Guide From the Wrong Side of History

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He also said that Bashar al-Assad himself was on the wrong side of history. Note the difference in usage? But in foreign affairs, invoking history as an ally is a sign of weakness. But in international affairs, it is an unmistakable sign of weakness. But you know what? In the future, people will say you were wrong.

The phrase is utterly lacking in feck because it outsources the bulk of the punishment to an abstract future rather than the concrete here and now. But the fecklessness goes deeper than that because people like Putin and Assad either completely disagree about what the future holds, or they think they can change the future. And the people who try to bend the future to their benefit tend to be the sorts of people who believe they can. It zigs and zags and U-turns all the time. In short, being on the right side of history in the long run counts for little when in the here and now the guy on the wrong side of history has his boot on your neck.

View author archive follow on twitter Get author RSS feed. In the view of history, however, it's clear he was on the wrong side. And I should note that he admitted as such later in his career. In the case of Gaddafi, it means that his government will lose out and in the long run, it will be considered the "wrong side" of the conflict. In practical use, the phrase is used when someone wants to characterize their opponent's position as old-fashioned or out-of-date. When used, it is asserting the idea that in the future the vast majority of people will look back and view the position as wrong.

It means that the author believes that we are in the final stages of a historical trend where dictatorships are replaced by more democratic forms of government. Therefore Gaddafi's rule exists more in the past i.


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Some examples of use from the Corpus of Contemporary American English might help underline the meaning:. I found two very early instances of "the wrong side of history" and one very early instance of "the right side of history" that may or may not use these expressions in a manner consistent with later usage. This is a very much condensed edition of an extremely curious book originally published in ten volumes. We have here the essence of five, and this volume will be found very interesting reading by every one who cares for the byways and the wrong side of history.

on the wrong side of history

Real students of nineteenth-century France—or indeed of Europe generally—only need directing to the original ten volumes. The police system of great Empire is none the less worth studying because, as the translator remarks, it has ceased to exist and is "long out of date.

Are You on the Wrong Side of History?

It is hard to say what the reviewer means here by "the wrong side of history. Even older than that instance is an occurrence in " Sermon by Elder E. Kelly ," delivered on January 4, , reprinted in Autumn Leaves: And when we take the ground that or forefather, Adam, must have been in the night of bondage, so far as light and intelligence is concerned, and that the children afterwards, by unaided wisdom, have developed until they have come into the light of liberty and peace, we are on the wrong side of history.

Truth in history reveals as fully the decline of the race as its rise; of the decadence of knowledge as its growth.

on the wrong side of history

This example is especially striking because it argues that assuming that human progress will occur through "unaided wisdom" is actually anti-historical. The right side of history, the sermon implies, considers human decline as probable as human advancement, at least in the absence of divine intercession. A third instance from this era involves the phrase the right side of history. Pereira Mendes, In Old Egtpt: As nearly as I can tell, Mendes uses "not on the right side of history" to mean something like "a loser, in history's estimation"—that is, a person who competed for some exalted position and failed to achieve it.

Although these early instances of the phrase take it in different directions, none of them treat history as a foreordained process with a predictable conclusion and consequently a neat division of participants into those on history's right side and those on its wrong side. The earliest Google Books match for "wrong side of history" appears in remarks by Clemens France , testifying before the U.

Hearings Before the Committee on Ways and Means In the first place, I think it is extremely important that the Members of Congress, the President of the United States and all of the ,, American citizens at this point in history should not make a mistake and get on the wrong side of history. I think it is highly important to get on the right side of history.

I have often thought that when some of us leave this veil of tears and go to the promised land, after we have done our task, perhaps the greatest satisfaction, as we look back on our lives would be to know that we were on the right side and not on the wrong side of history.

This seems to be an instance of the predictive, progressive application of "right side of history" and "wrong side of history. In a speech given in approximately late February , the great U. The failure to distinguish what is indeed progressive social doctrine from the rivalry of a foreign political machine which has appropriated and abused the slogans of socialism.

on the wrong side of history - Wiktionary

I am far from being a communist; but I recognize in the theory of communism: I hate to see us here reject the good with the bad—throw out the baby with the bath, as they say in Europe—and place ourselves in that way on the wrong side of history. The Autobiography of Stephen Spender Indeed, I have never ceased to be astonished by the extent to which Communists are indifferent to awkward facts.

