Radicals, Reformists or Revolutionaries? Ideologies of the Left.

Written By: - Date published: 7:19 am, August 14th, 2015 - 62 comments
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My name is James Gluck, and I am currently doing a Masters degree at Victoria University. I’m doing a project entitled Radicals, Reformists or Revolutionaries? Studying Ideologies of the Left and I have been kindly allowed some space here on The Standard to inform people on the Left about my research, and more widely distribute a survey that takes up part of the project.

The Left is harshly contested ground. In Aotearoa, as well as overseas, political parties such as Labour – the ‘Left’, has been accused of being no better than their counterparts and political opponents. This is hardly a new phenomenon, and one of the commonly held tasks of the radical left has been to ‘expose’ the ‘true’ ideology of the social democrats. It is clear that defining what it means to be on the Left is a key political task that activists and those engaged in the political process attempt to carry out almost day-to-day. Sue Bradford’s recent work is making an attempt to help the Left (or rather a specific section of the Left as she admits) bind together and work in more cohesion. This is an important goal. In my view, a difficulty in creating a cohesive Left lies in separating out debate over policy and debate over ideology.

We use the term ‘ideology’ in a huge variety of ways, ranging from being a short hand for political theory, to an essentially derogatory ‘slur’ for those whose ideas we don’t like. Continually calling the National Government’s policies “Neoliberal Ideology” is a useful political statement; for one, it states continuity and complicity with similar governments internationally, as well as working against the concept of policy as a kind of commonsense ‘working out’ by National. What this tactic also does, however, is make it difficult for us to try to gain a deep understanding of how National, and National supporters believe the world works. In a similar vein, when we use the word ‘Ideology’ derogatively towards others on the Left, it often leaves us without a way to understand, and potentially critique, the policies and ideas we disagree with. When I talk about ideology, I am referring to something more complex – an individual’s view of how the world works, changed and shaped by our social interactions.

What I wish to do is to try and build a deep, nuanced, and multi-layered understanding of the ideologies that exist on the Left. Without starting out from preconceived definitions, and without forcing people into boxes that they do not identify with (in short, without using ideological labels as a substitute for more detailed information) I aim to allow participants to explain their views.

This research is in two parts: an online survey aimed at a large sample, which involves a set of statements on political and social concepts; and a set of focus group interviews aimed at more deeply exploring any complexities or contradictions that build a more detailed picture of ideology. At the current time, I am running the survey, which is available online and should take less than 10 minutes to complete. The survey link is here

All of the entries are anonymous and no personal information will be identified from it. IP addresses are recorded in order to prevent multiple entries: this information is password protected and will be accessed only by me and my supervisor. All individual responses will be destroyed at the conclusion of the project.

If there are any questions about this project I would be more than happy to talk.

Thank you,

James Gluck

62 comments on “Radicals, Reformists or Revolutionaries? Ideologies of the Left.”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Is evidence-based policy an ideology?

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      Yes. The First Labour Government implemented many many policies which were not backed by scientific evidence, but backed instead by the Christian and socialist thought of the day.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      Ideology

      1. the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.
      2. such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation.
      3. Philosophy.

      a. the study of the nature and origin of ideas.
      b. a system that derives ideas exclusively from sensation.

      4. theorizing of a visionary or impractical nature.

      Short answer: Yes.

      • Colonial Rawshark 1.2.1

        That’s what I said to OAB and he replied with something utterly unrelated.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1.1

          Actually, you didn’t. You went on about the First Labour Government not using evidence to make policy whereas OAB had specifically asked if evidence based policy making was an ideology.

  2. The old left and right paradigm eh? Well it is really very simple. There is no left in this country. There is the 99% and the 1% who rule. They are divided into two groups which we call National and Labour and they are financed by the 0.01% in one form or another.

    The only real ” for the people” party would probably be Mana but the ruling two headed dragon made sure they lost in the election.

    • aerobubble 2.1

      Housing is more unaffordable than for generations, home ownership has been slidding for the past thirty years, this did not stop a neo-lib ideologue Stephen Franks on the Moro nr program stating quite catagorically that wealth disparities have not changed in the past thirty years. Not being able to afford a mortgage, let alone find a house near infrastruture taxes are propping up, and needing two incomes just to get above water, is obvious. But no this neolib thinks the fact that a report which shows less citizens engaged in mortgage debt shows, as it would, more peoplebeing wealthier which it does not, would mean there is no change in wealth is more indictative than anything. Tossing around lefty potential ideologies is moronic when obvious blantent lying is allowed to be passed off as comment and analysis.
      Wtf, is that the solution a lot of piss ant lefty ideologue lying the facts around to make them look false.

