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The Abuse of "Fascism."

CULTURE

The Abuse of “Fascism.”

It used to mean something. Now it’s an all-purpose epithet for anything conservative.

Who among the fallen Allied soldiers would have thought that 75 years after their heroic, bloody victory over the Axis powers in Europe, “fascism” was still somehow a threat to America? And yet, the mislabeling of fascism can be found in a variety of political and social contexts today and with increasing frequency—a move dominated by the left, though certainly not limited to it.

“[S]omebody can only present a liberal arts college in America or a dining experience in Portland as verging on the fascist if the people complaining are as far away from fascism as it is possible to be.”

Douglas Murray in his latest book, The Madness Of Crowds, pillories the misunderstanding and inflation of the term, writing: “[S]omebody can only present a liberal arts college in America or a dining experience in Portland as verging on the fascist if the people complaining are as far away from fascism as it is possible to be.”

Even when fascism was a genuine threat to Western democracy, George Orwell warned about its misuse, writing that its a perfect example of the “decay of language,” which can and does lead to “political chaos” and “the worst follies of orthodoxy.”

Today, when “anti-fascist” activists and their apologists misapply the term “fascism,” they’re at best forgetting and are at worst discounting our oldest veterans’ heroic achievements. By claiming they’re actually at war with fascism today, they co-opt this legacy and appropriate the real, actual sacrifice our veterans made for the nation.

It’s not just left-anarchist subcultures; it’s also elected officials who knowingly abuse the term for political gains—like Democratic darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who believes “We are not in politics anymore. We are in racism … we are in a fascistic government.” There is therefore a concerted effort to portray the duly elected American President as a fascist—like Gawker’s year-long trap to try and get the President to retweet so-called ‘fascist content.’ “We came up with the idea for that Mussolini bot under the assumption that Trump would retweet just about anything, no matter how dubious or vile the source, as long as it sounded like praise for himself,” they gloated, as though to prove a point.

The American public needs to understand just how imbecilic most applications of the term “fascist” really are (and, to be sure, they don’t come just from the left). Claims that President Trump represents a fascist threat to the nation, are rooted in complete historical illiteracy, and serve only as click-bait for an audience ready at the bit to hate Donald Trump.

As an ideology, fascism was fundamentally incoherent; it was mostly a blip in history in which fascist regimes emerged in separate contexts, lacking any consistency in either theory or practice. In fact—and importantly—historic fascism heavily overlapped with communism.

So while those who abuse the label today continue to wage war against social disparities (the byproduct of innate human differences and a free society of ordered liberty), the history of fascism ostensibly demonstrates that it is Antifa who have allied themselves with fascism—not the right.

Fascism.

Fascism.

FASCISM’S IDEOLOGICAL INCOHERENCE

The difficulty in clearly defining fascism is linked to several things, perhaps chief among being that, historically, there were many fascisms.

All fascism is nationalistic and, therefore, exclusionary to a degree, but express racial exclusivity barely registered, let alone predominated, for most fascist regimes

Dr. Paul E. Gottfried has two books on the misuse of fascism; one forthcoming, the other, Fascism: The Career of a Concept, published in 2017. In these studies, Gottfried notes how, partly because of how varied fascist administrations were, the elements which can be described as characteristic of fascism are actually very few.

Regimes associated with the label—Mussolini’s Italy, Salazar’s Portugal, Franco’s Spain, or Peron’s Argentina—could all be said to be nationalist, anti-individualist, authoritarian, and encouraging (to varying degrees) of commercial enterprise to meet the needs of the state—but from there, things get muddled.

Orwell observed, for instance, that the characterization of fascist regimes fueling economic growth through military build-up or foreign invasions was not consistent throughout the various regimes. Religion was also inconsistent; Catholicism was always at the center of the regimes and movements in Portugal, Spain, Belgium, and Austria (led by Engelbart Dollfuss, who died resisting Hitler), but not in Italy, where many among the Partito Nazionale Fascista (NFP) adopted forms of neo-paganism. Even while fascism was thriving between the Wars, there was much disagreement as to what it actually represented.

Some of this was related to there being no “source book,” says historian James D. Forman. Mein Kampf  “is not so much a definition [of fascism] as a projection of what Hitler intended to do for Germany and to the world.” (In fact, the incoherence of “fascism” compounds when you throw National Socialism into the mix. All fascism is nationalistic and, therefore, exclusionary to a degree, but express racial exclusivity barely registered, let alone predominated, for most fascist regimes).

The implementation of fascism, in its various political manifestations and allegiances, was also muddled. Italy, for instance, led resistance to Nazi Germany in the mid-thirties with the anti-Nazi Stresa Front: a consortium of nations aligned against Hitler’s then-mounting military belligerence. Mussolini publicly criticized Hitler’s anti-Semitism, had around ten thousand Jews in the NFP, won praise from Zionist troops (for whom he provided training), and only began anti-Jewish persecutions after 1943, when the Germans set up a government in northern Italy.

Further, Mussolini won plaudits from various allied sources with impeccable democratic credentials, including Churchill, FDR, New Deal-advisor Rexford Tugwell, Back-to-Africa leader, Marcus Garvey, and the then-dominant New Republic, among others.

When war broke out, many European fascists and Mussolini- and Franco-sympathizers fought against National Socialism, including the French, Belgians, Poles, and others, something which contrasts with the Soviets who allied with the Nazis during the Non-Aggression Pact period.

The ridiculousness of applying the interwar revolutionary right to modern political contexts aside, lumping the disparate regimes together is essentially meaningless, definitely ahistorical and almost always political.

