January 19, 2005

The Totalitarian Impulse

Apropos of yesterday’s screedy post about binary-thinking activists and the bovine mentality that enshrines a party-line, there’s this from “Annette” on the Feedback page for my most recent Tech Central Station article about Hotel Rwanda.

Ill bet mr totten is a down the line liberal. how do i know this? he never mentions the name of the president of the united states at the time. guess who? bill clinton.
I probably spend more time than necessary studying totalitarian regimes, but I can’t quite help myself. I find them morbidly fascinating, in part because it’s sometimes hard for me to believe such places really exist. Even while walking around inside Libya and seeing the real-world results of contemporary totalitarianism all around me, it was hard to imagine just how much raw totalizing power was behind it.

Anyway, when I read comments like Annette’s above the first thing that often comes to my mind is this: how would such a person behave if he or she were in a position of power inside Stalin’s Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler’s Germany, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? It takes a special kind of person to pour over someone’s work looking for the most trivial details and omissions and using such meaningless data to jump to sweeping conclusions, usually followed by denunciations. It gives me the creeps, whether I’m the target or not. Who can adhere to such rigid party-line orthodoxy? A lot of people – millions of people – are dead because others who think this way have seized the levers of power. Thank God our political system prevents people like Annette from turning into anything more sinister than mere harmless cranks.

I do see this sort of behavior more on the left these days than the right. But it’s not a left-wing thing, not really. People on the right do it, too, and people on the right do it to me.

UPDATE: On a related note (well, related to yesterday's post, which is sort of related to this one), please see the always-brilliant Norman Geras.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 06:05 PM
Comments

I fuckn love you Michael. Another good one. Keep it up.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 06:09 PM

But it’s not a left-wing thing, not really.

Yep, just a wing thing, generally.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at January 19, 2005 06:33 PM

Well, I used to say that I didn't so much care what a person believed, as how they believed it. There is some truth to that. Thus we have:

"One of the most peculiar aspects of the Rape of Nanking was the presence of John Rabe, the Nazi official who risked his life to save the Chinese from the marauding Japanese soldiers."

From a set of questions about The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang.

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 06:40 PM

Iris Chang committed suicide a couple of weeks ago by the way. She suffered from depression.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 06:48 PM

David,

I am sorry to hear that. Depression, what a terrible burden burden for her to carry.

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 06:58 PM

She was so young and attractive, and smart and eloquent. It haunted me for a while when I found out.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 07:02 PM

Who can adhere to such rigid party-line orthodoxy? A lot of people – millions of people – are dead because others who think this way have seized the levers of power. Thank God our political system prevents people like Annette from turning into anything more sinister than mere harmless cranks.

I've noticed a tendency on blogs for people to shoehorn people that they read into a mental prototype rather than deal with the issues or the ideas being presented, and that is what Annette has attempted to do with you here. I suspect that this is partly due to the isolated nature of browsing the internet. After all, if you're having a political discussion over beers, you're also seeing a lot of other stuff than just the words. For example, if you start straying into an area that is insulting to the other party, you can read that quickly and compensate for it in the discussion. That kind of thing is missing from this medium, especially in comment sections, and it's probably easier to argue with someone you have a simplistic mental model of than the more complex task of comminicating with an actual person.

On the other hand, that may well be the personality model that was so common under dictatorships, bureacrats who had no abilty to empathize or emote (IE psychopaths).

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 19, 2005 07:09 PM

I said in the comment thread to MJT's post of yesterday that I see extremism more as a function of temperment than of ideology. It seems Annette has buttressed my point. Wasn't it Churchill who said, "a fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."?

Posted by: Ben at January 19, 2005 07:18 PM

Thank God our political system prevents people like Annette from turning into anything more sinister than mere harmless cranks--MJT

Actually,it is not the 'political system'that prevents this unholy descent into madness.It is the underlying 'social contract'that provides the basis for the political system that inhibits the totalitarian impulse.It is the belief that one's fellow citizens are in fact one's fellow citizens above all,and not a deranged sub-group that has only the rights that another group determines they have.
This 'social context'depends totally on the 'agreement to disagree',and this social agreement is by no means permanent or unshakeable.That is why the current political dysfunction is potentially a very serious development.One cannot have a situation where a large group pontificates as a matter of BELIEF,that GWB is equivalent to Hitler,and not have a potential for truly 'bad'behaviour.IMHO,when groups can no longer'communicate'with the 'other',and feel that their differences are vastly more important than their similarities,it only takes a certain(but unknown) degree of 'pressure'for the 'social contract'to fray at the edges.When the society is faced with an serious if not mortal'external'threat,the potential for disaster is always present.
This is a VERY dangerous historical period,and I don't see things getting better all by themselves.In fact,they are arguably getting worse.If under these conditions,a major terrorist attack occurs and the same attitudes remain intact,I would very much hesitate to predict how stable the current system actually is.

Posted by: dougf at January 19, 2005 07:24 PM

"Ill bet mr totten is a down the line liberal."

LOL.

Michael, you truly cannot win. Oliver thinks you're a Nazi and little Annette thinks you're a commie. All in the space of two columns.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at January 19, 2005 07:27 PM

Oh come, double plus. I think the medium has little to do with it. I have noticed such tendencies in bull sessions and discussions since I was in grade school. It's everywhere.

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 07:28 PM

I think every "true believer" has a bit of the fascist in him, or her, as the case may be. Which is why I like the stability of a two-part systems-- checks and balances and all that. If only we had a viable second party.

Posted by: Patricia at January 19, 2005 07:33 PM

Oh come, double plus. I think the medium has little to do with it. I have noticed such tendencies in bull sessions and discussions since I was in grade school. It's everywhere.

Then maybe it's just the right-wingers and left-wingers that I hang out with. Even in a raving dogfight, we still listen to each other. With blogs, on the other hand, there seems little room to manuever once someone has slipped you into that mental mold they're comfortable with.

There are blogs that are exceptions, of course, so you may have a point.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 19, 2005 07:33 PM

I've always liked this one:

"A fanatic is a man that does what he thinks the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the case."

Finley Peter Dunne

Posted by: jeremy in NYC at January 19, 2005 07:35 PM

Which is why I like the stability of a two-part systems-- checks and balances and all that.

I'm not sure how a two-party system helps against that way of thinking. I'd think it would reinforce it (EG - you're either one of us, or one of them). Having more than two parties offers a greater variety on the political spectrum.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 19, 2005 07:35 PM

dougf,

I too find the current situation scary for the same reasons. It is clear that democracy in this country will not last forever, nothing lasts forever, but I never thought that I would live to see the day when I felt it was threatened. But I do feel that fear now. Our political culture is very sophisticated in its balance, far more so than what is found in Europe. But I think its very sophistication makes it difficult to maintain and somewhat unnatural. A slight decline into the dark ages, and bingo, it will be gone.

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 07:39 PM

It is clear that democracy in this country will not last forever, nothing lasts forever, but I never thought that I would live to see the day when I felt it was threatened.

We'll be fine for the foreseeable future as long as the moonbat wing of the Democratic party don't insist on yelling "fraud" every time they lose an election. I consider even those mere accusations to undermine the credibility of our system, and without credibility it truly is threatened.

Dems, control your moonbats. You threaten our democracy.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 07:44 PM

Having more than two parties offers a greater variety on the political spectrum.

Sorta like Canada, eh? Or were you thinking of France?

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 07:45 PM

dougf: One cannot have a situation where a large group pontificates as a matter of BELIEF,that GWB is equivalent to Hitler,and not have a potential for truly 'bad'behaviour.IMHO,when groups can no longer'communicate'with the 'other',and feel that their differences are vastly more important than their similarities,it only takes a certain(but unknown) degree of 'pressure'for the 'social contract'to fray at the edges.

In my experiences on the blogs, there are a very small group of people on the left who have equated Bush with Hitler. A very small number. So do you think that by labelling your political opposition as "a large group pontificates as a matter of BELIEF,that GWB is equivalent to Hitler" is an attempt at genuine communication, or slapping a bunch of people into a mental model you find easier to deal with?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 19, 2005 07:46 PM

Sorta like Canada, eh? Or were you thinking of France?

Not sure what you're going for here, Chuck. Communication? Or just being a winger?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 19, 2005 07:47 PM

Chuck: It is clear that democracy in this country will not last forever, nothing lasts forever, but I never thought that I would live to see the day when I felt it was threatened. But I do feel that fear now

Want an antidote? Read some Latin American history and get a sense of what truly dangerous political polarization looks like. Marc Cooper's Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir is as good a place to start as any. You won't agree with all his opinions in it (I didn't), but I think you'll still find it a poweful and instructive memoir and historical account of the implosion of a democracy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2005 07:48 PM

Polarization in speech tends to feed on itself. One of the points to back up Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposal for non-partisan re-districting is that it will deny incumbents any safe seats. When they know they are safe, they tend to emphasize the party differences and cause us to drift apart. When they are forced to appeal to the center, they are more likely to come up with bridging formulas.

Posted by: jj at January 19, 2005 07:55 PM

Oh, Double plus, you are soooo serious. The first half was ironic, the second an observation. If you can't see some irony in a Canada dominated by the Liberal party for thirty some years and a fractured and ineffectual conservative side, then there is no irony. In any case, the parliamentary system allows for odd alliances between parties, because such an alliance gains power. In the US with its balance of power between the branches, there is little to be gained by party descipline and multiple parties and alliances. The president, of whatever party, is the executive irrespective of the party representation in the houses of the congress, and the supreme court appointments last for a lifetime. It was made that way on purpose and has served well, lo these many years.

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 08:00 PM

Double plus, you are soooo serious.

Smily faces are generally used to avoid misunderstandings in a medium that conveys no emotional tone. Irony can easily be mistaken for snark, of which there is an abundance on political blogs. But okay, hyuk hyuk, I get it.

As for the rest, I wasn't saying that a multi-party system is better than your system, I was saying that it might lead to less polarization. When you have only a binary choice in your political system, I'd think it would lead to binary thinking on the issues.

Note, the Canadian Liberal Party was out of power for eight years or so in the eighties, so we haven't been dominated by them for the last thirty years. But even so, and even though I'm not a Liberal, the country seems to be humming along okay at the moment. And the Conservatives, as always, hang in the wings like some great horrible slavering beast :-) should the Liberals mess things up sufficiently. Keeps 'em on their toes.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 19, 2005 08:09 PM

I've read recently that the blogosphere
attracts less polarization than tradional media.

Not true, as this post indicates.

I've got a post about this
here.

