Communism, it seemed to me then and still seems to me now, is not the opposite of fascism: it is fascism’s blood-brother, its complementary twin. The two live together in a vicious symbiotic relationship; scratch a Red and you’ll find a Brown. Better yet, scratch either one deeply enough and you will find a Black: someone so caught up in the will to power that crimes and atrocities don’t even count anymore.
– Walter Russell Mead (via Instapundit)
25 thoughts on ““Blogging Through Georgia””
Sebastian Haffner, whose memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars I reviewed several months ago, summarized the similarities between the reds and the browns:
“They both came from the ‘youth movement’ and both thought in terms of leagues. They were both anti-bourgeois and anti-individualistic. Both had an ideal of ‘community’ and ‘community spirit’. For both, jazz music, fashion magazines…in other words the world of glamour and ‘easy come, easy go’, were a red rag. Both had a secret liking for terror, in a more humanistic garb for the one, more nationalistic for the other. As similar views make for similar faces, they both had a certain stiff, thin-lipped, humourless expression and, incidentally, the greatest respect for each other.”
Good posting. That myth that fascism was diametrically opposed to communism has lasted for a long time. I was taught of it in high school and college in the late 80s and 90s. It wasn’t until the late 90s when I read Witness and of WC’s first encounter with W. Krivistky that the light went off. Chambers starts the all night discussion by positing that Soviet Russia was a fascist government. Krivistky affirms that Soviet Russia was, in fact, a fascist government. Who would know but two former relatively high functionaries of the underground communist party? For that particular myth to have lasted as long as it has in the education world is a testament to the dominance of the left wing culture.
Hitler was a socialist. The party he created was called National Socialist German Workers Party. That is as clear as it gets. He opposed Lenin’s plans to take over the world, starting with Germany. I suppose Hitler wanted to take over the world instead, starting with Russia.
Socialism seems to give Socialist leaders an overwhelming desire to conquer the world. There are some very good reasons socialist leaders are driven to world conquest. The state cannot whither away and the proletariat cannot rule unless the whole world is socialist.
There are many similarities between communism and fascism and in the the psychology of their supporters; also, though, there are some important differences. Fundamentally, communism is a bastard child of the Enlightenment, whereas fascism is explicitly counter-Enlightenment. Some specifics:
1)Communists are very concerned with economics; fascists tend to regard economic values as basically contemptible
2)In connection with the above, communists want to actually *run* productive enterprises; fascists want to control them while leaving them in ostensibly private hands to avoid taking responsibility for their performance.
3)Communism, in theory at least, considers race, ethnicity, and nationality to be secondary to other factors such as class. Fascism is explicitly racist and/or nationalist.
4)Communism is anti-religious; fascism is either traditionally religious or embraces some form of mysticism.
5)Fascism tends to be focused on aesthetics, in a way best explained by Aldous Huxley:
“In the field of politics the equivalent of a theorem is a perfectly disciplined army; of a sonnet or picture, a police state under a dictatorship. The Marxist calls himself scientific and to this claim the Fascist adds another: he is the poet–the scientific poet–of a new mythology. Both are justified in their pretensions; for each applies to human situations the procedures which have proved effective in the laboratory and the ivory tower. They simplify, they abstract, they eliminate all that, for their purposes, is irrelevant and ignore whatever they choose to regard an inessential; they impose a style, they compel the facts to verify a favorite hypothesis, they consign to the waste paper basket all that, to their mind, falls short of perfection…the dream of Order begets tyranny, the dream of Beauty, monsters and violence.”
David Foster: wrt your list of differences between fascism and communism, there are a couple of points that should be made.
First and less important, some of the items are vaguely worded (including A Huxley’s words in my opinion); but at least item #4 is explicit enough to be partially wrong: I think it can be safely said that no **self-declared** fascist embraced traditional religion.
Second and fundamentally important, the Ugly Duckling Theorem [see wikipedia] shows that, between any 2 objects (or, in this case, ideologies) you can always find exactly the same number of identical features and exactly the same number of differences; so a list of differences, or similarities for that matter, can easily be challenged.
