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Similarities and Differences between Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals Author(s): Herbert McClosky and Dennis Chong Source:

British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Jul., 1985), pp. 329-363 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/193697 . Accessed: 24/07/2013 04:03
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B.J. Pol. S. I5,329-363 Printed in Great Britain


Similarities and Differences Between Left-Wing and Right- Wing Radicals




Political observers have for years argued about the proper location of the radical left and the radical right on the familiar left-right (or liberalconservative) continuum. Although the conventional view holds that the two camps diverge sharply and belong at opposite ends of the continuum, some observers believe that they resemble each other so closely in certain crucial political and psychological characteristics that to classify them at opposite poles is grossly misleading. Controversy over this issue was fuelled by the publication in I950 of The Authoritarian Personality.l The authors of that research believed, in effect, that those who embraced the doctrines of the far right were likely to score high on the F scale (their key measure of 'authoritarianism'), while those who leaned to the ideological left were likely to score low. In their relation to authoritarianism, in short, the two camps belonged at opposite poles. Critics of this conclusion and of the research on which it was based complained that the F scale was obviously biased in identifying authoritarianism as characteristic mainly of the right while failing to register the authoritarianism of the left. Edward Shils, for example, argued in a well-known essay that authoritarianism was not the exclusive property of the far right, but mutatis mutandis was equally characteristic of the far left.2 Once one adjusts for superficial differences, Shils contended, communists and other radicals of the far left resemble right-wing radicals in zealotry, susceptibility to Manichean interpretations of human events, implacable hatred of opponents, intolerance toward dissenters and deviants, and an inclination to view public affairs as the outcome of conspiracies and secret plots. According to Shils and other critics, the radical left and the radical right may differ in their choice of allies and enemies, and in their perceptions of certain institutions as hostile or friendly, but they share a common style of political thought and employ similar techniques of political engagement. Shils's charge that the F scale revealed the authoritarianism of the right but not of the left was echoed by other prominent critics. Milton Rokeach argued (and sought to demonstrate through research) that the characteristics which
* Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley. 1 T. W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswick, Daniel J. Levinson and R. Nevitt Sanford, The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper, I950). 2 Edward A. Shils, 'Authoritarianism: "Right" and "Left"' in Richard Christie and Marie Jahoda, Studies in the Scope and Method of the Authoritarian Personality (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1954), Pp. 24-9.

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most closely distinguished authoritarians of any ideological persuasion from non-authoritarians were 'dogmatism' and what he called 'opinionation' complex styles of thinking marked by closed-mindedness, intolerance towards those with whom one disagrees, reluctance to entertain new or conflicting ideas, and a deep-seated unwillingness to alter one's system of beliefs in any way.3 H. J. Eysenck4 concluded from his research on personality and ideology that left-wing and right-wing radicals - or, more specifically, communists and fascists - resembled each other in various ways, but were especially alike in their 'tough-mindedness'. In Eysenck's view, it was this quality above all that distinguished extremists of the left and right from the political moderates, who were inclined to be more 'tender-minded'. Despite such challenges, various investigators who worked with the F scale continued to find, as Adorno et al. had, that the right tended to score high (or authoritarian) on the measure, while the left tended to score low. When Roger Brown reviewed the state of the research on authoritarianism in I965, his verdict was that the proponents of left-wing authoritarianism had not proved their case: 'My conclusion, then, is that it has not been demonstrated that fascists and communists resemble one another in authoritarianism or in any other dimension of ideology. No one thus far has shown that there is an authoritarianism of the left.'5 Brown acknowledged, nevertheless, that 'the impression persists that such a type exists and that some communists belong to it.' Stone, in updatirg the review of the research on these questions, came to an essentially similar conclusion.6 Examining studies by Barker, DiRenzo, Hanson, Knutson, and Smithers and Lobley, and finding little convincing support for the arguments made by Shils and other critics, Stone went so far as to recommend that we not waste any more time searching for left-wing authoritarianism.7 Why, then, in light of the uncertain results from available research should one return to the inquiry and again raise the question of the possible parallels between left-wing and right-wing radicals?
H. J. Eysenck, The Psychology of Politics (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, I954). Roger Brown, Social Psychology (New York: Free Press, 1965), p. 542. 6 W. F. Stone, 'The Myth of Left-Wing Authoritarianism', Political Psychology, 11(I980), 3-19. E. N. Barker, 'Authoritarianism of the Political Right. Center, and Left', Journal of Social Issues, xlx (1968). 63-74; G. J. DiRenzo. Personality, Power, and Politics (Notre Dame. Ind: University of Notre Dame Press. 1967): D. J. Hanson, 'Dogmatism Among Authoritarians of the Right and the Left'. Psychological Studies, xiv (1969). 12-21; J. N. Knutson, 'Psychological Variables in Political Recruitment', mimeo (Berkeley, Calif.: The Wright Institute, I974); A. G. Smithers and D. M. Lobley, 'The Relationship Between Dogmatism and Radicalism/ Conservatism', in H. J. Eysenck and G. D. Wilson, eds, The Psychological Basis of Ideology (Lancaster: MPT Press, 1978), pp. 263-72. 7For a critique of Stone, see Eysenck, 'Left-Wing Authoritarianism: Myth or Reality?', Political Psychology, 1ll (I982), 234-8; and for a comment on both Stone and Eysenck, see J. J. Ray, 'Half of All Authoritarians Are Left-Wing: A Reply to Eysenck and Stone', Political Psychology, v (1983), 139-43.

3Milton Rokeach, The Open and Closed Mind (New York: Basic Books. 1960).

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals



One important reason, of course, is that the findings derived from the available research studies, and especially those using the F scale, do not correspond to what is obvious from even the most casual observation of actual political regimes of the far left and far right. No particular expertise is required to discern the striking similarities in political style, organization, and practice among, on the one side, such left-wing dictatorships as the Soviet Union, Communist China, East Germany, Cambodia under Pol Pot, Cuba under Castro, Albania, Bulgaria, Ethiopia and Angola; and, on the other side, such right-wing dictatorships as Fascist Italy, Spain under Franco, Nazi Germany, Portugal under Salazar, Argentina (especially from 1976 to I983), Uruguay, Zaire and Chile under Pinochet. One can cite, in addition, a number of highly repressive dictatorships in which left-wing and right-wing elements (or at least left-wing and right-wing rhetoric) are so heavily intermingled that even experts might find it difficult to decide whether to place them on the left or the right. Possible examples include Ghana, Libya under Khadaffi, Syria, Iraq and Iran under Khomeini. Despite variations in the institutions, practices, and symbolic identifications encountered among such regimes, the parallels among them - regardless of their nominal ideological classifications - are so conspicuous that one can ignore them only by a supreme effort of suspending disbelief. All of them are (or were) severely repressive. All are (or were) single-party political dictatorships - whether dominated by a strong man, a military junta, a party movement or some other self-appointed oligarchy. All are essentially police states, relying heavily on systematic coercion, surveillance, and the ruthless enforcement of controls to maintain themselves in power. As one-party systems, all prohibit legal opposition, employ 'managed' or rigged elections (if any), and crush dissenters and potential critics through censorship, harassment, arrests and killings. All deny elementary civil liberties - including freedom of speech, press, association and assembly, as well as the rights of juridical defence, due process and privacy. Although they differ somewhat in their reliance upon developed ideologies, all set severe limits on the ideas that can legally be disseminated and all strive to maintain, in effect, a single belief system and an official orthodoxy. In varying degree, too, they all exhibit elements of an apocalyptic, chiliastic perspective, as though they had been authorized to rule by some higher power (secular or otherwise) in order to bring about the salvation of mankind and the kingdom of heaven on earth. Even the most pragmatic, self-aggrandizing military juntas are not entirely free from such grandiose fantasies.8
' Many of the characteristics set out by Daniel J. Levinson, one of the authors of The Authoritarian Personality, to describe authoritarianism of the right turn out to be equally appropriate to a description of regimes of the far left. See his 'Conservatism and Radicialism', in David L. Sills, ed., International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Volume 12 (New York: Macmillan, 1968), p. 27.

