Communalism, fascism, racism, and elitism are some of the terms that we associate with being right wing or a supporter of right wing politics. The concept and the origin of right wing politics go deeper than that. It first came into play during the French Revolution. With Donald Trump becoming president the discussion about the right wing and far right wing running a country has become more heated. The given write-up is aimed to provide a basic understanding of the concept of the right wing politics.
The gist of right wing politics is supporting hierarchies and social order in the society. Right wingers consider these hierarchies normal and inevitable on the basis of tradition, economics, and natural law. In order to understand the nitty-gritty and full context of right wing politics, it is essential to grasp an overview of certain terminologies and political movements.
1) Liberal: A liberal is a person who believes in the political philosophy of Liberalism. This philosophy advocates the ideas such as press freedom, freedom of speech, civil rights, gender equality, secular government and international cooperation.
2) Monarchism: Monarchy is dynasty government. Under such form of government, a family keeps ruling the country. A monarch symbolizes country’s national identity. He is the head of the state who can exercise sovereign rights. He is selected by recognized process from the family. He rules till his death or abdication.
3) Conservatism: It is a social and political philosophy that propagates the idea of retaining and promoting traditional institutions. It involves retaining civilization, culture, monarchy, social hierarchy and religion in the political and social system.
4) Counter Revolutionary: Anyone who competes against a revolution or opposes it can be termed as counter revolutionary. A counter revolutionary can be positive or negative depending on the context and nature of the revolution.
5) Royalists: These are the Legitimists who supported the dynastic succession in France. They supported the claim of Bourbon dynasty’s eldest branch to the French Crown. Bourbon was dethroned during the July Revolution.
6) Authoritarianism: It is a government’s form that is categorized as having strong central powers but restricted political powers.
7) Neoliberalism: The origin of neoliberalism lies in the 19th century. This philosophy resurged in the 20th century. It entails concepts of economic liberation such as free trade, deregulation, austerity, and privatization. It aims at increasing the contribution of private sector in the economy by curtailing the expenditure of the government.
8) Old regime or Ancien Régime: This was the social and political system that prevailed in the Kingdom of France before French Revolution. It lasted from the 15th century till 1792. French revolution eradicated the feudal system and hereditary monarchy.
9) Estates General of 1789: It was a general assembly that comprised of nobility, the clergy, and commoners. It represented the estates of Realm in France. A national assembly was formed to bring an end the Estates General of 1789.
10) French Revolution: It was a period of political and social disruption in France that abolished the monarchy and recognized a republic. The revolution was carried forward by Napoleon. The turmoil ended with his dictatorship taking France into its wings. The revolution holds an imperative place in the history as it overthrew monarchies and replaced it with liberal democracies and republics.
Having clasped the idea of these terms let’s understand the origin of right wing politics.
The term right wing first came into play during the French Revolution. One group that comprised of the Third Estate’s Liberal deputies would sit left to the president whereas another group Second Estate’s Nobles would sit right side to his chair. The monarchy supporters who were the ardent believer in the Old Regime would be denoted as the rightist as they sat on the right side during the assembly sessions. One of the major personalities to represent rightists was Joseph de Maistre who wanted to implement conservatism.
The 19th century marked a divide between the two sides. The rightists were the people who were in the support of monarchy whereas the leftists were in the favor of republic and secular country. In Britain, the left and right politics were used for the first time in the 1930s during the debates post-Spanish Civil War.
The right wing politics has gone through several stages such as
1) The reactionary right, or counter revolutionary right that wanted to restore the aristocracy.
2) The moderate right which did not trust the intellectuals and wanted to limit the powers of the government
3) The radical right that promoted aggressive nationalism
4) The extreme right that opposed immigration and propagated racism
5) Neoliberals right that seeks to blend the market economy and conventional right belief such as elitism, patriotism and law & order.
