The Illusion of Left And Right

What goes where?

You probably think that politics can be neatly divided into two sides, the Left, the Right, and everything else fits in somewhere between. You probably think there is some clear logical principle that will tell you where to put every political persuasion on a simple line like the one below.

A simple political spectrum

Most Americans do. To put it gently, most people haven’t got a clue on the truly meaningful dimensions of politics. That is what I hope to convince you of. It may take a couple posts to cover all the ground that needs to be covered.

I deliberately left everything off of the line above other than “Left” and “Right” because we need to think about what principle we should use to decide where each political persuasion goes. So what principle do you think we should use?

Traditionally Socialists and Communists have been seen as being on the far Left. Democrats and Liberals were also seen to be on the Left, but just not nearly as far to the Left. Republicans and Conservatives have traditionally constituted the Right, although after World War 2 the Left sought to portray Nazis and Fascists as the extreme Right wing opposite of the Communists on the far Left.

The modern political spectrum as the Left sees it

There are serious problems with the above conception. A skeptical observer might see that the Left puts itself on one side (the side of “right” belief you might say) and simply lumps everyone else as being on the Right (“wrong” belief) where they can be conveniently condemned by association with Nazis, Fascists, White Supremacists and other Deplorables.

That was the game plan of the Soviet Communists after World War 2, to portray themselves as the opposite of the Fascists and the Nazis so none of the stink of the Holocaust, the stink of German concentrations camps like Auschwitz and Dachau would rub off on them. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn however refuted that claim in the The Gulag Archipelago . The Soviet Communists had their own concentration camps and methods of “liquidating” those deemed not fit to live.

In terms of repression and mass murder it is doubtful the victims of Nazism and Communism would quibble over whether their murderers were on the Left or the Right. Death has a finality that transcends politics.

Numbers are not exact but the Nazis in World War 2 have been credited with murdering upwards of 17 million people, 6 million of them being Jews in the Holocaust. What is not often remembered is that the Soviets were also mass murderers on a huge scale. They just used lower tech methods like famines and Gulags and had decades to practice their craft unlike the Nazis who were brought to an abrupt halt in 1945.

Estimates of how many died in the Soviet Communist Gulags vary from several million up to 12 million. Another 7 million victims are credited with state planned famines to collectivize agriculture in the Soviet Union between 1932 and 1933.

We will never know the exact numbers but the Soviet Communists were certainly in the same league as Nazi Germany in murdering people. They just had different reasons and techniques for murdering them.

The Communists in the Soviet Union and the Fascists in Nazi Germany were both totalitarian dictatorships that committed mass murder for the purposes of ethnic or political cleansing. If one uses principles of repressive, dictatorial government and mass murder then the Nazis, the Fascists, and the Communists all belong on the same side of any imaginable political spectrum, whatever you choose to call it.

In reality the death toll of Communism also has to include Communist China where it is estimated that the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) resulted in tens of millions of deaths. Pol Pot, a Cambodian Communist, killed as much as a quarter of the population of Cambodia in an attempt to create an agrarian Socialist society (1976-1979). These are just some of the better known examples of Communist mass murder and genocide.

So do you still feel comfortable placing Communism on one side, the Left, and Nazism/Fascism on the Right? By what principle? Certainly not on any principle of human rights vs genocide and repressive totalitarian government. On that scale they both have to be on the same side. Under both Communism and Nazism you could literally end up very dead for politically incorrect speech or actions – just like in North Korea today.

Defenders of Communism today will tell you that these Communist regimes weren’t really true Communists. They didn’t really practice a true and pure version of Communism (or Socialism). They don’t seem to question if such practice is really possible without repression. Obviously they think so, but history is not kind to that belief.

The word “Nazi” is a shorthand for National Socialism which was the political party of Adolph Hitler. In German it was the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers’ Party). Again defenders of Socialism will tell you that it wasn’t real Socialism. In part they are right, but the part they miss is that given human nature you can’t practice Socialism or Nazism very easily without a powerful government that ultimately arbitrates who gets what, and who lives and who dies. We will talk about that in more detail later.

So where in the heck does this idea that politics can be neatly divided between Left and Right come from in the first place? That is what we will look at next. There is actually a very logical principle involved and there is a context in which it can make sense. It just doesn’t fit the modern narratives of the Left or Right very well.

E PLURIBUS UNUM – ONE FROM MANY

E PLURIBUS UNUM” is a Latin inscription on the Great Seal of the United States. It means “ONE FROM MANY.” This was one of those ideas that made America great; a land of one people united under the founding principles of liberty and freedom enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

 

The Great Seal of the United States
The Great Seal was adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782 and for most of American history was the unofficial motto of the United States.

