Comparing left wing and right wing authoritarianism

Authoritarianism and extreme tactics are not confined to the right or the left of politics.

From the British Journal of Political Science: Similarities and Differences Between Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals

Although some scholars have argued that authoritarianism is characteristic only of the right and not of the left, persuasive reasons exist for doubting this claim. Intuitive observation of left-wing and right-wing regimes as well as radical political movements of the left and right reveals striking parallels in their styles of political engagement, their reliance upon force, their disdain for democratic ideals and practices and their violations of civil liberties.

Political activists of any leaning tend to want to achieve their goals, and the more radical the political ideals the more radical the tactics are likely to be.

In the present article, through a series of surveys in which we have tried to idenify, as best we can, supporters of the far left and far right, we have systematically compared the two camps on a variety of political and psychological characteristics.

We find, in keeping with the conventional view, that the far left and the far right stand at opposite end of the familiar left–right continuum on many issues of public policy, political philosophy and personal belief.

They hold sharply contrasting views on questions of law and order, foreign policy, social welfare, economic equality, racial equality, women’s rights, sexual freedom, patriotism, social conventions, religion, family values and orientations towards business, labour and private enterprise.

That’s not surprising at all.

Both view American society as dominated by conspiratorial forces that are working to defeat their respective ideological aims.

Failure to get popular support has to be blamed on something other than themselves.

The degree of their alienation is intensified by the zealous and unyielding manner in which they hold their beliefs. Both camps possess an inflexible psychological and political style characterized by the tendency to view social and political affairs in crude, unambiguous and stereotypical terms.

They see political life as a conflict between ‘us’ and ‘them’, a struggle between good and evil played out on a battleground where compromise amounts to capitulation and the goal is total victory.

We see examples of this lack of compromise in New Zealand, notably with Green supporters (and some MPs), which is quite ironic given their stated democratic ideals.

The far left and the far right also resemble each other in the way they pursue their political goals. Both are disposed to censor their opponents, to deal harshly with enemies, to sacrifice the well-being even of the innocent in order to serve a ‘higher purpose’, and to use cruel tactics if necessary to ‘persuade’ society of the wisdom of their objectives.

Censoring opponents is a topical issue here with the Molyneux/Southern controversy.

Both tend to support (or oppose) civil liberties in a highly partisan and self-serving fashion, supporting freedom for themselves and for the groups and causes they favour while seeking to withhold it from enemies and advocates of causes they dislike.

I’ve seen quite a bit of that here in new Zealand lately.

When the two camps are evaluated on questions of political and psychological style, the treatment of political opponents, and the tactics that they are willing to employ to achieve their ends, the display many parallels that can rightly be labelled authoritarian.

I think that the more left wing, or right wing, a group of political activists is the more likely they are to want to suppress criticism, and more likely to want to impose their ideals on others, even to the extent of ignoring their own ideals (or making excuses for suspending them) to achieve what they think is right.

If these groups get into positions of power then some degree of authoritarianism is likely. We already grapple with it to an extent.

We have groups who want to ban tobacco, van cannabis, ban meat, ban sugar, ban selective religions, ban selective immigration, ban fossil fuels, ban plastic, ban choice on abortion, ban choice on euthanasia, and ban people from speaking who they disagree with.

The source is an extract of an Oxford Press publication in 2009.

Leave a comment


  1. Blazer

     /  13th July 2018

    Heard Hoskings show this morning(sans Hosking).Some commentator called Tim Wilson enthusiastically opined that if a reporter had a glass of beer thrown over him in Russia ,Putin would have a 1 way ticket to Siberia for him.
    Didn’t appear to be hyperbole in his…world.

    Is Russia right or left…these days?

    • High Flying Duck

       /  13th July 2018

      The comment was made in the context that fans were well behaved at this WC because everyone was warned the consequences of stepping out of line would be severe.
      If you don’t think “1 way ticket to Siberia” was hyperbole I think you need to re calibrate yourself – it was.

      • Blazer

         /  13th July 2018

        Tim….’nice but…dim’…blue kool aid every morning I suspect.

  2. Grimm

     /  13th July 2018

    I think the Marxist left have created a mirror image of themselves on the other side, which doesn’t necessarily exist. They’ve reinvented “fascism” as a way of shutting down, polarising, and demonising, when in fact the “fascists” just hold views that are mainstream.

    Things like expressing the view that their are only two genders (who knew) or that Islam is sexist, racist and dangerous in the wrong hands (demonstrably) are considered far right these days, when they are really the views of most in the middle.

    It seems even the truth is labelled far right or alt-right these days.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  13th July 2018

    Both the loony Left and Right are facists as I’ve said before. But we have a lot more of the former in this country.

  1. Comparing left wing and right wing authoritarianism — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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