Posted by: Dave at January 19, 2005 08:21 PM

When you have only a binary choice in your political system

But that isn't how it usually is. Hence all the talk of the "big tent." The Democratic party that Roosevelt built had socialists, the Wallace stalinist wing, plain old liberals, and conservative southern Democrats of the jim crow variety. Politics was local, the party was national. These days the Republicans have Giuliani and Schwartzenegger, two men who could easily have been Democrats fifty years ago. The two parties are still diverse, though I think the Republicans are gaining the edge here, but the fear is that activist purity in the Democratic party will enforce an unhealthy uniformity. Perhaps a new party will form at some point, they have before. What is different these days is an unbalanced activist media and a politically unbalanced intellectual class in the universities. Both of these entrenched interests are being challenged, so it will be interesting to see how things go.

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 08:22 PM

Maybe it's just the blogs I read as I surf around, but I find more people on the right making Hitler comparisons than I do on the left. Just a few days, a man who seems quite nice on a personal level (well, as personal as the internet gets), asserted that he sees Michael Moore and certain elements of the DNC as nazis, with Michael Moore taking on the propaganda role of Goebbels. I challenged him on this (nicely), but the fact is, he truly believes it--that the lefties would take fascist control of this country if they could.
I find two things about this utterly astounding: 1) the belief that some Democrats are truly little Hitler wannabes, and 2) that this nice, educated man actually believes this theory. And it's not just him--I see it on other blogs, as well.

Posted by: Amy at January 19, 2005 08:35 PM

Oddly enough, Amy, I do see this connection myself. Of course, Musolini came from the left, and much of the Nazi ideology came from there also. I don't see Moore as a Nazi, but I do see him as having the right personality and willingness to twist facts and use some of the same effective propaganda techniques pioneered in the communist classic Ten Days that Shook the World, directed by Eisenstein, or that anti-semitic classic Der Ewige Jude, underwritten by Goebbels. I don't think Moore is a nice man. I am sorry if you do.

Just asking, but have you met any real Nazis from that time in Germany?

Posted by: chuck at January 19, 2005 08:50 PM

I'll confess, Leftist "peace" protestors remind me of the Brownshirts. But for good reason.

And Michael Moore, though not a nazi, could teach Goebbels a trick or two.

Posted by: David at January 19, 2005 08:52 PM

Re Moore as Goebbels as per Amy

I don't believe that Michael Moore(aka Lumpy Riefenstahl) is Goebbels.I believe however that he is a sleazy,mendacious,little propagandist whose 'loyalty'is 'flexible, whose intent is malicious,and whose intellect is seriously over-rated.Perhaps this is what the 'nice man'meant to state,but used an unfortunate short-hand to get there.

Posted by: dougf at January 19, 2005 08:55 PM

I consider even those mere accusations to undermine the credibility of our system, and without credibility it truly is threatened.

Enh, we'll stop accusing when you stop playing games with the voting machines and felon lists. That is, we'll stop making accusations of fraud when there are fewer reasons to do so. You've got both Houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. Ball's in your court. Step up.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 19, 2005 11:48 PM

Amy, haven't you ever heard of Femi-nazis? Or PC thought police? Terms discussed at least since Reagan was president; certainly all through Clinton's terms.

Just days ago a feminist walked out on Harvard Pres. Summers suggesting it might be possible that a genetic difference between men and women might be a reason for their different representation in math and sciences. (I'd guess the same feminist DOES believe that being gay is genetic.)

How would you know if one side, or the other, was developing a desire to exert fascist control in society? I think, by most criteria, the Left is more guilty. Because the Right, especially the small-gov't (lib wing) right, wants individual power rather than social or group power.

[of course, now that Reps HAVE a lot more power, to spend ... they spend, on their friends. Jane Galt's Law -- Michael, did you talk with Megan about this on your visit?]

Unfortunately, I do NOT believe the mere US political system is much protection -- the US has not "lost" any war. (It gave up fighting in Vietnam and went home; similar to Somalia but 5000 times less US deaths.) The combination of the US system, its individual culture, and the wealth creating success of its free enterprise system, all combine to make it unlikely that the US would lose a war in a way that changes their culture. [yada yada, NOT perfect -- but where is it overall better?]

Without having lost a war, (most, the North of ) the US has not been under the kind of pressure other social war-losing cultures have. In this respect, the white KKK death squads, bred in the USA by having lost a war, are quite understandable. And the current Sunni Death Squads seem similar.

Apropos of Norm, I suggest that true Liberals focus on the desired goals and "ends" -- an end to dictatorship, an end to human rights abuses. Because most Conservatives like these ends, as well -- and then the argument can go on about how to judge any particular means of advancing towards the goals.

Ending the terrible regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq seem like good, big steps. As Norm said of Condi -- she's Right!

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 20, 2005 12:16 AM

Tom: Jane Galt's Law -- Michael, did you talk with Megan about this on your visit?

Yes, she brought it up because she was surprised at how famous that line is now. She said it came out of nowhere.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 20, 2005 12:27 AM

Because most Conservatives like these ends, as well

Please understand that I mean this in the most respectful manner possible, but my honest response to this was an audible chuckle.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 20, 2005 01:41 AM

You've got both Houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. Ball's in your court. Step up.

Kimmitt,

that's up to the individual states, not "Congress" or the "Supreme Court." I know you think the Constitution is a "living breathing" document, but the states determine their election procedures as per the Constitution. I'm willing to bet 99.999% of you squawkers don't even know that, or care. You just want to squawk and damage Bush, no matter what harm you do to our country. Just flapping your wings and making a lot of noise, and you don't even have any credibility in your own party than God. Unfortunately, the once great Democratic Party is being held hostage to your lunatic fringe.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 05:10 AM

[darn, get answered by am not here for the conversation ... until far too late.]

'Jane Galt', a play on the Rand super-capitalist hero John Galt (Atlas Shrugged), is criticizing the Bush Reps for spending too much. Her side -- imperfect; maybe even "bad".

What I very much like about Marc Cooper is that he's willing to criticize, often savagely, his own preferred Kerry supporting Dems.

And MJT too, will criticize anybody he thinks deserves it.

Yet there are grounds to criticize this attitude I admire and like and try to follow. It was alluded to in a group unity comment previously. Consider these famous quotes:
"If we don't hang together, we'll hang separately".
"United we stand, divided we fall."

In a war, it IS important to present a unified front to the enemy to minimize casualities. Human deaths; especially "our side", but also the enemy side.

"We are fighting a war of ideas." Are we really? Ideas depend on TRUTH for their power, along with cadres of true believers. It is not ideas that kill, it is people who do. KKK Death Squads, Islamofascist Death Squads, Khmer Rough Death Squads, Stalin's, Mao's, Hitler's Death Squads; Rwandan Hutu Death Squads, Sudanese Janjaweed Death Squads; and so many others. [With some of whom the US gov't has been allied.]

The incomplete-truth tension occurs in gathering true believers willing to do the killing. These fanatics are presented with something close enough to the truth that they can deny objections to it; and even label any objectors as traitors (to the group). Maintaining ideological purity minimizes deaths for the winning side [other than surrender].

The activistas have confused a metaphorical "war of ideas" with a real "war of two sides, one of which is the USA." In their desire to win the war of ideas, Bush haters are acting as if division/ criticism is deadly. While the Bush supporters often DO accuse such folk of being traitors, because their criticism IS helping the Sunni Death Squads kill Americans and Iraqis.
[isn't "activistas" an easier word to say than "activistists"?]

While I usually try to be constructive, the above is mostly descriptive; an attempt at one POV.

But I really do want the pro-democracy side to win.

"Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 20, 2005 06:04 AM

Read the words of the Evil One, the one the Left must destroy:

“We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

“America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home – the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty.”

Posted by: LeftMustStopBush at January 20, 2005 06:58 AM

dougf -

I agree with your post, word for word.

The deliberative process by which our laws are legislated, restrained by constitutional limits, depends on prinipled compromise in order to work. Elections, too, are effective only when the involved parties accept wins or losses and move on from there.

The single most odious act of the 2004 election - and the latest in a string of maneuvers indicating a willingness to destroy public confidence in the entire electoral process for political gain - was the intent of the Democrats, published in advance of the elections, to challenge elections based not on evidence of fraud but where they could conceivably construct a case after the fact.

Words on paper don't keep us free. The faith and confidence of the citizenry is what ultimately makes this Grand Experiment work. Hammer that into dust and there won't be a country worth governing, regardless of who wins.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 20, 2005 07:07 AM

Iris Chang's website is still up. Kind of sad and creepy at the same time.

Posted by: praktike at January 20, 2005 07:40 AM

" Hammer that into dust and there won't be a country worth governing, regardless of who wins."

Unless your ultimate motivation is Will to Power Over Other People...in such a case, the rule of law and the Constitution are just in the way to your Cosmic Quest for Victory over Evil XYZ (e.g. capitalists, Christians, corporations, Jews, whatever) and Utopia.

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 07:48 AM

David: Unfortunately, the once great Democratic Party is being held hostage to your lunatic fringe.

I don't thing that is completely correct. I believe the Democratic party is simply evolving. The world is changing around us, Europe and South America are becoming increasingly socialist. The Democratic Party is simply going the way of the International Community, namely the Europeans.

The Republican Party is simply rejecting that way, and choosing a different path. Right or wrong I'm not one to say, however it's in my own nature to reject what self-righteous people say I "should" be doing, regardless of political affiliation. That aside, America was founded upon following a different path and rejecting the "the old world". That and our unrivaled success is the foundation of the animosity toward America and it's people, and the source of the shame felt by the American Liberal Intelligentsia, many of them Democrats.

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2005 07:53 AM

"...and the source of the shame felt by the American Liberal Intelligentsia, many of them Democrats."

But do they REALLY feel the shame you speak of?

Or are they just trying to make YOU feel shameful....as to better manipulate you toward their ends?

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 08:47 AM

Does anyone else see the irony of this entire set of posts?

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 20, 2005 09:04 AM

Does anyone else see the irony of this entire set of posts?--Tosk

No.

Posted by: dougf at January 20, 2005 09:07 AM

Does anyone else see the irony of this entire set of posts?

I noted it. Kinda sad.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 20, 2005 09:27 AM

Does anyone else see the irony of this entire set of posts?--Tosk

No.--dougf

All general statements are false. At least one other individual, as yet unidentified, sees the irony of this entire set of posts.

Posted by: triticale at January 20, 2005 09:33 AM

Proven correct in the time it took me to post.

Posted by: triticale at January 20, 2005 09:34 AM

Wisehead: Or are they just trying to make YOU feel shameful....as to better manipulate you toward their ends?

