Romania under the Ceausescu’s (1974-1989). Was it a monarchy? a dictatorship of the proletariat? a tyranny? Photo: WashingtonTimes.com
by Mary W Maxwell, LLB
Terms such as communist, right-winger, radical leftist, fascist, and anti-fascist are appearing with increasing frequency these days. It is dizzying. I often don’t know what is being referred to when A accuses B of being a follower of, say, communism. What’s a communist?
A glance at the name of the newspaper or blog that is using the term may help. But even then, one may feel that the blogger – or newspaper – is using the term to condemn some action or policy. It hurls the epithet “commie” — or “fascist” — without caring if the label is accurate.
A separate matter is whether the allegation about the target group’s behavior is accurate. I often see Australians writing that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is the force behind something-or-other in Australia. My article here will not attempt to research the accuracy or inaccuracy of such claims. I am only talking about terminology. It is my lexical prudery that is coming to the fore.
Joe Biden, the man who will be inaugurated as US president this Wednesday, is being called a communist. Naturally I feel a need to pin down what is involved in being a communist, so I can think further about the Biden situation.
Also, this week, people are being jailed for having rioted at the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. It is rumored that they are fascist. And that they are not fascist. An element of false-flaggery may be present. (You dress an arsonist up as, say, a chef with a tall hat, to make people hate chefs.) My moral prudery is aroused if it is a lie.
Jesus said “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor.” That passage was read out to us Catholic Americans, in church, as an encouragement to the virtue of generosity and perhaps equality. But at the same time (in the 1950s), out on the street – and vaguely in church – it was being said that communism was evil.
As a child I thought this was a little odd. But I could see that the USSR was militarily our enemy (“The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!”). “Logcally,” one had to be sensible and not even say a word – or even entertain a favorable thought about — the Soviets’ belief in, or actual practice of, equality. “Communism is evil. Period.”
Later, when studying political science, I was pleased to be able to differentiate the Soviets’ way of wielding power, from their economic system.
The fact is, clinically, that you can have Soviet-style power-wielding without any communist economy. And you could have – as monasteries do have – complete sharing of goods (maybe excepting a toothbrush) with no brass-knuckled overlord.
Maybe you are waiting for me to lay out the particulars of communist governments. Ain’t gonna do that. To me the term “communist government” is a hodge-podge. No lexical prude wants to deal with hodge-podges! A communist economy could have either of the two styles of governance just mentioned – Soviet or monastic – plus a range of other styles, no doubt.
After Biden has been in office for a while, we can observe whether he is a communist or not. That is, will he wish for a way to denude all billionaires of their wealth? Will he urge every citizen to spend a couple of weeks per year building roads for the use of the community? If so, it would be fair to call him a communist, or a lover of communism.
But Biden won’t be running a Soviet-style government. The US government gets its authority from a constitution that was approved by the people. It places all federal law-making in the hands of a Congress, and limits the subjects on which this Congress can legislate. Equal distribution of property is not one of those subjects. Trust me.
Someday the American government may change. The “Kulaks” – say, the middle class – may find a mover’s truck at their door, to take away their piano and refrigerator, for an impoverished family. Police maybe standing by to enforce this. A warrant for the goods may be in hand.
So could we then say that America has a communist government? WHAT! How dare you speak that way to a lexical prude! The economic system we would have could be called communist. But the style of government would be called by its own proper name.
Some names for governments are: monarchies, republics. democracies, aristocracies, plutocracies, dictatorships, military dictatorships, and theocracies. I mean they advertise themselves as such. There are any number of ways in which those advertised types can be mere fronts for secret rulers, but that’s another story, as will be mentioned below.
Also, let’s not forget, a group of leaders can govern by love. Don’t rule that out! At this very moment, on this very planet, there are some groups that are ruled by love.
