2 thoughts on “What Is Fascism, Really?

  1. I believe that the word ‘fascism’ should be reserved for the following phenomena: a political movement that is strong on nationalism as opposed to internationalism — this is what it shares with traditional ‘Right’ movements — but which borrows three things from the Left:

    —- (1) the concept of the ‘combat party’, whose members expect to, or are willing to, take part in an insurrection, as opposed to a purely electoral party, which was taken from the Bolsheviks;

    —- (2) a lot of the anti-capitalist rhetoric, and consequent social program, of the Left. The rhetoric, as regards hostility to capitalism, is just that: capitalists under fascist rule had to obey certain directives of the government, but were in no danger of having their property nationalized; and various aspects of the Left’s general social program were implemented … but then this happened in every capitalist country;

    —- (3) a revolutionary, rather than a reformist outlook. While neither Hitler nor Mussolini destroyed the existing state — which adapted very easily to fascist rule — they both carried out political revolutions.

    So it doesn’t make any sense simply to call fascism a Leftist phenomenon, without qualification. Rather, it is a statist phenomenon — but in the service, ultimately, of the existing social order, whereas Leftism, at least in theory, is hostile to the existing social order. So it shares something in common with the Left, while in practice being lethally hostile to it. Pragmatically, if we look at history, we see liberals, progressives, socialists, and communists frequently co operating. We never see them co operating with fascists, although Jonah Goldberg, in his Liberal Fascism, has shown that some liberals originally had a certain fascination with the ‘corporate’ model of fascist Italy, which seemed to transcend the class struggle.

    There have been small historical exceptions to the rule that Fascists are so different from both Right and Left that co operation is impossible. In the US, some naive people on the Right have been temporarily duped into joint actions with fascists: this was what characterized the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville. But in almost all other cases, people on the Right have been vigorous in excluding Klansmen and neo-Nazis from their events. And the German Communists, then in a Stalin-directed ultra-left phase, co operated with the Nazis in certain actions, most spectacularly in the ‘Red Referendum’, an attempt to bring down the Socialist Chief of Police in Berlin. [German non-Nazi nationalists had done similarly a few years earlier in a referendum repudiating Versailles.] But these are isolated exceptions to the rule.

    Neither does it really make an sense to call fascism a Rightist phenomenon, if by ‘the Right’ we mean a strong preference for the existing social order, a belief in gradual social change, an aversion to disrupting existing social institutions.

    About the only thing that fascists and traditional conservatives have in common, is that neither are internationalists, and both of them are opposed to the Left.

    It’s also worth noting that, although you can be a secularist, even an atheist, and be on the Right, generally traditional conservatives are friends of the established organized religious groups, whereas Fascists shared with Leftists a hostility to organized religion, and in fact often embraced paganism.

    Because in conflict, it’s difficult to wage a three-sided war, particular conflicts often polarize the combatants into two camps, even if each camp contains mutually-hostile forces who just find themselves in temporary alliance. So we tend to think in a linear left-to-right fashion when considering the conflict that is politics. But although this is understandable, it actually gets in the way of serious political analysis.

    I don’t know a single conservative who would prefer a fascist, as opposed to a communist, takeover of America. It would be like being asked to choose suicide by gun or by poison.

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