Classical radicalism  

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 This page Classical radicalism is part of the publication bias list of the Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
This page Classical radicalism is part of the publication bias list of the Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

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The term Radical (from the Latin radix meaning root) was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. It later became a general term for those favoring or seeking political reforms which include dramatic changes to the social order. Historically, early radical aims of liberty and electoral reform in Great Britain widened with the American Revolution and French Revolution so that some radicals sought republicanism, abolition of titles, redistribution of property and freedom of the press. Initially identifying itself as a far left party opposed to the right-wing parties; the Orleanists, the Legitimists and the Bonapartists in France in the nineteenth century, the Republican, Radical and Radical‐Socialist Party progressively became the most important party of the Third Republic (1871 – 1940). As historical Radicalism became absorbed in the development of political liberalism, in the later 19th century in both the United Kingdom and continental Europe the term Radical came to denote a progressive liberal ideology.


United Kingdom

Historical radicalism in England

According to Encyclopedia Britannica the first use of the word "Radical" in a political sense is generally ascribed to the English whig parliamentarian Charles James Fox. In 1797, Fox declared for a "radical reform" of the electoral system drastically expanding the franchise to the point of universal manhood suffrage. This led to a general use of the term to identify all supporting the movement for parliamentary reform. The Britannica biography of Fox mentions his dismissal from the Privy Council in 1798 for reaffirming the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people in a public speech. However, the biography does not describe the specifics of Fox's declaration. Fox was no democrat: he would never have countenanced the notion that property would be safe in a democratic society in which the property-less voters would obviously be in a majority. Fox stated his view as being that property was the true foundation of aristocracy, and a country best prospered whose government was in such hands. These sentiments appear to be at odds with the Radical cause, but at this time parliament operated on shifting patronage rather than party lines, and Fox was noted for inconsistencies.


In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars it was technically illegal in France to openly advocate republicanism until 1848, so republicans usually called themselves "radicals" and the term radical came to mean a republican (who, by definition, supported universal manhood suffrage). From 1869 a faction, led by Georges Clemenceau, calling themselves Radicals claimed to be the true heirs of the French revolutionary tradition and drifted away from the moderate republicanism of Léon Gambetta. At Montmartre in 1881 they put forward a programme of broad social reforms. At that time, Radicals located themselves on the far left of the political board, opposed to the "Republican opportunists" (Gambetta), the liberal Orleanists, the Legitimists (both monarchist factions) and the Bonapartists.

These radicals then formed the Radical-Socialist Party (or Republican, Radical and Radical-Socialist Party, to give it its full name) in 1901, which was the first French left wing modern party. Four years later, the socialist French Section of the Second International (SFIO) party was formed by the fusion of Jean Jaurès's and Jules Guesde's rival tendencies; and the French Communist Party (PCF) was created in 1920. The Radical Socialist Party continued to be the main party of the Third Republic (1871–1940), but was discredited after the war due to the role of Radical members of the National Assembly in voting for the establishment of the Vichy regime. The Democratic and Socialist Union of the Resistance was established after World War II to combine the politics of French radicalism with credibility derived from members' activism in the French resistance.

Opposing Gaullism and the Christian Democrat People's Republican Movement (MNR), Pierre Mendès-France tried to anchor the Radicals to the left wing. Although he managed to put an end to the First Indochina War through the Geneva Accords signed in 1954 with North Vietnam's Premier Pham Van Dong, he finally left the party in 1961 to join the Unified Socialist Party (PSU) which advocated workers' self-management, while the Radical Party split into the more conservative Radical Party "valoisien", the legal successor of the Radical Party, and a faction advocating alliance with the left, named the Left Radical Party. The Parti radical valoisien moved to the center right and affiliated itself first with the pro-Giscard d'Estaing UDF, then with the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), while the Left Radical Party, which claims to be the political heir of the Republican Radicals, has close ties to the Socialist Party.

Serbia & Montenegro

Radicalism had played a pivotal role in the birth and development of parliamentarism and the construction of the modern Serbian state leading to the Yugoslavian unification. The People's Radical Party formed in 1881 was the strongest political party and was in power in the Kingdom of Serbia more that all others together. The 1888 Constitution of the Kingdom of Serbia that defined it as an independent nation and formalized parliamentary democracy was among the most advanced in the entire world, due to Radical contribution, it's known as The Radical Constitution. In 1902 a crack had occurred in which the Independent Radical Party left and "the Olde" remained in the party, leading it to its considerable downfall and veering to the into conservatism. In the Yugoslavian kingdom, the Independent Radicals united with the rest of the Serbian opposition and the liberal and civic groups in the rest of the new country and formed the Yugoslav Democratic Party as the central , while several Republican dissidents formed a Republican Party. The NRS had promoted Serb nationalism and put itself as the defender of Serb national interests. Democrats and Radicals were the dominant political parties, especially since the exclusion of the Communists.

In Montenegro modelled a People's Party was formed in 1907 as the first political party and remained the largest in the period of country's parliamentary history until the Yugoslavian unification. Later a True People's Party was formed, which never got widespread popular support and whose bigger part had joined the original NS, but the difference was not ideological, but opposition and support of the Crown and, sometimes, in foreign relations to Serbia (the clubbists were the crown's dissidents and supporters of the people as well as Serbia as a regional power and brotherly ally; the rightists were generally anti-democratic and autocratic monarchist, whereas also distrustful to the Serbian government's acts on the national plan).

Continental Europe and Latin America

In continental Europe and Latin America, as, for instance, in Italy, Spain, Chile and Argentina, Radicalism developed as an ideology in the 19th century to indicate those who supported, at least in theory, a republican form of government, universal male suffrage, and, particularly, supported anti-clerical policies. In northern and central European countries, like Germany this current is known as Freisinn (Free MindGerman Freeminded Party from 1884 to 1893, then Eugen Richter's Freeminded People's Party — and the Free Democratic Party of Switzerland). However, by the twentieth century at the latest, radicalism, which did not advocate particularly radical economic policies, had been overtaken as the principal ideology of the left by the growing popularity of socialism, and had become an essentially centrist political movement (as far as "radicalism" survived as a distinct political ideology at all).

Radicalism and liberalism

See also liberalism

In some countries the radical tendency is a variant of liberalism. Sometimes it is less doctrinaire and more moderate; other times it is more extreme. In Victorian era Britain the Radicals were part of the Liberal coalition, but often rebelled when the more traditional Whigs in that coalition resisted democratic reforms. In other countries, these left wing liberals have formed their own radical parties with various names, e.g. in Switzerland and Germany (the Freisinn), Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands but also Argentina, Chile and Paraguay. This does not mean that all radical parties were formed by left wing liberals. In the French political literature it is normal to make a clear separation between liberalism and radicalism in France. In Serbia both radicalism and liberalism have had their distinctiveness during the 19th century, with the Radical Party being the dominant political party throughout the entire multi-parliamentary period before the unification of Yugoslavia. It had cracked in 1903 when the Independent Radical Party had left, leaving the old People's Radical Party strafing far from liberalism and into right-wing nationalism and conservatism. The Independents had created the Democratic Party, whereas the Radicals of today are a far-right extremist ultra-nationalist political group.

But even the French radicals were aligned to the international liberal movement in the first half of the twentieth century (founded in August 29, 1924 and dissolved in 1934), in the Entente Internationale des Partis Radicaux et des Partis Démocratiques similaires.

See also


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