Dunno, good question though. I'm sorry it's sort of a cop out, but I'm thinking a little of both. I think they feel shame when Toby Keith sings a nationalistic country song, and they also want you to feel shameful for welling with nationalistic pride when you listen to it. Frankly I don't care b/c I'll do and feel what I want, when and how I want to do and feel it; and any consortium of individuals, religious, political or otherwise which attempts to tell me I can't, or I shouldn't, can shove it.

Kind of like this: I like machines of power, in particular controlling machines of power such as fast cars, guns and such. I feel that as long as I don't hurt anyone, who are they to tell me I can't experience these things? I don't want to tell them not to read Chomsky, so don't tell me what to do. And you can damn well be sure I'm not ashamed of it because I admit my vice.

I hope that satisfies your question, at least from a personal subjective perspective.

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2005 09:46 AM

All general statements are false.

You mean "most," otherwise your statement is false if true.

But seriously, the thread of posts has a lot of the usual pointless smearing, but none of the creepy mindf*** attempted by "Annette". The irony isn't so deep.

Posted by: Jim at January 20, 2005 09:56 AM

Mike -

There is no evolution in progress in the Democrat party. It's a meltdown.

The legacy of fifty years of managing victims for political power and spending other peoples' money to do so has run up against the upward curve of living standards, the almost total absence of institutional racism in America outside of government, academic institutions, and the civil rights industry, and the current challenge to Western civilization posed by fundamentalist Islam.

I have extended this comment on my blog; it's my typically wordy rant but just too damned long to clutter Michael's forum with. Visit me if you wish, but bring a sack lunch.

And maybe a thesaurus...

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 20, 2005 10:13 AM

Chuck: Of course, Musolini came from the left, and much of the Nazi ideology came from there also.

Mussolini flirted with Marxism for a while in his early years, but by the time he entered politics, he was elected as a right-winger. To say his fascist ideology was born from socialist thinking has about as much credibility as saying that because Reagan was a union leader early in his career, he was a socialist president.

As for Nazi ideology being left-wing, that theory has been bouncing about the blogscape for the last year, but it simply isn't true. One of the fundamental principles of Fascism was that it was anti-Marxist. From Wikipedia:
After Mussolini's fascists took power in Italy in 1922, fascism presented itself as a realistic option for opposing "Communism", particularly given Mussolini's success in crushing the Communist and anarchist movements which had destabilised Italy with a wave of strikes and factory occupations after the First World War. Fascist parties formed in numerous European countries.

Many historians such as Ian Kershaw and Joachim Fest argue that Hitler and the Nazis were one of numerous nationalist and increasingly fascistic groups that existed in Germany and contended for leadership of the anti-Communist movement and, eventually, of the German state. Further, they assert that fascism and its German variant National Socialism became the successful challengers to Communism because they were able to both appeal to the establishment as a bulwark against Bolshevism and appeal to the working class base, particularly the growing underclass of unemployed and unemployable and growingly impoverished middle class elements who were becoming declassed (the lumpenproletariat). The Nazi's use of socialist rhetoric appealed to disaffection with capitalism while presenting a political and economic model that divested "socialism" of any elements which were dangerous to capitalism, such as the concept of class struggle, "the dictatorship of the proletariat" or worker control of the means of production.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 20, 2005 10:20 AM

...divested "socialism" of any elements which were dangerous to capitalism....

Wow! Sounds like divesting a kick in the teeth of any unpleasantness.

But seriously, arguing which totalitarian was right and which was left is simply academic. To intend it to be more is to attempt to smear someone you disagree with with the taint of totalitarianism. Does anyone really believe that right-wing totalitarians wouldn't control the economy and inhibit various other liberties? Does anyone really believe that left-wing totalitarians would not enforce any personal ways of life or morality on people?

Totalitarians: ain't a lick worth of difference amongst 'em.

Posted by: Jim at January 20, 2005 10:45 AM

DPU's position is that American conservativism and libertarianism are right-wing and therefor in favor of the platform of national socialism or fascism.

Of course, libertarians/conservatives do not favor the nationalization of large industries (such as education or health care) as did both national socialism or fascism - so DPU's position is clearly false.

Further, libertarians/conservatives do not favor gun confisication or central planning or the surpression of property rights, as did national socialists and fascists. I could keep listing, but why waste time?

At the same time, we can compare left-wing regimes, such as Stalin, with so-called "right-wing" regimes such as national socialist Germany, and there is clearly more in common than different. Further, we can compare the platforms of the communist and socialsit parties with national socialist/fascist parties and see the common positions and language and premises, while the differnces are few.

Lastly his position is false because to be anti-communist or anti-marxist is not enough to be anti-leftist. Anarhchists are anti-Marxist and Stalin oppressed communists (Trotskysists).

DPU is once again showing his base ignorence of both conservative and libertarian intelletual throught and the nature of capitalism. Instead he resorts to throwing monkey-poo.

But he can quote from Wikipedia, which we know isn't biased (ha ha).

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 10:48 AM

Mussolini flirted with Marxism for a while

Let's see, he was raised in a socialist household, organized for the socialists, and edited a socialist newspaper. Link. What you call flirt, I call marriage. As to the leftist content of fascism, why don't you go read their stuff. I expect you will find some of it familiar, you might even agree with some of it. As to the suppression of Communists by the fascists, what about the suppression of Trotskites by Stalinists? Does this disbar Stalin from the socialist label? What about Lenin's suppression of the Socialist Revolutionaries? Does this mean that Lenin was not a socialist? Why do you persist in denying your cousins their family connection?

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 10:54 AM

Dontcha know chuck? Stalin was really a right-winger and capitalist. He was just doing what Edmund Burke and Fredrich Hayek suggested. At least that is DPU's logic. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, flys like a duck...it must be a horse.

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 10:57 AM

DPU's position is that American conservativism and libertarianism are right-wing and therefor in favor of the platform of national socialism or fascism.

Rather, I think that's your distorted view of DPU's position. I've always read his position to be one of favoring liberal politics, sometimes even the dumb liberal politics, but I have yet to see him state that all Conservatives and Libertarians are in favor of the platform of national socialism or fascism..

But, I suppose its true in your reality.

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 20, 2005 10:59 AM

Yeah, DPU is full of it. But I'm pretty sure he'd lay down his life to stop me from being sent to a gulag.

Posted by: Jim at January 20, 2005 11:02 AM

Ratatosk:
His position would only make sense (in the way you suggest) if he classifies libertarianism and conservativism as Left-wing. It would be weird and contrary to most people's opinions, but you be correct I assumed wrongly if that was his position.

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 11:05 AM

"But I'm pretty sure he'd lay down his life to stop me from being sent to a gulag."

But I wonder if he would for an Iraqi?

Posted by: Thor at January 20, 2005 11:07 AM

Let's not forget who is following the legacy of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and Blackshirt stormtroopers:

"Hundreds of people gathered at both ends of Meridian Hill Park in Northwest Washington for a peace rally sponsored by the D.C Antiwar Network.

But there were interlopers: Thirteen members of ProtestWarror, supporting the Bush administration and its policies in Iraq. When the Bush supporters arrived, about 20 black-clad, self-described anarchists emerged from the crowd, shouting profanity and epithets and demanding that they leave the peace rally.

When the Bush supporters refused to leave, the anarchists tore the sign out of the Bush supporters' hands and stomped on them. When ProtestWarrior leader Gil Kobrin objected, several male anarchists knocked him to the ground, kicking him in the back and punching him. Other anarchists punched and shoved Kobrin's 12 colleagues."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/administration/inauguration05/blog/day_2.html

Posted by: Thor at January 20, 2005 11:48 AM

DPU's position is that American conservativism and libertarianism are right-wing and therefor in favor of the platform of national socialism or fascism.

Is it? That's news to me. Where did I say that?

Man, you guys really need to up the medication.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 20, 2005 12:04 PM

Chuck: Why do you persist in denying your cousins their family connection?

Well Chuck, I'd thought that you were one of the rational right-wingers here, but it turns out that you're just another horse's ass. Unless you want to backtrack and say that shucks, you were just joshin' me again.

Ugh. Thank God there are some other more thoughtful members of your political creed around to actually talk to instead of this juvenile partisan bickering and sniping.

Michael, love your blog, but I think I gotta take a break from the comments section, it's getting infested with idiots.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 20, 2005 12:12 PM

The first thing that comes to my mind when I read comments like Annette's is despair at the borderline illiterates our educational system is turning out.

Posted by: Achillea at January 20, 2005 12:26 PM

Hmmm...I looked back at DPU's comments from the past...he labels conservatives and libertarians right-wingers...says fascism is right-wing...yes I must be crazy to think he is equating conservativism and libertarianism are right-wing and therefor in favor of fascism.

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 12:29 PM

It is sick how some lefties are so horrified to have national socialists (12+ million killed) in their camp, but are NOT horrified by Stalin (60+ million killed), Mao, Castro, etc. being "leftist."

Posted by: Thor at January 20, 2005 12:46 PM

As a hardcore conservative-libertarian fanatic which Michael seems so scared of, let me say the first thing I would do with political power is GIVE IT UP.

I am interested in limiting political power over other people (both here and in places such as Iraq), not increasing it. Does my partisanship creep you out Michael? Does the fact I am so orthodox about liberty mean I am a totalitarian?

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 12:56 PM

You're all splitting hairs. Are you incapable of seeing the forest through the trees? Any institution, be it political, religious, or social, which seeks to consolidate power and control and limit the individual freedoms of those it intends to govern, is an undemocratic abomination. Socialist, Capitalst, Communist, Fascist or theocratic, it makes no difference what name under which men seek to oppress other men, it's the same thing.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Dave, Ratatosk, DPU, Wisehead, Jim and Thor would all stand shoulder to shoulder against the forces of tyranny and evil should the need arise. Why argue the semantics of whether Stalin was a fascist, or Mussolini a socialist? The bottom line is that both men, and many others, sought to bring about the same end, and used murder, lies and deception to justify the means with which they tried to achieve that end.

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2005 12:58 PM

Mike,

It is the insufferable moral pretensions of the left that call forth the response. And the roots of the various totalitarian movements of the last century are worth examining. Those who fail to learn from history ...

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 01:07 PM

Wisehead: Does the fact I am so orthodox about liberty mean I am a totalitarian?

No, but I do question your reading comprehension skills.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 20, 2005 01:08 PM

Mike: Any institution, be it political, religious, or social, which seeks to consolidate power and control and limit the individual freedoms of those it intends to govern, is an undemocratic abomination.