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Parallels between the left and the right can be discerned not only in the comparisons of left-wing and right-wing regimes, but in the behaviour of extreme movements of the left and right that have arisen in the United States and other free nations. Both the far right and the far left (New Left as well as Old) have obviously been marked by zeal, hostility to prevailing institutions and unyielding intolerance towards ideas and beliefs they consider inimical. Their antagonism is typically fierce not only towards political 'enemies' but even towards rival groups with similar but not identical ideologies and objectives. When Stalin, for example, proclaimed the theory of 'social fascism', which held that the socialist movement was really a front for fascism, American Communists eagerly embraced the doctrine and proceeded to embellish it so as to distinguish themselves from the socialists whom they now portrayed as enemies and traitors. As Max Schactman, a former Trotskyite leader, observed: and everybodyoutside the Communist partywas designatedas a varietyof Everything fascism .... Left-wingsocialists,especiallythose with a friendlyattitudetowardthe could not deceive them for a minute;they were left 'SocialFascists'who Communists, tried to hide their aid to fascism under the cunning pretense of being radical. Anarchistsand syndicalists. . . were designatedhenceforthas nothingbut 'Anarchoit leapedto the eye that they were As for Trotskyists, Fascists'and 'Syndical-Fascists'. of these The closer were, or seemed to but groupings any 'Trotskyo-Fascists'. nothing be, to the Communistparty, the more dangerousthey were to it, and the more ruthlesslythey had to be opposed, denounced,and destroyed.9 Although the Trotskyites considered themselves 'defenders' of the Soviet Union and the champions of its original revolutionary ideals, they were denounced by the Communists as reactionaries and counterrevolutionaries - a label that the Trotskyites, in turn, gleefully pinned on the Communists. Any Communist party member suspected of sharing Trotsky's views or willing to discuss matters with the Trotskyites (or, at a later point, the Maoists) was summarily expelled. Meetings scheduled by Trotskyites were violently disrupted by Communist mobs 'armed with lead pipes, blackjacks, clubs, knives, and similar persuasive arguments'.l" A similar fate befell numerous socialist gatherings in the course of this perverse Communist war on 'social fascism'. Thus did the American Communists imitate and acquiesce in the factional disputes of their Soviet totalitarian counterparts. Their clashes with the Trotskyites and socialists testify not only to the idolatry with which they viewed the Soviet leadership, but also to their refusal to tolerate dissenting viewpoints and their eagerness to crush all individuals and groups who deviated from the rigidly prescribed 'party line'. Similar responses were evident in the conduct of the Trotskyites, Maoists and other left revolutionaries, then and now.
Max Schactman, 'Radicalism in the Thirties: The Trotskyist View', in R. J. Simon, ed.. As We Saw the Thirties (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1967) pp. 12-13. I' Schactman, 'Radicalism in the Thirties', pp. 12-13.

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Left- Wing and Right-Wing Radicals


The virulence and intolerance exhibited towards each other by Stalinists, Trotskyites and Maoists are legendary, but implacable hatreds and suspicions towards opponents, critics and competitors, and even efforts to silence them, can also be detected among New Left militants and right-wing radicals. Many New Left activists, having suffered setbacks in their struggles against racial bigotry, social inequality, and American involvement in Vietnam, and frustrated in their efforts to transform or abolish existing institutions, were gradually drawn into the political orbits of the old hard-core Marxist-Leninist movements, in which context they increasingly exhibited the anti-intellectualism, contempt for procedural rights and hostility towards democratic avenues of change that have long marked the Old Left." Many New Left radicals came to embrace the thesis of Herbert Marcuse (a hero of the New Left) that the liberation of American society necessitated the suppression of certain points of view considered unacceptable. 2 A policy of 'repressive tolerance' required the silencing of individuals and groups whose opinions on important social questions were, from the perspective of radical left goals, egregious. In keeping with these views, the New Left, like the more traditional Marxist-Leninist movements and various movements on the right, took on an increasingly strident, uncomprising, and repressive tone toward dissenting viewpoints they deemed to be incorrect or even immoral.'3 Hence they 'persistently shouted down or drowned out' opposition speakers, restricted debate and ejected opponents from their own ranks. They 'howled down' dissent, manipulated agendas and credentials 'to eliminate "undesirable elements"', and, in imitation of the organizational style of the Old Left, suppressed debate and smothered whatever remained of internal democracy.'4 Nor should one overlook the increasing use of violence against external enemies, the fierce protest demonstrations, the 'trashings' and destruction of property, and, of course, the growing reliance all over the world on terrorism as an approved technique of political struggle. Bombings, hijackings, kidnappings, assassinations, robberies and random destruction, once regarded by revolutionary organizations as ineffectual tactics of political struggle, have become fairly common in recent decades, and are undertaken by militants on both the extreme left and the extreme right. Hofstadter's description of the 'paranoid style', which he considered the hallmark of right-wing radicals, also applies in certain key respects to left-wing radicals, old-style and new.15 In our view, both extremes are characterized by a tendency to view history as the product of malevolent,
" Peter Clecak, Radical Paradoxes (New York: Harper and Row, 1973). Herbert Marcuse, 'Repressive Tolerance', in R. P. Wolff et al., A Critiqueof Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), pp. 81-123. 13 Nigel Young, An Infantile Disorder? The Crisis and Decline of the New Left (Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, I977), p. 341. 14 Young, An Infantile Disorder?, p. 342. 1 Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964).

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conspiratorial forces. Though from different perspectives, they both see America as being at the mercy of a rising tide of moral and spiritual debauchery. Both tend to vilify the enemy as 'a kind of amoral superman: sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving'; both hold a Manichean and militant conception of politics as a struggle of 'whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values';16and both express an apocalyptic sense of urgency about the need to act quickly and decisively to halt the slide of a society growing increasingly degenerate.



In assessing the failure of the research findings on right-wing and left-wing supporters to exhibit similarities in their attitudes towards democracy, one should also keep in mind the obvious inappropriateness of the F scale (by far the most frequently used measure of authoritarianism) as an instrument for identifying the authoritarians of the left. Not only was the scale primarily designed (as Levinson points out) to select right-wing authoritarians, but the contents of the items employed in the scale unmistakably reflect or refer to opinions, social outlooks, or target groups to which the right is prone to respond approvingly and the left disapprovingly. Consider, for example, such items as the following: The businessman and the manufacturer are much more important to society than the artist and the professor. Every person should have complete faith in some supernatural power whose decisions he obeys without question. Young people sometimes get rebellious ideas, but as they grow up they ought to get over them and settle down. Sex crimes, such as rape and attacks on children, deserve more than mere imprisonment; such criminals ought to be publicly whipped, or worse. There is hardly anything lower than a person who does not feel a great love, gratitude and respect for his parents. Homosexuals are hardly better than criminals and ought to be severely punished. While supporters of the left will in some cases subscribe to items of this type, it is plain that these and certain other items in the F scale will appeal far more strongly to right-wing than to left-wing sympathizers. The measure, to be sure, does contain a few items that might appeal to the left as well as the right, but the scale, taken as a whole, is sharply slanted towards opinions and values cherished by the right and rejected, for the most part, by the left. Hence, a research finding showing that the right scores high on the F scale and that the left scores low demonstrates little if anything about the autoritarianism of the left.
16 Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, pp. 3I-2,

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Left- Wing and Right-Wing Radicals



Comparisons of the left and right are further complicated by sampling bias. A major- difficulty here is that the supporters of the left - and especially the hard-core left - almost invariably resist efforts to entice them to participate in survey inquiries that probe into their opinions, attitudes, motivations, affiliations or activities. Our own efforts over the years to persuade left-wing militants to co-operate in the surveys we have conducted have largely proved fruitless - an outcome which, to judge from the samples discussed in the published research literature, has been shared, with perhaps a few possible exceptions, by almost all other investigators doing survey research on far-left

