In politics, right-wing, the political right, or simply the right, are terms which refer, with no particular precision, to the segment of the political spectrum in opposition to left-wing politics. It is usually, but not always, associated with conservatism. (See political spectrum and left-right politics for a detailed explanation and discussion of this kind of classification.)
The phrase "right-wing" comes from the seating arrangement of parliamentary partisans during the French Revolution. The monarchists who supported the Ancien Régime were commonly referred to as rightists because they sat on the right side of successive legislative assemblies. As this original reference became obsolete, the meaning of the terms has changed as appropriate to the spectrum of ideas and stances being compared, and the point of view of the speaker.
Right wing issues
In the 20th century, outside the United States, where capitalism was always supported by the vast majority of politicians and intellectuals, the most notable distinction between left and right was in economic policy. The right defended capitalism, whereas the left advocated socialism (often democratic socialism) or communism. This distinction has been much less important since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, as most mainstream left-of centre politicians now accept capitalism to a large degree.
One strand of right wing thought is concerned with traditional values, the preservation of individual rights, and constraints on government power. In a hard-line form the second and third of these priorities are associated with libertarianism, but many on the right reject most of the assumptions of libertarianism, especially outside of the United States, and some libertarians do not consider themselves to be right wing.
Another strand of right wing thought, often associated with the original right wing from the times of monarchy, supports the preservation of wealth and power in the hands that have traditionally held them, social stability, and national solidarity and ambition.
Both of the above strands of right wing thought come in many forms, and individuals who support some of the objectives of one of the above stands will not necessarily support all of the others. At the level of practical political policy, there are endless variations in the means that right wing thinkers advocate to achieve their basic aims, and they sometimes argue with each other as much as with the left.
The values and policy concerns of the right vary in different countries and eras. Also, individual right wing politicians and thinkers often have idiosyncractic priorities. It is not always possible or helpful to try to work out which of two sets of beliefs or policies is more right-wing (see political spectrum).
Those on the right are sometimes called "reactionary" by their opponents, a term that first arose to refer to those whose politics was formed in reaction against the French Revolution.
History of the term
Since the French Revolution, the political use of the terms "left" and "right" has evolved across linguistic, societal, and national boundaries, sometimes taking on meanings in one time and place that contrast sharply with those in another. For example, as of 2004 the government of the People's Republic of China claims to remain on the "left," despite an evolution that has brought it quite close to what is elsewhere characterized as "right," supporting national cultural traditions, the interests of wealth, privately owned industry, and a rather imperial nationalism. Conversely, the late dictator of Spain, Francisco Franco, who was firmly allied internationally with the right and who brutally suppressed the Spanish left, nonetheless pursued numerous development policies quite similar to those of the Soviet Union and other communist states, which are almost universally considered to be on the "left." Similarly, while "right" originally referred to those who supported the interests of aristocracy, in many countries today (notably the United States) the left-right distinction is not strongly correlated with wealth or ancestry.
Fascism and right-wing politics
Despite the important differences from other right-wing ideologies, fascism is almost universally considered to be a part of "the right." This is somewhat parallel to the customary inclusion of Marxism-Leninism (and, in particular, that of the Stalinist Soviet Union and Maoist China) in "the left." Nonetheless, fascism differs significantly from other politics that are usually classified as right wing, and most right-wingers (even many far right groups) reject any association with it, just like most left-wingers (even many communists) reject any association with Stalinism and Maoism.
Many of the creators of Italian Fascism had originally been supporters of the political left, but eventually turned against their old ideas (for various reasons) and tried to develop a right-wing alternative instead. Philosophers such as Robert Michel, Sergio Panunzio, and Giovanni Gentile were originally syndicalists, a group normally identified with the left and whose tactical propensity for direct action became an element in Italian Fascism. Benito Mussolini himself was originally a socialist, though he had ceased even to claim to be one by the time he was leading the fascist party (and, indeed, many of his old comrades were the first targets of his political police). In the treatise Doctrine of Fascism (written by Gentile but approved by Mussolini); fascism is identified as being of the right and it is declared that the 20th century will be the "century of the right".
