In politics, left and right are understood as antagonistic views on the proper way to achieve social welfare.
The difference between left and right is that the left advocates for an ideal system where wealth is distributed equitably among the collective. For its part, the right promotes a welfare state achieved through individual rights.
|origin||France, 1789||France, 1789|
Reformist democratic left
|Most representative political events||
Differences between political left and right
The left and the right have a number of core doctrines or ideas that are antagonistic. These are some of the most representative differences between the two visions:
state of well-being
For the left, collective welfare is above individual progress. To achieve this, all social classes must be abolished. The right, on the other hand, promotes individual well-being (focused on economic progress), as the central axis of well-being.
For the political left, the State must be the owner and administrator of the means of production. Instead, the right advocates for the non-intervention of the State in the economic system.
Distribution of wealth
The left promotes an equitable distribution of wealth based on the belief that all individuals are equal. While the right believes in a distribution according to the effort and contribution of each individual.
For the left, the State is the only political actor and most traditional currents defend the idea of centralized power in a single party.
On the right and in its multiple currents, you can find different visions ranging from democratic systems with free elections and participation of political parties, to a centralized power (right-wing dictatorships).
Origin of the political left and right
What today represents a marked political antagonism, like the left and the right, had its origin in an anecdotal fact that was executed without intentions to transcend, even if it eventually did.
On August 28, 1789, the first National Constituent Assembly was held and the need arose to discuss the political weight that the popular assembly would have as opposed to real power, represented in the figure of the King of France.
At the time of the vote, the representatives of the aristocracy, the upper bourgeoisie and the clergy, who defended the royal power, were organized to the right of the president of the assembly. While the supporters of popular power were grouped on the left.
The latter were, for the most part, deputies belonging to the so-called Third Estate. This was a majority social group composed of peasants and the lower bourgeoisie who had in common an absence of legal and economic rights in contrast to their tax burdens.
After the French Revolution, the left-right dichotomy deepened for a century and then spread to South America in the 19th century, coinciding with the pro-independence processes.
The political left is an ideological current that is characterized by defending collective well-being. It has as central axes the abolition of social classes and the central role of the State as owner and administrator of the means of production.
It arose in parallel with the French Revolution in the 18th century. During the following century it played a fundamental role in Europe, being the ideological component of the Russian revolution (1917) and the German revolution (1918).
For its part, in Latin America, Asia and Africa, the left was essential in the 20th century for the emergence of multiple social and political movements. Some included guerrilla formation and armed struggle as means to weaken or eliminate right-wing political systems.
However, despite the fact that left-wing ideological foundations have remained throughout time, there are different views on how collective welfare should be achieved. Depending on this, there are several types of left:
The revolutionary left includes at the same time multiple visions or ideological positions that can be subdivided into:
It has its origin in the theoretical postulates of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924). It focuses on the proletariat or working class as administrator of the means of production and beneficiary of their earnings. Under this paradigm, the State is not necessary for the proletariat to assume power, although so far there is no consensus on how this can be put into practice.
It is a doctrine of Léó Troskti (1879-1949) that proposes the abolition of classes to establish an egalitarian system that works under a socialist structure. However, he presents this as a gradual process, which he called “permanent revolution”.
It is a version of Marxism created by Mao Zedong (1893-1976), founder of the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Republic of China. It is basically an adaptation of Marxist precepts, only that within China it was not called Maoism, but Mao Zedong Thought, even if the doctrine was not his authorship.
It is not in itself a type of ideology, but a set of currents of thought where the idea of the workers’ organization as a political protagonist prevails, instead of the partisan centralism proposed by classical Marxism. Furthermore, they suggest deliberative democracy as opposed to political centralism.
Reformist democratic left
The democratic left, as its name suggests, promotes forms of political organization based on democracy. It has as its central axis free elections and the distancing of radical currents of thought that propose political centralization and dictatorial systems.
This movement, which at the same time supports the establishment of gradual political, economic and social reforms, has two fundamental currents:
It promotes democratic socialism as a political system and focuses on solving problems that affect the collective.
It is based on liberal democracy as a basis for achieving social welfare. It defends the power elected representatively and protected in a State of law.
See also Difference between Socialism and Communism.
The political right is understood as a set of currents or ideologies that have as a basis the well-being of the individual above the collective to achieve progress.
In this sense, the right promotes equal opportunities, free economic competition and the protection of private property as some of the essential means for progress.
The political right has been the cornerstone of multiple historical events. Some examples were the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain or Thatcherism, a right-wing conservative doctrine based on the privatization of state services, implemented by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher between 1979 and 1990.
Although there are multiple currents on the political right, in general terms it can be said that right-wing governments tend towards conservatism, the defense of traditions and national identity.
These are some of the currents that coexist within the political right:
It defends values and customs of the past, so it rejects any change to the state of things.
It defends a system of traditional values, framed in Christianity. However, it is in favor of incorporating all those technological advances that serve to raise the well-being of the individual and, therefore, bring prosperity.
Although it is an economic doctrine, it is also considered a right-wing trend in promoting individual freedoms from the free market and state non-intervention in the economy as guarantors of a welfare state.