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The term “left,” as it pertains to politics, dates back to pre-revolutionary France. In 1789, the French National Assembly was created as a parliamentary body to shift the control of political matters from the king to the citizenry. Inside the chamber where the National Assembly met, supporters of the king (i.e., conservatives in favor of the status quo) sat to the president's right and supporters of the revolution to his left. One deputy, the Baron de Gauville explained, "We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp." Observers and political commentators gradually began using the terms "left" and "right" to refer to the opposing sides.

The leftists (known as Jacobins) of that day promoted lofty ideals such as constitutional reforms of the monarchy, the enfranchisement of peasants, and the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man. But when they eventually came to power, the Jacobins established a brutal revolutionary dictatorship featuring the so-called Republic of Virtue (which aimed to de-Christianize the Revolution) and the Cult of Reason (which sought to do away entirely with the Catholic Church in France). Then they instituted the Reign of Terror required to make all the nation's citizens properly "reasonable" and "virtuous." They branded their opponents as “counter-revolutionaries” and sent them, by the thousands, to the guillotine.

In stark contrast to the radical ethos of the French Revolution, the libertarian ethos of the American Revolution inspired a tradition based on individual rights, free markets and democratic constitutions. To be conservative, or on the “right,” in the context of the democratic West means to preserve the classical liberal, individualist and free-market framework that is its historic achievement. Among the highest values of the political right in modern America are: individual rights and freedoms, the rule of law, private property, and limited government. The left, by contrast, favors group identification and group rights; the rule of men rather than of laws (as manifested in the left's affinity for judicial activism and its view that the Constitution is a "living," and therefore infinitely malleable, document); the redistribution of wealth and the communality of property (which is to be apportioned "equitably" by the federal government); and ever-expanding governmental involvement in – and oversight of – the everyday affairs of the populace.

The RESOURCES column located on the right side of this page contains links to articles, essays, books, and videos that explore such topics as:

  • the intellectual origins of leftism, its precepts, and how these have evolved over time;
  • the leftist policies that have caused great harm to minorities, the poor, and working Americans;
  • the "New Left" movement that emerged in the 1960s as a rejection Stalinism's "excesses," and as a means of preserving the utopian communist dream without having to support (or be associated with) Stalin’s atrocities;
  • the phenomenon known as "political correctness," which seeks to impose a uniformity of thought and behavior on all Americans;
  • the tactics and strategies employed by leftists in pursuit of their political and social objectives;
  • the worldviews, objectives, and activities of many significant groups of the far left in America, and how these organizations collaborate with one another, both openly and furtively;
  • who is more inclined to donate money to charitable causes -- liberals and leftists on the one hand, or conservatives on the other; and
  • leftist political leaders, past and present, who have inflicted immense suffering upon their innocent countrymen, innocents in other lands, or both.





* For recommended books on this topic, click here.

                                  SEE ALSO

* Progressivism

* Liberalism

* Multiculturalism


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