Because political ’science’ hasn’t yet understood, and therefore cannot scientifically (that is, in a 100% historically truthful way) define, ideological labels, such as “leftist” “rightist” “progressive” “liberal” “conservative” “socialist” “communist” and “fascist”, these labels are normally handled propagandistically, instead of accurately; and, so, here will be a historically 100% truthful — that is, a scientific — set of definitions of the major ideological labels.
But, first of all, as a preliminary: the word “science” refers only to 100% historically truthful beliefs or statements of beliefs, because, even in the most-fundamental science, which is physics, no statement that is established to be historically false can be accepted as being scientifically true. This is actually the situation throughout all of science; and, so, any ‘science’ that doesn’t adhere to this rule (of currently being a field of science) is not yet a field of science, but is only pretending to be such (as physics was before Galileo, and as biology was before Darwin). In matters of theory (as opposed to empirics) political ‘science’, like all of the existing social ‘sciences’, is of that latter category: it’s a field of fake ‘science’ (otherwise called “philosophy” — it’s hypotheses, mis-called ‘theories’, that are based upon other peoples’ hypotheses, which also are mis-called ‘theories’; it’s not actually based on any empirical facts, much less on any scientific theory at all). Defining ideological categories is a theoretical-science issue in the field of politics, not directly an empirical field of investigation (not directly an empirical issue); and, therefore, as a theoretical political-science issue, it has not yet been dealt with in a scientific way, such as will be done here, addressing ideological labels in a scientific way, starting here with an example:
Up till the morning of February 18th, the Wikipedia article on the current President of Peru, Dina Boluarte, had said: “During the 2021 Peruvian general election, she was part of Free Peru, a Marxist party; after she was expelled from the party in 2022, she adopted more moderate views and appointed conservative figures in her cabinet.” I then corrected that to say: “During the 2021 Peruvian general election, she was part of Free Peru, a leftist (social-democratic) party; after she was expelled from the party in 2022, she adopted more moderate views and appointed conservative figures in her cabinet.” The reason I gave to Wikipedia’s editor to justify the change from “Marxist” to “leftist (social-democratic)”, as being a correction, was that I had “changed the word ‘Marxist’ to ‘leftist (social-democratic)’ as descriptor of the ‘Free Peru’ party, because Free Peru is a democratic party, unlike Marxism (which favors a ‘dictatorship by the proletariat’ — as Marx repeatedly said — and is therefore self-acknowledgedly against democracy.” (NOTE: I did not challenge the original’s misleading phrase “more moderate views” — which propagandizes against that “leftist (social-democratic) party” — because challenging the CIA on two, instead of only on one, matter(s) would be even less likely for the U.S.-Government-controlled Wikipedia to approve, than would my challenging only the “Marxist” label there. They rejected my edit of their propaganda anyway: they changed it to this, which retains the false charge that she and her former Party had been — now lower-case — ‘marxist’. As regards the CIA’s allegation there that after she abandoned the Free Peru Party during the coup and promptly became appointed President, “she adopted more moderate views,” that was precisely when her public-approval rating ditched, to now 71% “Disapprove”, which is even lower than Joe Biden’s is in America: 52% now “Disapprove.” So, that statement by the CIA is a lie, but they insist upon lying, so, only fools can trust Wikipedia. I don’t, but I do link to their articles as summary-articles when the lies in them don’t severely affect the truth that I am linking to the given article for. One should never unquestioningly trust any Website or other ‘news’-source, but especially not U.S.-and-allied ones, since those are incredibly lie-filled — as any dictatorship’s media need to be.)
Marxism (or “communism” as that term has generally been understood after Marx’s death) refers not to all forms of “socialism” but only to some dictatorial ones. To a large extent, Scandinavian countries today are “socialist” but definitely are not “dictatorship by the proletariat”: they are instead capitalist (against which Marx ranted — sometimes truthfully), and whether any of them are “democratic” can be debated, but it can be scientifically debated only if and to the extent to which all of the issues (problems) involved in that debate are purely empirical, not at all theoretical (which would be building theory upon existing hypotheses, instead of directly upon empirics, and so would be propagandistic, because no authentic scientific theory can be based on anybody’s mere hypothesis; all scientific theories must instead be based purely and directly upon empirics — that’s how real science is done).
