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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A New Political Spectrum?

Check out "Rethinking the Political Spectrum" by David G. Muller, Jr. in American Thinker.

Muller discusses the inherent problems of the current political spectrum (Communism on the far-Left, Fascism on the far-Right) and suggests an alternative. "The mental framing device of a political spectrum is not a bad idea in itself. There are indeed relationships among tyranny, liberalism, conservatism, and other political phenomena that lend themselves to depiction on a spectrum. But the spectrum must reflect reality.

"There is something nonsensical about a political spectrum that spans the range between tyranny and ... tyranny. If one end of the spectrum is the home of tyranny, then shouldn't the opposite end of the spectrum be the home of liberty, tyranny's opposite? The new spectrum is a rough measurement of liberty: very little liberty on the left end, quite a bit on the right end. At the left extreme reside the hard tyrannies of communism and fascism, as seen historically in such places as the Soviet Union, China, Germany, or North Korea. A bit to the right are the softer tyrannies of socialism, as commonly practiced in Western Europe. Liberalism comes next, then 'moderation.' Moving further along the spectrum toward greater liberty, one finds conservatism, and finally libertarianism."

In a previous post, "Fascism: the Badly Understood Insult" back in April, I discussed how Fascism is not a product of American Right thought (obviously one must distinguish from American Right and other countries' Right as conservatism is, to a debatable degree, dependant upon the current regime as well as a country's unique political history), but of Marx-influenced socialist ideals.

Muller asserts this confusion is based upon Stalin's need to justify his betrayal by Hitler in WWII. "Indirectly yet powerfully, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is responsible for the classic political spectrum commonly used to show the relationships between schools of political thought and the systems they engender. This is what happened:

"Adolf Hitler's National Socialist movement was, as the name clearly says, a party of the left. While not explicitly Marxist-Leninist, National Socialism accepted the essentials of that worldview while adding Germanic racial supremacism to the mix. This is not the place to lay this out in detail, but it is part of the historical record. Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism includes the best recent treatment of the subject. Thus it was not astonishing that in 1939 Hitler and Stalin found ample common interests to establish an alliance, nor did it astonish that Communist Party members in the West almost unanimously took up support for Nazi Germany. The alliance simply recognized the ideological kinship between the two.

"Then in 1941, Hitler turned on his fellow socialist and invaded the Soviet Union. How was Stalin to explain or rationalize this turnabout? What ideological signboard could he put around Hitler's neck that would make sense in the Soviet political context? Certainly Stalin could not let it appear he had been duped by a fellow socialist, nor could he allow Hitler to give socialism a bad name. The solution was to label the bad guys, Hitler and the Nazis, as polar opposites of the good guys, Stalin and the Communists. Fascism - a leftist, socialist doctrine - was abruptly and absurdly labeled a phenomenon of the extreme right.

"From 1941 onward into the postwar era, Soviet propaganda, diplomacy, and scholarship consistently depicted Nazism as a right-wing phenomenon, communism on the left, with the Western powers arrayed on a vague spectrum somewhere in between. Western academics and journalists fell into the same practice, often but not always because of their own leftist sympathies. Few bothered to contest the analysis and assumptions that underlay the new model, and it was a convenient way to depict and describe political camps. Thus the classic political spectrum of the 20th century became second nature to everyone, not just to communists."

I'm not about this assertion, but it does deserve some of my time for research. One must look at the political theory pre-Stalin, perhaps even pre-Lenin, from source material written in that era, but this is not quite as simple as it may seem. Usually (undoubtedly in this case), one has to do a great deal of translation. It must be realized that the presuppositions of the era are wholly different from presuppositions we have now, but that, like now, these presuppositions are presented as truth.

Muller may be onto something, but his article is far too short for the subject matter, too broad and vague and makes a basic error in language. Muller attempts to frame his new political spectrum on gradient levels of tyranny (moving from libertarianism on one end to Fascism/Communism on the other). This makes makes for an easy light side/dark side comparison, after all tyranny is firmly on the side of the Left. Yet, this is merely an anarchist's view (anarchy as a semi-formal theory is given no place in Muller's political spectrum) in which any regulation is necessarily a form of tyranny and oppression.

Gone is the historically demonstrable reality that when there is a lack of any form of regulation tyranny invariably develops. Whether in the political form of a strong man leader, the rule of an aristocratic elite, or the economic form of monopolies and trusts, authority (in some form) asserts itself either from the outset as highly oppressive force, or eventually developing into systemic oppression. It is one of the reasons behind the American Constitution's writing and inception.

Muller should have said that the new political spectrum's gradient is dependant on governmental control rather than tyranny-- or if Muller insists upon using the word, governmental tyranny. After all, the tyranny of monopolies and trusts can and often do operate outside of formal political control.

While Muller is quite correct in his assertion that the current political spectrum is inaccurate and in need of revision, Muller needs to treat the matter with more time and detailed thought if he is to truly challenge such a widely established and broadly accepted theory. What must likewise be gone is the ideological stance that Muller clearly rests upon as he writes his article. One must separate oneself, as much as possible, from ideological notions when writing theory-- even at the expense of personal convictions.

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