Spotting the wild Fascist

The term “fascist” gets thrown around a lot by people who have no actual clue what Fascism was about. I know what it was about because when I was about 11 or 12 I read Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of of the Third Reich and became fascinated by the question which has driven my study of politics and history for all of the fifty years since. Which is: how do we prevent the genocidal horrors of the Nazi regime from ever recurring?

In the process of trying to answer this question I have read deeply about Naziism, Italian Fascism, Francoite pseudo-Fascism, Marxism, Irrationalism, and several political tendencies related to these. I know their theory, I know their history, and I know what Fascists believed about themselves. Most of all I think I have a pretty firm grasp on how a revival of Fascism in the 21st century would look. And it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility, either…but if it happens, it’s not going to come from where most people currently throwing around the term “fascist” expect.

Hence, a field guide to spotting the wild Fascist. And avoiding false alarms.

Let’s start by clearing some terminological underbrush. I’m going to use the term “fascism” for a cluster of ideologies derived from Italian Fascism as it was invented by Gabriele D’Annunzio and then reinvented by Benito Mussolini. The most important derivative of Italian Fascism was German Naziism. I’ll capitalize “Fascism” when I’m speaking historically of how it developed rather than typologically as a cluster of correlated ideas and structural traits.

I’m not going to talk so much about some other movements and regimes historically connected to Fascism and sometimes confused with it, such Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Peronism in South America, or interwar Japanese militarism. In some cases these consciously borrowed fascist tropes, but not the core theory of fascism. They’re also less interesting because they’re not epidemiologically dangerous at this point in history – nobody has any reason to fear a revival of (for example) Saddamism.

On the other hand I will talk about Francisco Franco a bit. He’s useful because he borrowed just enough fascist tropes to confuse inattentive and sloppy thinkers into typing him as a Fascist without actually being one. Thus, contrasting his behavior with fascism is instructive.

So we’ll start with the roots of Italian Fascism. It originated as a kind of live-action role-playing game for disgruntled Italian WWI vets led by a charismatic war hero, aviator, and poet named Gabriele D’Annunzio. Compared to what it evolved into, early Italian fascism had a rather charming opera-bouffe quality about it – theoretical ideas that were incoherent to the point of surrealism, lots of prancing around in invented uniforms, and dosing of opponents with castor oil. The history of D’Annunzio’s Fascist microstate of Fiume makes amusing reading.

Then came Benito Mussolini, a man looking for a vehicle.

Mussolini was a revolutionary Socialist organizer influenced by the theories of Georges Sorel, who was responding to one of the early failures of Marxism. In Marxian “scientific socialism”, universal revolution was a process that would follow mechanically from the capitalist immiseration of the proletariat. But by the second decade of the new century it was becoming clear that most national proletariats were unwilling to play their appointed role in the theory and indeed tended to be among the most patriotic and nationalist elements of their societies. Class warfare as the engine of international socialism had failed, creating a doctrinal crisis in communist/socialist circles.

Sorel responded by writing a new theory of political motivation he called “irrationalism” which proposed that instead of fighting popular sentiments like patriotism and nationalist mythology, socialists and communists should embrace them as tools to build and perfect socialism. Mussolini was persuaded, broke with the Socialist Party, and went looking for a vehicle for a Sorelian revolution. He found it in D’Annunzio’s Fascists and, swiftly shunting D’Annunzio aside, became their leader.

I’ve covered this history in detail because it explodes one of the prevailing myths about Fascism – that it arose out of some fundamental opposition to Communism. In fact this was never true; Fascism was a Marxist heresy from the day Mussolini seized it, differing from Marxism not mainly in its aims but in the means by which they were to be achieved.

The defining doctrine of Fascism once D’Annunzio was out of the way was this quote by Mussolini: “Everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” (There are a few variant translations from the original Italian.) Building directly on Leninist political economics, Benito Mussolini wrote a theoretical justification of the totalitarian state which paralleled Joseph Stalin’s less theorized but brutally-executed totalitarianization of the Soviet Union at around the same time.

The Fascist theory was of a unitary, totalizing state ruled by a leader acting as the embodiment of the will of the nation. No power centers in opposition to the embodied will can be tolerated; church, family, education, and civic institutions must all become organs of that will.

One way to tell if you’re dealing with an actual Fascist is whether your subject has that theory of state power. If he doesn’t, you might be dealing with (say) a garden variety conservative-militarist strongman like Admiral Horthy in Hungary. Rulers like that will kill you if you look like a political threat, but they’re not invested in totalitarianizing their entire society.

Occasionally you’ll get one of these like Francisco Franco who borrows fascist tropes as propaganda tools but keeps a tight rein on the actual Fascist elements in his power base (the Falange). Franco remained a conservative monarchist all his life and passed power to the Spanish royal family on his death.

This highlights one of the other big lies about Fascism; that it’s a “conservative” ideology. Not true. Franco, a true reactionary, wanted to preserve and if necessary resurrect the power relations of pre-Civil-War Spain. Actual Fascism aims at a fundamental transformation of society into a perfected state never seen before. All of its type examples were influenced by Nietzschean ideas about the transformation of Man into Superman; Fascist art glorified speed, power, technology, and futurism.

Another political species commonly and stupidly mistaken for a fascist is the conservative populist. My type example for this is Pierre Poujade. Not only do those like Poujade lack the fascist’s centralizing theory of power, their animating complaint is that power is too centralized – ruling elites have become arrogant and disconnected from the populace and it is time to call them to account, restoring the autonomy and pride of the forgotten people who hold up the system from below.

The Fascist theory of power would regard Poujade as a troublemaker to be squashed. It defines the system from above, naturally evolving quite rapidly into Führerprinzip, the cult of the absolute leader whose authority may not be questioned. One important consequence is that fascist strongmen like to create institutions parallel to the civil police and line military that are answerable directly and personally to the Maximum Leader. Of course the best known example is Hitler’s SS, but any well-developed fascism generates equivalents.

You can have a quite an effective totalitarianism without this; Stalin, for example, never bothered with an SS-equivalent. You can get similar developments under Communism; consider Mao’s Red Guards. And on the third hand, Franco copied that part of the formula without actually being a Fascist. Still – if you think you’ve spotted a fascist demagogue ramping up to takeover, one of the things to check is whether he’s trailing a thug army behind him ready to turn into a personal instrument of force. If he isn’t, you’re probably wrong.

Another thing that follows from the Fascist theory of power is hostility towards markets, free enterprise, and trade. Yes, yes, I know, you’ve heard all your life that fascists are or were tools of capitalist oligarchs, but this is another big lie. In reality about the last person you want to be is a “capitalist oligarch” in the way of one of Maximum Leader’s plans. Because even if he needs you to run your factories, you’re likely to find out all the ways utter ruthlessness can compel you. Threats to your family are one time-honored method. You can’t buy him, because has the power to take anything he really wants from you.

In fact, one of the reasons fascist regimes turn anti-Semitic so often is because Jews are identified with mercantile activity. Which in the Fascist view of things, is corrupting and disruptive of loyalty bonds that should be more important than wealth. Furthermore, Fascism inherited from its parent Marxism the whole critique about capitalism alienating workers from their production.

The political economics of fascism is always state-socialist, and explicitly so. This follows directly from the drive for centralization.

So now I’ll flip that around. If your candidate fascist is ideologically pro-free-market, false match. Even if he merely displays an affection for large scale corporate capitalism, that ain’t fascist. For the very direct reason that big corporations are a power center, or collection of power centers, competing with the unitary state. Fascists never tolerate that well.

Something else fascists never tolerate well is unregistered civilian firearms, or registered ones in the hands of anyone not signed up in one of the leader’s thug militias. A fascist looks at these and sees a civilian insurrection waiting to happen, and generally has a pretty keen sense of how quickly said civilian insurrection can end up with him hung up dead in the town square someplace like Giulino di Mezzegra,

Accordingly, one of the recurring themes in the consolidation of fascist power is escalating restrictions on civilian weapons ownership. “Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty,” said Adolf Hitler.

The U.S.’s Second Amendment is to such creatures like sunlight to a vampire. If your candidate demagogue pushes in the opposite direction, taking an expansive view of firearms rights? Nope, neither Fascist nor more generically fascist.

And, of course, the thought police. Fascisms are even more hostile to free speech than they are to free markets. This shouldn’t even need explaining

Let’s review:

* A centralizing theory of political power and legitimacy.

* State-socialist political economics.

* Anti-semitism, with the Jews identified as bloodsucking capitalists.

* Propaganda and programs aiming to fundamentally transform society into an idealized future state.

* Equivalents of the SA and SS, organs of coercion answering to the leader and the Party, not the law.

* Systematic suppression of competing political speech.

* Registration, suppression, and confiscation of civilian firearms.

You should actually expect to see almost all of these being pushed by any actual fascist demagogue, because they’re a mutually reinforcing package – the bones and sinews of totalitarianism – and these creatures know what they’re doing. Only Mussolini was really a pioneer; Hitler copied Mussolini’s playbook, and more recent fascists like Saddam Hussein consciously copied Hitler’s.

However, many people who think they know some history won’t identify most of these as Fascist. You’re likely to get particular pushback on the “state-socialist political economics”, though even a cursory look at the Fascist or Nazi party platforms will instantly confirm this.

This reflects what probably counts as the single most successful Soviet dezinformatisiya effort ever, the legend that fascism is diametrically opposed to socialism. In reality, most of the “totalitarianism” functional package is shared between Fascism and Communism. Partly through parallel invention and partly by diffusion; the Nazis even sent fact-finding missions to the USSR to learn how to run prison and extermination camps efficiently.

I’ll leave it to the reader to go through the list of diagnostic fascist traits and think about which ones apply to which of today’s political tendencies.

I think you’ll find it particularly instructive to plot the likelihood that political groups will fling the term “fascist” at their enemies with the extent to which they themselves have classically fascist traits. Do not expect these measurements to be inversely correlated.

284 thoughts on “Spotting the wild Fascist

  1. Nice bit of history and an intelligent set of distinctions about politics.

    Unfortunately, I think you’re shouting into the wind here; “Fascist” has become one of those General Purpose Political Insults in the same fashion as “Communist.” You will never see either of these words used correctly in the American political dialogue. The people on the right who call Elizabeth Warren, (a capitalist who believes in well-regulated markets with strong consumer protections) a “Communist” aren’t much different in intellectual rigor than the people on the left who call Sarah Palin, (who believes that the U.S. should be be a Christian theocracy) a Fascist.

    But I think we are in a kind of meta-agreement. We’d both like to see better and clearer labeling of someone’s political position.

    • We’d both like to see better and clearer labeling of someone’s political position.

      Says the person throwing around the word “racist” in the other thread.

    • The important difference between fascism and communism here is that the latter spent a lot more effort infiltrating society/spreading propaganda and had a lot more time to do it.

    • The degree and purposes towards to which Warren wants markets regulated, means she is a communist. When the regulation fails to meet her supposed ends, should she sadly achieve them, Fauxcahontas will then openly espouse the Communism the Left has cleaved to since the French Revolution.

      • >The degree and purposes towards to which Warren wants markets regulated, means she is a communist.

        No, that’s an oversimplification.

        Warren isn’t a Communist; she’s not that self-aware. She’s a Communist tool, a memebot, executing a set of premises she’s been infected with without truly grasping their source or their implications.

        The difference is significant. Warren can indignantly deny being a Communist and be convincing because there’s truth in her denial. She’s not Bernie Sanders, who is a conscious Communist, nor is she Barack Obama, who might be – I’m not sure, but the fact that he learned his chops from Frank Davis and Bill Ayers is pretty strong grounds for suspicion.

        Memebots are better than conspiracists, because conspiracies can be exposed. A memebot, on the other hand, will honestly deny that it’s doing what it’s actually doing. By the time Stalin died (possibly earlier) the U.S.’s Communist party was a head-fake, a blind intended mainly to distract attention from subtler and more effective channels of subversion.

        The Soviets’ memetic war against the U.S. aimed more at creating tools like Warren than it did at promoting overt and conscious Communism. We can tell this was good strategy precisely because their tools have continued to grievously damage our politics and culture after the Soviet empire itself has collapsed.

        Want a demonstration? Look at the blatant totalitarianizing craziness on college campuses these days. Stalin’s memebots, marching onward…

          • >‘memebot’ is a contemporary spin on Lenin’s classic ‘useful idiot’

            Lenin didn’t understand that the puppets could be trained to love their motions so much that they would keep dancing after their strings were cut. And go on to recruits more puppets to the dance.

            • I suspect he had *some* measure of insight into that kind of cult-like human tendency.

              It’s a pattern of behavior that has been exploited for millennia, after all.

            • Lenin understood this quite well. That’s why he called them “useful”. This is the very foundation of the communist propaganda. Lenin really was a master manipulator, with few equals. He also was a master opportunist (despite him decrying opportunism continuously).

              However I don’t think that Warren is such a “useful idiot”. I think that she is in on the game, and just practices the double-think.

        • The Soviets’ memetic war against the U.S. …

          I don’t know whether you’ve been asked to review the book yet, but you will find Bukovsky’s Judgement in Moscow (to be released in English translation later this month) an interesting read.

        • While we are at it, a “theocracy” means rule by a religious figure, it does not mean an established state church and certainly does not mean there are laws based on religious morality. It has been awhile since I’ve heard anything from Sarah Palin but I’m sure she’s more on the “laws based on religious morality” end of that spectrum.

      • I think you misunderstand Warren pretty badly. At this point the Western-European style of capitalism and democracy mixed with socialism has become a thing of it’s own, very much distinct from communism. It’s been at least a generation since the USSR (which doesn’t exist anymore) has put even a penny into recruiting either “communist” agents or “useful idiots.” (I’m sure the Russians recruit, but Communism doesn’t enter into the equation.)

        In Europe people did the usual human thing of grabbing the bits of the philosophy they liked (heavy regulation of capitalism plus a national health service) and leaving behind the parts they don’t like (totalitarianism and five-year plans.) So now we have a sort of soft-pedaled capitalist/socialist/democratic philosophy that’s distinctly Western European, and that’s what Warren aspires to reproduce.

        You are under no obligation to like Warren or her ideas, but identifying her as a communist is a matter of willful mis-identification.

        • >It’s been at least a generation since the USSR (which doesn’t exist anymore) has put even a penny into recruiting either “communist” agents or “useful idiots.”

          Of course that’s true. Which is why what we’re dealing with now is the parts of Soviet propaganda weaponry that became self-replicating. That’s the exact beauty of memetic warfare – your agents no longer need case officers.

          Can you tell me honestly that when you first heard the title of Twitter’s “Trust and Safety Council” that you didn’t get a frisson of feeling like you were living in Darkness at Noon? These people choose totalitarian names because they’re running on totalitarian premises. It doesn’t matter that the USSR is dead, the memes live on.

          The Islamic terror network is beginning to grasp some of this, which is why we get all these “lone wolf” attacks from people without a traceable connection to Isis or al-Qaeda. I am cautiously optimistic that we may manage to kill enough of them soon enough to avoid it turning into a permanent infection.

          That can work. Germany avoided a chronic Naziism infection because we jailed and shot enough of the right people during the Occupation to almost wipe out the disease reservoir. But we never cleaned out our own elites and intelligentsia after the wartime collaboration with Stalin. We’re still paying for that mistake today.

          • That can work. Germany avoided a chronic Naziism infection because we jailed and shot enough of the right people during the Occupation to almost wipe out the disease reservoir.

            Which Germany? One of them implemented which was practically the same system of government with the names somewhat changed and sans the more genocidal aspects of National Socialism. Even a lot of the administrative people remained the same (that goes for both sides).
            I think it has had more to do with the shock of a lost war – that almost completely destroyed Germany – that the appetite for an “emperor” went away for a while. Now, that not many contemporaries are still alive and the shock is wearing off, the voices calling for a more efficient and stronger government are becoming louder. And no, not (only) from the quarter where one would, naively, expect them from.
            One example is the debate about Brexit. Many Germans (or at least the media) are flabbergasted at Theresa May’s “weakness” and “inability” to “solve” the issue of a split body politic. They don’t understand that she simply does not have the *power* to issue edicts over the opposition of her parliament…

            • Just to add one more thing here: I consider the chance of a “revival” of National Socialism as practically nil. But, I consider the likelihood for the development of the european democracies, such as they are, into a form of government that you could justifiably call “fascism” as close to 100% in the medium to long term.
              I consider the US to be more immune to this disease because of two things:
              1. Virtually every American I know is a curmudgeonly bastard who might voluntarily do collectivism but *only* on *their* terms.
              2. The Second Amendment (to ensure that any collectivism *remains* voluntary)

          • I think you’re about half-way there. What you’re not getting is that “Soviet-Style” Gramscian damage has becoming a routine form of propaganda in the last couple decades. (I sent you an email about that a couple days ago. Here’s the link again. I think Schneier also printed a follow-up, but I haven’t gotten to it.)