Mussolini and Hitler.

Mussolini and Hitler.

FASCISM’S ROMANCE WITH COMMUNISM—AND EVENTUAL BREAK

Of course, there were several overarching elements to align the disparate fascist governments, but it’s also interesting to note that there was also a great deal of overlap between these regimes and communism.

One thing which did align fascist governments was their reactionary nature, especially when it came to countering hard-left revolutionary forces. This was also where they broke with parliamentary liberalism.

One thing which did align fascist governments was their reactionary nature, especially when it came to countering hard-left revolutionary forces. This was also where they broke with parliamentary liberalism. All fascist movements were contemptuously viewed as too weak, too bourgeois, and too unwilling to legitimize violence to oppose communism. This same willingness to use violence, however, put them close to the equally anti-liberal communists—whose contingent of street thugs, the “People’s Shock Troops,” in Italy, routinely battled with Mussolini’s Black Shirts.

When Eugen Weber examined the “characteristic features of fascism”—distrust of parliament democracy, extension of state monopolies and state organization, the limitation and repression of independent working-class movements, establishing imperialist economico-political units—he found each applying equally well to communism. As the UK Labour Party’s Daily Herald, wrote of the early 1930s, “Their ‘Socialism’ is not the Socialism of the Labour Party… [b]ut in many ways, it is a creed that is anathema to the big landowners, the big industrialists and the big financiers.”

Such extensive similarities may explain why so many fascists began their political career from various forms of the hard-left—including Mussolini. But, without a doubt, there were also overarching and important distinctions that separated fascism from communism.

For instance, another thing that unites the various fascists regimes is the acceptance of natural social hierarchy and elite rule—something which explains, at least in part, why fascism was most fully formed in traditionally Catholic countries (and especially in Italy with its proud Roman past). This belief, of course, describes a hard break with communism.

This belief in a natural social hierarchy had an impact on how these different political ideologies prioritized economic struggles. As Weber notes, while fascist criticism of unregulated capitalism was no doubt in earnest, it insisted on class cooperation, rather than class warfare. This explains why they adopted the Roman fasces (or bound-together birch rods), which was intended to symbolize the single, unified will of the people.

Defending hierarchy dovetails with fascism’s rejection of absolute egalitarianism; as did its refusal to accept abstract internationalism (globalism)—which was, of course, another hard break with communism.

Defending hierarchy dovetails with fascism’s rejection of absolute egalitarianism; as did its refusal to accept abstract internationalism (globalism)—which was, of course, another hard break with communism. Fascism’s emphasis on the ‘historic nation’ at the forefront of state policy (ahead of individual rights), and its emphasis on historical myth, was criticized under communist doctrine as “bourgeois sentimentality” (or “mindless chauvinism” in Lenin’s words).

But, of course, appeals to nationalism (especially of minorities) frequently popped up in the Soviet Union and China, when it was politically expedient. And, as Orwell wryly noted, although nationalism is “universally regarded as inherently Fascist” it’s usually “held only to apply to such national movements as the speaker happens to disapprove of”—what Natan Sharansky refers to, for instance, as the Soviet’s delineation between ‘good nationalism versus bad nationalism.’

The final important distinction between fascism and communism is the latter’s utopian end-goal of perfecting the individual through social engineering. Fascists, Gottfried writes, rejected the communist idea of progress “associated with the spread of equality and cultural and social homogenization” and, generally, “resisted the vision of human improvability.”

Such a rejection shows that the belief that man can and should be changed, and the erasure of human distinctions, is very much particular to the communist mindset. The contemporary hard-left’s extreme intolerance and pulverizing approach towards any hint of group disparities, for instance, shows well the endurance communism’s utopia enjoys today.

The Third Reich.

The Third Reich.

CONCLUSION

After the war, when the allies were drafting the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Soviets sought to amend its draft-wording on free speech and assembly guarantees by banning those rights to so-called “fascists.” How they offered to define it, curiously enough, approaches how Antifa treats the term today; fascism was. apparently, “the bloody dictatorship of the most reactionary section of capitalism and monopolies.”

Without understanding fascism and its history, the misuse of the term for malignant political purposes—especially to malign conservative populism—will continue.

The Canadian delegate of the session, future prime minister Lester Pearson, responded to this attempt with the correct amount of alarm, stating that “fascism” was being hijacked by the Soviets and intentionally “being blurred by the abuse of applying it to a person or idea which was not communist.” Delegates from other allied nations, such as France and Belgium, voiced the same criticisms.

While the UN Declaration is far from a perfect document, thankfully, the Soviets did not get their wish to abridge even more its guiding principles on free speech and free association. Once again, this generation showed its resilience and scored a big victory for freedom of conscience in the West. Respecting the legacy of that victory means that later generations, like ourselves, must keep up that resilience.

Without understanding fascism and its history, the misuse of the term for malignant political purposes—especially to malign conservative populism—will continue.

For many among the left, fighting “fascism” isn’t just to fight for human progress. It’s a Manichean battle between good and evil. When framed in those terms, as we can see with Antifa’s express statements, there can be no ethical, let alone legal, bounds.

Neutralizing extremist and catastrophizing language will go far in bringing back the kind of cool-headed debate and rational dialogue that’s made Western liberal democracy possible. Curbing such language may force the left to realize they are not at war with fascism or evil, but with differences; differences which are not only inevitable, but healthy in a well-functioning democracy.

Written By

Bradford H. B. is a writer and business owner living in the mid-Atlantic region.

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