      More seriously though, ecology recycles everything, our world is finite. Our politics of left and right view the world as unlimited and hold to the myth of human invincibility that will save the day. Only when we measure every aspect of our proccesses and their pollution, and then start rewarding the refuse entrepuerers above all others, only then will politics matter, and this is not a essentially right or left wing ideology.
      Its a human first rather than profit first ideology, you know the wwii, the human first countries us, uk, france, ussr, china beat out the light shining out of thir arses countries of hitler, the emporer, faith base mass delusion. Like neoliberalism profit at any cost.

  3. Xanthe 3

    Not impressed a series of questions based on inflamitory button push statements, this survey will not yeold meaningful data in my view

  4. Sabine 4

    Will there be a survey about the “Real Right” and “what is the real right”.

    Maybe it is not the left that needs defining, but the Right?
    Is the National Party and its supporters what it was in the 50/60/70 or is it an altogether different beast that resembles more the Robber Barons of the 1860?

    Or do we have to constantly re-define the Left so as to break them into bits and pieces?

  5. ianmac 5

    Completed the survey. Tried to guess what James could do with the data collected. Dunno.
    Some statements poorly worded/ambiguous. I doubt that my particular philosophy would register.
    Wondered how Helen Clark would fill it in.

  6. Found the questions quite thought-provoking … and I’m glad there was practically unlimited space for adding my own comments!

  7. save NZ 7

    One of the best surveys I have ever been in. I like the way you can clarify your position by giving the right to make a comment beside it. I just wish our political parties were as intelligent in their Political party surveys which are generally stupid and meaningless for the most part as they seem to be looking to get the answer they believe in.

    The election results speak for themselves our ‘left’ parties are not listening and do not understand what the people want. That is why we have this crazy government in charge – AGAIN.

    Even their own are trying to desperately change them like Bryan Gould. Who correctly predicted the decline in the UK Labour in 2009.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/feb/20/labour-foreign-policy

    If I was a Labour or Green party MP I would be clamouring to get the outcome of this survey. If it is not compromised by trolls it will be very interesting reading.

    • tracey 7.1

      I agree that the clarification opportunity is crucial and absolutely separates this from a “poll”.

  8. tracey 8

    Good for you.

    Did you spell/grammar check

    third question

    “Society needs some form of ‘market’ in order to effective way to match what is produced to what is needed”

  9. save NZ 9

    I noticed that interviews are taking place in wellington to further contribute to this work.

    In the interests of having a clearer survey – have you thought about doing interviews regionally – like small towns and other cities in New Zealand.

    The ‘left’ might well think about issues differently depending on location etc – so if you could do telephone of Skype interviews that would remove this issue of a regional focus and also make it easier to knock out trolls and deception.

    You could also look at Maraes, social organisations etc, in order to get more of a different range of people’s views if you are not already doing so.

  10. Simon 10

    Many of these questions contain vaguely defined concepts or ideas and many are intentionally emotive. I really don’t think you could garner much in the way of political leanings let alone ideologies.

  11. Heyegg 11

    I’ve wondered aloud here a few times why ideology is used as a derogatory slur, and only seem to get dogmatic responses like the one from one anonymous bloke.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 11.1

      Seriously? After the history of the 20thC you can’t figure out why people regard ideologues with suspicion?

      • Colonial Viper 11.1.1

        If you don’t commit to an ideology then you don’t have a value system and you won’t stand by any values. “Idealogues” are another thing altogether.

        • McFlock 11.1.1.1

          “If you don’t commit to an ideology then you don’t have a value system”

          I disagree.
          To some degree there’s definitional wriggle-room, but using James’ “an individual’s view of how the world works, changed and shaped by our social interactions” then really there’s more than enough room for someone to have an instinctive, knee-jerk values system while not creating a conscious and coherent view of how the world works. A large chunk of National voters, for example, who just vote for dunnokeyo without actually examining what he says or does.