            For serious Orwellian naming, IMHO nothing beats the “Windows Network and Sharing Center,” but YMMV on that one. ;)

            The point is that serious people read multiple philosophies of governance/economics and say, “I like that part. I don’t like that part” and then build their own edifices out of the pieces they like, which is how you get Western Europe* (where Warren would fit in as a perfectly ordinary politician**) without having to invoke Soviet conspiracies.

            *The EU gets a lot of crap from U.S. Conservatives and Libertarians, but that’s because they don’t understand the real purpose of the EU.

            ** If you want a theory that fits the person, forget the Soviets, Warren is a carefully cultivated EU agent of influence!

            • *The EU gets a lot of crap from U.S. Conservatives and Libertarians, but that’s because they don’t understand the real purpose of the EU.

              Depends on how much they have looked at it.

              It doesn’t take that much digging to figure out that we are looking the Fourth Reich. This time as a joint venture between Germany and France.

              • Buzzzzz! You’re out.

                FYI, the purpose of the EU is to prevent renewed wars in Western Europe, a job at which it has succeeded admirably. Whether it gets anything else right is another matter, of course, as I’ve watched them get a couple major issues wrong in the last decade…

                • No, you’re out.
                  That’s the _stated_ purpose of the EU, not the real one. In reality, it’s the continuation of Germany (or the USSR, YMMV) by other means.

                  Also, if you read your Mises, you’d know there’s no such thing as a “third way” between communism and capitalism, it’s just “democratic socialism”, or in other words, patient communism.

                  • “Also, if you read your Mises, you’d know there’s no such thing as a “third way” between communism and capitalism.”

                    Indeed. There’s only two ways for two humans to interact with each other: by persuasion, and by force.

                    Capitalism is built with a focus on the individual, and an emphasis on persuasion. Communism is built on sacrificing individuals for the community, with an emphasis on forcing anyone who dissents to get in line.

                    While a largely Capitalist society can have elements of force, and there can be varying degrees of how much force is applied to individuals and for what, there’s no “in between”, merely just “how much force are we going to use?”

            • … the real purpose of the EU.

              To provide the Russians (Soviet or otherwise—it’s the same people at the top) with a single Europe they can deal with, and play off against the US.

            • *The EU gets a lot of crap from U.S. Conservatives and Libertarians, but that’s because they don’t understand the real purpose of the EU.

              Then:

              FYI, the purpose of the EU is to prevent renewed wars in Western Europe, a job at which it has succeeded admirably.

              Exactly 100 percent….wrong.

              The EU is the next step up from the European Economic Community. It was intended and designed to be a unified economic block to oppose the United States.

              As usual the bureaucrats involved in the typical mission creep and (as a group, not as individuals) attempt to narrowly control every facet of everything.

          • we never cleaned out our own elites and intelligentsia after the wartime collaboration with Stalin

            We couldn’t, because the collaboration went back well before the war. The FDR administration had back channels to Stalin’s regime almost from the beginning. And even before that, communism had done such a good job of capturing the entire Western intelligentsia with Potemkin villages that there wasn’t much left over.

            • Once capitalism got back on track in the 1940s cleaning out the commies wasn’t particularly necessary.

              • The fact that people marching under any variant of the red banner are not treated with identical disdain to that earned by those marching under Fascist flags, is sufficient evidence that “leaning out the commies” is still necessary and decades overdue.
                🚁
                🤸
                🌊

          • > the parts of Soviet propaganda weaponry that became self-replicating

            https://www.unqualified-reservations.org/2007/08/secret-of-anti-americanism/

            >What Raymond sees, and what the anti-Communists saw, was the remarkable alignment of Universalism with the interests of the KGB. True enough. What they missed was that they’d drawn the tail wagging the dog.

            >It is not that the American left was the tool of Moscow. In fact, it was the other way around. From day one, the Soviet Union was the pet experiment of the bien-pensants. It was Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward in Cyrillic. It was the client state to end all client states.

            >It’s not just that Western intellectuals saw the Soviet experiment as a glimpse of the future. The Soviet Union was a true client state—it depended existentially on the support of its Western patrons, and its demise had much to do with the demise of that support.

            >Hiss and White were at the top of their professions, respected and admired by everyone they knew. What motivation could they possibly have for treason? Why would men like these betray their country?

            >The obvious answer, in my opinion, is that they didn’t see themselves as betraying their country. The idea that they were Russian tools would never have occurred to them. When you see a dog, a leash, and a man, your interpretation is that the man is walking the dog, even if the latter appears to be towing the former.

            >They saw themselves as using the Soviets, not the other way around, helping to induce the understandably paranoid Russian leadership to integrate themselves into the new global order.

            >In this theory, the Soviet Union is simply the first and largest of the many Third World states which America’s Universalist establishment played midwife to. From Mao, Castro, Nasser and Ho, down to Mugabe, Khomeini, and Chavez, the fingerprints of the State Department, the Times, and the universities are everywhere. The Bolsheviks are just the first of the series.

    • Sarah Palin a Theocrat? :lol:

      That’s just the Left standard nonsense concerning Christians that don’t buy into the nonsense of the Left.

      • Obviously she was a theocrat. After all, she didn’t obey the orders of Bill Maher and Larry Flynt to abort her son Trig.

        • She’s a theocrat because she believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the U.S. was conceived as a “Christian Nation.”

          • This definition of “theocrat” is not much more useful than the version of “fascist” which this post argues against.

            • It’s the definition of theocrat which matters here in the US. If you imagine that the Constitution is an explicitly Christian document, and does not have to be changed in order for an explicitly Christian ruleset to be put in place, you’re a theocrat.

              • If you imagine that the Constitution is an explicitly Christian document, and does not have to be changed in order for an explicitly Christian ruleset to be put in place

                Interestingly, that is not anything like the views of the vast majority of people who consider the US to be a “Christian nation”.

              • I’m a Latter-day Saint who believes that the Constitution was given to us by God as revelation to prepare the world for the restoration of his Church. (And yes, this is a mainstream Latter-day Saint belief.) A part of that belief is that it’s necessary to have freedom of religion — and considering the persecution that happened to Latter-day Saints in the early days of of the Church, it’s not hard to believe how much worse it would have been to restore the Church, had there been no Constitution.

                If someone diligently trying to follow the Constitution is a theocrat, give me theocrats every day of the week and twice on Sunday. It’s not only a theocracy I can live with (regardless of who’s in charge — Christian, pagan, atheist or otherwise), but it will be a better government than the one we have now!

          • It is a Christian nation, with a secular government. Partly, that’s because the various denominations couldn’t agree on who should run the government, so we got the First Amendment prohibition against the government playing favorites.

            The fact that the nation is not its government is lost on precisely the sort of people who think the state is everything.

            • You’re half right. Our nation is Christian by population, and I’d expect that to hold for the next couple hundred years at least. But it is not Christian in any governmental sense. It would be perfectly constitutional for every public official at the national, state, county and city level to convert to Buddhism tomorrow.

              • >The fact that the nation is not its government is lost on precisely the sort of people who think the state is everything

                You’re still seem to be missing this…

              • That’s because you’re somewhere in the progressive/socialist/fascist fever swamp where The State==The Nation.

                We are a Christian nation (and I say that as a Shannonist/apatheist) along a couple different vectors, but we do not (and should not) have a Christian State.

          • The US was pretty much conceived as a Christian nation. The founders were wise enough not to make it a Christian federal government, but the individual states had, and continued to have state churches.

            Don’t be distracted by the theist religion of some of the founders. Almost all believed that religion, specifically Christianity and Judaism were important to the health of society, with Christianity, specifically protestantism, at the top of the heap.

            Recent events have shown them to be correct.

            • >The US was pretty much conceived as a Christian nation.

              Wrong. That is ahistorical garbage, one of the most persistent idiocies that infuriate me about American conservatives. As George Washington and John Adams explained to the Knights of Malta in 1787 “The United States is in no way founded upon the Christian religion”. See discussion here.

    • Has become?

      Hell, Orwell was lamenting that in the late ’40s, wasn’t he?

      It became that the moment it was useful to the USSR to make it one, which was roughly the day WW2 ended.

  2. Thanks for the detailed write-up. It’s certainly a broader view of fascism than the Mises Institute series offers, perhaps unsurprisingly, as they characterise Fascism purely as an economic system (identical to the economic subset of your description).

    One question, though. Your list seems to be equally applicable to the USSR and other Communist dictatorships, as it does to ‘conventional’ Fascist dictatorships:

    * A centralizing theory of political power and legitimacy [Marxism / Marxism-Leninism]

    * State-socialist political economics [More thorough than NAZI Germany]

    * Anti-semitism, with the Jews identified as bloodsucking capitalists [to a lesser extent, but still true; a colleague was denied the security clearance to work on the Soviet space program because of Jewish ancestry]

    * Propaganda and programs aiming to fundamentally transform society unto an idealized future state [Ohhhh yes … ‘the State will wither away’, etc.]

    * Equivalents of the SA and SS, organs of coercion answering to the leader and the Party, not the law [CHEKA, KGB]

    * Systematic suppression of competing political speech [Gulags]

    * Registration, suppression, and confiscation of civilian firearms [Yes, until after Stalin’s death]

    What, then, would you say is the material difference between Fascist and Communist states? (I’d not be surprised by, and would at least largely agree with, the answer “nothing”).

    • The material difference between the Nazis and the Communist Party of Germany was that the former called themselves “national socialists”, while the latter were international socialists (openly associated with, and increasingly controlled by, Stalin’s Russia).

      In other words, the Communist states are those Fascist states that are more-or-less aligned with Russia.

      • “In other words, the Communist states are those Fascist states that are more-or-less aligned with Russia.”

        That seems to be a misunderstanding. Nationalist align with Nations, Communists align with Class.

        The difference is that Nationalist want to cleanse the local soil of people with different ancestors, and Communists want to cleanse the earth of those who are not laborers.

        Russians happened to be both Communist and Nationalist. But that was not necessarily the case for non-Russian communists. Unless you want to say that French or Dutch Communists were Russian Nationalists.
        (On the other hand, I have seen more ludicrous opinions)

        • That seems to be a misunderstanding. Nationalist align with Nations, Communists align with Class.

          It is true that communist theory holds that nationality does not matter, only class does, but socialist *practice* looked different. The USSR was really Great Russia, as evidenced by their moving entire peoples out of the way and replacing them with ethnic Russians as well as the “russification” of non-russian ethnicities within the USSR.

          • That.

            “Real, Existing Communism” was always nationalist, everywhere I can think of, at least once it won enough victory to have a nation to be in.

            (Revolutionary groups talked internationalism, and who can say exactly how sincere they were?

            But every time they won, that I can think of, they were instantly nationalist Communists.)

        • Europeans tend to conflate Nation and Ethnicity in a way that most Americans do not. Perhaps that is because most European nations are organized around tribal groups.

          • “Europeans tend to conflate Nation and Ethnicity”

            Indeed. Which is strange because almost every single European nation is multi-lingual. Even small countries like Luxemburg (3 official languages), Belgium (3) the Netherlands (3), and Switzerland (4). The UK hosts at lear 4 different languages (3 of which are Celtic)., and Spain 5 (one of which is not even Indo European).

            I think this is a deliberate ideological rewriting of history.

            • Only western Europeans. Unless, of course you think Poles/Czechs/Russians etc are not real Europeans. Because Slavs.

              • “Only western Europeans. Unless, of course you think Poles/Czechs/Russians etc are not real Europeans. Because Slavs.”

                Not quite. The Russian Federation has 35 official languages. In all Baltic States, Russian is spoken next to the local language(s). Poland has 16 official minority languages. Every East-European country has minority populations that do speak a different language from the national one. Given all the changes in borders and mass movements of people in history, every country contains minorities.

                You are right if you would state that there are a number of countries that would like to purge their soil from all minorities.

                • I responded to “Europeans tend to conflate Nation and Ethnicity in a way that most Americans do not.” and yours “Indeed”.

                  I meant that we do not confuse state (“pa?stwo”) with nation (“naród”). “Naród” in Polish cannot be used in places where state is; “narodowo??” (nationality) is something different from “obywatelstwo” (citizenship). WHile there are and were Polish leftwingers who deliberately try to import the confusion into Polish, for me – and I think for most Poles – the difference between state and nation is of paramount importance. Nation exist even without state, and being a member of a nation does not mean you have a citizenship; having citizenship of Polish state does not mean being Polish. I could argue for destruction of the state while still being Polish nationalist.

                  In other words, the tendency to mistaking nation and state is limited to western Europe.

                  • Damn, after rereading I realised I got confused because of difference in meaning between English “nation” and Polish “naród” :D I should retract my previous comment. But let me explain further:

                    For Poles “naród” indeed _is_ “ethnicity” (i.e. it encompasses Poles living abroad, even if they do not have citizenship) – so it confirms Europeans confuse nation and ethnicity”, BUT on the other hand “naród” does not constitute all citizens of the state :D (ie members of German minority are not members of POlish nation, though they have Polish citizenship) – so it does not confirm “Europeans confuse nation and ethnicity”, because “nation” as it is used in English does not means the same as “naród” in Polish. We have separate “naród polityczny” concept and “naród etniczny” to clarify the confusion.

                    This confusion is even now encoded into our constitution, BTW, where “nation” sometimes is used in the western way, contra our traditional use of the word.

                  • “I meant that we do not confuse state (“pa?stwo”) with nation (“naród”).”

                    Sound like the difference between “Staat” and “Volk” in German, or State and People in English.

                    But then the problem becomes determining whether the People (das Volk) could include people with a different language or religion?

                    That whole antagonism seems to be a 19th century Romantic fiction as, e.g., the French language has been forced upon the “French people” and the German Language is a constructed literary lingua franca that was no one’s native language until the advent of radio and television.

          • Europeans generally don’t conflate Nation and Ethnicity, it just seems to be a mistranslation to/from English, where a similar-looking word with a different meaning is substituted instead of a different word with correct meaning.

            The continental words with the root “nation” and similar (“Nazion” in German; “natsia” and “natsionalnost” in Russian, and so on) properly translate to English as “ethnicity”.

            And the right way to translate the English “nation” to continental languages is by using the words for “state”, “country”.

    • >What, then, would you say is the material difference between Fascist and Communist states? (I’d not be surprised by, and would at least largely agree with, the answer “nothing”).

      Well, for one thing, Communist organs of state security do at least nominally answer to the law rather than the leader. This is one reason succession crises have tended to be less fraught in Communist dictatorships than in Fascist ones; you don’t get an automatic legitimacy crisis every time the king monster dies.

      As you noted, the anti-Semitism trait is more weakly bound in Communism

      • Many of the NAZI German organs of state were answerable to the law, too. If I recall correctly, that was one of the reasons the NAZIs were so cautious about the introduction of their “euthanasia” policies.

        Perhaps the main difference is Communist states didn’t officially embrace some version of the Fuhrerprizip?

        So e.g. even though in practice many organs of state were responsible to Stalin, in principle they weren’t supposed to be, and that was part of what caused widespread horror amongst Russians when the enormity of Stalin’s rule was revealed following his death?

        Yevtushenko has written a bit about this in his autobiography; it seems to have genuinely shaken him at the time, in a manner that seems unlikely to have been mirrored in NAZI Germany. Hitler was supposed to be in charge, according to the ideology; Stalin was supposed to be the servant of the Proletariat.

        • ” Many of the NAZI German organs of state were answerable to the law, too. ” <– Only insofar as they had not yet succeeded in supplanting civil society with the Party. Do you think they were working for something else?

        • >Many of the NAZI German organs of state were answerable to the law, too.

          But not the SS. That’s why I stressed the fact that Stalin never formed an SS-equivalent.

          >So e.g. even though in practice many organs of state were responsible to Stalin, in principle they weren’t supposed to be,

          Yes, exactly. They weren’t supposed to be.

          When a fascist dictator dies, the main source of legitimacy in the system goes poof. Communisms don’t have that problem; instead a Yevtushenko can be shocked to discover how much the system around him actually depended on Fuhrerprizip.

          • So is that it, then? The material difference between Communism and Fascism is that the latter had Fuherprinzip, and the former was (nominally) governed by the rule of law.

            Seems like a cognitively useful difference. Feels like they’re both species of the same genus, though.

            • So is that it, then? The material difference between Communism and Fascism is that the latter had Fuherprinzip, and the former was (nominally) governed by the rule of law.

              Not really. Nazi Germany had many laws as did the USSR, and both had constitutions. The difference (to a classical democracy) is that the Party or the Führer determine what they mean in each case.
              FWIW, many of those convicted in the Nuremberg trials were convicted under *German* law…

            • >So is that it, then? The material difference between Communism and Fascism is that the latter had Fuherprinzip, and the former was (nominally) governed by the rule of law.

              There are a few others, but they’re mostly rather superficial matters of style.

              Except for one. Communists had a much more effective body of doctrine about the long game and ideological subversion. You suffer the consequences of that today whenever a libertarian or conservative is deplatformed off a social-media channel. The censorship boards even give themselves Communist-sounding names…

          • Has there *ever* been a smooth transfer of power in a Fascist system, where power passes to someone designated by the leader during his lifetime?