David Schoenbaum argued in his book Hitler's Social Revolution: Class and Status in Nazi Germany, 1933-1939 that Nazism contained certain revolutionary and socialist aspects (although more in rhetoric than in reality), and it was no coincidence that the Nazis often found themselves in a struggle with the Communists for the same constituency (although this can be seen as a typical left/right struggle in elections, albeit involving more radical versions of the two sides, and there is no evidence of voters transferring their support from the KPD to the Nazi party or vice versa, while the Nazis mainly took votes from the DNVP and the DVP). However, it is a historical truth that the DAP, which later became the Nazi Party, was formed in response and in opposition to a brief Communist revolt in Bavaria. While the Nazis opposed individualism and laissez faire capitalism, vigorous opposition to socialism was a founding and continuing tenet of Nazi fascism. Consequently, one of the key motivations behind World War II was Hitler's desire to exterminate communism.
Japanese fascism, while a distinct phenomenon, is also ordinarily understood as an expression of a right-wing philosophy; but like other forms of fascism, it is only unequivocally right wing if the terms of comparison are limited. Like other forms, it arose in antithesis to the agenda of leftists, Communists, and Socialists.
In contemporary politics, neofascists and neonazis are said to be far-right. Authoritarian conservatives such as supporters of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet or supporters of the military juntas that ruled much of Latin America in the 1970s are also said to be far-right.
The Right and the War on Terror
In some countries, the contemporary Left-Right dichotomy is characterized more by contrasting positions on international conflicts than by economic differences; some thinkers, both of the left and the right, see this as a worrying tendency. For example:
- In United States, the strongest support for the military aspects of George W. Bush's "War on terror", and especially the identification of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq ("Operation Iraqi Freedom") and the subsequent occupation of Iraq as being part of that "War on terror", has come from the Neoconservative faction of the American right. In contrast, the post-September 11 anti-war movement has been largely from the left.
- In Israel, much of the current left/right dichotomy is about dovish (left) versus hawkish (right) policies with reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Reasons for support
In the United States, most of the political right support the use of military measures against terrorist organizations — by which they mean not only paramilitary groups like Al-Qaida, but also groups like Hamas, which combine paramilitary activities with more conventional political and social organizing — and "terror-supporting states", including some Arab dictatorships. However, the Far-right and the Paleoconservatives generally oppose all or some of these campaigns and, most of the center-left approves a proactive stance against terrorism and dictatorship, while questioning whether the Iraq war is a useful part of such a stance.
The Neoconservative argument is that a hard line is the only correct approach to deal with terrorists and dictators. The rhetoric in support of this view often invokes the persistent stance of Sir Winston Churchill to fight Adolf Hitler instead of trying to appease him. Churchill himself clashed over this with fellow members of the UK Conservative Party during the period before Hitler's 1939 invasion of Poland. Critics of this view rarely disagree that Churchill was right about Hitler; instead, they reject the analogy, arguing, for example, that whereas Hitler in the late 1930s likely had the military means to conquer Europe, Iraq in 2003 was no longer a serious military threat.
United States politics, in particular, has long had a current that claims to believe it is their moral obligation to free nations from dictators and undemocratic regimes. This has not always been particularly associated with the right: it can be found in Cold War Liberalism and many trace the roots of this thinking back to the French Revolution and, especially, the French Revolutionary Wars. The tradition owes more to classical liberalism than to conservatism, but in the U.S. today, many advocates of this position are on the political right.
Those who subscribe to this view argue that the Western enlightened values of freedom, democracy and justice are the only means tending to protect rather than exploit the individual, and that they should spread them around the globe. In this, they vigorously oppose cultural and moral relativism. Hence, right-wingers often advocate principled defenses of individual liberty, backed with a credible commitment to military action against certain states that violate human rights and in their view threaten the world's (or their own state's) security (such as those totalitarian states which were controversially branded by G.W. Bush as "the Axis of Evil").
Many groups on the left agree with the ideal of spreading democracy and freedom, but disagree with the methods employed by the right. Some also mistrust what they see as the right's new-found belief in spreading democracy, pointing to the history of support for foreign dictatorships during the Cold War where it was seen as being in the "national interest". They argue that many of the causes of Islamic terrorism lie in previous military or clandestine interventions by the United States. Proponents of the War on Terror often point out that it is being prosecuted with the assistance of some countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, that have unelected governments and impose heavy restrictions on the freedom of their citizens.
The Bush administration's official policy is to call for democratic reforms in all undemocratic governments; Secretary Powell has publicly called for democratic reforms in meetings with Arab and Islamic states.
