It is not uncommon for me to engage with people who want to inform me that Fascism is a positive good and that it is merely an expression of Nationalism. After round and round of typically fruitless exchanges that include me jumping up and down pointing to their common Marxist roots the conversation ends and we both go on our way pitying each other for how blind the other poor chap is.
Many don’t seem to realize that Marxism has a multitude of incarnations. These various incarnations are brought forth and explained somewhat in books like Jame’s Billington’s “Fire in the Minds of Men,” and Daniel J. Flynn’s “A Conservative History of the Left.” I would highly recommend both books. These various incarnations include but are not limited to Communism, Fascism, Syndicalism, Socialism, Fabianism, Social-Democratism, Leninism, etc. In point of fact, some have even argued, convincingly I think, that Anarchism is nothing but Marxism as applied to the individual. Certainly, Marxism was leavened along the way of its intellectual journey by Anarchism.
Below is a quote from Christine Shelton’s book; “Alger Hiss; Why He Chose Treason.” It does a good job of making clear the common ground between Fascism and Communism. It will, of course, not end the argument. True believers of any religion/ideology will never give up their position.
“One of the beliefs perpetrated by the ‘left’ during the twentieth century was that Fascism was an ideology on the ‘right’ of the political spectrum, that Fascism was the antithesis of socialism and Communism or any other ideology on the ‘left” that Fascism was a development out of capitalism, even though the essence of capitalism is the free market and Fascism certainly is not about free markets. This false belief has been used to justify support for socialism and Stalin’s Russia, especially during the Hiss years of the 1930s and 1940s… For many intellectuals, the Depression was a result of the collapse and failure of Capitalism, and they turned to socialism to address that failure.”
John Ehrman, a former CIA official wrote that the CPUSA was respected by many American liberals because Liberals and Communists ‘made common cause to promote unions and civil rights for black Americans. He claimed that ‘Moscow’s prestige among liberals and intellectuals increased further when, unlike the Western democracies, it seemed to take a stand against the spread of Fascism.’ Many on the left, in fact, felt that this argument gave them ‘cover,’ especially when the US was at war with Nazi Germany. As a result, during WW II progressives viewed Moscow’s intentions as benign and advocated reaching an accommodation with the Soviet Union. Perhaps this is one reason why Moscow and the ‘left’ in the US depicted Hitler as a ‘right-winger’ and made Fascism seem to be a rival to Communism and Socialism. The belief prevails to this day. Calling a political opponent a ‘fascist has become the ultimate epithet weapon for the ‘left,’ as term synonymous with absolute evil used for someone on the ‘right’ of the political spectrum.
But Fascism is not an ideology of the ‘right.’ It arouses out of the Marxian milieu. It emanates from the ‘left’ – from Marxian revisionists, many of whom felt that Marx underrated Nationalism, wrote A. James Gregor, professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley. Fascism has its roots in Marxism; is no accident that Hitler called his movement ‘National Socialism.’ The first Fascists were almost all Marxists – serious theorists who had been identified with Italy’s intelligentsia of the left. Mussolini himself had been a leader of the Italian Socialist Party and was an acknowledged leader among Marxist Intellectuals. ‘It was Italy’s intervention in WW I, not right-wing versus left-wing dispositions, at first that divided Italian Marxists. The myth of Fascism as ‘right-wing’ is embedded in the false notion, promoted by Communists, that Fascism is conservative according to Gene Edward Veith Jr., professor at Concordia University Wisconsin. This notion obscures its true meaning. Veith states that ‘Marxism defines Fascism as its polar opposite. If Marxism is progressive, Fascism is conservative; if Marxism is left-wing, Fascism is right-wing; if Marxism championed the proletariat Fascism champions the bourgeoisie; If Marxism is socialist, Fascism is capitalist.
Of course, these comparisons are fiction, Veith continues. While Communism and Fascism have been rival brands of socialism, it is commonalities that have defined them. Both strongly opposed the bourgeoisie. (The Nazis scorned bourgeois democracy as decadent.) Both attacked conservatives; both developed into mass movements; both favored a strong, authoritative, centralized government; both practiced a control economy and opposed free markets; both practiced strict control over the populations; both rejected the notion of individual liberty; both placed the state above the individual; both had dictatorial regimes that were extralegal and extra-constitutional; both had ‘leadership cults’ surrounding their rulers; both practiced the pervasive use of propaganda, official censorship, and terror; and both committed massive crimes against humanity. In his gripping history, ‘Bloodlands; Europe Between Hitler and Stalin,” author Timothy Snyder in discussing the mass murders each was responsible for, states, ‘Hitler and Stalin thus shared a certain politics of tyranny: they brought about catastrophes, blamed the enemy of their choice, and then used the death of millions to make the case that their policies were necessary or desirable. Each of them had a transformation utopia, a group to be blamed when its realization proved impossible, and then a policy of mass murder that could be proclaimed as a kind of ersatz victory.
While Fascism and Communism were bitter and deadly ideological enemies at the time, they were contemporary regimes flying the socialist banner. Some differences were: Communists claim that the history of civilizations can be explained only as a struggle of classes, while Fascism denies ‘class struggle; as the agent for social change; Fascism unlike Communism, views the ‘State’ as a spiritual and moral fact, and is opposed to Communism’s anti-nationalism. ‘But their opposition to each other should not disguise their kinship as revolutionary socialist ideologies.’ So, however, different Marxist-Leninist systems were from Fascism, Gregor asserts that given their different histories, ‘the family traits are evident.’ At their core, Fascist and Communist ideologies are both antidemocratic and opposed to individual freedom. They view individual rights as conditional, not inalienable…
(Robert) Conquest pointed to the common beliefs of Fascism and Communism: ‘The overwhelming claim of the collective to the individual’s allegiance thus emerged as the basis not only of Communism but also of Fascism and National Socialism. All three, one in power, subordinated the individual to the State, as representing the community.’ It was argued that the individual best expressed himself as part of a mass experience. National Socialist ideology was more than its crude racialism. Conquest maintained. ‘The central message …. was the new identification of the German individual with the nation and the state.’ Conquest wrote that the late Huge Seton-Watson, dean of British Sovietology, noted the Nazis were ‘the fanatics… who rejected not only Christianity but also traditional morality as such.’ Seton-Watson added ‘moral nihilism is not only the central feature of National Socialism but also the common factor between it and Bolshevism.’ People passed with ease from Communism to what were, in theory, its most virulent enemies, Fascism and National Socialism. Moreover, Conquest, asserted that Hitler himself said Communists were far more easily became Nazis than Social Democrats did. Conquest noted that Hitler also claimed that the ‘reds we had beaten up became our best supporters.
According to J. B. Matthews, ‘In the early months of Hitler’s triumph in Germany, the Communist Internationale officially viewed Fascism as a sort of unwitting ally of Communism in their common goal of democracy’s destruction.’ The Communist Party ‘made its position clear in its official publication, the ‘Communist Internationale.’ It declared: ‘The establishment of an open fascist dictatorship, by destroying all the democratic illusion among the masses, and liberating them from the influence of social-democracy, accelerates the rate of Germany’s development towards proletarian dictatorship.’ Matthews continued, ‘Nothing could be clearer than that. In August 1931, when the Nazis called for a plebiscite in Prussia with a view to overturning the social democratic government, the Communist Internationale ordered the Communists of Germany to vote with the Nazis!.’