As you may have noticed over the years Italian Fascists and German Nazis are usually labeled “right wing” in school text books, documentaries, and many history books. Many of those on the left are all too eager to embrace the notion that those ideologies were creatures of Right wing of the political spectrum instead of the left. My friend “Dave” and I exchange emails in which we debate the issues of the day. He has made this accusation to me multiple times over the years. He sent the following definition as a rebuttal to my charge that Nazis and Fascists were LEFT wing ideologies. This time I decided to give a detailed response which follows after his “rebuttal” below.
But from Wikipedia this is the best description of the “Fascism”:
Fascism, pronounced /ˈfæʃɪzəm/, is a political ideology that seeks to combine radical and authoritarian nationalism with a corporatist economic system, and which is usually considered to be on the far right of the traditional left-right political spectrum. Fascists advocate the creation of a single-party state, with the belief that the majority is unsuited to govern itself through democracy and by reaffirming the benefits of inequality.”
Sorry, Dave, while I am sure that you didn’t realize it, the definition you used is simplistic and fundamentally dishonest. The truth is Fascist ideology is almost a polar opposite of modern conservative thinking and I will show you why.
The assertion that “Fascism … is usually considered to be on the far right of the traditional left-right political spectrum” is widespread and was supported by and sustained by largely left wing academics who, because of the holocaust, were eager, even desperate, to distance early American Progressive ideology from NAZI/Fascist ideology in the aftermath of WW II. This tactic also had the additional benefit of enabling them to associate the political sins of the holocaust with their enemies on the “right.” Just because that definition states that (Fascism) “is usually considered to be on the far right” doesn’t mean that they were really right wing. Considered to be far right by whom? What’s their reference point? The reality is the Left/Right designation is a relative term. In today’s understanding, a liberal Democrat is considered to be “to the left” in the traditional left-right political spectrum. However, from a Communists perspective, a Liberal Democrat would be looked at as being “far right.” The truth is Soviet Communism, Italian Fascism, and German Nazism were all just different brands or “styles” of Socialism. Today, in American politics, all Socialism is considered to be on the Left side of political spectrum. From the perspective of Stalin’s Soviet Union (formal name: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) Nazis and Italian Fascists, despite both being socialists, were considered to be “to the right” in their relationship to the Soviet style of communism. During the 1930’s Soviet propaganda labeled ANYTHING to the right of Soviet style socialism (communism) as “Fascist.” During the 1930’s Soviet propaganda routinely called FDR a “Fascist.” So, regarding the earlier question; “Considered to be “Far Right” by whom?” The historical answer is: Josef Stalin. His propaganda machine started it in the 1930’s, but western intellectual leftists latched on to it and have, for various reasons, sustained it over the years. The definition of Fascism you used continues in this tradition.
To prove my point let’s take a closer look at the ideology of the Fascists and NAZIs to see where they really fall in the “traditional political spectrum.” Let’s start with the founder of the Fascist movement in Italy.
Mussolini was a socialist and an atheist. About 1912 he became the editor of the largest Socialist newspaper (published nationally) Avanti. As editor of Avanti he became one of the leading radical socialist in Europe. However at the beginning of WW I he supported the entry of Italy into the war. He saw the war as being against “the reactionary Germans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a war to liberate foreign peoples from the yoke of imperialism and advance the cause of socialist revolution in Italy, a true proletarian nation.” His support for the war resulted in him being forced out of the Italian Socialist Party. In response he told his fellow socialists:
“You hate me today because you love me still…Whatever happens, you won’t lose me. Twelve years of my life in the party ought to be sufficient guarantee of my socialist faith. Socialism is in my blood….. You think you can turn me out, but you will find I shall come back again. I am and shall remain a socialist and my convictions will never change! They are bred into my very bones.”
At this point Mussolini reevaluated the unifying theme of international socialism: (What we now call Soviet style communism.) “Workers of the world unite!” International Socialists taught that class struggle was more of a unifying factor than race, nationality, religion, or culture. Mussolini decided that this was not true. “I saw that internationalism was crumbling and it was utterly foolish to believe that class could ever trump the call of nation and culture. The sentiment of nationality exists and cannot be denied.” Mussolini then formed a new form of socialism (Fascism) using Nationalism as its unifying theme. (Hitler used race and nationalism as the unifying themes for his National Socialists.) The existing Socialist Party, being internationalists, were naturally in opposition. Mussolini responded: “(It is) necessary to assassinate the Party in order to save socialism.” This was the genesis of the original “National Socialism.”