            I cannot think of one. Which is probably why they don’t tend to last very long compared with other forms of autocracy.

          • If you want a detailed history of the SS as opposed to a general history of Nazi Germany read the Book on the SS “Order of the Death’s Head” by Heinz Hoehne. It has lot of interesting details of how the SS actually conflicted with the regular “state police” on many occasions and even the Gestapo (which was formed out of the old Prussian State Secret Police by Hermann Goering) had professional policemen who hated the SS.

            Nazi Germany was far from being the “efficient police state” that Stalin actually realized to full potential. In fact though the SS had a lot of power within the State, the actual influence exerted by the SS on other arms of the government and especially the Party was not much. In fact Himmler was a subject of ridicule among many of Hitler’s early cronies and even later generals of the Waffen SS.

            I have reviewed the book in my blog http://harishankar.org/reviews/Non-Fiction/The-Order-of-the-Deaths-Head-by-Heinz-Hoehne.html

      • As Radio Eriwan would say: Yes comrade, but:

        what you are talking about here is “socialism”, not “communism”, something the CPSU and its satellites would have been the first to admit.
        The theory of socialism (as implemented in the Soviet Union and its satellites was that EVERYTHING was subject to the leadership of the Party. The economy, the legal system, the military and police, even the private lives of its citizens. Thus, in the USSR, there was no *need* for a parallel structure that was answerable to the leadership, because everything *already* answered to the Party and nothing but the Party. In the years between ~1920 and 1953, “the Party” was Stalin – possibly the best historical example of the Führerprinzip in action.

        Let’s not forget that the USSR had a hell of a lot more time to perfect this system whereas Hitler didn’t really have any more than 6 years between 1933 and 1939 *and* the problem that the Weimar Republic was a federation where there was not that much centralisation of the forces of the state. Thus the need for an organisation (SA, later the SS) that anwered to the central power (the Führer) only – and as of 1936 incorporated the states’ police forces. One of the central tenets of fascism, as you rightly stated, is what the Nazis called Gleichschaltung – the total integration of every aspect of the state into the ideological belief system. So the Nazis did this by setting up a parallel structure according to the Führerprinzip which then proceeded to take over the “legacy” structures.
        By 1933, when Hitler came to power, Stalin had already achieved this in the USSR, mostly through the purging of the existing structures of all “wrong elements” so he had no need to set up parallel structures.

        Thus my argument is that the absence of a parallel structure in the USSR and its satellites is not a differentiator between fascism and state socialism but just a difference in implementation of totalitarian rule.

        • >Thus my argument is that the absence of a parallel structure in the USSR and its satellites is not a differentiator between fascism and state socialism but just a difference in implementation of totalitarian rule.

          I don’t think we actually disagree. Remember, I showed that in origin (Mussolini’s) Fascism was an implementation hack intended to get to state socialism. And I think your analysis of why Stalin didn’t need an SS is quite correct.

          • In Governance from what I’ve read, I would argue that Hitler actually created a bureaucratic quagmire in which he alone was the sole arbiter of all disputes of jurisdiction. This sealed his authority even among those who didn’t regard the personal oath of loyalty because everything moved only on Hitler’s word. That plus the cult of personality ensured that Hitler was the undisputed leader of the Reich and also the Party till his death. But certainly Stalin’s regime was far more brutal in implementing a totalitarian regime and Hitler often expressed his admiration of Stalin’s iron will and often bemoaned the weakness of his Italian partner (Mussolini) whose control over Fascism and Italy slipped very fast and ended in ignominy for the Duce much before the end of the War.

      • I seem to recall that a huge majority of the Communist revolutionaries of 1917 and onwards were Jews… and promoted more Jews joining on and on and on.

        Therefore it seems to me that the USSR had… well… next-to-no antisemitism in its DNA, isn’t that right?

        • That is correct.

          But there are structural reasons I have already outlined for Fascism why any Communism eventually has to turn anti-Semitic as well.

          Just to increase the irony, the Nazi charge the bolshevism was a Jewish conspiracy had the grain of truth to it you have pointed out. But this had nothing to do with the Jewish religion and everything to do with the Ashkenazi IQ advantage. under fairly general conditions you can expect Jews to end up running any conspiracy, because the goyim can’t keep up.

          (More fodder for my dark and admittedly warped sense of humor.)

        • I wouldn’t say that there’s next-to-no antisemitism in Communist DNA. Indeed, there is evidence that Stalin was working up to a purge of Jews. He died before his plans could reach fruition, though, and later leaders distanced themselves somewhat from Stalin.

    • Another major difference is that Fascists allow concentrations of economic power outside the state apparatus, so long as those concentrations are cooperative with the state when the state asks. Large corporations have to do the Leader’s bidding, but the means and methods are up to the corporations’ owners, as are any economic activities which the state has not provided direction. Communists will nationalize large corporations, and often replace their management with state bureaucrats or ideologues, which ends with all the corporation’s economic activity directed by the state.

      This tends to make fascist states more economically robust than communist states, as a large fraction of the nation’s economic activity is left in the hands of people who know how to be productive and profitable.

      • It’s rather interesting to me that Fabian socialism takes the same view – command the economy at the heights, leaving the low level details to capitalists. AFAIK, Fabian socialism came to this conception separately from fascism – the only common thread is “we ought to control this more”.

        The Fabians, as I recall, borrowed a lot from Georgism, an economic ideal that also produced the board game Monopoly. Fabians come off as either friendly introductions to democratic socialism, or sinister frogboilers, depending on your prior knowledge and disposition. But to be fair, I’m largely a Wikipedia expert on Fabians at best.

      • Those concentrations of power are only allowed to Party faithful. That is to say their loyalty to the Führer is established well before the state asks for cooperation. That the answer will be “Jawohl!” is already known.

    • What, then, would you say is the material difference between Fascist and Communist states?

      Belief that people can be changed. No Fascist state would ever fall into Lysenkoism; the USSR just about couldn’t avoid it.

      In practice, Fascism is slightly less totalitarian than orthodox Marxism: as long as religion, family, etc. aren’t in opposition to the State, Fascism can tolerate them; orthodox Marxism can only coexist with institutions it has wholly coopted.

  3. ” I know what it was about because when I was about 11 or 12 I read Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of of the Third Reich and became fascinated by the question which has driven my study of politics and history for all of the fifty years since. Which is: how do we prevent the genocidal horrors of the Nazi regime from ever recurring?”

    The Third Reich was only one of the European Fascist movements, and only one of the 20th century horror stories. Many other countries skimmed past those horrors or hid under the Nazi umbrella. Any of these could have, under the “right” circumstances, gone the same route of horror.

    And if we broaden our view beyond the European obsession with Nation States, we can find many other cases where political movements building on the same personal character traits as Fascism, Social Dominance Orientation and Authoritarianism, conspired to cause genocidal mass murders (Stalinism, Maoism, Khmer Rouge, Japanese Empire, periodic Hutu/Tutsi genocide attempts, Islamic State).

    In all cases the ideology was and is that you only have ONE identity, and that is The Group/Class/People you are supposed to belong to and that a single Group should dominate society completely. Your life, and that of everyone you love, is subservient to the interests of that one Identity or Group you belong to. No individual is allowed to make their own moral judgements. Obedience must be total and absolute.

    So it is absolutely no surprise that the Nazi’s, Stalinist, Japanese Empire, Rwandan Interahamwe, or Islamic State installed the same genocidal policies and enacted the same type of atrocities. They all considered their group identity to be more important than life itself.

    The recent ethnic cleansing in Myanmar where all Muslims were driven out at gun point is an example that such atrocities can be brought about without the other features of Fascism.

    Whatever your objections against European welfare states, they are not the explanation for the rise of popularity of Nazism in the USA. And when US or Australian alt-right people are starting to murder Jews and Muslims, that too is not caused by the welfare state. Neither Rwanda’s genocide nor the rise of Islamic state in Syria and Iraq were caused by local (social-) Democrats or communists.

    Most of your tell-tale signs of Fascism have no predictive power. They are only “tell tale signs” after the fact, in a single case. There are and always have have been movements to exclude and cleanse the country of people who are “different” for all of history. Witches of all kind have been hunted everywhere and always, as well as there have been pogroms against whatever minority was available. Almost every country regulates and forbids the use of non-hunting weapons. Censorship has been part of human history forever. etc.

    None of these “predict” the rise of Nazi style genocide.

    What does predict such atrocities much better is (civil) war and extreme economic hardship coupled with strong societal upheaval.

    In short, I believe you are running down a maze of your own creation in trying to link everything that is evil to “State-socialist political economics” and the “Nation State”.

    Btw, it might be clear that I do not think there are currently many real Fascists around. But we all can name some public figures at the political fringes who would indeed appeal to fascists and who desperately wants to become a dictator and start an ethnic cleansing campaign with all the features of fascism. But the point is, they are at the political fringes.

    • I wrote on another blog that “the important thing is to know what you want from your country.” It’s equally important to know what you don’t want. We could, if we were inclined make a list of “what we don’t want” from the nation we live under (the U.S. for most of us) and I suspect that if we deprived it of political buzzwords it would be 90 percent the same list for everyone here. Let’s assume the list ends up being 20 items long. Randomly take any 6-8 things from that list and apply them to any country and you’ll definitely get atrocities, (and suddenly nobody will want to live there.)

      This is where Eric is going wrong. He’s so extremely obsessed with the (mostly true) bad effects of communism that I don’t think he’s ever made a political decision about what he wants and doesn’t want which is separate from his perceptions of ongoing Stalinism. So you end up with a very nice, but very detail-oriented article about what constitutes fascism, and the article is correct as far as it goes… (and it does make important distinctions) but there’s always the stink of paranoia about the whole thing because as far as I can tell from reading his blog for the past couple years Eric can’t see past the crazy-anti-commie-rightwing-paranoid ideal which makes everything that isn’t hyper-capitalism into communism (or “useful idiocy.”) Note that I don’t think Eric is mentally ill; he’s just been educated in that paranoid tradition – and it shows whenever he tries to talk about politics.

      • >This is where Eric is going wrong. He’s so extremely obsessed with the (mostly true) bad effects of communism that I don’t think he’s ever made a political decision about what he wants and doesn’t want which is separate from his perceptions of ongoing Stalinism.

        That is not quite true. I used to be more worried about Naziism. Then I read more history and got more clued in.

        I don’t remember exactly when it got home to me that the “right-wing paranoids”, despite sometimes being clinically batshit, had a better causal grasp on the political/historical reality of the last century than almost anybody else except a few of the smarter and less dogmatic libertarians.

        I do remember that realizing this came as a deep, deep, disorienting shock, not much less than if (say) I had been forced to recognize the existence of werewolves or vampires. It did not make me happy.

        • I’m gonna take this in two parts.

          The first problem is that you’re categorizing much too rigidly. From the Left’s POV the current problem in the U.S. regarding foreign influence is one of Soviet-style Gramscian memetic weaponry married to a group of people (Putin’s oligarch’s) whose view of the perfect society is something along the lines of a feudal oligarchy. It’s neither fish nor fowl. You can’t accurately call it Communism, you can’t accurately call it Fascism, it’s not remotely free-market capitalism… it’s a hybrid, and very vigorous and dangerous. (The big current concern is that the oil/coal businesses not suffer.*)

          Now here’s the important part. I’m not trying to convert you to the Leftist POV. I’d love it, however, if you took seriously the idea that Fascism, Communism, and Capitalism aren’t monolithic, or even particularly opposed to each other.** Each philosophy is built of multiple components, and it’s not hard for a politician to swap those components in and out at will.

          Think about building an old-fashioned muscle car. Before anti-smog laws it wasn’t unusual for a big, fast automobile to have a heavily customized body by Chrysler, a Ford transmission, a GM engine, and a bunch of add-on components from multiple specialist manufacturers. That’s modern politics in a nutshell

          Fascism has been hauled out to the junkyard of history. So has Soviet-style communism. But they’re both being raided for parts, particularly the ones manufactured by Gramcis. Chinese-style communism has been heavily rebuilt with a surveillance-state add-on and a capitalist transmission. Things change! But your politics is stuck in the 1950s, and it’s very binary. Communism vs. Capitalism. Fascism vs. Communism. The idea that all these philosophies and more are exchanging DNA at a remarkable clip seems to be something you don’t get.

          * In their terms they’re right, but nobody on the left has offered them any compromises.

          ** All these philosophies are about how you run a big, industrialized nation.

          • > Chinese-style communism has been heavily rebuilt with a surveillance-state add-on and a capitalist transmission.

            It’s nothing new, the Soviet communism was rebuilt in the same way in 1920s, after the first attempts at the literal implementation of Marxism have completely ruined the economy. It also included a large number of foreign “concessions”. Which was only a temporary stage, once they’ve got the economy running, they’ve consolidated it all under the government again (and nationalized the foreign investments), in a slightly less restrictive way than on the first attempt. All along, the communist party never lost control, it just loosened the leash a little, and then pulled it back in.

            So no, a communist dictatorship with limited economic freedoms doesn’t equate capitalism, not even a “partial capitalism”, it’s still a communism.

          • “whose view of the perfect society is something along the lines of a feudal oligarchy. It’s neither fish nor fowl”

            It is pre-capitalist. To be more precise, the oligarch ideal comes close to the Czarist society with serfs and all.

            • > It is pre-capitalist. To be more precise, the oligarch ideal comes close to the Czarist society with serfs and all.

              Speaking of “oligarchs”, tends to reminds me of this term used in Russia. There it’s important to not mix the “oligarchs” as they were touted in Russia of 1990s, and today’s Putin and his pocket “oligarchs” who don’t have their own power but follow the monarch.

              Today’s Putin’s ideal is communist, with serfs and all. Communism is really a reheated version of theocratic feudalism, where people are reduced to serfs/slaves. Much more restrictive than the Czarist society.

              The “oligarchs” of 1990s, much derided by Putin, have been an example of a working capitalist democracy, with multiple people representing different forces and interests.. It worked so well that it took Putin more than a decade to dismantle it.

            • I wonder if the Russians _ever_ gave that up. The USSR was rule of the people by the Nomenklatura for the Nomenklatura.

          • >But they’re both being raided for parts, particularly the ones manufactured by Gramcis.

            Don’t talk down to me, because you are well behind the curve on this one. I have already written about how the effects of Soviet memetic weapons have been exploited by the Islamic terror network. That was thirteen years ago.

            OTOH, if you are finally getting that the Gramscian meme plague is nihilistic, and can be used by anybody who wants to destroy Western civilization and totalitarianize society, that is actual progress in your understanding.

            Again, this is by design. Lenin and Stalin wanted classical-liberal individualism replaced with something less able to resist totalitarianism, not more. Volk-Marxist fantasy and postmodern nihilism served their purposes; the emergence of an adhesive counter-ideology [ed: even one founded on Marxism itself] would not have. Thus, the Chomskys and Moores and Fisks are running a program carefully designed to dead-end at nothing.

            Is that explicit enough for you? Where the fuck have you been while this was going on? Did you do anything to resist or counter it?

            Never mind, I know the answer. You with your “hypercapitalism” cant were part of the problem. You let them use you. The only reason I spend any time on you is that I retain the hope you might be intelligent enough to actually grasp that.

            The goddamn plague Department V unleashed on us is still virulent, radiating into new forms that propagate its core nihilism. It’s manifesting every time a non-hard-left channel is deplatformed on YouTube. And every time an academic rants about “white privilege” or “toxic masculinity”. These are ideas designed to destroy driven by a meta-theory designed to destroy, and that meta-theory was carefully crafted and hurled at us by evil people in the service of an evil ideology.

            It doesn’t matter that Department V is gone as long as the plague is still replicating. I talk about it historically not because I’m stuck in the 1950s but because I haven’t found a better way to get people to understand that it’s a pathogen, a weapon, as surely as any bug brewed up in a bio-warfare lab.

            Because characterizing a disease is the first step to curing it.

            • Don’t talk down to me, because you are well behind the curve on this one. I have already written about how the effects of Soviet memetic weapons have been exploited by the Islamic terror network. That was thirteen years ago.

              Have you watched Fox News recently? If not, sit in front of the TV for a couple days and watch them hammer a fucking crowbar into every imaginable crack in our society… Or consider the (current) Russian government’s support for Anti-Vaxxers and remember that good-old ally-to-the-right Putin got his start as a KGB agent!

              The fact of the matter is that very little spreads as quickly as a good propaganda technique, and the right has been using old-style Russian tactics for years. Your problem is that you’re so sure that only the “bad guys” use those techniques that you fail to notice how the wingnuts at Fox are hammering away at our society on the fault lines of racial prejudice, old fashioned homophobia and religious prejudice using every available ugliness.

              • Unbelievable that you could sit at your computer, in 2019, railing against FAUX NEWS, after they got the Russian Collusion story the least wrong of nearly every other media outlet. The fact that the entire story originated as low-grade Russian disinformation that the Democrats paid for is what really makes you look like a total ass on this particular thread.

