The ‘anti-fascist’ left were the real fascists all along

Special to Financial Post
Special to Financial Post

It is fashionable among the radical left to demonize the growing number of elected conservative governments in the Western world as the rise of the extreme or alt-right. This is most pronounced in the anti-fascist (antifa) movement, particularly on university campuses. However, the anti-fascist movement has a sophomoric misunderstanding of fascism and its location on the political spectrum. More disturbing, this lack of understanding extends to its own social media and even physical tactics that mimic the mob psychology, street rage and bullying that are hallmarks of the fascism they denounce.

Fascism is best thought of as a nationalistic version of socialism, embodied in Hitler’s National Socialist party, which was shortened to the Nazis. Fascist governments like those of Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini (and, to some degree, Spain’s Francisco Franco) in mid-20th century Europe believed in totalitarian control of the economy and oppressive state curtailment of individual liberty. Those are the antitheses of conservative principles. Fascism subsumes all ideology to the goals of the state and the need for state surveillance. The extreme version of conservatism isn’t fascism, as the left wants us to think. It’s libertarianism.

Instead of left and right or liberal versus conservative, a better schema is to locate movements on a spectrum that runs from tyranny to liberty. Fascism embodies many elements of the socialist’s state control of society. For libertarian icon Friedrich Hayek, Hitler’s National Socialism “was indeed socialist in concept and execution,” while H. Pierre Secher, biographer of one of Austria’s leading socialists, Bruno Kreisky, wrote of the striking similarities between the leftists and the fascists in that country: “Ideologically, the distinction between the ‘Sozis’ (Socialists) and Commies on the one hand and Nazis on the other, was probably only the internationalism of the Marxists and the nationalism of the Nazis. In every other respect they agreed on the evils of capitalism.” The connection of Jews with capitalism helped fuel the anti-Semitism of the Nazis.

Mussolini’s claim that in a fascist regime there was to be “everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” is of course the totalitarian opposite of the libertarian ideal. Mussolini was long involved with the socialist movement in Italy, breaking with it because of personal ambition and because his socialist brethren would not support Italy’s entry into the First World War. Once in power, he inaugurated a major extension of welfare spending and public works projects. Mussolini’s insistence that his fascist deputies take seats on the far right of the Italian Constituent Assembly may have led some observers to wrongly conclude that fascism was right wing.

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