That makes every government yet an undemocratic abomination. Any decent government must restrict the freedoms of its people. You need to rephrase: "Any institution whose goal - as an end, and not merely as a means to a decent and harmonious society - is to consolidate power...."

Posted by: Jim at January 20, 2005 01:15 PM

It is the insufferable moral pretensions of the left that call forth the response--Chuck

Exactly.That and the assumption either stated directly or implied that the 'failures'of leftist totalitarianism are an unfortunate aberration to the ideal,whereas those of 'fascist'totalitarianism are a direct function of the system itself.Communists are every bit as contemptable and dangerous as fascists.If one should not have fascist friends,then one should not have communist friends either.Period.

Posted by: dougf at January 20, 2005 01:27 PM

Mike:
1) How can favoring limited government (i.e. "capitalism" or what is called liberalism everywhere but the US) be the same as statism (communism, socialism, fascist or theocratic)?

2) Do you agree that democracy itself can also be tyrannical (tyranny of the majority)?

I agree with your main point about tyranny, but I think it is still worth discussing.

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 01:29 PM

Chuck,

I agree with you; but aren't some Christian Conservatives equally self-righteous? Narrow-mindedness and self-righteous thinking permeate both the left and the right.

Jim: That makes every government yet an undemocratic abomination. Any decent government must restrict the freedoms of its people

Not necessarily Jim, the purpose of the U.S. System of Government is based on the premise of the separation of powers among various branches of gov't as well as the states, and it's main purpose is to guarantee the right of self-determination, and provide a means within which the people can all participate in the effort to further the cause of liberty.

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2005 01:31 PM

jim wrote: "Any decent government must restrict the freedoms of its people"

...not if you define "freedom" as protecting life, liberty and property. restricting theft, murder and slavery is not restricting freedoms, it is protecting them.

Posted by: Thor at January 20, 2005 01:37 PM

Wisehead: Hmmm...I looked back at DPU's comments from the past...he labels conservatives and libertarians right-wingers...says fascism is right-wing...yes I must be crazy to think he is equating conservativism and libertarianism are right-wing and therefor in favor of fascism.

Ummm, the political spectrum, tends to be split left and right. Since there are more than the 'extreme' positions at left and right, respectively, your argument has a logical "Excluded Middle" flaw. Your logic would state that since New York is east of the Mississippi, anyone east of the Mississippi is a New Yorker. You don't allow for the many points between the 'Mississippi' and the Atlantic.

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 20, 2005 01:42 PM

Wisehead,

While I'm not a wealthy man by any means, I'd defer to someone of lesser financial standing than myself to answer your first question. However, in my opinion capitalism is still capable of placing power over the many in the hands of the few. It's vehicle is simply different than the other "isms" and that is money. We've learned some lessons from the days of the Robber Barrons and utilized our Gov't to limit the power of those who consolidate it through amassing wealth and property.

In answer to question 2, yes I do believe that democracy can be tyrannical if it does not contain protections for the rights and freedoms of the minority. For instance I don't favor the idea of Gay Marriage, however I am strongly opposed to amending our Constitution towards limiting the rights of U.S. citizens. (I should also mention I haven't reached a final opinion on gay marriage, and and strongly oppose policy which rewards monogamous heterosexuals, and not monogomous homosexuals)

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2005 01:46 PM

Ratatosk: Actually my logical conclusion is that both California and Nevada are west of the Mississippi river. DPU's seems to claim that because some leftists on Wikipedia claim Arizona and New York are both east of the Mississippi (based on spurious assumptions), those states are really in that location. Hence he claims libertarians and conservatives who favor a limited state are "right-wing" along with national socialists who favor centralized state-control over the means of production. This is an illogical position.

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 01:52 PM

As is demonstrated repeatedly in many countries at many times, there is a "little fascist" inside many many people just waiting to emerge and oppress at the earliest opportunity: Nazi Germany, Cultural Revolution-era China, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, and on and on.

I think Hayek was on the mark when he pointed out that economic collectivism of all stripes, whether it emanates from the "left" (Communism) or the "right" (Fascism & Baathism) ultimately leads to oppressive government. The sworn enemy of each group are liberals (in the classic sense): those committed to the rule of law, protection of minorities' right to dissent, and individual liberties. When I hear people telling me about their various versions of utopia, I instinctively reach for my gun..."The Road to Serfdom." People who want to tell everyone else how to live are dangerous. The little dictators we all carry within us are particularly well-developed in such types.

Posted by: Daniel Calto at January 20, 2005 01:59 PM

Wisehead: Hence he claims libertarians and conservatives who favor a limited state are "right-wing" along with national socialists who favor centralized state-control over the means of production. This is an illogical position.

No, it only goes to show how ridiculous the reductionist terms "left" and "right" are. A one-dimensional political axis obscures more than it reveals, but we're stuck with it as a part of common parlance.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 20, 2005 02:01 PM

I second that

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2005 02:01 PM

Dear Mike:
1) Wealth, money and property are not political power. Political power ultimately comes from the barrel of a gun. It looks like you might be begging the question, as I specifically mentioned limited government, not state-intervetion into the market on behalf of some capitalists (which is what the Robber Barrons did). Buying political power is not the same as limiting in the first place. Do you see what I am saying?

2) Interesting...but how do qualify rewarding monogomous individuals but not non-monogomous individuals?

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 02:02 PM

The thing is, Thor and Mike, a decent government, such as ours, seeks to do more than maximize and protect freedom. It also seeks to promote the values we place on happiness, order, justice, science, scholarly knowledge, charity, etc. (though it may at times screw up in any of these areas). And it does these things without being an undemocratic abomination, even though doing them requires restrictions on individual liberties. (Take mandatory schooling as an example of a serious restriction on liberty necessary to a decent society.)

In other words, the (strict*) libertarian view of government leaves out a host of values that government can reasonably and without tyranny promote. To deny this commits you to accepting that the American government is a tyranny. But it obviously isn't.

*We're all libertarians in the loose sense that liberty is one of the most important of all the values that government should protect.

Posted by: Jim at January 20, 2005 02:03 PM

hi jim:
keep in mind though, many libertarians base their thought on virtue-based philosophy...what is the BEST for people (in terms of happiness, utility, etc), not that all governments are evil. my belief is that liberty is BETTER for all than those other values.

so, becuase of our system, I think the USA is the BEST of all the alternatives. does that make sense?

Posted by: Thor at January 20, 2005 02:13 PM

but aren't some Christian Conservatives equally self-righteous?

Sure, but that wasn't part of this discussion, nor do many such people show up here. If so, then we can raise the Inquisition, the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and other fine examples of religious intolerance. Besides, the dangers posed by religious intolerance in the West have been pretty much solved these several centuries, to be replaced in the last century by the religious enthusiams of the left. I see the left as a mouldering leftover also, though still annoying. So where is the real totalitarian danger of today and tomorrow? I think we have candidates, such as Revolutionary Islamism, but I don't think they yet pose a threat that compares to the fascists and communists of the past. The answer is not yet apparent to me.

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 02:13 PM

Wisehead,

Your statements are huge leaps of logic. DPU has not on this board stated that Conservatives and Libretarians are right-wing extremists. Which is what you claimed earlier. If you want to change the argument to center on how libretarians and dictators could possibly share the same political wing, thats fine. But, lets keep one argument at a time.

DPU has not put forward any statement (that I'm aware of) which equates (or makes equal) totalitarian mass-murderers and Libretarians or Conservatives. The only place such a statement appears is in your posts.

To elaborate on your illustration, he may not know where Arizona is on the map, but he never said it was the same place as New York, nor did he say that the Arizonaians (?) wished to be New Yorkers, or that the New Yorkers were secretly Arizonaians.

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 20, 2005 02:14 PM

Okay, my blood pressure is reaching dangerous levels, and so after this comment I'm departing this thread. But I need to poke a hole in the libelous DPU sockpuppet that "Wisehead" (a misnomer so great that it boggles the mind) is bravely waving around.

You ridiculous chucklehead, I do not, nor have ever held the self-contradictory position that if someone is libertarian, that they support fascism. As libertarians espouse less government control, then how could they support dictatorship? Similarily, I do not believe that right-wingers automatically support fascism any more than I would believe that socialists automatically applaud Stalin. Both extremes are equally ludicrous.

The fact that you have oversimplified a discussion on whether fascism is left-wing or right-wing into misrepresenting my views on conservatism so badly leads me to believe that you are an arrogant nitwit who can only handle debate with strawmen. And as you've made this particular strawman so astoundingly stupid, I'd say that both your intelligence and debating skills must be pretty fucking low.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 20, 2005 02:15 PM

Ratatosk: I said HE IS SAYING they are both on the SAME SIDE of the river, when clearly they are not. Why do you assume "right-wing extremists" are murderers? A libertarian who favors private roads is often branded "extremist." If he is sloppy with his lables, it isn't my problem. He should have qualified who he was fucking talking about.

Read what he wrote above... "both extrems" etc, as if fascism and communism were opposite sides of the map and not the same fucking area. It makes me sick this person can be so ignorent of history and rational thought.

Posted by: Wisehead at January 20, 2005 02:26 PM

Wisehead

But don't you get it? That's the point, that's the irony: All political movements taken to the extreme lead to the same place: totalitarianism. Didn't you have to read Animal Farm in school?

Posted by: sivert at January 20, 2005 03:04 PM

Wisehead,

One more comment before I put the Troll block on.

I said HE IS SAYING they are both on the SAME SIDE of the river, when clearly they are not.

What you actually said was: DPU's position is that American conservativism and libertarianism are right-wing and therefor in favor of the platform of national socialism or fascism.

Not only is that NOT what DPU said, its not what you're saying now.

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 20, 2005 03:05 PM

It makes me sick this person can be so ignorent of history and rational thought.

Arrgh! Every time I leave, they pull me back in!

Well, enlighten us, wise one. What exactly have you read about Marxism and Fascism that leads you to your postulate here? Which books? Articles? What?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 20, 2005 03:29 PM

Arrgh! Every time I leave, they pull me back in!

hehehe. My thoughts exactly.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 03:30 PM

don't mess with double, he's our resident Orwell expert!

;b

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 03:31 PM

Wisehead: as if fascism and communism were opposite sides of the map and not the same fucking area. It makes me sick this person can be so ignorent of history and rational thought.

This is a troll warning, Wisehead. I'm serious. The vast majority of historians place fascism on the extreme totalitarian right. Don't like it? Fine. But I will not let a newcomer and a blowhard like yourself drive away a well-established honorable member of this discussion with these attacks.

