What is the difference between a Leftist and a Liberal?
A Leftist is liberal in the sense that they will tend to stand for, and support, extreme liberal individualism, socialism and communism. The Liberal tends to have a more centrist ideology, such as liberalism. In many cases this can be best described as a mix of social progressiveness with economic conservatism. Although most left-leaning liberals are not technically socialists , their offshoot ideologies like Democratic Socialism are coming into prominence. There are far fewer Liberals than Leftists, and they tend to be less visible.
“Liberal”, as used in America today, is now a catch-all term for those who stand up against the excesses of conservatives. In that sense it’s clearly distinct from “leftist”, as leftists are often quite moderate economically. In Europe, where the socialist tradition runs far deeper than in America, it makes less sense to distinguish between liberals and leftists than it does in America.
“Left-wingers” are more common in Europe. The two terms can be used interchangeably when looking at the American political spectrum, but only when considering Europe is “liberal” a term that should not be confused with leftist or socialist.
Glad you asked.
Leftist are those for progressive agendas like social equality and justice, in the tradition of Socialist or Communist ideologies. Liberalism on the other hand is more about individualism and personal liberty, as best embodied by classical Liberals like John Locke or Adam Smith.
In general, Left-leaning people would propose a “great leap forward” to create change through government policies and programs while Liberals tend to advocate for gradual change through the workings of society without government intervention, but don’t dismiss either side! A lot of important work has been done by both sides that deserve respect and recognition. The last thing we need is talking past each other before finding common ground!
The difference between a left-wing and centrist liberal is that left-wing liberals focus on social equality while centrists focus more on economic freedom.
Left-leaning liberals strive to create fairness in society through promoting income and wealth redistribution as well as other progressive taxation efforts, while centrist liberals tend to be content with maintaining the status quo when it comes to inequity but are more intent on reducing government size and minimizing economic restrictions. In both cases, Americans believe liberalism will solve the problems they’re facing; but because of their different views, this seldom happens.
Leftists are more oriented towards ideology and Liberalism is an ideology, therefore there is not a meaningful difference. People often conflate Leftist tactics with Leftist politics in an effort to derail the conversation.
The terms “leftist” and “liberal” are often used interchangeably to describe people who believe in the central importance of social justice, civil liberties, and equality. This is a misuse of these terms which could lead to major misunderstandings.
Left wingers believe inequality can be solved primarily by increasing taxes on the rich (capitalism) and limiting economic growth (welfare state). Liberals believe that through welfare policies they can address inequality. They want both redistribution as well as individual initiative .
Conservative right wingers, like Trump supporters for example, are what you have at opposite corners of the triangle – lower tax rates for wealthy while cutting spending on public services and safety nets.
Neoliberal center lefts are moderate liberals who would like to move towards center and away from left, they want government-regulated capitalism where the state is involved in some redistribution programs.
For example, Obama was a neoliberal center leftist; he had a plan for health care reform that was based on market rather than social control of healthcare and included individual mandate, “but his first priority was to strengthen the institutions of social control. His goal was to rationalize the healthcare system rather than to eliminate its profit-seeking character.”
The neoliberal center lefts have mostly been in power, they consider to be moderates and are often willing to sacrifice some goals that are advocated by leftists to work with conservatives for incremental change.
The big difference between Leftist and liberals is that liberals do not believe in government intervention, and hence are more likely to reject reactionary ideas like the minimum wage.
Leftists on the other hand argue for progressive taxation, two-tier health care (expanding medicare), regulating things like commercial advertising of unhealthy foods to protect children, and strengthening public education. In fact some leftists don’t see private schools as desirable because they’re seen as elitist institutions that reinforce inequality rather than create equality.
Leftists and Liberals are very similar. The main difference is that the Liberal movement is generally more supportive of individualism, while the Leftist movement has historically been quite collectivistic. Nevertheless, many people who identify as Leftists consider themselves to be Liberals too – or even something in between these two labels (such as Social Democrats).
Both “a left” and “a liberal” are relative terms. What’s considered left can change from day-to-day depending on what’s going on in people’s lives (i.e. circumstantial) – so it varies like moods do. Similarly, a person might identify with one label right now but a wholly different one later today because politics encompasses rich complexities including practical understandings of the world, feelings, and emotions. It’s not always about philosophy or theory; but what can be done to improve our lives (and that is very variable).
A Liberal by definition is somebody who prefers individual freedom over collective freedom (collectivism) while a Leftist is somebody who prefers collective freedom over individual freedoms (although some on the Left prefer individual freedom, some on the Right prefer collective freedom, and many are in both camps). The amount of self-determination one desires is relative to where they fall on the spectrum between collectivism and individualism.
A group of people with extreme left-wing viewpoints, who are often violent. The term is most often used by right-wingers to describe various anti-capitalist and pro communist groups in the United States, such as the 1960s students and hippies, and many New Left groups like SDS LNSM SWP CPUSA ML ACU WSA PRA PRSC during the Vietnam War.
Leftists are more likely to be old school liberals or Socialists than actual communists but not always true. Liberalism is a political philosophy which stresses individual rights on social issues while maintaining more conservative stances on economic issues. On a spectrum it would lean to the left but is never as radical as leftists.
Leftists and liberals are the same thing.
In modern American usage, Liberal means stuff that’s way too left-wing for some people. The word “Liberal” in its historical sense would not be considered far enough to the Left by today’s standards. That is, a true Liberal would never get elected right now because they’d be too liberal for Americans.
But when Liberals used to be centrist political parties in Europe (and they’re still political groups there) and prospered under American Democracy, they were called Leftist parties or Social Democrat Parties: nothing like them has been allowed in America since Vietnam War Protestors we burned alive then got drafted into their own protest movements they demanded us take over North Vietnamese politics.
We don’t get to have it both ways, Americans increasingly can’t either: Left or Right means authoritarianism or its opposite (liberty) increasingly in America. The center, like the center of gravity is gone for good under America’s new party system which features only two parties that are totally reprehensible authoritarians; one American (the Republican Party) and the other an authoritarian in American clothing (the Democratic Party).
The US’ one-and-only center party was the Whig Party, which no longer exists, but it’s found in Libertarianism today. The Whigs were huge fans of liberty and free markets (which is where Libertarianism operates from); they were alive before the Civil War and were about as anti-slavery more than any other party of its day.
Leftist – Marxist, socialist, Progressive. Typically on the economic Left of the political spectrum (For example: Democratic Socialists of America).
Liberals include a variety of individual beliefs and ideologies that could be found across all parts of the left-right spectrum.