We can now look at fascism as a style of government, but right away there is the problem that governments do not advertise themselves as fascist. It is well accepted that Italy in the 1930s was under fascist rule but, as far as I know, the leader, Benito Mussolini, did not go around saying “Hi I’m a fascist.”
Oops, wrong. I have just found a Mussolini quote from 1932 in which he extols fascism (as elitism). But many subsequent fascists have preferred to keep that idea mum.
So what is it? We won’t necessarily be able to home in on it by getting a definition – a word can be a movable feast, a floating crap game, and so forth – but here is the Merriam Webster Dictionary (dot com):
Fascism: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government … severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
(The same dictionary defines autocratic as “arbitrary, despotic, tyrannical,” and notes that a parent or a football coach can be an autocrat.)
If we emphasize the racism part of fascism, the following would be called fascist states: apartheid South Africa (pre-1990), Nazi Germany (1930s), Israel (since its founding in 1948), the Southern states of the US in the Jim Crow era, perhaps India today, Burma today, and many others.
Note, however, that in that group, Israel, the US, and India are considered democracies. They do not have a visibly autocratic ruler. The harshest rules are directed at the minority (Arabs, Blacks, Muslims and tribals), and the “forcible suppression of opposition” falls both on the minority and on the members of majority who speak up for them.
Race is not always a key, however. It can be sheer elitism. Here is that 1932 quote from Mussolini:
“. . . Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic ideology, and repudiates it. . . . Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society; …and it affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful inequality of mankind.”
(from “The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism”)
What’s the Money Situation?
I was brought up to believe that free enterprise is an important part of freedom. (As indeed it is.) Also, as mentioned, “the Russians were coming”, so “capitalism” was exalted as the opposite of communism, and thus “logically” it must be great.
Naturally, in my youth, I was not aware of tax loopholes for corporations or “welfare for the rich.” Hard work and the protection of trade unions was supposedly the way to get ahead. A veteran could buy a house without any down payment. Persons who couldn’t afford medical care could be attended to at City Hospital. All very Chevrolet and apple pie.
But now we have monopolies, or few-opolies. Six companies run agribusiness, three run telecommunications, a handful run Pharma and Big Weapons. Companies like Halliburton ban evade the laws that help the lowest bidder.
So there is no free enterprise. The word capitalism does not mean much if you can’t get a bank to advance you Das Capital for a creative project. (Speaking of Karl Marx, his idea of a dictatorship of the proletariat never hatched, did it?)
“Capitalism Is Inherently Fascist”
The late brilliant David McGowan says the capitalist system is inherently fascist. He argued (on page 247 of his 2001 book Understanding the F-word):
“In a system where everything has a price tag – and this is seen as a good thong — why should we be outraged when the government shows itself to be for sale to the highest bidder?
“And why should we expect the highest bidder to be anything other than the multinational corporate behemoths? How could we be expected not to be ruled by an elite few when it is precisely that elite few that are in the best position to buy and maintain the power?”
McGowan also notes that “the ‘truth,’ like every other commodity in the ‘free’ market, is for sale to the highest bidder.” He concludes that “There is, in other words, a built-in contradiction between democracy and capitalism.”
I shouldn’t say much here about Antifa, as I can’t keep tup even a semblance of academic neutrality. I feel sure the leaders of that group are paid to carry out someone else’s mission. Namely, to draw off genuine protestors, and more importantly to give the public the impression that criticism is bad and is a sort of mental illness. The media assist this in every way.
The name Antifa means anti-fascist. By the way, the word fascist, according to Wikidictionary:
“comes from “Italian fascio (‘bundle, bunch’) meaning a ‘group of men organized for political purposes’ since 1895. Ultimately with reference to the fasces or bundles of axes and rods carried before the magistrates of ancient Rome in token of their power of life and death.”
Thanks to Antifa’s participation (overtly or covertly) in the recent “siege on the Capitol,” it’s clear that its members are not interested in maintaining the US Constitution or democracy. So how is Anti-fa anti-fascist?