Let’s take a look at a more complete definition of Fascism, from questia.com, one that doesn’t avoid describing its characteristics and philosophy:
Fascism – făshˈĭzəm, totalitarian philosophy of government that glorifies the state and nation and assigns to the state control over every aspect of national life. The name was first used by the party started by Benito Mussolini, who ruled Italy from 1922 until the Italian defeat in World War II. However, it has also been applied to similar ideologies in other countries, e.g., to National Socialism in Germany and to the regime of Francisco Franco in Spain. The term is derived from the Latin fasces.
Characteristics of Fascist Philosophy
First and most important is the glorification of the state and the total subordination of the individual to it. The state is defined as an organic whole into which individuals must be absorbed for their own and the state’s benefit. This “total state” is absolute in its methods and unlimited by law in its control and direction of its citizens…. (hence the term ‘totalitarism.”)
This line of thinking is the absolute opposite of conservative Republican thinking.
One thing that left wing academics want us to forget is that the NAZI’s came into power campaigning as socialists. This is how the NAZI Party described itself to the German people:
“We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalist economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy this system under all conditions.”
Adolf Hitler, 1927
Indeed, when Hitler attended for the first time a meeting of a small group of men, that he would later build into the Nazi Party, a speech was given which appealed to him enough to cause him to want to come back. What was the title of that speech? It was: “How and by what means is Capitalism to be eliminated?”
It must be said that today this speech would find a far more receptive audience at an Occupy protest than at a Tea Party ralley.
In Mein Kampf Hitler said that in the early years that he would be “overjoyed” whenever he saw large numbers of communists in the crowd because he knew that it would be easier to convert them to National Socialism from International Socialism (Soviet communism) than any other group because their beliefs were already so similar.
Next let’s look at some testimonials that were submitted in response to an ad published in one of the Nazi Party newspapers asking why individuals had become Nazis:
A coal miner explained that he was “… puzzled by the denial of race and nation implicit in Marxism. Though I am interested in the betterment of the working man’s plight, I rejected Marxism unconditionally. I often asked why socialism had to be tied up with internationalism – why it could not work as well or better in conjunction with nationalism.”
A railroad worker had this perspective: “I shuddered at the thought of Germany in the grip of Bolshevism. The slogan “Workers of the world unite!” made no sense to me. At the same time, however, National Socialism, with its promise of a community barring all class struggle, attracted me profoundly.”
To another National Socialism: “bore the true message of socialism to the German workingman.”
So what social policies did the Fascists and Nazis advocate?
First some highlights from the March 23, 1919 Italian
Fascist Party platform:
1. Lowering the minimum voting age to eighteen, the minimum age of representatives to twenty-five, and universal suffrage, including for women.
2. The abolition of the Senate and the creation of a national technical council on intellectual and manual labor, industry, commerce and culture.
3. End of the draft.
4. Repeal of titles of nobility.
5. A foreign policy aimed at expanding Italy’s will and power in opposition to all foreign imperialisms.
6. The prompt enactment of a state law sanctioning a legal workday of eight actual hours of work for all workers.
7. A minimum wage.
8. The creation of various government bodies run by workers representatives.
9. Reform of the old age pension system and the establishment of age limits for hazardous work.
10. Force landowners to cultivate their lands or have them expropriated and given to veterans and farmers cooperatives.
11. The obligation of the state to build rigidly secular schools for the raising of the proletariat’s moral and cultural condition.
12. A large progressive tax on capital that would amount to a one time partial expropriation of all riches.
13. The seizure of all goods belonging to religious congregations and the abolition of Episcopal revenues.
14. The review of all military contracts and the sequestration of 85% of all war profits.
15. The nationalization of all explosives industries.
What an obviously “FAR right” political agenda!!! Portions of this platform were a mirror image of the early twentieth century American Progressive agenda.
Next let’s take a look at some of the party platform of the National Socialist German Workers Party (What the NAZI’s called themselves.)