                Honestly, you have an entire political party that has been using every single aspect of its political and financial power to subvert US democracy for the past two and a half years, and you’ve got the unmitigated gall to act like a 14 year-old inhabitant of DU whining about FOX undermining our society?

                Get a grip.

            • To continue, I’d start with your list and make a few changes to arrive at the propagandistic memes the rightwing Gramscians are pushing, so let’s get to it:

              Commies say: ” There is no truth, only competing agendas.”

              Fox Says: “There is only one truth, and it’s in the Bible and other important works of Western European literature.” (As I write this, notice how often the right accuses the left of being “post-modern.” It’s almost like the right has read a lot of Derrida (or more likely, Paul de Man.))

              Both are, in their own way, ridiculous.

              Commies Say: “All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.”

              Fox Says: “All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are true, as proven by our successful history of racism and colonialism.”

              Yeah. Both kinda silly.

              Commies Say: “There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.”

              Fox Says: ” Our culture is objectively better than any other. Anyone who claims otherwise is an evil oppressor.”

              Yup. Also silly.

              I don’t see any need to go further down the list; I’m sure you get the idea and I’m starting to feel like a schoolboy who’s trying to turn a bunch of insulting talk backwards. But the idea that the right doesn’t dance in the Gramscian Disco? Don’t make me laugh!

            • It doesn’t matter that Department V is gone as long as the plague is still replicating. I talk about it historically not because I’m stuck in the 1950s but because I haven’t found a better way to get people to understand that it’s a pathogen, a weapon, as surely as any bug brewed up in a bio-warfare lab.

              Because characterizing a disease is the first step to curing it.

              Granting your plague analogy, what makes you think the right is immune? Either from the temptation to use the techniques themselves, or from similar techniques being used to spread ugly rightwing memes?

              That’s why I don’t agree with you. The right is as likely to lie as the left. They are as likely to use an unfair propaganda technique as the left. The main thing that makes you “stuck in the fifties”* is that you believe all the “Gramscian damage” comes from the left. If you want to tear a society apart, you need two forces, one pulling from each side.

              Imagine a faceless KGB apparatchick, not someone who runs agents or concocts complex plots involving espionage and terror, but someone like an artist or a copywriter, and he’s leering from the shadows saying, “Comrade, if we can convince the American right to use the same techniques we have given their left, then our victory is assured.”

              * Leaving aside some minor, stupid stuff that’s probably amenable to simple fact-checking.

            • While you’re still fulminating about the millions of human lives taken by communism and how they’re coming for our precious bodily fluids next, hypercapitalism is saying “here, hold my beer and watch me wipe out a few million species.”

              • I hope you didn’t mean to imply that only capitalist / “hypercapitalist” countries cause environmental damage — otherwise I’d have to remind you about the “dangerous face water” from Soichi, Russia or the environmental costs Germany faced during reunification.

                One thing I hope everybody could agree upon is this: desperation is one of the drivers of ecological damage and pollution. Why worry about conditions years from now if you don’t expect to survive that long? It might matter somewhat if the economic system is a capitalist, communist, fascist, socialist, syndicalist, or mercantilist one — but ultimately, any system which leaves mass populations in desperate poverty will have whatever contribution to ecological damage it directly contributes dwarfed by the people who won’t care about the damage their survival requires.

              • > hypercapitalism is saying “here, hold my beer and watch me wipe out a few million species.”

                Name them.

          • Troutwaxer:
            “Fascism has been hauled out to the junkyard of history. So has Soviet-style communism.”

            How does modern Venzuela differ from “Soviet-style communism”?

            • Not to mention that there’s an unreconstructed Communist former Soviet client state 60 miles from Florida.

              Tell me Soviet-style communism is dead only when they’re both gone and we no longer have street demonstrations in the US at which evil people wave the Soviet flag.

            • Probably for multiple reasons – I’ve never dug into their situation much. But simple-minded socialism is the penalty for turning your nation’s version of capitalism into a clown car without seatbelts or brakes.

        • I don’t remember exactly when it got home to me that the “right-wing paranoids”, despite sometimes being clinically batshit, had a better causal grasp on the political/historical reality of the last century than almost anybody else except a few of the smarter and less dogmatic libertarians.

          In a sense they’re very right, and in another sense they are very wrong. We do have too many laws, many being passed with an ugly agenda. It would be very worthwhile, for example, to pass a “bodily autonomy” amendment to the Constitution and make clear what, exactly, is off-limits to the Government. (This is particularly important in the sense that a lot of these particular laws are easily weaponized against minorities.)

          On the “very wrong” side, the right-wing analysis frequently denies science, and much of their desire for “freedom” comes in the form of “I want to be free to oppress someone else.” Essentially, this puts you in the position of arguing bodily autonomy with radical anti-abortion zealots whom you see as allies. I hope you see the contradiction in your thinking.

          IMHO you need to draw a firm distinction here. The right-wing/Libertarian analysis can be very useful, but the starting premise and the ending point of the philosophy are also important. There’s a substantial difference between “I think ‘drugs’ should be legal,” and “I’m resentful because I dislike Black people and the lack of freedom to implement Jim Crow in my town is cramping my style.”

          One of these is a positive kind of thinking about freedom for everyone, the other is a negative kind of thinking about freedom for an individual (who may want the “freedom” to do very negative things to someone else’s freedom.)

          Going back to my post above, I think you’ve failed in something important; you don’t know what you want, and your politics are very reactive (note that I didn’t say “reactionary.”) Rather than having a vision of how things should be and a roadmap for getting there, you’re reacting to what you see before you, and not noticing the other side of the history… that for every right-wing man who wants the “freedom” to implement laws against women voting, there’s a woman who’d like to retain her freedom to own property. And so on.

          • >“I’m resentful because I dislike Black people and the lack of freedom to implement Jim Crow in my town is cramping my style.”’

            Don’t be idiotic. Even conservatives almost never make this mistake, and libertarians never do. Speaking of “freedom” to initiate force is an Orwellian abuse of language that instantly tags anyone who does it with an evil bit. Nobody is confused about this except possibly you.

          • a vision of how things should be and a roadmap for getting there

            Why does there have to be one? This whole idea, that there needs to be a single “vision” that will drive an entire society in a particular direction, is just another version of central planning. The 20th Century gave us more than ample evidence that that doesn’t work.

            • You’re suffering from a misinterpretation. I told Eric that he should have a vision of how things should be and a roadmap for getting there.

              The problem here is that if you don’t have your own vision of what’s right and wrong, and don’t have an idea of what has to be done to make the wrong things right, you’re far more likely to be victimized by propaganda. This implies a spirit of independent inquiry and the willingness to grab ideas from multiple sources. When I meet someone who’s “drunk the Kool-Aid” of any particular political view – all across the spectrum, mind you – I tend to think that they didn’t stop and independently think things out.

      • Maybe if you’re going to call Eric paranoid for thinking the opposition is “communists”, you shouldn’t lead with a term from academic Marxians?

        (“Hypercaptialism” is … Marxian.

        In other words, literally Communist cant.

        Perhaps the one misled by his political/economic education isn’t Eric?)

        • >In other words, literally Communist cant.

          Troutwaxer is a typical left-liberal in that if Communist cant were excised from his political vocabulary he’d lose about 75% of it. He is, of course, not allowed to know this.

          • Frankly, I couldn’t care less. “Hyper-capitalism” is capitalism without brakes, seatbelts, airbags, crumple zones or rear-view mirrors. I’m desperate not to be taken for a ride in the damn thing.

            I like capitalism to be like my car; well set up with safety features.

            • Given the way the FAA deliberately let the 737 MAX fly after they found out Boeing disabled the AOA sensor warning indicator (without updating the manuals), I’d reevaluate those notions.

              • That’s what I’d call “regulatory capture.” You might look the term up. It’s something that happens when your society doesn’t do a good job of keeping the scum out of government.

                • >regulatory capture

                  That is what inevitably happens, when you start to install “brakes, seatbelts, and airbags”. Large players in the field take control of the legislative process.

                  >doesn’t do a good job of keeping the scum out of government

                  Another ridiculous idea. Government attracts scum, and repels good people. Because good people are useful in a free market, find bureaucracy tedious and mind-numbing, and generally don’t want to rule over people. Scum, on the other hand…

                  • Again, you’re confusing accidental features of the American system with essential features of government in general. The nations of western Europe have strict safety and consumer-protection regulations — and they actually work, with less regulatory capture than is typical for the USA.

                    Meanwhile, thanks to untrammelled capitalism, the USA is literally turning into a Soviet-style surveillance state, except the KGB is privatized and called Google and Facebook.

                    • Meanwhile, thanks to untrammelled capitalism, the USA is literally turning into a Soviet-style surveillance state, except the KGB is privatized and called Google and Facebook.

                      Meanwhile, your precious Western European states are passing laws requiring said companies to act as thought police. Also the UK is fast becoming a real life example of 1984 complete with thought police that have the power to actually arrest people.

                    • The simple fact of the matter is that all the players are moving in a bad direction right now. In the U.S. every new technology becomes a battleground as the police/intelligence services try to use it to run around the black-letter law of the constitution. We’re seeing the same ugly shit playing out in the EU under a slightly different system, and likewise China and Russia, which don’t have the same protections.

                    • >The nations of western Europe have strict safety and consumer-protection regulations — and they actually work, with less regulatory capture than is typical for the USA.

                      F-ing hell, man, have you ever lived in Europe? “They work” is very loose phrasing, and frankly, the EU is the spiritual successor of the USSR, that’s how well it is around here.
                      It is the seen and the unseen all over again. Sure, Western Europe has a decent standard and living, but you don’t see, what never comes to be because of excessive regulations.

                • The socialism apologist is going to lecture us about regulatory capture?

                  Funny that. Because every time we mention it people on your side of the political canyon fall over themselves trying to tell us it doesn’t exist.

            • You should care. The words in your mouth are a bit between your teeth and blinders for your eyes. That is the sole and express function of Newspeak, as Orwell pointed out. If the words you choose you are lies fed to you by Marxists, you will never be more than a doubleplusgood quackspeaker. You will never manage to express the truth about anything.

              • >You should care. The words in your mouth are a bit between your teeth and blinders for your eyes. That is the sole and express function of Newspeak, as Orwell pointed out. If the words you choose you are lies fed to you by Marxists, you will never be more than a doubleplusgood quackspeaker. You will never manage to express the truth about anything.

                +1000

                One of the central goals of Soviet propaganda and dezinformatsiya always was the corruption of language. George Orwell understood this – he didn’t invent “Newspeak” in a vacuum.

            • I like capitalism to be like my car; well set up with safety features.

              I’d say that should sound reasonable enough to anyone… yet this does nothing to address the real issues of politics. Most notably, is the unanswered question of what level of risk [non-safety] is socially acceptable. As the sharpest example of this, I was quite taken aback when hearing that the Green New Deal was promising economic security to those unable or unwilling to work. Given the way in which Republicans constantly rail against the [mostly] mythical “welfare queen”, this stands in a stark contrast to the sort of unemployment system in place today.

              Now I want to make this clear: while I do have a position on this, the question I intend to raise here is not “should we provide security against unemployment?” or even “should we revise the current unemployment system in the USA?” Rather, I find that the “big picture” policy statement (asking for safety with no attached plan, direction, or details for implementation–much less a definition of what you see “safety” as containing) is far, far less important in resolving actual political differences than the “wonkish” details frequently elided.

              • Here’s a fact-check of the propaganda around the Green New Deal.

                The provision you’re discussing is not part of the resolution put before Congress, but was part of a working document which was posted on a website then taken down. It may have been a work in progress that was posted before it was edited.

                As for myself, I agree with you about the “wonkish” stuff and would have grave doubts about a Green New Deal which, in the face of severe Climate Change, supported people who won’t work.

                • It wasn’t “posted on a website then taken down”. It was posted on Occasio’s official website, then taken down when it was met with ridicule over its sophomoric language and ridiculous proposals. The version that ended up being submitted before Congress was the version that was actually edited by someone who knows how to read. Your “fact-checking” site is just spinning things to try to mitigate the effects of having a sitting U.S. Representative look like an absolute idiot for not running her socialist manifesto past a copy editor.

                  BTW, I went to her site myself and downloaded a copy of the PDF myself as soon as it was happening, so no amount of your fact-checking website spinning the situation will change what actually happened.

            • It’s not just capitalism with safety features, though. Some things — like medicine — must be socialized.

    • they are not the explanation for the rise of popularity of Nazism in the USA.

      There is not currently, nor has there ever been a “rise” in popularity of Nazism in the US[1]. You have occasionally had some more outre’ groups adopt some of the symbols (e.g. skinheads in the 80s and 90s, some biker gangs), but the only popularity of Nazis is in the wildest dreams of the Leftist media.

      Serious, NOBODY here likes Nazis.

      And when US or Australian alt-right people are starting to murder Jews and Muslims, that too is not caused by the welfare state.

      The “Alt-Right” was, until the Leftist Media got ahold of the term, just a heterogeneous group of non-left wingers that didn’t neatly fall into the “Libertarian” or “Buckley/National Review Conservative” buckets. There were a small percentage of racists, and (if you acknowledge the difference “race realists”), but very very few people who bought in to socialist economics, which is essential for being a Nazi.

      Almost all mass murders are caused by psychotic breaks, and I include most “lone wolf” acts of islamic terror in this. Like all crazy people they generate *some* excuse, but it’s usually, well, crazy (like shooting kiwis in order to get draconian gun control legislation passed in the US).

      [1] That’s not entirely true. There was some fondness for Nazis and Fascists in the US in the 1930s, I mean, look at FDR and the Democrat’s economic and social policies. And there were some active supporters of Hitler and Mussolini, often within German and Italian immigrants, but even beyond that. Post 1941, not so much.

  4. “Nobody has any reason to fear a revival of (for example) Saddamism.”

    This is quite an arrogant assertion, Iraq still has plenty to fear from the same demographic that Saddam placated in the first place – Sunni supremacists. There’s a *lot* of Saddam supporters that would welcome a return to the old ways.

    • > There’s a *lot* of Saddam supporters that would welcome a return to the old ways.

      Yes, but Saddamism isn’t going to be their way to try it any more, not with Islamofascism as an alternative.

  5. Shooting sitting ducks is a sin but then again there is an old tradition of staying up late to point out trivial errors on the internet and I am a conservative so here goes.

    “That seems to be a misunderstanding. Nationalist align with Nations, Communists align with Class. ” No true Scotsman eh?

    False by observation. CPUSA policy was set by alignment with the national interests of the Soviet Union as was true in most other places with an avowed Communist Party. This shows up in sudden reversals of policy following directives from the Comintern with no local input.

    For fans of Science Fiction, as many of us here are, the famous example of Frederik Pohl describing the policy switch among American Communists before and after the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact and then the German invasion of Russia. Policy swung 180 and became to celebrate the socialist triumph shown by the Wehrmacht marching under the Arc de Triomphe.

    • “False by observation. CPUSA policy was set by alignment with the national interests of the Soviet Union as was true in most other places with an avowed Communist Party. ”

      The CPUSA connections with the USSR were run by an FBI agent (between 1958-1977). Which does make it a rather bad example of genuine Communist inclinations.
      https://www.theblackvault.com/documentarchive/operation-solo-communist-party-infiltration/

      You can add to this the fact that many communist party aligned with Mao, or were distinctively independent (e.g., Yugoslavia).

      Furthermore, who pays the piper and all that. Any miniscule organization will happily align with a big powerful ally.

      • Mr. Meyers is talking about the CPUSA during the *1930s*.

        Between the opening of WWII in Europe, and 21 June 1941 the CPUSA was supporting Germany with propaganda and attempts to get the dockworkers on the east coast to strike–preventing them from loading the “lend-lease” ships.

        On 22 June 1941 the CPUSA was all about hating on those Nazis. Literally overnight. We have ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia.

  6. I think the proper name of the Nazi Party really shows the defining characteristic, and also explains why fascists and communists so genuinely despised each other. The National Socialist German Worker’s Party. The last four words sound communist, but communism has always been consciously international. Both have a totalitarian state in service of an imagined group of “the real people”, but in fascist theory those real people were a nationality (without regard to class), and in communist theory they were a class (without regard to nationality).

    From the point of view of individualists like us, the difference seems almost academic – both are repressive dictatorships that elevate groups by crushing individuals. But from each other’s point of view, they’re both godawful heretics destroying everything that is right and proper with the world. And so both of them fight the other like cats and dogs, despite being really similar. The Eastern Front in WW2 is to socialism as the Thirty Years War is to Christianity.

    • It is too obvious, too easily demonstrable that fascism and communism are not two opposites, but two rival gangs fighting over the same territory … – Ayn Rand

  7. ESR,

    You didn’t mention nationalism, whether ‘in’ or ‘not-in’ the fascist program. Is it simply not a necessary factor?

    Thanks for another typically excellent writeup.

    • >You didn’t mention nationalism, whether ‘in’ or ‘not-in’ the fascist program. Is it simply not a necessary factor?

