Lost in the Labyrinth: Left and Right in Geopolitics

by | Jun 26, 2024

The current ideological debate between the right (which normally defends private enterprise, market economies with minimal government interference, democratic forms of government and traditional family values) and the left (which supports social solidarity, government involvement in the economy, subordination of democratic forms to social priorities and defence of minority rights on social behaviour) is a struggle between opponents who are not necessarily true to themselves and therefore often do not seem to defend their interests. Therefore, it is worth asking whether there is still a genuine ideological dimension in this contest.

A key reason for this disorientation in the left versus right debate is unawareness of the current world geopolitical confrontation. This conflict is a struggle between an exclusivist vision of Western hegemonic dominance (based on its conviction that it offers a superior political, ethical and economic model because of its supposedly proven effectiveness in defeating antagonistic models and because it is the result of a millenary evolution of Western civilisation) and a multipolarity perception promoted by Russia and China, among other powers. The conflict between the West and the East (which certainly does not follow strict geographic boundaries) is not a recent phenomenon, but today it has new meaning because the division that existed between political, economic, and ideological economic systems from the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 (in simple terms, capitalism versus communism) no longer exists.

The new geopolitical alignment (Western hegemonism versus multipolarity) has complex roots, but its most recent development is the fast consolidation of the BRICS group of countries as a consequence of the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine. This new alignment does not respond to a division between opposing political or economic models of governance, but to a simple power struggle for the continuation of Western hegemonic primacy resisted by a growing majority of countries with diverse economic and political models.  On the one hand, Western hegemonic power transcends political formulas and ignores or dispenses with them as it sees fit, for example in its interest in forging alliances with Arabian Gulf countries that do not follow democracy. On the other hand, the BRICS countries followed diverse political and economic models but have in common a paramount inclination to preserve cultural and social autonomy; Russia and China, for instance, strive to strike a balance between their authoritarian political models and the need to maintain stability among their diverse multi-ethnic groups.

Historically, most right-wing positions have had a strong affinity with Western hegemonic groups. Beyond a traditional ideological accommodation with their democratic ways, their positions reflect a strong cultural familiarity as well as familial, social, and economic ties with the West. There is also great complacency and comfort with the US security umbrella and a conceptual difficulty in understanding that today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union, let alone Tsarist Russia. The left, for its part, pretends to have less affinity with the US-led status quo but in practice much of its leadership has a strong economic dependence on the West as employees of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international organisations or academic institutions funded directly or indirectly by Western governments.

These historical gravitations of the left and the right have created relations of dependency which, in the face of the new geopolitics, have led to great ideological distortion and confusion.  A good example is the antagonistic positions in some Latin American countries regarding legislative proposals to limit NGOs interference, initiatives supported from the right and rejected from the left. Curiously, in the antipodean Republic of Georgia, an identical political contest has just ended with the approval of a law limiting NGOs foreign influence, a law that was fervently opposed by most Western governments and has led to sanctions against its proponents who are accused of being manipulated or directed by Russia. The opposition of official Western sectors to the Latin American initiatives have been less conspicuous but there is no doubt about their position, and in this debate the right, despite notable exceptions, mostly skirts the Western roots of this infiltration while the left ironically defends the Western establishment.

Another controversial issue with deeper dimensions is the discussion about transhumanism and its dangers. The right, while attacking transhumanism, claims that this phenomenon is part of a sinister agenda of international organisations promoting globalism, but it is ignored that transhumanism can be interpreted as a classic phenomenon inherent to the development of world capitalism in its quest for profit maximisation and whose primary forms (alienation, dehumanisation) were warned about many decades ago by Marx and his followers. The right, in seeking parallels between communist utopias and transhumanism, mistakenly sees globalism as a neo-Marxist, Gramscian cultural offensive and overlooks the leading role of Western power groups in this phenomenon. In the side discussion in defence of traditional family values, the right largely ignores the conservative character of the Russian government’s support for the nuclear family, which ironically has led a contemporary Russian philosopher to argue that Russia is the last bastion of the defence of traditional Western values.

The conflict in Ukraine is another strong example of this ideological distortion.  With the exception of minority groups (e.g. sectors of the left traditionally sympathetic to Russia), there is almost unanimous condemnation of Russia from opposing positions that have nothing in common but ignorance of the roots of this conflict.  The right criticises so called Russian authoritarianism and imperialism but ignores the growing anti- democratic manifestations in Ukraine through the persecution of religious groups aligned with the Russian Orthodox hierarchy, the absolute control of the Ukrainian press, and the suppression of presidential elections.  The left, for its part, passively supports the geopolitical positions of the US Democratic administration and the EU bureaucracy and his repeatedly ignore the strong pro-nazi roots in Ukrainian nationalism.

The lack of understanding of the current state of the world economy prevents both the left and the right from defining clear ideological options that would allow them to develop solid and consistent political messages. There is an ignorance of key economic facts that have worsened the current geopolitical confrontation, including the declining economic importance of the West vis-à-vis the rest of the world, the increase in US public debt and its unsustainable financing through monetary issuance, the de-dollarisation of the world economic system as protection by many countries against possible US sanctions, and the continued importance of traditional energy sources in world economic development that renders the Western ecological agenda doubtful. The right seems to ignore that traditional communist economic models have been discarded in Russia and China. The left, in its rigid defence of the migration phenomenon in the West, disregards the fact that such patronage is a fundamental part of the globalist agenda.

The right’s staunch defence of the capitalist economic model as the standard-bearer of free enterprise belittles the growing role of the state in the West as the promoter and client of the military-industrial complex. Some voices on the right have attempted to differentiate between the advantages of economic capitalism versus the pernicious character of cultural capitalism and question the current cultural message in the transformation and manipulation of the agents of economic capitalism.  However, let’s not forget that cultural capitalism as a consequence of economic capitalism was explained by Marx as an inevitable development, who also asserted that the progress of economic capitalism requires a continuous ideological adaptation of economic agents.  The preponderance of the cultural capitalist message has been accentuated in recent decades by capitalism’s turning away from its traditional activities of market expansion, production, and trade, and its increasing  concentration  on  lending  and  financial  speculation,  a  phenomenon historically indicative of economic decline.

Regardless of their roots and objectives in the context of the Cold War, and despite growing convergence with leftist sectors, globalism and progressivism are firmly embedded in the current political leadership of the West. Needless to say, NGOs, for example, are precisely the opposite of their name, as they are organisations that design, coordinate and execute government agendas in the geopolitical interests of the West. Globalism is a weapon and a manifestation of the Western hegemonic power struggle and will likely continue regardless of the results of the upcoming US presidential election.

The aggravation of the geopolitical confrontation will sooner or later lead to a larger widening of positions on both the left and the right. An interesting case will be Argentina, with a government that claims to have conservative roots in defending the traditional family but which will necessarily have to compromise that position by persisting in its unconditional geopolitical alignment with the West.