Left Wing Fascism: A Senile Disorder

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 [1]; 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 [2]), 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) [3]

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 [4]. 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 [5].

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 [7]. 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 [8] 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 [8] 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 [9]) 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.

Endnotes

[1] Alan Dowty, Closed Borders: The Contemporary Assault on Freedom of Movement, Yale University Press, 1989
[2] See Jeremy Benthem, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, FP 1789 and John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, FP 1863
[3] 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.
[4] Norberto Bobbio and Allan Cameron, Left and right: the significance of a political distinction, University of Chicago Press, 1997.
[5] Zeev Sternhell, Mario Sznajder, Maia Ashéri. The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution. Princeton University Press, 1994
[6] 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
[7] 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.
[8] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, FP 1835 (vol I), 1840 (vol II)
[9] In the manner used by Berlin, see: Isiah Berlin, Five Essays on Liberty, Oxford Univeristy Press, 2004

Commenting on this Story will be automatically closed on October 16, 2011.

Comments

It has been pointed out that the libertarian socialist, Hal Draper, used a similar title in New International, Vol.14 No.7, September 1948, pp.208-212.

"Left-Wing Stalinism – A Senile Disorder"

http://www.marxists.org/archive/draper/1948/09/tito.htm

Especially pertinent is this quote: "... in those days the movement had not yet broken its umbilical cord; today our subjects are dreaming of crawling back into the womb."

And all of them are references to Lenin's "Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder".

Hal Draper's quote is criticising the Fourth International "Stalinotropism".

The Stalinotropism of the Fourth International leadership is flowering. We have seen how great is the gravitational pull of the Stalinist movement on the working class of Europe. Not its most important manifestation but certainly its extremest one is its effect on this section even of the Trotskyists.

It would be correct but superficial to compare the present trend of the FI with the “left opposition” days of 1929-33: that was an expression of the infancy of the movement; this is a phenomenon of senility. Or: in those days the movement had not yet broken its umbilical cord; today our subjects are dreaming of crawling back into the womb.

Draper is accusing the FI Trotskyites to using the same sort of 'reasoning' as the Stalin-bloc; which clearly wasn't an improvement at all. A further elaboration of the sordid affair is described by Jan Norden in some detail.

The Solution

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Part of the above essay raises the issue of cognitive dissonance. However, as George Orwell pointed out in 1984, it is quite possible that people can be trained to engage in the skill of Doublethink, where individual reason itself is circumvented to believe impossible and contradictory things simultaneously:

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself -- that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink.

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them....To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth

Another example is "blackwhite".

...this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.

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. ... 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.

There is more democracy in Libya than in most so-called left-wing western organizations including YOURS ZIONIST WHITE BOY. You've probably never visited Libya, probably NEVER interviewed members of the AFRICAN DIASPORA, do not associate with Africans or even read THE GREEN BOOK. If there is anyone engaging in IGNORANCE, ARROGANCE and FASCISM is YOU ZIONIST WHITE BOY! You are letting your zio-fascistic whiteness show!

Firstly Gaddafi RELINQUISHED POWER in 1977! The Libyan Jamahiriya is socialists and is DIRECT DEMOCRACY as outlined in the Green Book. In fact if you READ the Green Book you'll see that Marxist percepts are adopted BUT they are not followed hook-line-and-sinker. They are adjusted for the realities of Libyan society which has a large number of tribes and factions. Gaddafi also offers a rational critique of the flaws of parliamentary governance -- a critique that is sorely lacking from the WHITE-BOY Left.

Secondly, before you call-out two African nations as "fascist" ZIONIST WHITE BOY you need to take a good look at your self. Methinks this is nothing more than the POT calling the Kettle -- NIGGER!

There is more democracy in Libya than in most so-called left-wing western organizations including YOURS ZIONIST WHITE BOY.

Let us test this proposition.

The highest level of government in Libya is the Revolutionary Command Council, a twelve-person group headed by Gaddafi. This group is not elected and determines the powers of the Jamahiriya bodies. In other words, it has ultimate control of the country. Don't fool yourself, Gaddafi runs the show.

The Jamahiriya bodies consist of Basic People's Congresses in some 1,500 urban wards, 32 Sha'biyat People's Congresses for the regions, and the National General People's Congress. Whilst the level of decentralisation is model, it cannot possibly described as being as democratic in any substantial sense. Political parties are banned. Trade unions are banned (there are professional associations, but these have no labour rights). Libya has the worst record of press freedom in North Africa and the Middle East.