DPU, please stick around.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 20, 2005 03:36 PM

Michael,

a bit touchy no?

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 03:38 PM

Like I say, I wuv 'oo, DPU.

Thor, too tired to respond, will ponder what you said, though.

Posted by: Jim at January 20, 2005 03:49 PM

David: a bit touchy no?

No, I'm just trying to keep the discussion both reasonable and diverse. If someone comes along and causes the opposite to happen I need to do something about it. One reason most blog comments sections are awful is because the blog host does not intervene.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 20, 2005 03:59 PM

I'm not defending Wisehead, because he is simply unintelligibly inarticulate. But I will say, whether our host agrees or not, that he's got a point.

Michael, "historians" don't generally classify Nazism as "right wing," political analysts of a Left/liberal stripe do. Nazis were only to the "right" (to use the French Assembly designations) of the communists.

Both were aspects of socialism. The same socialism (governemnt control of the means of production) as exists in virtually every county in the world. In Nazi Germany, as in Communist Russia, the government seized control of certain industries. More in Russia, fewer in Germany. Still fewer in Sweden and England post war.

But all the same, still socialist.

The left-right dichotomy is inadequate to describe these differences, and that's why there is the quadrant system of political opinion from libertarian to authoritarian on one axis to describe one's feelings on the size of government (the amount of control over daily life by government forces), and liberal to conservative axis to define standing on social issues.

Wisehead's ad hominem and poor articulation skills aside, he's right in the sense that communism and "fascism" represent two aspects of the same beast---socialism. (National Socialist German Workers' Party, anyone?) Just because friendly Swedish and Canadian socialism exist, doesn't place Nazism outside of the socialist mellieu

Posted by: hobgoblin at January 20, 2005 04:00 PM

The vast majority of historians place fascism on the extreme totalitarian right

I have the impression that Orwell noted some of the common roots, but as far as I know he never wrote a detailed analysis of fascism. But there is that one intriguing remark he made to the effect that writers were avoiding a close look at fascism out of fear of what it might reveal.

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 04:02 PM

Now, the interesting thing is the Rep party's drift from the libertarian-inspired ideals of Reagan to the big state conservatism of Bush.

Both Reagan and Bush are similar on social issues, but come at big government in opposite directions. Bush in this way is more of a authoritarian conservative (whereas Reagan wa smore libertarian, and Nixon more of a liberal authoritarian believe it or not), but once you get into the authoritarian zone, differences between right and left become meaningless. All authoritarians limit freedom, and yet the anarcho-libertarian extremes are simply unworkable.

Posted by: hobgoblin at January 20, 2005 04:07 PM

I think that tagging Bush with an authoritarian label may be a bit of a reach. And words mean things, too - and the semantic load associated with "authoritarian" is pretty hefty.

On a macro level he's actually laying the groundwork to remove more state controls than not. While doing the political thing with prescription drugs, he's lowered the tax burdens on millions of citizens and businesses and improved the performance of the economy at the same time.

Reforming social security has to happen. There's room for the Democrats to contribute. It's a damned important and big ticket item. Contrary to some punditry, I don't believe that Bush's strategy of leadership is rooted in partisan primacy for Republicans.

Frankly, I think it would be impossible to govern with that goal in mind, even for a pure operator type, such as Clinton was. Hold your breath now:

Bush takes his oath seriously. The duty is to protect and defend the constitution and the nation. He has his own philosophies and agendas, yes, but they are directed at getting the job done in the best way possible. The Democrats haven't been excluded from the process. They've elected not to contribute. Or worse.

That the Democrats are doing a great job of performance art impersonating a Mission: Impossible tape five seconds after the words are done is their affair.

In the end I guess I might rather characterize my defeat at the hands of a hated opponent as a conscious act, rather than the result of being merely ignored. If I was a shallow, petty, vindictive, and dishonest hack, anyway.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 20, 2005 04:28 PM

Michael, "historians" don't generally classify Nazism as "right wing," political analysts of a Left/liberal stripe do. Nazis were only to the "right" (to use the French Assembly designations) of the communists.

This "Hitler was a leftist" meme is disturbing because it attempts to rewrite history for parrtisan reasons, and is repeated often by people who haven't read much history because they want to use it as a tar brush against left-wing ideologies. But this relies on a fairly two-dimensional analysis, with autocracy on one side, and democracy on the other. And if that's as far as it goes, then yes, they're in the same area.

However, as soon as you introduce the concept of right and left, you bring in an economic component, and economically, Nazi Germany was on the right. Hitler was supported by other right-wing German parties and so came to power, despite opposition from left-wing parties. The Nazis abolished trade unions, destroyed collective bargaining, and removed the right to strike. Industries continued to be owned and run by private owners, not by a "dictatorhip of the proletariat", and Hitler specifically said that "Marxism itself systematically plans to hand the world over to the Jews," and "The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of power and strength by the mass of numbers and their dead weight." It's unlikely he would say something like that if he were a leftist himself.

In Mein Kampf, he wrote "the suspicion was whispered in German Nationalist circles that we also were merely another variety of Marxism, perhaps even Marxists suitably disguised, or better still, Socialists... We used to roar with laughter at these silly faint-hearted bourgeoisie and their efforts to puzzle out our origin, our intentions and our aims. '"

Some people point out that there is often infighting between different brands of Marxism (EG the purges of Trotskyists in the USSR), and this is certainly true. But they were purging other types of Marxists, not Marxists en masse, as was done in the fascists states.

Aside from both the Stalinist Soviet Union and the German Nazi state both being repugnant totalitarian governments, they both reached that point from differing political stances. I'm not defending either, or attempting to stain anyone's current political beliefs by association. I just don't like history being rewritten.

As far as the statement "historians" don't generally classify Nazism as "right wing," goes, I know of only a single person, who has a degree in psychology, not history, who makes the case that Hitler was a leftist. I'd be interested to hear of any noted historian (with a real degree) or political scientist (who has a real degree) who makes the case that Nazism was left-wing.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 20, 2005 04:44 PM

Thank you, Michael. I don't want hugs and kisses, guys, I just don't want words put in my mouth, especially words that are repugnant. I'm sure that you wouldn't want the same.

And if I do use repugnant words, then call me to task on it, by all means.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 20, 2005 04:49 PM

Tiptoeing quietly into the war zone….

Just wanted to make a quick comment about Annette (remember the musical No No Nanette? – well it brings to mind the thought ‘Poor Poor Annette’):

She apparently inspired this post and I have read her comments several times to try and understand why such offense was taken (to the point of portraying her as something of a creepy stalker, not to mention the kind of person that might run a Soviet Gulag.) And what I see is that in the midst of an article about the fact that the civilized world in the face of the Rwandan genocide acted like the passive New Yorkers who observed the Kitty Genovese murder, she makes an inference – said inference being that Michael is a liberal and a Clintonista, since he omits any reference to the then president of the US at the time that this genocide occurred (in the context of making the point that noone did anything about it). Count me stupid but I am definitely missing the point here – i.e. why this anonymous poster merits such vitriole. So nobody wants to be labeled. Nobody wants to be the subject of other people’s blanket generalizations and assumptions. But that is manifestly how the human mind works. It automatically categorizes people. I’m sure we could have a very enlightening discussion about why that is the case – from a biological evolutionary or psychological perspective. But if you doubt it – just try walking down the street – seeing a 300 pound person and not having it occur to you that the person is weak in character, slothful, and eats too much. How do you know they don’t actually have a thyroid problem? It is human nature to make unfounded assumptions. Surely there are bigger fish to fry than Poor Poor annette?

Pardon me gentlemen - carry on - carry on - (and the occasional lady too). I am quite enjoying it….

Posted by: Caroline at January 20, 2005 05:20 PM

DpU,

It's not difficult to turn up lots of material. I myself enjoy the follow quotes.

The connection between socialism and nationalism in Germany was close from the beginning. It is significant that the most important ancestors of National Socialism—Fichte, Rodbertus, and Lassalle—are at the same time acknowledged fathers of socialism. .... From 1914 onward there arose from the ranks of Marxist socialism one teacher after another who led, not the conservatives and reactionaries, but the hard-working laborer and idealist youth into the National Socialist fold. It was only thereafter that the tide of nationalist socialism attained major importance and rapidly grew into the Hitlerian doctrine.
Hayek, Road to Serfdom....

[In Mussolini] Socialists should be delighted to find at last a socialist who speaks and thinks as responsible rulers do.
George Bernard Shaw, 1927...

I am a Socialist, and a very different kind of Socialist from your rich friend, Count Reventlow. ... What you understand by Socialism is nothing more than Marxism.
Adolf Hitler, spoken to Otto Strasser, Berlin, May 21, 1930.

Why should you resist the idea anyway. Few dispute that the communists were socialist, and communists murdered more people, produced more poverty, and were arguably much worse than the fascists.

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 05:27 PM

DPU,

Pal, my BA was a major in political philosophy with a minor in history (c.l.). I'm not about to start calling you names, so don't worry about that. I will disagree vehemently when you say that "is repeated often by people who haven't read much history because they want to use it as a tar brush against left-wing ideologies. DPU, that ain't me.

OTOH, You are engaging in tautologies when you say things like:

However, as soon as you introduce the concept of right and left, you bring in an economic component, and economically, Nazi Germany was on the right. Hitler was supported by other right-wing German parties and so came to power, despite opposition from left-wing parties.

Yet you never define "right wing." Is "right wing" simply nationalism under a different name? Then Mao's China was "right wing." Wait, Red China is communist. . . Or is "right wing" simply "capitalist"? You do know that Hitler controlled the prices of goods and set up massive social welfare programs for "Aryans", right?

I'm truly sorry that it troubles your psyche to note that collectivism and state ownership of industry (the hallmarks of socialism) were present to such significant degrees in socialism, Nazism, and communism. The nazis appointed heads of the corporations. Mussolini called fascism the wedding of corporate and governemnt control. In fascism, government ran the industries. In coomunism, government ran the industries. In England after the war, government ran (a few of) the industries. That's socialism bub, and it's a spectrum of similar practices.

You can't tell me that just because Hitler hated communists that he wasn't like them. The push for collectivisation and control over industry by government is the same in all authoritarian ideologies. That's why as a political indicator, the "right/left" distinction is so deeply flawed. The only place that right/left has any cohesion whatsoever is in relation to social issues, where "conservative" and "liberal" are fairly well defined in at least American society.

What I'm saying is not that historians call hitler a leftist. It's that historians have no use for right/left whatsoever. To say that "right wing"=Hitler and "left wing"=Stalin is like saying orange is the opposite of red.

