Saturday, March 8, 2014

On Fascists and Socialists

On Fascists and Socialists

In this country (the U.S.A.), the terms "fascism" and "socialism" appear to carry roughly equal negative weight among those who are better educated.  Among the general populace, the latter term is by far the more pejorative -- and frightening.

This is understandable in view of the propaganda that has been carried out here for so long.  But this might not be the only country in which these two terms are being conflated.  So it may be worthwhile to try to distinguish between the two.

In Europe, especially in Central, Southern and Eastern Europe, the genuine socialists and fascists have been at war for close to a century, perhaps much longer if one loosens the definitions.

Although fascism and socialism as we know them started in Europe, they have since spread all over the world.  They manifest themselves in many ways in the systems of government that are in place, including what we have in this country.  And the conflict, often violent, between these ideologies continues, all over the world.

The choice between them has always been stark. Although both fascists and socialists may be regarded as "statists", believing in the power of government, they differ as to who should be in control of the government and for whose purposes the government should work.

The fascists typically believe that government should be controlled by an elite that is either emerging or in place, typically drawn from the landlord, industrial and financial hierarchies, which are often interwoven.  Anything that threatens this, they seek to extinguish, usually brutally and completely.

To do this, they appeal to nationalism, often of either the narrowest or the imperial kind, and they thrive on ethnic strife, seeking to divide the populace, and so also the workers, along ethnic lines. They attempt to villianize ethnic groups as well as unions and other alliances of workers. For the woes suffered by the populace and the country, they blame these groups and alliances as well as perceived external threats, seeking to link all of these together in people's minds. Constant propaganda, utilizing both commercial and governmental outlets, is used for this.

They then carry out programs of extermination and expulsion, both via paramilitary organizations and, once they have seized power over government, via the police and military, working both within and outside of the usual spheres of the legislatures, courts and executive offices.  Highly discriminatory and oppressive laws are enacted and enforced.  Slayings of union leaders, terror campaigns aimed at cowing villagers and workers, imprisonment and slaughter of opposition leaders and students, campaigns of ethnic cleansing and more are the hallmarks of the fascists. 

The socialists believe that the workers (and peasants, in agrarian countries) should have greater influence and power over government and be entitled to a greater share of the wealth generated by the work they do. So anything that divides workers and peasants is something they consider pernicious and fight against. In doing this, they run up against the structures that have been historically established in most regions of the world -- structures in which peasants and workers are at the bottom of the feeding chains, with laws and force being used to keep them there.

So socialists typically find themselves in conflict with the affluent and typically blame certain sections of these for much of the ills of the populace and country.  When they are able to wield some power themselves, true socialists attempt to undermine and take away the power accrued by the affluent elite.

I could go on and list some of the successes and failures of both fascist and socialist ventures. But that would take too long -- and so I'll let others have their say.

-- Arjun


  1. As far as democratic control over the institutions of governance is concerned,
    there does not seem to be much difference between socialists and fascists are
    concerned insofar as they both seek dictatorial control, the phrase ' dictatorship of the proletariat' coming to mind as a description of the end of the
    Tsarist regime. Hitler's brown shirts were taken from the ranks of the unemployed and wreaked havoc on intellectuals much like the regimented communists of the Stalinstic era. The result of both authoritarian regimes was
    primarily a weak currency brought about due to an unsustainable subsidy
    regime needed to keep inflation under control. Initiative and entrepreneurial ability were and are severely discouraged. We could do with a better standard
    of education with a certain degree of community involvement.