Left and Right Wing Politics

A general question that baffles most people, when they read politics is the ideologies of the Left-Wing and Right-Wing. The spectrum of Left and Right-Wing is basically the set of beliefs that are practiced by the individuals having an inclination towards betterment of the society; the people can be politicians, community workers or social entrepreneurs. These principles help an individual or an organisation to formulate a strategy on which they plan to work for a progressive state.

RELIGIOUS MEANING

In terms of religious connotations, since most of the people were right-handed, right side meant being positive, while left was considered negative. The terms like righteousness and leftovers developed due to this mentality. In Buddhism, out of the two-paths, the right-hand side leads to Nirvana. In Christianity, the Son is at the right-hand side of the Father and in The Last Supper, the favorite of the Lord, the apostle John is sitting to His right, and not left.

HISTORICAL MEANING

The history for this segregation takes us back to 18th century Europe, specifically in France which was on a brink of a revolution. The French society was divided into three estates (like the Indian Caste system): First Estate (Priests and Clergymen), Second Estate (Nobility and Warriors) and Third Estate (Workers).  In the decade of 1780s, even though France was indulged in nine years of war, yet the French monarch increased taxes only on the third estate, to maintain the lavish lifestyle of the Royal family as well as the two estates. This led to large-scale food shortages and riots.

In order to fix the situation; in 1789, months before the revolution, Louis XVI convened a national assembly of these three estates. The Meeting of the Estates as it was termed; the representatives were made to sit in a set pattern. The third estate members who opposed the monarchy [workers] were made to sit on the left of the King while the first two estates who supported the monarchy [Clergy and Nobility] were made to the sit on the right, given the religious connotations – right is superior, left is inferior.

The French Revolution witnessed the third estate members (seated to the left) to be anti-establishment, while the first and second estate members (seated on the right) worked on protecting the establishment. They eventually threw out the monarch, the religious authorities and the nobles.
Since then, left wing meant throwing the establishment and right wing mean protecting the establishment.

EVOLUTION OF MEANING

From the times of French Revolution, the Left became a symbol of change, while the Right became a symbol of order or preservation.

Since both religion and business is to do with preserving the existing, both groups often allied together. Rapid change was bad for both business & the church. World over, religious and business conservatives thus got into an uneasy partnership even if they both despised each other. They were also more likely to be patriots/nationalists, because nation is an identity that is at the core of stability. They are much more likely to be aggressive in preserving the symbols – flag, history, Constitution, anthem etc.

Since, the left was the side from where the workers came; it traditionally was much more towards equal rights and about spreading of wealth. Most often, leftists hated both religions and businesses. Thus, they voted for governments that put tight clamps on both – such as Communist China & Soviet Union.

MODERN MEANING

The definitions of Left and Right have changed over time, and depend on country and party. But, from a broad, broad perspective, Left-wingers will include the communists, feminists, anarchists, egalitarians, secular, atheists like Stalin and Mao. And right-wingers will include the fascists, neo-Nazis, religious fanatics, monarchists, racial supremacists and fundamentalists like Hitler and Mussolini.

Left wing beliefs are usually progressive in nature, they look to the future, aim to support those who cannot support themselves, are idealist and believe in equality. People who are left wing believe in taxation to redistribute opportunity and wealth. They believe in equality over the freedom to fail.

Right wing beliefs value tradition, they are about equity, survival of the fittest, and they believe in economic freedom. They typically believe that business shouldn’t be regulated, and that we should all look after ourselves. They believe in freedom to succeed over equality.

The intermediate stance is called centrism and a person with such a position is a moderate or centrist. Even though there are many extremists on the either side, most of the politicians are moderate or centrists. They are segregated as:

  1. Centre Left: They believe in working within the established systems to improve social justice.
  2. Radical Centre: It is defined as idealism without illusions. Most radical centrists borrow what they see as good ideas from left and right, and then meld them together. Most support market-based solutions to social problems with strong governmental oversight in the public interest.
  3. Centre-Right: They believe in building progressive societies by promoting capitalism.

