In 1923 thejoumalist Isaac F.

Marcosson wrote admiringly in the�New York Times that "Mussolini is a Latin [Teddy] Roosevelt who�first acts and then inquires if it is legal. He has been of great service�to Italy at home."4 The American Legion, which has been for nearly�its entire history a great and generous American institution, was�founded the same year as Mussolim's takeover and, in its early years,�drew inspiration from the Italian Fascist movement. "Do not forget,"�the legion's national commander declared that same year, "that the�Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United�States."5�Mussolini was a particular hero to the muckrakers#those progressive liberal joumalists�who famously looked out for the little�guy.Wt�Fascism certainly had its critics in the 1920s and 1930s. Emest�Hemingway was skeptical of Mussolini almost from the start. Henry�Miller disliked Fascism's program but admired Mussolini's will and�strength. Son�Fhe nativist Ku�Klux Klan#ironically, often called "American fascists" by liberals#tended to despise�Mussolini and his American followers�(mainly because they were immigrants).'.�When the left did finally start attacking Mussolini in�eamest#largely on orders from Moscow#they lumped him in essentially the same category�as Franklin Roosevelt, the socialist�Norman Thomas, and the progressive Robert La Follette.12�The answer resides in the fact that Fascism was bom of a "fascist�moment" in Westem civilization, when a coalition of intellectuals�going by various labels#progressive, communist, socialist, and so�forth#believed the era of liberal democracy was drawing to a close.�It was time for man to lay aside the anachronisms of natural law, traditional religion,�constitutional liberty, capitalism, and the like and�rise to the responsibility of remaking the world in his own image.�God was long dead, and it was long overdue for men to take His�place. Mussolini, a lifelong socialist intellectual, was a warrior in�this cmsade, and his Fascism#a doctrine he created from the same�intellectual material Lenin and Trotsky had built their movements�with#was a grand leap into the era of "experimentation" that would�sweep aside old dogmas and usher in a new age. This was in every�significant way a project of the left as we understand the tenn today,�a fact understood by Mussolini, his admirers, and his detractors.�Mussolini declared often that the nineteenth century was the century�of liberalism and the twentieth century would be the "century of�Fascism." It is only by examining his life and legacy that we can see�how right#and left#he was.�Mussolini's Nietzschean contempt for the "slave morality" of�Christianity was sufficiently passionate that he'd sought to purge�Christians of all kinds from the ranks of Italian Socialism. In 1910,�Sorel's impact on Mussolini is vital to an understanding of�fascism because without syndicalism fascism was impossible.�Syndicalist theory is hi�[t's not quite socialism�and it's not quite fascism. Joshua Muravchik calls it "an illdefined�variant of socialism that stressed violent direct action and was simultaneously elitist�and anti-statist." Essentially, syndicalists�believed in�rule by revolutionary trade unions (the word is derived from the�French word syndicat, while the Italian wordfascio means "bundle"�and was commonly used as a synonym for unions). Syndicalism informed corporatist�theory by arguing that society could be�divided�by professional sectors of the economy, an idea that deeply influenced the New Deals�of both FDR and Hitler. But Sorel's greatest�contribution to the left#and Mussolini in particular#lay elsewhere:�in his concept of "myths," which he defined as "artificial combinations invented�to give the appearance of reality to hopes that inspire�men in their present activity." For Sorel, the Second Coming of�Christ was a quintessential myth because its underiying message#�Jesus is coming, look busy#was crucial for organizing men in desirable ways.21�For syndicalists at the time and, ultimately, for leftist revolutionaries of all�stripes, Sorel's myth of the general strike was the�equivalent of the Second Coming. According to this myth, if all workers�declared a general strike, it would cmsh capitalism and render the�proletariat#ramer than the meek#the inheritors of the earth.�Vhether the implementation of a general strike would actually have�this result didn't matter, according to Sorel. What mattered was mobilizing the masses�to understand their power over the capitalist mling classes. As Mussolini said in�an interview in