It is a fact of history that Americans have not always lived up perfectly to those ideals. They were in fact difficult ideals to live up to. The vast span of human history is a witness that few had ever – before America – either understood or attempted to live up to these high ideals. Americans paid a heavy price for their failures. Over 2 million men in the Union Army died in the Civil War to end slavery in the United States.

Once upon a time people came to America for an opportunity to work and create a better life for themselves and their families. They expected to earn that new and better life through their own hard work and perseverance. For immigrants arriving in America in the 18th and 19th century America was an opportunity, not an entitlement.

One from many” was truly one of the ideas that made America great. If we want to make America great again then we need to focus on uniting, not on dividing. No matter our race, sex, or where our families may have come from in the past, or done to each other in the past, we are all Americans now. That is something that we as Americans have every right to  be proud of.

However one political party in America is doing everything it can to divide Americans into rival tribes, not to make America great, but to consolidate political power. The Left in general and the Democrats in particular have for some time been preaching Identity Politics where the principle is to divide Americans over claims of grievance and entitlement. If they had a Latin motto it would be “EX UNO PLURES,” meaning, “MANY OUT OF ONE.

In the Identity Politics of the Left your value as a person does not depend on what you have accomplished in life. In Identity Politics your value and worth as a person depends on the color of your skin, or your gender identity, or your national origin, or how you like to practice sex. It sets blacks against whites, gays against straights, and women against men.

The Left first divides people along lines of identity and grievance and then unites them under the umbrella of a political platform that promises entitlements and revenge against the perceived oppressors. Perhaps that is why so many on the Left get so angry over the phrase “Make America Great Again”? They perceive, correctly I think, that if we actually solved many of the problems in America while making it great again they would lose their hold on political power.

That makes me wonder whether the Left really wants to solve problems? Somehow I don’t think so. Their agenda is to keep people divided and angry at each other. That is where their power comes from.  They are simply practicing a very old tactic in politics, the tactic of “divide and conquer.”

As people who are still proud to be Americans we need to do just the opposite. We need to work to unite. “E PLURIBUS UNIM” should be our guiding principle.

NAZI ANTIFA THUGS

Nazi Antifa thugs
Nazi Antifa thugs

Nazi Antifa thugs, emulating their Nazi forbears in Germany, recently vandalized the the New York Republican headquarters in New York City. They left a note saying this “attack is merely a beginning.” Maybe not in scale yet, but certainly in motivation, this should remind us (who know history) of the famous Kristallnacht in 1938 where Nazi paramilitary and German civilians vandalized Jewish stores and synagogues. “Kristallnacht” means “Crystal Night,” or more loosely translated,  “the night of broken glass.”

NAZI ANTIFA THUGS
Nazi Antifa thug/Fascists dressed in black with a flag in red, black, and white – favorite colors of the Nazi SS Gestapo

Nazi Antfia thugs have the same motivation as those Nazis in Germany, to dehumanize and silence those whom they dislike. To Antifa the new “Jews” are conservatives whom they – falsely – characterize as “Fascists,” probably because they didn’t pay much attention in school and really have no idea what a real Fascist looked like back in the 1930s.

These thugs did their business in the dark or night. Hopefully some will be caught in these acts and justifiably prosecuted and put in prison where thugs belong.

In the meantime, some Republicans in Congress are pushing an “Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018.”  The general idea of this law is to punish Antifa thugs who attempt to threaten, intimidate, or injure others while hiding their identity  with a mask. The bill reads:

“Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, while in disguise, including while wearing a mask, injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.”

Some claim this is a violation of freedom of speech.  I believe the Constitution does defend a right of free speech, but not a right to hide one’s identity while setting out to intentionally break the law, using force or the threat of force to silence or injure those one disagrees with. Physical assault is generally against the law in every state in America.

There once was another powerful group in America that used tactics of intimidation and physical violence while wearing masks to hide their identity. That was the Klu Klux Klan (KKK). We should treat masked Antifa no different than we would treat masked KKK thugs using violence and intimidation. They are morally identical regardless of what causes they claim to support. A thug is a thug. Period.

KKK in mask
A KKK member in a mask to hide his identity. Same tactic as Antifa.

I fully support this idea that anyone using violence and intimidation and wearing a mask belongs in jail, not on the streets of America. It is one thing to protest and speak your mind. It is entirely a different thing to hide one’s acts while committing criminal deeds.