Thursday, December 19, 2019
Guy Steward: The Left is Wrong about FascismLabels: Fascism, Guy Steward, Socialism, UK election
It’s heartening to see the landslide victory of the Conservatives in the UK with support across different socio-demographics. It shows amongst other things what voters disenchanted by the frequent failure of left-wing parties can do when there are viable alternatives. May we see something similar in New Zealand in 2020.
And it’s fascinating to observe the reactions—especially of vociferous left-wingers—to resounding defeats like this. It reveals their political integrity or lack thereof.
Street protesters tend to come across as less rational, less adult, in their reduction of everything to accusations. Granted that duplicity is no one’s preserve, and everyone occasionally wears the hypocrite label. Yet the political left at the street level take the cake, because while their banners display moralist statements like “Say no to racism”, they are quite OK with lying, smearing, slandering, misrepresenting, inferring evil intent, hating, threatening, and cursing anyone considered too “right” or conservative. …but please “Say no to racism!”.
If you rail at perceived “racism, discrimination, fascism, etc.”, there are certain things no thinking person will argue with. You may however be moralising out of thin air, with no foundation apart from a vague sense of your need to be fair and nice. And while that’s well and good, it hardly goes beyond schoolyard reasoning.
However, there’s little to no rational basis for the left calling anything right or wrong because certain essential principles are missing from their worldview. And those carrying placards may care little about what’s on the sign, it being code language for something more agenda based.
Where they really come off the rails though is in their boringly constant portrayal of characters like Donald Trump or Boris Johnson or anyone they don’t like as “fascists”. Here’s where the plot completely eludes them. And it’s unlikely that they really know what they are opposing.
George Orwell once stated that the emotive term “fascism” was used to refer to any group, perhaps perceived as authoritarian, that people simply wish to dislike.[i]
In fact, in its political manifestation there was a double identity to its face. The word, adopted by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini who founded the first “Fascio di combattimento” (Fascist Fighting Unit) on 23 March 1919, comes from the Italian fascio which meant a bundle of sticks (i.e., a nation as a unified bundle) which, along with an axe, was a symbol of ancient Roman authority. Of course, it was nationalist and imperialist, both however being convenient cloaks for gaining support. Its roots were socialist, from a conflict between pacifist and violent socialist ideals.
Before leaving the Socialist Party and prior to the First World War, Mussolini was one of the most skilful socialist leaders in Italy. So initially, Italian Fascism had “a left-wing tendency”, standing “as a left-wing movement, almost a rival of the Socialist Party”[ii]. Mussolini’s goal was in some way to establish Italy as a world power like the Roman Empire. He would say things like “Socialism is war”, and “Who has iron, has bread” (akin to Napoleon’s “The revolution is an idea plus bayonets.”), catchwords of the Socialist daily which he helped publish after his break from pacifist socialism. His tactic throughout was to use a combination of “strength and sweetness”.
Fascism eventually developed into a movement without any clear doctrine or plan, centred around “nationalism” but opposing both socialism and capitalism depending on which suited it as the most convenient enemy. When it reached its height, its only notion was that power was supreme—the power of one state, one party, one leader, enforced by la polizia. In other words, a police state. In fascism, individual responsibility (never up for grabs with conservatives) had to be surrendered to the state. So, at its extremity it was akin to Bolshevism because it was all about power, despite the nationalist rhetoric. It was totalitarian, repressive of freedom, neither democratic nor pro free enterprise nor pro free speech and had no consideration of human rights. Mussolini himself had little respect for others.
One difference was that while socialists talked about equality and the rights of the workers, fascism in its heyday was hierarchical, imperialistic, favouring of wealthy landowners, and willing to take advantage of inequality. But over time the fascist trade unions became anti-capitalist. And during the Ethiopian war, “Every class in Italy…proudly felt both proletarian and fascist.” (Carocci, 1975, p. 105) According to one website, socialists and fascists have always been “kissing cousins”,[iii] both violent and both seeking to export their ideas by force of arms. One of Mussolini’s sayings was “War is to man what maternity is to women”.
It all finally collapsed due to disorganization and dishonesty, going nowhere except to its own destruction. Il Duce (the leader) became “a prisoner of his own propaganda”. By the early 1940s the originator of fascism, Mussolini, had turned his contempt for other people into complete resentment—against the bourgeois, the monarchy, and the clergy.
“There is no doubt that the resentment he felt aroused his old socialist, or socialist inclined, spirit…” (Ibid, p. 133) In other words, at heart he was still socialist.
To oppose “fascism” then is to oppose a movement whose own roots were in anarchism and socialist revolutionary violence, the state ending up ruling over rather than serving the people.
[i] Orwell, G, What is Fascism, 1944, http://www.orwell.ru/library/articles/As_I_Please/english/efasc accessed 15/12/19
[ii] Carocci, G. Italian Fascism, transl. Isabel Quigly, 1975, pp. 18,.22,
[iii] https://www.libertarianism.org/columns/precursors-origins-italian-fascism and https://www.theepochtimes.com/nazism-fascism-and-socialism-are-all-rooted-in-communism_2549205.html and https://www.hoover.org/research/surprising-roots-facism, and https://www.theamericanconservative.com/birzer/socialists-and-fascists-have-always-been-kissing-cousins/ accessed 15/12/19
Guy Steward is a teacher, musician, and writer.
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