Following is my reply to a left-wing blogger ranting about a right-wing author's claim that liberals are fascists:
I swear, it's like watching two teenaged boys, both straight, arguing about which one is gayer.
of you appear to be having a knee-jerk reaction against the word
"fascist" because it's been reduced to a snarl word that generally means
"stuff I oppose" rather than referring to an Italian political movement
in the 1930s.
Being a 21st-century American leftist, you equate
"fascism" principally with racism and also, to a lesser degree perhaps,
with vigilantism. Your opponent, Goldberg, being a 21st-century American
right-winger, equates the word with socialism and totalitarianism.
that much, you're both right. The problem is that you each appear to
think it means exclusively the definition you've assigned to it, so
when he calls your ideological camp "fascist," meaning collectivist and
favoring a domineering government, you hear "racist vigilante" and say,
"Nuh-uh! YOU'RE the fascist!" He hears that as "Nuh-uh! YOU'RE the
radical, nanny-state socialist!" and denies it right back at you. This
could go on forever, and neither of you would benefit.
clear up a couple things that should move this debate forward. In early
20th-century European politics, the term "conservative" referred to
aristocratic landowners who favored protectionist policies and an
agrarian-based economy. "Liberal" referred to their political
opponents--the wealthy urban factory owners, bankers, etc. who favored
free trade, military growth, and imperialism, and a system in which
power and status went to the rich rather than to the well-born.
were the two political camps in power at the time. As we see in our
bicameral system today, they were only able to work together on things
they agreed on. Where they opposed each other, there was gridlock.
Neither group represented the common people, though.
had their own political movements--socialism, distributism, and various
other schemes for giving common workers a voice, and there was
disagreement within these movements. One of the socialist sects was the
Bolsheviks, which grew to become the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union. Centered in Moscow, they wanted all other European socialists to
pledge fealty to the Communists. The Fascists (in Italy) and the German
Workers' Party (later the National Socialist German Workers' Party,
a.k.a. "Nazis") resisted Moscow.
It was this division, not
anti-socialist sentiments, that led to the Nazis persecuting German
Bolsheviks. The Nazis didn't rise to power telling people they were
going to murder millions of Jews. They promised--and delivered--a slew
of social welfare programs like government-paid health care, education,
and retirement, all to be funded by heavily taxing the rich.
Who have we heard promoting that kind of policy lately? The Republicans? The Tea Party?
the Nazis were racist, and the Republicans are racist, therefore
Republicans, not Democrats, are Nazis! And fascist is just another word
for Nazi, so Republicans are fascists! Q.E.D."
Germany, antisemitism was at least as commonplace as animosity toward
Wall Street bankers and one-percenters in general is in America
today--and for similar reasons. It wasn't considered a shameful or taboo
topic the way racism is seen in America today. The popular view in
Germany (among gentiles, anyway) was that Jewish financiers were largely
responsible for destroying Germany's economy. The actual Fascists (in
Italy) weren't really all that troubled by Jews. It was at the
insistence of their larger, more powerful ally, Nazi Germany, that they
started persecuting Jews.
In America, we on the left enjoy this
tale of Nixon's "Southern strategy" whereby all the Southern bigots used
to be Democrats (Dixiecrats) and then moved en masse to the Republican
Party in the 1960s. But do we also claim that all the previously
non-racist Republicans likewise left the GOP for the Democrats, to get
away from the racist newcomers? In truth, both parties were full of
racists up until the mid-20th century when attitudes started to
change--not unlike attitudes toward LGBT folk have been changing in
recent years. Like antisemitism in the Weimar Republic, white racism
against blacks was accepted as normal and proper among whites of both
parties for a very long time.
So while American racists today
are pretty heavily concentrated among the party of the right-wing, that
doesn't make racism an inherently and exclusively right-wing trait. Was
Kennedy a right-winger when the racists were Dixiecrats? Was FDR? What
I'm saying is that today's Republicans are both right-wing AND racist,
but that fact alone doesn't make racism a necessarily right-wing trait.
Whether one is racist or not has nothing to do with being left- or
right-wing. One can be a racist socialist...as Hitler demonstrated.
best, then, neither of you are fascists. At worst, you're both capable
of becoming such. If a third-party candidate came along addressing
exactly the issues that mattered to you, ones that both Republicans and
Democrats routinely ignored, and that candidate had such massive support
that it looked like he had a good chance at winning and delivering on
his promises, it wouldn't be easy to say, "No, I can't vote for this guy
because he might be unkind to the people I don't like."