From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Left-wing politics, the political trend or ideology.
In politics, left-wing and the left on the Left-Right politics spectrum, is associated, in varying degrees, with social (as opposed to classical) liberalism, progressivism, American liberalism, populism, social democracy, socialism, communism, syndicalism, communalism, communitarianism, some forms of green politics and some forms of anarchism.
The left is generally secular. However, in some Roman Catholic countries there is a tradition of Liberation theology which focuses upon "social justice", and in most Protestant countries there is a tradition of Christian Socialism. Religion and left-wing politics have sometimes been allies, for example in the U.S. civil rights movement, and sometimes opponents, for example regarding legalized abortion.
Old Left refers to the tendency within left politics in the first half of the twentieth century to focus exclusively upon class conflict, sometimes in an economic determinist way, in contrast to the New Left politics that emerged in the 1950s and especially 1960s, which instead emphasized cultural politics and identities other than class. Examples of the new left include Students for a Democratic Society and the journal New Left Review.
Center-left, left of center, and left liberal refer to the left side of mainstream politics in liberal democracies. These support liberal democracy, representative democracy, private property rights and some degree of free market, as well as high social spending, universal provision of social welfare, some state regulation of the economy and often public ownership. Examples are the British Labour Party, the American Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
Whereas Soft left refers to reformist, democratic or parliamentary forms of socialism (for example, Irving Howe or the Tribune group), Hard left refers to socialists who advocate more radical change in society, such as the British politician Tony Benn or the Militant tendency. Some organisations might be described as Far left, for instance groups affiliated to the Fourth International or splinters from it. Ultra-left refers to those deemed to be on the extreme left of the political spectrum, e.g. Italian autonomism.