Tuesday, December 21, 2004
The American Left's Unique Political Traditions: An Exchange With A Visitor
Our thanks to James Ruhland, a buggy visitor, for his stimulating comments: in particular, about the impact of economic influences in helping to account for the unique non-socialist nature of the American left in politics, whether past or present.
Is the emphasis on wage levels corresponding to presence or absence of a strong Marxist/Socialist tradition really warranted, given that Marxist and Socialist movements have more often than not originated not from the bottom, but instead from fairly well-off, well-educated segments of a population?
It's an observation made by Joshua Muravchik in his book Heaven on Earth. Those who clamor most for Socialism, those most likely to adhere to Marxist views, are rarely the poorest. They're most often a educated - if politically disempowered - class. The members of the Bolshevik movement weren't from poor backgrounds. Neither were the founders of the British Labour movement.
Muravchik believes that what made America distinctive was the nature of our own Labour movement, and its leaders, from Gompers to Meany, who rejected Socialistic/Class-warfare solutions. The focus on America's PCI relative to that of other nations as an explanation for the lack of a strong Marxist movement seems - well, almost Marxist in its Materialism.
Thank you for the comments, all stimulating and in effect reducible to two different sets: one about the leaders and mass-following in the Marxist movements, and the other about economic influences in shaping the American left's history. What follows are the buggy replies to each set.
I. Who Led the Socialist and Communist Parties and What Were the Bases of Their Mass Followings?
1) The Mass-Based Support of Social Democratic Parties
It's true that the leaders of Socialist Parties in the 19th and 20th centuries were middle class types, usually intellectuals, but there would have been no mass party following except for large numbers of the new urban working classes flocking to their socialist messages and platforms . . . especially, of course, in those countries in West Europe (or elsewhere) that had mass democratic franchises. The same observation about intellectual leaders is even more applicable to the Communist Parties, or their forerunners like the Russian Social-Democrats cleaved into two wings (Bolsheviks and Mensheviks), before and after 1918.
2) The Main Difference Between The Mass Followers of Communist and Social Democratic Parties After 1918.
The mass grass-roots supporters of Socialist parties were urban working classes, even if the leaders were still middle class themselves. By contrast, even in revolutionary Russia in 1917-18 and during the civil war period over the next three or four years, the urban working classes were very small in number, and Lenin and Trotsky and the rest of the Bolshevik leadership relied increasingly on the support of peasants, drawn to the party in that period by two policies: an abrupt end to the murderous war with Germany in early 1918 and the simultaneous transfer of huge estates to peasant ownership.
That policy of support in the countryside was then consolidated after the civil war ended after the civil war ended, roughly 1921, by the New Economic Policy, which allowed the peasants to keep their land for private use . . . even as the policy encouraged private manufacturing. The NEP lasted about eight years. It clearly enjoyed mass support, both in the countryside and in the cities. Only with Stalin's drastic industrialization of a command economy beginning in the late 1920s --- which nationalized all land under state ownership and forced the peasants into collective factory-farms --- did the peasants in great number fight back, burn their livestock and crops, and became increasingly repressed, crushed, and killed until all resistance was tamed. Large numbers of peasants in the Ukraine, one of the Soviet Union's biggest grain-producer, were slaughtered in enforced famine from Moscow.
3) The Communist Discovery of the Peasantry
Beginning in the 1920s, there was a further shift by small Communist parties in backward countries --- especially in China --- toward a mass peasant-base. Small wonder. There was scarcely any urban working class to mobilize in that country or elsewhere; by contrast peasants --- brutalized there as they had been in East Europe and Russia for hundreds of years by luxury-loving aristocratic landlords and rapacious states --- were the bulk of the populations, and what's more, their hatred of the landlords and state bureaucrats (and security forces) could easily be mobilized by an effective CP leadership for revolution . . . particularly with the breakthrough development of guerrilla warfare and the political mobilization of the peasants by Mao and his followers in the Chinese CP.