Excerpts of the Nazi Party platform:
1. The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all. Consequently we demand:
2. Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of debt (interest)-slavery.
3. In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people, personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore we demand the total confiscation of all war profits.
4. We demand the nationalisation of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).
5. We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.
6. We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.
7. We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality.
8. We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.
9. We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest. Common national criminals, usurers, profiteers and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race.
10. We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: The good of the state before the good of the individual.
So if we are to believe the left we are supposed to believe that a party that advocates in its platform that the state has a responsibility to provide jobs to its citizens, demands the abolishment income from interest, wants to confiscate all war profits from armament manufacturers, nationalize armament production, nationalize trusts, force companies to share profits with labor, … is Right wing? Really? Even worse the Nazis believed that the GOOD OF THE STATE COMES BEFORE THE GOOD OF THE INDIVIDUAL. I can’t think of anything that is more antithetical to Republican thinking than that concept.
Lastly, let’s look at the word “corporatism” which you have used in our conversations to describe what you believe to be the domination of the present political scene by corporate interests. You have indicated to me that you believe that that this domination is supported by conservatives / Republicans and that this support makes their position “Fascist.”
The following is from the “corporatist” link in the definition of Fascism you provided:
“Corporatism is a system of economic, political, or social organization where corporate groups such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labor, military, patronage, scientific, or religious groups are joined together into a single body in which the different groups are mandated to negotiate with each other to establish policies in the interest of the multiple groups within the body…
 Countries that have corporatist systems typically utilize strong state intervention to direct corporatist policies and to prevent conflict between the groups…..Italian Fascism involved a corporatist political system in which economy was collectively managed by employers, workers and state officials by formal mechanisms at national level ….. fascism’s corporatism was a top-down model of state control over the economy.”
Clearly in the early part of the 20th century the word “corporatism” was used to describe the Fascist domination of business interests by the government. Clearly this bears NO relation whatsoever to modern Republican / conservative political thinking regarding desirable state / business relations. Modern Republicans generally try to lessen taxes and regulatory burdens on business. Indeed, Republicans are often accused of advocating too LITTLE regulation of business by modern Democrats and Progressives. The traditional definition of the word “Corporatism” has been turned upside down by modern leftists to mean the domination of the government by corporate interests in their attempt to hang over the necks of conservatives the moniker “corporatist” in a dishonest attempt to tie today’s conservative movement with the Fascism of the 1930’s. However, it should be noted that the government domination of business is much more in line with present Liberal / Progressive Democrat thinking and as such is much more in alignment with 1930’s Fascism than modern conservatism.
In fact the closest brush with “corporatism,” as defined by the 1930’s Fascists, we have had in the United States was FDR’s National Recovery Administration (NRA) which he created as part of the New Deal. Manufactures and service companies were forced to decide among themselves what the lowest LEGAL price was going to be for their products or services in order, as the New Dealers thinking went, to make sure that companies had enough profits to pay a “living wage” to their workers. The government then prosecuted companies that charged too LOW of a price for their product or service than had been agreed on by the trusts organized by the government! Remember this was during the depression! One dry cleaner in 1934 spent three months in jail because he was caught charging 35 cents instead of 40 or more cents to press a suit as the law required! Look again at the first paragraph of the corporatist definition above.
Speaking of FDR the Volkischer Beobachter, an official Nazi Party newspaper, noted in 1934 that there were “National Socialist strains of thought in his economic and social policies.” The same newspaper also stated that:”many passages in his book Looking Forward could have been written by a National Socialist. In any case, one can assume that he feels considerable affinity with the National Socialist philosophy.”
After examining the New Deal NRA in the light of the definition of “corporatism” above one could come to the conclusion that for once, in this particular instance, the Nazis were right. FDRs NRA did introduce Fascist economic policies to the United States.
There can be no doubt Dave, despite all that you have heard over the years to the contrary, Nazism and Italian Fascism were far LEFT political organizations despite the intellectual left having done its level best to dishonestly re label them as “far right.”
(There is a wealth of information on this subject in the book “Liberal Fascism” by Jonah Goldberg. Much of the information in this article was derived from this source and anyone wanting more information on this subject would do well to purchase this book.)