Recently, I posted this article on Facebook (don’t have a subscription so I only read the preview) and several of my past colleagues from graduate school commented. In essence, I feel like there is a linguistic divide in connecting the historical “right” to the contemporary “right” and the historical “left” to the contemporary “left”. I believe the contemporary “left” and “right” are very similar, only one promotes a different hierarchy of social identities than the other. Your party allegiance is dictated by which party more closely relates to your personal hierarchy of identities. Anyway, if you want to read more of my nonsense, please go on:
I am deeply uncomfortable with the equivalency of populism=Fascism=the “right”. Perhaps it’s a philosophical/linguistic (lowercase ‘f’ versus capital ‘F’ and ‘-ist’ versus ‘-ic’) issue that I have. Why must we divorce the “left” from certain adjectives like totalitarian, populist, nationalist, authoritarian, etc.? I completely agree that Stalin’s Russia was very much like Mussolini’s Italy, but I don’t understand why their brutality is described as “right-wing”? In reading many defenses of Stalin and the like, I hear: “When <insert leftist leader here> murdered people en masse, set up systems of repression, and otherwise acted like a dictator he was being a right-wing nut and not being leftist enough, but when he was carrying out his economic policy he was being a good leftist.” If we divorce economics and social/political policy, then that must be done for regimes on both the “left” and the “right”, not one or the other. Would one be as willing to separate the economic policies of Franco or Mussolini from their brutal social/political policies?
When someone calls a politician a Fascist, I expect them to be describing a man or woman who believes in the pursuit of a Corporatist economy above all else.
When someone calls a politician a Communist, I expect them to be describing a man or woman who believes in the pursuit of a Marxist economic plan above all else.
I think one could equate Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Franco, Mussolini et al. using the same adjectives. Each leader promoted different homogeneities (whether race+religion or class+education) in their societies, but the cause and result were the same: the pursuit of a Utopian economic goal using mass murder and repression. I think using “Fascist” to describe one who promotes a Corporatist economy is absolutely useful. Describing a politician/political party and his/her/its campaign tactics, personality, and hierarchy of identities by using Fascist as a synonym for “right-wing”, nationalist, authoritarian, totalitarian, or populist is not. One may be correct in saying Trump and Le Pen’s economic goals are Fascist/Corporatist (I honestly haven’t examined either one close enough to say), but calling them Fascist because they promote homogeneity, are nationalist, appeal to popular fears, and are authoritarian overlooks those on the “left” that use(d) the same tactics to gain+maintain power.
If fasci(sm/st/stic) is to only be used as an adjective to connect the contemporary “right” to the historical “right”, fine and dandy, but then what is the equivalent term to connect the contemporary “left” to the historical “left”? Just as I know of no Fascist economy that can be analyzed apart from the repression that helped put it into and keep it in place, I know of no Marxist economy that can be analyzed apart from the repression that helped put it into and keep it in place. I would argue that using “fascist” and “marxist” to describe historical political tactics should be synonymous. Or, alternatively, “fascist” and “marxist” should be exclusively used to describe historical homogeneities promoted by the “right” and “left” in pursuit of Fascist and Marxist economic policy. The two words denote vastly different economic goals but dictators on both the “left” and “right” used many of the same tactics and tools in their pursuits. I believe it would be most productive to say: regimes on the “right” and “left” use(d) fascistic/marxist tactics/philosophies (militarism, futurism, nationalism, populism, genocide, repression, etc.) to gain and maintain political power over those people in sectors of society deemed to be barriers to the fulfilment of their economic goals and in order to change citizens’ hierarchy of identities.
Leaving the historical context behind and moving to contemporary politics, both sides absolutely use popular fears to gain support:
Candidate A/B: “Candidate B/A is going to take away <insert civil/constitutional right here> if you don’t vote for me.”
Candidate A/B: “You will be personally victimized by the economic goals of Candidate B/A if you don’t vote for me.”
Candidate A/B: “You and the group you most closely identify with will be personally victimized by the social policies of Candidate B/A if you don’t vote for me.”
Candidate A/B: “Candidate B/A is only looking out for <insert economic class/labor sector/religious group/race/corporate interest> and if you aren’t part of it then I am your only hope.”
Also, just for fun, here is the definition of Corporatism/Corporativism: the sociopolitical organization of a society by major interest groups, or corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labor, military, patronage, or scientific affiliations, on the basis of common interests.
It’s very likely I’ve misunderstood a lot about a lot and I know that in the end none of this matters. Despite how we describe it in discourse, the execution of political philosophy-no matter the flavor-has killed innumerable people and will continue to do so.
If after reading this you think: this woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about, has oversimplified over 100 years of political divisions in the Western hemisphere, doesn’t fully understand Marxism/Fascism, or any other number of complaints about the content of this blog, then guess what? It’s your lucky day because I agree with you!
Drop a comment below if I’ve made an egregious error or if you want to talk to me about my thoughts on any of this.
Until next time!
I put quotes around “left” and “right” because I feel that beyond economic policy and hierarchy of social identities-and within the context of this conversation-it is a false dichotomy.
A fear of Fascism is a perfectly valid one to have, just as a fear of Communism and Capitalism and Socialism are perfectly valid. The pursuit of Fascist, Communist, Capitalist, and Socialist economic policy has killed millions, if not billions, of people. People are justified in fearing each system. That being said, the “right” shouldn’t connect the “left” to its brutal history if it is unwilling to allow the “left” to connect the “right” to its brutal history and vice versa. Of course, millions of people who identify with the contemporary “right” hurl “Commie” and “Socialist” around as haphazardly as the contemporary “left” throws out “Fascist”! There is no denying it.
The difference seems to come when the “right” calls someone on the “left” a Socialist/Communist. The “right” is subsequently deemed ignorant, red-neck, fear mongering, neo-con, populist, Fascist, etc. While when the “left” calls someone on the “right” a Fascist it’s met with encouragement: “Oh, man, maybe you’re right. Maybe this guy really is the next Hitler/Mussolini/Franco!” The fear of Fascism coming from the “left” is a healthy and productive fear to have. Beyond the fringe on both sides, I don’t think anyone really wants to live in a Fascist or Communist country. I don’t know of anyone who would say, “Woo hoo, I hope our next president turns the United States into a Fascist dictatorship!” But on that same note, we must realize that fear of Communism coming from the “right” is a healthy and productive fear to have as well. I don’t think many of us would be happy to live under a Communist dictatorship either.