Words are like knives; they become dull with use until eventually they can’t dissect and divide reality with any precision. And certainly there is no more overused and abused word than “fascism.”
A short explanation
Benito Mussolini, originally a communist, a revolutionary socialist, realized that the communist slogan, “Workers of the world unite,” was a myth. For he understood that love of country, patriotism, had more appeal than “international socialism.” So he invented “national socialism,” calling it “fascism” which he defined as: “Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”
When World War I started, Mussolini was validated when the workers fought on the side of their own country, not against their “capitalist oppressors.” Nationalism trumped the “class solidarity” myth of the communists.
His former comrades, embittered by his flaunting of party doctrine as well as the dreadful causalities Italy suffered in the war, called him “a deviationist,” a fascist. And so it has been since then: anyone disagreeing with the communists and progressives is routinely called a fascist.
Each of us, perhaps, under the pervasive influence of the left has used the word, thinking it a measure of sophistication as well as an effective way to demean opponents by associating them with Hitler, who only in the late 1930s came to be the despised uber embodiment of fascism.
‘Different brand of same snake oil’
Fascism then is a communist heresy, and heresies, like family feuds, often generate the most destructive hatreds. Thus Hitler, leading his National Socialist German Worker’s Party (i.e. the Nazi Party), railed against the communists because he was pedaling a different brand of the same statist snake oil.
Though Hitler was not really a nationalist, for he was creating a trans-national racist state based on genocide and slavery which was similar to what his communist admirer, Stalin, was doing in the Russian empire. In fact, it was the Allies, composed of various peoples with strong national allegiances, who crushed the fascist Axis powers.
That the communists and fascists have been enemies leads many to think of them as occupying opposite ends of the political spectrum. But this is no more reasonable than believing that since America and Russia were allies in World War II, that they were ideological twins.
Besides fascist Germany and communist Russia were allies between 1939 and 1941 in their mutual, rapacious desire to carve up Poland. However, this compact was but a slight cover, masking their geopolitical and tribal antagonisms stretching back into the dim past.
In reality, communism, state socialism, and fascism, “state capitalism,” are two sides of the same coin; their common, overriding trait being centralized, totalitarian power.
This makes both of them the polar opposite of a constitutional republic in which “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God,” as President John F. Kennedy said.
Scientism cannot be applied to society
Since great scientific progress has been made in the last 200 years, certain thinkers decided that similar progress could be made if science was applied to society. But humans aren’t rats in a social experiment. This misapplication of science is sometimes called “scientism.” As the saying goes, when one is devoted to using a hammer then everything resembles a nail.
Nonetheless, misapplying science to society continues to arouse the imaginations of influential people who want to perfect society, as always, at other people’s expense. As columnist William Pfaff, wrote, “The idea of the total transformation of society through political means remains the most influential myth of modern times.”
For example, the renowned engineer, Herbert Hoover, as President Hoover, thought he could engineer America into prosperity after the 1929 Crash. FDR, unfortunately, doubled down on such policies. As the celebrated, liberal journalist Walter Lippmann noted, Hoover’s policies were continued by FDR though on a larger scale, extending the depression another eight years.
Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, “Brave New World,” is a funny and scary satire on a futuristic, over-organized society based on scientism; he even has a character named, “Benito Hoover!” As the equally unsubtle Clint Eastwood reminds us, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
Governments, as essential as they are, also have limitations.
Terry Scambray taught English at Fresno City College and has published in The New Oxford Review, Commonweal, Touchstone, The Chesterton Review, American Thinker and elsewhere.