Left and Right

Antifascism Without Fascism

Present-day “anti-fascism” is a kind of secularized Christian moralism with “fascism” assuming the role of Satan, an all-encompassing metaphysical force of evil, with the 7 deadly sins being replaced by the laundry list of isms, archies, and phobias. It amounts to religious fundamentalism for the non-religious.
“Anti-fascism” (a euphemism) is the fundamentalist wing of the religion of totalitarian humanism (which includes most secular humanists and religious progressives alike).
“Though fascism has all but disappeared, antifascism has not. An antifascism without fascism makes it possible to create or imagine exactly the right kind of enemy, one that in fact does not exist. This has the further utility of seeming to justify an appeal to violence and the adoption of increasingly aggressive tactics, which impose ever greater centralized power and terms of censorship, and gain objectives less easily achieved through rational discourse and analysis. There is no simpler, easier way to stigmatize and to verbally assert power over an opponent.”
There is a tiny, tiny, tiny minority of Americans who are actual fascists, Nazis, throne and altar royalists, or proponents of a Saudi-like theocracy. And another tiny, tiny minority who are actual communists. But nearly all Americans are “liberals” of some type. Republicans are a mixture of classical liberals, conservative liberals, neoliberals, libertarians (radical classical liberals), liberal-nationalists, liberal-imperialists, populists in the American “know-nothing” tradition (which is a branch of liberal republicanism), or “neoconservatives” (an intentionally deceptive misnomer applied to revolutionary liberals in the French traditions). Democrats are a mixture of neoliberals, reform liberals, progressive liberals, liberal internationalists, social democrats (bourgeois socialism), and even most self-proclaimed “socialists,” “communists,” or “anarchists” are really just radlibs.

By Stanley G. Payne, First Things

Vague, abusive, and indiscriminate use of language is common in political discourse, and currently is more ubiquitous than ever. In recent decades, one of the most popular terms of political abuse has been “fascist.” The practice of misusing this word quickly reached heights of hysteria during the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump in 2016. Its use has become so indiscriminate that some complain the word has lost any precise meaning save that of disapproval.

“Fascist” is particularly useful as a multipurpose pejorative because the term lacks any clear inherent meaning, however broad, as do other common words such as “liberal,” “conservative,” or “socialist.” The term was initially derived from the fasces symbol of the ancient Roman Republic, meaning “union” or “bundle,” and by the beginning of the twentieth century was a common appellation for several different radical Italian groups, at first more to the left than the right. The ultra-nationalist Fasci italiani di combattimento, founded in 1919, morphed into a mass movement and two years later rebaptized itself as the Partito Nazionale Fascista. Its members were the original Fascists. The adjective was then applied generally by friends and foes to the eighteen-year dictatorship of Benito Mussolini (1925-43).

The term was first adopted as a general political pejorative by the Communist International in 1921 and later applied by communist propagandists in numerous variants to all manner of groups—“liberal-fascist,” “conservative-fascist,” and so on—as well as to Italian Fascists. As authoritarian nationalism flourished in many European countries during the Great Depression, serious commentators and analysts began to extend the term, as well, to radical right-wing and authoritarian nationalists of diverse stripes, some more, some less, similar to Italian Fascists.


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