The Historical Left/Right Model

“The left/right political spectrum is a model, the aim of which is to make a particular part or feature of the world easier to understand, define, quantify, visualize, or simulate. Thus, left can be right or right, left, or one can even utilize up and down as long as it’s made clear which is which.”

– Wikipedia

“In the beginning there was the old order, the ancien régime, the regime of caste and frozen status, of exploitation by a despotic ruling class, using the church to dupe the masses into accepting its rule. This was pure statism; this was the right wing. Then, in 17th and 18th century Western Europe, a liberal and radical opposition movement arose… a popular revolutionary movement on behalf of rationalism, individual liberty, minimal government, free markets, international peace and separation of church and state, in opposition to throne and altar, to monarchy, the ruling class, theocracy and war. These people were the left…”

– Murray Rothbard

“It was in the Legislative Assembly in the fall of 1791, that the terms Right and Left were first used in a political sense. When the assembly convened, the substantial minority dedicated to preserving the monarchy…occupied the right section of the hall, and thereby gave a name to conservatives everywhere. The liberals sat at the left on an elevated section called the Mountain; soon they were named Montagnards. In the center sat 355 delegates who refused to be labeled…”

– Will Durant and Ariel Durant

“These people—the ones doing all the formulating and insisting, the ones who made up ‘the original Left’—were known at the time as ‘liberals.’ Their doctrine, an outgrowth of the 18th Century Enlightenment (English and Scottish as well as French), was called ‘liberalism.’ Liberalism  the party of hope, of radicalism, of liberty, of the Industrial Revolution, of progress, of humanity; the other was Conservative, the party of reaction, the party that longed to restore the hierarchy, statism, theocracy, serfdom, and class exploitation of the old order. It wasn’t long before political ideologies were polarized, with Liberalism on the extreme ‘Left,’ and Conservatism on the extreme ‘Right’ of the ideological spectrum.”

– Murray Rothbard, Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty

“People who resist authority, who defend the rights of the individual, who try in a period of increasing totalitarianism and centralization to reclaim these rights – this is the true left in the United States. Whether they are anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, or libertarians who believe in free enterprise, I regard theirs as the real legacy of the left…”

– Murray Bookchin

“Those on the Right are reactionary and authoritarian. They seek only to revise current methods of acquiring and wielding political power. Radical and revolutionary movements seek not to revise but to revoke. The target of revocation should be obvious. The target is politics itself. This is the true Left.

The reactionary tendencies of both liberals and conservatives today show clearly in their willingness to cede, to the state or the community, power far beyond the protection of liberty against violence. For differing purposes, both see the state as an instrument not protecting man’s freedom but either instructing or restricting how that freedom is to be used…

Just as the farthest Right you can go is absolute dictatorship, the farthest Left you can go, historically at any rate, is anarchism – the total opposition to any institutionalized powetary social organization.”

– Karl Hess

“Some of the earliest to formulate these vague principles into more specific shape were the Levellers of the English Civil War (1642-1647), the radical liberals during the French Enlightenment of the late eighteenth century, and the American revolutionaries. Here was the original Left, the radicalism that opposed government power not by putting forth a set of reforms for the state to implement but by insisting on a set of rules—or natural laws, as they called them—by which all human beings, including those in positions of power, are to be equally limited in order that they be equally free.”

– Don Lavoie

“Fascism and socialism are the same thing, as they are both products of Right-wing thinking. Socialism has never really been on the Left. The original socialists, in the early part of the 19th Century, were advocates of the ideas of Henri Saint-Simon, a former monarchist and thoroughgoing conservative, a Right-wing defender of the ancien régime who had decided that the industrial revolution and the end of monarchy in France had to be taken into account by those who wanted a big government to run everyone’s lives as the kings of old had done. In effect, they transferred their allegiance from the king to a hoped-for technocracy, which could engineer the perfect society by applying ‘scientific’ ideas to the job (but only if it had unlimited power to do so).”

– Jeff Riggenbach

Today’s America is really governed by a single conservative party with two wings: the Republicans and the Democrats. If we choose to vote for a major party candidate at all, we have no real choice but to elect someone who wants to expand government and reduce individual liberty, that is to say, a conservative, a Right-winger. ‘Statism’ is a synonym for conservatism. Statism is the politics of the Right.

– Jeff Riggenbach

“The only two political theories that are completely consistent are Anarchy and Totalitarianism. Anarchy fully embraces the concept of self, Totalitarianism fully rejects that concept.”

– George Orwell