Tribalism has and will always be the essence of humanity.
Since the first time we stepped on Earth, humans have placed themselves into specific groups for survival. As time goes on, civilizations advance, and humanity learns, our ability to identify and characterize our tribal identities has increased. In modernity, we have become adept at labeling a group and assigning them certain stereotypes, regardless of its supposed benefit of not. Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez are Democratic socialists while Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are conservative republicans. Our understanding of politics is nested within the monumental French Revolution, which established the notion of a left-right spectrum in politics. It [the left-right spectrum] specifically referred to the position of members in legislative assembly and their relevant political ideology in regards to the Revolution. The left was far more pro-revolution, pro-reform, whereas the right was more concerned with preserving the status quo and order.
This all sounds relevant today. We identify ideology, characterize its impact, and assign it to those with applicable views. However, what happens when we don’t understand ideology? Well, we are quick to “tribalize” and misinterpret other views, leading to conflict and misunderstanding. For example, the claim that Donald Trump is a fascist and Nazi. The claim is completely baseless and is essentially a tactic used to discredit any sort of legitimacy. This sort of “mudslinging” is a bipartisan issue. Let us today, truly understand the nuanced position of Fascism as an ideology on the left-right spectrum.
“A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism.” – Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto
The same quote uttered by Marx in response to growing industrialization applies to Europe in the 1930s with fascism. Marx, although contributing to dozens of millions of deaths through his ideology, decisively identifies the short-lived and voracious nature of ideology, equating it to possession by ghost. This is precisely what happened in the wake of the Great Depression in 1929. Fascism was now the spectre and it spread across Europe like a wildfire.
Italy, Germany, Spain, and Japan all embraced this hyper-nationalistic, totalitarian, and racist ideology. The parasite of fascism now gripped and possessed the world after serious economic turmoil and political dislocations caused by the Treaty of Versailles. It seems we have conflated totalitarianism with fascism, and that any hint of totalitarianism is evidence for fascism. While being quite similar, the distinction is an important one as the characteristics of fascism differ from communism. It is evident that fascism is totalitarianism, however, the converse statement: totalitarianism is fascism, is completely wrong. Let’s examine the political, economic, and social implications of fascist ideology that set it apart from its other totalitarian peers.
The ideology calls upon society to become subservient to the state in order to achieve its goal of total hegemony. Unlike left-wing ideology, fascism focuses on racial hierarchy rather than class-conflict. Fascism seeks to transcend class by emphasizing an idea known as “rebirth” and by promoting populist ultra-nationalism. It frames itself as a champion of the people and as the crusader against decadence and moral decay, especially applicable during a time of chaos, e.g. The Great Depression. The aforementioned idea of rebirth is the direct response by fascism to moral decay, where citizens embrace their past heroism, youth, and greatness.
Economically, most fascist countries have practiced variations of one guiding principle, that principle being the states supremacy in all aspects of society. In accordance with that principle, fascists want to achieve power by bending economic interests to serve the state. This could be done naturally, but in practice, fascism nationalizes many industries in order to obtain domination. Fascism is not a left-wing ideology in regard to economics. It does not desire redistribution of wealth for the purpose of serving a collective good but rather favors significant economic intervention in order to aid the state with its goals. In fact, fascists despised radical leftism as they associated it with Jewish Bolshevism. It is this and many other distinctions that separate fascism from left-wing ideology.
The social principles of fascism can be described as racially motivated and hierarchically imposed by the dominant state. There is a constant drive for fear, hatred, and ignorance by party leadership in order to continue possessing citizens in service of the state. Scapegoats like the Jews and Bolsheviks were constantly used in order to spur public support for state action and legitimize the idea of rebirth in the face of moral corruption. In fact, four weeks after Adolf Hitler’s ascendance to the Chancellorship, the Reichstag was burned. Hitler immediately took the opportunity to denounce the burning and blamed it on the Communists in German politics. Hitler then proceeded with immense public support to purge the remaining political opposition.
Ultimately, the ideals of fascism are one of a kind. Even in countries where they openly declared their fascism, policies differed. Regardless of policy, there are identifiable characteristics that all fascist countries shared. It is important to be cognizant of these characteristics to ensure the prosperity of American democratic republicanism. While a subset of the right-wing sympathizes with fascism’s promise of order and attempts to shift its definition to the left wing, it is not in the best interest of right-wingers to support fascism. It seems like the next best option in times of chaos, however, history has proven it will undermine the core American values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and will essentially implant a tyranny masquerading as order and authority. Democracy is merely a transitional period between the tyranny of the majority (mob-rule) and tyranny of the minority (dictatorship). Americans must always be on their guard to protect liberty. As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it: “Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day.” Jefferson echoed a non-existent Marx’s words about ideology, stating ideological possession can and must be prevented by enlightening the people.
Written by Fedor Kirilenko
Griffin, Roger, The Nature of Fascism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991), p. 201.
“Thomas Jefferson: Enlighten The People, Generally, And Tyranny And Oppressions Of Body And Mind Will Vanish Like Spirits At The Dawn Of Day.”. 2019. Quotes.Net. Accessed February 20 2019. https://www.quotes.net/quote/40493.
Hofstadter, Richard. The American political tradition and the men who made it. New York: Vintage Books, 1989. Pg 16.