Living Right

As long as you’re living right, then you don’t have to worry about what people see.

–          Clay Aiken

Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

This chapter is entitled “Right and Left.”  EvKL begins by describing the numerous and various meanings of these terms within the context of relationships and politics.  To give some idea:

Right and left have been used in Western civilization from times immemorial with certain meanings; right (German: rechts) had a positive, left a negative connotation. In all European languages (including the Slavic idioms and Hungarian) right is connected with “right” (ius), rightly, rightful, in German gerecht (just), the Russian pravo (law),pravda (truth), whereas in French gauche also means “awkward, clumsy,” (in Bulgar:levitsharstvo). The Italian sinistro can mean left, unfortunate, or calamitous. The English sinister can mean left or dark. The Hungarian word for “right” is jobb which also means “better,” while bal (left) is used in composite nouns in a negative sense: balsors is misfortune.

On The Day of Judgment, the righteous are to be on the right, and the punished on the left; Christ, of course, sits on the right.  Seating in various parliaments is a bit all over the place, with the most confusing example being that of placing the National Socialists on the right – however, I guess, if you were the National Socialist in charge, rechts would be correct! Leftism Revisited: Fro... Erik Von Kuehnelt-Ledd... Best Price: $57.25 Buy New $234.30 (as of 09:35 EST - Details)

Given these various uses and definitions, one can understand the clarifying definition offered by EvKL:

Let us then agree that right is what is truly right for man, above all his freedom.

Which, I guess, would make “left” kind of the opposite.  Look, if you don’t like it take it up with pretty much every European language; leave me out of it.

So, what is “right” for man?  Man – each one a unique individual – needs room; room to grow, room to be left alone, room to think, room to thrive.  Much of political reality over the course of a few centuries has been to crush this:

…all the great dynamic isms of the last 200 years have been mass movements attacking – even when they had the word “freedom” on their lips – the liberty, the independence of the person.

Many were the ideals that gave fuel to the various “isms”; yet, what they had in common were gifted intellectuals who were successful at mobilizing the masses thirst for revenge.

The right has to be identified with personal freedom, with the absence of utopian visions whose realization – even if it were possible – would need tremendous collective efforts; it stands for free, organically grown forms of life. And this in turn implies a respect for tradition.

Why? Why must the desire for personal freedom require a respect for tradition?  And if this is true, what does this suggest about an “ism” that has as its objective “personal freedom,” the “ism” known as “libertarianism”?

The right is truly progressive, whereas there is no real advance in utopianism which almost always demands – as in the Internationale – to “make a clean sweep” of the past…. If we return to point zero, we are again at the bottom of the ladder, we have to start from scratch again.

The utopian starts anew, whereas the right works on “progress” – building on what has come before: what worked, what didn’t work as it relates to the health of man and society.  To see further than those who came before us, it probably makes sense to stand on their shoulders. This is the respect for tradition.

While the leftist dreams of restoring some mythical golden age, the rightest looks to the past to find what is eternally true, and build on this:

The true rightist is not a man who wants to go back to this or that institution for the sake of a return; he wants first to find out what is eternally true, eternally valid, and then either to restore or reinstall it, regardless of whether it seems obsolete, whether it is ancient, contemporary, or even without precedent, brand new, “ultramodern.”

The right recognizes the uniqueness in each individual; the left dreams of uniformity.  Politically…

… [t]he leftists believe in strong centralization. The rightists are “federalists” (in the European sense), “states’ righters” since they believe in local rights and privileges, they stand for the principle of subsidiarity.

The left cannot stand for competing authority or allegiance:

Leftism does not like religion for a variety of causes. Its ideologies, its omnipotent, all-permeating state wants undivided allegiance. With religion at least one other allegiance (to God), if not also allegiance to a Church, is interposed.

EvKL examines many of the leftist and rightist entities and parties in Europe, offering the exceptions to his generalizations:

One could continue this list ad nauseam. Naturally, we must add that in the practical order of things there are exceptions to the rule because leftism is a disease that doesnot necessarily spread as a coherent, systematic ideology. Here and there an isolated manifestation can appear in the “opposite camp.”

It seems to me also to be the case that leftists are pretty good about taking their victories where they can get them; not being bound to any underlying ethic, they find compromise much easier than do those on the right – those who live with an underlying principle.

As to the right, he offers:

All conservative movements in Europe are federalistic and opposed to centralization. Thus we encounter in Catalonia, for instance, a desire for autonomy and the cultivation of the Catalan language among the supporters of the extreme right as well as the left.

Conclusion

If we then identify, in a rough way, the right with freedom, personality, and variety, and the left with slavery, collectivism, and uniformity, we are employing semantics that make sense.

You do not have to agree with his descriptions; but to avoid confusion in the mangled and varied common uses of the terms “left” and “right,” EvKL has provided his definitions.

Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.