WE NEED A healthy right wing in politics. There, I’ve said it. Doesn’t make me a Tory (and certainly not a fascist, but more of that later). I’m just a reasonable and fair human being who recognises that totalitarianism comes in all guises. But it more fatally comes in a left wing guise (as I will demonstrate).
First though, let’s acknowledge that there is no question the Left has won most arguments about social justice over the past 60 years. In doing so, particularly during the past 40 years they have, through a mix of propaganda and innuendo, turned the phrase ‘right wing’ into a term of abuse.
It’s been very clever, but ultimately damaging, this slow creep to a one-sided argument.
All the bogeyman issues – hanging, racism, homophobia, immigration etc – are now labelled right wing. But here’s the funny thing: they’re not. These prejudices cross all political, social and class boundaries.
Where did it come from anyway, this idea of left and right political wings?
One theory is that it started with the French Revolution. Negotiations for the Republic were mediated and those who sat to the left of the mediator espoused ideas that put government at the centre of all aspects of life – thus left wing came to symbolise large and controlling central government.
Those who sat to the mediator’s right believed in personal liberty and individual responsibility. Thus right wing came to symbolise small government, with very specific responsibilities, among them defence of the realm, conduct of the law, a money supply and taxation.
However it came about, those are the abiding definitions: left = big government; right = small government.
So how is it that we end up regarding big government bogeymen such as Hitler and Mussolini as right wing? Hitler was head of the Nationalist Socialist German Workers’ Party. It doesn’t get much more left wing than that. Plus, his style of government was over-archingly big – classically left-wing.
And here’s a thought to struggle with. Attempts to establish communist or socialist regimes have been responsible for more deaths in one century than religion or capitalism in the entire history of mankind. In Russia and China alone, communist rule resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people in just 70 years last century.
No religion can begin to compete with that, nor any other political ideology. To that number you can add the political victims of communism or socialism in Cambodia, North Korea, Africa, Vietnam and in Eastern Europe and South America – almost 100 million people sacrificed to the Gods of Lenin and Marx.
So how did we get to the point where “right wing” is a term of abuse? And how did it become associated with “fascist” as another pejorative? The word fascist derives from the Roman fasces, a symbol of collectivism and power. Collectivism? Now that sounds familiar…..
We’ve got to the dreadful state of debate that we now encounter through the tool of propaganda. Post WW11, the liberal left has dripped ideas into the mainstream of media and public debate that the right wing is cruel, greedy, authoritarian and dangerous to your liberty. Communist China anyone? Or Russia? Pol Pot, Kim Il-sung, Nicolae Ceausescu – any bells ringing?
In this distorted universe, right-wingers are ‘floggers and hangers’. Really? When Parliament abolished hanging, more than 90% of the public was still in favour of capital punishment. So how come we didn’t have an overwhelmingly Tory majority in the House? And, by the same token, how the hell did the law get passed? The next time the public was asked the question, only a few years ago, a majority of 70% was still in favour, clearly still crossing all political boundaries. More recently – in 2015 – that number had dropped to 50%, which I’d wager is still more than the liberal left would have guessed.
What about racism and immigration? The mass of racist outpouring in the UK came from the working classes, and from trades unions, those for whom the liberal left always claim to speak, and about whom the liberal left always gets dewy-eyed. (My own background is Irish immigrant working class, so don’t go down that road).
Which is not to say that large swathes of the middle and upper classes weren’t also racist. But in calculating the percentage of racists in the country, we must clearly come to the conclusion that racism, too, crosses all political boundaries. The same thing goes for homophobia.
In 2010, a few weeks after the coalition government was formed, I asked some acquaintances: “So, what do we think of David Cameron?”
“Well, he’s just Tory scum,” said one, and the rest agreed. Seriously, can’t we do better than that in order to discuss how we want our affairs run?
Many things the left hates are, in fact, demonstrably left wing. Other things they hate are demonstrably not right wing. Propaganda at its blackest is the art of saying something often enough to make it mean what you want it to mean. But, however many times you say something is so, it doesn’t make it so.
So could we try to get back to a proper debate about how we run our affairs? Here’s my starter for 10: all political theory and ideology should be put to one side. None of it has worked for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Pragmatism should be our byword. Do what works; discard what doesn’t. There, I’ve said. And I’m right (but not necessarily right wing).