Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Fascist Left

Slinging unfriendly epithets today has become sport, so I thought I’d throw out a few myself.

Political leftists can be described as intellectually bankrupt, hate-filled, envy-ridden fascists. They’re also postmodern progressives, but, unfortunately, they don't consider those terms to be insulting. I do.

Let me start with the left-right political spectrum. It goes back to the 1789 French National Assembly. Aristocrats and churchmen, supporters of the king, sat on the right, while the revolutionaries, some of whom were legitimate classical liberals, sat on the left.

In the ensuing two hundred years, the terms have varied in nuanced ways, but essentially the left has been understood as home of the good guys (socialists, statists, progressives) and the right as home of the bad guys, especially fascists, reactionaries and other conservatives, and thanks to the communists, capitalists.*

In my undergraduate school days of the late ‘60s, the spectrum was described as a horseshoe. At the top of the curve, in the middle, was democracy, so all of us good guys were middle-of-the-roaders who, of course, believed in voting and compromise. After all, there is and can be no perfectly free society and extremists, especially those who stick to principle, were dangerous.

No distinction between the compromise of principles and options was made (1, 2).
   
As some have pointed out, and I agree, the spectrum is best thought of as a straight-line continuum from the left—total control of life and economy by the state—to the right—laissez-faire capitalism (or liberalism in the classical tradition). In the middle is the so-called mixed economy, a mixture of freedom and dictatorship.

Statism is the general term that identifies the left with its two inconsequential variants, socialism and fascism. This means that fascism is “right” only in the sense that it is on the “right side of the left.”

Socialism, though, is not just control, but ownership, of life and economy. Lenin’s metaphor of the socialist state was that it would be a giant post office and we would all work for and be controlled by, or rather, belong to, the postal service, aka the state, “under the control and leadership of the armed proletariat.” (State and Revolution, p. 44, emphasis added.)

Though its roots go back earlier, fascism came about when Mussolini broke off from the socialist party and had to come up with something different. (Mussolini and Hitler were socialists to their core.) Unlike Lenin, Mussolini, and later, Hitler, inherited an industrial economy with large degrees of private life and property.

The Italian word fascio means workers’ league, which is consistent with Mussolini’s socialism, so Mussolini used it in 1914 and ‘15 and eventually adapted it to fascismo in 1921 to describe his “vision.” The private sector was allowed to continue in name only—he would have destroyed it, as Lenin nearly did, if he had nationalized everything—but it was controlled and regulated by a large and militant “deep state,” i.e., government bureaucracy.

Initially, Mussolini and the fascists adopted guild socialism, modeled on the Fabianism of Beatrice and Sidney Webb. Syndicalism and corporativism were other terms used. All three differ only in who is going to control and regulate the economy, and how the control is to be exercised. None worked, so Mussolini increasingly adopted the Nazi approach to control, as well as Nazi tactics. Both Mussolini and Hitler copied the tactics of Lenin and Stalin.**

Entrepreneurs, as a result, ceased to exist. “In the terminology of the Nazi legislation,” says Ludwig von Mises, they became shop managers. (Human Action, p. 717. See also Planned Chaos, chap. 1, 7, and 8 and Günter Reimann, The Vampire Economy). Fascism, as Mises identified, is socialism of the German pattern, differing only superficially from the Russian version.

Nominal private control and ownership of life and economy is what we have today in the United States, and have had increasingly since the 1890s with the beginnings of the early progressive era.

It is therefore not a stretch to describe our political and economic system as fascistic. It is not a system of liberty, classical liberalism, or laissez-faire capitalism.

Now I say the left is intellectually bankrupt because it has no new ideas to offer. It relies on the postmodern abandonment of reason and logic (Marx’s polylogism updated) to brand anyone who disagrees with them a hate-filled racist, misogynist, and homophobe. No arguments or facts are given. Only the shouting of collectivist clichés.

The louder and longer the shouting goes on, the assumption apparently is, the more their falsehoods will be believed.

But it is the leftists who are hate-filled—because of their seething, hostile yelling. They also are envy-ridden. This last has been well-documented in Helmut Schoeck’s thorough analysis of envy and the motivations for statism. (Redistributionism, after all, means taking wealth from those who have earned it and giving it to those who have not.)

I have a recommendation for the more sincere Democrats who feel uncomfortable with our current Weimar-like culture and are in search of new ideas to promote: look at Grover Cleveland.

A Democrat, Cleveland was the last US president who advocated classical liberalism. He served two unconnected terms, 1885-89 and 1893-97. In 1888 he won the popular election against Benjamin Harrison, but lost the electoral vote. (His supporters, interestingly, did not whine about having the election stolen!)

Cleveland was a strict constitutionalist who vetoed more bills than any president until Franklin Roosevelt’s determined efforts to protect his progressive-inspired welfare state. Cleveland’s vetoes slowed the early progressives’ juggernaut toward statism.

The fascist left is nearly indistinguishable from its socialist and communist brethren. All use state-initiated coercion to achieve their ends.

The liberal right—the liberalism of the classical tradition—repudiates state-initiated coercion of any kind and guarantees protection for those freedoms to take action called individual rights.

The social and economic theory of liberty is a free society of laissez-faire capitalism.


* Recall that communists and fascists in the United States were bosom buddies until Hitler invaded Russia in 1941. At that point, communists equated fascism with capitalism and started calling anyone who disagreed with them a fascist. Recall also that Marx, Engels, and Lenin considered communism and socialism to be synonyms.

**And anyone today who wears black clothing and calls themselves “anti-fascists” are, by their apparel and tactics, mimicking Mussolini’s blackshirted goons.


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