The intertubes are clogged with denunciations of the President’s remarks on events in Charlottesville. While Mr. Trump displayed his usual crass phrasing, lack of clarity and wretched sense of timing, his argument boils down to criticizing a flawed syllogism:
All Nazis/Racists are hateful
Hateful people marched in Charlottesville
All Charlottesville marchers are Nazis/Racists
Mr. Trump condemned the violence which the local authorities stood around and watched, then went on to say there were good and bad people on both sides. Aside from this mixed message, he was wrong in supposing there were actually two sides. The differences between Antifa and Alt-Right, between the KKK and BLM, are subtle points of doctrine; boiling down to a dispute over which tribe will dominate the other at the point of government guns.
Most people’s idea of the political continuum is confused by misuse of the labels “Left” and “Right,” and further warped by the deliberate corruption of words like “liberal.” We now have to say “classical liberal” to distinguish that philosophy from “Liberal,” the latter of which has become conflated with “Progressive.”
The narrative is that Hitler was rightwing, Stalin was leftwing. No, they were both Statists. The difference was merely how they defined the “tribes” they wished to oppress.
The Democrats’ have pursued a not dissimilar, if muted, identitarian (‘typical white people,’ ‘deplorables,’ ‘clinging to their religion and guns’) electoral strategy, and it is getting away from them. Now it’s being used by Alt-Right Alinskyites. This is sad and dangerous.
I’ve seen it argued that a distinguishing Right/Left Nazi/Soviet difference was policy regarding ownership of the means of production. To wit, Nazism and Fascism differ from Communism in that under Nazism/Fascism the means of production are not owned by the State, and under Communism they are owned by the State. This distinction ignores the fact that in both cases the means of production are controlled at gunpoint by the State. Small differences in the aiming mechanism don’t count for much. Whether it’s the SS or the KGB kicking down your door at 3AM doesn’t matter.
I’ve seen it argued that another important distinguishing feature is that Hitler was a racist and killed 6 million Jews. Well, between 15 million and 30 million people died from 1918 through 1956 in the prisons and labor camps of the Soviet gulag. Stalin deliberately starved 10 million Ukrainians to death. It’s Statism’s logical conclusion, whether associated with Krupp or some 5 year plan.
And don’t forget Hitler supported the Fascist Franco while Stalin supported the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. While I suspect this single fact has much to do with the idea that Hitler had some consequential difference in governing philosophy with Stalin, it was merely a use of proxies in a quest for international socialism by both men. Hitler’s party was the National-Socialist German Workers’ Party, but he had definite plans for franchising it internationally. Stalin, on the other hand, only dissolved Lenin’s Comintern in 1943 to keep his World War II allies from suspecting the Soviet Union was trying to foment Communist revolution worldwide.
Some leftwingers defend communism by blaming the actors, “Real Communism has never been tried.” Nobody says, “Real Nazism has never been tried.”
If replacing Stalin with a more enlightened dictator would work, why wouldn’t the same thing apply to Hitler?
Here’s the way the political spectrum really works:
Looking at it by group:
You can use the same basic continuum to place people. That exercise is left to the student. Hint: Hiter/Stalin/Mussolini/Mao/
Franco/Castro/Pinochet/Lenin all go on the right hand side.
My feeling about Antifa and the white nationalist cohort of the Alt-Right is that it would be a pity if they don’t both lose.
I close with some recommended reading in the order I encountered them on my bookshelves:
Capitalism and Freedom
Straight and Crooked Thinking
Robert Henry Thouless
Why I Am Not a Conservative (free at Cato)
F. A. Hayek
The Road to Serfdom
F. A. Hayek
Seeing Like a State
James C. Scott
Last Exit to Utopia
Jean Francois Revel
The Black Book of Communism
Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Aldous Huxley
The Closing of the American Mind
Civilization and its Enemies
The Vision of the Annointed
And a few related posts:
A Rafflesia by any other name -2007
Lessons from Obamaville -2011
To the Bernie Bros -2016