Leftist Ideology

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    Have you ever thought about why people seem to have different views on many topics?

    One of the main reasons is that not all have the same ideas on how to rule things and how governments make decisions. Some people are more inclined to support freedom for individuals, and others think that one person's decision has repercussions on society.

    That difference of thought is represented in the political spectrum and informs how the government makes decisions. Here, we'll explain left-wing ideology, which you may encounter in our day-to-day life.

    Leftist Political Ideology: Meaning and History

    Contemporary political views are often classified by political ideology. Do you know what that is? We have a whole explanation of Political Ideology for you. Here's a brief definition.

    Political ideology is the constitution of ideals, principles, and symbols that large groups of people identify with in their belief on how society should work. It's also the foundation for political order.

    Political ideologies are structured in the political spectrum, the system that classifies political ideologies between them. It is visually represented in the following image.

    Political Spectrum Leftist Ideology StudySmarterFig. 1 – Political Spectrum.

    Left-wing is a widely-used term for those who desire change, reform, and alteration to how society operates. Often this involves radical criticisms of capitalism made by liberal and socialist parties.

    The separation between right and left started with the seating arrangements in the French Revolution in 17891 when the king's supporters sat to the right and supporters of the revolution to the left.

    So, the terms left and right became distinctions between revolution and reaction. According to Deputy Baron De Gaulle, the reason for the orientation was so the king's supporters avoided "shouts, oaths, and indecencies"2 in the opposing camp.

    At the beginning of the 20th century, the terms left and right became associated with political ideologies: left for socialism and suitable for conservatism. So on, this distinction expanded to the rest of the world.

    Following the original concept, left-wing ideologies welcome change as a form of progress, while right-wing ideologies defend the status quo. That's why socialism, Communism, and other leftist ideologies believe in a radical change among existing structures to overcome poverty and inequality.

    Depending on their views about economic structures and the State's role in society, the position of a left-wing ideology will vary in the political spectrum. The more extremist variations reject current socio-economic systems of contemporary society (i.e., Communism), while the less radical ones believe in a gradual change through existing institutions (i.e., social democracy).

    What is the Meaning of Leftist Ideology?

    Leftist ideology, or left-wing politics, is the umbrella term that supports egalitarianism, and social power over political institutions, eliminating social hierarchy and differences in ability between people.

    Egalitarianism is the belief and support of human equality regarding social, political, and economic affairs.

    In support of this, individuals who identify as leftists believe that the working class should be prominent above aristocracy, elites, and wealth. Leftist ideology is commonly associated with socialism and Communism, the more radical ideologies of the left.

    Leftist Ideologies in History

    Socialism and other left-wing ideologies gained momentum in the 19th century as a reaction to the socio-economic conditions in capitalist economies at the advent of the industrial revolution.

    Even though this revolution increased productivity at a pace never seen in history, it created a new working class that lived in poverty and had terrible job conditions. In response, Karl Marx inspired the historic moment to develop Marxism, a philosophy that unifies social, economic, and political theories.

    The Russian Revolution in 19173 saw the first significant attempt to apply socialist ideas created by Marx. Russia transformed into the Soviet Union, a political project that tried to overthrow capitalist structures and start a global revolution.

    The twentieth century saw the expansion of socialist ideas throughout the planet. Revolutionary movements arose in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, regions that had not primarily developed capitalist structures. After 1945, socialist ideas spread in Eastern Europe, North Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere4, as the Soviet Union's policy was to expand socialist ideas through the planet by helping revolutionary movements.

    The expansion of socialism came in the context of the Cold War, a state of hostility between the US and the Soviet Union that lasted between 1945 to 1990 that conflicted socialist and capitalist systems until the Soviet Union collapsed in 19915.

    In the 1960s, Marxist-Leninist movements tried to challenge many Latin American governments through armed forces, stimulated and even financed by the socialist regime imposed in Cuba after the 1959 Cuban Revolution6.

    After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, socialist ideas suffered a heavy blow, as most socialist parties in the world disappeared or embraced thoughts associated with liberalism or even conservatism.

    Famous Left-wing Thinkers

    The leftist ideology has expanded over the centuries, with many thinkers that provided theories on how it could be practiced. Let’s ready about them.

    Karl Marx

    Karl Marx was a German philosopher who, along with Friedrich Engels, developed the Communist Manifesto in 18487, the most famous essay in the history of socialism.

    Through his works, Marx developed historical materialism, which states the centrality of social class and the struggle between them that determine historical outcomes.

    In his exile in England, Marx also wrote Das Kapital "Capital"8, one of the most remarkable books of modern times. In Capital, Marx predicted the abolition of capitalism due to an ever-increasing division in wealth.

    Friedrich Engels

    Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher that co-authored the Communist Manifesto in 18489, one of the most influential political documents in the world. This pamphlet helped to define modern Communism.

    Although he was a severe critic of capitalism, Engels became a successful businessman in England.

    Engels also financially helped Marx to develop "Capital"10 and edited the second and third volumes of the book after Marx's death, based merely on Marx's notes and incomplete manuscripts.

    Vladimir Lenin

    Vladimir Lenin was a Russian leader who organized the Russian Revolution, which marked the bloody overthrow of the Romanov dynasty and the foundation of the Soviet Union.

    The historical event that led to the foundation of the Soviet Union is known as the "October Revolution."11

    The October Revolution followed a civil war that lasted three years. It was between the Red Army, which backed Lenin, and the White Army, a coalition of monarchists, capitalists, and supporters of democratic socialism.

