The origin of “Left Wing and “Right Wing” terminology

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Former DA leader, Mmusi Maimane. Itumeleng English African News Agency(ANA)

It is remarkable to know the origin of the terms “left wing’ and “right wing” and their cultural connotations and implications. These words are said to have originated in Europe, specifically England emanating from the seating arrangement in their parliament. The ruling party sat on the right side of the Speaker of Parliament and as the word ‘right’ suggests the ruling party was considered to be correct in whatever they said.

The opposition which was known to be troublesome because it opposed the ruling party sat on the left side of the Speaker with all the negativity that is associated with left-handedness. This is where the terms fetch their origin and transmitted to us which we accepted them uncritically 

In Africa the left hand is, culturally speaking, viewed with negativity? There are sayings associated with left-handedness like saying people who are using the left hand are using the wrong hand and that someone woke up on their left side. Using the left hand was always frowned upon. Progressive organisations are described as left wing while reactionary ones are described as right wing. I am not suggesting that there is something wrong with being lef handed. I am merely pointing out its cultural and linguistic implications.

Afri Forum and AWB are described as right wing or conservative organisations. Afri Forum is also described – even by the SABC – as a civil rights organisation instead of a white supremacist organisation. The DA is a white supremacist organisation because of the utterances and behaviour of those who are its leaders. For example, defending colonialism and seeing nothing wrong with colonialism and accusing African groups of racial nationalism that trample on the rights of minorities. What is racial nationalism and who are the minorities? 

White people of course. Yet the DA denies it safeguards the interests of white people and even those of corporations. When Helen Zille was confronted with defending and justifying colonialism, she said not all about colonialism was bad. Aime Césaire said not a single human value has been the result of colonial expeditions. Césaire, Frantz Fanon’s fomrer teacher, has experienced colonialism, Zille has not but she has the gall and temerity to say “not everything about colonialism was bad”.

If some people find it hard to acquaint themselves with these terms, instead of describing these organisations as right wing, conservative or civil rights organisations, they should describe them as white supremacist organisations.


Sam Ditshego is an indepedent researcher.