          • The lost sheep 11.1.1.1.1

            A large chunk of National voters, for example, who just vote for dunnokeyo without actually examining what he says or does.

            Can you give me a link to the research you got that fact from please McFlock?

            • McFlock 11.1.1.1.1.1

              Only a moron would argure that every single voter casts their ballot purely on the basis of thorough, rational research to inform a coherent and considered worldview. So then we start quibbling over the definition of “large” and why I specifically chose national as an example (and you would of course pretend that national ran a campaign based on rationalism rather than personalities and frippery). Which is all rather irrelevant to the point.

              I’m actually interested in the conversation about ideology, value systems and suchlike, rather than just arguing with a self-entitled tory shithead. So, no.

              • The lost sheep

                Only a moron would argure that every single voter casts their ballot purely on the basis of thorough, rational research to inform a coherent and considered worldview.

                Absolutely.

                So then we start quibbling over the definition of “large” and why I specifically chose national as an example

                Only a moron would swallow your contention that you used National purely as an ‘example’ Mcflock, and that what you actually meant was that Leftish voters are just as prone to vote with their brains dis-engaged.
                But I understand now that you accept that is actually the case.

                • McFlock

                  yeah, nah, that was never my contention. I just don’t want to derail the thread as to why, when the argument would be with a fucking tory cock who attributes “contentions” to me that I never made.

                  A concern you demonstrated (at the first opportunity) as being valid. So: fuck off, dickwad. You’re a waste of my time, the space you take up, and the chemical elements that give you structure.

                  • The lost sheep

                    Gee McFlock.
                    You stated something as a fact without evidence to substantiate it, so I asked you to do so.
                    That was I believe a. in line with TS policy, and b. something i have seen you ask of other commenters many times.
                    So why the violently abusive reaction?

                    But if you were studying the characteristics of the modern left it is a wonderful example of the violent intolerance to differing ideological values that seems to be a major characteristic of modern Left Wing politics.
                    If comments on TS are anything to go by, it’s no wonder the Left can’t get it’s shit together and convince the people to let them govern. Too busy arguing with each other to present a cohesive, unified and compelling platform to the electorate.

                    • McFlock

                      As far as I can see, your “absolutely” suggests that your only quibble with my precise definition of “large chunk” and my singling out of the national party.

                      Come back to me when their campaign ads contain more policy content than “brand key” and stolen music.

                      Until then, fuck off.

          • Heyegg 11.1.1.1.2

            I guess I still consider that an ideology, conscious or not.

            • McFlock 11.1.1.1.2.1

              Yeah – “ideology” is a pretty fuzzy term, meaning different things to different people. But if we’re talking a reflex response, then every action is “ideological”, which means the word ends up adding nothing at all to the sentence.

              it’s a bit like the definition of “pain”. Every so often there’s an article about how plants “feel” or “communicate” pain, when really what they’re talking about is basic biochemical responses to plant stress. Personally, I think pain needs sentience to register it, and that differentiates “pain” from things like “forming a scab over a cut” and “seeing the bruise”. Otherwise “pain” is a meaningless word that simply refers to any reaction to injury or breakage.
              If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, it logically produces air pressure variations. But whether or not it makes a scream is another matter entirely 🙂

              • Heyegg

                Okay, I think even if the voter is unconscious of their own ideological leanings while voting, the fact that they are voting for an ideological position makes the voter ideological.
                So the person “hurting” the plant makes that pain sentient.

                • McFlock

                  Well they might have a systematic bias without being aware of it, but I reckon that one would be hard-pressed to call that an “ideological position”. For the reason of redundancy I outlined above.

              • weka

                but then you’d have to define sentience.

        • Tracey 11.1.1.2

          what?

    • Draco T Bastard 11.2

      Ideology has, IMO, become a slur because people have a tendency to follow through on their beliefs rather than on the evidence. This is especially true of the Right-wing where they will actively denounce the evidence when it goes against their beliefs. Think of John Key’s Hard Talk interview when, confronted with evidence of our farmers shitting in our waterways, said that he could easily find someone with a different view. Sure, he could find someone with a different view but there’s no way that he would have been able to find different evidence.

  12. Heyegg 12

    Sure, particular ideologies should be viewed with suspicion. But calling people out on being ideological seems silly. Especially from the left.