So we have to choose which features are important BEFORE deciding whether fascism and communism are closely related. Mass murder is one feature that seems relevant to me. Ideological ancestry also seems relevant, but I am not at all sure that one can distinguish between bastard children of the enlightenment and legitimate children of the counter-enlightenment.
Snorri…”no **self-declared** fascist embraced traditional religion”
I echo what Sol said above. The German Fascists were the “National Socialist German Workers Party”. As such I’ve always viewed the Communists’ and Fascists’ as near-identical: socialism.
Would you explain your point #1? I’d like to hear your reasoning.
(Sorry, that should’ve read,
Communists’ and Fascists’ economic policies as near-identical: socialism
must read before posting)
Impressive write up Dave, but I’m not sure about #4. Fascist leaders, including junta leaders, might have embraced the local religion, but only out of a sense of survival. Pinochet and Noriega, and the various South American dictators did not ban religion, but they certainly did not want a vigorous and active Catholic church, either. Then again, Castro and Ortega and the apparatchiks in Poland never fully banned catholicism either, they infiltrated, subverted it, and made it weak, but never banned it. A neutered church is a dictator’s dream, regardless of whether they are communist or fascist.
IronChef…unlike the Soviet Union, the Nazi government rarely sought to take direct control of businesses in the sense of making them part of the government. They did intervene whenever they felt like it on production quantities, pricing decisions, etc, and sporadically in personnel decisions. This was also true in Italy and Japan. Two reasons for this, I think: first, fascism simply didn’t place very high value on economic activity. They weren’t above promising more & better jobs, housing, etc, but the ultimate human activity was considered fighting rather than economic production. There was also much back-to-the-land romanticism coexisting with a certain romanticism of industry combined with denigration of finance. See “Reactionary Modernism” by Jeffrey Herf, an important but hard-to-summarize book.
Second, leaving business in nominally private hands helps the government avoid blame for any shortages, labor issues, or other problems.
Plus, the fascists were largely supported by business leaders who feared communism in the 1920s and early 30s. The German industrialists supported Hitler and thought they could control him. He actually allowed this misapprehension until late in the war.
You forget Lenin’s New Ecomic Policy of the 1920s that was so pro-capitalist that Henry Ford himseld praised Lenin. Of course, once the Russian industrial base was modernized Stalin purged the capitalist pigs and the kulak pigs and half the politburo and the counter-revolutionaries and Socialism was reborn with brand new factories powered by the Moscow dynamos they all used to sing about.
Hitler would have done the same except he started 10 years late and ran out of time.
David Foster: “Francisco Franco?”
Not a self declared fascist.
Thank you for the insight. I’d always simplified the movements to:
Fascism = Socialism + Nationalism
Communism = Socialism + Internationalism
I’ll have to dig further into the history of the ’30’s. Michael, thanks for the addition.
Snorri Godhi, most of our homemade – Italian, that is – fascists were good Catholics. I suppose that in a country with one strong religious confession, fascist or not you tend to stick with the flock. In a land like Germany, divided geographically in Catholic or Protestant majorities, a smart politician does not stick with one flock and creates a series of myths suitable for the nation as a whole.
I second David Foster’s points. Saying that nazi-fascism and communism were (and are) the same thing is an unnecessary reductio. Sure, they both are totalitarian forms of State organization, but their differences made one stronger and long-lasting than the other: if nazi-fascism appealed to youth, energy, Fatherland and other crap, the great penetration of communism in Western Europe and Latin America is due to its incarnation of the last progressive frontier.
You Americans often tend to forget that your nation had – thanks to its peculiar birth – a different evolution. In Europe, we almost passed from feudalism to industrialization, and from war to war, with a small and frightened middle class. Middle class that, in Italy, has been the very backbone of the Fascist National Party. After WWII, many Europeans were still just peasants coming from another century. No more than slaves, if you please, of land barons. It was easy for the – mostly – Italian and French Communist Parties to gain support from them and from the displaced industrial workers: after all, they were for homes for everybody, a job for everybody, equality between women and men… they were the last progressive frontier and the ultimate mass religion, promising Heaven on Earth. Unfortunately, as you teach me, TANSTAAFL.
