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THE LEFT, THE RIGHT AND THE CENTRE

By DARLINGTON CHILUBA

EVERY field of study has its own specialised language and acronyms (called jargon), which are used widely by those who grasp that language or field of study.

Medicine, Law, Marketing even professions like Audit all have specialised language that is anchored on specific principles of that subject. Politics, as a profession and field of study is no different. It, too, has its jargon intended to communicate ideas.  

For instance, in politics, the Left refers to governments that lean towards pro-poor policies whether by action or just slogans. This form of politics believes that free capital (or money) creates an unjust society where the rich sit on top of the hierarchy and influence the state to their advantage.

The only way to upend this unjust society is through social and political revolution, or rebellion. In principle, the left, or leftist politics believe in a flat or equal society in which the government is able to intervene and protect the welfare of citizens, particularly the poor.  

At its extreme, leftist politics can be pro-nationalist to the extent of being anti-immigration or simply unwelcoming to foreigners. The notion that national resources should be for the (indigenous) nationals takes on a more aggressive than logical tone.

In reality, however, it is more challenging to create an equal society partly because, even the state itself is not flat. There are senior and junior civil servants who are not in the same pay grade and their proximity to the centre of power is inevitably different.  

So, inequality begins with the state itself and because of its own need for money to function and provide free services to the nation, it cannot get rid of financial experts or free capital per se and ends up protecting the rich for its survival, one way or another.

The end result is a country of two extremes: the very poor fed by the state through welfare schemes like free health or free education, for example: and the very rich who are protected by the state because countries need money to function.

This could, and often does, isolate the poor even more. It is not surprising to find food shortages but plenty of political rhetoric and slogans in such environments. 

Countries like Cuba under the late Fidel Castro or Venezuela under the late General Hugo Chavez are typical examples. Libya under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi or the Africa National Congress (ANC) of the new Republic of South Africa, post-apartheid offer varied and debatable examples of leftist politics.

DARLINGTON CHILUBA
DARLINGTON CHILUBA

China’s evolved and highly capitalised form of communism is a rarity that can be difficult to classify as leftist.  China is almost a capitalist system functioning on communist (leftist) principles.  

Contrastingly, the Right, or right-leaning politics contend that social hierarchy is unavoidable. That, perhaps, those with resources contribute more to the nation and should be protected, rewarded or both through lower taxation and favourable policies.

The poor work for the rich to earn their survival and this keeps the social balance and nation progressive – this is the extreme version. 

The government here, is seen more as a protector of private capital than a protector of the poor.  

Monarchies preferred this system because it kept the financial minds, the aristocrats and merchants to themselves so as to build and secure their wealth. This is also partly why most monarchies lost favour and made their way to elected governments.  

The Centre is where most of the modern world has shifted to after adjusting both left and right-leaning schools of thought.

Here, government accepts responsibility to strike a balance between protecting the poor, including giving them equal access to factors of production and justice, and so on, but also making sure that business thrives. Free markets are welcome, but social welfare is an obligation.  

For example, where national assets such as mines were nationalised and became inefficient, centred thinking would propose liberalising mining licences to indigenous citizens who may not yet have the requisite skill or capital to buy mines for themselves.

This enables them to create private capital linked to their national asset – the mines. After that, if commercialisation is not possible, then privatisation can take place for the mine without discarding the locals who now have mining licences. 

Another example is where free health is a policy, but government cannot afford medicines thus unable to realistically protect the lives of citizens. Centred thinking would introduce user fees that allow government hospitals to earn money and then procure medication and equipment – thus realistically protect the health and lives of citizens.  

These are just some of the decisions that Zambia made after 1991 when social democracy was introduced. There are many other examples including judicial and liberal reforms in agriculture that took place in order to create balance from central decision making to a people-oriented government.

The benefit of the centre is that government creates a balanced intervention and is likely to listen to citizens than government officials who in themselves already have a predetermined agenda. 

The left and the right have been good at producing dictatorships and aloof governments. The reason we vote, is to be heard and the centre style of leadership does slightly better than either left or right when listening to people.

It is however important to note that whichever leaning or proclivity a nation takes, there must be moderation that allows for the voice of the citizens to be heard.

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