Different Shades of Red
A commenter to one of my recent posts blamed me forcefully for suggesting that wokism and fascism “are not so different anyway.” The kinship between wokism and socialism on the one hand and fascism on the other is often blurred by the fact that they cater to different beneficiaries and pursues different victims; but they demonstrate the same ignorance of economics, the same preference for coercive collective choices, the same hatred for anything that looks like classical liberalism or libertarianism, and, in practice if not in theory, the same attraction for political power. For those interested in the alliance of different totalitarian ideologies against classical liberalism, I cannot do better than recommend Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (University of Chicago Press, 1944 ); my recent review of this important book may serve as a poor substitute.
Labels are only labels, but it is often useful to realize that different phenomena with different names share some common denominators. Sometimes and despite political propaganda, they can be seen as different shades of the same color. Consider the following.
In 1932, Benito Mussolini, published an article on fascism in the Encyclopedia Italiana. An “authorized translation” soon appeared in English under the title The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism, first in The Political Quarterly and then as a book (London: Hogarth Press, 1933). Il Duce expressed many ideas that today’s people in the woke and socialist galaxy would not reject, at least once after they get more firmly in power. I am quoting from the book (note that by “Liberalism,” Mussolini broadly means “classical liberalism,” not “liberalism” in the American sense of progressive):
Fascism·may write itself down as “an organized, centralized and authoritative democracy.” (p. 16)
Fascism has taken up an attitude of complete opposition to the doctrines of Liberalism, both in the political field and the field of economics. (16)
For if the nineteenth century was a century of individualism (Liberalism always signifying individualism) it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism, and hence the century of the State.” (20)
Whoever says Liberalism implies individualism, and whoever says Fascism implies the State. (23)
[The Fascist State] meets the problems of the economic field by a system of syndicalism·which is continually increasing in importance, as much in in sphere of labour as of industry. (23-24)
Fascism desires the State to be a strong and organic body, at the same time reposing upon broad and popular support. (24)
The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone. (24)
Hayek quotes another reflection from Mussolini (op. cit., p. 91):
We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become.
In his book The Coming American Fascism (New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1936), American fascist Lawrence Dennis explained:
The authoritarian state can say ‘Stop” to business or in the market, as the liberal state cannot do.” (p. 102)
Social planning is the outstanding imperative of public order and material abundance in the present day and in the near future. (104)
Under a fascist State … the property owner or corporate management which contested a new law would not be allowed to advance any argument assessing a private right as superior to the right of the State. (157)
Both fascism and communism are, in the technical sense of the term, radical schemes for rationalizing the social machinery, just as engineers have rationalized the machinery and technology of production. (164)
Fascism does not accept the liberal dogmas as to sovereignty of the consumer or trader in the free market. (180)
My honorable contradictor also accused me of invoking the h-word, which in fact I had not done. But if we forget one specific kind of racism and xenophobia, we can trace the kinship of the wearer of the h-name and his ideology with socialism and thus wokism. The 1920 program of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, an interesting document, declared:
We demand that the State shall make it its primary duty to provide a livelihood for its citizens. …
We demand the nationalization of all businesses which have been formed into corporations (trusts).
We demand profit-sharing in large industrial enterprises.
We demand … the prohibition of all speculation in land. …
The publishing of papers which are not conducive to the national welfare must be forbidden. …
Our nation can achieve permanent health only from within on the basis of the principle: The common interest before self-interest.
In my review of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, I emphasized some related ideas of the Nobel economist:
Many Nazis or Nazi forerunners came from Marxism or socialism. Professor Werner Sombart, a former Marxian socialist, had welcomed World War I as the “German War” in defense of the “German idea of the state” against the commercial civilization of England. This German state stood over and above individuals, who had no rights but only duties. Nazi philosopher of history Oswald Spengler thought that Prussianism (the German ideal of the state) and socialism were the same. Moeller van den Bruck, whom Hayek describes as “the patron saint of National Socialism,” thought that the classical liberals were the archenemy.
Although Hitler was a politician and not a political philosopher by a long stretch (a very long stretch), he was quoted as saying that “basically National Socialism and Marxism are the same.” Hayek tells us that, according to a leader of German “religious socialism,” liberalism was the doctrine most hated by Hitler. On the softer fascist side, Mussolini himself was a former socialist.