4) Peasant-Based Communist Revolutions Were Always Led by Intellectuals
Needless to say, in China or Vietnam or Yugoslavia --- to take three countries with large indigenous revolutions that brought Communists to power without the presence on their soil of the Soviet Red Army --- the leaders were all university-educated intellectuals from the middle classes. The same is true of the mass-murdering Pol Pot Communist leaders in Cambodia in the 1970s and early 1980s: most were educated in France. In Cuba, Castro relied more on an urban-based support, not just peasants, but then he took power without claiming to be a Communist, something he only discovered to be his preference, it seems, after his success in the late 1950s.
One other point is worth noting in passing: the big difference between the Chinese peasantry and Russian state- and collectivized farmers since Maoism in China (1979) and Communism in the Russia.
By 1991, when the Communist system collapsed in Russia, farmers there had known only state- and collective-farms for over 6 decades. Nobody knew anything about capitalism, and at most farmers --- who were more or less agrarian factory workers --- had had some experience with small patches they could cultivate for personal use. By contrast, China's peasantry had been collectivized for less than 3 decades when the shift towards privatization in the countryside began in 1979. Unlike the Russian farmers who were totally uninterested in responding to new market-based incentives and land ownership, China's farmers --- most of whom remembered what a pre-Communist system was --- responded with diligent promptness. The result was a massive increase in agricultural production and output, which also freed up well over a hundred million formerly destitute peasants for work in the expanding industrial sectors in town-and-country enterprises.
II. Economic Influences in Shaping the Non-Socialist History of the Left in American Politics
1) What Explains the Absence of Socialism and Marxism on the American Left?
As for the explanation of why there is no socialist or Marxist tradition in US politics, I agree: economic factors alone aren't the only causal influences, important as they are --- and not only agree, it's something the article here clearly set out. For that matter, we haven't even finished looking at the economic influences, such as property or land ownership in the 19th century in the US. Political, social, and cultural influences also count.
That said, you downplay wrongly, it seems, even the two economic influences singled out so far --- an unusually high real wage by international standards for unskilled workers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and an unusually high standard of living to boot. Recall that though Britain, the first industrial country, had a higher per capita income throughout almost all the 19th century compared to the US, American wages --- for the unskilled (the vast bulk of laborers at the time) --- were twice as high as far back as the 1830s, and were still 54% higher in 1914 on the eve of WWI despite a tremendous outflow of workers from Britain and Europe who immigrated in large number to the US (about 33 million in the period of the 19th century down to 1922), as well as several million others who went to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Argentina.
2) High Wages (and Other Economic Influences) vs. Pragmatic Trade Unions Alone: Britain and the US
To grasp the importance of very high wages, note that a pragmatic trade union movement does not itself guarantee there won't be eventually a major socialist political party in a country.
Consider Britain as a foil here.
Posted by gordongordomr @ 06:19 PM PST
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Final Version WHY NO SOCIALISM OR MARXISM IN AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE: 2nd of 3 Articles On The US Left
This is the 3rd article in a mini-series that started earlier this month on the exceptional nature of American political ideologies --- in particular, the almost total absence of a socialist or Marxist heritage on the left and, on the right, an unique conservatism that is committed to free-markets and hence differs from statist-conservatism found in Japan and everywhere on the West European continent.
The Initial Article
The 1st article in the mini-series, as you might recall, set out a spectrum of ideologies --- on both the left and right --- that runs between two poles of total state dominance of the economy and society: totalitarian Communism on the far left and Nazism (and fascist variants) on the far right. It distinguished between eight kinds of ideologies, all of which emerged in the modern era of industrialization, nationalism and nation-states, democracy, and the counter-reactions to them that materialized with eruptive force by the late 18th century in West Europe and North America and then spread gradually around the world. Then, in that same article, a buggy analysis of the eight different ideologies was unpacked. It tried to clarify the meaning of each, along with some concrete examples: among other things, as it turns out, liberalism and conservatism mean different things in Europe and Japan, or for that matter in the rest of the world, than in the USA.