      Go back to Sorel’s irrationalism. Remember, he advocated harnessing nationalism and patriotism in order to achieve power as revolutionary socialists. For the theorists and initiators of Fascism, nationalism was a con to pull in the rubes.

      Which is not to say later fascists didn’t become actual sincere nationalists. The better your propaganda is, the more risk that you’ll start being run by it yourself.

      • Thanks. Any examples of real fascists that didn’t embrace nationalism?

        (If it’s not obvious, I’m asking because the current fashion is to automatically brand anyone with nationalistic tendencies as a fascist of the worst sort.)

        • >Thanks. Any examples of real fascists that didn’t embrace nationalism?

          Can’t think of any. The Communists had the other corner pretty well sewed up.

          On the other hand, Fascist “nationalism” could be a surprisingly elastic concept. The Nazis oscillated between what you would think of as German nationalism and a sort of Nietzschean trans-nationalism is which they encouraged “master races” everywhere to identify with them; the SS had non-German formations.

          • IIRC the Nazis wanted and half expected the English (and I think Scandinavians) to “join them”, as under Nazi theory, they were also “aryan supermen”, culturally and physically.

            One problem lots of people have (not here, just in general) is forgetting that the Nazis were sincere and serious in their ludicrous beliefs, which seemed somewhat less ludicrous in the ’30s, after all.

            • >the Nazis were sincere and serious in their ludicrous beliefs, which seemed somewhat less ludicrous in the ’30s, after all.

              Oh, you don’t even know what “ludicrous” is until you have contemplated the official Nazi party cosmology, Welteislehre.

              But just to remind us to stay epistemically humble, not every fact claim we grew up learning to shun because evil Nazi madmen believed it was false. It turns out the Aryans who invaded Europe really were ravening blond dominators built more robustly than the darker-skinned neolithic farmers they wiped out or enslaved. Though nobody could actually know this until it became possible to sequence fossil DNA and the “Aryans” were pinned to the Yamnaya horizon in the Ukraine – the science is barely a decade old now.

              If you have my sense of humor, Nazis turning out to be right about something all the bien pensants piously insisted couldn’t be true is darkly hilarious.

        • Probably individual fascists on the occultist / mystical fringe — but I don’t know any names, I’m just extrapolating based on typical patterns of thought.
          The nationalist Fascists were so successful in their heyday that it’s hardly surprising they swept everyone along with them.

  8. Eric, check out “The Vampire Economy: Doing Business under Fascism.” Written by a German businessman in 1939, it is instructive on the relationship between business and a fascist government. It definitely supports your view that it isn’t a happy state of affairs for the capitalist.

    • It should be pointed out that the Mises Institute offers a free pdf or epub copy of that book on their website. No charge, no need to register or anything.

  9. Another thing that follows from the Fascist theory of power is hostility towards markets, free enterprise, and trade. Yes, yes, I know, you’ve heard all your life that fascists are or were tools of capitalist oligarchs, but this is another big lie. In reality about the last person you want to be is a “capitalist oligarch” in the way of one of Maximum Leader’s plans. Because even if he needs you to run your factories, you’re likely to find out all the ways utter ruthlessness can compel you. Threats to your family are one time-honored method. You can’t buy him, because has the power to take anything he really wants from you.

    A command economy does not necessarily follow from this. In the spirit of Gleichschaltung, a business can be free to compete in the market as long as it is, ultimately, loyal to the Führerstaat. It may even be necessary for economic survival to allow the economy to do this. Compare the Chinese economic system which is strictly free-market but ultimately requires loyalty to the Party. The Nazi German economy was like this too, it was allowed to exist so long as it was gleichgeschaltet (and purged of Jews, of course).

  10. I think it would be interesting to hear your views on “theocracy”.

    As a Christian it is annoying to see how every aspect of Christian Beliefs is called “theocracy” when the Believer doesn’t “fall in line with Leftish Beliefs”.

    • >I think it would be interesting to hear your views on “theocracy”

      Well, if it makes you feel better, I don’t think there’s any realistic prospect of a Christian theocracy on the foreseeable future, and I mostly dismiss people who worry about that as historical illiterates. Christianity has had too much of the stuffing kicked out of it in the last 400 years and would have to revert to a more virulent earlier form first – always possible, mind you, but low odds in any given year.

      It’s still about third on my list of deadliest ideologies, though. After Marxism and Islam.

  11. There was one moron (elsewhere) who consider the US State of Utah a theocracy because the majority of voters are Mormon.

    While I agree (for various reasons) that a Christian Theocracy is extremely unlikely, too many pea-brains both apparently think otherwise and have an extremely strange idea of what a theocracy is.

    • I often have to remind myself that the US contains a third of a billion people. With a crowd that size, you can find someone who believes any one harebrained idea you could imagine.

      After a while, I learn to stop tilting at such windmills. It’s turned into a game of (did Randall Munroe coin this?): “Wow, this is a TERRIBLE belief! …Let’s see if we can find people who believe it!”.

      Better to build the most accurate belief I can think of, and then engage people who come to me with disagreements. At least then I’m left with an accurate belief. Possibly one refined by valid feedback.

    • Most of those who consider Utah to be a theocracy probably live in Utah; at least a handful of them write for the Salt Lake Tribune. :-)

      Come to think about it, a while ago I was advocating for a House of Representatives like the one described in “The Probability Broach”, where every person chose their representatives, and the House would have 1,000 votes, and a given Representative “Company” would have as many votes as the percentage of population they represent.

      He complained about making government bigger (while I failed to see how making a House bigger meant that the government *must* be bigger) and that farmers would struggle to have their representation (while that’s a real concern, I prefer to address that concern by having a robust Senate); nonetheless, this conversation made me realize that the problem with Representative Republics is that they represent the *people*, and people have both virtues and warts. It would seem to me that the reason why some people consider Utah a theocracy is because a majority of Utah voters will (*gasp*) take their theology into consideration before they vote! (Never mind that sometimes a particular Latter-day Saint will sometimes disagree with their theology, and vote accordingly….)

      Which is why the Founders tried to establish a Constitutional Representative Republic, where certain things are off limits even for the people! Or rather, they tried to establish a Constitutional Representative Republic of Constitutional Representative Republics. It’s been an interesting experiment, so far at least….

      • Everyone their theology into consideration before they vote! Most of all the adherents of the various denominations of socialism (which is an atheist religion). And not only that, but look at the socialist activist judges that make decisions according to their theology instead of according to the law! To that extent, yes, in US we live in a (mild so far, unlike say USSR) socialist theocracy.

        To clarify, the atheist religions are true religions, except that their god(s) are not human-like. Their (or, well, ours, since I adhere to an atheist religion too, albeit not a socialist one) gods masquerade as pseudo “laws of nature”, in which they believe. This feels more modern, no human arbitrariness, just a consistent force of nature. The difference from the real laws of nature is that the god-laws have no proof (or even have been disproven repeatedly and on a massive scale, which doesn’t stop their adherents at all), have to be taken on faith, and contain a moral component. As an example, Troutwaxer gave a good enumeration of god-laws of his denomination of the socialist religion (all of them false and evil).

  12. I always knew about this. Fascism is wrongly portrayed as “right wing” in today’s (wilfully ignorant?) media. Lots of people ought to read and learn from your article. William Shirer’s book I have read fully a few times. Mussolini in his early days was definitely Hitler’s inspiration. Hitler and Stalin basically are two sides of the same coin. Hitler’s admiration of Stalin’s ruthlessness was in fact noted by Shirer. Subsequently historians have kind of turned focus away from the Soviet-Nazi pact. Actually if not for Hitler’s greed for lebensraum in the East, Soviet-Nazi coalition could have dominated Europe.

    • There’s a literary sub-genre of alt-history that’s based on “what if Hitler stayed friendly with Stalin and concentrated on defeating Britain?” Add “what if Japan didn’t attack Pearl Harbor and give the US a reason to care about Another Eurasian war?” and it’s not hard to imagine that domination of Europe and much of Africa. If Japan had the sense to work out a similar deal with Stalin, say giving all of Mongolia to the USSR, they could have cemented domination of Asia as well.

      • On a side note, I’ve read a lot about this era from different sources, and from the literature available it seems that much of Hitler’s motivations remains mired in mystery and had a lot to do with impulsive decision making though he certainly started out with some long term vision. Actually Nazism itself didn’t evolve much after Hitler took over as absolute dictator of Germany. He simply lost interest in the theoritical bits (allowing the party old timers to philosphize and Goebbels to focus on propaganda) and only focussed on building a war economy. In that way, Hitler actually trusted the apolitical experts more than his own Party cronies around that time. For example Hjalmar Schacht had a lot of leeway in economy before he clashed with Goering. Also Albert Speer was more a technocrat interested in machines than men, and Hitler gave him a lot of freedom to run his Ministry.

        Nazism was hardly as well defined as communism was at the time.

        Also though initially Hitler respected his Generals, he always fancied himself as a Military expert strategist better capable than the traditional Prussian generals. In Military matters alone he trusted his own genius (he gave more leeway to his Navy since his command over Naval strategy was poor at best and initially he held the Luftwaffe in high esteem due to their early success in the bombing raids over London).

        • “Actually Nazism itself didn’t evolve much after Hitler took over as absolute dictator of Germany. He simply lost interest in the theoritical bits (allowing the party old timers to philosphize and Goebbels to focus on propaganda) and only focussed on building a war economy.”

          If I recall correctly, something similar happened to Lenin when he came into power. He intended to write a manifesto justifying and celebrating the October Revolution, but he never got around to it….

          • The problem that Lenin had is that their initial take on communism didn’t work out at all, nor the attempts to spread communism to the other countries, after Poland and Finland had beaten them. So they had to fall back to a less extreme socialism (and even the New Economic Policy, a limited capitalism), and limit their efforts to one country. And then Lenin got shot, and then his syphilis acted up, so he was sick, and at the same time had to concentrate on keeping the Party under control, and then he died. So all the theory of Socialism In One Country got developed, but after Lenin. USSR really had at least 5 different versions of communism/socialism over its lifetime, probably more if you get into more detail.

            • Interesting. Ultimately I think communism and especially the Nazi brand of Fascism share more in common than traditional historians like to admit. Italian Fascism ends up being far tamer in comparison when it came to actual practice.

  13. “Fascist” in contemporary usage simply means “someone I disagree with” and I think it is telling, Eric, that you wrote a lot of words but landed on precisely the same usage.

    • >I think it is telling, Eric, that you wrote a lot of words but landed on precisely the same usage.

      If you really think that and aren’t just trolling or haterboying, you seriously need to work on your reading comprehension.

      • Are you claiming that your analysis did NOT reveal that “fascist” accurately describes a group of people you disagree with?

        That’s certainly seems to me to be the conclusion of your remarks,

        • >Are you claiming that your analysis did NOT reveal that “fascist” accurately describes a group of people you disagree with?

          No, I don’t call them “fascists” because I disagree with them. And I disagree with a lot of other people I don’t call fascists.

          • The point is that when I started reading this piece I said to myself “Eric is going to conclude that some batch of people he disagrees with are the REAL fascists” and you did not disappoint.

            How did I guess this would be the conclusion? Because every piece that starts off with “what is a fascist” ever always ends “HA! Those guys are the REAL fascists!”

            Nobody has ever concluded “oh crap, I guess I am a fascist” or “huh, I guess my political enemies are actually not fascists.”

            Yes yes, I know, you’re different and your result is the outcome of a process of pure reason and logic, etc and so forth. The conclusion was, nonetheless, entirely predictable.

            • >Nobody has ever concluded “oh crap, I guess I am a fascist” or “huh, I guess my political enemies are actually not fascists.”

              I’m going to spoil your streak. I do in fact have political enemies who are not fascists. Communists, for starters.

              • As an aside, I find it fascinating that you continue to assume that my usage of the indefinite article and words like “some” is, I guess, some sort of mistake, and I meant “the” and “all.”

                I mean, it would be convenient, I guess.

                But I didn’t. I meant “a” and “some” and so on.

            • Nobody has ever concluded “oh crap, I guess I am a fascist” or “huh, I guess my political enemies are actually not fascists.”

              Eric doubtless considers Stalin a political enemy (albeit a dead one). And that he was not a fascist.

              The conclusion was, nonetheless, entirely predictable.

              What led you to conclude that reason and logic should yield unpredictable results?

              Look. We’re all aware of people who produce post facto arguments to confirm prior beliefs. But logic should also tell you that that does not prove those beliefs were false. I could believe things fall to earth when I let go of them, and then argue why.

              It doesn’t even mean that post facto argument was invalid. …So I think you need to come up with an reason you think it’s invalid, that isn’t “you concluded exactly what I thought you already believed”.

              Heck, you haven’t even established that Eric’s argument postdated his claim.

            • “Eric is going to conclude that some batch of people he disagrees with are the REAL fascists”

              To be fair, he did.

              It just happens that they’re strictly defined, real, historical Fascists.

              The only current politics mentioned is an implication about fascist tendencies.

              (None of the current players in the west are quite actually Fascists, I think, and that’s why Eric didn’t, in fact, call them Fascists.)

              • >(None of the current players in the west are quite actually Fascists, I think, and that’s why Eric didn’t, in fact, call them Fascists.)

                None of the major ones. There’s still a Fascist party in Italy. There are various tiny Neo-Nazi groups elsewhere, but I’m pretty sure that if you corralled every single member of all of them you’d still have trouble filling a mid-sized hotel.

                Ironically, the largest group using classically Fascist tactics in the U.S. is Antifa.

                • Antifa lacks a Führer, though. They’re kind of like Red Guards or Salem Witch Hunters at a local level, lashing out at anyone they decide to be offended by.

                  • I’m not sure if that makes them better or worse. On the one hand it makes them less coordinated. On the other hand it means there’s no one capable of ordering them to pull back before they’ve completely destroyed society.

                  • I’m not so sure that Antifa lacks a Fuehrer. It seems to be financed in a centralized way, so it likely has a Fuehrer, but a secretive one.

                    • The problem with a secret Fuehrer is that it’s easy (for certain values of “easy”) for someone else to hijack parts of the network through backroom intrigue without anybody noticing.

                • Nope. Historically, Antifa wants to be Lansky and Perlman.

                  Former congressman Nathan Perlman, politician and one of the people who helped repeal the prohibition of alcohol in the United States, as well as highly respected rabbi Stephen Wise approached Lansky with a simple proposition: get your men to punch Nazis into submission…

                  In essence, the government implored the mob to intimidate as many Nazis they could by any means necessary. This included tactics that ranged from fists to clubs, bats, metal bars, and more. In exchange, the mafia was promised some protections from the court system and even cash; the only requirement was that none of the Nazis be killed. And none were.

                  You can find the whole story here. It’s a really amazing bit of history.

                  • The difference is that those guys didn’t advocate for essentially fascist/totalitarian political positions.

                    Antifa does.

              • The word “fascist” has a long and varied history. You could probably demonstrate that it applied to turtles if you worked at it a bit.

        • Were you expecting Eric to explore the history of the European Fascist movements, and find that there were Fascist movements in Europe that advocated for limited, small government (ideally almost no government at all) and strong protections for the rights of the individual?

          Because for Eric to reach a definition of Fascist that landed on something that he agreed with, this is where the word would have to go.

          And, frankly, for all the abuse the word “fascist” has taken (including calling people who want limited government and freedom “fascist”), no one *really* ever thinks “freedom” and “individualism” when they say “fascist”, even when they use that term to describe individualists!

  14. So the definitions of —-isms is a socio-economic system in which harmony pervades the relationship between the governed and the governors, and happiness and prosperity are found everywhere. This seems to be the bedrock definition of all —-isms. To the extent that this happy state of affairs comes up short, the —isms are obviously being implemented wrong, and someone is found to be at fault for this, and must be corrected/reeducated/arrested/eliminated. When the whole edifice collapses, it’s then an example of the —-ism not being implemented correctly, or not “real —-ism”.

    Or as Robert Heinlein said:”Bad luck”.

  15. @esr: I’d recommend a couple of books touching the subject.

    The first is Seymour Martin Lipset’s “Political Man”. Lipset was a sociologist characterizing political systems. His key point on this topic was that Fascism was a middle class movement. The supporters of Fascism were folks who saw themselves being squeezed from above by the oligarchy, and from below by an expanding proletariat aquiriung political power. I think he was spot on.

    Another is Peter F. Drucker’s “The End of Economic Man”. It’s Dricker’s first written book – the initial draft was written in 1933 when he still lived in Austria, but not published till after he moved to the US. Drucker was trying to understand how totalitarian Fascism could arise in Europe.

    His conclusion, though he didn’t put it in quite those terms was “The old gods had failed.” Europe was very much the product of the spread of Christianity, and Christian ideals of liberty and equality under-lied most thought.

