It is popularly understood that Fascism, the political ideology of, for example, Mussolini’s Italy or of Nazi Germany, is at the extreme right of the political spectrum. By ‘extreme right’, we tend to mean an advocacy of capitalism, nationalism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism. While most of this is largely correct, I’m going to question the assumption that Fascism is solely right-wing. Furthermore, state communism’s tendency towards authoritarianism makes it similar to Fascism, therefore not completely left-wing. Ideologically, Fascism has always pretended to be a species of centrism, combining elements of left and right; and herein lies the danger. Fascism pretends to be a movement for the people; then, when they come into power, they move completely to the right.
Fascist economics are actually far from being those of a purely free market. There is much government regulation in such regimes, the sort that right-libertarians (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/Right-libertarianism) would cringe at. Fascists favour a mixed economy (see http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism, second paragraph in introduction), somewhat regulated and somewhat free. Indeed, demagogues like Mussolini and Hitler attacked capitalism as much as they attacked communism (see http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler%27s_political_views#German_Workers.E2.80.99_Party, under ‘German Workers Party’, paragraph 4; see also http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_position#Italy), Hitler calling both ideologies ‘Jewish’. (By communism, I am here referring to the Marxist-statist version, not the anarchist version I’ve espoused earlier in my post ‘Anarchist Communism’.http://www.mawrgorshin.com/2013/07/30/anarchist-communism/)
Indeed, Mussolini had started out as an ardent socialist before developing nationalist feelings for Italy during World War I, for which he got expelled from the Italian Socialist Party; he never completely lost his disdain for capitalism, though, and merged his socialism with his nationalism. We must also remember the full name of the Nazi party (The National Socialist German Workers Party, or NSDAP).
Fascists, many of the first ones having come from Italian national syndicalism (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_syndicalism), pervert socialism by identifying the bourgeoisie with foreigners, something the Nazis could easily do by exploiting the stereotype of the ‘rich Jew’, and by identifying the proletariat with the ‘Volk’, or the people of the nation. http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proletarian_nation It’s clever demagoguery, able to seduce socialists to the fascist cause during troubled economic times, like our own. They say to us, ‘Join our cause, it’s similar to yours.’ Then, when they come to power, they show their true colours.
It is assumed that the bigotry and anti-egalitarianism of Fascism makes it not at all socialist. But historically, socialism’s focus was on workers’ rights, and on establishing a classless society, not necessarily on putting an end to bigotry. Consider Soviet antisemitism. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_the_Soviet_Union) Consider also the antisemitic and Russophobic taunts Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx, respectively, hurled at each other during their bitter debates. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Bakunin#Anti-Semitism) Finally, there was criminalization of homosexuality in the USSR under Stalin and afterwards until 1993, after communism’s fall. So we can’t always rely on socialism being egalitarian in every respect.
In any case, Hitler spoke in his speeches of the Nazi ideal of a classless ‘Aryan’ society. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GWuoud11Fg. Please ignore, though, the ridiculous nonsense in the title or the comments of DDLjawoll [that user name should tell you what he’s really all about]; what is said at about 3:10 and at about 4:45 in the video, and later, that is what’s pertinent to my argument.) Goebbels was another left-leaning Nazi (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels. See paragraph 7 in ‘Propagandist in Berlin’, towards the bottom).
1930s Fascists saw their ideology as a Third Position between the–to them–extremes of capitalism and communism: hence their advocacy of a mixed economy, of which state capitalism and state socialism, by the way, can be seen as species. Put another way, Fascism was seen by its defenders as, if you will, without wings–neither left, nor right.
Now, the extent to which a country’s economy can be called socialist or communist is the extent to which it can be called non-capitalist, or anti-capitalist. The same applies vice versa. So, if Fascists claim to be neither capitalist nor communist, but in between, or ‘without wings’, then one can equally argue that Fascism, with its mixed economy, is actually both capitalist and socialist, or moderately both, hence my assertion that Fascism has two wings.
Many readers, of course, will object to my thesis for several reasons. They will say that Fascism’s use of the word socialism has nothing to do with real socialism, for the Fascists either weakened or eliminated trade unions in their countries. Also, with their authoritarianism, xenophobia, militarism, and anti-egalitarianism, they are more than just somewhat to the right of the political scale, but completely to the right. Examples of this are easily seen in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, and Chile under Pinochet. Then, of course, there’s the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn, which is plaguing Greece right now.
