Left-Wing Politics: Socialism, Communism, Marxism, Anarchism, and Other Radical Left Wing Politics, Ideologies, Theory, Thought, Systems, and Topics
Some Simple Definitions, According to the Oxford Dictionary
Note that these are all very simple, generalist definitions, and as such are very limited and lacking in nuance.
"Left-Wing: The radical, reforming, or socialist section of a political party or system."
"Socialism: A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
Policy or practice based on the political and economic theory of socialism.
(In Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of Communism."
"Communism: A theory or system of social organization in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs."
"Marxism: The political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, later developed by their followers to form the basis of communism."
"Anarchism: Belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion.
A political force or movement based on belief in anarchism."
Some Notes on Terms as I Use Them:
Note On My Definitions:
As with many complex terms, definitions vary. In that light, when I use these terms, these are the meanings I generally attatch to them.
Note on the use of "socio-politico-economic philosophy/position:
People sometimes mistakenly claim that socialism and capitalism are economic systems, not political ones. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both socialism and capitalism (in their many varieties) are intimately wrapped up in economic, political, and social systems and ideas.
Carl von Clausewitz famously said that "war is a continuation of politics by other means". As others have pointed out at times, politics is a continuation of economics by other means. And war, politics and economcs are entierly social affairs.
Note on the Use of "Left-Wing" in the USAmerican Context:
As noted in the OED definition and as you will see with my own definitions, as I am using it here, the term "left-wing" refers to the socialist side of the political spectum. Ideologies like liberalism, progressivism, and social democracy are frequently misunderstood to be "left-wing" in the United States. Rather, they are in fact inherently right-wing. As such, information on those topics appears elsewhere. The reason the terms "left" and "left-wing" are applied to these is the parochial nature of US politics as well as the concept political scientists call the "Overton Window".
Note on the Terms "Libertarian" and "Anarcho- Capitalism":
Correctly understood and used, "libertarianism" is an inherently left-wing ideology. The term comes from the French and has been used historically to refer to anarchism. Starting in the 1960s and 70s, a small group of US far-right economists decided to conciously muddy the waters by "borowing" (co-opting) the term, and started using it to refer to an extreme form of classical liberalism. This has been extended to the co-opting of the term "anarchism". "Anarcho-capitalism" is a term sometimes used (incorrectly) fot a particularly extreme version of classical liberalism. Anarchism is an inherently left-wing ideology and system.
Definitions of Terms as I Use Them:
Left: a socio-politico-economic philosophy/position that seeks social justice via socialism
Right: a socio-politico-economic philosophy/position that seeks to maintain capitalism
Profit: the extraction by the owning class of the workers surplus value (the total value of what is produced minus what is required for the producers to live) via capital accumulation and wage labor
Capital Accumulation: the generation of further capital via reinvestment of profit.
Wage Labor: a system by which workers do not own their output, but rather are forced to exchange their surplus value for a money wage in order to live.
Capitalism: a socio-politico-economic system marked by these primary distinguishing factors: profit driven production, capital accumulation, and wage labor. These result in fierce competition between owners, imperative for continual growth, deep inequality and conflict between capitalists and workers.
State capitalism: a socio-politico-economic system in which the state or state-owned business enterprises either controls or dominates the means of production, and acts to replace privately owned capitalist corporations, engaging in capital accumulation and extracting the surplus value from the workers via wage labor. Usually what people mean when they use the terms "socialism" or "communism".
Socialism: a socio-politico-economic system with the primary distinguishing factors of: an end to the capitalist system and social control of the means of production. Almost all forms of socialism also call for production for use in contrast to production for profit. (Socialists quibble over this one.) Furthermor, most forms call not simply for social control, but specifically for democratic control by the workers.
