Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Who’s the fascist?
On Your Right
There’s been a lot of loose talk about fascism for the past couple years. It’s been one of the hottest insults used by the left. It’s almost as popular as the ubiquitous and much-overused “racist.” A relatively fresh example was Rep. Ilhan Omar saying Trump is “spewing his fascist ideology.”
Both “fascist” and “racist” are excellent examples of conversation stoppers, often used in lieu of ideas when the accuser is having the worse of an argument and wants to escape with an intact reputation. This is a disreputable tactic, but there are those for whom this matters not because they see themselves as empowered by their service of loftier goals.
Another example of misuse is the whole Antifa movement, short for anti-fascist, which the Anti-Defamation League defines as a “a loose collection of groups, networks and individuals,” noting “most ANTIFA members come from the anarchist movement or from the far left, though since Trump’s election, some people with more mainstream political backgrounds have also joined their ranks.”
Antifa, one will remember, is quick to use violence to silence those with whom they do not agree, whether in town hall meetings, university lectures, speeches or street protests. Or if one lives in Portland, Oregon, simply to snarl traffic, threaten citizens, brawl and be their thuggish selves in general. Often with the mildest of pushback from city officials, including the mayor. There is a disconnect somewhere here.
To understand why, one ought to begin with a brief review of fascist ideology. Many political scientists describe fascism as a phenomenon of the extreme political right, apparently believing that nationalism and especially populism are rightist in outlook, which is, at best, only partially true. They also, and more correctly, identify fascism with centralizing and statist tendencies.
One of the early lowlights in the intellectual history of fascism was none other than Benito Mussolini, who was also the first to put the doctrine into action on a national level in Italy. According to Mussolini’s rather pedantic “The Doctrine of Fascism,” published in 1915: “The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State — a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values — interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people.” Thus, “everything in the state, nothing against the State, nothing outside the state.”
It would be well to consider that last bit very carefully indeed, and then ask: “These days, who is seeking to involve the state in every aspect of our lives? What, exactly, is to be the mechanism that brings us free health care for all? How is free college for everyone and universal minimum income, free housing and the other bright, shiny enticements from the left’s bottomless bag of goodies to be provided and paid for?” The various programs of today’s Democratic Party advance the power of the state on seven-league boots, while hapless ordinary citizens struggle to put on their Birkenstocks to try to get out of the way.
While contemplating the irony in that, do not forget that it is the hard left that, more than any other political faction in America today, will use force against those with whom they disagree. They are opportunistic, often masked and when numbers favor it, ultraviolent. The mainstream media often sputter about the “alt-right,” but recent analysis by RealClearPolitics.com suggests this may be simple unwillingness to stray from a political dogma in which left equals good.Which is bad because it vitiates the possibility of a conversation based on real events.
Possibly the single most important intellectual development of the 17th and early 18th centuries was “liberalism,” which postulated an independent and autonomous humankind, endowed with political and legal rights in service of its liberty, and proposed that governments were contractual arrangements undertaken to protect these liberties, sometimes against the governments themselves.
It is this vision the modern left has striven to overthrow, sometimes successfully. In the past century, examples include fascist Italy, the USSR, Mao’s China, Peron’s Argentina and many others. In each case, the power of the state was vastly enlarged, ostensibly to provide better care for its citizens. In reality, each became a prison house with a national enterprise dedicated to the elimination of dissent. Because “everything in the state, nothing against the State, nothing outside the state.” Health care and college included. So I suppose the question is, “Who’s really ‘spewing fascist ideology’” here?
The answer matters.
Morgan Liddick’s column “On Your Right” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Liddick spent 27 years working for the U.S. Foreign Service, primarily living abroad. He also spent 12 years teaching U.S. history and Western civilization at community colleges in Colorado and Texas. He lived in Summit County as recently as 2015. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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