“The renowned Marxist professor offers his understanding of the meanings of words commonly used to describe “ways of organizing political life in a community.”
I agree and disagree with Richard Wolff on these political labels. I agree with him that Liberals and Socialists are similar in that they both tend to believe in a democratic form of government and believe in things like private enterprise and property rights, but where they differ has to do with what government’s especially the national government’s involvement in the private sector. Should there be rules or not in the economy and even if both sides believe there should be rules in the economy and both Liberals and Conservatives tend to believe in some forms of regulations of the economy, what should those rules be.
Where I disagree with Richard Wolff has to do with Socialist and Communist. I tend to separate those two groups of Socialists from being Democratic Socialists or Social Democrats and Marxists who are Communists. Even Democratic Socialists believe in some form of private enterprise and ownership, even property rights and even the right to privacy. And not just believe in a democratic form of government, but a very democratic form of government. Where they believe that one party should have all the power in the government through a parliamentary system, but then with the democratic process be held accountable to the voters if the people want to go in a different direction in 2-4 years, sometimes five years.
Which is how most European states tend to operate. Socialists don’t believe in checks and balances as much as Liberals and Conservatives in far as the major political parties interact with each other. They believe that one party should be in control and if the people don’t like the job that they’re doing, that they should be able to replace that party and give control of the Parliament and executive to the opposition.
Communists- show me a democratic form of government in the world where the Communists are in charge and have been in charge for a while and I’ll sell you beachfront property in Minnesota with an ocean view. Where Communists and Democratic Socialists tend to come together is the role of the national government in seeing that everyone is taken care and can live well. They both believe in welfare rights that everyone is entitled to a home, a good education, a good job, quality health care and health insurance, pension, child care, etc, but that all of these things should be provided by the national government and given to the people.
But where Communists tend to differ from Liberals, Conservatives, and even Democratic Socialists has to do with individual rights, the right to oppose the government, the ability for the people to get independent information and news that is not coming from the government. Communists tend not to believe in individual rights, individualism, individual choice, and tend to see those things as dangerous, selfish, threats especially to their own control. And that the people might decide that government is trying to do too much for them and not succeeding and that they may want more personal control over their own affairs and lives. Which is what we’re currently seeing in Venezuela which officially doesn’t call themselves a Communist State, but in all practicality operates as one as far as how they try to physically destroy all forms of political opposition.
Conservatives- I don’t want to do a Bill Clinton it depends on what you mean by the word is here, but Conservative it gets to what type of Conservative are you talking about. Similar to Liberal not all forms of Conservatives to the Nationalists and even authoritarians on the Far-Right and ethno-Natioanlists who believe there culture should be dominant in society like the Ku Klux Klan to use as an example, to the Christian-Right and Muslim-Right who believe there idea of religion and religious beliefs should govern society, to Conservative-Libertarians like the Barry Goldwater’s and even Progressive-Conservatives (that is not an Oxymoron) like the Newt Gingrich’s who are also on the Center-Right, all these labels are not the same thing. Just like not everyone on the Left are Liberals, not everyone on the Right are Conservatives.
When I think of Conservative I think of political conservatives and not Religious-Conservatives, because those two groups are very different. They share similar values in a big belief in economic freedom, personal responsibility, strong national defense, but differ when it comes to culture. When I think of Conservatives I think of Conservative Libertarians who puts strict limits on what government’s role especially the national government and what role government should have when it comes to culture and the personal affairs of the people.
Conservative Libertarians don’t believe in every form of lifestyle choice and how people should live individually. But they believe in individualism and put strict limits on what government should be doing and how involved they should be in personal affairs of the individual. Whereas the Religious-Conservatives believe so much in their own faith that their faith should rule over everyone else and that it should be part of government and that government should rule based on their religious beliefs. Even if that means putting strict limits on the individuals when it comes to personal freedom.
Liberals- my favorite political label and perhaps that has something to do with me being a Liberal myself. (Anyone’s guess) But like not everyone on the Right are Conservatives, not everyone on the Left are Liberals. Communists if anything are illiberal in far as how much they constrict individual choice and would even outlaw religion if they could. No right to privacy and free speech obviously in a communist state. Liberals are liberal! They believe in liberal democracy and the defense of liberty. The word liberal comes from the word liberty because a Liberal is someone who believes in the defense of liberty. Protecting the individual rights and liberty of the people, while expanding liberty for people who don’t have it.
Sounds similar to Conservative-Libertarian, but Liberals and Conservatives differ when it comes to the role of government in society and economy. We don’t differ so much about whether there should be liberty or not either economic or personal, but differ in government’s role to see that the economy is as strong as possible for everyone involved. Liberals tend to emphasize public infrastructure, public education, a safety net for people who truly need it and use that to help people who are struggling to get on their feet and become independent. Conservatives tend to believe these roles should only the functions of the private sector. And if government should have any role here it should be from the state and local levels.
Watching almost anyone in the so-called mainstream media today other than maybe C-SPAN that tends to cover panels discussions with people who actually understand these labels because they tend to represent them and some publications like Reason Magazine and even TruthDig, you would think everyone on the Left are Liberals and everyone on the Right are Conservatives. Because they tend to believe the further left someone is as Far-Left as Communists, are Liberals. And that the further right you are the more conservative you are. Even Theocrats in Saudi Arabia and Iran.
When the fact is the political spectrum even if it divided by a Left and Right, it’s not just between Liberals and Conservatives. Liberals operate the Center-Left. Conservatives operate the Center-Right. With all sorts of political factions that surround the Center-Left and Center-Right looking for their own political power and ability to insert their political agendas even if they represent political fringes on the spectrum.