Furthermore: even today’s China, which is ruled by its Communist Party, is no longer Marxist, because Marxist economics (such as the ‘labor theory of value’, which scientifically was never more than “the labor hypothesis of value” and now is definitely established to have been empirically — that is, historically — a false theory of value), has clearly failed; and, consequently, China is a one-party state, but whether a one-party state can be a “democracy” is not yet clear as an empirical (i.e., historical) matter.
In point of fact: the level of a given nations’s public’s trust both in their Government and in their news-media is, according to the survey-data on those matters, higher in China than in any other country — and vastly higher there than in the U.S. If the public’s trust is an accurate measure of the extent to which its Government has served the public’s interests — instead of any aristocracy’s interests or any theocracy’s interests (those two being the main types of dictatorships) — then China, which is a one-Party Government, is the world’s most “democratic” country (and America doesn’t even come close to being that). The standard propaganda-derived response to these data is that China is such a dictatorship as to have fooled its residents to think that its Government represents them and not some aristocracy or theocracy or any other type of dictatorship. However: should one really believe that the unquestionably propagandistic ‘news’-media and academic social-’science’ ‘experts’ in one’s own country know better about the Government of a foreign country that one’s own country’s Government is hostile toward — trying to capture or defeat — than are the residents in that targeted country? How crazy is that belief? Yet, it’s common. If the locals can’t accurately rate the performance of their Government, then who can? Maybe the target-country’s enemies — such as the U.S. and its ‘allies’ (colonies)? If that’s a joke, it’s a bad one, and it’s on them. And, of course, in dictatorships such as in Peru, and in the U.S., not all the ‘news’-manipulation in all the world stops the predominantly-negative approval-ratings of the sitting leaders. If the leaders deliver what the public wants, their approval-ratings will rise — and do. In some countries, such as China, Russia, and India, they are high. That is an indication those countries probably are democracies. Certainly Peru and America are not. In the dictatorship-countries, the ruling class know about the public’s contempt for them but really do not care. The public know but (because of the ideological and other confusions and misunderstandings) the media are used there in order to confuse the public about how and why things are bad there, so that the behind-the-scenes rulers won’t be getting the blame. (Instead: it’s “the Democrats,” or “the Republicans,” or “the Muslims,” or “the Jews,” or “the poor,” or “the Blacks,” or “the Whites,” or etc. — but NOT the few individuals who, behind-the-scenes, really are controlling the Government and exploiting the entire nation.) Stunningly, even the U.S. Establishment’s own New York Times published, on 11 July 2019, an opinion-article by two real political scientists, whose headline was “Politicians Don’t Actually Care What Voters Want” — and they presented some of the convincing empirical evidence that it is true in America. (Perhaps the Times accepted it because it was a study only of state governments, not of the U.S. federal Government, which that newspaper represents.)
Moreover: a now well-established empirical (i.e., historical) fact is that Governments (such as this) exist that (very unlike China) are multi-Party dictatorships. (In fact: the ONLY country in the world that has been scientifically analyzed to determine whether it is a democracy or instead an aristocracy (governed by its super-rich, even merely by its richest 1% of its richest 1%) is America; and it has two Parties, not just one; and all of the empirical approaches to that question there point clearly to that country’s being not only an aristocracy, but to its being more of a police-state than is any other nation.)
The basic message from all of these data is that the way one defines (i.e., explains the meaning of) the word “democracy” is central to the answers to all ideological questions if democracy is to count as being a central part of that definition. (Beyond that question, distinctions must be made between economic ideologies, such as between socialism versus capitalism; and between political ideologies, such as between dictatorial socialism or communism, versus dictatorial capitalism or fascism. But, I’ll leave those matters for another time.)
In any case: no one can scientifically understand politics who hasn’t first straightened-out ideological labels. And anyone who tries to understand politics who has not done this will come up with false interpretations and ‘explanations’.