Centrism: Wikis


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In politics, centrism is the ideal or the practice of promoting moderate policies which lie between different political extremes. Most commonly, this is visualized as part of the one-dimensional political spectrum of left-right politics, with centrism landing in the middle between left-wing politics and right-wing politics. The phrase is often associated with the political philosophy realpolitik, which favours practical considerations more than ideology.



An alternate definition is to assume that the two poles in question (e.g., Left/Right) are well-defined, and then (i) define as 'centrist' any position which the Left considers too far Right and the Right considers too far Left, and (ii) define as a 'Centrist' any person who self-identifies more with those positions than either the Left or the Right. The weakness in this argument is that it is difficult to unambiguously and objectively define both poles at once, but that difficulty affects all political definitions, not just centrists.

In practice, the two poles can only be well-defined in a specific place at a specific time, since they differ from place to place and change over time. Thus, "centrism" itself means different things in different places (depending on the local political spectrum) and changes over time. For example, ideas that were considered extremist 200 years ago (such as democracy and universal suffrage) are considered centrist today - while other ideas that were considered centrist 200 years ago (such as slavery and racism) are considered extremist today.

A central position in the political spectrum is hold usually by certain types of liberal parties or parties who are representing ethnic minorities; the latter have to integrate left wing and right wing politics within themselves. Centrism can be found often also in local parties.

Situation in several countries



The utmost centristic party of Flanders has been the Volksunie, that did not only embrace social liberalism but also displayed the national sentiment of the Dutch speaking Belgians who felt culturally suppressed by the French speaking. Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie is the largest, and since 2009, only successor of that party.

Among French speaking Belgians the Centre démocrate humaniste is a centre-right or centre party as it is considerably less conservative than its Flemish counterpart, the Flemish Christian Democrats. Another party in the center of the political spectrum is the liberal Mouvement Réformateur.


France has a tradition of parties that call themselves centristic. The most notable centrist party, often also called liberal, was the Union for French Democracy, created in 1978. Among its successors belongs the small Centrist Alliance, the most successful of them is the Democratic Movement of François Bayrou (since 2007).


Parties in the German parliament, the Bundestag

Zentrismus is a term merely known to experts and may be confused with Zentralismus (as opposite to federalism); the usual term in German is politische Mitte (the political centre). Historically, the most centrist party of all German parties with a parliamentary representation may have been the social-liberal German Democratic Party of the Weimar Republic (1918–1933), together with Alliance 90, the federation of citizen rights movements from the late phase of GDR.[citation needed]

Zentrum has been the name of the party of the Catholics, founded in 1870. It united left-wing and right-wing Catholics and is considered the first German Volkspartei (catch-all-party), but it was not neutral on religious issues (e.g. on secular education). Zentrum had its name from the fact that its representatives sat between the liberals (left) and the conservatives (right).

The successor of Zentrum, the Christian Democratic Union (since 1945), describes itself as centrist, as well as the conservative-liberal Free Democratic Party. Economically (FDP) or culturally (CDU) they tend indeed to be definitely more right wing than left wing. The Social Democratic Party of Germany feel more at unease to describe their party centrist. Alliance '90/The Greens, a coalition of leftist "fundamentalists" and more liberal "realists", also hesitates to not call itself left. This party sits in the Bundestag between Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, while the FDP has its seats at the right of the Christian Democrats. The left-most party in German federal politics is The Left.


In the Republic of Ireland the two main political parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, are both centrist[1] (and also relatively populist[1][2]) parties. They share broadly similar policies, with their primary division perceived as being steeped in Civil War politics. Fine Gael is aligned to Christian-democratic parties in Europe via its membership of the European People's Party, while Fianna Fáil is described as liberal conservative and affiliated with the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. Each party is made up of centre-left and centre-right members, and neither group will accept the ideological tags "left-" or "right-wing".[citation needed]

The largest non-centrist party is the Labour Party, a social-democratic party which describes itself as a democratic socialist[3] and has links with numerous trade unions throughout Ireland.


In the Netherlands, four parties have sent more than once members into the cabinet. From them, the Christian Democrats tend to be centre-right and the Democraten 66 (D66) centre[4] or centre-left. D66 calls itself a social liberal party and avoids the expressions left and right.

The other liberal party, Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, has a more right wing programme concerning issues such as immigration and economics. The Social Democratic Partij van de Arbeid is left or centre-left.

Leefbaar Nederland was originally a centrist political movement of local grass root parties with an anti establishment touch similar to early D66. However, the party entered in 2002 national parliament with a populist right wing programme and the major issues security and immigration.

The fundamentalist protestant ChristenUnie has a certain centrist position in so far it is leftish on social issues, immigration and environment but right wing when it comes to cultural issues such as homosexuality, drugs and euthanasia.

Nordic countries

See also: Liberalism and centrism in Sweden, Centrism in Iceland and Centrism in Finland

In most of the Nordic countries there are centrist parties. These share in addition to the centrist position on the socio-economic left-right scale a clear, separate ideology. This position is centered around decentralisation, a commitment to small business and environmental protection. Centrists have aligned themselves with the Liberal International and European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. Historically, all of these parties were farmers' parties committed to maintaining rural life. In the 1960s these parties broadened their scope to include non-farmer related issues and renamed themselves Centre Party.

The Centre Democrats and the New Alliance in Denmark are not rooted in agrarianism.

Marxist movement

"Centrism" has a specific meaning within the Marxist political movement. It usually reflects an ideologically held position between a revolutionary and reformist position. For instance, the Independent Labour Party (ILP) was seen as centrist because they oscillated between advocating reaching socialism through reforms and advocating revolution. The members of the so-called Two-and-a-half and Three-and-a-half Internationals, who could not choose between the reformism of the democratic socialist Second International and the revolutionary politics of the Communist Third International, are exemplary of centrism in this sense; examples are the POUM, ILP and Poale Zion. Marxists often describe centrism in this sense as opportunistic, since it argues for a revolution at some point in the future but urges reformist practices in the mean time.

The term "Centrism" also denotes positions held by some of the Bolsheviks during the 1920s. In this context, "Centrism" refers to a position between the Right Opposition (which supported the New Economic Policy and friendly relations with capitalist countries) and the Left Opposition (which supported a planned economy and world revolution). By the end of the 1920s, the two opposing factions had been defeated by Joseph Stalin who eventually gained enough support from members of the factions through the application of various ideas formed by the factions' various leaders. (i.e. Trotsky, Bukharin, etc.) See: Two Articles on Centrism by Leon Trotsky

See also


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