1932, "It is faith�that moves mountains, not reason. Reason is a tool, but it can never�be the motive force of the crowd." This kind of thinking has been�commonplace on the left ever since. Think of Al Sharpton when Think of Al Sharpton when allegedly confronted by the fact that the Tawana Brawley�"assault"�was a fake. "It don't matter" he's reported to have said. "We're�building a movement."22�Even more impressive was Sorel's application of the idea of myth�to Marxism itself. Again, Sorel held that Marxist prophecy didn't�need to be tme. People just needed to think it was tme. Even at the�tum of the last century it was becoming obvious that Marxism as social science didn't�make a whole lot of sense. Taken literally, Marx's�In other words, Marx�should be read as a prophet, not as a policy wonk. That way the�masses would absorb Marxism unquestioningly as a religious�dogma.�Sorel was deeoly influenced by the Pragmatism ofWilliam James,�who pioneered the notion that all one needs is the "will to believe."�u-guing that any religion that worked for the�believer was not merely valid but "tme." Sorel was an irrationalist�who took this sort of thinking to its logical conclusion: any idea that�can be successfully imposed#with violence if necessary#becomes�tme and good. By marrying James's will to believe with Nietzsche's�will to power, Sorel redesigned left-wing revolutionary politics from�scientific socialism to a revolutionary religious movement that believed in the utility�of the myth of scientific socialism. Enlightened�revolutionaries would act as if Marxism were gospel in order to�bring the masses under their control for the greater good. Today we�might call these aspects of this impulse "lying for justice."�Of course, a lie could not become "tme"#that is, successful#�unless you had good liars. This is where another of Sorel's major�contributions comes in: the need for a "revolutionary elite" to impose its will upon�the masses. On this point, as many have observed,�Mussolini and Lenin held almost identical views. Central to their�common outlook was the Sorelian conviction that a small cadre of�professional intellectual radicals#who were prepared to reject compromise, parliamentary�politics, and anything else that smacked�of�incremental reform#were indispensable to any successful revolutionary struggle. This�avant-garde would shape "revolutionary�consciousness" by fomenting violence and undermining liberal�institutions. "We must create a proletarian minority sufficiently numerous, sufficiently�knowledgeable, sufficiently audacious to substitute itself, at the opportune moment,�for the bourgeois minority,"�Mussolini channeled Lenin in pitch-perfect tones. "The mass will�simply follow and submit."24�Whatever else it may have been, however, one thing is clear: the�French Revolution was the first totalitarian revolution, the mother of�modem totalitarianism, and the spiritual model for the Italian�Fascist, German Nazi, and Russian Communist revolutions. A�nationalist-populist uprising, it was led and manipulated by an intellectual vanguard�determined to replace Christianity with a political�religion that glorified "the people" anointed the revolutionary vanguard as their�priests, and abridged the rights of individuals. As�Robespierre put it, "The people is always worth more than individuals ... The people�is sublime, but individuals are weak"#or, at any�rate, expendable.25�According to Rousseau, individuals who live in accordance with the general will are�"free" and�"virtuous" while those who defy it are criminals, fools, or heretics.�These enemies of the common good must be forced to bend to�the general will. He described this state-sanctioned coercion in�Orwellian terms as the act of "forcing men to be free" It was�Rousseau who originally sanctified the sovereign will of the masses�while dismissing the mechanisms of democracy as cormpting and�Rousseau's community is not defined�by ethnicity or geography or custom. Rather, it is bound together by�the general will as expressed in the dogmas of what he called a "civil�religion" and enforced by the all-powerful God-state. Those who�defy the collective spirit of the community live outside the state and�have no claim on its protections. Indeed, not only is the state not required to defend�antisocial individuals or subcommunities,�it is compelled to do away with them.29�Robespierre argued that only a "religious instinct" could defend the�revolution from the acid of skepticism. But the revoludonaries also�knew that before such faith could be attached to the state,

