Nizer on Fascism and Communism
By David Henderson
I didn’t know that I would generate such discussion with my previous post about Ethel Rosenberg. Just to clear things up, Bryan Caplan’s comment is, of course, right. He was referring to the socialist movement, not individuals, as being “born bad.” And for it to be “born bad,” there had to be many socialists who were, well, bad. That was really my point, as I made clear in the first paragraph of my post.
On to another aspect of Nizer’s book. Nizer, by the way, was a hero of mine when I was a young teenager. At the same cottage in Canada where I read The Implosion Conspiracy two weeks ago, I also read Nizer’s My Life in Court when I was about 14. That book, especially the chapter titled, “Reputation: The Libel Case of Quentin Reynolds vs. Westbrook Pegler,” got me thinking for a while that I might want to be a lawyer. That was before I discovered economics.
In a section of The Implosion Conspiracy in which he deals with the famous Communist turned anti-Communist Elizabeth Bentley, he writes:
After graduating from Vassar and receiving a master’s degree from Columbia University, she had gone to Italy to study at the University of Florence. She became enamored with Fascist philosophy under Mussolini, and joined the university Fascist organization. However, after she returned to the United States, she joined the Communist Party.
Later, of course, she went to the FBI, confessed her role as a top spy for the Soviets, and became a double agent.
What I found interesting in the above passage was the “However.” There’s really not much difference between Communism and Fascism. Both put the state above the individual and both are totalitarian. But wait. It turns out that Nizer got it too, kind of. Because a couple of paragraphs later he writes:
First, in the phenomenon of interchangeable roles between Fascists and Communists, Mussolini was a radical socialist, before leading the Fascist movement. Hitler professed to be a democratic socialist, and even carried over part of the name to the Nazi leadership principle.
Elizabeth Bentley didn’t find the transition from fascism to communism any more difficult. The extreme points of the circle do meet. [DRH comment: I don’t think it’s a circle: It’s a two-dimensional space–one dimension is civil liberties and the other is economic freedom–in which Communism and Fascism are right there on top of each other with almost no civil liberties and almost no economic freedom.] The deadly antagonism of radical and reactionary movements involves more a quest for power than ideology. Their parallelism in authoritarian control and the denial of any consent of those ruled makes all differences in “principle” sheer sophistry. The objective is the same; “A few of us will tell all of you what is good for you.”
Obviously, from context, he sees Communism as “radical” and Fascism as “reactionary.” In fact, they are both radical, as Bentley, Mussolini, and Hitler understood.