Left And Right: Stupid Terms.

“The usual terminology of political language is stupid. What is ‘left’ and what is ‘right’? Why should Hitler be ‘right’ and Stalin, his temporary friend, be ‘left’? Who is ‘reactionary’ and who is ‘progressive’? Reaction against an unwise policy is not to be condemned. And progress towards chaos is not to be commended. Nothing should find acceptance just because it is new, radical, and fashionable. ‘Orthodoxy’ is not an evil if the doctrine on which the ‘orthodox’ stand is sound. Who is anti-labor, those who want to lower labor to the Russian level, or those who want for labor the capitalistic standard of the United States? Who is ‘nationalist,’ those who want to bring their nation under the heel of the Nazis, or those who want to preserve its independence?”

— Ludwig Von Mises

As I read this story on a large anti-gay marriage protest in France, I am struck by a display of silliness not unlike what Mises refers to in the quote above.

As reported in the Independent:

“Riot police fought running battles with hard-right protesters in the heart of Paris at the end of a mostly peaceful demonstration against gay marriage… Although a hard core of about 200 hard-right youths started the fighting, many hundreds of other, soberly dressed, middle-class protesters cheered them on… Earlier about 400,000 people, including many children, had defied warnings of possible far-right violence and marched in peaceful protest against France’s newly enacted law permitting same-sex marriage.”

What strikes me is the repeated use of “hard-right” and “far-right”. It brings to mind questions on the terms of “far right” and “far left”, the supposed opposites in the politician spectrum.

How does this reporter know the protestors are “far right”? What does it even mean to be “far right”? What does it mean to be “far left”, for that matter? These are not cardinal terms. They have meaning only in relation to each other.

When people speak of “anti-gay marriage”, they are immediately pegged as “far right”. What if a majority of these protestors opposed gay marriage, but also opposed private property? That would ostensibly make them “far left”, wouldn’t it? What if they approve of gay marriage and they approve of private property, but reserve the right of The State to appropriate all privately-held resources if the need arises, a lá classical Fascism? Now are the protestors “far right” again? What if they approve of gay marriage and oppose private property, but hate jews, africans, and arabs, and are staunch French nationalists? Approval of gay marriage and antagonism to private property are always pegged in the media as “leftist” views, but racism and nationalism are usually pegged in the media as “rightist” views. Which would they be? Are you confused yet? You should be.

One might say, “Surely you recognize the Fascist, almost Nazi-like overtones of these radicals.” That only brings us back to my main question. Isn’t Fascism “far right”, and Communism “far left”? They’re supposed to be opposites, but when you consider the differences, flaws in the reasoning emerge. Communists, the “far left”, oppose any property held privately and not in the ostensible “public commons”. Logical reasoning would dictate then that the “far right” Fascists, on the opposite side of the spectrum, must oppose any public property and demand that all property be held by private and inviolable individuals; but that’s certainly not what classical fascists believed. That’s not what Fascist theorists Enrico Corradini, Benito Mussolini, or Hitler believed; they believed that individuals could only hold private property under ultimate submission to The State and it’s own needs, to be invoked at any time. Not quite “far left”, but hardly the opposite. This sounds more like “soft left”, relatively speaking.

So, are these French protestors Fascist and “far right”? I don’t know, you’d have to ask them; but even if they fit the publicly-perceived “far right” bill, does the Public even understand what “far right” is to begin with?

Fidel Castro hates gay people. Homosexuality is a serious crime in Communist Cuba. In Angola, the ruling socialist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola severely punishes people for homosexual behavior. In North Korea, homosexuality is routinely depicted by government propaganda as degenerate and has been referred to as “behavior unfitting of humans”. Joseph Stalin, probably one of the most well-known of all “far leftists”, made homosexuality a crime in the Soviet Union punishable by 5 years hard labor. I am having trouble seeing what makes approval of homosexuality an inherently “left wing” view.

By contrast, Ernst Röhm, the head of the Nazi Stürmableitung (forerunner to the feared SS), was an open and somewhat flamboyant homosexual. He would stage wild all-night orgies with other homosexual members of the SA, making no effort to hide his activities. These nighttime hi-jinx were so well-publicized and flagrant that Röhm’s sexuality eventually played a role in his ultimate execution on Hitler’s order, despite being one of Hitler’s most loyal yes-men and an ardent Nazi, which is about as “right wing” as most people will say you can get.

As Mises stated, the terminology of “left” and “right” is stupid. People will understand what you mean when you speak of “the right” vs “the left”, but that does not make the system any less nonsensical.

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3 Comments on “Left And Right: Stupid Terms.”

  1. shanty May 27, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    For better or worse — mostly worse — we humans prefer our categories in binary terms. The implication of the entire “right” as anti-marriage is as weak as the implication of the entire “left” as anti-family.

    For what it is worth, there is a mention in the article about particular protesters in the gathering opposing the presidency of Socialist Hollande and using this protest as a sounding board.

    It would be interesting to trace back the steps which intertwined homophobia and anti-socialism.

    • mastodon176 May 27, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      “The History of Homosexuality and The State.” It could make for an interesting study.

      • seashanty May 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

        The phrase “godless commies” comes to mind. Obviously, there is all sorts of psychological luggage to unpack in a phrase like that, but it appears that the predominant view of morality in the 20th century involved religion, the nuclear family, and vague notions of the free market, or at least the opposite of whatever the Soviets were doing.

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