they had�to exterminate every trace of "deceitful" Christianity. So they embarked on a sweeping�campaign to dethrone Christianity. They reFascism is indebted to the French Revolution�in other ways as�well. Robespierre appreciated, as did Sorel and his heirs, that violence was a linchpin�that kept the masses committed to the ideals of�the Revolution: "Ifthe spring ofpopular govemment in time ofpeace�is virtue, the springs of popular govemment in revolution are at once�virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without�which virtue is powerless. Terror�not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general�principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs"34�"For the first time in history," writes the historian Marisa Linton,�"terror became an official govemment policy, with the stated aim to�use violence in order to achieve a higher political goal." The irony�The utility of terror was multifaceted, but among its chief benefits�was its tendency to maintain a permanent sense of crisis. Crisis is�routinely identified as a core mechanism of fascism because it shortcircuits debate�and democratic deliberadon. Hence all fascistic�movements commit considerable energy to prolonging a heightened�state ofemergency. Across the West, this was the most glorious boon�ofWorldWarL�Mussolini realized "there was no space in Italian politics for a party�that was both nationalist and Left."42�This, I think, distorts the picture. Mussolini did not move fascism�from left to right; he moved it from socialist to populist. An unAfter all, the notion�that political�power is and should be vested in the people was a classical liberal�position. Populism was a more radical version of this position. It's�still a "power to the people" ideology, but it is skeptical of the parliamentary�machinery of conventional liberalism (e.g., checks�and�Direct democracy and nationalization were two�of the main planks of the Fascist agenda. Mussolini also stopped�The key distinction for "producerism,"�as many called it, was between those who created wealth with their�own hands and those who merely profited from it. William Jennings�Mussolini's style was remarkably similar to Yasir Arafat's�(though Arafat was undoubtedly far more murderous). He played the�political game of claiming to seek peaceful accords and alliances�while straining to contain the more violent elements within his�movement. His�^rudely, Pragmatism is a form of relativism which holds that any belief that is useful�is therefore necessarily true. Conversely, any truth that is inconvenient or nonuseful�is necessarily untme. Mussolini's useful tmth was the concept of a�"totalitarian" society#he made up the word#defined by his famous�motto: "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing�against the State." The�Adolf Hitler:�Man of the Left�What Hitler got from Italian Fascism#and, as indicated above,�from the French and Russian revolutions#was the importance of�having an idea that would arouse the masses. The particular content�of the idea was decidedly secondary. The ultimate utility of ideas is�not their intrinsic truth but the extent to which they make a desired�action possible#in Hitler's case the destmcdon ofyour enemies, the�attainment of glory, and the triumph of your race. This is important�His opportunism, pragmatism, and megalomania�often overpowered any desire on his part to formulate a fixed ideological approach.�^.ccording to Rauschning, Hitler was�a pure opportunist devoid of loyalty to men or ideas#unless you call�hatred of Jews an idea#and willing to break oaths, liquidate people,�and say or do anything to achieve and hold power. "This movement�is totally without ideals and lacks even the semblance of a program.�Its commitment is entirely to action ... the leaders choose action on�a cold, calculating ana cunmng oasis. For National Socialists there�was and is no aim they would not take up or drop at a moment's notice, their only�criterion being the strengthening of the movement"�', Hitler had no�great foundational ideas or ideological svstem. His genius lay in the�realization that people wanted to rally to ideas and svmbols. And so�Nevertheless, the four significant "ideas" we can be sure Hitler�treasured in their own right were power concentrated in himself, hatred#and fear#of�Jews, faith in the racial superiority�of the�German Volk, and, ultimately, war to demonstrate and secure the�other three.�The Nazis rose to power exploiting anticapitalist rhetoric they indisputably believed.�Even

if Hitler was the nihilistic�cipher many�Nazism also emphasized many�of the themes of later New Lefts in other places and times: the primacy of race,�the rejection of rationalism, an emphasis on the organic and holistic#including environmentalism,�health food, and�exercise#and, most of all, the need to "transcend" notions of class.�For these reasons. Hitler deserves to be placed firmly on the left�because first and foremost he was a revolutionary. Broadly speaking,�the left is the party of change, the right the party of the status quo.�On this score, Hitler was in no sense, way, shape, or form a man of�the right. There are few things he believed more totally than that he�was a revolutionary. And his�\.nd his followers agreed. Yet for more than a�generation to call Hitler a revolutionary has been a form of heresy,�particularly for Marxist and German historians, since for the left revolution is�always good#the inevitable forward motion of the�Hegelian wheel of history. Even if their bloody tactics are (sometimes) to be lamented,�revolutionaries move history forward.