Convention Discussion: Right wing, Let’s stop using this term

BY:Roberta Wood| March 18, 2019


“Right wing” is a convenient code word for those of us on the “left.” But using this shortcut keeps us from speaking to the people and issues that it is our mission to address.

1. If you think about it, “right wing” really has two meanings:“Right wing” means the agenda of finance capital that drives the growing exploitation of the working class. That agenda of finance capital includes lower wages, putting the tax burden on working people and small business, eliminating environmental protections, etc. That economic program gets little publicity from its supporters. Instead, they float these anti-working class policies on a sea of divisive, diversionary and  fear-inducing causes : racism; anti-immigrant; anti LGBTQ; anti-government; anti-communist; resentment of women; anti-science.

2. Aside from referring to corporate America’s policy agenda, we communists are also in the habit of using the term “right wing” to refer to the social and political forces that support all or parts of that big business agenda. With that use of the term “right wing,” we lump together the billionaires of the finance, military, prison and energy industries with the millions of workers Trump lovingly calls his base.

We can’t deny that we are up against a big challenge: those social and political forces that we call “right wing” include a substantial portion of our working class. In fact, that minority of the American people who support Donald Trump includes 40 % of our population. Unions report with alarm that 1/3 of their membership voted for Trump in 2016.

But no one at a Trump rally is chanting “USA! Cut my pay!” or “Reduce Social Security! Lock it up!” or “Hedge fund managers will not replace us!” even if that is the agenda they are inadvertently supporting.

It’s clear our challenge is to expose – through words and struggles – the fact that the “right wing” agenda works against the interests of working-class Americans. These folks – including our neighbors and co workers –  are an unclaimed support base that we can start claiming by making this distinction. Being in a conversation with them instead of against them gives us the opportunity to take on racist and other divisive lines of thinking they may be affected by.

If people are mobilized around day-to-day interests, our starting point with them doesn’t have to be to adopt a “left-wing” identity. The important thing for us is to draw them into the movement, because being part of the movement against corporate interests makes them objectively part of the true working-class movement.

We can’t draw people into struggle when our language throws around the term “right wing” without making clear that we are referring to the billionaire class and its agenda, not to them.

Millions of Americans do NOT see the term “right wing” as one referring to a working class vs. capitalist divide. Rather they see it as a divide of culture and political ideology. This is no accident. There is an entire industry of corporate think tanks developing that idea – that our country is divided in a partisan divide on cultural issues. According to them, it’s two camps of the American people, and yes, two camps of the working class lined up against each other. So, it’s right vs. left, red vs. blue; Fox News vs MSNBC; rural vs. urban; evangelicals vs. non-believers; plain-spoken Americans vs. elites; family values vs. abortion, etc.

By itself, “right wing” has no class content.

I propose that, starting with our new program, we adjust the use of that term to better accomplish our goals. I propose that we ALWAYS accompany the term “right wing” with a word or phrase that makes it clear that it has a class basis. Here are some options off the top of my head:

“corporate right-wing”

“monopoly-run right wing”

“profit-oriented right wing”

“billionaire-based right wing”

“anti-working-class right wing”


In this way we can begin to expose the profits-before-people orientation of the entire “right-wing” agenda.

The language we use in our speeches and reports and articles is important not only for those who read them. The words and narratives we use in our speeches and articles create a model of language our members and followers can use in their everyday conversations with coworkers, family, neighbors and friends.

What do you think?


    Roberta Wood, Secretary-Treasurer of the Communist Party, is a retired journeyman industrial instrument mechanic. A lifelong union activist, she was a founding co-chair of the United Steelworkers District 31 Women's Caucus. She writes on labor issues for A Chicagoan, Roberta is married to Steelworker retiree Scott Marshall. Scott and Roberta have four daughters and seven grandchildren.

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