Nazism and communism are two similar colors on the socialist spectrum. I'm sorry that disquiets you, but it's the truth. Where government controls industry, through outright ownership or puppet controllers, that's socialism as it would be understood by those who essentially defined the term for the modern age --- von Mises and Hayek.

Collectivist dogma, be it the very light pink of modern America, the deeper pink of Sweden, or the deep red of North Korea, they're all part and parcel of the authoritarian drive. We've lost the individualistic or communitarian notions of freedom from government control present at the Founding. Nowhere on earth presents those individualistic shades now. But to say that Hitler is the opposite of Stalin is, not being insulting about it, thoughtless as to the nature of politcal organization.

Posted by: hobgoblin at January 20, 2005 05:32 PM

I'll have to check back tomorrow. Good night all.

Posted by: hobgoblin at January 20, 2005 05:35 PM

I always thought Hayek summed things up right at the beginning with:

"The doctrines which had guided the ruling elements in Germany for the past generation were opposed not to the socialism in Marxism but to the liberal elements contained in it, its internationalism and its democracy. And as it became increasingly clear that it was just these elements which formed obstacles to the realization of socialism, the socialists of the Left approached more and more to those of the Right. It was the union of the anticapitalist forces of the Right and of the Left, the fusion of radical and conservative socialism, which drove out from Germany everything that was liberal."

Yes, Germans were on the left side of economics, they were socialists (corrupt ones... but socialists nonetheless). However, they were not Liberals like the Marxists, they were social conservatives.

So which is worse, to have economic similarities with the Nazis or to have social similarities with the Nazis?

I don't reckon I'd like either.

Posted by: Ratatosk at January 20, 2005 06:12 PM

... Liberals like the Marxists

Well, the communists in Russia started out that way in the 20's. The result was too much divorce and social disruption, so they clamped down. By the 30's they were quite as socially conservative as the Nazis, perhaps moreso. Can't have individual hedonism interfering with the collective good.

But why do you call Marx a Liberal? Did he not forbid his daughter to marry a black man? Did he not impregnate his housekeeper like any other upper class twit?

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 06:29 PM

Tiptoeing quietly into the war zone--Caroline

Does not help.You still run the risk of taking collateral damage.Might just as well adopt the 'take no prisoners'style that has become mandatory.
And on a non-related front,---for DPU... Why is it so important to differentiate between Communism(not Stalanism) and Fascism?Are they both not vile ideologies with an unattractive history of contemptable actions in their wakes?Who cares what attitude they had toward 'property'?Is not the more germane issue,the attitude they had toward 'people'in the concrete world,namely---NOT GOOD?
You say " Some people point out that there is often infighting between different brands of Marxism (EG the purges of Trotskyists in the USSR), and this is certainly true. But they were purging other types of Marxists, not Marxists en masse, as was done in the fascists states."This is a distinction without a difference,IMHO,but even accepting it in its face,it does not demonstrate your point.I could,and just to be annoying I will, argue that Fascism's purging of all the OTHER leftists was EXACTLY the same as the Leninists purging all the OTHER leftists as soon as they could feasably do so.
I consider both Communism(not just Stalanism) and Fascism as abhorent social philosphies,but I recall that you have mentioned that you have Communist friends and relatives.Would it then be equally acceptable for me to say that I have Fascist friends and relatives,or does Communism get some sort of magic'get out of jail'card because it is so concerned about the 'people'?This 'distinction'has always seemed odd to me.Why is it bad to be a Fascist,but OK (nod, nod ,wink, wink)to be a Communist?
Inquiring minds really do want to know.

Posted by: dougf at January 20, 2005 06:34 PM

By the 30's they were quite as socially conservative as the Nazis, perhaps moreso. Can't have individual hedonism interfering with the collective good.

Nazis weren't social conservatives, unless you believe German women lining up as broodmares to participate in the Reich's selective breeding programs with SS officers is "socially conservative". More like standard early 20th century Leftism. Does Margaret Sanger ring a bell? Eugenics. Not "socially conservative" at all.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 06:44 PM

Caroline,

The "creepiness" (MJT used the term, and I concur) of the Annettes of this world is that they are utterly consumed by a tendency to psychologize: to proffer dirty, unseemly, and nefarious psychological explanations of the value judgments and other utterances of people with whom they disagree.

It is okay to psychologize when you've already refuted your opponent and he deserves such a dressing-down.

It is even passable, and not creepy, for people to psychologize too much when they lose control in the midst of heated argument (when they haven't refuted their opponent yet). (For example, you're arguing with your brother-in-law about Bush, things get heated, and you blurt out, "Oh, you just like him because he's going to give you a $4000 tax cut!")

Annette, on the other hand, marks herself as someone consumed by the desire to expose her opponents as of low character, mendacious, and depraved. It may not be so. It may be that we've got her wrong by this one remark of hers. But the sort of person I have in mind would leave exactly that little, creepy comment.

Posted by: Jim at January 20, 2005 06:44 PM

David,

Yeah, I thought of the brood mares. And Margaret Sanger was enamored of that great utopian scheme to breed the perfect race. It seems to have been in the air at the time, E. E. 'Doc' Smith and his Lensmen come to mind, though I don't think he would have sent folks off to be euthanized, ala the Netherlands. It is almost as if the Nazis were willing to give every crank theory in the world a whirl. No doubt a reincarnation of Hitler is off somewhere collecting crystals. Def. Nazism -- rule by armed hippies.

But by in large I would judge the Nazis socially conservative in art and architecture. Women rights is a mixed bag, where women like Leni could play large emancipated roles that would make any modern feminist proud, while still there was the kinder, kuche, kirche thing. I believe that the Nazi's wished to get rid of the church, but judged it ill advised to do so during the war. So yeah, it is actually difficult to say where they stood on the American social scale.

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 07:04 PM

Communism rose out of genuine grievance (the crush of feudalism) while Fascims grew out of an imagined grievance (racism) making Communism, philosophically speaking, less offensive.

And Fascism was a merger, a joint venture, between corporate and government interests, whereas Marxism imposed more of a hostile takeover, at least at first. Also, the Nazis ran around pretending to be good Christians, while the godless Communists generally enforced atheism.

Posted by: sivert at January 20, 2005 07:15 PM

Sivert,

I see that you have bought into the communist propaganda campaign of the 30's. Sucker.

Both Communism and Fascism arose out of the same grievence, and had at their root the same people. No, Marx was not the first socialist. The solutions were somewhat different, but I would argue that the fascists were generally more successful because they attempted a less thorough makeover of society and accepted the nationalistic impulses of the times.

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 07:26 PM

I believe that the Nazi's wished to get rid of the church, but judged it ill advised to do so during the war. So yeah, it is actually difficult to say where they stood on the American social scale.

It's widely known that Pope Pius X(?) signed a treaty of friendship with Hitler in 1933. We hear about it ad nauseum from the Lefties with axes to grind. What they will never tell you is that Pius ripped that treaty to shreds in 1937 and publicly denounced Nazism for the evil it was. He then wrote an encyclical, not in Latin as was the norm, but in German, to be read from the pulpits of all catholic churches in the Reich denouncing Nazism. And as you can see, that was several years BEFORE the war even started. I believe Chamberlain and his peaceniks were still making friendly with Hitler at that time, and so was most of the world. But not Pius. Yet he's still vilified by anti-christian Leftists for signing that treaty in '33. This isn't revisionism. It's simply history. A simple word search can verify it. What is disgusting about it is that you'll never learn this in college from your average Lefty prof. Far too many axes to grind in academia against "the church" and those evil Nazi christians. Yet their precious Workers Paradise to the east had a friendship treaty with Hitler till the very last minute! Here's a good article on just what Hitler had in mind for Pius after that little incident in 1937:

Hitler wanted to kidnap pope, paper reports

The newspaper cited a written statement by Gen. Karl Wolff, the head of the SS in German-occupied Rome, saying that Hitler considered Pius a ''friend of the Jews.''

http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-hitler16.html

And you're mistaken about what Hitler had planned for the church. His war on the church began quite early. His intention was to essentially destroy the catholic and Lutheran churches and recreate his own state church. I have an excellent historical article about that but I can't access it right now.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 07:30 PM

David,

the quote I remember, somewhere in Nemesis</>, was to the effect that Christianity was unsuited to the noble German soul. Turn the other cheek, and all that other non-Germanic nonsense.

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 07:38 PM

Chuck,

exactly.

If the Nazis were conservative, it wasn't of the judeo-christian variety.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 07:41 PM

I second the point made previously by several people: Arguing over whether Hitler or Stalin was worse is like arguing over whether it's better to have cancer or a heart attack. They're both bad, and in their effects have more similarities than differences. That said, there is no question that the US was right to ally with Stalin against Hitler in 1941 - Hitler was the more immediate danger.

At the same time, I think it's important to note that Fascism/Nazism is not right wing by the standards of the American Right. Both Hitler and Mussolini flirted with leftism and then ended up on the right (as it existed at that time and place).

Hitler began his rise to power by essentially taking over one of the right wing parties and making an alliance with the rest of them. He ruthlessly persecuted communists, but he also suppressed conservative elements in the Army and made clear that he wanted to destroy the Catholic Church, neither of which were particularly left wing. Members of Hitler's inner circle, including Goebbles, were committed socialists when they initially started to follow Hitler.

Similarly, Hitler's economic program can hardly be called conservative by contemporary American standards. As has been pointed out above, Hitler's economic program was essentially statist in nature - Hitler suppressed both unions and business owners when they did not follow his programs. The point here is that if you take Newt Gingrich and radicalize him, you most definitely do not get Hitler, as you would if you radicalized Ross Perot.

Placing Fascism/Nazism on the left-right axis is difficult because fascism really combines various aspects of both. As I pointed out in a thread some months ago, the political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset places fascism as a form of radical centrism. He used a six-fold table, with a moderate left, center and right and a radical left, center and right. His left-right axis is based upon class, and moderate/extremist is self-explanatory. In his formulation, fascism is radical centrism because Hitler's base of support was the middle class, as opposed to the upper class.

From another perspective, it is incorrect to look at fascism as extreme right-wing because it is a revolutionary ideology. As a general rule, revolutionary are not an upper class phenomenon that seeks to 'conserve' the status quo. (The American Revolution may be the exception that proves the rule - it is the only revolution that I am aware of which was led by the upper class). Most revolutionary movements (e.g., French Revolution, Hitler's Germany, Khomeni's Iran) are led by the educated middle class with a goal of overthrowing the existing upper class that has kept the middle class from becoming the upper class.

