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12 December 2012

why are communists and fascists organic antagonists? I guess now that we're far removed from that era it's a bit hard for me to figure out why class warfare types are natural enemies of ethnic nationalist types though looking through history they seem to clash with each other wherever they arise. thoughts?
Ask instead this, "Which came first, the clash or the label?"
posted by Ardiril 12 December | 20:32
hmm. I guess internally on the streets they organize in much the same way (pseudo-militant populism) etc so they're ready for beef with other groups anyway so they might as well fight each other

On the macro, national level there's no real reason say the Nazis and the Soviets had to beef due to their internal structures except that both were expansionist so had to run into each other

I think on a social level the Left is more inclusive of people like gays, feminists etc that extreme Right types like to hate and purge

I guess we can find a basic bone of contention in that Communist types are inherently internationalist -- their whole organizing system wants to worldwide by design -- whereas right-wing types want to organize in more local/regional ways
posted by Firas 12 December | 20:40
I think it's ideological -- Communists believe that people should own the means of production. Fascists believe that the state should own the means of production.

I think the similarities basically show that left-wing fundamentalism and right-wing fundamentalism are equally subject to being taken over by power-hungry tyrants.

posted by occhiblu 12 December | 21:02
On the macro, national level there's no real reason say the Nazis and the Soviets had to beef due to their internal structures except that both were expansionist so had to run into each other

I don't think this is really that true. The Soviets were not really expansionist - particularly not on the scale of the Axis powers - (Poland aside, which had been sorted between them by the time of Barbarossa), and would've been quite happy to let the Fascists have Western and Southern Europe. Witness how they abandoned the Spanish to the Fascists.

As to the question: when I was a lad, it was about racism - but of course I'm talking about neo-Fascists here - more street gang than really politically motivated. We pinkos insisted that everyone was equal, and that multiculturalism was where it's at, while the Fascists were rather opposed to those ideas.

Also, some people just want a fight.
posted by pompomtom 12 December | 23:36
I have long considered the most infamous Communists (Stalin, Mao) as Fascists trying to disguise themselves as Socialists. Castro has long seemed the most ambivalent about keeping power versus keeping up the front, so he actually accomplished some things for his people, like its not-third-world health system. But meanwhile, the big-name Fascists usually had allies among the Point-Zero-One-Percent of Big Business who kept full control of their 'means of production' - their factories and their workers and their money. But while Communism had a loosely defined "international movement" behind it, Fascism is more a local phenomenon. In fact, I look at a lot of the local politics in the U.S. (most obviously in the stereotypical small-town South) and I see an American form of Fascism that you can't sustain on a national level, which is why I distrust local politicians even more than national ones. Even the totally-cool San Luis Obispo County, California I live in has a few "petty tyrants".

I got a kick out of Socialist-leaning types who used the term "Economic Democracy" to avoid using the C-Word or even the S-Word; because true Democracy is not the ally of any economic system, but it is definitely the adversary of Capitalism's personal accumulation of power. But I still consider the pure, idealistic form of Communism as an idea that has never really been tried (or maybe the process of trying to put it into practice always killed the idealism).

As for the non-inclusive nature of Fascism, that's just a time-proven method of gaining and holding power - scapegoating - and even some Communist rulers play that game once they're in power.
posted by oneswellfoop 12 December | 23:43
I think occhiblu has it.


I have long considered the most infamous Communists (Stalin, Mao) as Fascists trying to disguise themselves as Socialists

is entirely supportable.
posted by Miko 13 December | 00:00
"Organic Antagonists" is my new band name.
posted by BoringPostcards 13 December | 06:26
This is complicated because there's a lot of distortion around.

To start with, for context you have to go back to the world of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The dominant economic school was Laissez-Faire Capitalism, which in modern terms is an extremely small government school: they thought the government should not provide any welfare, nor be involved in infrastructure much (e.g. large road-building programmes).

Against this were socialists and communists like Marx, who opposed Laissez-Faire Capitalism but had a variety of different alternatives. Marx produced a detailed critique of capitalism, but wrote almost nothing about what should replace it, he seems to have believed in a vague anarchy where he could "hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind". When Communists had a successful revolution in Russia, instead of vague anarchy, they implemented a state-controlled economy where everything was decided by experts at the top with detailed plans. Communists also believed in big changes to society, were generally anti-church, and were internationalist in outlook, believing in a universal brotherhood of mankind.

Against the Communists, nationalist groups emerged. They had no particular economic agenda, but were against state control of the economy, against changes to society, pro-church, and belived in the national interest of their national, ethnic or language group, rather than mankind as a whole.

Fascist groups marketed themselves as a "third way" between Nationalism and Socialism/Communism. They were socially conservative, nationalist rather than internationalist, and against a state-planned economy. However economically they took some elements from socialism. In particular they were in favour of large state spending on infrastructure, like roadbuilding and the modernization of the Rhine, and believed in some state regulation: for instance controls on currency exchange, and the state championing large businesses.

However, they were fervently anti-Communist. Defeating communism was a major goal for them, they just thought that adopting a few socialist economic elements would help them in the big fight against a communist revolution.

So, fascists were always anti-Communist, right from the start. For this reason, they've generally been called "right-wing". Also, while things like state-funded highways seemed like a radical left-wing idea at the time, in modern terms this doen't seem particularly leftish: many people on the modern right think that's a good idea.

Recently, there's been a move by some on the modern right-wing to recategorize the Fascists as being a "left-wing" movement. There's a small grain of truth to that: economically they are somewhat to the left of Nineteenth Century Laissez Faire Capitalists, and to modern Libertarians, who don't like government-funded highways etc. But I don't think it's really enough to justifyit: socially Fascists are very much on the right by any standards, and economically they're somewhat on the right by most modern standards.
posted by TheophileEscargot 13 December | 06:45
Fascist groups marketed themselves

To be fair, marketing only took them so far. They didn't end up garnering what power they did only through their great branding strategies.
posted by Miko 13 December | 08:52
thanks TheophileEscargot. Yeah I totally reject that "Fascism is left wing" idea because I don't think left-right is really about laissez faire vs collectivism, it's about a whole perspective including cultural issues. On the other hand, I think you can definitely make another axis about totalitarianism vs individual freedom in which both fascists and communists in practice would lie on the same totalitarian end of the scale

What contributed to my thinking about this was a guy called Bal Thackery who just died in India. I basically knew him as an extreme hindu nationalist, anti-Muslim type, but also not Pan-Hindu; he'd happily demonize Hindus outside of his particular ethnic background. I've been reading about him and it turns out he didn't get his start by being anti-Muslim; back in the 60s he was hating on South Indians and communists and socialists! Part of that might just have been cause they were the guys in power but it seemed like a pattern to me.

I really feel now like when things get out of hand and the fascist type people start rioting on the streets and the law and order situation is out of control, liberal democrats might not really have an answer in these situations. It's the leftist extremists who'd be organized enough to fight back. Or I guess other ideologues, like in many countries Islamists are a force who're capable of acting in a countervailing way. So when things go bad it's always the liberal democrats who're left hanging by a thread.
posted by Firas 13 December | 09:44
Volcano: an Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry || So...I had to cut an ungodly amount of fat from a cheapish pork shoulder.