As the Amnesty International country report for Libya (2010) states: "Freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to be severely curtailed and the authorities showed little tolerance of dissent.... Activities that amount to the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and association remained criminalized... The death penalty was retained for a large number of offences, including for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression and association."

This was not a democracy (I'm using the past tense because events suggest that the current regime is on its last legs). Democracy is a system of government which allows freedom of expression and association. It accepts and even encourages dissent. A democracy does not execute people for expressing an opinion contrary to the State.

As Rosa Luxemburg stated:

Freiheit ist immer Freiheit der Andersdenkenden (Freedom is always freedom for dissenters).

There is no need to respond to your racist remarks. I'll just leave them here for others to read and draw their own conclusions, Anonymous.

Lev, don't you recognise an AIPAC (or similar) reverse-astroturfer when you see one?

fool
(unable to find a login)

The login is at http://isocracy.org/user - you'll be able to set a new password there as well.

Thanks for that. I'm wondering why the login (or even a link to it) was taken off the sidebar? Also, I'm wondering if notifications are working for anyone else?

Dear Lev,

Thanks for the helping to bury the decomposing body of the authoritarian left. It's a pity so many people have to waste their time burying an "intellectual" corpse that should have been publicly cremated decades ago.

All the very best,

Joseph Toscano

MOSCOW, February 22, 2008 (GayRussia.ru) – Young homophobic communist Pavel Tarasov, who 18 months ago infamously said that a “good faggot is a dead faggot”, has surfaced as a staffer for Communist presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov.

http://www.ukgaynews.org.uk/Archive/08/Feb/2202.htm

The Vietnamese authorities are tight-lipped when it comes to requests for comment on the fate of political dissidents, who are facing a growing crackdown on their activities.

When asked by email about the cases involving Nguyen Ngoc Quang and Nguyen Thu Tram, who have been forced to flee the country after being interviewed by the Guardian, the foreign ministry was giving little away.

"No individual is arrested, detained or imprisoned for their religion, belief and expression of their political views in Vietnam. Only those who violate the law are handled in accordance with the law," said Luong Thanh Nghi, a spokesman.

Yet events in Vietnam suggest otherwise. Since the Communist party congress in January, the authorities have steadily ratcheted up the pressure on dissidents.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/25/vietnamese-communist...

So something like the Political Compass then?

Close, but not quite. The Political Compass does differentiate between authoritarian/libertarian and left/right. However the former should be given priority over the latter. Political rights are the basic social system relationships, prior to economic organisation. Or, as mentioned in the original article from our perspective - first liberty, then democracy, then socialism.

To the biologist the problem of socialism appears largely as a problem of size. The extreme socialists desire to run every nation as a single business concern. I do not suppose that Henry Ford would find much difficulty in running Andorra or Luxembourg on a socialistic basis. He has already more men on his pay-roll than their population. It is conceivable that a syndicate of Fords, if we could find them, would make Belgium Ltd. or Denmark Inc. pay their way. But while nationalization of certain industries is an obvious possibility in the largest of states, I find it no easier to picture a completely socialized British Empire or United States than an elephant turning somersaults or a hippopotamus jumping a hedge.

The rest of the essay that quote appears in can be found at: http://irl.cs.ucla.edu/papers/right-size.html

It does of course, presuppose a particular type of socialist, and not the sort that we advocate here.

Nice work!

Article by Clive Ansley, http://www.canada.com/China+classical+fascist+state/7774938/story.html

But there is in fact such a thing as fascism, and it can be defined politically. Fascism refers to a state governed by a triumvirate composed of the military establishment, big industry, and a single monopolistic political party which prohibits the existence of any other political party. This triumvirate ruthlessly suppresses dissent or opposition of any kind and violently tramples upon civil liberties and human rights. It is totalitarian in that it exercises tight control over every agency or organization in the country, including courts and police. For example, the "People's Courts" in China today function precisely as did the "People's Courts" established by the German Third Reich.

Fascism also commonly diverts discontent by inciting virulent jingoistic nationalism and manufacturing foreign enemies in order to justify both war preparations and curtailment of individual freedoms in the name of "national security".

On Thu, September 12, 2013 7:50 am, Puffin wrote:
> Hi. Just read this, which is a useful diagram & idea:
> http://www.oocities.org/athens/agora/3199/newmodelexplanation.html

Not really; it assumes that freedom and equality are in contradiction with each other and are the two metrics by which a comparison can be made.

As a result it claims that fascism is a mid-point in freedom between capitalism and communism and argues that fascism offers as much freedom as socialism. Likewise, that communism and capitalism offer the same degree of equality, which of course there is some empirical evidence against.

The assumptions are wrong, and the results are wrong.