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      Correct. “Ideological” has become a sneer word that the Right uses against people who believe in societal and community values.

      • The lost sheep 12.1.1

        Just like “Ideological” has become a sneer word that the Left uses against people who believe in free market and personal responsibility values?

        • Draco T Bastard 12.1.1.1

          That’s a great example, thank you.

          The RWNJs go on about a ‘free-market’ and personal responsibility and then ensure that the free-market doesn’t exist as all the laws passed by them empower the rich and corporations above anybody else and declaim responsibility for their actions.

          Yep, definitely great examples of why ideology has become a slur word. The RWNJs proving that their ideology is less than skin deep.

          • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 12.1.1.1.1

            Every comment of yours can be reduced to: “something, something RWNJs….something, something RWNJs”.

            • Colonial Viper 12.1.1.1.1.1

              Verb, noun, adjective, pronoun, conjunction, verb, noun, adjective.

              Sounds all the same to me.

            • Draco T Bastard 12.1.1.1.1.2

              And every comment you produce can be reduced to the hot air coming out of your arse.

              Really, if you’re going to say something then at least address what I said rather than just revert to ad hominems as per typical RWNJ response when confronted with facts…

              Oh, wait, you can’t because facts.

              • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell

                At least we have you constantly raising the level of discourse above ad hominem, ay Draco.

        • Tricledrown 12.1.1.2

          Lost creep their is no such thing as your mythical free market.
          And when has any right wing political leader taken personal responsibility.
          Dogmatic Ideology.
          Aye sheep shager.

  13. Smilin 13

    Centre right national is, resting in the middle ground to bs the masses and then shifting warp factor ten to extreme right
    Centre left is where the real democratic work is done to formulate the next parliament. MMP I believe is the MO of NZ political structure ,
    I forgot its presently suspended by DIrty Politics in favour of totalitarianism .
    Crazy eh this govt is saying, THEY are here to promote less govt in in people’s lives so the have more democratic freedom
    BS less govt and more control shifting to the free market and the multinational corporate takeover of our democracy so that our SOVEREIGNTY goes the way of the sovereign coin a beautiful valuable thing but
    too expensive to use

  14. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 14

    I answered in the character of an amalgam of Standaristas. It allowed to me use the phrase “eat the rich”. I enjoyed it.

  15. Filled in the survey – found the format annoying and so wrote screeds to explain / contextualise.

  16. Clemgeopin 16

    @James Gluck,
    Good questions. Have completed the survey. Hope you will publish the result here.

  17. Ian 17

    Hope you post a summary of your findings

    • Wonderpup 17.1

      I’m sure he will release his thesis under a creative commons licence. Victoria are good about offering students this option, where others seem to want to hide their student’s theses!

  18. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 18

    You couldn’t make this shit up.

    Guy does a survey on the state of the left.

    Half of the respondents complain about the questions.

    State of the left right there.

  19. ropata 19

    James I am dismayed at your misuse of English and have lost interest in your survey.
    There is a difference between a structured political or religious ideology and the worldview of any particular individual. Why did it take you 1000 words to state the obvious? Verbosity is a sign of an imprecise mind.

  20. Adele 20

    Teenaa koe, Ropata

    If James is on a PhD pathway then verbosity would be a requisite skill.

    However, I did find the survey annoying on another level – referring to its underlying assumptions underpinned by western ideology.

  21. Interesting article here.. i am strongly interested in ideologies. I would like to delve on what exactly ideologies are.. would we say its something created in the past, an accumulation of knowledge that gives a method on how to tackle the problems of living?

    By this view, ideologies are not limited to political systems.. every -ism is another ideology.. religions, marxism, froydism, communism, anarchism, pacifism.. everything..

    it is like a belief that many people accept as right.

    Would we agree on that?

    And how do ideologies affect society? Once i am a communist and you are a capitalist isn’t there division among us? Is division something innocent? Or it necessary separates people? Once people are divided in groups, isn’t it necessary that their best interest differs? Which means the reasons for conflict are quite strong. Isn’t it conflict which leads to sorrow, pain, war and death?

    Having started from zero, from non preconceived opinions, we examine the nature of ideologies.. and it seems every ideology, from the noblest (activism) to the most brutal (nazism) breeds division/separation/conflict

    Would you agree?

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