By: Gaither Stewart
A strutting and swaggering couple they are, Fascism and the entrenched class of war. Their distorted visions of gallantry and nation come so naturally to both. The spick and span generals, employers of mercenaries and killers, chin in, chest out, and their majors and their colonels (especially the generals in the offices and the majors in the tents), thick chests covered with ribbons and medals and rows of multicolored decorations — awarded for killing. And the political Fascists! Defiant chins thrust forward, hard fists clinched, swaggering and prancing and strutting across the stages of piazzas, nations and continents in support of the killing.
For God’s sakes let’s don’t waste time on the propaganda of “supporting our troops over there!” Or defense of America’s values! Or the future of our children! Or the war on terrorism! Let’s don’t waste words on that. As if in their strutting and blustering they had a monopoly on care for our sons! Let the generals and the industrial-military complex and our new administration (hopefully) support our boys “over there” in the only way that really counts — by bringing them home.
But here let’s zero in on strutting Fascism in its dreams of glory and on its corporate partners and their dreams of a New World Order. Let’s call a spade a spade. I have in mind the word Fascism that we progressive writers often use as an epithet. Or sprinkled here and there in our labels of proto-Fascist, crypto-Fascist, neo-Fascist and today, in Italy, post-Fascist. An old word whose essence, whose very quintessence, has remained largely the same while the word itself has acquired such negative connotations that Fascists themselves deny their heritage, as recently the neo-Mayor of Rome, the neo-Fascist Gianni Alemanno, who in an interview with the English press denied he was ever a Fascist, recalling the disciple Peter denying he ever knew his master, Jesus.
Since their emergence in Italy, Fascists have liked to claim that they, too, are of the Left. Specious claim. Bizarre conclusion. We have to keep in mind that that is a Fascist claim. It has little to do with social or political or even theoretical reality. That Fascism like Socialism was a mass movement by no means makes it Left. Historical Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany set out as mass movements because they were in political competition with leftist movements. As such Nazi-Fascism was obligated to appeal to the masses, to the collective, to that extent becoming social. In that sense Fascism began as a mass collectivist movement, but only up to the historical point when it mutated into the Corporatism that Mussolini claimed as its true name.
Once in power, Fascism then shows its true face: it allies with and mutates into Corporatism, becomes elitist and regiments the masses. In power it is no longer a collectivist movement. That Power of any shade or color often goes wrong is a truism. But that does not mean that all mass movements-systems-ideologies are the same. The fact is that Fascism and Nazism arose chiefly in opposition to Communism. Fascism in practice will always be of the Right, Socialism-Communism of the Left.
After the fall of Soviet Communism two decades ago, some European intellectuals and political scientists proclaimed the end of ideologies, that the terms Left and Right no longer made sense and were old-fashioned, that they were actually the same. This is dangerous speculation and a lie. The words for the two political poles were in vogue from the French Revolution up until the onset of the American counter-revolution not many years ago when American conservatives declared them politically incorrect. Though the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States contain qualities of both Left and Right, a little of this, a little of that — with the result that both parties are the same — no political movement with a genuine ideology is or can be both Left and Right, a negative which in turn confirms the validity of the dichotomy.
Until the French Revolution society was divided vertically, with Power at the top, which filtered down through the hierarchy to the voiceless peasant-slave. The great social division has always been between property holders — today’s capitalists — and the landless — today’s working class, or simply between the rich and the poor. The Revolution instituted a more democratic horizontal Left-Right division, intended to limit and control Power. Reaction is Power’s nostalgia for return to the old system, which is what happens in Fascism-Corporatism: return to a vertical society. Just as the property holders and the landless, today’s capitalists-corporations on one hand and workers on the other, so also Left and Right, are and always will be by definition in opposition.
Mussolini’s ignominious end. Fascism’s incarnation died for a moment but the fascist virus continued, since it lives off of capitalist ruling class dynamics.Right, or in this case Fascism, believes in the superiority of its cultural heritage and the past of nation, people, race and traditions, in defense of which it relies on militarism. An extreme right-winger rejects equality, wants as little change as possible, is skeptical about political systems and international rules and is committed to a society of hierarchy and meritocracy.