Thus, of the American left-wing respondents typically surveyed (or otherwise interviewed) by research investigators, few are hard-core revolutionaries in the classical mould. Nearly all are college-educated, young (mainly students, in fact), more intellectual than most, secular, cosmopolitan in orientation, recently recruited and (very likely) transient radicals who because of their location in the social structure have been repeatedly exposed to the norms of the prevailing liberal democratic political culture - norms that they are bound to have absorbed to some extent and still retain to some degree. In their social characteristics and their relation to the existing political culture, they differ in important ways from the respondents who turn up in most surveys of the radical right - the latter being, on average, less educated, older, more rural, more parochial, more religious and less intellectual. Most left-wing survey respondents also differ from the hard-core revolutionaries of the left in that the latter are likely to be older, no longer students, engaged in political organizational work of some type, radicals of long standing and deeply immersed in a Marxist-Leninist (or other revolutionary) subculture that is profoundly antagonistic towards American mainstream values. In short, the left-wing samples whose responses are reported in most of the
17 There have been, of course, some excellent studies of such radical organizations as the American Communist party that draw primarily on historical and documentary materials, along, perhaps, with the selective interviewing of certain individuals (often, former members). While these studies are able to provide significant insights into the activities, social composition, leadership, tactics, and historical development of certain radical movements, they do not sample the responses of the membership as such and do not make it possible, for example, to compare systematically the beliefs and values of supporters of the far left with those on the far right. Examples of such studies include Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism (New York: Viking Press, 1957), and American Communism and Soviet Russia (New York: Viking Press, 1960); Nathan Glazer, The Social Basis of American Communism (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 196I); Harvey Klehr, Communist Cadre: The Social Background of the American Party Elite (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1978), and The Heyday of American Communism (New York: Basic Books, 1984); and Philip Selznick, Organizational Weapons: A Study of Bolshevik Strategy and Tactics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1952). Noteworthy studies that involve some measure of interviewing party members (or former party members) are Gabriel Almond, The Appeals of Communism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954), and Morris Ernst and David Loth, Report on the American Communist (New York: Henry Holt, 1952).

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available research cannot be assumed to be truly representative of the hard-core revolutionary left, a circumstance that makes the reported comparisons between the radical left and radical right less revealing than they might otherwise be. Given what one can intuitively observe about the conduct of hard-core revolutionary activists (whether members of the Old Left or New Left), one can only assume that surveys of a more representative sample of such left-wing militants would reveal that, in their attitudes towards democracy and authoritarianism, they resemble the radical right more closely than the available research has so far shown.

One should keep in mind also that the portrait of the radical left that emerges from a survey of its American supporters is strongly coloured by the way they see themselves in relation to the political system. As an ineffectual revolutionary sect functioning in a society that is largely hostile to its values and activities, the far left in the United States views itself as a beleaguered, persecuted minority, as the actual or potential victims of surveillance, censorship and repression. Unlike their left revolutionary confederates who have seized power in other countries, and who retain it through ideological manipulation, bureaucratic controls and crushing reliance on force, American radicals are outsiders and deviants - victims (in their own eyes), rather than persecutors, the targets rather than the perpetrators of repression. This view of themselves as an oppressed political minority naturally inclines them to express greater support' than they otherwise might for the rights of speech, assembly, publication and due process, especially when these rights are perceived as affecting the treatment of left-wing radicals and the groups with which they identify. As a deviant and beleaguered minority, they become defenders of nonconformity, critics of 'police brutality', and champions of free elections and the rights of opposition parties. Since one has reason to believe that radical support for these and other democratic stands is largely self-serving, motivated by the particular circumstances in which they function (their revolutionary allies abroad, after all, overwhelmingly reject these democratic stands when they are in power), any assessment of what American left-wing radicals 'really' believe about democratic rights or authoritarian rule cannot be reliably inferred from their public statements on human rights. Such differences as one might encounter in comparing the views of the far left and the far right with respect to, say, authoritarianism and civil liberties, are doubtless, to some extent, spurious, the products of social location and political expediency rather than principle or intellectual and moral conviction.

We cannot claim in the present study to have overcome all of the difficulties involved in comparing the motivations and beliefs of the far left and far right.

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals


For example, although we have managed to collect excellent samples of right-wing activists, we have not been able to enlist the co-operation of hard-core left-wing organizations and their members in our surveys, and our left-wing sympathizers' samples are therefore less 'pure' and less militant than we would like. Nevertheless, we have been able to identify in each of several of our national samples a small number of individuals who, by their embrace of various left-wing beliefs and values and their rejection of right-wing beliefs and values (as shown by their scores on carefully devised far-left and far-right scales), can be classified with some confidence as sympathetic to the far left. Their responses to various issue and attitude questions also correspond to what we know from experience and intuitive observation about left-wing beliefs on those questions. (A similar procedure, appropriately adjusted, was used to select samples of the far right.) Other respondents can be (and have been) classified as 'moderates', i.e., respondents who reject the views of both the left and the right, and thus score 'low' on both the far-left and far-right scales. Samples reflecting each of these ideological tendencies have been drawn from our Opinions and Values survey (OVS I976-77), our Civil Liberties survey (CLS 1978-79), and our earlier survey of Political Affiliation
and Belief (PAB I958).18

For reasons already stated, we expected to find that far-left and far-right radicals, if properly screened and selected through appropriate procedures, would resemble each other in a number of important ways having to do with radical zeal, tactics, political style, and political and psychological inflexibility. We further expected them to exhibit distrust of democratic institutions and practices and other key aspects of American society; to express reluctance to grant civil liberties to critics and opponents; and to display intolerance towards individuals and groups whose views conflict with their own. We also anticipated, however, that, in the United States at least, the two extremes would diverge on a number of ideological or programmatic values that generally divide liberals from conservatives, including egalitarianism, religion, chauvinism, ethnocentrism, tradition, law and order, and free enterprise capitalism.

The far-left scales employed in the present study were designed to locate 'hard-core' left-wing radicals whose beliefs comport with those held by the
"' The Civil Liberties study employed a national cross-section sample of 1,993 adult Americans and I,891 community leaders drawn from various vocations. The OVS study employed a national cross-section of 938 respondents and a number of additional samples of opinion leaders drawn from twenty-three national organizations, most of them strongly ideological and active in public affairs. The PAB study utilized a national cross-section sample of 1,484 adults and 3,020 political leaders who served as delegates to the 1956 Democratic and Republican conventions. For a fuller description of the studies, see Herbert McClosky and Alida Brill, Dimensions of Tolerance: What Americans Believe About Civil Liberties (New York: Basic Books, Russell Sage Foundation, 1983), pp. 25-31, 467-73.

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more militant revolutionaries of the past few decades. For example, the items in the left-wing scale of the OVS survey express many of the standard radical perspectives on American society, including the belief that unconventional or illegal methods are necessary to put the country on the right course; that the United States stands to benefit from the example provided by Communist nations; that the American form of government is 'one of the worst' and is 'rotten to the core'; that the United States has systematically pursued a policy of imperialism and world domination in the past quarter century; that individual terrorist or guerrilla acts 'are often the only way an oppressed group can win its rights'; that the best way to solve this country's problems 'is to overturn the whole society from top to bottom'; and that violence will probably be needed to change the system.19 These are strong statements, obviously extreme in the context of American political discourse, as evidenced by the tiny proportions of respondents in our various elite and mass samples who endorse the radical alternative included in each of the items. In the present paper, we have focused only on respondents from the elite samples in OVS, since these samples contain the most ideologically intense and politically active individuals. Our purpose here was to compare in the most meaningful way available to us the far left, the far right and the political moderates. This was accomplished by including in the far-left group all respondents who selected a radical response on at least eight of the fourteen far-left scale items. Although it resulted in a smaller sample than we desired, we chose a relatively high cut-off point in order to ensure that we had identified respondents who actually endorsed significant aspects of radical left ideology and who therefore were not simply 'relatively' left within the context of the larger sample.2" Our concern to obtain 'pure' samples had, however, to give way to a measure of expediency when we selected a far-left group out of the Civil Liberties survey. While the far-left scale from the Civil Liberties survey includes some of the same items that are in the far-left scale of the Opinions and Values survey, it also contains several items that are less extreme in their radicalism. Furthermore, in order to acquire a sufficient number of cases for analysis, we included in the far-left sample of the CLS all respondents who
19 For a full list of items in the far-left scale, see Appendix I.
201It should be noted that all of the far-left respondents in the OVS and Civil Liberties surveys

scored 'low' on the far-right scale; similarly, all of the far-right respondents in these two studies scored 'low' on the far-left scale. In the PAB study, there were a small number of respondents who scored 'high' on both the far-left and far-right scales. We have eliminated such respondents by selecting out for purposes of analysis only those extreme believers who scored high on one of the radicalism scales and low on the other. The reason for this was to screen out respondents whose careless response tendencies led them to answer not only inconsistently but chaotically. While there is, of course, a degree of overlap between the left and the right in certain of their values, attitudes and tactical perspectives, we concluded, after inspection, that scoring high on both scales was less a measure of a meaningful ideological statement than a sign of carelessness and even mindlessness in response style. Hence we chose, though with some misgivings, to exclude those respondents from the analysis.