    World War I put paid to notions of liberty as exemplified by things like the French Revolution, as absolutism and oligarchy reasserted itself over much of Europe. The Great Depression between World War I and World War II did similar damage to equality. The assumption had been that expanding capitalist economies would increase wealth and everybody’s standard of living. Economic inequality would still exist, but the gap between the rich and the poor would narrow, and the poor would consider themselves better off and happier with their lot. The Great Depression convinced a lot of folks that Capitalism was not a solution for economic woes.

    Fascism explicitly had no replacements for the old gods, and did not attempt to develop a new model of society. (That eventually proved fatal.) Mussolini stated there was no theory underneath his Fascism. He was replacing former ideals with the myth of the strong man who could make things better by decree.

    Hitler’s goal in Nazi Germany was simple – full employment That would happen by the government taking control of the economy, and placing the entire nation on a war footing, with all production devoted to preparing for war. Of course, when you do that, you at some point must fight a war, but a lot of Germans including very senior Nazi officials managed to ignore that and behave as though preparations for war could be eternal but was itself would never occur. Mussolini had similar goals in Italy, but the curious nature of Italian politics led to a different expression than Germany’s.

    I see a lot of the same underlying stresses playing out these days, for similar reasons.

    >Dennis

  16. Eric,

    I don’t have your e-mail address that I can find.

    I’m running Geeks with Guns at Penguicon on Friday. 1 p.m at Action Impact in Eastpoint, same as last year.

    Are you planning to attend? If you can let me know for a head count that would be great

    Rob Reed

  17. I thought “dosing of opponents with castor oil” was a metaphor until I read the Wikipedia article on D’Annunzio. Interesting.

    One thing I didn’t see you address in your article – presumably due to it being out of scope – was a failure mode I often see in usage of the term. You touched on it a little with Horthy. I think most people cry “fascist!” when they see a Horthy, and don’t check to see whether it’s a Mussolini. I think Horthys are bad, but I think Mussolinis are much worse, and I’m probably not alone. I think a lot of people are willing to report a Mussolini in order to get rid of what is actually just a Horthy.

    I also didn’t see any mention of Eco. I need to read that essay again.

    Still, this post is consistent with my prior reading about what Fascism really is, based on the notion of a bundle of sticks being much harder to break than a single. Also, the concept of state as a body, its institutions as organs, its laborers as limbs, its ruler as brain, its dissenters as cancerous cells.

    So, Fascism is a short circuit to a perfect socialism by way of first crafting a perfected state? If so, what is Fascism’s exit strategy? When do Fascists say, “all right, the conditions are met; time for phase two”? What are the conditions? Are there conditions?

    It sounds like true Fascism is rather hard to obtain, too. Most suitors of that throne seem to fall into comfortable waysides such as monarchism. They run out of steam, and the silk slippers feel good. Or they pretended from the outset, and all they really wanted was just the sinecure. A perverse positive trait of humanity: greed and sloth vaccinates the power seeker against being truly damaging.

    • >I think Horthys are bad, but I think Mussolinis are much worse

      Mussolinis are indeed far worse. But, since you brought it up, I will note that Horthy was actually not a bad sort as military strongmen go. Not personally corrupt, hard-working, took his responsibilities seriously, not prone to cruelty or arbitrariness, does not ever seem to have stomped on anyone just because he could.

      Sometimes you get lucky that way. Horthy was from an old aristocratic family with a tradition of service. This seems to improve the odds.

      • “[By] the second decade of the new century it was becoming clear that most national proletariats were unwilling to play their role in [class warfare theory…] [So, Sorel proposed that] socialists and communists should embrace [patriotism and nationalism] as tools to build and perfect socialism. Mussolini was persuaded, broke with the Socialist Party,” and came to lead the Fascists.

        Suppose he doesn’t get killed by his own people, conquered by the Allies, etc. What was Mussolini’s endgame? Or had he given up on a socialist utopia by then, and settled on a fascist utopia instead?

        This ties into another problem I’m having with the definition. Is fascism inherently a cult personality, in your view? No handoff of power? No expectation of the state enduring beyond the demise of its current ruler? Because this seems to conflict with the advertised goal of transforming its society.

        So we have Franco, who handed off to Juan Carlos (albeit putting it off as long as possible). Not a fascist, but close.
        Mussolini, who was stripped of power before the handoff question even came up. Quintessential fascist.
        Hitler; same fate, same classification.
        Stalin; professed faith in socialist Russia rather than himself; died before officially naming a successor. Not a fascist.

        I see a pattern here, but I don’t think four data points is enough, and besides, it still makes fascism seem like less than a societal change.

        • Earlier comments have touched on this – Communism, Stalinism, and Francoism has legal and functional mechanisms for handoff of power. (Assuming there is a distinction between Stalinism and Communism).

      • I would suspect that fascism had the same “exit strategy” that Marxism has: that once Socialism has been established, it would naturally whither away and become Communism.

        Oddly enough, the fact that Capitalism didn’t seem to have the tendency to collapse into the Socialism that Marx predicted was too subtle of a hint to these theorists that Socialism probably wouldn’t ever naturally become Communism….

        • That’s interesting, because the strong impression I get from my liberal sources is that capitalism is collapsing before their very eyes. They speak endlessly of the 1% and its ownership of 50% of the wealth. That corporations are evil, by design, and require regulation. They say the whole thing is a popular revolution away from crumbling and rendering freedom back to the people. Their only reason for seeking power is apparently to hurry along what they believe is inevitable, so as to spare us all the suffering that would otherwise occupy the interim.

          It’s interesting to me, because I see free trade as the more natural state of humanity, with saving of capital as an application of forethought to solve the problem of getting as many of us as possible above the water level of subsistence farming. I see a commonality here: both philosophies trying to hurry along what they perceive to be a natural, emergent order.

          The collectivists see collectivism as an improvement over general saving of capital, because collectivism is always cooperative, and they see often how cooperation beats individual effort. They’re often right about that latter part. But I never quite see them wrestle with the case where different groups disagree on which projects to cooperate on.

    • Does it disturb only me that Woodrow Wilson had exactly the same concept of the state?

      Seems to me the Fascists count on exactly the same ‘and then a miracle occurs’ step to get to perfect socialism as the more conventional socialists the Fascists forked from.

      • In the parts of the ’net where I hang out, Wilson competes with Carter for the title of Worst President Ever, and his (little-f) fascist sentiments are what put him there.

  18. The more it comes up in Political Talk, the more it should be “slapped down”.

    It may be only a few, but their words seem to be acceptable to many Liberals.

    Like Fascist, “theocrat” is misused.

  19. I disagree that Stalin never formed an SS equivalent. First and obvious, Stalin did have the State Security department (named CheKa, GPU, merged with the civil police into NKVD, split out again into NKGB, KGB). The state security has never reported to the civil law, it always answered directly to the Communist Party and its leader.

    USSR was really a theocracy where all the decisions were made by the Church of Communism, i.e. the Communist Party, and the civil government was the “drivetrain” that enforced Party’s rulings on the people. In every territorial, industrial, or military unit, the Party representative was the boss, above the written law, and the nominal manager/commander reported to him. This is really my second point, NOTHING in the USSR answered to the law, and everything in USSR answered to the Communist Party and its leader. So Stalin didn’t really need to set up the second parallel hierarchy, he was the king of the mountain in the first and only hierarchy. Unlike Hitler and Mussolini, who had grown “organically” from the previous form of society, and inherited its social mechanisms, the communists had cut down the previous society at the root and wiped it out completely.

    But the third thing, Stalin also had the militarized detachments nominally reporting to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and in practice directly to him. One of the strange things of USSR is that the person with the lowly title of Secretary rules everything. How did it come to be? Well, when Stalin was placed into this position, it really was a lowly position. But as a secretary he was responsible for organizing things, including such things as guards and telephones. So he had built a personal loyal force, ranging from guard thugs and assassins to the phone operators and servant girls who listened to the private conversations of the other high-level Communists. (And mind you, these “servant girls” got plenty of combat training, in case if they got ordered to assassinate or arrest their “bosses”). Which he then used to gradually collect the power, never changing his nominal title. Stalin kept this force throughout his life, he just kept it quiet, like many other things.

    • >The state security has never reported to the civil law, it always answered directly to the Communist Party and its leader.

      Yes, but not to the person of Stalin. Formally his authority derived from his office. The SS (and eventually the Wehrmacht) swore an oath to Adolf Hitler, by name.

      A subtle distinction, but a significant one.

      • That’s true, in USSR the idea of communism was above the current leader. Even in Stalin’s time there were a lot of references to Lenin embodying the Prophet of Communism, with Stalin at the height of his power being only a Junior Prophet.

        It’s hard to tell what was the oath of Stalin’s close guard, those might have been swearing an oath to Stalin directly. Or possibly still to the Party in general, with an implied understanding of who is the proper leader. The information about this organization is quite scant, and it was a small organization anyway.

        This is another difference between Germany and USSR: in Germany this kind of oaths and all kinds of orders were spelled out as-is. In USSR the things relied a lot on the unwritten understanding hidden behind the written euphemisms.

      • In the old days, you were calling on God to strike you down if you broke your oath, but if you aren’t Christian, as Hitler/Nazis and Stalin/Communists certainly were not, then who do you swear an oath BY?
        Did they invoke the old gods of the north, or what?
        I have always been curious about that.

        • The military oath of USSR says:

          “If I break this solemn oath, let the harsh punishment of the Soviet law fall on me, everyone’s hate and the contempt of the Soviet people”.

          The young pioneer’s (organization kind of like scouts but oriented towards communism rater than woodcraft, and mandatory for all the children in USSR):

          “In front of my comrades I swear this solemn oath”

          So basically you swear by the collective. Often also the “memory of great Lenin” was invoked (who is essentially a prophet in the Soviet denomination of the Communist religion, along with Marx and Engels). Shortly after Stalin’s death this transformed to “great Lenin and Stalin” but then Stalin got kicked out of the prophet rank.

  20. FWIW – the germans weren’t so much Nationalist as “National”. It may seem small, but while they believed in the German Worker’s party, for the German supermen, they also believed it was their destiny to rule the world, and weren’t that big on other countries with lesser peoples, say, France, having their own nations and self-rule. It was still a global – or at minimum, regional, pan-national – viewpoint.

    I still maintain that problem with WW2 was that the wrong lesson was learned. It wasn’t so much the Nationalism that was the problem (instead, it was hijacked), as the Socialism/fascism/communism.

    Heck, the propaganda to maintain morale among the allied countries, and even the USSR, would not make sense without a nationalist mindset.

    And if nation doesn’t matter, then why does it matter if your distant, central rulers are British, Soviet, or German Ubermench? Or in Washington D.C.

    And why does it matter if you live in Africa or the US?

    I’m not quite tinfoil enough to think that Patton was sold out by the infiltrators on “our” side. But he was no friend of the Soviets.

    • I’m not quite tinfoil enough to think that Patton was sold out by the infiltrators on “our” side.

      It’s a nonsense concept prior to the inherently unpredictable Japanese surrender after being atom bombed. For example, the cruiser carrying Truman to Potsdam crossed the path of several full divisions headed ultimately to the Pacific, and a super Mulberry for the final invasion was the only project with a higher priority that the Manhattan Project.

  21. > This reflects what probably counts as the single most successful Soviet dezinformatisiya effort ever, the legend that fascism is diametrically opposed to socialism.

    While I generally agree that fascism is not actually opposed to socialism, I don’t think the perception that they’re opposites is entirely due to Soviet disinformation.

    1) The Fascists (as you have somewhat already mentioned) and Nazis tried hard to court both sides. A textbook for a German history course I had in college called Naziism a “center extremist” movement.
    2) In the case of Naziism, the Night of Long Knives largely decapitated the avowedly socialist wing of the party. Yes, a few conservatives were killed as well, but conservative leadership remained largely intact, although much less inclined to reign the Nazis in.
    3) The fascists played up opposition to the Bolsheviks in their own propaganda, so there’s an element of fascist, not just Soviet, disinformation in the whole thing.
    4) The German conservatives played the useful idiot role for the Nazis, believing that they could use the Nazis socialist leanings to steal votes from the left while keeping the Nazis under control, which contributes to the view that Naziism was a conservative movement.
    5) European conservatism was much less capitalistic (in the American sense of the term) and much more tied to the old feudal aristocracies. And feudalism is largely “honest communism”, that is, a command economy with no pretenses of equality between the people running the economy and the proletariat, somewhat disguised by being more decentralized than the command economies we’re used to seeing today*. It’s telling that communism had its earliest successes in feudal societies, where the mock-Democratic ideals of communism played well to existing social discontent, and the existing command economy meant that nothing really changed except who was commanding the economy.
    6) There are other enemies than fascists that we share with communists, or at least we have other enemies that communists claim to be enemies of, and we have played the useful idiot to these enemies in ways that make it difficult to counter communist propaganda. One of these ways is our use of the term “capitalist” to describe ourselves. Marx invented the term “capitalist” to describe owners of large amounts of capital, regardless of ideology, and “capitalism” to describe the policies that are in the best interests of his “capitalists”, regardless of whether such policies support a free market. A monopolist who lobbies the government to protect his monopoly is a Marxian capitalist, and an enemy of free market advocates. When we took on the term “capitalist” to describe ourselves, we lent the Marxian capitalists the good PR that comes from association with free markets, and took on the bad PR that comes with monopolism and other such misbehaviors. We also made it easy for the communists to believably paint all of their enemies with one brush.

    *Feudalism is also a good example of how capitalism (in the American, free market sense) can degenerate into a planned economy via Marxian capitalism. With uneven negotiating positions and insufficient vigilance, the poor become bound by onerous contracts that effectively say “in exchange for these few benefits, you agree to sell your soul to us and become part of our planned economy”. Everything looks like good free market contracts, and the higher you go up the contract tree, the more even the contracts get, but it’s a planned economy at every level, and the lowest level gets screwed.

    • I’ll add that, while I don’t agree with the assertion that Trump is a fascist, the fact that it was possible for him to be elected indicates that American conservatism has become vulnerable to being used as a source of useful idiots to the same degree that German conservatives were in the 1930s. And given that American liberals zipped across that line at a dead run back in the 60s, that’s very, very scary. It’s only a matter of time before someone truly destructive coopts one or the other.

      • There are *very* few American Conservatives for any sensible definition of that term.

        Many Christians in the US believe that the Left is out to get them. At least in part because, well, the left IS out to get them. To the extent that Democrat politicians have anything to do with Christianity it’s either taking potshots at it, or pandering for votes.

        Nancy Pelosi should have been ex-communicated in the early 1990s. But now we’ve got a heretical pope ( https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2019/05/01/critics-pope-francis-level-new-accusation-heresy), so whatever.

        Trump was elected primarily because the alternative was Hillary. I really suspect that most of the people who marked Trump on their ballot were voting against Hillary rather than for Trump.

        I know I was. I’d much rather have had Scott Walker at the top of the ballot, or even Ted wassiname from Texas (it’s late, I donwanna google).

        Trump was *nominated* because the GOPe wanted to run Bush the Third, who was sucking up all the money in the race. Trump was sucking up all the media (partially at the behest of the Hillary campaign. They wanted to run against Trump because they thought he was the most beatable).

        So no, Trump isn’t a sign of American Conservatives being useful idiots. We knew what we were voting for, and voting against, and at least this time we got a lot better deal than usual.

    • Some of your points have weight, especially the one about the Nazis positioning themselves in opposition to Communism after Barbarossa. On the other hand, thus jumped out at me:

      >4) The German conservatives played the useful idiot role for the Nazis, believing that they could use the Nazis socialist leanings to steal votes from the left while keeping the Nazis under control, which contributes to the view that Naziism was a conservative movement.

      Did you really mean to say that? Because “Somebody thinks they can use you to get left-wing votes, therefore you’re a conservative movement.” seem like a remarkably dimwitted, way-to-miss-the-point inference for anyone to be making.

      • But it (and variants on it) is an inference people *do make*, as a matter of human nature. I’d say this tendency is likely a significant part of the reason that the founders guaranteed freedom of association in our Constitution.

    • I think a better analogy for the fight between the Nazists and Communists is that they saw each other as heretics: pretty much the same religion but with a slightly different canon, and controlled by different leaders. The religions tend to deal much harsher with the heretics than with the outright unbelievers.(I would say that because a heresy has a much higher chance of converting the followers than a completely different religion, its’ a much stronger threat).

      The same happened later in the spite between USSR and China, when the Communism in USSR got reformed. They became a much more hated enemy for each other than the humdrum capitalists.

      • >I think a better analogy for the fight between the Nazists and Communists is that they saw each other as heretics:

        I didn’t choose to describe Fascism as a “Marxist heresy” casually.

        You are entirely correct.

        • The Communist treatment of Christianity was much milder than of Fascism or of dissenting branches of Communism: the Christian church was strongly discouraged and robbed but allowed to continue operating as long as it didn’t agitate against Communists. Later even co-opted to carry the Communist message under tight control (as well as the Moslem and Jewish religions). This worked only for the centralized versions of the religions, which made them easier to control, the decentralized ones like Protestantism, were eradicated almost as strongly as socialist heresies.