All of the above is simply intended to say that people who call Ronald Reagan or George Bush or Newt Gingrich Nazis are flatly wrong from a historical standpoint. If you pursued the policies of any of them to their logical extreme, you would not end up with Hitler.

Posted by: Ben at January 20, 2005 07:44 PM

Continuing along in my adult education drive,and because I am too lazy to look it up,does anyone(David,Chuck for example),know how the Italian State operated under Mussolini?Was he not a 'truer'pure Fascist than Hitler who was IMHO,mad as a hatter,with the racial lunacies driving everything else into historical insignificance?No ax to grind --- just interested.

Posted by: dougf at January 20, 2005 07:49 PM

David:

Article II, Section 4

Section 4. The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.

Article IV,

Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government . . .

When throwing around accusations of ignorance, you're probably better off checking the primary source to be sure it says what you think it says. Otherwise you look like yet another ignorant self-important right-wing blowhard.

The States aren't getting the job done, and it is explicitly the job of the Fed to pick up the slack when that happens.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 20, 2005 07:55 PM

excellent post Ben.

dougf,

sorry. I'm more a historian than a political theorist.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 07:57 PM

Hey Kimmit,

did you notice it says "elections for Senators and Representatives"?

Just curious. We were talking about a Presidential election after all.

Posted by: David at January 20, 2005 08:14 PM

dougf,

I am no expert, but I do enjoy baiting DtU. Here is an interesting link. Note the resemblence to some of Roosevelt's initiatives, and in particular to the current Democratic party promotion of various group interests: women, blacks, hispanics, etc. There is a syndicalist tinge to all that. I would argue that some of the fascist economic ideas are widespread in modern Europe and here at home. So, are they bad simply because of their source?

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 08:23 PM

I am no expert, but I do enjoy baiting DtU--Chuck

Well who doesn't ? Thanks for the link.I should have remembered all this but it was eons ago I took Poli Sci and studying Fascism was not exactly encouraged.Communism, well sure.That was just good clean fun,but Fascism-----

Thanks again.

Posted by: dougf at January 20, 2005 08:35 PM

Ben: people who call Ronald Reagan or George Bush or Newt Gingrich Nazis are flatly wrong from a historical standpoint. If you pursued the policies of any of them to their logical extreme, you would not end up with Hitler.

Likewise, if you follow the policies of the Democratic Party to their extreme you do not get the USSR.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 20, 2005 08:38 PM

MJT -

I don't argue with your response, but I may quibble with it as an over-generalization, simply because it is difficult to identify the policies of the Democratic party without reference to specific individuals. It is certainly the case that the extreme version of the policies pursued and/or advocated by Bill Clinton or John Kerry is not the USSR. To the extent that there is overlap between the Democratic Party and Internaitonal ANSWER, however, all bets are off. (Which is not to say that there are no elements in the Republican Party that tend toward totalitarianism).

That said, I admit to having focused on only one side of the coin. In my defense, I did so because that seemed to be the side under discussion. I did not mean to infer by omission that the Democratic Party was Stalinist.

Posted by: Ben at January 20, 2005 08:54 PM

Ben,

I googled around a bit more (honest, I do have a real job) looking for more definitions of fascism. Lipset's name came up of course. Apparently he had a conservative-radical axis for each of three large groupings, basically the lower, middle, and upper classes and he considered the Nazis a radical middle class movement. The idea that Nazism was a middle class phenomenon was apparently one of those widespread ideas that has been undone by stupid facts about the actual class makeup of the participants.

Anyway, the sense I get is that no one really has a good explanation of fascism as a phenomenon, although nationalism, the heroic leader, anti-capitalism, class consciousness, and social justice seem to be common themes where it appears. Marxism is a bit easier to define because at the root there is Marx.

Posted by: chuck at January 20, 2005 09:16 PM

If you pursued the policies of any of them to their logical extreme, you would not end up with Hitler.

Reagan and Bush I not so much, but it's pretty clear that Bush II's ideology will take you right to Franco, Mussolini, or Father Coughlin. There was more than one Fascist leader in history.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 21, 2005 12:36 AM

Kimmitt: it's pretty clear that Bush II's ideology will take you right to Franco, Mussolini, or Father Coughlin.

How so? Did you listen to his inauguration speech about spreading democracy to the world? Mussolini never talked like that, nor did he ever do anything even remotely along those lines. He was quite the opposite, in fact, in both intention and result.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 21, 2005 01:14 AM

double-plus-ungood: However, as soon as you introduce the concept of right and left, you bring in an economic component, and economically, Nazi Germany was on the right. Hitler was supported by other right-wing German parties and so came to power, despite opposition from left-wing parties. The Nazis abolished trade unions, destroyed collective bargaining, and removed the right to strike.

According to your logic we should categorize most communist regimes as "right-wing" because they abolished trade unions and the right to strike.

Posted by: MDP at January 21, 2005 06:43 AM

Traced back to their origins, fascism and communism share a common root: Rousseau (i.e., man in his natural state is 'noble;' there is a millenialist ideology that will make men 'free;' the masses don't even know that they are not free; a revolutionary vanguard can and should force people to be 'free'). In many ways they are different branches of the same tree. The divergence between fascism and communism appears to have occurred in the 19th Century.

From my perspective, the difference between the two seems to be a matter of which aspect of life is emphasized. Fascism built on the ideas of Fredrich Nietzsche, and its primary focus is nationalism. Communism, on the other hand, derived from Karl Marx's ideas, and its emphasis is economics.

Because of this divergence of emphasis, it is difficult to compare fascism with communism - each has elements of the other, and there are significant differences within each category. Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy and Franco's Spain each were significantly different in important ways - so much so that some have argued that Franco, despite his early self-identification, may not have really been a fascist at all. Similarly, there were significat differences between the USSR under Khruschev, China under Mao, Albania under Hoxha and North Korea under Kim. Hitler's Germany probably had more in common with Kim's North Korea than it did with Franco's Spain.

Posted by: Ben at January 21, 2005 07:30 AM

Ben: Fascism built on the ideas of Fredrich Nietzsche, and its primary focus is nationalism.

Possibly, but Nietzsche was the antithesis of a nationalist.

Posted by: MDP at January 21, 2005 07:56 AM

MDP -

Perhaps I was less precise than I should have been. Nietzche probably did nothing to lay the groundwork for Franco, and may have done nothing for Mussolini. I was thinking only in terms of Hitler when I wrote that, and Nietzche's concept of the Superman was integral to Hitler's ideas about race. Mussolini appears to have been primarily motivated to create a latter day Roman Empire, and Franco's regime was much more deeply conservative than Hitler's or Mussolini's.

Notwithstanding this caveat, it is undoubtedly true that fascism's primary focus is nationalism.

Posted by: Ben at January 21, 2005 08:10 AM

Kimmitt: it's pretty clear that Bush II's ideology will take you right to Franco, Mussolini, or Father Coughlin.

I've gotta take issue with that, as well, Kimmitt, especially actual fascists like Mussolini. If nothing else, Bush's tax cuts, taken to the logical extreme, sacrifice state interests in service of the individual. It may be oligarchy, but that's not fascism.

Which brings us back to the original post topic. Y'know, people who throw around the term fascism with only a marginal idea of what it is do great disservice to a fair criticism of this regime's faults. And the opposition party making itself into a characture does nothing to limit the power of a party that controls virtually all the levers of the federal apparatus.

If by fascism you mean nationalistic moral conservatism, then say "the Reps are jingoistic moralizers." Don't call them fascists, because that word you use, it does not mean what you think it means. If by fascist you mean that the Reps are beholden to corporate interests and selling out the American patrimony, the call them corporate stooges, but don't mistake them for fascists who controlled the corporations, not the other way around.

DPU isn't back yet (if he's coming back to this thread), but his casual bandying of "fascist" and his vehement insistence that he was right about an erroneous distinction is why there's a lack of a viable opposition party.

Patricia in the earlier thread said that it was a shame we no longer have a viable second party. It used to be third party people longed wistfully for. Even as an admitted Founder-type conservative (meaning socially conservative but politically libertarian), I've got real problems with the fact that we have what amounts to one-party rule.

I'm blaming Democrats, and specifically the activist cadres of Democrats that Mr. Totten criticizes. A party without an intellectual foundation is worse than useless. Get your acts together, Democrats.

Posted by: hobgoblin at January 21, 2005 08:12 AM

Brief OT digression -

MDP's criticism of my comment illustrates one of the great strengths of the internet. I was imprecise in my thought, and that was pointed out to me immediately. With that, I was able to refine my position. It's sort of like an instant peer review, and I, for one, appreciate constructive criticism as a way to achieve a better "final product."

Posted by: Ben at January 21, 2005 08:19 AM

Ben,

"it is undoubtedly true that fascism's primary focus is nationalism"

Non-sequitur. Every political ideology's goal is preservation of the nation (in communism's case, as practiced, the idea was to make the world one nation). Being nationalistic or jingoistic is not "fascism," or Mao was a fascist.

From Chuck's link:

http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Fascism.html

Theoretically, the fascist economy was to be guided by a complex network of employer, worker, and jointly run organizations representing crafts and industries at the local, provincial, and national levels. At the summit of this network was the National Council of Corporations. But although syndicalism and corporativism had a place in fascist ideology and were critical to building a consensus in support of the regime, the council did little to steer the economy. The real decisions were made by state agencies such as the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (Istituto per la Ricosstruzione Industriale, or IRI), mediating among interest groups.

Beginning in 1929, in preparation for achieving the "glories" of war, the Italian government used protectionist measures to turn the economy toward autarchy, or economic self-sufficiency. The autarchic policies were intensified in the following years because of both the depression and the economic sanctions that other countries imposed on Italy after it invaded Ethiopia. Mussolini decreed that government bureaus must buy only Italian products, and he increased tariffs on all imports in 1931. The sanctions following the invasion of Ethiopia spurred Italy in 1935 to increase tariffs again, stiffen import quotas, and toughen its embargo on industrial goods.

Mussolini also eliminated the ability of business to make independent decisions: the government controlled all prices and wages, and firms in any industry could be forced into a cartel when the majority voted for it. The well-connected heads of big business had a hand in making policy, but most smaller businessmen were effectively turned into state employees contending with corrupt bureaucracies. They acquiesced, hoping that the restrictions would be temporary. Land being fundamental to the nation, the fascist state regimented agriculture even more fully, dictating crops, breaking up farms, and threatening expropriation to enforce its commands.