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals


chose the radical response to only six or more of the fourteen far-left items. In addition, the far-left respondents in the CLS were drawn from the general population sample, in contrast to the highly participant, elite respondents in the OVS, who are actively involved in political advocacy and public affairs and who, from all available evidence, are inclined to embrace political ideas more intensely and to find ideological issues more salient than do respondents in the general population. Hence, we have reason to believe that the far-left sample in the CLS is less intensely radical and militant than the far-left sample in the OVS study. These differences in the nature of the samples in the two surveys should be kept in mind when interpreting the data to be presented shortly, since, as a result, the degree of similarity between left-wing and right-wing radicals will usually be smaller in the Civil Liberties survey than in the OVS. Likewise, the contrast between the far-left respondents and the moderates in the Civil Liberties survey will also be reduced. The ten items chosen for the far-left scale in the Political Affiliation and Belief survey closely resembled in content the items employed in OVS. They differ in format, however, in that the PAB items are in the agree-disagree form while the OVS (and CLS) items are of the sentence-completion/forcedchoice type (see Appendix I).

Like the far-left scales, the OVS far-right scales are designed to select out right-wing radicals among our samples of opinion leaders and activists, while the CLS version serves the purpose of identifying sympathizers of the radical right in the general population. The OVS far-right scale consists of fourteen items which reflect many of the standard views associated with the radical right, including such beliefs as the

Communism is so evil that we should go to any length to destroyit. The United States was meant to be a Christiannation. Any Americanwho shows disrespectfor the flag shouldbe turnedover to patriotsto be taughta lesson. An Americanwho doesn't believe that this is the best countryin the world doesn't deserve to live here. Most campus protests and anti-wardemonstrations. . . are secretly organizedby foreign agents. Waris cruel, but it does teachpeople somethingabouthonor,loyalty,andcourage. As these examples suggest, the items we designed for the far-right scale were strongly flavoured and somewhat provocative in tone, on the assumption that traditional conservatives but not right-wing radicals might be deterred from endorsing them. Presumably, although conservatives share many of the same values as the radical right (as our data show), they will be less likely to approve of statements that are, so to speak, 'beyond the pale'.
21 For the full list of scale items, see Appendix II.

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As in the classification of the far-left respondents, the choice of a cutting point to decide who should be included among the far right involved a balancing of practical criteria: one had to ensure not only that enough respondents were included for purpose of analysis, but also that the rightwing respondents, as classified by the far-right scale, were 'extreme' or 'radical' in their political beliefs. With these considerations in mind, we decided that any respondent who endorsed ten or more of the fourteen items belonged in the far-right group. The nine-item far-right scale in the Civil Liberties study is very similar in composition to the far-right scale in the Opinion and Values survey, containing four of the same items. In classifying respondents in the Civil Liberties survey, any person endorsing the right-wing alternative on at least eight of the items was considered a supporter of the far right. The twelve items in the far-right scale of the PAB survey also resemble in content the items in OVS, though they were cast in the agree-disagree format. In all of the subsequent tests, we also provide data on the responses of political moderates, in addition to the data on the two radical camps. The responses of the moderates provide us with a baseline against which to evaluate the scores of right-wing and left-wing radicals.22

There are many overt ways in which left-wing and right-wing politics stand in sharp contrast to each other. The left harbours the notion that the people are trapped by the oppressive., dehumanizing institutions of capitalist society, and it plans to 'liberate' these people by making them aware of their impoverished existence. The left, therefore, exhorts people to question their 'slavish' acceptance of the status quo, to renounce their materialist aspirations, and to become aware of their 'true' needs as opposed to the 'false consciousness' and artificial desires created by a manipulative, profit-seeking, commercial culture. As perceived by the right wing, the aspirations of the left constitute today's reality and its nightmare, so to speak. Whereas the left's message is liberation, the right's call is for control, self-abnegation and the reversal of decadent trends. In contrast to the conservatives' respect and praise for the existing social order, the extreme right repudiates many current practices and seeks dramatic and often drastic measures to set society on a more acceptable course. The fundamental philosophical and programmatic differences between the far left and far right are reflected in the scores of the two extreme camps on a number of attitude measures reported in Figure I.2' For instance, on the
22 In addition to the far-left and far-right scales, a number of scales were constructed to assess responses to the dependent variables considered in this study. The findings on these scales, and on some of the items they include, are presented below. 23 We might observe, parenthetically. that the differences between the far left and far right on these measures lend a degree of construct validity to the far-left and far-right scales and help to clarify the appropriateness of the far-left and far-right responses.

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals

OVS Scales Conventionality (% High)


Traditional family values (% High)

100 100

Sexual freedom (% High)

Far left


Far right

Far left (48)

Far right (1,334) (151) Mod.

Far left (48)

Far right (1,334) (151)


Racial equality (% High)

100 100

Women's rights (% High)

100 1

Welfare (% High)

Far left (48)

Far right (1,334) (151) Mod.

Far left (48)

Far right (1,334) (151) Mod.

Far left (48)

Far right (1,334) (151) Mod.

PAB Scales Business attitudes (% High)

100 100

Chauvinism (% High)

Religiosity (% High)



Far left (71) *

Far right (1,592) (243) Mod.

Far left (71)

Far right (1,592) (243) Mod.

Far left (71)

Far right (1,592) (243) Mod.

Sample size

Fig. 1. Differences between the far left and the far right

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'conventionality' scale, which assesses attitudes towards traditional practices and customary forms of behaviour, 71 per cent of the far-right sample score in the 'high' category, compared to o per cent of the far-left sample. The sample of political moderates is the intermediate group, although it tends to be closer to the far left than to the far right on this dimension. The same pattern of responses turns up on the 'family values' scale, which measures preference for either firm, authoritarian child-rearing practices or a more democratic approach. Here the far right clearly leans in the direction of strong parental control (71 per cent) while the overwhelming majority of the far left (92 per cent) support an approach in which children are granted a voice in family matters. This sharp division between the left and the right also surfaces in their responses to the measure of attitudes towards 'sexual freedom', which includes questions on homosexuality, sexual content in movies, sex education for schoolchildren and freedom of sexual conduct between adults. On this dimension, there is a precipitous decline in support for sexual freedom as we go from far left to far right on the ideological continuum. Ninety-eight per. cent of the far-left group fall in the 'high support' category, compared with 78 per cent of the moderates, while, in stark contrast, none of the far-right respondents can be found in the 'high' category. As for racial equality and women's rights, the far left again stands in sharp opposition to the far right, expressing greater support for both forms of equality. The political moderates, as befits their label, fall towards the middle of the distribution but, once again, hold attitudes which are somewhat closer to the far left than to the far right. In their attitudes towards social welfare policies, the contrast between the far left and the far right, as one might expect, is almost total, with 98 per cent of the far left expressing strong support as against a mere i per cent of the far right. Similarly, on a measure assessing support for laissez-faire economic practices, the left and right are almost 80 per cent apart in their endorsement of these practices, with each group scoring in the expected direction. The marked contrast between left and right in their scores on social and economic issues is repeated on measures of national chauvinism or superpatriotism and religious devotion. Over 40 per cent of the far right score high on the chauvinism scale, compared to only 2 per cent of the moderates and none of the far left, with 'high' scores reflecting intolerance towards immigrants, inordinate concern over the potential contamination of America by foreign ideas, fervent allegiance to the 'American way of life', and underlying suspicions about the trustworthiness of America's allies. Finally, the much higher scores of the far right on the religiosity measure reflects their greater propensity to believe in the Bible as the word of God, the second coming of Christ, the relationship between godlessness and social disorder, and the importance of religious belief to the well-being of society.

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals



The strength of these and other programmatic differences between the radical left and radical right frequently act to obscure the characteristics that are shared by the two camps. These similarities are essentially of two varieties. Certain of them result from the mutual estrangement of the radical left and right from the political mainstream, while others reflect the common political and psychological style that infuses and colours right-wing and left-wing rhetoric and activity. In the first category we would place the dissatisfaction of the two camps with the status quo, their resentment towards mainstream politicians and political practices, and their support of populist campaigns that promise the return of political power to the 'masses' (so labelled by the left) or the 'common people' (so labelled by the right). The characteristics in the second category include intolerance of ambiguity, intolerance towards political opponents, attraction to totalitarian measures and tactics, intolerance of human frailty, and paranoid tendencies - including a belief in conspiracy and feelings of persecution.

