The Political Spectrum

‘Everything the left and right say about each other is true. And the reason it’s true is because they have so much in common.’ Bob Black

A while ago I made a wall-chart to help clarify what the political spectrum actually is. It is, of course, impossible to categorise political views exactly, some say a four way map is more accurate, some — with justice — that the whole thing is reductive and besides the point. And, actually, I agree. This graphic is very unsatisfactory, but in my defence it wasn’t supposed to be so much a definitive guide to the truth of the matter but an antidote to how the words are ordinarily used. A simple way of showing that ‘right and left’ in fact are illusions, and that only the segment I have split off from it is genuinely independent.

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(Feel free to print out – it’s a high-res pdf — but please consider making a donation via my bookshop)


If you think Lenin and Monbiot are on the right, then your simplistic characterisation of left-right is fatally flawed.

It’s actually really fat-headed and offensive to think a nasty stalinist and misogynist like Galloway is ‘properly on the left’ and people like penny and monbiot are part of  the corporate machine, like, really quite stupid. (Dan Hancox, Corporate Journalist).

And so on. These are explained in the notes to the graph.

What’s the measure here? Nothing subjective, just ‘who I like’ on one side and ‘who I don’t’ on the other!

It’s neither objective nor subjective, but what I call panjective. I’m not going to go into that here, save to say that this chart is based on a ‘measure’ which can never be admitted into the standard political spectrum, and that is conscience. True conscience — as opposed to mere guilt, or that curious species of conscience that only responds to victims of official enemies — can never be accepted within the Overton Window.

Henry Miller next to Jesus? / Bernie Saunders probably right wing / Chomsky isn’t really an anarchist

I point out in the notes that the list is and has to be very rough, given how complex real people are, and that I’m not necessarily endorsing  people for being further to what I call left. That said I kind of agree with all three of these. Sanders is clearly right under FDR, a classic new-deal democrat, Miller could be a vile pillock; he is out there on the far left because he was apolitical — he was basically anti-civ, which puts him further out than someone like Chomsky, who, yes, I agree, isn’t actually that much of an anarchist, and these days is drifting ever rightwards.

Freedom and equality? What do you mean? You do realise you can’t have both don’t you?

These two words have a wide range of meanings, so it’s a big subject; too big for now. By freedom, though, I don’t mean ‘freedom for everyone to do as they please’ and by equality I don’t mean ‘everyone the same, with the same privileges and powers, and all agreeing with everyone else.’ If you interpret freedom and equality like this — and many do —then I, and many on the left side of the diagram, believe in zero freedom and equality. This does not entail, however, authoritarian control; truly free societies enhance self-mastery (sometimes called ‘self-control’) and truly equal societies enhance respect for and enjoyment of difference (sometimes called ‘complementarity’).

EDIT: I’ve since written a piece on anarchism, the version I consider myself part of, to help explain the leftmost pole, which I have split off from the rest as it is radically different to the entire nonsense.  This essay is part of 33 Myths of the System, a [free] book which expands on the ‘Myth of Uniqueness’ that the above graphic was written in an attempt to expose.

It’s all very reductionist isn’t it?

As I say, my point really is less that there is a binary scale — the coronavirus has shown that, for example, certain forms of disgust at total subservience to the system’s aims goes right across the spectrum — but that the only intelligent approach to society is off the scale: the genuine independence I’ve listed here as genuine, radical anarchism — i.e. not the hopelessly self-serving, utterly ineffective, middle-class variant comprised of people who do revolution in their spare time.

But yes, I agree; this left / right thing, silly even. I just wanted to inject a bit of WIDTH into the two terms, which are utterly meaningless in the faecal trickle-stream. If the words are going to exist, if there is going to be ‘a political spectrum’ — if people are going to use the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ — we might as well put reality in there somewhere.

Sexist! No women!

Explained here.

Other posters in this series: