San Diego — A liberal acquaintance published a link on Facebook where one of his progressive sites attempted to define the major political/economic “isms” of the day with the clear implication that only liberals understood what the terms really meant; and that conservatives, libertarians, essentially any non-liberals did not understand the terms and so used them incorrectly. Liberals and progressives on the other hand, in this as in all things, had the pipeline to ultimate truth which, at least in this case, they would share.
But if they accept that post’s definitions they are no closer to the truth than those they disparage.
The essay attempted, in a vastly oversimplified way, to define “Nazism,” “Fascism.” “Socialism,” “Communism,” and “Capitalism.” Clever. Unfortunately it was incorrect in several places, and incorrect by ommision and selective inclusion is several more..
It tried, for example, to frame Nazism as a political philosophy, but in practice it was basically a cult of personality run by paranoid and power hungry people using a very flawed belief in a sort of social and biological Darwinism wrapped in theological fervor. It incorporated the belief in and the creation of a fantasy “race” incorrectly using the term “Aryan” which was the original label for an Indo-European group who would have looked nothing like the Nordic ideal the Nazis deluded themselves into thinking included them.
The closest to a coherent economic philosophy the Nazis got was the simple expedient of blaming others for their problems by feeding upon latent hostilities toward several groups of, to them, sub-human “races.”
The closest political model for the Nazis would have been Fascism. Named for the bundle of reeds and axe that was the symbol of power of the Romans, the fasces, they even modeled their structure to some extent on Imperial Rome. But the essay’s section on Fascism was poorly defined and failed to note that economically, the Nazis (National Socialist Worker’s Party) was not even true to the socilistic part of their name and allowed private ownership of the means of production though it was totally under the control of the government. Think Krupp and his steel mills.
We usually associate Fascism, another combination of economic and political philosophies, with the Nazis but in fact it was formulated in Italy under Mussolini who drafted the only official definitions of it in which he outlines three principles of a fascist philosophy:
1.”Everything in the state”. The Government is supreme and the country is all-encompassing, and all within it must conform to the ruling body, often a dictator.
2.”Nothing outside the state”. The country must grow and the implied goal of any fascist nation is to rule the world, and have every human submit to the government.
3.”Nothing against the state”. Any type of questioning the government is not to be tolerated. If you do not see things our way, you are wrong. In practice you were also likely… dead.
It was also the foundation for a warrior culture. In 1934 Mussolini wrote,
“Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of Pacifism — born of a renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice in the face of sacrifice. War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have courage to meet it. All other trials are substitutes, which never really put men into the position where they have to make the great decision — the alternative of life or death….
…The Fascist accepts life and loves it, knowing nothing of and despising suicide: he rather conceives of life as duty and struggle and conquest, but above all for others — those who are at hand and those who are far distant, contemporaries, and those who will come after…”
Socialism, a polar opposite of Fascism on many levels, was also poorly defined by the essay and its hallmark approach of “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need” based on Rousseau’s complete misunderstanding of simple, tribal communal structures was ignored. Socialism requires the belief that production per se is a zero sum game and that in order for some to survive others must be held back. This may be true in small, primitive tribal or family band units; but it is not even remotely true in modern industrial societies.
Though couched in the language of fairness to support the downtrodden, reality has shown otherwise as everywhere it has been implemented it devolves quickly into a situation where the government takes from the productive to support those who will not participate in production.
Socialism, an economic philosophy, in seeking social justice, puts the means of production into the hands of the “public” meaning, from a practical standpoint, the state. It allows the state to define, based on the goals du jour, just who can be taken from and who is to be given to in order to establish economic equality throughout its populace. It sees people as poor pawns driven wherever the winds of class warfare drive them and therefore deserving of an enlightened state authority to set things right and level not just the playing field, but the results as well. It harbors the notion that for one to succeed, another most fail; that if one person gains it is only through the taking of things from another. Wealth, it argues, should be distributed evenly not based on skill or effort but on the goal of social equality.
In that sense of “public ownership” socialism and communism, a term coined in the 1840s, are the same. But under communism, a combination of political and economic philosophies. or at least its theoretical proposition, the role of the state is more extreme. Not only does the state own everything, but people, regardless of job or work, are paid essentially identically. Regardless of effort or productivity, all get the same results. It usually results in only the equality of common misery but it does take the traumatic decisions about life’s. The state and its autocracy are, of course, distinct from the common man and in exchange for their care of the masses are not precluded from reaping the spoils of their social depredation.
The linked essay further noted that Communism requires a violent overthrown of the existing system in order to establish a state where all property is owned communally. That is not true. Marx and Engels wrote that while it might come to that, it was better if it could be done by fiat and subterfuge, with out and out revolution a last option. He feared that it likely must be done but not because it was an ideal approach… simply a probably necessary one.
Where the essay really fell down was in trying to define Capitalism. It said capitalism believed in profit but, recognizing that not all can make a profit required the government to step in to help those who failed. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Capitalism does indeed use success and its rewards as a motivator for effort and energy. But it has never seen government as a safety net for those who chose not to participate or whose failure was through their own poor choices or activities. Indeed the most critical freedom in a capitalistic society is the freedom to fail and face the consequences.
Someone blind-sided by life or nature or circumstances beyond their control aside, a capitalist structure specifically does not allow government to be in the rescue business precisely because of the ease with which that power devolves into “crony” capitalism where government can decide who to help and who not to help. Helping those hurt by forces outside of their control is a human, ethical duty, but it is not, in pure capitalism, the prevue of the government. When government, unable financially to save all in need from its treasury, can pick and chose, corruption is inevitable.
That corrupt cronyism so completely tilts the playing field as to render the concept of equal opportunity to TRY but with no guarantee of result pointless since in cases of its own choosing government does indeed guarantee the outcome. That is not capitalism per se but a rather bizarre mixture of socialism and fascism. The very concept of something “too large to fail” is anathema to real capitalism.
So read such biased “explanations” with a grain of salt. Francis Bacon said that humans prefer to believe what they prefer to be true. Even minimal experience shows that we will go so far to accept “evidence” that supports our own beliefs and reject “evidence” to the contrary that often even the admonition to research the truth for one’s self is wasted. H.L. Menken opined that the chief occupation of mankind was indulging in passionate beliefs that which are palpably untrue. And it is that conflict of unshakable faith in opposing but equally unsupportable positions that has brought us to the political gridlock, animosity, and danger point we are currently in.
One side of our current political divide holds tight to a fantasy world that cannot be because it violates the very core of human nature. The other side holds equally tight to a highly filtered and equally fanciful history that never was. Neither side seems to hold any stock in the principles and documents upon which this nation was founded and from which we rose to greatness on the world stage.
I do fear we are seeing the beginning of the end for our country and the hopes with which it was created. We are on our way to becoming just another in a long sad litany of great nation states that forgot who it was, eschewed its founding principles, and threw itself on the midden heap of history to make way for the rise of the next great power. How sad. What a waste.