While the far left and far right disagree strongly about the proper role of government in society, they share a common antipathy towards politicians as well as towards the ways in which the government operates. As the Political Affiliation and Belief data in Figure 2 reveal, radicals at either extreme are more likely than political moderates to be cynical and suspicious about politics. Both extreme groups also have less faith in the workings of democracy. As their responses to the specific items in Table i indicate, left-wing and right-wing radicals tend to believe that politicians covet public office for reasons of personal gain rather than service to their constituents. They are also more likely than moderates to believe that politicians conceal their true aims and will tell voters anything that helps to get them elected.
Faith in democracy (% High) 100 100 71 54 29 16 0 Far left (71) Far right (1,592) (243) Mod. 16 I Far left (71) Far right (1,592) (243) Mod. 0 Far left (71) Far right (1,592) (243) Mod. 28 36 40 Faith in politics (% High) 100 79 Faith in politicians (% High)

Fig. 2. Estrangement from politics (PAB scale scores)

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Estrangement from Politics (PAB)

Percentageagreeing with each item Item No matterwhat the people think, a few
people will always run things anyway things go on pretty much the same 29-2

Far left

Moderate Far right


51I0 36.6 59'3

It seems to me that whoever you vote for,

do not even get known to the voters

The people who really 'run'the country

74'0 27-2

No politiciandares tell the voters exactlyhow he reallyfeels Politiciansdo not care much about what they say, so long as they get elected The best way to get elected is to put on a good show Most politiciansare in politics for
what they can get out of it personally winning elections and nothing more (N)

43.8 57'5 6I.I

36. I

20 I

47'9 56-3 62.8

50-0 52-I (243)


Most politicalpartiescare only about

193 (I,587)


Furthermore, radicals are more inclined to believe that electoral outcomes are meaningless, having little bearing on the policies subsequently pursued by the victors. Similar findings, reported in Table 2, turn up in the Opinions and Values survey, although here the antagonism towards the government is clearly stronger among the far left. Large majorities of the radical left, often approaching unanimity, feel that government leaders cannot be taken at their word, and that the government is unresponsive to the wishes and needs of the people. Although the far right is also more disenchanted with government than are the moderates, the degree of its alientation is less intense than that of the radical left. As their responses to the items in Table 2 indicate, the political cynicism of the radical left and radical right goes beyond discontent with current office holders to a more fundamental dissatisfaction with the system itself. It is evident from Table 3A, for example, that both groups share a conspiratorial interpretation of American politics. By large margins, left-wing and rightwing radicals are more likely than moderates to believe that the important political decisions are made in secret by people beyond the public eye, and that people are duped into thinking that they govern themselves when, in fact, 'they really don't'. By margins greater than two to one, the far left and

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals



Political Cynicism (OVS) Percentage reading down

Item Most of the things government leaders tell us: -Can't really be believed
-Are true

Far left


Far right


26-8 19-9

47-0 15'9

(Decline to choose) Most of the time our system of government: -Disregards what the people want -Tries to do what the people want (Decline to choose) People with my point of view who go to a government official with a problem: -Are not likely to be listened to
-Can expect a fair hearing







52.5 33-5

26-5 52.3 2I-2

o.o 14.6

5I-0 31.7

37-7 45-0

(Decline to choose) (N)

I7.3 (I5I)




Paranoid Tendencies (PAB) Percentage agreeing with each item

Item We'd be much better off now if our foreign affairs were conducted out in the open, for all to see, rather than secretly Most of the news we get from the press and the radio is deliberately slanted to mislead us I often feel that the really important matters are decided behind the scenes by people we never even hear about The people think they govern themselves, but they really don't

Far left


Far right







54-8 (72)

32-0 II-2

.515 (242)

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Paranoid Tendencies (PA B scale scores)

Percentagereadingdown Score
Low Middle High (N)

Far left

Moderate Far right

65-9 25.8 8-4 (I,592) 25'9 42-0 32I1 (243)

38-4 41-1 (73)

far right are more likely than the political moderates to say that our foreign policy is being 'secretly' formulated. Both are also far more likely than moderates to assert that radio broadcasts and newspaper stories are 'deliberately slanted' to deceive the public. These political suspicions and conspiratorial notions seem to be manifestations of a more basic paranoid tendency which both camps exhibit in a variety of contexts. Our data show that in everyday interpersonal matters, radicals at both extremes strongly believe that they are not given their proper due and that they are often mistreated and misunderstood by people. They are also more prone to feel slighted and persecuted by others and to believe that few people in the world can really be trusted 'when you get right down to it'. On the overall 'paranoid tendencies' scale (see Table 3B), the similarity between the radical right and radical left, and the contrast between the moderates and both extremes, are high-lighted with striking clarity. Over 40 per cent of the far left and 32 per cent of the far right score 'high' on paranoid tendencies, compared to only 8 per cent of the moderates.

Despite the suspicions of both the left and right towards the government, their anti-system responses are usually triggered by different issues. In responding, for example, to a series of items concerning the influence of the wealthy and powerful on the courts, the nation's laws, the newspapers and the political parties, the far left was the most willing of the ideological groups to condemn these institutions as pawns of the rich. None of this is surprising, of course, since hostility to capitalist elites and the establishment has long been a dominant feature of radical-left politics. But the radical right is also disenchanted with these institutions, though for different reasons. Its anger is detonated, not by the institutions' alleged association with wealth or 'business', but by their supposed susceptibility to the influence of an entrenched liberal establishment. In their view, government offices, the press, the foundations and other powerful institutions are overflowing with technocrats and academics trained at liberal colleges and universities. These universities are also the 'farm system' that stocks the judiciary and various other professions. Thus, paradoxically, despite their patriotic fervour, spokesmen of the

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals


radical right are profoundly antagonistic towards the status quo. They continually lash out against what they consider to be the government's conciliatory stance towards Communism, its support for welfare programmes (which, in their view, rewards laziness and lack of initiative), its encouragement of moral depravity (sexual licence, tolerance of abortion, homosexuality, etc.), and its lenient treatment of criminals. Both extremes also vilify the media for providing biased versions of political and social reality, catering to special interests and collaborating with government officials to mislead the public. However, whereas the left believes the media to be the captives of the right and the servants of a reactionary state, the right sees them as blatantly left-wing, purveyors of filth, pornography, a decadent morality and bankrupt liberal or radical programmes. Thus, the source of current right-wing anti-establishment rhetoric stems from the right's conviction that the establishment perpetuates an immoral leftist philosophy and not so much that it caters to corporate interests. Such anti-corporate sentiments were far more prevalent in the populist movements of, say, the People's party and Huey Long than in the current incarnation of the radical right. The different bases for radical-right and radical-left antagonism towards American society is brought out dramatically by their responses to an item in Table 4 which asks whether they believe the American system in recent years has been drifting either 'to the right, toward fascism', or 'to the left, toward communism'. Whereas political moderates tend to say that neither is the case, large majorities of the far left and far right continually warn that the country is moving towards the opposite political extreme. Thus, in contrast to a judicious assessment that American society may have moved somewhat in either a liberal or a conservative direction, the radicals of the left and right insist on the more dire conclusion that America is approaching the abyss represented by either communism or fascism - depending on the ideological vantage point of the doomsayer. Such apocalyptic forebodings symbolize the crude and indiscriminate political analysis habitual among extremists on both sides. Witness, for example, the conviction on the far right that the government is the pawn of the communists and the parallel conviction among the far left that it is the pawn of the capitalists. Moreover, their eagerness to label as 'fascist' or 'communist' any competing ideology or any social change that departs from their programmatic goals is consistent with the findings we shall present on their intolerance of ambiguity and their unbounded hostility towards opponents. In Table 4, we see that the adherents of the radical right go so far as to accuse liberals and left-wing radicals actually of having 'sold America out' to the communists. They also protest that too much money is being spent on social welfare programmes and not enough on military defence, whereas the far left holds the contrary view. Similarly, the two camps also differ in criticizing the government and the courts for being too hard, or too easy, on lawbreakers and protesters.