Liberalism in the rest of the world, just to remind you, means free-market enthusiasm --- what we would call libertarianism in the US --- and hence the pejorative term, neo-liberalism, to depict the anti-statist policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. In European circles, never mind Latin America or among leftists everywhere, neo-liberalism is a big boo-word; just mentioning it is likely to send shivers racing up and down the spines of left-wing intellectuals, most of them totally ignorant about economics. Conservatism, too, means something different in the EU or elsewhere. It refers to statist-conservatives like the French Gaullist right or the German Christian Democrats or the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party (now in power for the last 50 years).
Well, to make sense of how Europeans view US politics, we should regard liberalism in this country as roughly equivalent to very moderate Social-Democracy . . . however misleading that term might be in the American context. As for American conservatiism, small wonder that Milton Friedman --- one of the two or three most influential economists of the last century and an icon of American conservative (and libertarian) thought --- told the German weekly Der Spiegel a few years ago that when he visits West Europe, he always describes himself as a "liberal", not a conservative, to clarify where he stands in European politics.
The 2nd Article
The next article in the mini-series focused strictly on the the unique left-side of the American ideological spectrum. In particular, it sought to clarify what the leftist heritage in the US amounts to --- certainly not socialist or Marxist, despite at times some radical influences in its policy-making. When that clarifying task was finished, the article moved on and surveyed the shifting policies toward activist government that the Democratic Party has pursued, with varying fortunes, since the New Deal days of Franklyn Roosevelt in the 1930s and the Great Society ambitions of Lyndon Johnson three decades later.
The outcome of these varying fortunes?
Well, if we're to believe no one less than the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, the era of Big Government is now over, period --- even if its current institutional nature still leaves a much more active and costly federal government than existed before FDR's election in 1932. All this, mind you, however limited the American federal system is compared to governments in West Europe and Japan or even Canada these days.
All of Which Brings Us to the Subject of Today's Article
Consider it an extended effort --- which spans a host of causal influences, political and economic as well as social and cultural --- to explain the failure of socialism and Marxist views to ever take root in American politics. The current article, just to make what follows clearer, will probe a host of economic influences in American life, past and present; nothing more, but also nothing less. As for the various political, social, and cultural influences that have shaped the American left's unique nature, they will figure prominently in the next article or two in this series. Eventually, of course, our attention will shift to the right-side of the US ideological spectrum, and at that point we'll begin to examine and weigh the various reasons why no statist-conservatism has ever emerged here.
One more thing, a reminder . . . and then down to today's business.
As buggy visitors will recall, this mini-series on ideological exceptionalism in American politics is itself part of a larger, much more ambitious series on the American economy, always viewed comparatively, to be more precise, with Japan and the EU. That series began last summer, and so far 12 articles on the rangy topic --- with its institutional and cultural thrusts --- have appeared. The current article, then, is the 13 in that series.
ECONOMIC REASONS WHY SOCIALISM HAS NEVER TAKEN ROOT IN AMERICAN LIFE
By themselves, if we were to add one key political force in American history --- the emergence of a limited democratic form of government with 67% of American (white) males able to vote with no property restrictions in the 1830s: at a time when, in Britain, the corresponding figure was 1/20th --- the economic influences set out here would probably suffice to explain why socialism never had a large appeal to the masses of Americans, whether agrarian or urban workers. Probably, in large part; but not wholly. Keep this qualification in mind as we work our way forward through the economic influences singled out here and in the next article. As you'll eventually see, there were other political influences that offset a socialist or Marxist appeal in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the same is true of social and cultural trends as well. All will be discussed in due time.
In the meantime, keep your attention focused on economic influences . . . with their firmly planted impact on American politics extending back over two centuries now . . . much to the dismay of left-wing radicals these days, not least among the politically correct acolytes in US universities (outside economic faculties) and in certain activist circles in the Democratic party at its grass-roots level?