The original Italian Fascism of Mussolini back around WWI combined elements of left and right-wing thinking (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism, third paragraph); there we see a connection with socialism. Much of the Nazis’ original 25-Point Program was clearly pro-labour. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socalist_Program#German_Party_program, second paragraph) Many of these leftist ideas were abandoned, of course, when Mussolini and Hitler came to power, as were the ideas of the Spanish Fascist Falange party, who’d helped Franco come to power (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francoist_Spain#Francoism); and with the disappearance of these socialist ideas went the power of the unions.
So, when the Fascists came to power, they, in going over to the right, abandoned many of their original, ‘centrist’ ideas. We can see this kind of betrayal of the principles of a political movement on the left, too, though. The Bolsheviks, in creating a dictatorship of the state instead of one of the proletariat, caused Susan Sontag to make her famous and controversial statement that Soviet Communism was a kind of Fascism. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Sontag#Criticism, fifth paragraph) Still, we call the USSR a communist state, and we still use the Fascist label for Mussolini and the Nazis; yet we call the Fascists right-wing, and not the Soviets. Shall we start calling state communism ‘right-wing’, too?
During the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s Nationalists were aided by the Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists. Significantly, the Nationalists also got some forms of financial help from American businesses, while the US government refused to help the leftist Republicans. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_involvement_in_the_Spanish_Civil_War#United_States) Finally, As George Orwell bitterly observed, the USSR under Stalin also betrayed the Spanish leftists, obscenely accusing them of being ‘Fascists’, and no longer helping them. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Orwell#The_Spanish_Civil_War, last two paragraphs) So the Nationalists won the war, crushing all the leftists, including the anarcho-syndicalists of Catalonia and the Trotskyist POUM that Orwell fought with. Now Franco’s rule was unequivocally right-wing; but, as noted above, the agenda of his Falangist supporters was abandoned when he came to power. In any case, with the USSR’s betrayal of the Spanish socialists– since Stalin considered a right-wing Spanish government a lesser evil than a Trotskyist one–we see again how those who oppose freedom and real equality can be found on both sides of the political fence. Fascism has two wings.
Similarly, though Pinochet’s right-wing regime, which ousted the democratically-elected socialist Salvador Allende on September 11th, 1973 (with America’s help), has been called Fascist, it was really just a military dictatorship. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusto_Pinochet#Ideology_and_public_image, second paragraph) Fascism is in part military dictatorship, but it’s also that middle way between capitalism and communism; Chile’s economy under Pinochet was laissez-faire neo-liberalism–totally right-wing.
So we see a pattern here: the perverse ‘centrism’ of Fascists moves to the far right when they come to power. They seduce the minds of the people with ‘socialist’ talk by perverting it with nationalism, as the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn is doing now in Greece (http://politicsforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=150193, scroll down to ‘Otebo’ [with Assad as an avatar, Sun 02 June 2013, 05:32, where it says ‘Golden Dawn wrote’]). Then they come to power (as we hope Golden Dawn never will), and take everyone’s rights away, bullying the people with their army and militarized police, and terrorizing foreigners.
On the other side of the political continuum, we see state communism, which never really was communism, but just totalitarianism dressed up in socialist language. Sound familiar? The point George Orwell was making at the end of Animal Farm, about the pigs (read Bolsheviks) and the men (read capitalists) looking the same was that the Soviet Union under Stalin (state socialism) was just a variation (state capitalism) on what had been before the Russian Revolution.http://www.anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/secH3.html#sech313
Interestingly, Maoism has been called “an attempt to combine Confucianism and Socialism – what one such called ‘a third way between communism and capitalism’.” (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maoism#Criticisms_and_interpretations, see second paragraph) Mao also had strong nationalist impulses, which played a crucial role in Chinese communism. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maoism#Nationalism) Again, not too far away from Fascism.
There is a yin and yang in politics; we don’t have one opposite without the other. Even with unequivocally extreme right-wing and far-left ideologies, there is much held in common, as the horseshoe theory points out. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe_theory, second paragraph) Both extremes are authoritarian, and both favour a government taking control of economic life; they are both also opposed to clean elections, free speech, and the democratic institutions one finds in the political centre. These similarities tend to outweigh the ideological differences of the extremes of the left/right dichotomy.