 

BELIEFS ON CORE ISSUES

1. Economics

LEFT: Central planning via governing structures, a welfare state, nationalization of economy. Income equality; higher tax rates on the wealthy; government spending on social programs and infrastructure; stronger regulations on business and subsidies.

RIGHT: Capitalism, social and economic hierarchies, economic freedom, decentralized economy, lower taxes and less regulation on businesses, reduced government spending, balanced budget, less dependence on subsidies and welfare assistance.

2. Society

LEFT: Progressiveness, Counter-Culture and belief in Internationalism.

RIGHT: Important to defend Tradition, Moral Order and national interests.

3. Global Trade

LEFT: Anti-free trade. They don’t values profits if they come at the cost of violating laws of social equality and levelness. They rarely lay down the red carpet for multinationals and private players.

RIGHT: Pro-free trade. They make sure that the policies they draft ensure good amount of profit to the nation even if some of the parameters of social justice are compromised on the way.

4. Minority Rights

LEFT: Extra Protection and privileges

RIGHT: Everyone is equal

5. Crime

LEFT: Several people on death row were innocent and have been exonerated. The justice system is not perfect and it would be wrong to kill an innocent person. It is inhuman to take a life, even that of a murderer. It’s not so much about how heinous the crime is but how much the defendant can afford to spend on lawyers.

RIGHT: The death penalty is an effective deterrent against crimes, especially crimes of a heinous nature. The alternative — life in prison — would only mean spending taxpayer money to keep them confined, fed and provide healthcare services to them. Victims and their families deserve justice; often they can only get closure when the perpetrator is put to death.

EXAMPLES OF CENTRE-LEFT and CENTRE-RIGHT

  1. India: Indian National Congress and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP).
  2. UK: Labour Party and Conservative Party.
  3. France: Socialist Party and National Front.
  4. USA: Democratic Party and Republican Party.
  5. Australia: Australian Labour Party (ALP) and Liberal Party.
  6. Pakistan: Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and Jamaat-e-Islami.
  7. Germany: Die Linke and Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).
  8. Canada: Liberal Party and Conservative Party.
  9. Poland: Civic Platform and Prawo-i-Sprawiedliwość (PiS).
  10. Netherlands: Socialist Party and Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV).

 

INDIAN CONTEXT

The BJP would thus be called centre-right in their ideology, while the Congress would be called centre-left. At the extremes will be the Shiv Sena/AIMIM (on Right) and the CPI(M)/AAP (on Left).

After Narendra Modi’s victory in 2014, it has become convenient to lump the BJP and the Sangh parivar as right-wing forces, when the reality is that their views reflect a wide variety of positions on political, social and economic issues. Also, the Congress is not totally to the left of the BJP on many issues.

In India, the “right-wing” Bharatiya Janata Party has market-friendly economic thinkers like Arun Shourie and Subramanian Swamy and yet it also has Lal Krishan Advani, who is suspicious of the entire American financial model. In between, stands Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is not allergic to capitalism or the free market but is also reluctant to abandon the country’s public sector units.

The same might be said of the “left-wing” Indian National Congress. Some of its members like Shashi Tharoor and Capt.Amarinder Singh might have much more in common with Arun Shourie than their own leaders of yesteryear who advocated control of the commanding heights of the national economy.

CHANGING IDEOLOGIES

People don’t remain on the same side throughout. When he was younger, Stalin fought on the side of the revolutionaries since he wanted to change & get the power. However, as soon as he got the power he became the establishment against which others had to fight; changing his ideology from Right to Left. In some sense, almost all leftists transform into a totalitarian establishment. No one wants to give up power, while everyone wants to take power.

In Indian context, it was India’s “liberal” Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru who introduced curbs on free speech and a “conservative” thinker like Vinayak Savarkar who argued against untouchability and the caste system. Dr. BR Ambedkar was a strong votary of capitalism and free markets, but most of the parties which now worship Ambedkar would be reckoned to be broadly to the left of the political universe. The Congress party itself advocated a mixed economy, building a middle path between state and private capitalism. The BJP, in its earlier avatar as the Jana Sangh, had stronger positions against state interventions than in its current incarnation.

