Left, Right, Center and Fascist. Let's consider a few things.
In a back and forth discussion with Freedem on a recent diary of mine , Freedem brought up a link called The 14 steps of Fascism . I found the link a puzzling in light of discussion since I was rejecting the notion of service to the state. Indeed that link and a few others on propaganda and authoritarianism were given, it seems, as a direct reaction to something I said, which I will show below.
Firstly, that quote that Freedem cited was a response to this piece by Freedem that I found a bit troubling:
For the first time I have heard something I have advocated fr a long time that a public service ethic, bound to actual patriotism, should require that every person spend five years of their life in the government bureaucracy making sure that the needs of all the people were considered, and doing so at a uniform minimum wage, lowering the cost to all, no matter the responsibility.
With that work ethic and public service ethic, a much more honorable populace would evolve.
To this, I said the following among other things:
Governments don't create wealth. never believe they do nor should nor was it ever intended to be in terms of scope and stature. We are free people upheld by our laws, not state servants in any direct or indirect way.
Following this quote, which Freedem called "dogmatism", I was given some links like I said above including the book "1984" which I know all too well.
Mind you, I'm not calling out Freedem in any way. This exchange and the reaction to cite warnings of fascism leads to a rather important point to be made about the matters of Fascism and Authoritarianism and how they used and misused as warnings to the impending doom of Leftist/Rightist policies by either side.
On that "14 points to Fascism" link, we see a list, obviously written in a very contemporary context to decry the Bush Administration's fascist tendencies. That's fine. I'm no fan of Bush and the many of the 14 points are indeed valid, some are not. Though, it must said that the 14 points are very geared toward Bush and, in doing so, fail to capture a much wider line of thinking that leads to the same result or similar result with a different name yet every bit as authoritarian and dangerous.
The bottom of the page has a wiki link to Fascism and feel it deserves some noting.
My goal here is quite precise, PLEASE CONSIDER:
I'm not trying to call all leftists or rightists fascists, authoritarians or any other mean-sounding "-ism." What I do want to show is that many buzz words in support of an opposing view, like my skepticism of big government, general favoring of the freer markets and disdain for strong central control can and are often used to make warnings of something leading to or disguised as fascist or authoritarian. This is plain wrong. To do so is to simply accuse any right-leaning idea of leading to fascism or any left-leaning of leading to fascism or some other authoritarian "ism". This is not true.
from Wiki :
the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, authoritarianism, militarism, corporatism, collectivism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, racism and opposition to economic and political liberalism.
I, as a libertarian, support NONE of those things and completely in favor of economic and political liberalism (note: liberalism here means the classical sense which is basically free market policies as noted with a reference on that point to a famous book by one of my heroes, Hayek, and his book Road to Serfdom about the problems with collectivist and socialist thought).
Beyond the original term coined by Mussolini as a marriage of state and corporations (which I oppose) and supremacy of the state over the individual (which Im oppose), the meaning has grown and developed.
Robert O Paxton has observed other characteristics:
a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood....
Paxton further defines fascism's essence as:
"1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign `contamination."
These ideas strattle the spectrum.
This goes to heart of my libertarian-leaning views of fascism:
Most scholars hold that fascism as a social movement employs elements from the political left, but many conclude that fascism eventually allies with the political right, especially after attaining state power. For example, Nazism began as a socio-political movement that promoted a radical form of National Socialism, but altered its character once Adolf Hitler was handed state power in Germany. Some scholars and political commentators argue that fascism is a form of socialist dictatorship similar to that in the Soviet Union.
Absolutely. This is my main concern. And I started to notice several years ago when I made my final push away from both status quo ideologies.
Indeed, in that exchange with Freedem, I made this remark about fascism/authortarianism:
Keep in mind that authoritarianism can come from the right or left. Don't be so vigilant to see one side of it and ignore the other. To me, right wing authoritarianism is simply more easy to spot because we are more conditioned to see it.
by: John - 2007-06-23 17:31 ………… parent • edit • reply
Yes, the road to such realities is subtly paved with righteous collectivism. the final product may not seem leftist but some of the more "we and us" tendencies enable it by empowering the state to gradually become what it was hoped it would destroy.
Fascism in Italy arose in the 1920s as a mixture of syndicalist notions with an anti-materialist theory of the state.... Fascists accused parliamentary democracy of producing division and decline, and wished to renew the nation from decadence. They viewed the state as an organic entity in a positive light rather than as an institution designed to protect individual rights, or as one that should be held in check. Fascism universally dismissed the Marxist concept of "class struggle", replacing it instead with the concept of "class collaboration". Fascists embraced nationalism and mysticism, advancing ideals of strength and power as means of legitimacy. These ideas are in direct opposition to the [classical] liberal ideals of humanism and rationalism characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment.
Fascism is also typified by totalitarian attempts to impose state control over all aspects of life: political, social, cultural, and economic, by way of a strong, single-party government for enacting laws.... Fascism exalts the nation, state, or group of people as superior to the individuals composing it. Fascism uses explicit populist rhetoric; calls for a heroic mass effort to restore past greatness... Fascism is also considered to be a form of collectivism.
Other things to keep in mind, Fascists reject free markets, pluralism and the rights of individual as being protected by the state. It involved economic planning and centralization and respected private property only so long as it didn't interfere with state interests.
In the end, my point is that such get labels get thrown around and very easily and we should realize the ideas and grievances that enable such societies are not also clear...especially among some who are against fascism or some related concept. Countries don't turn fascist over night nor is it often the intent of those who cause or who are causing it. We should all be vigilant. It can come from unexpected places.
American liberals may not fascist and have every reason to wary to be wary of those tendencies on the Right. BUT, do not lump all ideas that are right of center into some proto-fascist brew. Indeed, there are very anti-authoritarian ideas there mixed up with some bad ones....BUT IT'S THE SAME ON THE LEFT. Those welcome mats to such a reality are there and liberals who claim to be anti-fascist should take these considerations into account and not work to support certain ideas that can lead in that direction.
I welcome good ideas from both sides. Those so-called left and right ideas I hold dear all have a common thread: a cautious avoidance of ideas that pave the way to authoritarianism. It doesn't happen in one step and isn't even apparent as it is happening.
Please take my words for there intent and not as a partisan attack. It is not partisan nor an attack.