As mentioned earlier, the right wing was a reactionary wing to the left politics that aimed at restoring aristocracy. In the social context, it negates the objective of achieving ‘social equality’ by the leftists. It rejects egalitarian beliefs of left politics. The rightist believes that economic and social inequality in a society is natural cannot be eradicated and is advantageous to the society. R.J. White, a conservative writer from Britain had pointed out that men may be equal in the eyes of God but are unequal in other sense. Hierarchy is built by nature and privilege is the return of the honorable service. The idea of equality is also rejected by other conservatives around the world. Russel Kirk, an American conservative, criticized egalitarianism saying that any government that will try to implement it will compromise nobility for mediocrity.
The right wing politics is anti-communist. Both the liberals and right wing were strongly against the communism. The early Marxists movements were against the Monarchism is European continents. Monarchs were against the Marxists as they feared for their thrones and outlawed them eventually. Prior to World War one, communism was illegal in Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Roman Empire as these were the strongest monarchies in the Europe. The struggle between these groups was defined as a feud between the left and right.
By World War I most of these monarchies were dethroned to give way to nationalist and liberal movements. During the 1920s and 1930s the traditional right-wing politics faded away. Some of the powerful nations in the Europe were experiencing the wave of fascism on one hand and liberal conservatism on the other. Now the fascist movement was the new anti-communist movements. The colonial authorities were the main opponents of the communist groups all around the world. Colonialism being associated with the right wing, the latter became a major opponent of the communism.
After the French revolution, the right front opposed people who had become rich accredited to growing commerce and industrialization. They were against the ideas such as industrialism, individualism, enlightenment and the capitalism. They wanted to restore conventional social hierarchies in the society. There have been collectivist right movements in Europe which have shown hostility to every kind of liberalism by the left wing. These movements aimed at restoring hierarchy in the society where the workers would be protected but the class would exist.
During the 19th century, the support of the right wing shifted from hierarchy to capitalism. From time to time capitalists formed alliances with the right wing politics to overcome their conflicts with the workers. Nevertheless certain right wing movements in Russia, Germany, France, and Spain remained hostile to capitalism.
The idea of Nationalism was first associated with the left wing politics. Gradually it imbricated into supremacist movements promoted by the right wing. The right wingers believed in the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’ and social Darwinism. The nationalism meant deriving the governing principles with the conformity of the majority in the country. This entailed language, customs, religion culture and race.
Right wing politics believes in traditionalism which means believing in natural law and tradition. It includes restoring the natural hierarchy in the society. It also means rejecting certain concepts such as social progress, modernity, and liberalism.
Religion plays an important role in the political movements for the right wingers. They claim that the government should support religion followed by the majority. Joseph de Maistre has maintained that an authority such as Pope’s is imperative to prevent the bloodshed by the rationalists in Catholic European Monarchies. The right wing politics also claim that government should endorse laws that favor their religion. In North America, one of the major examples of religion inspired political factions are called ‘the Christian Right’. This faction has been opposing abortion, gay marriages, LGBT rights, and scientific theories such as evolution. In other countries, the religious and ethnic group are considered right wing. In India, one of the prominent examples of rising right wing political power is the current ruling political power, the BJP. The Hindu Nationalist or people inspired by the idea of Hindu Nationalism are considered right wing. In Muslim majority nations, some of the Islamists groups such as Islamic Society of Engineers in Iran and the Great Unity Party in Turkey are far-right political groups.
The right wing populism aims to abolish the elitism in the politics. It supports the claim of a common man to be at the top position. In Europe, this ideology is used to describe the people, political parties, and politicians who are anti-immigration especially from the Islamic world. The distrust in the European Union is also adjudged as the right wing populism. Margaret Canovan defines a right wing populist as a charismatic leader who speaks for the general sentiments of people opposing the elites and intellectuals. The Tea Party Movement in the United States is one such example of right wing populist political movement. The populist groups emphasize curtailing government expenditure, opposing universal health care and illegal immigration, and right to gun ownership for every individual.
As the world becoming more liberal and accepting day by day, the popularity of the right wing politics is diminishing. Some of the ideas such as racism, communal polarization, fascism, elitism are rejected out rightly as more and more countries are adopting the democratic approach.
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