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Sources of Left-Wing and Right-Wing Political Disaffection (OVS)

Percentage reading down

Item In recent years the American system has been drifting -To the right, toward fascism -To the left, toward communism (Decline to choose) The spread of communism after World War II -Can't be blamed on any American group in particular -Was the fault of certain liberals and left-wing radicals who sold America out (Decline to choose) Too much of our money is going for: -Military defence
-Social welfare programs (Decline to choose)

Far left


Far right

8I13 o.o I8-8

24-1 14'7 6I12


8i-5 I5-9




oo 29-2 Ioo.o
0.o o-o

6o 16'9 65-5 o.o

14-2 20-2

89-4 6-o

97'4 2.6

One reason modern government has grown so big and complicated is that: -They do so many things that people
need and want 41'7 4'2 54.2 25-0 57'9 I9.5 22.6 4'9 2-0 96-o 2-0 o0o


do things that people should

do for themselves (Decline to choose)

In your opinion the courts are:

-Too hard

-Too easy on people who break the law (Decline to choose) In handling protest demonstrations, the government has usually been:
-Too -Too (N)

8-3 66-7

36.6 58-5

98-0 2-0

(Decline to choose)

tough easy

89'6 o0o

42 7 7-7

o-7 92-1





Elements of traditional populist mistrust of American institutions can also be discerned in the rhetoric of both the far left and the far right. It is, however, evident from the OVS data presented above that the populist suspicion of big

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals



Populism (PA B)

Percentageagreeing with each item Item The East has alwayshad far too much
say about the affairs of this country 26-4 I6-o 55.8

Far left

Moderate Far right

One of our main troublesis that the big Wall Street money men still have things too much their own way in this country We could probablysolve most of our big nationalproblemsif government could actuallybe broughtback to the
people at the grassroots to hold down the job of a congressman




56'9 37'5

3888 i8 i

85-I 28-0

Most people know enough to be able

In the long run, I'll put my trust in the 'simpledown-to-earth' thinking of ordinarypeople ratherthan 'the theories of experts and intellectuals'




business is more characteristic of the left wing than the right wing - a finding corroborated by the PAB results presented in Table 5. On the other hand, the right's populist fervour surfaces in its attacks on such favourite targets as intellectuals, the (liberal) Eastern establishment, mainstream politics and politicians, and big government in general. Of particular note are the items in Table 5 that have to do with the special virtues of the mythical common man and the superiority of 'grass roots' government. Here we find that when populist sentiments exalting the superiority of the average man are untainted by obvious ideological cues such as references to business or intellectuals which tend to polarize the left and right - they tend to be endorsed by both the extreme right and extreme left. In contrast to the policies of the contemporary American right, both the nineteenth-century populism of the People's party and Huey Long's ironfisted version of populist rule in the 1930s contained broad streaks of economic liberalism. Unlike these earlier populist movements, the contemporary American right (with the exception of the George Wallace movement) has few liberal economic planks. Indeed, the New Right calls, in effect, not only for the abolition of the welfare state but for the virtual dismantling of much of the governmental apparatus, with the exception of the police and the defence establishment.

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MCCLOSKY AND CHONG PAB Intoleranceof ambiguity (% High) OVS Intoleranceof ambiguity (% High) 100 75 63 49 33 25 0 Far Mod. Far left right (71) (1,592) (243) r . .0 ,0 27 O 0 I19 Far Mod. Far left right (73) (1,592) (243) 39 81 100 PAB Psychological rigidity (% High)


~, O
Far Mod. Far left right (48) (1,334) (151)

Fig. 3. Intolerance of ambiguity and rigidity (scale scores)

Hence, the major focus of the contemporary far right - reminiscent of certain strains of the populist tradition - is on the moral disintegration of American society. Today, the far right sees this disintegration manifested in the legalization of abortion, the prohibition of organized prayer in the public schools, the weakening of patriotism, the increase in drug abuse, premarital sexual activity, homosexuality, divorce and the alleged decline of family values, and the proliferation of pornography.

Evidence from the OVS and PAB survey reveals that both left-wing and right-wing extremists show high levels of intolerance of ambiguity and psychological rigidity (see Figure 3). On these dimensions, both the far right and far left are substantially more rigid and intolerant of ambiguity than the moderates. This finding is expressed with particular clarity in their responses to the items in Table 6. Both the left and the right, for instance, are much more likely than moderates to believe that in politics, there is no middle ground people are 'either with you or against you'. They prefer to take a stand on the issues rather than to remain uncommitted, even if it means being wrong. They tend to believe that there is only one answer to important social and philosophical issues. And they are less willing to settle for compromises in the political arena, as indicated by their greater tendency to agree to the statement that 'in politics you should settle for nothing less than total victory'.24
24 Further analysis shows that left radicals are also more intolerant of ambiguity than conservatives. Liberals are the most tolerant of ambiguity, but it is the conservatives who rank second. Nevertheless, liberals are considerably more tolerant of ambuiguity than conservatives (39 per cent of the liberals in OVS score 'low' on the scale compared to only I9 per cent of the conservatives).

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals



Intolerance of Ambiguity (OVS and PAB)

Percentage reading down

Item On important public issues, I believe you should: -Always keep in mind that there is more than one side to most issues -Either be for them or against them and not take a middle course (Decline to choose) Which is better: To remain undecided To take a stand on an issue even if it's wrong (Decline to choose) When it comes to the really important questions about religion and philosophy of life: -It doesn't especially bother me to leave them undecided -A person must decide them, one way or the other (Decline to choose) In trying to accomplish anything in politics you should: -Settle for nothing less than total victory -Try to achieve the best possible compromise (Decline to choose)
(N for OVS items)

Far left


Far right

417 39.6 I8-7


80o9 8-4 IO-7

46-4 47'0 6.6


28-5 45'0 26-5

43-8 35.4

27-2 28.3

29-2 58-3 I2-5

42-I 37'3 20-5

I4.6 79'5 5'9



25.8 60-3 13'9


37-5 (48)

88-2 io-5

People who say they are 'open-minded' are just looking for an excuse to avoid making up their minds I believe that you're really for something or against it, and anything in between is just an excuse to avoid the issue People who try to steer a 'middle course' are usually just afraid to take a stand
(N for PAB items)








24-8 (1,584)


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Tolerance of Left-Wing Expression (CLS and OVS) Percentage reading down

Item who mockthe presidentby Protesters wearingdeath masksat one of his public speeches: -Should have the right to appearin any kind of -Should be removedfrom the
audience by the police (Decline to choose) (N of CLS sample) costume they want

Far left

Moderate Far right

47.4 31.6 21-0 (19)


IO-5 80-7 8-8 (57)


When it comes to free speech, extremists: -Should have the same rightsas -Should not be allowed to spread their propaganda (Decline to choose) 'Crackpot'ideas: -Have as much right to be heard
as sensible ideas everyone else 87-5


o.o I2-5

o 7'

-8 9


70.8 8-3 20-9 (48)

Sometimeshave to be censored
for the public good (Decline to choose) (N of OVS sample)

85-4 5'7 8'9


29-8 57'0 13-2 (I5I)

While it is widely assumed that the left diverges sharply from the right in its support of civil liberties, there are reasons, many of them already suggested, to question this assumption. We have, for example, previously noted the far left's arguments for 'repressive tolerance', which counsels intolerance towards groups the far left regards as inimical to its cherished values. Hence, we should expect the far left to parcel out tolerance in a very instrumental fashion, supporting civil liberties for those with whom they agree or sympathize, but not for those whose beliefs or conduct they regard as egregious. These expectations are strongly borne out by the data. When we examine the tolerance of left-wing radicals towards atheists, political 'extremists', 'crackpots', and critics of the government, we find that they are almost as permissive as the moderates, while the radical right is the least tolerant. (See Table 7 for examples.) However, the far left is much less libertarian when confronted with groups or individuals of whom it disapproves. This contrast is brought out, for example, on items measuring support for academic freedom in the university.