Aside from the obvious goal of strengthening the state (in preparation for empire, it should be noted, as in communism) there is simply supremacy of the state. Is that what you mean by nationalism? Because autarchy (or totalitarianism) would be a far better term for "State uber alles."

Precision, man, precision.

Posted by: hobgoblin at January 21, 2005 08:20 AM

Ben,

I'd also "constructively criticize" your earlier comment to the extent that fascism and communism bear greater relation to Hobbes' Leviathan and the enlightenment notion of the "perfectability of man" (most notably outlined a work of the same title by Condorcet) than Rousseau's romantic notion of the noble savage.

Romanticism has bourne bitter fruit, and much of Nazi Germany was striving toward the rebirth of the "authentic" German, but the underlying economic theories were in no way from Rousseau.

I hate to be unduly harsh, but you're not making clear distinctions about what you're considering, and this muddles what you're trying to say.

And as far as taking my own medicine, by me saying that "or Mao was fascist," I was meaning that as an impossibility under DPU's logic that fascism and communism are mutually exclusive political systems. If what you mean to say is that fascism is a political outlook and communism an economic program, then you are exactly backwards of DPU's approach (which would be OK, but for the fact that fascism was clearly an economic program as described in the above link and excerpt).

Posted by: hobgoblin at January 21, 2005 08:32 AM

hobgoblin -

I stand by my comments to the extent of your criticism, except to note that that the limitations of the medium prevent an explanation which may be full enough to satisfy.

In their heart of hearts, the committed fascist is interested in national greatness and military conquest, while the committed communist is interested in collectivising the economy. It is not a matter of there being points of agreement between the two; to the contrary, what matters is what really excites each of them. Mao's China certainly did share some things in common with fascism. Note further that in your own post it is acknowledged that Mussolini structured his economy "in preparation for achieving the 'glories' of war."

As to your second post, I disagree almost entirely. Hobbes' Leviathan had nothing whatsoever to do with creating the ideal society; to the contrary, Hobbes explicitly rejects the notion that man can be perfected. For Hobbes, government was a necessary evil, and the "Leviathan" existed solely because the "life of man" absent a strong government, was destined to be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." Hobbes did not express a preference for dictatorship; he merely said that a strong government was necessary to restrain the passions of man and that if it were a tyranny, so be it.

Communism and fascism, however, owe their very existence to the notion of the perfectibility of man. Without the ideas of Rousseau, neither ideology could exist. The "noble savage" for Rousseau was merely a means to an end - i.e., demonstrating that government and social structure are responsible for corrupting and oppressing man and "holding him in chains." If only the yoke of tyranny could be cast off, man could be perfected. Fascism and Communism both expound upon this essential ideal.

Posted by: Ben at January 21, 2005 09:49 AM

Perhaps the true distinction between communism and fascism can be found by looking at their respective stated goals: a stateless society versus a glorious state. Each certainly has expressed a willingness to use the means of the other to achieve their respective goals. That said, I'm not sure the reality has much relationship to the ideal. Hitler certainly wanted a glorious state -- under himself -- and it pretty clear he not would have supported a glorious state under someone else that did not matach with his vision. Similarly, I have my doubts that Stalin or Mao would have given up power no matter how imminent the stateless society; and I am sure Kim would not give up power today.

Posted by: Ben at January 21, 2005 11:23 AM

OT, but inspired by this discussion:

Locke and Rousseau both responded to Hobbes, but in different ways. Locke argued that the all-powerful state was unnecessary to restrain the baser instincts of man, which could be held in check by a much more limited government. That government would be put into power by the sound judgment of free people acting in their own self interest, each of them ceding enough of their own individual power, in exchange for similar concessions from everyone else, to protect other citizens (the "Social Contract"). Similarly, the government's power would be limited by the people to ensure that it did not become a tyranny. Locke's hiers are today's liberal societies.

Rousseau, on the other hand, argued that Hobbes was wrong in his assumption that people had base instincts (i.e., there's no such thing as "original sin") -- this is the basis of the "noble savage." Rousseau claimed that corrupt governments oppress people from realizing their natural goodness and that if that corruption could only be removed, man would flourish. "Man was born free, but he is everywhere in chains." Perhaps Rousseau's most controversial position, however, is that some people do not know that they are not free and that it is appropriate to force them to be free, even at the cost of killing them. Rousseau's hiers are the millenialist (totalitarian) movements seeking perfection of the human race.

It could be argued that much of the last 100 or so years of conflict has been a struggle for dominance between the respective hiers of Locke and Rousseau.

Posted by: Ben at January 21, 2005 11:52 AM

I've gotta take issue with that, as well, Kimmitt, especially actual fascists like Mussolini. If nothing else, Bush's tax cuts, taken to the logical extreme, sacrifice state interests in service of the individual. It may be oligarchy, but that's not fascism.

Since the stated purpose of Bush's various tax cuts is to make the state incapable of fulfilling promises to low-income persons, I don't think things are quite as simple as you put forward.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 21, 2005 01:08 PM

Failure to fulfill promises to low-income persons may be a lot of things, but one of them is not fascism.

Posted by: Ben at January 21, 2005 01:13 PM

It's widely known that Pope Pius X(?) signed a treaty of friendship with Hitler in 1933. We hear about it ad nauseum from the Lefties with axes to grind. What they will never tell you is that Pius ripped that treaty to shreds in 1937 [...]

If this is true, how come that this Reichskonkordat is still valid till this day in Germany?
Btw, it was Pius XI.

Posted by: Schulz at January 21, 2005 02:48 PM

Schulz -

From the article linked in your post: "Only when the Nazi government violated the concordat (in particular article 31), the clergy started to critize their politics. This criticism culminated in the papal encyclical "Mit brennender Sorge" ("With Deep Anxiety") of 1937 of Pope Pius XI." What's the point of your post? Are you disputing that Hitler intended to suppress the Catholic Church? If so, you are mistaken: Hitler ultimately wanted to suppress the Christian Churches but believed that he could not do so politically until after the war. (This point is backed up by correspondence & other documents recovered from Nazi archives).

Posted by: Ben at January 21, 2005 03:04 PM

Failure to fulfill promises to low-income persons may be a lot of things, but one of them is not fascism.

Yes, but fulfilling promises to low-income persons most certainly is not fascism.

Look, fascism is, at the end of the day, ultranationalistic corporatism. Whether the corporations are organized by the state or become the state, the principle is the same.

Bush's theory of government is ultimately fascistic -- it does not recognize legal limits on the executive, it is oligarchistic, it uses scapegoats (gays and/or liberals) to explain all ills, and it touts a state-centric religous morality. Bush's ideal American state would look a lot like Fraco's actual Spanish state. I'm willing to accept that you don't like Fascist, so I can also accept Falangist and Dictatorial as similar concepts that might apply better, depending on your particular views. But isn't a debate over which antidemocratic brutality is embodied by our President a bit . . . academic?

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 21, 2005 06:38 PM

Ben,

I did not dispute Hitler's alleged motives concerning the Catholic Church, I disputed the position of the Catholic Curch/Pius XI concerning the Reichskonkordat as described by David. The fact that the Pius XI issued Mit Brennender Sorge in 1937 did not mean that he ripped that treaty to shreds. Actually the Catholic Church was quite content with the treaty because of its benefits and never denounced it, in spite of the dubious circumstances in which it was arranged. That's all I say.

Posted by: Schulz at January 22, 2005 03:31 AM

To make it clearer, the main reason for issuing Mit Brennender Sorge were violations of the Reichskonkordat by the Nazis. The Church was not asking for annulment but for proper execution of this treaty.

Posted by: Schulz at January 22, 2005 03:57 AM

Kimmitt -

If you think our president favors "anti-democratic brutality," then I submit that you don't know what anti-democratic brutality really is. Did you listen to the Innauguration speech? Have you followed his statements of our war aims in Afghanistan and Iraq? In what way are those even remotely related to anything Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Mussolini or Pinochet or Franco ever did?

Posted by: Ben at January 22, 2005 05:21 PM

Ben,

Thank you for your detailed and thought-provoking posts, I have very much enjoyed reading them. I am not a scholar, just someone who occasionally reads a history book for fun.

This bit caught my eye. You write, "Rousseau's most controversial position, however, is that some people do not know that they are not free and that it is appropriate to force them to be free, even at the cost of killing them. Rousseau's hiers are the millenialist (totalitarian) movements seeking perfection of the human race."

This doesn't sound a little like President Bush to you?

Posted by: sivert at January 22, 2005 05:42 PM

Sivert,

Well, most Iraqis knew they weren't free. The people resisting are the former oppressors, who want to rerepress the heathen who hang pictures of the satanic Sistani on the walls.

You will note that Michael talked to Libyans who knew they weren't free. My experience has been that emigrants from repressive regimes are far more appreciative of liberty than the spoiled sons of priviledge who were born here and sniff at the notion that some silly foreigner might actually desire such a cheap gewgaw.

No, I don't think Bush plans on liberating everyone, wither they will or no. But tyrannical regimes are a danger to us, and if some must be taken down, so be it.

Posted by: chuck at January 22, 2005 09:08 PM

sivert --

Rousseau was talking about individuals who refuse to be free themselves. President Bush has said that his fight is with people who want to prevent others from being free.

Another dimension of this is that a direct comparison between the two is not really apt. Rousseau is focusing on the struggle within a nation, while President Bush is dealing with foreign enemies.

Posted by: Ben at January 23, 2005 02:17 PM

If you think our president favors "anti-democratic brutality," then I submit that you don't know what anti-democratic brutality really is. Did you listen to the Innauguration speech? Have you followed his statements of our war aims in Afghanistan and Iraq? In what way are those even remotely related to anything Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Mussolini or Pinochet or Franco ever did?

I think it was the part where he established extranational concentration camps, then started torturing people in them.

You see, Bush is, waddayacall, a liar. So it doesn't really matter what he says.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 23, 2005 06:40 PM

I like this style of argument:

You see, Kimmitt is, waddayacall, a moonbat. So it doesn't really matter what he says.

Posted by: chuck at January 23, 2005 06:46 PM

Ad hominem is valid argument when you have some reason to support it. For example, when Bush gives a flowery speech about freedom and liberty, and the next day, we get a half-dozen news articles about how he didn't really mean it, then I can feel free to call him a liar and dismiss his words as irrelevant.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 24, 2005 01:11 PM

Ben,

You wrote, "Rousseau was talking about individuals who refuse to be free themselves. President Bush has said that his fight is with people who want to prevent others from being free."

Thank you for clarifying that, I didn't remember Rousseau being that wacky.

In my post though, I was referring more towards Bush's bend toward Utopianism, which concerns me.

sivert

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