It struck me today as I was getting updated with the progress of the local elections campaign. Having contributed recently to the campaign of an independent local candidate contending for the main seat in the administration of the capital city of Bucharest, I was reading the news regarding his bid.
The surprise came as the press kept labelling him as either the saviour or the splitter of right-wing political parties. My surprise comes mostly because absolutely nothing in his campaign speak of anything remotely right-wing. At best, historically speaking, he would be a center-left candidate. At best.
If we go back to look at the general principles of right-wing politics, we'll the most important "sine qua non" points:
- that inequality is not only normal and acceptable, but unavoidable. People aren't equal, can't be equal and gap in opportunities with everything that comes (access to services and so on) isn't something to fight against
- that the state should allow business to go about their way and enhance the general wealth, without regard for social and income gaps (as those are unavoidable and pointless to fight against)
- general deregulation, weak state: the state shouldn't interfere in local business
- strong nationalism
Now right wing politics have appeared primarily as a reaction to the ultra-progressive political current (left-wing) born from the intellectual French class of the French Revolution. As such, being defined through opposition of the main idea of the French Revolution (that all men are equal and as such we should strive to offer people equal opportunities) the role of defining a "dog-eat-dog" world varies throughout the world and throughout history.
While in various regions there are differences regarding scale or vision around the core right-wing principles, they still exist (and sometimes other variations are adopted). You can see it in just about any system (US, UK, Germany and so on) that has right-wing groups reaching for political power.
In post-Communist Romania (and maybe elsewhere, who knows, I can't speak for other countries) the definition of left wing itself changed in an attempt to dissociate itself from the Communist links and renounce any progressive politics in favour of a more "please the masses of former state employees". AKA populism, something that's neither here nor there but exists to underline a sort of economic appeasement (or "buying support").
By renouncing the liberal/progressive core, the self-defined Romanian left simply inherits a populist core from its Communist legacy but at the same time breaks away from anything that defines left-wing politics.
At the same time it's sad to see the historical Liberal party position itself as a centre-right party (a self-defined right) when liberalism as a political principle is part of the left-wing.
Similarly, modern democracy itself as a political system is rooted in the equality principles of the left-wing. All citizens are equal and entitled to equal right of representation in a voting system where all votes carry the same weight regardless of any perceived status (or the absence of such status). This is quite understandable as the revolutionaries that founded this political current (a blanket current in itself, covering a plethora of ideas) had brought down a centuries old monarchy and were eager to ensure that people had control, not a hereditary elite. The right fought back against this.
In fact, a closer look at Romanian politics will reveal more left-wing principles in parties that style themselves as centre or centre-right than the elitism of the socialist party which in the end has more in common to the right (sorry, but catering to the needs of the conservatist religious groups, increasing income class gaps and positioning of its own politicians as an elite is pure right-wing).
Yes, the self-styled right is actually a moderate left with a moderate neo-socialist root. The self-style left is actually a core right which sometimes stretches the boundaries (fortunately not going to extremes though). Both have strong populist streaks (more pregnant in the "real" right though).
It's a really sad situation because it hampers political understanding on a general scale particularly where the core socialist policies are best needed. The political language and what constitutes the ideas should be properly understood in order to be positioned on the political spectrum (or even scrap the left/right label altogether, but that would undermine the capacity to learn whatever is useful from the doctrines of past).
We need better access to education and a more equal one (left) and not a system where it's ok for access to education should be defined by social standing or wealth (right). We expect new, educated leaders connected to the world so we need to create the environment in which they can grow.
We need political leaders that bring people closer together on a global scale (left) not leaders that cater and enhance nationalist currents and rifts (right). I wish to see a leader that would support humanism on a larger scale by addressing the human issues of the refugee crisis rather than the political side, that would support and recognise the independence of Palestine and who would stop supporting armed conflicts (Romania is not only an active participant in armed conflicts but also a player in global arms trade).
We need to end populist programmes and replace them with true social protection systems (left) rather than enhance a class division (right). The populist Romanian right wing actively protects the existence of classes defined by access to pensions. Former military, former secret service, politicians and other types of former public servants are grouped on different pension levels calculated on special formulas that enhance divisions and create a class tier system that destroys the meaning of social security.
We need many more things, but to define them we also need some political culture and understanding and this starts with the vocabulary, just like in school.