Last weekend, 13-14 August 2011, witnessed the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Berlin Wall. It barely needs reminding that this was not a defensive or protective wall, designed to keep potential enemies out, but rather it was a prison wall, designed to keep a population incarcerated, to limit their freedom of movement. Like most walls, it wasn't particularly effective for the truly determined; during its short existence there were thousands of successful escapes, although there were also several scores of people being killed by DDR border guards in these attempts. What it did do however is create an environment where fear dominated. Prior to its implementation, fully twenty percent of the entire East German population had moved west ; the State had determined that this had been stopped. Does it need to mentioned that when the Wall came down people fled from the socialist (but dictatorial) East Berlin to the capitalist (but democratic) West Berlin and not the other way around?
Fascism is any political ideology that requires the suppression of individual or co-operative rights to collective ideals. This is evident in the symbolism of the "fasces" from which the name is derived; a bundle of individual sticks tied together, indicating authoritarianism and summary power. This contrasts with other social ethics, such as utilitarianism which, whilst based on a moral principle of individual liberty (as Benthem and Mill pointed out ), distributes felicity according to 'the greatest good for the greatest number' for specific situations.The example of utilitarianism is raised here because said ethical system is sometimes misrepresented by those ignorant of its basic precepts to justify the fascist reasoning of 'the suppression of the individual for the good of society'.
Instead of seeking to provide for the greatest number, fascism seeks to provide for the abstract ideal, the abstract 'bundle' against the real individual 'sticks' or their real collection. Sometimes that abstract ideal can be a race, or a nationality, or a class, or a particular State, or ideology, or Party, or Church, or religion. In the future we may even see particular corporations raised as the abstract ideal. It is against real individuals, and real co-operation between individuals (from which societies are truly born), and it is against liberty and democracy. Ultimately it is a fallacy of reificiation (or, as Alfred North Whitehead called it "misplaced concreteness"); it assigns a real status to abstract concepts and in doing so, suppresses those which are real. Who better to define it than Benito Mussolini himself?
"The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State - a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values - interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people." ("La dottrina del fascismo", 1932) 
Fascism is therefore an extreme version of Statism, to the point where the individual is entirely subsumed into the demands of the State. But what of the difference between "left" and "right"? The distinction between left-wing and right-wing has been well understood and developed since the first use of the term in the French revolution . The traditionalists sat on the right of the Estates General, and the reformists on the left. The contrasts include republican governments for the left, compared to monarchists for the right, for secularism on the left, compared to religion on the right, class conflict as the basic dynamic from the left versus racial or national on the right. Neither of these orientations in themselves provide any characteristic that suggests a particular degree of totalitarianism or liberalism, or even economic arrangement; some of the most liberal and democratic governments in the world are nominal monarchies, whereas some of the most authoritarian and dictatorial are nominal republics.
Whilst fascism is commonly understood to be a political movement of the extreme right, and certainly it has described itself in this way, it is more than possible to find the same motivation and behaviour among political adherents of the extreme left as well. Indeed, if a moderate liberalism is considered to be a centre for the free and democratic left and the free and democratic right to agree on, then the extremism of the fascist right and the fascist left is a place where they collide violently - usually. It is often forgotten that fascist models started with a large input from a supposedly left-wing sources; a national syndicalism, a state socialism, governed by mass organisations, as espoused by Angelo Oliviero Olivetti (the former member of the Italian Socialist Party who founded fascism), Sergio Panunzio and Edmondo Rossoni .
But more than anything else, fascism is defined by its structure and behaviour. Fascism exists where freedom of expression is suppressed, where is there is massive individual surveillance and destruction of the private sphere, where there is the jailing, torture and execution of dissidents, where there is no freedom of association, and where there are no rights for oppositional trade unions or political parties. Fascism exists where the economy is tightly controlled, collectivised, corporatised and planned according to 'dirigisme' - a commanding influence of the State, which allows great capital investments especially in large infrastructure and military expenditures and meagre returns to labour for consumables. Fascism exists with imperialist foreign policy; the political control of other countries. All in the name of the abstract 'higher' collective cause.
The purpose of providing these definitions is to avoid the use of 'fascism' as an emotive pejorative. In the late 1920s and 1930s the Communists called Social Democrats "social fascists" without any justification whatsoever (indeed, the truth was much closer to home). George Orwell rightly mocked the pejorative use to describe anything that was opposed. Radicals are known to use the phrase to describe conservative opponents, who may be in no way "fascist". But when viewed dispassionately however (and of course, it is difficult to be dispassionate about oppression), it is quite clear that the appellation of "left wing fascism" is completely accurate on a structural and behavioural level to a vast number of left-wing governments.
One does not have to go into great detail of the millions who were died as political dissidents of regimes like the Soviet Union or the People's Republic of China, or the tens of millions who died as a result of collectivist economic policies. This has been researched in detail by contemporary scholars who have much improved access to public records of such regimes . What is important for those of a liberal and democratic left political orientation is to understand the generation of cognitive dissonance associated that becomes associated due to left-wing political loyalties  towards such regimes and how to recover from this mental disorder.