They're several in number, six of them standing out; and as always in this series on the US economy and the smaller one embedded in it on American ideologies, we need a comparative perspective to make sense of American exceptionalism. Briefly summarized, the six we'll be examining in detail are the following:
1) An unusually high standard of living by world standards as far back as the end of the 18th century, with the US becoming the richest country in per capita income in the 1880s and holding an edge over West Europe today that is 55% higher.
2) Related to this, but also different, unusually high real wages for unskilled labor that were double those in Britain by the 1830s, with Britain itself the richest country by far in Europe at the time. Tens of millions of poor Europeans would eventually flee the oppression of poverty --- or of religious and political oppression --- in order to seek a better life here.
3) Land ownership and a wide distribution of property ownership without parallel in the world in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries --- something that foreign visitors to the United States like the two astute Frenchmen, Jean de Crevecoeur and Alex de Tocqueville marveled at.
4) Historically, down until the end of the 1960s, a much broader middle class and --- no less striking --- an unusually narrow distribution of income compared to Japan and West Europe.
Since then, as we'll see, the vast expansion of the welfare state and its tax and transfer policies in Europe have reversed this 2-century trend, at a huge cost to West Europe and Japan: market-inefficiencies galore, tiny hillocks of them in all directions in their economies, creating less and less competitive economies at a time when the gap in living standards with the United States is now essentially what it was decades ago. Right now, 40% of all Swedes --- who live in the EU's most ambitious welfare state --- would, if Sweden joined the US federation, be ranked in the bottom quintile in income.
5) A definition of poverty that differs from all the rest of the industrial countries --- an absolute standard of what's needed to live decently in the US, compared to a relative standard used in Europe and the other industrial countries that guarantees more and more welfare transfers, and hence more and more taxes, at a time when economic growth has sputtered.
What's more, as we'll see, most of those in poverty in this country at any one point quickly move out of it, and --- surprisingly for non-American observers --- we'll also see that if you use what the EU Commision's Eurostat service itself called for in the late 1990s as a better measure of both poverty and income distribution --- namely, actual household consumption as opposed to reported income --- those Americans in the bottom category of pre-tax income (the lowest quintile) turn out in yearly surveys of the Bureau of Labor to spend $2.31. for every dollar that they report earning! As we'll also see, contrary to the image of distraught poverty in the US that flourishes in the EU media, 46% of Americans in poverty --- 12% of the population now, using federal statistics --- own their homes (vs. 69% of all Americans); 73% own a car; 30% own two cars; and 98% own color tvs. We'll give more statistics and the sources later on.
6) Hours worked across income categories reveal an intriguing trend. Historically, in almost every society in the world until the 19th century in the US, the upper class --- invariably, the landed aristocracy plus some urban merchants and bankers --- pursued lives of leisure and conspicuous consumption that, to top it off, almost always entailed a general disdain for hard work and a fathomless contempt for the masses of people . . . considered ignorant, uncouth, and unable to govern themselves. In much of Latin America that life-style of the upper class still persists, much to the harm of their developmental prospects, and it's omnipresent in all the Arab countries without exception.
The US has been generally exempt here on these scores, save for the slaveholding South until 1865, where a semi-militarized plantation elite held economic and political power. These days, history has fully reversed itself, and Americans in the top 20% income category work a good 2 to 3 times more than those in the bottom 20%.
7) Other closely related economic trends --- say, income or social mobility --- are also important, but we'll deal with them in comparative terms later on under the heading of social influences. There, too, as you'll see, there's a huge gulf between the US and the EU when it comes to charitable contributions: on a per capita basis, Europeans contribute $55 annually to charities and Americans $650.
Click on the right continue button to read more:
Posted by gordongordomr @ 05:07 PM PST
Saturday, December 11, 2004
WHY NO SOCIALISM OR MARXISM IN AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE: 1st of 2 Articles
A few days ago, a buggy article appeared that analyzed the nature and range of political ideologies around the world. Its main point? To show that the US is unique among industrial countries, lacking either an influential left-wing socialist tradition, Marxist or otherwise, or anything equivalent to the statist-conservatism that flourishes in Japan and everywhere on the Continent of West Europe these days. In particular, on the American right . . .