Anarchism: a major socialist socio-politico-economic philosophy/position that seeks to end capitalism and immediately transition to a classless, stateless society
Marxism: a major socialist socio-politico-economic philosophy/position that seeks to end capitalism (the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie") and institute an intermediate "dictatorship of the proletariat" to that leads to a transition to a classless, stateless society
Libertarian: a synonym of anarchism
US Liberalism: a capitalist socio-politico-economic philosophy/position that seeks to maintain capitalism through a small degree of reform and amelioration of the effects of capitalism via economic and social intervention, including highly limited state welfare, some degree of unionism and collective bargaining arrangements, light regulation of the economy, and minor redistribution of income and wealth, also seeks some of expansion of civil liberties
Progressive: a capitalist socio-politico-economic philosophy/position that seeks to maintain capitalism through a moderate degree of reform and amelioration of the effects of capitalism via economic and social intervention, including a moderate level of state welfare, unionism collective bargaining arrangements, moderate regulation of the economy, and minor redistribution of income and wealth, also seeks a larger degree of expansion of civil liberties,
Social Democracy: a capitalist socio-politico-economic philosophy/position that seeks to maintain capitalism through an extensive degree of reform and amelioration of the effects of capitalism via economic and social intervention, including extensive state welfare, strong unions and collective bargaining arrangements, fairly extensive regulation of the economy, and minor redistribution of income and wealth, also seeks a more extensive degree of expansion of civil liberties
Classical Liberalism: a capitalist socio-politico-economic philosophy/position that seeks to maintain and expand capitalism through extensive, often "laissez-faire", economic liberalization, also seeks an extensive expansion of civil liberties
Neoliberalism: a capitalist socio-politico-economic philosophy/position that seeks to maintain capitalism through moderate economic liberalization
Economic Liberalization: policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society.
Some Definitions According to Wikipedia
"Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality. It typically involves a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others (prioritarianism), as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished (by advocating for social justice). The term left wing can also refer to 'the radical, reforming, or socialist section of a political party or system'."
"Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production, as well as the political ideologies, theories, and movements that aim to establish them. Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective, or cooperative ownership; to citizen ownership of equity; or to any combination of these. Although there are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, social ownership is the common element shared by its various forms."
"In political and social sciences, communism (from Latin communis, "common, universal") is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.
Communism includes a variety of schools of thought, which broadly include Marxism, anarchism (anarchist communism), and the political ideologies grouped around both. All these share the analysis that the current order of society stems from its economic system, capitalism, that in this system, there are two major social classes: the working class—who must work to survive, and who make up the majority within society—and the capitalist class—a minority who derives profit from employing the working class, through private ownership of the means of production, and that conflict between these two classes will trigger a revolution. The primary element which will enable this transformation, according to this analysis, is the social ownership of the means of production."
"Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions. These are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as institutions based on non-hierarchical free associations. Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful.
While anti-statism is central, anarchism specifically entails opposing authority or hierarchical organisation in the conduct of all human relations, including, but not limited to, the state system. Anarchism is usually considered a radical left-wing ideology, and much of anarchist economics and anarchist legal philosophy reflects anti-authoritarian interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism, mutualism, or participatory economics.
Anarchism does not offer a fixed body of doctrine from a single particular world view, instead fluxing and flowing as a philosophy. Many types and traditions of anarchism exist, not all of which are mutually exclusive. Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism. Strains of anarchism have often been divided into the categories of social and individualist anarchism or similar dual classifications."
"Marxism is a form of socioeconomic analysis that analyses class relations and societal conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the mid-to-late 19th century works of German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels."
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Entry on Socialism
Introduction to Marxism: Course material from Dino Franco Felluga, PhD, Purdue.
What is Democratic Socialism? Q & A (Democratic Socialists of America)
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Entry on Socialism
Introductory Videos on Left Wing Ideologies, Theory, and Thought
Noam Chomsky Explains Anarchism
Socialism For Dummies: Video of Professor Richard D. Wolff 's introductory explantion of socialism, in two parts.
Assorted Useful Information
Marxist Internet Archive
Marxist.net: Marxist resource from the Committee for a Workers' International
Professor Richard D. Wolff
Richard D. Wolff "is an American Marxian economist, well known for his work on Marxian economics, economic methodology, and class analysis. He is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York. Wolff has also taught economics at Yale University, City University of New York, University of Utah, University of Paris I (Sorbonne), and The Brecht Forum in New York City." (Wikipedia)
Economic Update With Richard D. Wolff
Youtube Channels of Interest
Libertarian Socialist Rants
Some Additional Introductory Resources on Leftism and Left Leaning News Sources