The Left, reformist or revolutionary, stands for emancipation from the past and for change. Yet it is nonsense that advocacy of change automatically places one on the Left. In the case of Italy, Fascism’s brief exploitation of the Futurist movement in the arts in order to execute its revolution did not make it Left. Fascism, too, wanted to remake society, but by glorifying and worshipping the past. In fact, a kind of Sicilianism — change everything so that nothing changes.
Though some attitudes, positions and values are interchangeable, there is a limit. War obviously belongs to the Right. War is a typically Fascist manifestation emerging from its worship of militarism and expansionism. War is no minor political slipup, as American Democrats should know by now. Historically, war is all determinant. War has already destroyed the foundations of the American republic and undermined American democracy itself. The position on war of America’s Democratic Party today is a Right position, as is its position on social justice. Right positions inevitably cause increased social injustice, social clash and war. Likewise the pro-war position of European Social Democracy at the outbreak of World War I led directly to its political decline, the birth of Fascism-Nazism, to the predominance on the Left of the Bolsheviks, and indirectly to the birth of Socialism in one country and Stalinism.
Norberto Bobbio (1909-2004), a major Italian political philosopher, determined that the major distinction between Left and Right is the relationship of each with equality. Though not every social-political view can be classified as Right or Left, as a rule Left tends toward everything that strives for equality among men; Right tends toward inequality. In practice the more one rejects equality, the more Right one is. Or, more forcefully, Right favors forms of the hierarchies dividing men. The distinction on the question of equality is clear, uncompromising and on target. It’s one or the other — Left or Right. They are not interchangeable. Despite Fascism’s claims that it, too, is “Socialist” and despite Hitler’s appropriation of the word in National Socialism, and despite Left’s frequent electoral claims that it, too, is middle of the road, both ideologies, if they are genuine, are one or the other. Neither Left nor Right can be middle of the road.
Some political philosophers in Europe and the USA describe the basic divisions between the Left and Right with the comfortable categories of Progressive and Conservative. In my opinion those common words are not satisfactory. Right can be progressive on certain limited themes, while the broad Left to achieve and maintain political power becomes conservative as seen in the Left of America’s Democratic Party or in much of contemporary European Socialism. To repeat, both Nazism and Stalinism used the word Socialist freely and in the end created parodies of socialist states.
Today, Left considers the Center a disguised Right; the Right believes the Center is a cover for the Left. In the political confusion of contemporary Italy, both the neo-Fascist Right and the Socialist Left have moved gradually toward Center positions. The Center, or the Third Way, is often a cover for one or the other positions. That Third Way is often labeled a “conservative revolution,” as if social ambivalence could prevail over genuine Left or genuine Right. In the long run, the Center also is obligated to assume positions reflecting either Left or Right.
So it is one or the other, Left or Right. Even though one does not eliminate the other, one or the other predominates in a given society in a given moment. Times change but the basic dichotomy remains.
The most blatant example of ignoring the Left-Right political reality is the USA, the world’s most powerful country controlled by a one-party system, which in effect ignores the words Left and Right. America’s Republican and Democratic parties stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the Right, bolstered by religious extremists, secret militias and the flag-waving false patriots. Though the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States contain a little of this, a little of that — with the result that both parties are practically the same — no political movement with a genuine ideology is and can be both Left and Right. Some positions and values can be exchanged and integrated in diverse systems, but there is a limit.
No one genuinely on the Left (in the Democratic Party, Liberals or Social Democrats) can defend Anglo-American conservatism or the liberalism-conservatism-Corporatism-Militarism-Fascism alliance. One forgets that there are limits as to what politics can accomplish. The open spaces the US political system leaves vacant have been occupied by the all-powerful, elitist, anti-human, militant and militaristic industrial-military complex of the modern corporatist state. In sum, the combination creates the authoritarian system. It is that extra-political vacuum (where there should be a Left!) which creates space for the populism and demagoguery of Fascism. America’s two interdependent parties have exchanged political and social values like merchandise. The result is that the one-party system based on the great euphemism of democracy — now a façade, fake and mendacious — stands as the banner and standard of the great American Counter-Revolution.
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Categories: Global Politics