Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Left? Right? What a Disgrace!

"Or it may go straight up and fall flat on its face..."
So sang the unsurpassed Michael Flanders.

We are all - at least anyone with half a brain - aware that the traditional Left/Right political spectrum is entirely meaningless. There is a little bit of a song and dance about this topic with, amongst other things, the publication of the Euston Manifesto.

At the very least, we need two dimensions. The Political Compass test does this nicely by measuring attitudes to economic freedoms (the traditional left/right axis) and social freedoms (broadly "authoritarianism" vs "liberalism").

OKCupid, ghastly though that organisation undoubtedly is, also has a version of it here and my results of that test - and which are unlikely to cause much surprise - are here. For what it is worth, my view is that the nice touchy-feely type Socialism (which purports to combine lots of Social Freedom with no economic freedom at all) is a blatantly and obviously unstable system. Individuals are unlikely to be happy to be denied the freedom to choose how to run their lives if they are completely free to say so. You might start with social freedoms and that might be your nice touchy-feely intention, but it won't last long.

But I digress. What really irks me is the insistence on the "Left" to ascribe political nastiness and authoritarianism in general as being solely a "Right-Wing" phenomenon. Enter [Stage Right] Lord Tebbit in a letter about the BNP:
I have carefully re-read the BNP manifesto of 2005 and am unable to find evidence of Right-wing tendencies.

On the other hand, there is plenty of anti-capitalism, opposition to free trade, commitments to "use all non-destructive means to reduce income inequality", to institute worker ownership, to favour workers' co-operatives, to return parts of the railways to state ownership, to nationalise the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and to withdraw from Nato. That sounds pretty Left-wing to me.

Certainly the BNP poses as a patriotic party opposed to multiculturalism, and it has racist overtones, but there is no lack of patriotic Left-wing regimes; opposition to multiculturalism is now mainstream and racialism was not unknown even in the Soviet Union.
Put the BNP through the Political Compass test and they will come out in very much the same place as the Communists: no social freedoms, no economic freedoms. That Dave Prentis should miss the point entirely and advance no argument whatsoever other than - to paraphrase him - "racism is right wing" is very much to be expected.

I am much more distressed to see Toby Roberts do so in his opinion piece in the Torygraph on Sunday:
"Lord Tebbit, when you say the BNP are not an extreme Right-wing organisation, if I may say so, you're a putz. Forget the BNP's reassuring smiles and nice suits and oh-so-reasonable manifestos: just open your nostrils to the smell."
Except of course, Lord Tebbit was not making any comment on the degree to which the BNP are extremists. Had he done so, he would indeed be "a putz". He maintained - correctly - that the BNP is an extreme Left-wing organisation.

The desire of almost everyone who campaigns against economic freedom (for that is the lowest common denominator of the "Left") to ascribe all authoritarianism to the "right" is pernicious. It is both morally and historically wrong. It is part of a systematic, wilful and dogmatic insistence that the "left", because its motives are supposed to be pure, can do wrong. It is consistent with the disgusting apologia for the crimes of 20th Century Communism. It is consistent with the cognitive dissonance required to hold such self-contradictory views. It is consistent with the fact that the BNP stands to gain more from traditional Labour voters than from Conservatives. It is consistent with the appalling and naked anti-semitism of the likes of SWP and Respect.

It will not do.