. . . The Republican Party Is Unique
With few exceptions, American conservatism has always been generally opposed to paternalistic big government, on any grounds --- not that Republican politicians, hypocritically to be sure, won't dish out benefits on a grand scale to their constituencies or provide subsidies or protection to certain manufacturing or agricultural firms . . . usually big corporations, generous with their campaign contributions for their patrons. companies. All politicians, everywhere --- whether on the left or right --- do this. It's a professional hazard. What alone differs is the PR-fluff used as rationalizations.
Still, the Republican party remains unique in the industrial democratic world with its suspicions of big government and partisan preferences for free markets.
These days, the only other major conservative party that has strong leanings toward smaller government and freer markets similar to the Republican Party is the British Conservative Party; and even then --- until Margaret Thatcher routed it with her powerful anti-welfare measures in the 1980s --- it had a strong Tory paternalistic wing, with roots in pre-industrial, pre-democratic British life extending back to the 17th century, that had no trouble managing the advanced welfare-state that the Labour Party established in Britain after 1945. And come to think of it, not only managing that rapidly growing welfare-and-regulatory state, but extending it during the 1950s, 1960s, and most of the 1970s. Elsewhere, since the 1980s too, Australia's Liberal Party has emulated Thatcher-like and Reagan-like economic and social programs; and under various shifting guises and coalitions, so have the motley number of conservative and liberal parties in New Zealand.
Well, the next article in this series will try to pin down and clarify the various reasons why American conservatives continue to differ from Japan's Liberal Democratic Party --- in power for the last half century (except a 9-month flurry early in the 1990s) --- or the EU's numerous Conservative parties whatever they're called, whether Christian Democrats, Gaullists in France, or those in Scandinavia and Holland . . . their names and fortunes varying over the last few decades. For instance, Italy's Christian Democrats were that country's biggest political party until the end of the 1980s, after which, as one scandal after another was uncovered by some courageous magistrates and journalists, it disappeared . . . as did, come to think of it, the country's second or third biggest party, the Socialists who were found to be no less corrupt. Remember, too, as several buggy articles have shown --- most recently in mid-November 2004 --- to the right of these mainstream statist-conservative parties there has emerged, with jolting force, several populist right-wing breakthrough parties.
No Less Unique: The Democratic Party's Heritage
All of which brings us to our main topic in today's article, which requires a shift of focus back toward the left-side of the political spectrum: the lack of an influential socialist or Marxist tradition in American politics, historically or otherwise. The argument, you'll note, unfolds in three steps:
1. Some introductory comments about the uniqueness of the left-wing side of the ideological spectrum in the US.
2. A more focused if brief survey of the Democratic party's radical heritage --- always eventually modified --- in the 19th and 20th century, and right down through the Clinton era.
3. Most important of all, a sustained analysis that pins down the reasons for the absence of any socialist appeal to the vast majority of American workers --- whether in manufacturing, agriculture, mining, or the service industries --- in the past and even less so in the present. It will range widely, this analysis: it will look at a variety of economic, political, social, and cultural influences that have shaped the left-side of the American ideological spectrum for over two centuries now.
THE ABSENCE OF A LEFT-WING SOCIALIST OR MARXIST TRADITION IN AMERICAN POLITICS: SOME INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS
Is the Democratic Party Really Unique in the Industrial Democratic World
Yes, strikingly so. Historically, it has eschewed even the paternalistic, but clearly non-Marxist statist-heritage of the British Labour Party . . . at any rate until the last decade, since which time to stay in power and compete effectively with the Conservatives it has shifted to the more free-market orientation initiated on the right by Margaret Thatcher. Labour, it's true, officially renounced in the late 1950s its historical platform to nationalize all industry; but then, more or less at the same time except in France, so did all the other West European Socialist or Social-Democratic Parties with their influential Marxist heritage, including a theoretical commitment to class-warfare.