�(For�conservatives, in contrast, revolutions are almost always bad#�unless, as in the case of the United States, you are trying to conserve�the victories and legacy of a previous revolution.)�You can see why the Marxist left would resist the idea that Hitler�was a revolutionary. Because ifhe was, then either Hitler was a force�for good or revolutions can be bad. And yet how can you argue that�Hitler wasn't a revolutionary in the leftist mold? Hitler despised the�bourgeoisie, traditionalists, aristocrats, monarchists, and all believers in the�established order. Early in his political career, he "had�A related definition of the right is that it is not merely in favor of�preserving the status quo but affirmatively reactionary, seeking to restore the old�order. This perspective obviously leaves much to be desired since most libertarians�are considered members ofthe right and�few would call such activists reactionaries. As we shall see, there is�"Reactionary" is one of those words smuggled in from Marxist�talking points that we now accept uncritically. Reactionaries in�. It is for this reason that Hitler saw himself in an�existential battle with the forces ofreaction. "We had no wish to resIf we put aside�for a moment the question of whether Hitlerism�was a phenomenon of the right, what is indisputable is that Hitler�was in no way conservative # a point scholars careful with their�words always underscore. Certainly, to suggest that Hitler was a conservative in�any sense related to American conservatism is lunacy.�American conservatives seek to preserve both traditional values and�the classical liberal creed enshrined in the Constitution. American�conservatism straddles these two distinct but overlapping libertarian�and traditionalist strains, whereas Hitler despised both of them.�Taken as a�whole, they point to a man who felt he had much to compensate for�and whose egocentrism knew no bounds. "I have to attain immortality," Hitler once�confessed, "even if the whole German nation�perishes in the process"11�Hitler suffered from an enormous intellectual inferiority complex.�A lifelong underachiever, he was etemally bitter about getting poor�grades in school. More important, perhaps, he resented his father�for any number of perceived offenses. /�Hitler's hatred of communists was also given new heat and�rength during the war, thanks largely to antiwar agitation on the�home front. German civilians starved along with the troops. They�' German Reds fed off this suffering, organizing�strikes against the govemment and demanding peace with the�Soviets and the establishment of German socialism. Hitler, who as�it would tum out had no problem with German socialism, saw�communist antiwar mobilization as treason twice over: it not only�betrayed the troops at the front but was done at the behest of a foreign power. Infuriated�by the fifth columnists, he railed, "What�was�the army fighting for if the homeland itself no longer wanted victory? For whom the�immense sacrifices and privations? The soldier�is expected to fight for victory and the homeland goes on strike�against it!"12�[t tumed out that�this antisocial, autodidactic misanthrope was the consummate party�man. He had all the gifts a cultish revolutionary party needed: oratory, propaganda,�an eye for intrigue, and an unerring instinct for�populist demagoguery. When he joined the party, its treasury was a�So, we are

supposed to see a party in favor of universal education,�guaranteed employment, increased entitlements for the aged, the expropriation of�land without compensation, the nationalization of industry, the abolition of marketbased�lending#a.k.a. "interest�slavery"#me expansion ofhealth services, and the abolition ofchild�labor as objectively and obviously right-wing.�Wliat the Nazis pursued was a form of anticapitalist, antiliberal,�and anti-conservative communitarianism encapsulated in the concept of Volksgemeinschaft,�or "people's community" The aim�was to�' The aim was to�transcend class differences, but only within the confines of the community. "We have�end� :he most striking thing about the platform was its concerted appeal to socialistic�and populist economics, including providing a livelihood for citizens; abolition of income from interest; the total confiscation of war�profits; the nationalization of tmsts; shared profits with labor; expanded old-age pensions; "communalization of department stores";�the execution of "usurers" regardless of race; and the outlawing of�child labor. (The�The aim was to�transcend class differences, but only within the confines of the community. "We have endeavored" Hitler explained, "to depart from the�extemal, the suoerficial, endeavored to forget social origin, class,�profession, fortune, education, capital and everything that separates�men, in order to reach that which binds them together."13 Again and�again, Nazi propaganda, law, and literature insisted that none of the�"conservative" or "bourgeois" categoncs snould hold any German�back from fulfilling his potential in the new Reich. In a perversely�ironic way, the Nazi pitch was often crafted in the same spirit as liberal sentiments like "a mind is a temoie thing to waste" and "the�content of their character." This sounds silly in the American context�because to us race has always been the more insumiountable barrier�than class. But in Germany class was always the crucial dividing�line, and Nazi anti-Semitism provided one of many unifying concepts that all "tme" Germans, rich and poor, could rally around.