Again, this is expressed in a non-pejorative sense. It is perfectly understandable to feel sympathy for political leaders and governments who espouse left-wing political ideals, who champion left-wing causes but then to feel dissonance when they engage in dictatorial practises, authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Milošević's Yugoslavia, Mugabe's Zimbabwe, and Gaddafi's Libya all serve as recent examples. The ability of such regimes to easily slip from anticolonialism to racism, from armed liberation to armed suppression, from socialism to fascism is disconcerting, and as such a better understanding of political priorities and alliances is required.
The problem lies with the proposal that socialism is a greater political priority than democracy and freedom; the suggestion that a 'temporary' suspension of rights and freedoms is necessary to cement the establishment of a 'new society'. Just as Alexis de Tocqueville  gave justified warning of the 'tyranny of the majority', the prospect of a dangerous majority that would trample on the rights of individuals, so too that due warning must be given of a 'tyranny of socialism', that will trample over democratic rights and individual rights. A cascading effect is in play here; individual liberty (both positive and negative ) is required as the first and most important right, followed by democratic rights (for how is an individual supposed to make a democratic choice when they are not free?), followed then by the establishment of socialist ventures through the democratic co-operation of free individuals. To put it simply; democracy without liberty will lead to a tyranny of the majority, socialism without democracy will lead to fascism.
The importance of this to political allegiances directly follows. The primary political allies of libertarian and democratic socialists is not, as has often been assumed, the authoritarian and totalitarian socialists because it is inevitable, it is built in their economic and political system, that they shall become "left wing fascists". Instead, despite their differences, the primary allies are, regardless of differences in political and economic theory, other libertarians first and foremost and other democrats secondarily. Again, to reiterate - democracy must be built from foundations of liberty, and socialism must be built from foundations of democracy. Anything else will lead to the sort of terrorism that the twentieth century became notorious for.
Almost one hundred years ago, V. I. Lenin wrote a bombastic pamphlet entitled "Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder" (1920), where he condemned leftist opposition to reformist electoral participation, and their support for strong internationalism, libertarianism and 'council communism'. The fact that this publication contrasted so strongly with the pre-revolution "State and Revolution" (1917), which strongly advocated the 'withering away of the State' has not gone unnoticed and has been subject to much deserving ridicule on how those that acquire total power can very suddenly lose whatever principles they may have once had. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely - and there can be no doubt that once the Bolsheviks acquired absolute power they were absolutely corrupted.
This is all intuitively accepted by contemporary and young political activists of the left. Only a handful of increasingly irrelevant and intellectually ossified hardliners of yesteryear seriously think that authoritarian and totalitarian socialism has anything to offer. Perhaps one hundred years ago they may have had a shred of credibility. Perhaps in that vile period that we call the twentieth century the clash of totalitarianisms required one to take sides between two unpalatable extremes - after all the democratic countries made that sort of decision in choosing Stalin's Soviet Union over Hitler's Germany. But to fail to recognise that those times have long passed is to be trapped in a distasteful past, to be unable to adapt to the new circumstances is a senility, a weakness and mental infirmity of an age.
A bright future is available for young leftists of our time. Intrusions into the private and consensual lives of free and peaceful civilians by the State are largely considered abhorrent by increasing numbers, and secular approaches to ethics, morality and spirituality are the largest growth 'religion'. Theories of race have been discredited, and nationalism disappears with increasing connectivity, solidarity that transcends artificial borders. Grave concerns of the state of the environment will encourage mutual co-operation in the economy, an impetus for the only type of socialism that can succeed. Yes, history does favour the socialist left - as long as it can remember; first liberty, then democracy, then socialism.
 Alan Dowty, Closed Borders: The Contemporary Assault on Freedom of Movement, Yale University Press, 1989
 See Jeremy Benthem, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, FP 1789 and John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, FP 1863
 Giovanni Gentile and Benito Mussolini, Enciclopedia Italiana, 1932, pp847-884. It is very likely that Gentile was actually responsible for most of the text and the Mussolini simply endorsed it.
 Norberto Bobbio and Allan Cameron, Left and right: the significance of a political distinction, University of Chicago Press, 1997.
 Zeev Sternhell, Mario Sznajder, Maia Ashéri. The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution. Princeton University Press, 1994
 For example the revealing study by a former member of the Politbureau of the Soviet Union, Alexander Yakovlev. A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia. Yale University Press, 2004
 As this articles is about left-wing fascism it uses these as examples; the lessons learned however are equally important for members of the democratic right.
 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, FP 1835 (vol I), 1840 (vol II)
 In the manner used by Berlin, see: Isiah Berlin, Five Essays on Liberty, Oxford Univeristy Press, 2004
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