A clarifying sidebar comment or two: When the British Labour Party was formed in 1900, a good three decades or so after the British working class could vote, it applied to join the Marxist Second Socialist International. The Continental socialists were puzzled. They were committed, in the German phrase, to Klassenkrieg . . . class warfare, something the Labour Party's founders never espoused or wouldn't. Eventually, in typically hair-splitting German fashion, Labour was given an OK when it was said to at least support Klassenkampf: class struggle.
As for the French Socialists, it finally achieved dominant influence in French politics in the 1980s, winning the presidency for the first time and governing in a coalition with radical Greens and Communists --- at one time, until the end of the 1950s, the country's largest political party after 1945. The faithful on the French left were joyful. Socialism --- a big breakthrough past the huge statist welfare-and-regulatory state the French left and right had already constructed after 1945 --- was looming just on the horizon. What happened quickly disillusioned the left. The few radical economic programs the Mitterand-dominated government toyed with quickly sputtered or backfired amid vast unpopularity, and essentially the socialist Prime Ministers and others in the executive ended up administering welfare policies scarcely different from those in Germany or Northern Europe.
US Trade Union Leaders Less Concerned With Income Equality Than Swedish Industrialists
To make sure you grasp just how different the Democratic Party has been in its ideological heritage, note something especially revealing about American attitudes --- even on the political left here --- towards income redistribution. In an unusually stimulating book on ideas of equality in Sweden, Japan, and the United States, a Harvard team of political scientists combined with a team of Swedish and Japanese scholars and found, to their surprise, that even American trade union leaders were willing to tolerate a much larger range of income inequality as something desirable, a goal to achieve, than were the owners and managers of Swedish corporate industry. The same was true, interestingly enough, of the leaders of American civil rights movements. (See Sidney Verba, Steve Kelman, and others, Elites and the Idea of Equality: A Comparison of Japan, Sweden, and the United States (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987)
And Yet Note Quickly:
American wage-earners (as we'll see with good statistical evidence alter) were not only always richer than Europeans after 1800 or so, but --- contrary to left-wing mythology here --- the income distribution was also more equal than anywhere in Europe . . . as late, believe it or not, as 1970.
Was this actually so? How was it possible?
Or at least students in the buggy prof's classes, full of wonder, would always query when the relevant stats were supplied.
Posted by gordongordomr @ 06:51 PM PST
Monday, December 6, 2004
AMERICAN IDEOLOGICAL EXCEPTIONALISM: WHY NO SOCIALIST TRADITIONS? 1st in a Mini-Series
This, the 12th installment in a lengthy series on the innovative prowess of the U.S. economy --- always viewed comparatively with Japan and the EU countries --- takes up a key topic that has only been briefly touched on so far: the absence in American politics, historically and at present, of a strong left-wing ideological tradition . . . socialist, Marxist, or what have you.. Its absence, historically and at present, is unique among industrial countries, including Canada ---which has had both stronger left-wing and statist-conservative traditions; even more important, it has helped to make the United States the richest country in the world . . . with a per capita income 55% higher than the EU-15 average and 50% higher than Japan's.
What This Gap Entails
To drive home just how great this gulf in living standards happens to be, consider the four largest EU countries: Britain, plus Germany, France, and Italy . . . the latter three advanced welfare-and-regulatory states of the sort extolled by the left-wing radicals in US universities and among Democratic Party activists at the grass-roots as a model for this country: a saner, more equitable way to organize an economy, it's claimed. The reality? As a recent study by two Swedish economists showed, if any of these four big EU countries were suddenly to join the U.S. federation, it would be the fifth poorest of the existing 50 states, ranking just ahead of Mississipi, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Montana, and tied with Oklahoma . . . all five of these, please note, overwhelmingly rural states and far below average American per capita income. Sweden itself would be the 7th poorest state. The second richest EU country --- tiny Denmark --- would be the 10th poorest, and Ireland with the highest EU living standard would rank 14th among the poorest U.S. states.