Mainstream American right-wing groups also tend to support Israel's actions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as they perceive Israel as being the only stronghold of democracy and stability in the Middle East. The terrorist attacks that struck Israel after the Camp David 2000 Summit and the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. increased this sympathy for, and support of, Israel. The Christian right, many of them Judeo-Christians or Christian Zionists, support Israel because they believe its existence is essential to bring the Messiah. (See also dispensationalism.)
There are also many Far-right groups and militias in the United States who vigorously oppose any assistance towards Israel, and go so far as to call the United States government a Zionist-Occupied Government. Similarly, Muslim right-wingers and Islamists support the Palestinians, as they see Israel and the Jews as "enemies of Islam" and the Arab people. There has been some intermingling of ideas and sympathetic rhetoric between these two groups.
Political parties on the right
One might normally characterize the following parties as on the political right in their respective countries, though they might have relatively little in common with other right-wing groups beyond their opposition to the left.
Naturally, in all cases "left" and "right" express relative positioning. For example, the Log Cabin Republicans align on the right in the context of the U.S.'s gay community, but generally appear within the Republican Party as part of the left wing of the party.
The party Coalition Party, or Kokoomus, identifies itself as the main right-wing party of Finland. The Christian Party Kristillisdemokraatit, or the Swedish Party SFP might also be considered conservative parties.
The main far-right or nationalist party in Finland is True Finns. Their policies are anti-immigration and anti-EU in contrast to the other "right-wing" parties mentioned above. It won three seats, out of two-hundred seats in Parliament, in the 2003 General Election. Its star candidate was Tony Halme, a former boxer and WWE wrestler. He was elected in Helsinki and personally received the most of the party's votes. Halme's statements included ideas like "putting all black people in Finland on an island together" and "sending Finnish prisoners to Russia because Finnish prisons are not harsh enough". Halme has, on many occasions, stated — even in writing, e.g. in his book Kovan päivän ilta — his passionate opposition to the presence of black people in Finland. Other True Finns MPs are not generally as vociferous, but the nationalist ideology is strong.
- Extremist Right
- Democratic People Union (DVU)
- National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD)
- The Republicans (REP)
- Former and now forbidden extremist
- National Socialistic German Workers Party (NSDAP), also called the Nazi Party
This section is about the Republic of Ireland. For right-wing parties in Northern Ireland see the United Kingdom section below. Also, please note that Irish parties do not fall in the same typical Left/Right categories as political parties in most other European countries, so the inclusion of Irish parties in the "right-wing" is only an approximation.
- Parties with seats in the Knesset
- Gush Emunim (Settlers' movement)
- Kippot Srugot (Religious Zionists)
- Women in Green
- Professors For National Strength "פרופסורים למען חוסן מדיני"
- Extremist right
- Hilltop Youth
- Kach (outlawed)
- National parties that fielded candidates for national office in 2004
- Contemporary national parties that did not field candidates for national office in 2004
- America First Party
- American Heritage Party
- American Nazi Party
- Constitutional Action Party
- Independent American Party
- Regional/Single-State Parties
- American Heritage Party (Washington)
- Christian Falangist Party of America - Washington State Chapter (Washington affiliate of the Christian Falangist Party of America
- Christian Freedom Party (Minnesota)
- Conservative Party of New York State
- New Jersey Conservative Party
- Reform Party of Michigan (not affiliated with the Reform Party USA nor the American Reform Party)
- School Choice Party (New York)
- Secessionist (NB: Only those secessionist parties that apparently espouse right-wing doctrines are listed here.)
- Neo-confederate (NB: Most of these parties coordinate with each other, but there is currently no central neo-confederate party structure within the USA.)
- Southern Party
- Kentucky Southern Party
- Southern Party of Georgia
- Southern Party of North Carolina
- Southern Party of South Carolina
- Southern Party of the Southwest (Arizona and New Mexico)
- Southern Independence Party
- Southern Independence Party of Tennessee
- Southern Independence Party of Texas
Other significant right-wing organizations
- The Political Compass (http://www.politicalcompass.org/), an alternative view of the political spectrum
- The Nolan Charts (http://FreedomKeys.com/nolancharts.htm), other alternative political spectra (mostly libertarian-oriented)
Hitler's Social Revolution: Class and Status in Nazi Germany, 1933-1939 by David Schoenbaum, ISBN 0393315541
Right wing may also refer to a player's position in sports such as soccer and ice hockey.