The Illusion of Left And Right

What goes where?

You probably think that politics can be neatly divided into two sides, the Left, the Right, and everything else fits in somewhere between. You probably think there is some clear logical principle that will tell you where to put every political persuasion on a simple line like the one below.

A simple political spectrum

Most Americans do. To put it gently, most people haven’t got a clue on the truly meaningful dimensions of politics. That is what I hope to convince you of. It may take a couple posts to cover all the ground that needs to be covered.

I deliberately left everything off of the line above other than “Left” and “Right” because we need to think about what principle we should use to decide where each political persuasion goes. So what principle do you think we should use?

Traditionally Socialists and Communists have been seen as being on the far Left. Democrats and Liberals were also seen to be on the Left, but just not nearly as far to the Left. Republicans and Conservatives have traditionally constituted the Right, although after World War 2 the Left sought to portray Nazis and Fascists as the extreme Right wing opposite of the Communists on the far Left.

The modern political spectrum as the Left sees it

There are serious problems with the above conception. A skeptical observer might see that the Left puts itself on one side (the side of “right” belief you might say) and simply lumps everyone else as being on the Right (“wrong” belief) where they can be conveniently condemned by association with Nazis, Fascists, White Supremacists and other Deplorables.

That was the game plan of the Soviet Communists after World War 2, to portray themselves as the opposite of the Fascists and the Nazis so none of the stink of the Holocaust, the stink of German concentrations camps like Auschwitz and Dachau would rub off on them. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn however refuted that claim in the The Gulag Archipelago . The Soviet Communists had their own concentration camps and methods of “liquidating” those deemed not fit to live.

In terms of repression and mass murder it is doubtful the victims of Nazism and Communism would quibble over whether their murderers were on the Left or the Right. Death has a finality that transcends politics.

Numbers are not exact but the Nazis in World War 2 have been credited with murdering upwards of 17 million people, 6 million of them being Jews in the Holocaust. What is not often remembered is that the Soviets were also mass murderers on a huge scale. They just used lower tech methods like famines and Gulags and had decades to practice their craft unlike the Nazis who were brought to an abrupt halt in 1945.

Estimates of how many died in the Soviet Communist Gulags vary from several million up to 12 million. Another 7 million victims are credited with state planned famines to collectivize agriculture in the Soviet Union between 1932 and 1933.

We will never know the exact numbers but the Soviet Communists were certainly in the same league as Nazi Germany in murdering people. They just had different reasons and techniques for murdering them.

The Communists in the Soviet Union and the Fascists in Nazi Germany were both totalitarian dictatorships that committed mass murder for the purposes of ethnic or political cleansing. If one uses principles of repressive, dictatorial government and mass murder then the Nazis, the Fascists, and the Communists all belong on the same side of any imaginable political spectrum, whatever you choose to call it.

In reality the death toll of Communism also has to include Communist China where it is estimated that the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) resulted in tens of millions of deaths. Pol Pot, a Cambodian Communist, killed as much as a quarter of the population of Cambodia in an attempt to create an agrarian Socialist society (1976-1979). These are just some of the better known examples of Communist mass murder and genocide.

So do you still feel comfortable placing Communism on one side, the Left, and Nazism/Fascism on the Right? By what principle? Certainly not on any principle of human rights vs genocide and repressive totalitarian government. On that scale they both have to be on the same side. Under both Communism and Nazism you could literally end up very dead for politically incorrect speech or actions – just like in North Korea today.

Defenders of Communism today will tell you that these Communist regimes weren’t really true Communists. They didn’t really practice a true and pure version of Communism (or Socialism). They don’t seem to question if such practice is really possible without repression. Obviously they think so, but history is not kind to that belief.

The word “Nazi” is a shorthand for National Socialism which was the political party of Adolph Hitler. In German it was the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers’ Party). Again defenders of Socialism will tell you that it wasn’t real Socialism. In part they are right, but the part they miss is that given human nature you can’t practice Socialism or Nazism very easily without a powerful government that ultimately arbitrates who gets what, and who lives and who dies. We will talk about that in more detail later.