CONCLUSION

These are the basics of that one needs to know about Left and Right politics. In a healthy society, both left and right ideas are needed. It’s a lot more complicated than this, and the definitions are dependent on era, party, leader and country. But the core tenets of the ideologies remain more or less the same.

Advertisements

The Drugs Monster in Punjab

In Punjabi folk literature, songs and movies, we always had a drug addict in the plot. But he was never the hero. He was always made fun of. Those who took even liquor avoided meeting the parents and even one’s spouse.

But today, I sadly agree to the fact that Drugs have become the biggest problem in Punjab, the state known as the Granary of India. It has alarmingly reached the grass-root level, where Society and Economy is ripped apart by this menace. A study by Department of Social Security Development of Women and Children suggested that as many as 67% of rural households in Punjab has at least one drug addict in the family. The state accounted for almost half of all cases registered in India under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) in 2013, up from just 15% in 2009.

The drugs used include synthetic drugs like heroin/smack/brown sugar, amphetamines/ice, raw opium-based narcotics such as ‘bhukki’ (poppy husk), ‘doda’ (powdered poppy husk) and ‘afeem’ (a black tar-like opium derivative) as well as a wide variety of prescription drugs such as alprazolam, diazepam (commonly known as xanax and valium, respectively), pethidine, buprenorphine, fortwin etc.

Bhuki is similar to a type of wild grass that can be found throughout Punjab. It is possible to get a mild intoxicating effect from Bhuki, and it is considered a gateway drug because it encourages young people to begin experimenting.

Addiction of Heroin (popularly known as chitta or white powder) is the cause of biggest concern. The authorities take a tough stance on borderline security, but despite this the drug continues to flood into the area. The profits to be made are high and corruption is believed to be rife. Most of the heroin going through Punjab ends up in the rest of the continent, but the fact that there is such a high appetite for the drug locally means that smugglers have an easy market to exploit.

Death from overdose is common with Heroin. Heroin abuse is damaging to almost every organ in the body. It can be hard to judge the purity of this opiate and if people get it wrong it can cost them their life. Also, it is possible to become addicted to heroin in a relatively short time period. Maintaining a heroin habit is expensive and in many instances the individual will need to resort to crime to feed their habit.

Reasons behind this problem:

 

  1. Cross border Narcotics:

The growing popularity of brown sugar/smack/heroin can be attributed to Punjab’s close proximity to the Golden Crescent region covering Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. These three countries are, collectively, the world’s largest producers of opium. Punjab shares a 533 km border with Pakistan, which is used as an entry point to smuggle narcotics into India. According to data tabled in the Rajya Sabha, in 2013, a total of 390kg of smack/heroin was seized in various states along the Indo-Pak border by the Border Security Force (BSF). Almost 84% of these seizures were made in the districts of Punjab bordering Pakistan.

 

  1. Easy availability inside the state:

Bhuki, which is similar to a type of wild grass, can be found throughout Punjab and it is difficult to prevent teenagers from using it. Local chemists also sell over-the-counter prescription drugs. Nearly 46% addicts purchased these drugs from chemist shops making them the primary suppliers. Growing demand and profitability in the drug trade has led to a cropping up of illegal chemist shops all over Punjab.

  1. Economic stagnation:

The prosperity ushered in by the Green Revolution has brought its own riptide. A new generation of educated — and semi-educated — youth in Punjab is no longer interested in tilling the land or going back to the old ways of their fathers. Also, there are no other jobs to absorb them.

The issue gets trickier with the children of more affluent farmers and landlords, whose holdings are tilled by labour from UP and Bihar. Their rich boys abuse drugs heavily because there are no new jobs for them and they always know they have the option of going back and supervising their farms if nothing else works out for them in life. This makes them reckless and bored.

A rise in real estate prices has put more money in the hands of young boys and girls from landed families who spend on drugs, fancy cars and a hedonistic lifestyle.

