Many people generalise the political spectrum as a mere Left and Right, and give themselves a political diagnosis based on equally generalised archetypes of the two. In reality, it is a lot more complex than that; even political theorists sharing a Left-Wing vision have disputes. Knowledge of these denominations help one understand their political agenda in far better detail.
On the extreme left of the spectrum we have Communism, the basis of which is the oppression of the proletariat from the bourgeoisie. Karl Marx and his ‘Communist Manifesto’ is the general image of radical left politics, with his belief in a possibly violent revolution in order to overthrow a Capitalist system. The intolerance of Capitalism is the shared idea of far left theorists. Marx also endeavoured to achieve utter democracy through complete nationalisation of industry and the eventual abolition of money. This essentially depicts the far left’s agenda as absolute rule of the people in a socio-economic setting, ridding society of the toxic nature of exploitation from the Bourgeoisie.
Other theorists who adopted Marx’s ideas include Lenin, Stalin and Mao. These figures followed the revolutionary aspects of Marx’s teaching with slight alterations. Lenin adopted Marx’s ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ idea (whereby the working class seize the means of production and re-educate the Capitalists) and implemented Vanguardism into his ideology. This essentially discusses how in order for Communism to be achieved, someone needs to lead the working class revolution, acting as a Vanguard to spur it on. However, it can be argued that Leninism is slightly less radical that Marxism, due to his ‘New Economic Policy’ whereby some industries are privatised after a successful revolution. Similarly, Mao agreed with Marx on the majority of his policies, whilst also believing that a Communist revolution could be achieved in a feudal society, and that the overthrow of Capitalism was not a necessary factor. Stalinism provides an alternative far left idea, with the complete belief in a violent revolution and a specific focus on a centralized economy. Therefore, whilst all share a far left basis, it is clear that this is split between various means of achieving similar ends.
This idea of split ideologies is also present in central-left views. Democratic Socialism is the predominant ideology in Venezuelan politics, exercised through the rule of Chavez and Muduro. Although Democratic Socialists do not endeavour to achieve a communist society, the shared implementation of large scale nationalisation deems Democratic Socialism the middle of the left spectrum. Where they differ from Communist ideas is through the belief in social welfare instead of simply a stateless, classless society, and also the idea of gradualism whereby society permeates socialist ideas to eventually reform, rather than a revolution. This is in support of Socialism’s ‘equality of outcome’, meaning aid is given to those poorer in society, in order to achieve an equal product of wealth distribution. Economists argue that Democratic Socialism is only achievable in an economically strong country, due to the immense government funding required to finance nationalised industries and social welfare. This produces a valid explanation why Venezuela still experiences mass poverty today; it is not a fault in the ideology but an inadequate economic structure.
Despite its stupidly similar name, Social Democrats provide an alternative centre-left ideology. It is argued that every Western country has a Social Democrat party, the UK’s being Labour, due to their more centralist ideas compared to other Left Wing factions. Social Democrats advocate a mixed economy, with some main industries nationalised and governmentally owned, whilst others are privatised to invoke competition. This resolves the argument regarding the poor quality of goods and services from nationalised industries, as companies feel obliged to obtain customers and avoid them reverting to competitors. However, Social Democrats share ideas with other Left Wing thinkers; a belief in social justice and an extensive welfare state proves their prime focus on aiding the working class, a trait shared across the scale of Left Wing ideas. Similar to Marxism, Social Democrats believe in the inevitability of Capitalism’s failure, and it being the root cause to unemployment.
The most centralist, and frequently argued Right Wing influenced ideas of Tony Blair and the Third Way can be seen to stray away from Socialism’s tenets more than any other ideology. Whilst Communism is built on the idea that there is a natural conflict between the Proletariat and Bourgeoisie, Blair offers a consensus class view. A knowledge economy replaces the belief in nationalisation, advocating knowledge as the prime resource, consequently increasing competition. Despite the Third Way straying far from Socialist ideals, it is technically still Left Wing, despite Blair not being a socialist- but that’s a whole other article.
I have in no way touched upon the broad scope of ideologies within the Left Wing spectrum, but offer a flavour of the variants, from radical to tempered. It is important to know where you stand specifically in terms of your views, and not to generalise the scale as a mere Left or Right process.