    Inspired by the thought developed by Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto, Lenin created the "dictatorship of the proletariat"12 and became the leader of the Soviet Union, the first communist State on the planet.

    List of Leftist Ideologies

    As we know, leftist political ideologies are an umbrella term that compasses different

    minor ideologies that identify with leftist views. Therefore, several ideologies identify as left politics.

    The main ones are Communism and socialism. Let's see more about them.

    Communism is a political and economic theory that aims to replace the social classes and supports the communal ownership of property and means of production.

    Socialism is a political and economic doctrine that searches for public ownership of institutions and resources. Their primary thought is that, as individuals live in cooperation, everything the society produces is owned by everyone involved.

    The Communist Manifesto cover Leftist Ideology StudySmarterFig. 2 – The Communist Manifesto cover.

    Socialism and Communism support the Communist Manifesto, one of the world's most influential documents on politics that analyses the class struggle and the main criticism of capitalism. It was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848[13] and is highly related to each other and usually used interchangeably. However, they have main differences between them:

    Communism

    Socialism

    Revolutionary transfer of power to the working class

    Gradual transfer of power

    Supports the working class according to their needs.

    Support of the working class according to their contribution.

    The State owns economic resources.

    Allows for private property. As long as it's not for public resources, those belong to the State.

    Abolishment of social classes

    Social classes exist, but their differences are highly reduced.

    The people rule the government

    Allows for different political systems.

    Everyone is equal.

    It aims for equality but creates laws to protect against discrimination.

    Table 1 – Differences between Communism and Socialism.

    Other leftist ideologies are anarchism, social democracy, and totalitarianism.

    Left-Libertarianism

    Left libertarianism, or socialist libertarianism, is a political ideology and type of libertarianism that emphasizes liberal ideas such as individual freedom. It's a somewhat controversial ideology, as critics say that libertarianism and left-wing ideologies contradict each other.

    Libertarianism is a political theory that focuses on the rights and liberties of the individual. They aim for minimal involvement of the government.

    However, left-libertarianism also opposes capitalism and private ownership of the means of production. They argue that natural resources serve us all. Therefore they should be owned collectively and not as personal property. That's the main difference between them and classical libertarianism.

    The Alliance of the Libertarian Left is the left-wing party of the libertarian movement in the US. It advocates for creating alternative institutions rather than electoral politics to achieve societal change. It opposes statism, militarism, corporate capitalism, and cultural intolerance (homophobia, sexism, racism, etc.).

    The creator of this movement was Samuel E. Kokin II. It is a coalition that groups agorists, mutualists, geo libertarians, and other variants of the libertarian left.

    Leftist Ideology - Key takeaways

    • Political ideology is the constitution of ideals, principles, and symbols that large groups of people identify with on their belief on how society should work. It's also the foundation for political order.
    • Leftist ideology, or left-wing politics, is the umbrella term that supports egalitarianism, and social power over political institutions, eliminating social hierarchy and differences in ability between people.
    • Rightist or right-wing politics is the conservative branch of political ideology that believes in tradition, social hierarchy, and authority as the primary power source. They are also related to the economic thought of private property.
    • Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin are the most remarkable leftist thinkers. Marx and Engels developed the Communist Manifesto, the most famous essay in the history of socialism, while Lenin founded the Soviet Union, the first communist State in the world.
    • The difference between Communism and socialism is that Communism aims to abolish social classes and a revolutionary change in society, while socialism searches for more equality for the working class.

    References

    1. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Editors. Law and Ideology. 2001.
    2. Richard Howe, “Left-wing, right-wing, meaning what?”. 2019.
    3. History Editors. "Russian Revolution." 2009.
    4. Heywood. Essentials of Political Ideas. 2018.
    5. Heywood. Essentials of Political Ideas. 2018.
    6. Heywood. Essentials of Political Ideas. 2018.
    7. F. Engels, K. Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.
    8. K. Marx, Capital. 1867.
    9. F. Engels, K. Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.
    10. K. Marx, Capital. 1867.
    11. National Geographic. October Revolution, N/A.
    12. F. Engels, K. Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.
    13. Fig. 1 – Political spectrum Eysenck (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Political_spectrum_Eysenck.png) by Uwe Backes (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Special:BookSources/978-3-322-86110-8) licensed by PD (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Threshold_of_originality).
    14. Fig. 2 – Communist-manifesto (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/Communist-manifesto.png) by Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx (www.marxists.org) licensed by CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en).
    15. Table 1 – Differences between Communism and Socialism.
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    Frequently Asked Questions about Leftist Ideology

    What is leftist ideology?

    Leftist ideology, or left-wing politics, is the umbrella term that supports egalitarianism, and social power over political institutions, eliminating social hierarchy and differences in power between people.

    What is leftist and rightist ideology?

    Leftist ideology, or left-wing politics, is the umbrella term that supports egalitarianism, and social power over political institutions, eliminating social hierarchy and differences in power between people.

    Is fascism a leftist ideology?

    Yes. Fascism is an authoritarian and nationalist political ideology that supports militarism and dictatorial power.

    Is national socialism a leftist or right-wing ideology?

    National Socialism is the political ideology of Nazism, the political ideology that ruled over Germany under Adolf Hitler, and the ideology that supported World War II.

     

    However, National Socialism is a rightist ideology is a form of fascism that incorporates many anti-communist views and extreme nationalism policies.

    Is communism a leftist ideology?

    Yes. Communism is a political and economic theory that aims to replace the social classes and supports the communal ownership of property and means of production.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is the Communist Manifesto?

    What is the main difference between Communism and socialism?

    What are the main characteristics of leftist ideology?

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