We hear the word “fascist” a whole lot these days: Trump is a fascist if not a Nazi; the Republican Party is the fascist party. As for the left, the Democrats, they present themselves as the anti-fascists, the people fighting fascism. We can see this in the names of leftist groups like Antifa, which stands for anti-fascism.
Yet, when we look around and we see the Democratic and leftist protesters who are disrupting the inauguration, who are organizing violent rallies around the country, who are stopping campus speakers from speaking – these are people who seem to be using fascist and Nazi tactics. The masked Antifa thugs carrying weapons seem eerily similar to the fascist Blackshirts and the Nazi Brownshirts.
So isn’t it strange that the people purporting to fight fascism resemble the fascists in shutting down speech and disrupting democratic debate through the use, or threats, of violence? We need to look at fascism more closely and ask: Is fascism really a phenomenon of the left or of the right?
Let’s begin with remarkable statement by Adolf Hitler in a 1927 speech. “We are socialists,” he said. “We are the enemies of today’s capitalist system of exploitation and we are determined to destroy the system under all conditions.” Does that sound like Donald Trump? Actually, it sounds a lot more like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.
Hitler changed the name of the German Workers Party to the National Socialist German Workers Party. He wanted to emphasize that the Nazis were socialists, and that Nazi economic policy involved complete state control of the private sector. Indeed, the very name Nazi is a compression of the two terms “national” and “socialist.”
All the leading figures of early fascism – not merely in Germany but also in Italy, France and England – were men of the left. Most of them moved seamlessly from Marxism and socialism to fascism and Nazism during the 1920s and 1930s. Here are some examples.
Jean Allemane, famous for his role in the Dreyfus case, one of the great figures of French socialism, became a fascist. So did the socialist organizer Georges Valois. Marcel Deat, the founder of the Parti Socialiste de France, eventually quit and started a pro-fascist party in 1936. Jaques Doriot, a French communist, moved his Parti Populaire Francais into the fascist camp.
Belgian socialist writer Henri de Man transitioned into becoming a fascist theoretician. In England, Oswald Mosley, a socialist and Labor Party Member of Parliament, broke with the laborites because he found them insufficiently radical. He later founded the British Union of Fascists and became the country’s leading Nazi sympathizer.
In Germany, there was a similar traffic from socialism to fascism. To give a single example, the socialist playwright Gerhart Hauptmann embraced Hitler’s National Socialism and produced plays during the Third Reich. After the war, he called himself a communist and staged his productions in Soviet-dominated East Berlin.
In Italy, philosopher Giovanni Gentile moved from Marxism to become fascism’s leading intellectual. Many Italian labor organizers made the same journey: Ottavio Dinale, Tullio, Masotti, Carlo Silvestri and Umberto Pasella. The socialist writer Agostino Lanzillo joined Mussolini’s parliament as a member of the fascist party.
Nicola Bombacci, one of the founders of the Italian Community Party, became Mussolini’s top adviser in 1943. Gentile’s disciple Ugo Spirito, who also served Mussolini, moved from Marxism to fascism and then back to Marxism. Like Hauptmann, Spirito became a communist sympathizer after World War II and called for a new “synthesis” between communism and fascism.
All of this is incomprehensible if fascism is considered somehow “right wing.” None of these men saw it that way. They didn’t “convert” from left to right. Rather, they viewed themselves as moving seamlessly from one form of socialism to another, from a purely class-based socialism to a broader form of socialism that took into account class as well as national loyalties.
We can see this in the example of Mussolini, who established the world’s first fascist regime in Rome a decade before Hitler came to power. Mussolini was the leading Marxist in Italy, the recognized leader of Italian socialism. After his successful March on Rome, Lenin sent his congratulations, praising Mussolini as a fellow revolutionary on the left.
Mussolini’s career shows how fascism grew out of Marxism. Marx had predicted that the increased impoverishment of workers would cause a socialist revolution to erupt in the most advanced industrial countries: Germany and Great Britain. That didn’t happen. This created the famous “crisis of Marxism” in the late 19th and early 20th century. Out of that crisis came two new forms of socialism: Leninist Bolshevism and Mussolini’s Fascism.
“The foundation of fascism,” Mussolini writes in his “Autobiography,” “is the conception of the state. Fascism conceives the State as an absolute, in comparison to which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State. For us Fascists, the State … represents the immanent spirit of the nation.” Replace the word “fascism” with “progressivism,” and we could be hearing these words recited at a Democratic National Convention.
Mussolini broke with Marx on a single point. Marx insisted that workers are loyal only to their class. “The working man,” Marxists liked to say, “has no country.” Mussolini knew that people are no less attached to their nation than to their occupation. Consequently, Mussolini, like Hitler, embraced socialism of a special kind, namely national socialism.
Like the Marxists, the fascists and the Nazis also embraced violence as a revolutionary concept. Nazi violence involved disrupting campus events, threatening and beating up dissenters, and enforcing a conformity of thought and practice in line with the regnant ideology. Notice the close similarity between this fascist bullying and the conduct of the American left today.
In ideology and in tactics, the American left today is the party of fascism. The only difference is that it denies its true pedigree. Their big lie is to blame their own sins on Trump and the Republicans. In a sick twist, the real fascists in America pretend to be anti-fascists and accuse the true anti-fascists of being fascists.
Dinesh D’Souza’s new book “The Big Lie: Exposing The Nazi Roots of the American Left” is published by Regnery.