  1. Politicians:

Punjab’s politicians seem hardly inclined to give direction to the State’s young Population, pushing many into a web of dangerous drugs.

In the 2012 Assembly elections, the Akali Dal-BJP alliance promised to eradicate the drug problem. Barely two years later, Wrestler-turned-drug peddler Jagdish Singh Bhola who was arrested named Cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia, the brother-in-law of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, as the kingpin of the flourishing drug racket. That the Punjab police have not probed the sensational allegations has only strengthened public perception that ruling politicians are involved. It is not an unknown fact that there is widespread use of drug money in elections. Though the ruling alliance is facing more anger, the Congress also has its share of drug lords.

  1. Police:

Apart from politicians, involvement of high-profile government officials, including those of Police, in the drug trade is another matter of concern. Punjab Police’s silence over those involved and files of pending investigation has led to people losing trust over them. Another drug lord, Raja Kandola, has put the Punjab Police themselves – in the dock by accusing them of conniving with drug lords.

 

  1. Unemployment:

Youth unemployment, too, is an important reason for the growth in drug trafficking and use in Punjab. According to data released by the Ministry of Labour and Employment in 2013, 13.5% of those in the age group 15-29 are unemployed, the third-highest rate in north-Indian states. Easy availability of narcotics in Punjab makes the unemployed more susceptible to drug use and addiction.

 

  1. Poor quality of Education:

The poor quality of education in Punjab makes its graduates incapable of making the cut for the few high-skill jobs that are available but leaves them too over-qualified for jobs considered “menial” for the children of economically self-sufficient farmers.

Says Professor Harish Puri, academic and Punjab watcher: “In village after village, you will find young boys doing nothing. Their education is so poor that it cannot get them jobs. The youth are assailed by a growing sense that they are good for nothing.”

Education does not get people jobs in the state and that hurts the self esteem of the youngster. The poor quality of Punjab’s education system is completely out of tune with the job market. Given the easy supply in the state, drugs become the first crutch of support for all the alienated youngsters floating around.

 

  1. Low level de-addiction centres:

Families of addicts care nothing for quality control; they just need the outlets. Their search for quick fix solutions, therefore, is creating a demand for de-addiction like never before. Responding to the opportunity, fly-by-night, illegal and notorious de-addiction centres and unprofessional labs are mushrooming everywhere. There have been instances of deaths inside these centres, with addicts being tied up or beaten under the pretext of anger management. Some private homes promise laser therapy as a treatment for addiction at a cost of Rs 2 lakh. Other de-addiction clinics promise to “implant chips” in the body that would permanently cure addiction.

 

  1. Narco-Terrorism:

The narco-terrorism network has made inroads into sections of the politico-bureaucratic set-up, which is used to lavish lifestyles — a by-product of insurgency. The strategy used for the sale of drugs is very similar to multi-level marketing. An addict who gets more people to join the network is rewarded with free daily fixes.

During terrorism period, a study found that 80 per cent of the boys who had become terrorists were unemployable and found a sense of self-worth in the gun. The research points out to the same hopelessness among Punjab’s youth today.

Narco-terrorism’s push came after 2000, and the impetus was in 2007 when China and Japan cracked down on heroin smuggling and India emerged as one of the biggest markets. The entry point: Punjab.

The greatest asset that any country has is its young people. The high numbers of young people in Punjab addicted to drugs is a national disgrace. Cities, Towns and Villages are in neck-deep in drug menace, with not even a single district claiming to have no addicts. If you wish to know more about this grave condition, google Maqboolpura Village, a predominantly Scheduled Caste locality on the outskirts of Amritsar which is pied by a drug addict’s widow or orphans – earning it the nickname, “Village of widows and orphans”. It is scaring to see how the Punjabi youth – who once led the nation in Sports and Army – wasting away their lives because of this. What once started as Misuse, has now turned into Addiction.

The monster that Drugs have become in Punjab, paints a depressing picture of the state.