One of the foundations of politics is knowing what you stand for. This is crucial when trying to choose a political party or candidate to vote for - after all, you want someone who has the same ideas or thinking as you. Or perhaps someone who is passionate about something which interests and/or affects you.
Enter left-wing and right-wing. It sounds incredibly boring and complex when your friends and whānau talk about it, but getting a handle on these ‘wings’ will help you to understand why people are labelled communists, capitalists, alt-right, and liberals (to name a few). Left-wing and right-wing comes from the ‘political spectrum’. This is a theory which tries to classify different political positions and parties on a continuum. Its basic form looks something like this:
LEFT WING --------- CENTRE ---------- RIGHT WING
In theory, different ideologies (or schools of thought) sit in different places on this spectrum. Right-wing parties tend to favour tradition, conservatism and nationalism. Some typical right-wing policies are lower taxes and choosing private education and healthcare.
The left-wing side tends to favour equality, progress and reform. Typical policies favour higher tax rates and free public education and healthcare. Get the idea here? They are (almost) the opposite of one another.
There is also a midpoint called ‘centrism’ where people or parties fall in the middle of these two terms. Centrists tend to oppose an extreme form of either side and will favour policies from both sides, usually without major changes.
In New Zealand, the Labour Party is centre-left and the National Party is centre-right. This means they’re actually quite similar, just differing a little in their policies and the way they ‘rank’ their issues (the things each see as most important). The Green Party is left-wing, ACT is right-wing, and NZ First is in the centre.
Bear in mind that this model is not perfect. Political parties and people are very complex with their political views. It’s difficult to put a person or party in just one place on the political spectrum when you are discussing one issue, let alone all the key issues parties campaign on like education, intelligence, the environment and transport.
It's also important to remember that not everyone is extreme left-wing (Communist) or extreme right-wing (Fascist). Most of us will sit somewhere in the middle, or shift sides depending on what policies and issues we’re talking about. So, next time you see someone labelled a liberal or conservative on Facebook, try and remind yourself they’re probably not that extreme.