For that matter, according to the same Swedish study, 40% of all of Swedish households "would rank among low-income households in the USA, and an even greater number in the poorer European countries would be classed as low income earnings by the American definition. In an affluent economy, in other words, it is not unlikely that those perceived as poor in an international perspective are relatively
Our Aim In This and the Next Articles
It's to clarify the ideological spectrum across industrial countries, historically and at present and --- more to the point --- pin down the reasons for the lack of a socialist or Marxist tradition in American politics. Those two articles will then be followed by a third that deals with another American exceptionalism, ideologically speaking: the absence of a right-wing statist tradition of the sort found in Japan and on the Continent of West Europe, and the reasons why.
A fourth article will contain some clarifying remarks about ideologies in general --- in particular, why they are relatively new in history, part and parcel of the modern world of industrializing, nation-states, democracy, free-market capitalism, and globalizing forces that emerged out of a complex of vast changes that are little more than 200 to 250 years old. The political reactions to these modernizing trends, full of turbulence and dislocation for the existing status-quo in countries around the globe --- for and against democracy, capitalism, market-oriented industrialization, and free trade --- are reflected in the ideological heritages that divide the advanced industrial countries from all other countries, and more to the point for our concerns, how even among advanced industrial democracies the American heritage is noticeably different . . . with the other great English-speaking democracies, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada sharing much, but not all, in common with that American exceptionalism.
Is it surprising --- an accident of history --- that the two giant liberal great powers of the last 250 years, Britain and the United States, have destroyed in war all the main challengers from the far ideological left or right: Napoleonic France, Imperial Germany, Militarist Japan and Nazi Germany and its fascist allies, and later in the cold war the Communist Soviet Union . . . and not only destroyed them, but forced their successor regimes, directly or indirectly, to move in the liberal direction of democracy, market capitalism, and freer trade?
POLITICAL IDEOLOGIES IN THE MODERN WORLD
The Ideological Spectrum Across Industrial Countries
Look at the diagram here, a graphic effort to depict the variety of political ideologies --- democratic or anti-democratic; free-market or statist; left-wing or right-wing --- that have flourished globally since the end of the 18th century, at any rate among industrial countries: a two-century era marked by the handful of revolutions that have shaped our modern world and that we mentioned a moment ago: the industrial revolution, the nationalist revolution, the democratic revolution, the scientific and technological revolution, and the globalizing revolution, all topics that we'll clarify in due course here. For the time being, focus on the spectrum diagramed here without worrying about some complex points it entails, terminological and historical --- such as the meaning of liberalism or conservatism, which differs in the U.S. as compared with West Europe or Japan. That clarification, as it happens, will follow in due course too.
It's enough right now to get a general working idea of what the range of ideologies is, and where the uniquely narrow U.S. spectrum lies . . . in the center.
Making Sense of The Spectrum
|Totalitarian Communism ||Democratic Socialism |
||Liberalism ||Free-Market |
|One-Party + |
Total Bureaucratic Rule
|Advanced Welfare State ||Active Welfare State
||Mass Democ. |
|Mass Democ. |
|Mass Democ |
Active Welfare State
|Soviet Union Maoist China |
| EU |
Social Democratic Parties
|Canada today; USA |
Johnson's Great Society
(1965-1980) ; Left-Wing of the Democratic Party Today The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s
all before late 1980s
Party Jacksonian Period 1830s; Progressives,
1890-1920; FDR New Deal,
Republican Party Britain
Some Latin American Conservative Parties
| EU Continental Conservatives: French Gaullists |
Christian Democrats etc.
Outside The EU Japan's
Less Welfare ) Similar for Other Pacific Asian Democracies To An Extent
Some Latin American Conservatives
| Arab Countries; Most of Africa; Most of Latin America in |
| Examples Hitler's |
Germany Mussolin's Italy; Clerical Fascism:
Note, first off, that the spectrum runs between two poles: both highly statist and anti-democratic, culminating on the far left in the archetypical Communist systems of Stalinist Russia and Maoist China --- still found in North Korea today --- and on the right in Nazi Germany and (to a lesser extent) its fascist allies in WWII.
Posted by gordongordomr @ 09:20 PM PST