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals



Tolerance of Right-Wing Expression (CLS)

Percentage of replies to each item

Item A humor magazine which ridicules or makes fun of blacks, women, or other minority groups: -Should have the same right as any other magazine to print what it wants -Should lose its mailing privileges (Decline to choose) If the majority in a referendum votes to stop publication of newspapers that preach race hatred: -No one, not even the majority of voters, should have the right to close down a newspaper -Such newspapers should be closed down (Decline to choose) The movie industry: -Should be free to make movies on any subject it chooses -Should not be permitted to make movies that offend certain minorities or religious groups (Decline to choose) A group that wants to buy advertising space in a newspaper to advocate war against another country: -Should have as much right to buy advertising space as a group that favors world peace -Should be turned down by the newspaper (Decline to choose)

Far left


Far right

42-1 36.8 I II

73-0 6-6 20-4

40-4 33-3 I6-3

27-8 50-0 22-2


36-8 42-I 21I-

21-3 27'4

36.8 o0o

70-9 6-6




21-1 68-4 Io-5


37-9 31'3 30.8


17-5 70-2 I2-3


Asked whether one is ever justified in refusing to hire a professor because of his 'unusual political beliefs', left radicals are more likely than any other group to say such action cannot be justified. In this case, presumably, they recognize that their own interests are likely to be at stake. In contrast, on the issue of whether a university should refuse to hire a professor because 'he believes certain races are inferior', radicals of the left and right are more likely than the moderates to assert that such action 'may be necessary if his views are really extreme'.

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Tolerance of Nazis and the Klan (CLS) Percentage reading down

Item When groups like the Nazis or other extreme groups require police protection at their rallies and marches, the community should: -Supply and pay for whatever police protection is needed -Prohibit such groups from holding rallies because of the costs and dangers involved (Decline to choose) If some students at a college want to form a 'Campus Nazi Club': -They should be allowed to do so -College officials should ban such clubs from campus (Decline to choose) Should groups like the Nazis and Ku Klux Klan be allowed to appear on public television to state their views? -Yes, should be allowed no matter who is offended -No, because they would offend certain racial or religious groups (Decline to choose) (N)

Far left


Far right

26'3 57'9 15'8


17'5 77'2 5'3

36'9 35'9

2.11 68-4 10-5

33'8 38-5 27'7

7.0 89-5 3'5

36.8 36-8 26-4 (19)



23-4 38'6 (195)

57'9 19'4 (57)

As can be seen in Table 8, both the far left and the far right are much more inclined than the moderates to allow a majority to close down newspapers that preach race hatred; both are also far more willing than moderates to take away the mailing privileges of a humorous magazine that makes fun of blacks, women and other minorities; both would prevent film-makers from producing films that offend minorities or religious groups, and both would prohibit a group from purchasing advertising space in order to advocate war against a foreign country. Similarly, on a series of questions asked in the Civil Liberties survey concerning the rights of Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan to appear on public television, to establish a campus organization, to receive police protection for a public rally, etc., the far left exhibits less tolerance than moderates. (See Table 9.)

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals



Tolerance of Right-Wing Expression (OVS) Percentage reading down

Item If a speakerat a public meeting begins to make racialslurs, the audienceshould: -Let him have his say and then
answer him

Far left

Moderate Far right


84-3 I I4


(Decline to choose)

-Stop him from speaking




Any television station that recommends the use of militaryaction against demonstrators: -Has a rightto express its views -Should have its licence taken away
(Decline to choose) on public affairs 27-I


67-5 I I5



MeetingsurgingAmericato make war againstan enemy nation: -Have as much rightto be held as meetingsthat supportpeace Are so inhumanthat we should not
allow them to be held (Decline to choose)

22-9 333

2.8 1I.3

9'9 15-3

A radio or TV station that alwaysspeaks for the rich and powerfulagainstthe poor and oppressed: -Should have the rightto favoror
present a more balanced picture (Decline to choose) (N)

-Should be requiredby law to

oppose any group it chooses

4'2 77.1 18-7 (48)

23-2 58-7 i8 I (I,334)

25-5 49'7
251I (I5i)

A stronger test of left-wing and right-wing tolerance can be made by examining several questions from the OVS survey of ideological elites. The more hardcore radical left in this survey turns out to be the least tolerant of the three groups when asked, for example, about a speaker who utters racial slurs; a group which meets in order to urge America to go to war against another country; a television station that advocates the use of the military to combat demonstrators; and a radio or television station that favours the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and oppressed (see Table io). While we have focused attention in this section on the expediency of left-wing support for freedom of expression, we should note that the right is

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similarly partisan in its responses on issues that engage its bias. Witness, for example, its responses to the items in Table io, which show that, when confronted with right-wing causes and groups, the far right may be as tolerant as the moderates and more tolerant than the far left. Furthermore, the supporters of the radical right are far more likely than the radical left (48 per cent to 21 per cent) to permit an elected congressman to take office even if he advocates violence against minorities. (Over 68 per cent of the left would deny him the right to office.) Thus, despite its overall pattern of intolerance, the far right exhibits a fair measure of tolerance on issues that clearly reflect its ideological preferences. In this aspect, as in others, it resembles the far left. The bias with which the far left and far right apply the principle of tolerance is neatly summed up by their responses to the question that appears in Table I on the principle which should guide the granting of free speech. On this item we find that the political moderates, by a margin of approximately 30 per cent, are more likely than either the far left or the far right to favour the unconditional extension of free speech.

Free Speech (CLS)

Percentagereading down Item Free speech should be granted:

-To everyone regardless of how

Far left
42 I

Moderate Far right

711I 40'4

(Decline to choose)

intolerantthey are of other people's opinions -Only to people who are willingto grant the same rightsof free speech to everyone else


I6.5 12-4











The greater willingness of both extremes to trample on the rights of individuals in order to achieve their goals is further demonstrated in Table 12 by their scores on a scale measuring support for totalitarian aims and tactics. Almost 50 per cent of the far left and 60 per cent of the far right score 'middle' or 'high' on this measure, compared to 23 per cent of the moderates. Their responses to several of the items in Table 13 reveal the tough-minded and ruthless attitudes of right-wing and left-wing extremists. For example, the two radical camps are more likely than the moderates to endorse the use of unfair and brutal methods to achieve what they perceive to be a higher purpose.

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals

TA B L E 2


Totalitarianism (PA B scale scores) Percentage reading down

Score Low
Middle High (N)

Far left 54-8

35-6 9-6 (73)

Moderate 76-5
2I-5 1-9 (I,592)

Far right 39'5

42.8 I7'7 (243)


Totalitarianism (PAB) Percentage agreeing with each item

Item We might as well make up our minds that in order to make the world better a lot of innocent people will have to suffer To bring about great changes for the benefit of mankind often requires cruelty and even ruthlessness Soft and idealistic people can never be the doers of great events Almost any unfairness or brutality may have to be justified when some great purpose is being carried out The unhappiness of a few people simply doesn't matter when it is a question of a step forward for the majority of the people Sometimes, when a new society is in its early stages, the masses have to be ruled with an iron hand for their
own good

Far left


Far right




26-4 26-8

12.6 I3.8

23.6 58-4














Both the left and the right express disdain for people whom they regard as 'soft and idealistic', showing a greater preference, relative to moderates, for unsentimental leadership that deals strictly, and callously if necessary, with the people being led. Left and right radicals are also more likely to agree to statements that endorse intolerance of non-conformity and the prerogatives of the majority to ignore the rights and concerns of the minority.

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Intolerance of Human Frailty (PAB) Percentageagreeing with each item

Item A personwho lets himselfbe pushed aroundhas no right to expect sympathywhen thingsturn out badly for him A person'semotions should always be held in check by the moral code It's all rightto have friends, but you shouldn'tlet yourselfget so attachedthat you're alwayshaving to do thingsfor them

Far left

Moderate Far right

58-3 68 I

43.9 53-8







F-Authoritarianism (PAB Scale Scores) Percentage reading down

Score Low Middle High (N)

Far left 54-8 39.7 5'5 (73)

Moderate Far right 68-5 27.8 3.7 (1,592) 12-3 49.8 37.9 (243)

The self-professed toughness of the extreme left and right is further elucidated by their responses to a set of items measuring 'intolerance of human frailty'. (See Table I4.) Although the differences are not large, they reveal the willingness of the two extreme camps to forsake personal friendships in the service of 'truth' or 'greatness' and to assume an unyielding, aggressive and emotionally detached posture. When we turn to the F scale, the most familiar measure of authoritarianism, the left, for reasons we discussed earlier, do not score very high in comparison to the far right, although they do register a slightly higher score than the political moderates. As can be seen in Table I5, almost 38 per cent of the far right score 'high' on the F scale compared to fewer than 6 per cent of the far left. An examination of specific F-scale items in Table I6 indicates that the far-left supporters respond more favourably to some items than others, depending on the explicit content of the items. Certain of the items reflect