Sejo: thank you for your comment. I too have an Italian background. I went to high school in Italy, and I had fascists, communists, and devout Catholics amongst my classmates and teachers. I hope that qualifies me to speak on this subject.
(As far as I remember, devout Catholics were as likely to be commies as to be fascists; and Hayek was right: it is easy for a commie to turn fascist.)
“Saying that nazi-fascism and communism were (and are) the same thing is an unnecessary reductio.”
Absolutely! and that is why I brought in the Ugly Duckling Theorem: you can NEVER say that 2 different things A and B [ideologies, in this case] are the same. You cannot even say that they are closer to each other than to C, UNLESS you specify the criteria by which they are closer.
For my clarity of mind, I think of fascism and communism as close, but NOT the same. Note the qualification: for MY clarity of mind. Nobody else is required to share this clarity.
But to be frank I tend to think of fascism as closer to American progressivism than to communism.
SG: «I hope that qualifies me to speak on this subject».
I think that you qualify by being a sentient human being. My desire was to add elements, not tie the discussion on an ethnical, national base. By the way, I hope that your years here have been happy.
SG: «For my clarity of mind, I think of fascism and communism as close, but NOT the same. Note the qualification: for MY clarity of mind. Nobody else is required to share this clarity».
I agree with you, they could be close but definitely not the same, and with the general point of view for the legitimacy of individual points of view.
You also wrote: «So we have to choose which features are important BEFORE deciding whether fascism and communism are closely related. Mass murder is one feature that seems relevant to me. Ideological ancestry also seems relevant, but I am not at all sure that one can distinguish between bastard children of the enlightenment and legitimate children of the counter-enlightenment».
Sure, the choice should be made before analyzing two different things, and I appreciate the features you identify as common between fascism and communism. Still, I think that what makes them different – especially the point made by Foster, about which you’re not sure – tells us more on the particular characters of the two ideologies and their life, ‘successes’ and legacy.
SG: «But to be frank I tend to think of fascism as closer to American progressivism than to communism».
This sounds mysterious to me, but as you know – and as far as I can recall – we Italians discover in school America thanks to Cristoforo Colombo and stop. From 1492 onward, it’s barely the land of cowboys, the Far West or Frontier, Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the Sixties and from the Eighties the land of Yuppies. A tragic gap that I’m trying to fill by reading this and other blogs and by subscribing to many US magazines. I’d be glad and grateful if you could clarify.
SG: «I hope that qualifies me to speak on this subject».
Sejo: I think that you qualify by being a sentient human being.
Sorry, I was not being defensive, just trying to be funny — not one of my best attempts.
SG: «But to be frank I tend to think of fascism as closer to American progressivism than to communism».
Sejo: I’d be glad and grateful if you could clarify.
Glad to, since it forces me to think: what are the arguments that I find most convincing?
But this is a complex issue, so I’ll simplify by considering only US progressivism from the late xix century to the death of FDR/end of ww2. [From the 1930s, US progressives already started renaming themselves “liberals”, but afaik they did not change much at least until the end of ww2]. Also, I’ll violate my own principle by listing the links between [US] progressivism and fascism without first specifying what features we should look for.
What I find most convincing is that Mussolini [M] and FDR were linked by reciprocal admiration. If THEY thought that they were close to each other, who am I to disagree?
True, FDR despised Hitler [H] — but so did M, who aligned with H only out of opportunism. As for H, he apparently admired both M and FDR.
Also, there was quite a bit of sympathy for H in US universities in the 1930s. My interpretation is that FDR was just not progressive enough to appreciate H: many US academics were more progressive than FDR, so they sympathized with nazism.
As for intellectual ancestry, Hegel had a strong influence on progressivism, and of course Gentile was a Hegelian [and M was influenced by Hegel at least via Marx]. From what I know, which is not much, there is little evidence pointing the other way, to clear differences in intellectual ancestry.
As for actual political programs:
 M, FDR, and H were all corporatists. Corporatism was not the main flaw of M and H [which is an understatement], but again, this similarity seems to have been important to THEM.