My purpose in doing this analysis is to stop people from assuming that, as long as they vote ‘left-liberal’, politics should be safe from Fascism. The ‘right-wing’ political parties, supposedly, are the only ones to be afraid of. I beg to differ.
Look at American politics for the past…thirty years? Fifty years? One hundred? Many, including Americans such as Noam Chomsky, have observed that there’s no real substantive difference between the Republicans and Democrats: they work for the same corporate masters. Many realize that the Two-party system simply doesn’t work.
What we often see in contemporary American politics can in some ways be compared with when the Nazis came to power in the early 30s. Hitler largely abandoned the socialist elements of the Nazi agenda that he’d preached in his speeches, upsetting members like Goebbels and Ernst Rohm (leader of the SA); Hitler did this to ingratiate the Nazi party with its big business supporters. In American politics, there is endless fundraising, rather than real political progress. As with the opportunistic Nazis and Mussolini, it isn’t about ideology, it’s about money…and the pursuit of power.
The right-wing aspects of George W. Bush’s ideology are so obvious that they needn’t be mentioned; on the other side of the coin, however, one must remember how he called himself a ‘compassionate conservative’. Another attempt to win the confidence of the people. Then there was his program to give millions of dollars to Africa to combat AIDS, something one might associate with socialism, except that preference was given to those who abstained from sex and prostitution.
Bush’s regulation of businesses also angered right-libertarians and conservatives, and TARP (the bank bailout) angered people on both sides of the political spectrum. http://www.humblelibertarian.com/2009/01/george-w-bushs-sorry-record-in-office.html I’m not crying for the conservatives and right-libertarians, of course, but my point is to show the left-wing side of Bush’s Fascism, and thus to illustrate it more completely. The Bush administration had two wings.
Obama is, supposedly, the most left-wing president America has ever had. His campaign in 2008 was all about ‘change’, something corporate media propaganda played to the hilt. The first African-American president. He said he would ‘spread the wealth around’. http://www.abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2008/10/spread-the-weal/ He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with the rationalization that it would inspire him to promote peace…did it?
The TARP bailouts have, of course, continued under Obama, as has this dubious ‘War on Terror’ http://www.perdidostreetschool.blogspot.tw/2010/08/criticism-from-left-getting-to-white.html How much warring and killing through drone strikes has Obama’s administration been responsible for, while the US media distracts the masses with ‘twerking’? Goebbels would have been impressed.
America has a mixed economy, the most powerful military in the world, with bases worldwide, many of which further its imperialistic ambitions. America has identified a foreign enemy, obscenely called ‘Islamofascists’ by neo-cons, who again are not real conservatives in the traditional sense, but liberals who went from left to right. Neo-cons clearly deserve the Fascist epithet much more than Muslims, who resort to terror more from family members being killed in drone strikes than from being seduced by Islamic fundamentalism. Fascism has two wings.
Interestingly, the not-so-charming Vladimir Putin, of all people, put a halt (or, I suspect, just a pause) on Obama’s plan to invade Syria, and Putin wrote an open letter to America, some of which was hypocritical on his part, but much of which was valid; then, a childishly jingoistic, Russophobic response, claiming to be humour, was published on, of all websites, Americans Against the Tea Party. (It seems to have been withdrawn–gee, I wonder why?, but here’s the link, anyway. http://www.aattp.org/open-letter-putin-maoistrebel-united-states-fk
So what should we believe about our world today? Are we all Fascists? Is there a meaningful way to define left and right in our current, impoverished political discourse? I believe there is, and I’d like to try to create a brand new, if somewhat unorthodox, definition. Here it is. The extent to which a society’s statist and capitalist–therefore authoritarian and militaristic–is the extent to which it is conservative, or right-wing. By this new, idiosyncratic definition, I’d include all Fascists, state communists, and, I’m sorry to say, both mainstream parties in the US.
And to the extent that a society is free of the state and of capitalism–therefore libertarian socialist, or anarchist–is the extent to which it is truly liberal, or left-wing. For examples, look to Anarchist Catalonia in 1936, or the Free Territory in south-east Ukraine from 1917 to 1921.
When the people, fed up with the lies of politicians and their corporate friends, finally rise up in revolution, I hope they won’t replace old tyrants with new ones, but instead will choose to run their own affairs as they want to.