�The�For another, the "social�space" the Nazis were fighting to control was on the left. Not only�rsis typified by Shirer but most Marxist�analysis concedes that the Nazis aimed first to "destroy the left" before they went after the traditionalist right. The reason for this was�that the Nazis could more easily defeat opponents on the left because they appealed to the same social base, used the same language,�and thought in the same categories. A similar phenomenon was on�The Nazis may not have called themselves left-wingers, but that's�almost irrelevant. For one thing, the left today#and yesterday#�constantly ridicules ideological labels, insisting that words like "liberal" and "left" don't really mean anything. How many times have�we heard some prominent leftist insist that he is really a "progressive" or that she "doesn't believe in labels"? For another,�the "social�Not only�the conventional analysis typified by Shirer but most Marxist�analysis concedes that the Nazis aimed first to "destroy the left" before they went after the traditionalist right. The reason for�this was�that the Nazis could more easily defeat opponents on the left because they appealed to the same social base, used the same�language,�and thought in the same categories. A similar phenomenon was on�display during the 1960s, when the New Left in the United States#�and throughout Europe#attacked the liberal center while largely ignoring the traditionalist right. In American universities,�for example,�conservative faculty were often left alone, while liberal academics�were hounded relentlessly.�The Nazis' ultimate aim was to transcend both left and right, to�advance a "Third Way" that broke with both categories. But in the�real world the Nazis seized control of the country by dividing, conquering, and then replacing the left.�Fhis is the monumental fact of the Nazi rise to power that has�been slowly airbmshed from our collective memories: the Nazis�campaigned as socialists. Yes, they were also nationalists, which in�the context of the 1930s was considered a rightist position, but this�was at a time when the "intemationalism" of the Soviet Union�defined all nationalisms as right-wing. surcij we've leamed rrom�the parade of horribles on offer in the twentieth century that nationalism isn't inherently right-wing#unless we're prepared to call�Stalin, Castro, Arafat, Chavez, Guevara, Pol Pot, and, for that

matter, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy,�right-wingers. Stalin himself mled as a nationalist, invoking�"Mother Russia" and dubbing Worid War II the "great patriotic war."�But even if Nazi nationalism was in some illdefined but fundamental way right-wing, this only meant that Nazism was rightwing�socialism. And right-wing socialists are still socialists. Most of the�). What distinguished Nazism�was that it forthrightly included a worldview we now associate almost completely with the political left: identity politics. This was�what distinguished Nazism from doctrinaire communism, and it�One of the great ironies of historv is that the more similar two�groups are, the greater the potential for them to hate each other. God�The doctrine of social fascism had two consequences that are directly relevant to our discussion. The first is that forever�afterward,�anyone who was against the far left was seen as being in league with�the fascist far right. For decades, even after the launch ofthe Popular�Front, if you were against the Soviet Union, you were open to the�charge of being a fascist. Even Leon Trotsky#the co-founder of the�Soviet state#was labeled a "Nazi agent" and the leader of a failed�"fascist coup" the moment Stalin decided to get rid of him. Indeed,�charges of rightism, fascism, and Nazism were leveled at countless�victims of Stalin's purges. Eventually, the intemational left simply�reserved for itself the absolute right to declare whomever it desired�to delegitimize a Nazi or fascist without appeal to reason or fact. In�time, as Nazism became synonymous with "ultimate evil," this became an incredibly useful cudgel, which is still wielded�today.�The second consequence ofthe doctrine of social fascism was that�it caused Hitler to win.�

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