 M and H embarked on a crazed policy of wars of expansion that ultimately led to their failures and early deaths: this is an important difference wrt progressives, but I note that early progressives, such as Ted Roosevelt [a Republican, but in his time progressivism was not linked to the Democrats], had a moderate tendency to imperialism. Also, ww1 and ww2 [and later the Korean war and the Vietnam war] were joined/started by Democratic presidents, though this is very weak evidence since these were not wars of expansion.
 M and H were dictators: this is a crucial feature, but note that they were, in fact, quite popular for a while; they did not rule by fear. Meanwhile, FDR did not need to abolish elections: he won 4 of them easily before dying. Also, you could look into what W Wilson did to the Constitution during and after ww1. Wilson was called the first modern totalitarian by Robert Nisbet.
 Last but not least, there is the issue of racism. Here the progressives, strange as that might seem, were somewhere between M and H. The US progressives championed “scientific” racism and eugenics; W Wilson re-introduced racial segregation in government; the KKK was the armed branch of the Democratic Party; FDR interned all Japanese-Americans because of their ethnicity. Meanwhile, M let thousands of Jewish refugees into Italy during the war.
Sejo: if you are still reading, here is a short postscript. I have not really told you why I think that fascism is closer to progressivism than to communism.
The reason, in short, is that while all 3 ideologies promote state control of the economy, only communists want to replace the ruling class [the Ancien Regime, if you wish] with a new ruling class. This is closely related to David Foster’s item #2.
In this sense, one could argue that fascists and progressives are “right-wing” defenders of the Ancien Regime, while commies are “left-wing” Jacobins. A similar argument was put forward by Murray Rothbard:
I find Rothbard convincing wrt the fascists and progressives, but unconvincing [even crazy] wrt the commies: what is the point of replacing a ruling class by another ruling class even more oppressive? [Though Rothbard did not know how oppressive the commies were.]
An alternative point of view is that progressives, fascists, and commies all belong to one side, and classical liberals to the other side. You could call one side “the left” and the other side “the right”, but there is room for debate about which is which.
The view that progressives/fascists/commies are “left-wing” is put forward most famously by Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism, but the idea was around before Goldberg; see for instance:
I disagree in some ways with Ray’s and Goldberg’s analyses, but it is from them that I learned most of what I wrote yesterday.
The view that socialism, like fascism, is “right-wing” has been put most convincingly by George Watson:
The advantage of the Watson view is that it helps to make sense of La Dottrina del Fascismo saying that fascism is “right-wing”. It also helps to make sense of Tocqueville saying that socialism is opposed to the principles of the French Revolution:
as well as Hayek’s distinction between socialism “of the left” and “of the right”, which I tried to distill in a comment elsewhere:
Thanks to all of you for your comments. What a fantastic and educational thread! It’s going to take me some time to read through it all and respond properly.
Wow. Snorri Godhi, thank you so much for all the attached documents and the quick lesson on American progressives. A term which I could not before link to that kind of arguments. Actually, the opposite: liberals – read: Classical/Market/Social liberals – as the progressives, the others as ‘modern’ totalitarians and/or reactionaries à la Ancien Regime.
And the hints to the Roosevelts and Wilson. Ah! I truly know nothing of USA and the more I learn, the less I know. It really is a complicate matter, seen from here. The independence, the Constitution have been some unique experiments on and by human freedom. Actually, if I look to the European attempts at it – the French revolution but also the Dutch republic, the reconstruction after WWII and all the democratization processes both national and continental as in the ECSC – look so pale in comparison. And flawed, perhaps, by a ‘totalitarian’ point of view. From a communitarian point of view.
If you pass me the (truly ad absurdum) reductio, it seemes that the link between liberty and democracy from an American perspective is similar to the Tolkien’s description of The Shire society: that of a highly individualist community, in which the highest degree of personal freedom does not infringe the social harmony and actually promotes a nonviolent interaction between people.
Thank you very much.
Sejo, and Madhu in so far as you were addressing me: thank you for your feedback. I apologize if my comment was too long 2 days ago, but it was much shorter than the JJ Ray article that I linked to yesterday, and the Goldberg book, so you can look at it as a short introduction.
