My own definition of modern socialism, if indeed there is a difference, is the assumption and maintenance of power by evolution; seduction of the population by political elites, who promise something for nothing but in reality take from some to give to others; the use of envy for class strife and incitement of the dark side of human nature to justify wealth redistribution by legalized plunder. This redistribution of wealth and management of power is carried out by political elites, who are above the rest of us and ostensibly protect us even from ourselves and for our own good. This unnatural "equality" is maintained by the State, largely controlling via regulation or taxation the means of production (e.g., factories, mines, etc), distribution (transportation, communication, etc.) or consumption of goods or services (e.g., food, health care, housing, education indoctrination, etc.). Both communism and socialism are derived from Marxist dogma, but this is frequently forgotten.
Thus, Communism and Socialism, and as we shall see, Fascism and Nazism are all collectivist forms of regimes of the left in the political spectrum, as predicated by the tenets of excessive, oppressive, or brutally authoritarian governments. Many learned people cannot fathom the reality that socialism is a close kin to communism and Nazism is actually National Socialism — all of these "isms" are considered "working class movements" by those espousing them. The seemingly benign connotation of socialism today as democratic and altruistic would be a source of laughter to their innovators, e.g., Karl Marx (1818-83) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), or their actual applicators, e.g., Vladimir I. Lenin (1870-1924), Joseph Stalin (1879-1953), Mao Zedong (1893-1976) or Fidel Castro (1926-). All the reader has to do is visit the website of the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), read the Collected Works of Lenin, or listen to the speeches of Fidel Castro to learn that the communist demigods use the terms socialism and communism interchangeably.
Marx's Das Kapital is boring, tedious reading, but The Communist Manifesto is not. It is an incendiary document in which Marx tells the reader that he called his Manifesto "Communist" rather than "Socialist," simply because he did not want his Manifesto to be confused with some of the British and other good-intentioned European humanitarian and utilitarian movements then in vogue, which sometimes called themselves "socialist."
Lenin himself wrote that in the relentless march of history (positivism) and the class struggle (dialectical materialism or dialectics), the ultimate goal of socialism was communism and the establishment of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Lenin called the American and European liberals of his day, "useful idiots” and “fellow travelers” because they wanted to believe in the "worker's paradise" instead of the harsh reality of Soviet socialism. Lenin, not Stalin, heralded the era of the concentration camps and founded the infamous secret police, the Cheka, under Feliks Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926; photo, right) in the USSR. It was Lenin who began the extermination of the Kadets (Constitutional Democrats) and even his leftwing Socialist Revolutionary (LSRs) opponents in the class struggle. Stalin only intensified the process and exterminated, not only the purported "enemies of the people" but almost wiped out the entire ranks of Lenin's old Bolshevik comrades, including Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, Nikolai Bukharin, Karl Radek, Antonov-Ovseyenko (leader of the Bolshevik Military Organization that stormed the Winter Palace during the 1917 October Revolution), Gleb I. Boky, Y. A. Ganetsky (Polish communist who was Lenin's liaison with the Germans during World War I and the sealed train affair), Leon Trotsky, etc. Nobody killed more communists than the communist-in-chief himself, Generalissimo Joseph Stalin!(1)
And yet, class warfare, the inception of the labor camps, the gulag, the Red Terror, the extermination of class enemies and political opponents, etc., began with Lenin soon after the October Revolution of 1917; it intensified to a fevered pitch under Joseph Stalin, who exterminated not only class enemies, but also the Kulaks and even old Bolsheviks. Repression somewhat moderated under Nikita Khrushchev. That is why Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's (photo, left) The Gulag Archipelago is subtitled "1918-1956." And yet even under Khrushchev we had the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and the October Missile Crisis. Leonid Brezhnev, who engaged Richard Nixon and the West with detente, ordered the crushing of the Prague Spring of 1968 and the fatal invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Soviet repression did not end, in fact, until the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the USSR and its satellites (1989-1991). But authoritarianism, which seems to be an inherent part of the Russian character, persists to this day even under Russian democracy and Vladimir Putin (2011).(2)
A word about Fascism is in order: It drained the Pontine marshes, established "peace" with the Vatican, and made the trains run in time, but like Nazism, it is a rabid, nationalistic variant of socialism whose economic essence is corporativism, a monopolistic partnership of business and industry corporate entities with the state as the senior, commanding partner. In Fascism, the means of production, distribution, and consumption are controlled by the state; whereas in communism, the state owns all means of production, distribution and consumption. Despite the modern liberal penchant for tarring conservatives as "Fascists," the truth of the matter is that these "left-wing" liberals as socialists are more closely akin to fascists than the "right-wing" conservatives!
