Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fascism's Mother and the Libertarian Leftist

If Fascism is a person, we could directly ask her about the identity of her mother. No one wants to accept her as a daughter. Both capitalism and socialism disown her due to the bad reputation she had in history. 

This “Libertarian Leftist” claims that Fascism is a product of capitalism. The writer’s claim is in agreement with Mises’ statement that such accusation is a result of semantic innovation on the part of communist intellectuals. In fact, together with Nazism, Fascism was described as “the highest and last and most depraved stage of capitalism” (Mises, Planned Chaos, 1951, p. 29). However, examining the seventh section in “Planned Chaos” we find the actual thoughts of Mises on Fascism.

For Mises, Fascism “began with a split in the ranks of Marxist socialism” (p. 32). Such split happened in 1914 in Italy. Benito Mussolini was considered the most “outstanding man in Italian socialism” (p. 30) Mussolini is a great champion of Marxian socialism. Notice how Mises described Mussolini’s Marxian zeal:

“Nobody could surpass Mussolini in Marxian zeal. He was the intransigent champion of the pure creed, the unyielding defender of the rights of the exploited proletarians, the eloquent prophet of the socialist bliss to come. He was an adamant adversary of patriotism, nationalism, imperialism, monarchical rule and all religious creeds” (ibid.).  

But Mussolini faced a problem. The Italian intellectuals were nationalists. Mussolini changed his mind and joined the nationalists and so the Fascists party was organized. 

Anti-Fascists attacked Mussolini’s defection from Marxism, but after the communists’ failure in 1920, the masses joined Mussolini’s party. For Mises, Mussolini’s claim “that he had saved Italy from the danger of communism” (p. 31) is not true. Fascism “was not the cause, but the consequence of the communist fiasco” (ibid.). 

The way Mises described the characteristics of Fascism demonstrated its origin not in capitalism, but in socialism. He called it “vehemently anti-capitalistic” (p.31) though “it did not suppress the industrial and financial corporations” (p.32). Maybe, this was the reason why the “Libertarian leftist” mentioned above identified Fascism with capitalism. Or maybe, another reason was the fascist scholars’ formulation of “corporativism”.

Corporativism is the concept of “industrial self-government” (p.31) borrowed from the British. Mossolini and his scholars formulated this concept in their search for an economic philosophy to justify fascism. However, corporativism was only good in paper. 

Fascism is characterized by fanatical nationalism. It is a kind of hybrid formed primarily from German and Russian brands of socialism with additional features taken from other non-socialistic ideas. Its interventionist policy was patterned after Nazism. Its aggressiveness was copied from the forerunners of the Nazis. Its government style was a copy of Russian dictatorship. Its economic program was borrowed from German non-Marxian socialism. Moreover, it also gave lip-service to liberty of thought and the press and the right of assembly.

Fascism was buried in history, but Mises claimed that the forces behind it still live. He gave his readers a solemn warning about the great possibility of the revival of fascism under a new name.

Concluding this post, let us ask, “Who do you think is the mother of Fascism?” You can choose to believe the words of the “Libertarian Leftist” or the words of Mises. 

I admire the Libertarian Leftist for recommending Mises’ “Human Action” as “the undisputed cornerstone of libertarian economic thought.” To me, this shows his respect for Mises and I appreciate his admission of the influence of Human Action in political economy. As for me, the leftists that I encounter in the web so far dismissed Mises’ treatise as baseless. I suspect this is either due to arrogance or ignorance.