“[…] liberals – read: Classical/Market/Social liberals – as the progressives, the others as ‘modern’ totalitarians and/or reactionaries à la Ancien Regime.”
Yes, when I was in Italy classical liberals were considered center-left. Is that still so? (In practice, I guess the answer is yes, since the “left” have implemented more free-market reform that Berlusconi.)
BTW re-reading my 1st comment here, maybe I gave the impression that I strongly disagree with David Foster. That is not so: some of his points I am not sure about, but the only point on which I definitely disagree is, basically, that Francisco Franco was not what I call a fascist, because he liberalized the economy a bit, instead of “corporatizing” it; and more importantly because he did not start insane wars of aggression.
Perhaps, Franco was just a product of those years. Years of great alarm for the class struggle and of totalitarian ideas. I agree that Spain can’t be counted in the same book as Italy and Germany. That has been an even more peculiar experiment, although based on the opponents’ blood as the other dictatorships.
SG: Yes, when I was in Italy classical liberals were considered center-left. Is that still so? (In practice, I guess the answer is yes, since the “left” have implemented more free-market reform that Berlusconi.)
Erm, yes. It is weird, I know, from every non-Italian point of view. This is a strange place. I guess we will never be a ‘normal’ liberal democracy. To be more explicit, we have to split our republican history in two parts: from the end of WWII to 1992 and from then to our days.
In the so called First republic we had a strong and pro-Moscow Communist party so the state has been governed always by the Christian Democracy, in partnership mainly with the rightwing, liberal conservative, and pro-corporations Partito Liberale. In the government, there were also the Partito Socialdemocratico, an anticommunist, small, largely uninfluential leftwing party and the historical Partito Repubblicano – the Mazzini’s party – who in the Resistance never standed along Communists and Monarchists and Catholics in the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale. It was a small, but not tiny, party of intellectuals, enterpreuners, teachers, what we could call – in this corner of Europe – as modern, ‘enlightened’ bourgeoisie. It was indeed a pro-Atlantic, strongly liberal democrat party in which classical liberals meddled with the social liberals of Giustizia e Libertà and my beloved Partito d’Azione. It was a «center party looking at left», but you should not think of it as a cryptosocialist ensemble. It was an effort to modernise the country and the social relationships, the institutions, and the economy grown out of fascism in which along the State owned giants like IRI there were State favoured and financed big companies like FIAT. Funnily enough, most of the Agnelli family voted and publicly supported the Republicans. But, as I said, if the PLI was a conservative and just pro-business party, the PRI was an identical liberal party but with a more holistic approach.
The Second republic has been and still is a political nightmare. The historical parties have been cancelled by public outrage for the financial scandals. The political spectrum has been forcedly divided in two alliances, too vague to implement a coherent project. You are right, despite all his claims and promises, Berlusconi failed to bring free-market – but also free-society – reforms. Those were implemented by ex communists, namely Pierluigi Bersani as minister in the last center-left government, but have been erased by the current government in which the most determining positions are held by ex socialists. Yes, I know, it’s difficult to grasp and even to believe. It’s Italy: we are so anarchist in spirit that perhaps we don’t unconsciously want coherent politics.
As for me, I’ve voted in the last years – whenever possible, when they were present at elections – for the Partito Radicale or Radicali Italiani as they’re called now. They have born out – and on the left – of the Partito Liberale. Their slogan in the early days was «the left of rights and liberties» and now it is, coherently IMHO, «liberale, liberista e libertario» or «classic liberal, market liberal and social liberal». Strange as it may seems, in the last general elections there were their candidates in the Partito Democratico (ex Communists, ex Christian democrats and even a couple of Repubblicani and Liberali) but I decided to not support them: I don’t like the PD as much as I don’t like Berlusconi’s PDL+Lega. I wasted my vote on a small list which was clearly out of the games. Not that I think that voting could change this country as I’d love.
I would declare myself as definitely leftwing. In this spectrum, it seems, as if I was American or British or Dutch, my votes could have gone – out of my lack of proper knowledge – to McCain, Cameron or Clegg, the D66 or the VVD and even the PVV. If we go on elections, as it could be in the coming year, Berlusconi failing to secure himself a law for not showing in courts, in absentia of the Radicali I could vote for an ex fascist, Gianfranco Fini. My belly aches, and I think my poor grandfather would roll in his tomb if I do, but it seems it’s the only chance for liberal ideas to be present in the parliament. Out of the PD, obviously.