As much as many proponents of Social Democracy (SD) would like to forget, social democracy is derived from Marxist ideology. Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) and Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919) were the patron saints of Marxism and Social Democracy in Germany at the turn of the century. Later they participated in the Spartacist League and founded the Communist Party of Germany. Their counterpart in Russia was Georgi Plekhanov (1856-1918; photo, right), the father of the Social Democratic Party of Russia to which both Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin belonged before the SD split into the more moderate, democratic Mensheviks and the conspiratorial, communist Bolsheviks. After the October 1917 Revolution, it was Lenin and his Bolsheviks who came to power. The Mensheviks then went into exile, and those who stayed in Russia were hunted down by Lenin's Cheka or exterminated by Stalin's security apparatus and the gulag concentration, labor camps.
The derivation of Social Democracy from Marxism is not denied or contended by their European Social Democratic parties today. And in the U.S., as time passes, many Americans, particularly in the South, agree with Ronald Reagan, who was once a democrat, and said that he did not leave the party; but that the party moved so much to the left that it left him!
I have been told that socialism and communism have been dead since 1989. I wish that statement were true. The death of socialism, like that of Mark Twain's at one time, has been greatly exaggerated! The sudden death of socialism would have astounded a legislator from Vermont, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), an avowed socialist, even when it was not fashionable to admit being one in the U.S. Congress. Senator Sanders would be greatly shocked to learn that his ideals became defunct after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989! Today, in fact Sen. Sanders has 89 socialist colleagues in the U.S. Congress, all Democrats, who are members of either the Congressional Democratic Caucus or the Democratic Socialists of America.
Despite the fall of the Berlin Wall, socialism in the Western democracies and in the U.S. has continued to grow. The central and Eastern Europeans who have experienced the full brunt of socialism and communism are no longer bragging about Marxism or social justice, and are trying to move as far away as they can from collectivism. But it is difficult for people who have become dependent on government to move away from it and regain personal autonomy. The Western Europeans in Spain, France, Germany, Scandinavia, etc. are stuck in the mud with
socialism, and their economies are collapsing from debt and their overindulgence, but when they try to dump Karl Marx and socialism, they get riots, as we have seen repeatedly in France, Greece and even Great Britain. It is a vicious cycle of dependency that is very difficult to break once instituted.
And now domestic socialism is affecting the U.S. as well. If we were to try to end welfarism and dependence and return to America's work ethic and individual initiative by returning to the mandates of our Constitution by ending judicial activism, rejecting the wide interpretation of the welfare and interstate commerce clauses, changing the tax code to a flat tax or a national sales tax — then it is very possible that we could expect riots and perhaps even looting and burning by those classes of citizens that Jean Jacques Rousseau called the noble savages.
Read Part II of this article.
References and Notes
1) If one book had to be selected that most accurately describes, epitomizes, and exemplifies the evils of totalitarianism and communism, it would be Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece, The Gulag Archipelago (1918-1956) — An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Parts I-II (1973) and The Destructive Labor Camps and The Soul and Barbed Wire, Parts III-IV (1975). Translated into English by Thomas P. Whitney.
2) Including the main story, Alex Goldfarb's Death of a Dissident---the Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB (2007) is an excellent book on Vladimir Putin's post-communist Russia.
Written by Dr. Miguel A. Faria
Dr. Miguel A. Faria, Jr. is a former Clinical Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery, ret.) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History (ret.) Mercer University School of Medicine; Former member Editorial Board of Surgical Neurology (2004-2010); Member Editorial Board of Surgical Neurology International (2011-present);Recipient of the Americanism Medal from the Nathaniel Macon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) 1998; Ex member of the Injury Research Grant Review Committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2002-05; Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel (1996-2002); Editor Emeritus, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS); Author, Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (1995), Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997), and Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002).
A shorter, edited version of this article was published on October 7, 2011 at GOPUSA.com.
Copyright ©2011 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.