So where in the heck does this idea that politics can be neatly divided between Left and Right come from in the first place? That is what we will look at next. There is actually a very logical principle involved and there is a context in which it can make sense. It just doesn’t fit the modern narratives of the Left or Right very well.

NAZI ANTIFA THUGS

Nazi Antifa thugs
Nazi Antifa thugs

Nazi Antifa thugs, emulating their Nazi forbears in Germany, recently vandalized the the New York Republican headquarters in New York City. They left a note saying this “attack is merely a beginning.” Maybe not in scale yet, but certainly in motivation, this should remind us (who know history) of the famous Kristallnacht in 1938 where Nazi paramilitary and German civilians vandalized Jewish stores and synagogues. “Kristallnacht” means “Crystal Night,” or more loosely translated,  “the night of broken glass.”

NAZI ANTIFA THUGS
Nazi Antifa thug/Fascists dressed in black with a flag in red, black, and white – favorite colors of the Nazi SS Gestapo

Nazi Antfia thugs have the same motivation as those Nazis in Germany, to dehumanize and silence those whom they dislike. To Antifa the new “Jews” are conservatives whom they – falsely – characterize as “Fascists,” probably because they didn’t pay much attention in school and really have no idea what a real Fascist looked like back in the 1930s.

These thugs did their business in the dark or night. Hopefully some will be caught in these acts and justifiably prosecuted and put in prison where thugs belong.

In the meantime, some Republicans in Congress are pushing an “Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018.”  The general idea of this law is to punish Antifa thugs who attempt to threaten, intimidate, or injure others while hiding their identity  with a mask. The bill reads:

“Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, while in disguise, including while wearing a mask, injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.”

Some claim this is a violation of freedom of speech.  I believe the Constitution does defend a right of free speech, but not a right to hide one’s identity while setting out to intentionally break the law, using force or the threat of force to silence or injure those one disagrees with. Physical assault is generally against the law in every state in America.

There once was another powerful group in America that used tactics of intimidation and physical violence while wearing masks to hide their identity. That was the Klu Klux Klan (KKK). We should treat masked Antifa no different than we would treat masked KKK thugs using violence and intimidation. They are morally identical regardless of what causes they claim to support. A thug is a thug. Period.

KKK in mask
A KKK member in a mask to hide his identity. Same tactic as Antifa.

I fully support this idea that anyone using violence and intimidation and wearing a mask belongs in jail, not on the streets of America. It is one thing to protest and speak your mind. It is entirely a different thing to hide one’s acts while committing criminal deeds.

 

 

Fascism Defined

The NAZIS or Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei in German which translated means National-Socialist German Workers’ Party. It is abbreviated in German as NSDAP – you can clearly see that on one of the flags in the far right side of this picture. Contrary to popular opinion the NAZIS were ideologically on the Left side of the political spectrum.

Historians seem to have a hard time coming up with a definition of Fascism that they can agree on. My suspicion is that a large part of the problem is that many of them come to the table with their mind already made up as to what they expect to find and are just trying to line up enough facts to superficially justify that conclusion and to hell with any inconvenient facts.

In America today we have a chorus from the Left that Conservatives and Republicans are Fascists. This is a symptom of the inability to define Fascism in an objective and historically accurate manner.

Historically the American right has supported the traditional constitutional republic established by the Founders in the 18th century, a limited democratic form of government which now empowers almost all American adults with a say in their government, and most importantly the idea of inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Republican Party was the political party of the Union in the Civil War, and without Republicans, President Lyndon B. Johnson could never have passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A really important point that distinguishes the right from the left in America today is that the right believes in a right to pursue happiness and the left believes that government ought to guarantee it. The right believes that it is important to protect the individual freedom to pursue happiness and left seems to believe that government should guarantee happiness for all.

Individual freedom doesn’t seem very important to the left in America today. They seem more concerned with guaranteeing the outcome they feel is just and they are not in the least afraid to use the brute force of government to bend society to their will. As we will see this is exactly what classical Fascists believed.