Wow. I wrote so much and I have yet to start working. I beg your pardon for being so verbose but, you know, when I have to think and talk about this country – well – I lose my good breeding. Sometimes it’s hard to love something you do not like.
PLI – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Liberal_Party_%28historical%29
PRI – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Republican_Party
PR – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_Party_%28Italy%29
RI – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Radicals
PdAz – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partito_d%27Azione
Please note: there have been no Costitutional changes from First to Second republic, so it’s a meaningless definition. Only our politicians and journalists love it, out of a well spread love for big definitions – or a sense of inferiority to our French cousins.
Sejo: thanks for your reply. I thought that the Italian Constitution was changed when proportional representation was abolished. I don’t know, the change might have been just a couple of lines; but [together with the fall of the Soviet Union] it has changed the entire political dynamics, and I fear that only Berlusconi has fully adapted to the new dynamics, **for now**. I am cautiously optimistic about the future.
The electoral law is a different thing from the Constitution, which is just a frame in which laws have to fit.
In the last fifteen years, there’s been a change in the “Titolo V” of the Constitution, a change named «riforma Bassanini» by the name of his proponent, but nothing related to elections. Actually, we have voted with many systems from 1994 to our days. It was a sport for every majority to write a new electoral law. If you can read in Italian, you can find it somewhere as «Legge Costituzionale n.3 del 2001». A short commentary can be found at http://www.scribd.com/doc/22634926/Speciale-Riforma-Titolo-v
The Bassanini reform was mainly dedicated to give freedom to the local authorities to raise taxes in a sort of fiscal federalism and to reorganize the distribution of national government subsidies to the same local authorities: Regioni, Province and Comuni. I guess it would be States, Counties and Town councils. Perhaps.
The main innovation has been the theorical creation of metropolitan cities – sort of Greater London-style councils instead of provinces for the larger cities – but they have yet to be implemented. A law has been made in the past weeks by the current government for the ‘creation’ of «Roma capitale» but, as usual, this law does not show any reference to the real issue: redistribution of taxes to the capital city or the frame in which it could raise taxes. Actually, the government has cancelled the most important – in terms of raised money – tax of the Comuni: the tax on homes, thereby centralizing even more the relationship between the Repubblica and the local governments. Blackmailing, or an attempt at it, if I can drop for a second my rationality.
Things are changing, sure, but I guess more because of the aging of Mr. Berlusconi than other factors. Sure, Confindustria, the federation of employers’ associations, and two out of the three major trade unions have been more and more critical of the government and are proposing tax cuts on salaries to give a boost to the domestic economy. Also sure, things are slowly moving to the centre where Catholics, along with the ex mayor of Rome, Francesco Rutelli, and possibly Gianfranco Fini will converge towards an alliance with the blessing of the ex CEO of FIAT, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. And possibly the FT and The Economist.
Cautiosly optimistic. Well, yes, I’m optimistic by nature. But I fear that the actors of a new scenario will be the same players as ever, just changing dresses. The ex Radical and anticlerical, and Green and antinuclear, and ultra Catholic and pronuclear Rutelli – yes, he’s been these and more things in his career – along with the ex fascist, post nationalist, always statist but struck by free-market lightning Fini, allied with a party whose important member and ex minister Rocco Buttiglione has just declared that being gay is immoral as not paying taxes, well, you see, I fear this is just what we’ve had and will always have: a theater, and not a place in which ideas are discussed – even quarreling, if necessary – and bills debated. Not to mention the ‘left’ and ‘right’.
In this scene, what remains of the historical liberal parties have yet to find a common platform, and due to the lack of popular support are completely absent from the mass media.
As for Silvio Berlusconi: he’s been the best communicator of all times in this country. The best. He’s a natural salesman. Although I may not agree with his views, I have to admit he’s been without an opponent of his level in the last sixteen years: the poor old Prodi, which I voted twice, was just a petty clerk in comparison.
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