  22. Is my tinnitus acting up or am I hearing echos of Jonah Goldberg’s _Liberal Fascism_ (2008)? I haven’t reread it since it came out.

    • >Is my tinnitus acting up or am I hearing echos of Jonah Goldberg’s _Liberal Fascism_ (2008)? I haven’t reread it since it came out.

      I’ve never read it. I doubt much of the content would surprise me, though – the summaries and excerpts I’ve seen struck me as “Wait…even only slightly historically literate people don’t know these things? Bizarre!”

      It was almost if people were making a big fuss about a book that says, “Hey, there’s a law of gravity! And it makes things fall down!

      • I did read it once, got a copy cheap at a book sale.

        The impression I got was exactly as you say, a brilliant restatement of the obvious. But at least someone said it.

        • I’d never seen the intellectual and professional heritage of 20th Century liberal Presidencies laid out that clearly. I suppose it makes sense that the Roosevelt administration is going take its senior leadership from people who were mid-level managers in the Wilson administration, but I’d never seen it.

          Similarly, the exact details of Roosevelt’s weirder semi-Fascist programs were new to me. My American history classes in school rarely made it all the way to WWII, and the history of the Great Depression tended to focus more on the TVA and WPA and less on the Blue Eagle and the NRA.

          Maybe I’m not historically literate enough, but I don’t think I’m atypical in that regard.

  23. I wonder to what extent this analysis can be applied to ancient governments. The three I’m thinking of in particular are Sparta, Qin, and the Roman Principate.

  24. Your points all seem to assume that the meaning of facist/facism must be the same as the theory implemented by Benito Mussolini. However, terms evolve and ultimately use determines meaning so when most people talk about the danger of facism today they simply don’t mean (and have no intention to mean) the specific political views held by Mussolini. Rather they use the term much more broadly.

    So sure, everything you say is true but it feels about as relevant as pointing to the fact that the etymology of the word catholic (meaning universal) hearkens back to the Catholic church. While true it’s not really relevant to contemporary discourse.

    • >Rather they use the term [fascist] much more broadly.

      To which the correct answer goes like this: I can’t stop you from using the word “dog” for any animal with four legs. I can confidently predict that this move is unlikely to be useful, and suggest you stop before you confuse yourself further.

  25. Snort!

    Unfortunately, I haven’t heard what definition of “fascism” is used by the people who throw around the term except for “they aren’t like me and they’re evil”.

    Care to give your definition of “fascism”?

  26. What I’m finding “interesting” is none of our host’s critics have defined “what is fascism”.

    Of course, some of the comments by said critics about “Right Wing” are complete nonsense.

    For example, I don’t know of any Conservatives in the US who “want to be free to oppress others”. Quite Frankly, in the US it is the Left who appears to “oppress” anybody with the “Wrong Views”.

    In addition, one individual appeared to be saying that Conservatives want Jim Crow Laws in order to “oppress Blacks”. That’s not the view of any Conservative that I know of.

  27. @esr, OT: Historical/Hacker-cultural question, maybe for something like your “things every hacker once knew”:

    Given how widely Unix spread, why didn’t it spread to the PDP-10? Indeed, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of Unix running on any machine with a non-power-of-two word size (other than Proto-Unix on the PDP-7). More generally, it would be interesting to see a write up on what factors have influenced contact (or lack of contact) between hardware ecosystems and “non-native” software ecosystems (i.e, software ecosystems other than those that shipped with a given model from the factory), especially cultural factors.

  28. What defines the borders of the Fascists’ “nation”–genes, culture, or geography? If the former, it would explain the Nazis’ hostility not only to Jews, but to Gypsies and what they considered degenerates. Jews were identified with all manner of intellectual activity, not just commerce: there were many among the communists, including a majority of early NKVD generals in the USSR.

    Of course the Fascists were not laissez-faire free-marketeers, but neither did they have the Communists’ murderous hostility to business. They harnessed/parasitized the commercial sector, but did not nationalize or wreck it.

    You say that Fascism is not merely extreme conservatism, but that is another problematic term. I suggest that you draw more on Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundation Theory, which provides six psychological dimensions invariant over time and political clusterings.

    • >You say that Fascism is not merely extreme conservatism, but that is another problematic term. I suggest that you draw more on Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundation Theory

      Quite aware of it. And it is true that Fascism has in common with conservatism the propensity to exploit energy and fear along the purity, loyalty, and ingroup axes. Nevertheless it is still the case that Fascist theory is revolutionary and utopian in essence, not conservative.

      • Fascist theory is revolutionary and utopian in essence, not conservative.

        To be sure. But there’s room for quibbling about the difference. Per wikipedia:

        Although Nazism is often seen as a reactionary movement, it did not seek a return of Germany to the pre-Weimar monarchy, but instead looked much further back to a mythic halcyon Germany which never existed.

        The project of returning us to the Constitution as envisaged by those who wrote it would by today be a seriously revolutionary act, and arguably (since we did not manage to keep it the first time) utopian as well.

      • Forget Haidt’s axes, they are useless. It is just Haidt couldn’t really come up with questions that tingle that liberals rather very different kind of purity, authority and ingroup sensors. For example, for authority, le scientific consensus about climate change makes a good question. Purity, I don’t know, but after 200 times of reading exchanges where someone publishes something anti-feminist on Twitter and the answers are like “This makes me sick to the stomach.” I definitely think it is there, the basic disgust reaction, just hard to test. For most liberals purity/disgust is wired into the care/harm module, for example, they often see cruelty to animals as not only wrong but also *sickening*. As for loyalty, try testing for loyalty not as much to real people but groups identified by labels.

        No, I am pretty sure in reality people all over the political scale have the same basic attitudes on all axes, just to different things, because they are obvious human universals. It’s just that some are harder to test than others. Obviously the liberal case purity wired into care/harm so being sickened by cruelty makes them harder to separate. Authority is an absolute human universal, there are no larger groups of people anywhere where quoting the most respected authors of theirs does not help in winning a public argument. And as for loyalty, my liberal friend summarized it as “my tribe is everybody with whom an intelligent discussion can be had”. The group exists, it is just different from relatives, compatriots etc. because the purpose is different, it is all about having a good time together as opposed to having reliable people around in life and death situations.

  29. > how do we prevent the genocidal horrors of the Nazi regime from ever recurring?

    The Nazis were simply copying the Italians, right down to the extermination camps. But after Italy changed sides, it became uncouth to point out that Hitler admitted to modeling National Socialism after Mussolini’s Facisti.

    Italy and Germany were small potatoes compared to the Communists in China, Vietnam, and particularly Cambodia. The main difference was, they were modern, first-world countries. “Us”, in other words. And they full tilt into The Crazy.

    • “The Nazis were simply copying the Italians, right down to the extermination camps.”

      Rubbish. Mussolini was ready to kill when it was useful, notably to subdue Libyan Arabs and Abyssinian. But Italian fascism had no racial component and was never into mass killing for its own sake.

      “But after Italy changed sides, it became uncouth to point out that Hitler admitted to modeling National Socialism after Mussolini’s Facisti.”

      Rubbish. When Italy changed sides, Mussolini escaped to become a Hitler satellite. Italy repudiated Mussolini and Fascism, including the Mussolini’s alliance with Hitler.

      • One of my favorite poli-sci professors used to emphasize that Fascists viewed themselves as having the best *State* (as in government organization), but the Nazis viewed themselves as having the best *People* (as in racial composition).

        Under such a model, any country could reap the “benefits” of Fascism by simply changing their governing structure. But could only reap the “benefits” of Nazism by replacing their people.

        • Correct. The Platterhof speech made it very clear. https://carolynyeager.net/new-translation-hitlers-may-1944-talk-officers-platterhof

          “The bourgeois politicians only saw the State before their eyes, I saw the people, the substance. For me, the State was nothing more than a purely exterior, even a compulsory form [Zwangsform]. I had then already come to see that that which we call the State is, in reality, the overcoming of the inborn individualistic self-drive in people—that one can’t start anything with the State, especially in reorganising, rather that the “body of the people” was the primary and decisive thing, that the body of the people must therefore be reorganised.”

  30. Pingback: True but Forbidden 22: Bernie Bros and the Idea of God - American Digest

  31. Expecting a Lefty to use “useful slurs” is a fool’s game. (No insult to you intended.)

  32. In any discussion of fascism versus Communism (revolutionary socialism), there is one point which ought to be made but has been omitted here. Both are “revolutionary” ideologies aiming at complete social transformation; both arise from the “revolutionary” tradition in Europe. Fascism did indeed fork off revolutionary socialism.

    However, in doing so, fascism abandoned a fundamental principle of socialism: wealth is a social creation, private wealth is illegitimate, and private wealth must be confiscated and redistributed. Every Communist state – the USSR, China, Cuba – confiscated all wealth for the use of the state.

    Fascist states did not. They stole the property of political or racial enemies, but they did not touch the accumulated wealth of the upper classes generally. The wealthiest men in Italy in 1920 were nearly all still wealthy in 1930, and even in 1950 (or their heirs were). Even the upper middle class kept their stuff.

    Corporate oligarchs could deal very nicely with fascism, and vice versa. Fascism promoted economic concentration, because large corporations were not rival power centers, they were centralized mechanisms of control. The fascist state provided their corporate cronies with favorable credits, pricing, and wages, suppression of competition, and so on. In turn, fascist administrators got fat payoffs. One couldn’t buy Hitler, but one could certainly buy Goering, who made a huge fortune off his position as re-armament czar.

    (Considering this, I would say that Chavista Venezuela was much closer to fascism than Communism. There were many arbitrary confiscations of property, but mostly from political enemies. Meanwhile, regime cronies kept their holdings and profited enormously from the regime. I.e., the regime did not seize opposition media companies, they squeezed them financially till they sold out to regime cronies.)

    Another important principle is that Communism is explicitly, viscerally anti-religious. The Spanish Reds burned churches and killed 8,000 priests (and about 500 nuns). Fascism is indifferent to religion. The Catholic Church operated freely in Italy. Nazism was more problematic, but the Church achieved a concordat with them and the German satellite regime in Slovakia was headed by a priest (Jozef Tiso).

    Between these two points, one can see that fascism is potentially compatible with conservatism, even reactionism. (Though many conservatives and reactionaries loathed fascism – the Schwarz Kapelle was full of such.) Many aristocrats accepted commissions in the SS and Blackshirts. For instance, Prince Philip’s brother-in-law, Prince Christoph of Hesse.

    Thus, though fascism is not conservative, it is in important ways “right-wing”.

    Two other points:

    A key hallmark of fascism is physical intimidation of political opponents and other targets. Beatings, where necessary, or invasions of opposition and public spaces. We’re seeing a lot of that these days – and not from conservatives.

    Final point: a common and significant practice of fascist movements was mass physical action: usually marching and parading, sometimes military drill. Such activities can have a strong psychological effect on participants. Military veterans have reported such effects from close-order drill, especially in large formations: stronger group identification, feelings of collective power (just what fascist movements feed on). Some historians have suggested that this was important in the ancient Greek city-states: the phalanx formation required regular mass close-order drill by all the city’s male citizens. We’re not seeing this on any side today.

  33. Eric, do you have any thoughts on Madeleine Albright’s 2018 book, “Fascism: A Warning”?

    Her opening “what is fascism” response in that Vox interview is:

    Well, first of all, I’m troubled by how thoughtlessly people throw around that term. At this point, anybody who disagrees with us is a fascist.

    In the book, I try to argue that fascism is not an ideology; it’s a process for taking and holding power. A fascist is somebody who identifies with one group — usually an aggrieved majority — in opposition to a smaller group. It’s about majority rule without any minority rights. Which is why fascists tend to single out the smaller group as being responsible for or the cause of their grievances.

    The important thing is that fascists aren’t actually trying to solve problems; they’re invested in exacerbating problems and deepening the divisions that result from them. They reject the free press and denounce the institutional structures within a society — like Congress or the judiciary.

    I’d also add that violence is a crucial element of fascism. Whatever else it is, fascism involves the endorsement and use of violence to achieve political goals and stay in power. It’s a bully with an army, really.

    • I’m on the road to Penguicon with limited access; can’t read the article.

      The quote, however, is enough to tell me what Albright is doing. And I think it’s ahistorical garbage, yet another attempt to co-opt “fascist” as a bludgeon for the speaker’s purposes by stripping it of its actual meaning.

  34. Rulers like that will kill you if you look like a political threat, but they’re not invested in totalitarianizing their entire society.

    Git aff a mah prapertÆ! <– more dangerous than actual fascists. And let’s face it, even if fascism was a Marxist movement, by usage the word “fascist” means Fuzzy Lumpkins (at varying degrees of severity.)

    I hate the term Right-Wing Authoritarian. Eric, do you have any works of fictions authored by figurative Fuzzy Lumpkins that feature coined races? I need a word to replace RWA.

  35. Nice article, and nice discussion.

    But I’m not sure that defining fascism as a particular set of policies is particularly… for lack of a better term, definitive. For example, there’s a certain “by any means necessary” attitude that leads fascists to show little respect for the rule of law. And the first definition of fascism I ever heard, back in junior high, mentioned the use of mob violence as a tactic for intimidating critics and suppressing dissent. It’s not clear where these would fit.

    I’ve been looking at defining it as a mindset, instead. The current working definition goes like this:

    Regardless of the policy specifics, socialism has these fundamental beliefs at its core:
    1. Humankind’s problems are caused by inequality.
    2. It is possible to eliminate inequality.
    3. Therefore, we are morally obligated to do so.

    Then, if you add a fourth belief, you get fascism:
    4. Give me the power and I’ll get it done.

    So, to elaborate a little, You Might Be A Socialist If you can say things like these with a straight face:
    * “Poverty causes crime.”
    * “We can win the war on poverty.”
    * “There wouldn’t be so much terrorism if there weren’t so many unemployed young men in the Middle East.”
    * “The gap between rich and poor is increasing. We must address this problem.”
    * “Check your privilege at the door.”

    A whole lot more elaboration is possible but the point here is that, whenever starry eyed socialists try to create the perfect society, they quickly run into a fundamental fact of human nature — freedom causes inequality.

    I can’t stress that enough. If people can make life choices however they see fit (What should I study? What career should I go into? How much should I charge for my services? Where should I live? How should I spend my free time? Should I have children? Which leader should I support?) then — surprise, surprise — INEQUALITY HAPPENS. It could be a bumper sticker.

    Some options return more value to the chooser than others do, so, if people can make free choices then it is guaranteed that some will wind up with more wealth, more social standing, more power, while others wind up with less.

    The conclusion? Well, obviously, if you want to eliminate inequality then you have to eliminate freedom. Once you’ve realized this, the fascist policies practically write themselves. Centralized power? Check. Gotta have it to get the job done. State-based socialism? Check. Socialism’s the goal, isn’t it? (The fact that it’s state-based and therefore inherently unequal is just temporary, right?) Propaganda? Check. Things will go more smoothly if you can keep the sheep from realizing their situation. Gun control and dissent suppression? Check. Can’t let competitors arise.

    • You make many good points, @Danny Sharpe.

      To your last paragraph I might add something like: “Use violence as needed? Check.”

      After all, socialism is such an obvious societal good that any thing that must be done to secure it is utterly justified. Gotta break a few eggs…

      • Thanks.

        I forgot to include the next step in this line of reasoning: efforts to build a socialist society are bound to fail.

        If you let the people have freedom of choice then they end up unequal as a natural byproduct of their decisions. In fact, if they evolve a profit-based free market economy, you’ll be back where you started.

        And if you try to eliminate the freedom, you end up with a two-tier system where you’re in the upper tier attempting to impose socialism on the rest.

        Either way, it’s not socialism.

    • Regardless of the policy specifics, socialism has these fundamental beliefs at its core:

      One would have to be a pretty stupid socialist to say the things claim are said with a straight face, and it’s essentially gaslighting to assume that any socialist who’s IQ is higher than room temperature believes these things. Socialists (and Liberals like myself,) believe the complex, real-world versions of these things:

      1. Humankind’s problems are caused by UNEARNED inequality, that is, hereditary monarchies, the spoiled children of people who got rich through hard work, racist laws and customs, etc.

      2. It is possible to eliminate unearned inequality.

      3. Therefore, we are morally obligated to do so (as long as we don’t create injustice by the fashion in which we do so. That is, it’s appropriate to raise the tax rate so the government can stimulate the economy and encourage EARNED wealth, but it is not appropriate to kill rich people and take their land.)

      Then, if you add a fourth belief, you get fascism:
      4. Give me the power and I’ll get it done.”

      Except that fascist societies don’t actually try to eliminate inequality. Did the Germans treat the Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Slavs, etc. as equals? I don’t think so. Maybe you should rethink your premises…

      So, to elaborate a little, You Might Be A Socialist If you can say things like these with a straight face:

      Once again, let me set you straight.

      * “Poverty is one of the important causes of crime.”

      * “We can create a society which creates less poor people.”