For example, one day I asked Chalmers what he thought of the most recent Moscow trials in which Yagoda, who had been largely responsible for incriminating the victims of the previous purge, had himself been sentenced to death. Chalmers looked up, with his bright glance like a bird-watcher's, and said: I've given up thinking about such things ages ago.


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What he really meant, I suppose, was that having chosen to be a Communist by an act of will, he now admitted no point of view which was inconvenient to the Party. The dictatorship of the proletariat did not pretend to be bourgeois justice. Stalin had only to decide that someone was an enemy for him to become one. To criticize except within the Party what the Party did was to put oneself on ' the wrong side of history '. Spender alludes to an incident Yagoda's show trial from March , and his invocation of the phrase "on the wrong side of history" may be anachronistic as applied to that period, but I tend to think that the phrase was current even then as a way smooth over Stalin-era policy reversals within the Communist Party, which could not be reconciled except through appeal to an abstract and infinitely malleable principle such as the right and wrong sides of history.

In the same predictive yet aspirational tradition is this instance from Edward Olsen, School and Community , second edition What an opportunity to find new professional outlooks, new zest for living—and, above all, the great personal satisfaction of being on the right side of history , of doing our part now to build a better world through humane and democratic education.

This excerpt expresses great faith in the idea that the implacable march of history tends toward an exaltation of social progress and personal virtue. To grasp fully the meaning of the shift in the balance of forces of the world, one must in a basic sense understand that these two world coalitions of forces revolve around to diametrically opposite poles of society. The camp of imperialism revolves around the decaying and disintegrating system of capitalism, the economic system that history has clearly consigned to the ashcan.

Because imperialism cannot offer a way out, it does not attract the masses of people. Imperialism gains adherents only by buying them. It attracts only those elements who are willing to sell everything, including the independence of their nations, who for personal gain become puppets for imperialism.

Are We On the Wrong Side of History Again?

For this reason, such alliances are unstable. They are alliances among thieves without principle. The camp of socialism, anti-imperialism, and peace, on the other hand, has a built-in source of unity and strength. Each component part of both contributes and draws strength from the alliance. These elements gravitate toward this camp because they are all on the progressive side—the right side—of history. For this reason, this camp has become the fountainhead of encouragement, of confidence, for all progressive mankind. Let me close with these thoughts. The new epoch places a heavy responsibility on our people, our working class, and on all forward-looking Americans, but especially on our party.


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  4. We accept this task and responsibility in the firm conviction that we are on the right side of history. The world marches irresistibly toward peace, freedom, and socialism. He said that Khrushchev tried to impress Kennedy with the idea that "communism was here to stay" and that the USSR was " on the right side of history.

    He mentioned that Khrushchev had emphasized the vitality of the Soviet system and that the USSR was engaged in a sacred war to "rid backward nations of capitalistic oppression"; the US had on the other hand accepted the mantle of the status quo and our collapse was historically inevitable.

    Jonah Goldberg

    Somewhat contrastingly, from Robert Textor, Failure in Japan: With Keystones for a Positive Policy [combined snippets]:. Communist influence in the left-of-center movement has become strong enough so that truculent police measures on behalf of the Old Guard are in many cases likely almost automatically to drive more of the left-of-center movement closer to, and into, the Communist camp. Our task then is not blindly to back a political group that is on the wrong side of history.

    Are We On the Wrong Side of History Again?

    Rather we must develop an advance guard of forces that will favor nonviolent change to the end that more people will be able to participate meaningfully in social decision-making. The Old Guard cannot, of course, simply be thrown out. We can get rid of it only as quickly as new agents are found and trained to displace it from its social functions. We must find new leadership, and workable alternatives to the traditional unilateral methods. Here the sense of "on the wrong side of history" seems much closer to "on the losing side at the end of the current conflict," although there may be a progressive element as well, since the "Old Guard" identified as being on the wrong side of history consists of residual element of the power enforcement structure of defeated imperial Japan, and Textor was according to a later scholar's assessment "committed to democratization.