The secret of Fascism is symbolized in the ancient Roman symbol of the fasces from which the word “Fascism” comes.

Roman Fasces

The fasces is a bundle of sticks bound together around an axe. I wrote about this in “The Fascism of the Left Exposed Through Political Correctness”:

“There are at least two important symbols here. First is the idea that a bundle of sticks bound together is much stronger than the individual sticks by themselves. Like sticks in the bundle, people in the political body must be bound by a common ideology. The second is the ax which represents a powerful central authority.

“Strong central authority and a conformity which tolerates little if any dissent are the foundational principles of Fascism (as they are for all radical Leftist ideologies).”

In the two classical and best known forms of Fascism of the 20th century, the German Fascism or Nazism under Adolph Hitler and the Italian Fascism under Benito Mussolini, strong central authority was wielded under a charismatic and larger-than-life dictator. Many Germans and Italians literally worshipped these men as demigods.

Another relevant fact is that both of these men, Hitler and Mussolini, were clearly men of the Left to any extent that they held any principles at all. Probably their highest principle was that of power. They wanted that more than anything else. It is a fact though that Mussolini was a Socialist before he was a Fascist and the principles of Socialism and the power of the state were at the bedrock of his belief system.

It is less clear with Hitler which was more important, the achieving of a Socialist society or ridding the world of the Jews. National Socialism, or as Nazism as most know it, in German is Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei which translated means National-Socialist German Workers‘ Party. It was many of the ideas of Socialism that was used by the Nazis to rally party members.

In the final analysis the real religion and politics of both Hitler and Mussolini was pure and unadulterated power and they would use whatever means were available to get it. They would compromise with anyone if that led to a path that gave them power. But their rhetoric, their language, the ideals they set before the German and Italian people were ideals of the left and not the right.

Now we perhaps know enough to define Fascism. First and foremost it is a political system of strong central authority where everyone is expected to toe the line of what is politically correct in the regime. Dissent is not tolerated. This correlates very well with the Left in America today which wants a big and powerful state and sanctions on those who use “hate speech” defined as anything disagreeable to the Left, anything politically incorrect.

At this point there is very little difference between Fascism and Communism.

Where Fascism in its classical manifestations differed from Communism was in nationalism and ideas of national destiny. The Communist mindset was more of “workers of the world unite!” One thing is certain about both Soviet Communists and German Nazis. They both were responsible for the deaths of millions of human beings.

Contrary to most propaganda from the left,  racism is not a central characteristic of Fascism. Italian Fascism was not strongly racist. Genocidal racism was largely unique to Germany. The Italians only cooperated at all with the Germans in rounding up Jews after the Germans invaded Italy in 1943 after Mussolini had been deposed.

Nor is racism a characteristic of the right in America.

In America the one political party with the longest history of racism is the Democratic Party, the political party of the Confederacy, the political party of Jim Crow, the political party of the KKK, and now the political party that uses blacks as a political pawn to try to achieve political power.

The Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery. It was votes by Republicans that were crucial to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in America because so many Democrats voted against it.

Republicans and Conservatives do not support any of the ideas of the real Fascists. If in fact there is one political party in America today that most closely resembles Fascists then that is the Democratic Party and Leftists in general. They support silencing those that disagree with them. They support a strong and powerful central government under a charismatic leader. Again the only thing that keeps them from being out and out foaming at the mouth Fascists is their anti-nationalism.

In summary an accurate definition of the characteristics of Fascism would include:

  1. A strong central authority headed by a charismatic leader.
  2. No dissent that would make the “bundle” weaker.
  3. A strong sense of nationalism and national destiny.

At least two of those are characteristics of the left in America. Arguably only nationalism is a characteristic of the right, but in no way the nationalism of the historical Fascists. To love the principles that one’s country was founded on does not make one a Fascist, especially when those principles speak to individual freedom. It may have taken America a few centuries to more fully implement those principles in regards to race and gender, but it did, and that is America’s glory, not its shame.