There’s a lot of name-calling going on right now between the left and right. They’re both calling each other Fascists, and the right is also calling the left Communists.
Unfortunately, most using these terms don’t know their actual meanings, or how much overlap they actually have when they go poorly—which they always do.
Let’s start by defining both Communism and Fascism.
- A political theory advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.
- A form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, as well as strong regimentation of society and of the economy.
The diagram isn’t perfect, but it’s largely accurate.
- The left is saying the right is being Fascist by supporting racism. That one is pretty clearly Fascist, with 1930’s Germany being the case in point. –> FASCIST
- The right is saying the left is being Fascist by trying to force people to wear face masks during a pandemic. I think this one is universal because it’s a matter of public good. –> UNIVERSAL
- The right is saying the left is being Fascist by restricting free speech. I think this one is Both because both Communism and Fascism strictly controlled any messaging that contradicted the official narrative. –> BOTH
- The right is saying the left is being Communist by encouraging class warfare and wealth distribution. I think this one is spot on because it’s perfectly in line with Marx’s original ideas. –> COMMUNIST
- The left is accusing the right of standing by, and even being supportive, while the current president rather overtly stands up a Fascist structure of government. And I think this one is Fascist, although it’s moreso Totalitarian, since Communist governments can have that character as well. –> FASCIST
What I find interesting about this is that—using this framework at least—both the left and right are engaging in behavior can be considered Fascist.
The left has created a movement that functions much like a totalitarian government in the sense that there is only one approved narrative, and any deviations from it can lead to the loss of one’s livelihood.
Whether that comes from officially from the state itself or from an unofficial moral police force, makes little difference. This dynamic is amplified by the desire of some within the movement to codify their beliefs into law as well.
Another major aspect of this is not just that there are approved and banned narratives, but approved and banned topics. This level of control of what can and cannot be discussed, and in what way, are characteristic of extreme Communism and Fascism, not free and open democracies.
Simultaneously, the left is accusing the right of being complacent while the current president moves us towards a totalitarian government, which, interestingly, tend to the look the same whether they come from the left or right. Common observations and complaints include:
- Stopping Whitehouse briefings
- Kicking journalists out of the White House
- Refusing to divulge the details and contents of conversations with foreign leaders
- Viciously attacking people who speak out against the president
- Making attempts to limit the voting of people who are likely to vote democratic
- Making attempts to limit voting via mail
This is strange behavior to observe in a party accusing the left of Fascism on free speech.
What’s interesting is that this hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance—from both sides—doesn’t necessarily make them wrong about their claims.
They could both be wrong or wrong about any combination of their claims, at any given time.
The important point is that discovering the opponents’ weakness or shame doesn’t give one the leeway to ignore their own. Or at least it shouldn’t.
But that seems to be the sentiment among those who are attacking at the highest volume.
Evidently it’s ok to shut down speech because, well, “just look at them!”. And evidently it’s ok to tamper with the underpinnings of a democratic republic because, well, “just look at them!”.
All this is to say that whether we label something Communist or Fascist, the underlying problem is not the label, but the effect.
If you imagine the extreme left and right sitting not on a linear spectrum but rather on a bar of steel that’s been bent to meet at the ends, they are the ends that touch.
Where they meet is totalitarianism. They meet in a place where Stalin’s government and The Third Reich look remarkably similar.
And that’s not a place anyone in the center wants to go. So forget the labeling and name-calling.
Think about the first principles that we’re trying to protect.
- The ability to say and discuss anything, as long as it doesn’t directly promote violence
- The principle of self-sacrifice for the country, and your fellow American
- The ability to criticize those in power
- The ability for everyone to be heard via their vote
- Transparency in government
I think most would agree with these as central tenets of a healthy democracy, and a healthy country.
And attacks on these might come in many forms, and take on many different names, but they’re still dangerous regardless of the clothes they wear.
So let’s focus on that—the principles and those who are attacking them—not the left/right name-calling on the random item of the week.