      * “There wouldn’t be so much terrorism if we officially acknowledged that the Wahabi Saudis are sending out missionaries to preach a violent gospel.” (There’s a great book out there called “The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu” which you might read for another view of Islam, particularly the behavior of Wahabi purists towards other forms of Islam. You can probably pick it up on ABE books for a dollar.)

      * “More of our societies wealth is being directed towards the rich. This is a bad thing as it is hurting middle-income and poor people.”
      (The problem can be checked by changing the laws to better distribute wealth. The increase in wealth going to the rich involves unjust changes in tax rates, increased use of tax shelters (which I’m guessing neither of us can afford) and tax laws which favor the wealthy, plus the ability of wealthy people to essentially dictate legislation.

      * “Don’t be a racist, sexist asshole.”

      See I fixed it for you so it better reflects reality. You’re welcome.

      • >as long as we don’t create injustice by the fashion in which we do so. That is, it’s appropriate to raise the tax rate so the government can stimulate the economy
        okay, a) taxation is theft, very much a form of injustice, especially if it’s progressive, ie punitive to the more productive people. Also not very egalitarian.
        b) government can’t stimulate the economy, that’s like economics 101. government taking someone’s money and spending it somewhere else is _negative_ sum

        >did the Germans treat the Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Slavs, etc. as equals?

        Do communists, socialists, liberalis treat kulaks, factory owner and nowadays, wrongthinkers as equals?

        >* “Poverty is one of the important causes of crime.”

        Yeah, that’s still not true, the causation runs the other way, crime causes poverty to some extent, and both are caused by lower IQ. The premise, that “if only we threw money at them, they’d stop commiting crime” has been utterly devastated by the empiric data since the Great Society program was put in place.

        >* “We can create a society which creates less poor people.”

        That’s true, for a change, I just very much doubt you have the right ideas about the ‘how’, seeing as you buy into the horseshit that government can create prosperity.

        >* “More of our societies wealth is being directed towards the rich. This is a bad thing as it is hurting middle-income and poor people.”

        “Society” doesn’t have wealth, as it doesn’t exist in reality, it’s an abstraction. Only individuals act and create wealth. Also, you’re making a blatant fixed pie fallacy. Wealth is created, not just “there”, to be distributed in some “just” sense. Rich people create more of it, hence the being rich. Also, them getting richer does not hurt anybody, I cannot stress this enough: it’s not a zero sum game.

        >* “Don’t be a racist, sexist asshole.”

        Yes, don’t be. Like don’t be an SJW, a feminist, a black supremacist, etc. Also, the aforementioned do not get to redefine the terms to exclude themselves and make so only white man can be either.

        • >crime causes poverty to some extent, and both are caused by lower IQ

          Absolutely true. I would give a bit more emphasis to the crime causes poverty angle because it is actually big and less known than the other one. Basically think about any mother who one day realizes that her husband who kept robbing stores got imprisoned or shot. What now? Who will support the family now? Better find a job herself. And then she realizes most stores and other places of employment in the neighborhood have closed up because they got fed up getting robbed. This is the kind of situation that unavoidably leads to poverty.

          • Also, just think of the price hike that surely follows the enormous security costs of doing business in bad neighborhoods.

      • Actually, every one of those quotes is based on something I’ve heard in news reports or seen in print, coming from people who seemed to be saying them in all seriousness.

        I do have to ask who it is that you think is directing our society’s wealth towards the rich, and what kind of power they must have that they can dictate who we give our money to.

        And I have to ask who it is that you think has the right to decide which money is earned and which money is not.

        A good way to test a belief system is to see how well it stands up to reality:
        * Do you have free will in deciding where to shop? Of course you do.
        * Do you earn every penny that you make? Of course you do.

        Someone once said: “If the rich keep getting richer, it’s because they keep doing the things that made them rich in the first place. Likewise for the poor.”

      • One would have to be a pretty stupid socialist to say the things…
        True. So true. But then socialists are really stupid, else they wouldn’t be socialists.

        Humankind’s problems are caused by UNEARNED inequality
        Unsubstantiated, unsupported, unproven. And false on its face. So everything else you wrote can be ignored.

        It is possible to eliminate unearned inequality.
        No it isn’t. But you can certainly try. I just can’t imagine anyone wanting to live in such a dystopia.

        Therefore, we are morally obligated to do so
        Yes, please dictate your morals to the rest of us.

        Except that fascist societies don’t actually try to eliminate inequality.
        So you’re saying fascists aren’t as bad as communists. Interesting thought.

        “Poverty is one of the important causes of crime.”
        Unproven. And if there were any causality there it is at best a second order effect.

        “We can create a society which creates less poor people.”
        We’ve done that already. It’s called free enterprise – the thing you hate the most.

        This is a bad thing as it is hurting middle-income and poor people.
        But … socialists hate middle-income people.

        Don’t be a racist, sexist asshole.
        Translation: Don’t be a socialist. Every self-proclaimed socialist I’ve encountered in recent times has been the worst racist, sexist asshole imaginable.

      • Re the poverty and crime statement. This is just an updated version of that old favourite of the well off: that the poor are just inherently worthless. No wonder that it’s so popular with SjWs, who are overwhelmingly upper middle class. I’m embarrassed by how long it took me to figure this out.

      • > * “Poverty is one of the important causes of crime.”

        No, it isn’t. The only correlations between crime and poverty is what *types* of crimes people commit, and how good a lawyer then can afford.

        > * “We can create a society which creates less poor people.”

        No, you cannot. Poor is a term of *relative* wealth. Every society will follow the power law graph for economic distribution.

        What you *can* do, and capitalism mostly has, is eliminate *poverty*.

        Walmart has done more for the extreme poor in America than USG programs.

        • Well, it *is* doing away with _absolute_ poverty. Of course, as you said, there will always be a bottom 20%, and people who want to rile them in some sort of envious rage against “the Rich”.

  36. Back in about 2002, I recall reading that most households in Saddam’s Iraq had a hunting rifle (or possibly shotgun). I found this surprising and then sort of depressing.

  37. It seems to me that whatever Mussolini’s influence on Hitler may have been, there is a notable difference in practice: Mussolini’s regime did not produce megadeaths. Apparently it killed some 50,000 Libyans and 250,000 Ethiopians, but that falls far short of even one megadeath; and killings in Italy itself were not even on that scale. Hitler’s régime, in contrast, killed millions of German citizens. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t have that in common with any of those commonly called “fascist” (Spain, Portugal, Argentina, or Brazil, for example), but it does have it in common with those of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. Shouldn’t that be taken into account in classifying modes of political organization?

    • William, if you look at the historic pattern, the genocidal fascist regimes are the ones most influenced by Communist practice.

      • (a) Are there examples of genocidal fascist regimes other than Germany?

        (b) It seems to me that whatever Germany had in common with (certain stages in the history of) the Soviet Union, China, and Kampuchea could perhaps be a significant trait independent of “fascism” versus “socialism.”

  38. Defining a problem with precision is a good first step, but then . . .

    Are we at a tipping point where totalitarianism (be it fascism or other) has a non trivial probability of arising here in the US? If so, than the sooner you can see it coming, the better are your prospects of survival (forewarned is forearmed).

    But then what? What mechanism should be employed in devising an appropriate plan of action or response? Do you flee to a safe harbor (if one exists)? Do you push back against the oncoming wave of tyranny? Do you attempt to innovate some new approach tailored to the modern era?

  39. Well Liberals know more about the “views” of people than the people themselves. [Sarcastic Grin]

  40. Communism and fascism are most at odds when it comes to how they view competition. In communism, competition is viewed as negative sum and a failure of cooperation. In fascism, competition is a given and something you have to win at. Communism dreams of international solidarity of the proletariat, whereas fascism strives for national cohesion in order to thrive in the international fight for survival. (Ideology and practice lines up fairly well for fascism, less so for communism.)

    Classical liberalism has a fundamental disagreement with fascism, where the first talks of the inalienable rights of individuals and is obsessed with justice, individualism and various forms of equality, whereas fascism considers the individual to have a duty to become as strong as can be and serve the greater, communal organism, throughout multiple levels of hierarchy (family, local community, nation, bloodline).

    There are a million and one more and less superficial differences between fascism, classical liberalism and communism, not to mention modern variation like the social democratic welfare state, but everything else is downstream from these fundamentals. For instance the phenomenon of cult like devotion to a leader follows from the fondness for functional, hierarchical structures and extreme national cohesion. You can probably find a few dozens of principled libertarians who can be meaningfully loyal to abstract principles such as the rule of law, but for the masses, you want a charismatic leader.

    In the context of modern politics, fascism’s most poignant characteristics is it’s hyperreactionary idea that duty and obligation trumps rights and wants, that strength is admirable and dysfunction is contemptible, and that nation is more important that law. The idea more in vogue these days is that every want of the dysfunctional or deviant is their right, and simultaneously the duty of the able to provide for them while they take the blame for everybody’s misery.

  41. Congrats, spotting what the deal was with Franco is evidence you really get it. Franco was simply tricking the Falange into supporting him. The whole thing was built on the personality cult of Primo de Rivera, who after being imprisoned and shot was referred to as The Absent One. Such a situation, a movement based around the cult of someone who is not there, is basically asking for someone to step in and hijack the whole thing. Franco noticed all he needs to do is to be their next father figure, put up some theater, and then he can put them into his pocket.

    • > The whole thing was built on the personality cult of Primo de Rivera, who after being imprisoned and shot was referred to as The Absent One.

      Can’t be him you are thinking of, he wasn’t shot. He died of fever and diabetes in exile soon after being deposed.

  42. >I’ve covered this history in detail because it explodes one of the prevailing myths about Fascism – that it arose out of some fundamental opposition to Communism.

    That’s not entirely a myth, it depends on what angle you look at. From the ideological angle you are right. But there is also the angle that Fascists did a lot of street fighting with Communists, and they were pretty much the only ones doing so. So not a fundamentally different ideological direction. But if you see two groups of guys constantly bashing each others heads in while everybody else is standing and watching, yes, the are quite fundamentally opposed to each other. Like Shi’ites blowing up Sunnis in Iraq or vice versa.

    It’s always closely related ideologies that compete the bloodiest, because they are competing for the same audience.

    • No, an example of a fundamental difference would be between Muslims and Hindus. Heretic-hatred can be intense, and can provoke frothing rage, because as you say the two sects are competing for the same audience. But the differences being fought over are typically superficial rather than fundamental. They’re the sort of minor differences Swift satirized with the big-endian vs little-endian dispute in *Gulliver’s Travels.*

  43. Sorel’s ideology was called “syndicalism”, just in case someone wants to look up. Syndicalism was one of the ideologies that could have gotten big in an alternate history, because it represented something like a continuum between Communism and Fascism.

    Syndicalism eventually disappeared simply because Fascism and Bolshevism ate its potential supporter market share, but could have happened the other way around. In the excellent alt-history Hearts of Iron mod Kaiserreich which describes an interwar period after the Axis winning WWI, Oswald Mosley is casted as the führer of a Syndicalist Britain.

  44. Another practical difference struck me when comparing Communist regimes with Fascist ones. Communists seem to have a far more efficient Secret police network than Fascist ones ever could manage. The Fascist regimes tended to believe more in Propaganda and the Fascist dictators relied far more on their own personal popularity and propaganda than in literally suppressing their people. (of course, both Communists and Fascists literally suppressed and destroyed their political opponents, but that is another thing).

    Even at the height of his powers, Hitler seemed more worried about his public image among his own people and did everything possible to ensure that the civilian suppies were not too affected by wartime requirements. Only towards the very end when things got desperate that Nazis got serious about forced conscription.

    Even the Gestapo were not that efficient really and relied mostly on the traditional police stool-pigeons to collect information and keep track on the supposed political enemeis of the regime. Gestapo relied more on their own image as a “dreaded secret police” than their actual efficiency in policing. It appears that communists went to greater extent to purge *all* intellectual opponents. A good example is how Hitler’s political opponents were able to carry out an assassination attempt which failed only due to good luck and circumstances.

  45. getting some deja vu here, didn’t we go over this in some detail thirteen years or so ago? has new information surfaced since then?

  46. Eric, the more I think about it, the more I am forced to conclude that that any form of socialism is completely incompatible with democracy. Do you agree with this?

    • 200% to the contrary, democracy *is* socialism lite because the public ownership of government leads to the public ownership of everything. Think like this: markets like malls are owned. What happens in the democratically ruled mall? Not a normal market.

      Of course owned markets are monarchic, while dictatorship is an extreme form of democracy.

      • I didn’t get this part, can you explain?
        > because the public ownership of government leads to the public ownership of everything.

        Isn’t Democracy supposed to protect private and individual rights including right of property? Though elected by public, the Government in a democracy is supposed to represent the people’s will, but is it publicly “owned”?

        • Isn’t Democracy supposed to protect private and individual rights including right of property?

          It’s not necessary, AFAICT. Democracy essentially just means that the people vote for everything. Democracy in practice exists in degrees: the people can vote on some things, but not others.

          Public ownership of government doesn’t lead to public ownership of everything, because people aren’t that disciplined about their principles. Plus, you can’t be democratic about everything; if you could, you could vote away voting rights themselves, and democracy proponents reactively oppose that, and intellectually, probably regard it as incoherent as Russellites regard a set of all sets that do not contain themselves. And again, most people in democracies instinctively stop well short of even Vote for Everything Except Voting Rights.

          Democratic socialism, as its US advocates see it, seems to live in this in-between space. My acquaintances who favor it give the strong impression that they see it as a hybrid, and I believe they are genuine, even if I oppose it. They’re not two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner; rather, it’s 51 million wolves who believe they’re the sheep, and voting to bring only a few of the other 50 million to dinner, and it’s okay because they never really see the sheep’s face and they’re sure they’re not eating the whole sheep anyway, just all the fatty flesh.

          The other 50 million are playing the odds and hoping they’re not the one who gets the invitation, until they can be in the 51 and get some of that sweet, sweet veal. So the system persists. There’s a lot of sheep faces they’ll never see.

    • >Eric, the more I think about it, the more I am forced to conclude that that any form of socialism is completely incompatible with democracy. Do you agree with this?

      It’s incompatible with the individual rights people who advocate democracy mean to be guaranteed (freedom of speech, religion, etc). But Paul Brinkley’s answer is on point, also. Most “democratic socialists” sincerely do not believe this and fail to understand the implications of their own premises – they aim at Sweden, get Venezuela, and fail to grasp that this was not just an implementation mistake.

      • In effect, Democratic socialism sounds like an oxymoron, but I’ll do some reading on this topic for better understanding. In fact it sounds like Nehruvian Socialism (And it is a fact that Jawaharlal Nehru got inspired by the tide of Socialism at the time).

        I guess even today India has some elements of Democratic socialism (like the State-owned Indian Railways for example).

        • >In effect, Democratic socialism sounds like an oxymoron

          It is. But most of its advocates are terrible at ethical reasoning and fail to grasp this.

          A few do get it. Those are the evil ones.

        • Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.

          –Screwtape Proposes a Toast, by C. S. Lewis

          “Democratic socialism” is very possible if by “democratic” we mean “behavior democracies like” but not if we mean “behavior that will preserve a democracy”. Or to put it briefly, democracies want to become socialist and socialism destroys democracy.

          • ” Or to put it briefly, democracies want to become socialist and socialism destroys democracy.”

            Promises promises. But never deliver.

            If there was any socialist (Social Democrat) countries, it would be the Scandinavian ones. And if there are any countries where the people rule, it is the Scandinavian countries.

            And this has been true for up to a century now. When are we going to see these promised destruction of Democracy?

            • There were widespread suspicion of election fraud in Sweden recently. Plus, Scandinavian countries are far less socialist now than just 30 years ago.

              • Suspicions were big in the US. Not so much elsewhere, like in Sweden. Looks a lot like the burning suburbs in Sweden craze in the US.

                The Swedes seem not to be bothered much.

                > Scandinavian countries are far less socialist now than just 30 years ago.

                But more so than Venezuela.

  47. In the short term, a command economy (socialism) is more effective in total war than a capitalist economy, because it taxes above the laffer limit.

    Of course, by definition, you cannot tax above the laffer limit – at least not for very long.

    The fascist and communist states were more effective in total war than other states, and to compete, during World War II, the western powers adopted a socialist command economy. At the end of the war, the USA, disgusted with the unpleasant side effects of the command economy, returned to capitalism, undoing much of the New Deal in the process. Britain and Australia hung on to the command economy until 1949, with predictably disastrous consequences, which consequences now seem to have been erased from history.

    The fascist states were more effective in total war than the communist states, because the communists had a lot of ideological baggage that the fascist states did not bother with. The fascist states did not murder their peasants and their businessmen.

    After total war, that ideological baggage became useful one more, and it seemed for a while that communism would rule the world, but economics got them in the end.

    • “The fascist states were more effective in total war than the communist states, because the communists had a lot of ideological baggage that the fascist states did not bother with. ”

      Bizarre comment. It was the Russians who defeated the German troops. And they did what anyone facing imminent death does: Fighting for their lives with everything they could muster.

      And I do not think that you want to say that the “Free People” would just capitulate?

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