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals




(PAB items)

Percentageagreeing with each item Item Sex crimes, such as rape and attacks on children,deserve more than mere suchcriminals ought imprisonment; to be publiclywhipped, or worse Most people don't realize how much our lives are controlledby plots hatchedin secret places Young people sometimesget rebellious ideas, but as they grow up they ought to get over them and settle

Far left

Moderate Far right










People can be dividedinto two distinctclasses: the weak and

the strong 30-1 I9-2 56-4

There is hardlyanythinglower than a person who does not feel a great love, gratitude,andrespectfor
his parents 57-1 56-2 83-0

Obedienceand respectfor authority are the most importantvirtueschildren

should learn
(N) 47.2



values that have a transparently greater appeal to adherents of the far right than of the far left. Among these are items pertaining to the treatment of perpetrators of sex crimes, the need for young people to control their rebellious ideas, the great virtue of expressing 'love, gratitude, and respect for one's parents', and the paramount importance of instilling in children obedience and respect for authority. Given the values reflected in these statements, it is not a surprise that left-wing respondents are the least likely to agree with them. On the other hand, when the content of the F-scale items reflects intolerance of ambiguity or a suspicion of conspiracies, we again find that the far left and far right, in their responses to these items, are significantly more authoritarian than the moderates.

Although some scholars have argued that authoritarianism is characteristic only of the right and not of the left, persuasive reasons exist for doubting this

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claim. Intuitive observation of left-wing and right-wing regimes as well as radical political movements of the left and right reveals striking parallels in their styles of political engagement, their reliance upon force, their disdain for democratic ideals and practices and their violations of civil liberties. In addition, systematic inquiry into the similarities and differences between far-left and far-right radicals in the United States has been hampered by various methodological difficulties. One can.list, among these, such problems as the obvious inappropriateness of the F scale (owing to its strong right-wing content) as a measure for identifying left-wing authoritarians; the difficulty of obtaining adequate samples of true believers of the extreme left and right; the self-image of the American left as a persecuted minority which, for reasons of self-interest, spuriously inflates the degree of support expressed by its members for individual rights and liberties; and the exposure of both extreme camps to the liberal democratic values dominating American political culture, which unmistakably colours their political rhetoric. We have reason to think that a similar study conducted in some - perhaps many - European countries would reveal even greater similarities between the far left and far right than we have turned up in the United States. Unlike the United States, which has enjoyed a strong liberal democratic tradition that has served to weaken and soften the intensity of its radical movements, a number of European countries, less wedded to liberal democratic principles, have developed a more vigorous, less diluted tradition of radical politics. These nations have long had to contend with powerful extremist movements actively and significantly engaged in the political struggles of their respective nations. The radical movements of Europe have been more extreme and zealous - more unequivocally revolutionary and reactionary - than the radical movements of the United States. The sustained confrontation of these extremist movements, in our view, is likely to have intensified the authoritarian propensities of each. In the present article, through a series of surveys in which we have tried to identify, as best we can, supporters of the far left and far right, we have systematically compared the two camps on a variety of political and psychological characteristics. We find, in keeping with the conventional view, that the far left and the far right stand at opposite ends of the familiar left-right continuum on many issues of public policy, political philosophy and personal belief. They hold sharply contrasting views on questions of law and order, foreign policy, social welfare, economic equality, racial equality, women's rights, sexual freedom, patriotism, social conventions, religion, family values and orientations towards business, labour and private enterprise. Nevertheless, while the two camps embrace different programmatic beliefs, both are deeply estranged from certain features of American society and highly critical of what they perceive as the spiritual and moral degeneration of American institutions. Both view American society as dominated by conspiratorial forces that are working to defeat their respective ideological aims. The degree of their alienation is intensified by the zealous and unyielding

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Left- Wing and Right-Wing Radicals


manner in which they hold their beliefs. Both camps possess an inflexible psychological and political style characterized by the tendency to view social and political affairs in crude, unambiguous and stereotypical terms. They see political life as a conflict between 'us' and 'them', a struggle between good and evil played out on a battleground where compromise amounts to capitulation and the goal is total victory. The far left and the far right also resemble each other in the way they pursue their political goals. Both are disposed to censor their opponents, to deal harshly with enemies, to sacrifice the well-being even of the innocent in order to serve a 'higher purpose', and to use cruel tactics if necessary to 'persuade' society of the wisdom of their objectives. Both tend to support (or oppose) civil liberties in a highly partisan and self-serving fashion, supporting freedom for themselves and for the groups and causes they favour while seeking to withhold it from enemies and advocates of causes they dislike. In sum, when the views of the far left and far right are evaluated against the standard left-right ideological dimension, they can appropriately be classified at opposite ends of the political spectrum. But when the two camps are evaluated on questions of political and psychological style, the treatment of political opponents, and the tactics that they are willing to employ to achieve their ends, they display many parallels that can rightly be labelled authoritarian.

(A) are often the only way an oppressedgroupcan win its rights; (B) are morallywrong and never do muchgood anyway.
25 Each of the items on the Far-Left and Far-Right scales also contains the response alternatives 'Neither' and 'Undecided'. To conserve space in the tables presented in this article, we have combined these responses into a single 'Decline to choose' category.

Individual terrorist or guerrilla acts:

Far-Left Scale The communistcountrieswill go down in historyas: (A) countriesthat reacheda new and higherstage of progress; that crushedhumanfreedom. (B) dictatorships When black militantgroupsuse violence to achieve their goals: (A) they deserve our supportconsideringthe way blackshave been treated; (B) they should be arrested. Educationin Americamainlyaims: (A) to help keep the mass of people undercontrol; (B) to teach people of all groupsto read, write, and get ahead. The sacrificesmade by the people in the communistcountries: (A) are necessaryand will benefit the people in the long run; (B) are not really in the people's interests. If the police are harderon radicalsthan on other groups: (A) the radicalsare entitled to use violence to strike back; (B) their actions should be broughtto the attentionof the courts.

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The best way to solve this country's problems and make life better for the American people is to: (A) overturn the whole society from top to bottom; (B) work within the system and try to reform it. The welfare of mankind can best be served: (A) by establishing a government controlled by the working class; (B) by improving our present government. Which is the better way to bring about necessary changes in society? (A) by demonstrating in the streets and disrupting the system; (B) through the election process. The American form of government is: (A) one of the worst; (B) one of the best. The use of violence to try to change the system: (A) is often the only way to get results; (B) usually hurts the cause more than it helps. American foreign policy for the past twenty-five years has shown that we are: (A) an imperialist and warlike country trying to dominate the world; (B) a country sincerely trying to defend the free world against aggression. The Americans who put this country down: (A) have seen through the fine words to the rotten core; (B) forget how well it compares to other countries.

Far-Right Scale Most campus protests and antiwar demonstrations: (A) are started by Americans who want to express their feelings and frustrations; (B) are secretly organized by foreign agents. An American who doesn't believe that this is the best country in the world: (A) has a right to his opinion; (B) doesn't deserve to live here. Books that preach the overthrow of the government should be: (A) made available by the library, just like any other book; (B) banned from the library. Any American who shows disrespect for the flag: (A) has the right to think what he pleases; (B) should be turned over to patriots to be taught a lesson. The most important values children should learn are: (A) independence and self-reliance; (B) love and respect for their parents. The employment of radicals by newspapers and TV: (A) is their right as Americans; (B) should be forbidden. If a foreign country is strongly opposed to our way of life: (A) we should still trade and try to get along with them; (B) we should refuse to trade with them.
26 See fn. 25.

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Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals


As a political system, communism: (A) has become so well established that we must learn to get along with it; (B) is so evil we should go to any lengths to destroy it. These days: (A) people have healthier and more relaxed ideas about sex; (B) there is too much sexual freedom and loose living. How would you feel if the United States were to lose its role as a leader among nations? (A) I doubt it would bother me much; (B) I would consider it tragic and humiliating. Which of these comes closer to what you believe? (A) There is little or nothing to be said in favor of war; (B) War is cruel but it does teach people something about honor, loyalty, and courage. Liberalism differs from communism: (A) in many ways, but especially in liberalism's concern for freedom; (B) hardly at all. Censoring obscene books: (A) is an old-fashioned idea that no longer makes sense; (B) is necessary to protect community standards. The United States was meant to be: (A) a country made up of many races, religions, and nationalities; (B) a Christian nation.

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