False choice

Two short articles from Reason and The Weekly Standard:

Authoritarians to the Left and Right
The Nation and the Nazis

Imagine a line with a sliding indicator. On one end is Marxism and Antifa; on the other is Fascism and Alt-Right. Or, call it Black Lives Matter vs Stormfront.

Your job is to slide the indicator along this continuum to your preferred balance between these choices of extreme left and extreme right. Possibly, you choose the center.

What choice are you actually making? The choice of which statist minutiae you prefer.

Sliding the indicator to the center does not minimize your agreement with authoritarian policies. It indicates nothing about how much power you grant the State, that’s a constant. It means the continuum is wrong, so the choice is false.

Here’s the way the political spectrum really works:

Looking at it by group:

Update 2:40PM
See also.
Of Course the Alt-Right Is Against Capitalism

Identitarian Politics: Distinctions without a difference?

I recommend this Claremont Review of Books discussion of fascism’s origins and the comparison to communism, including points about Black Lives Matter and Antifa. It’s well worth reading the whole thing: Fascism in America?

But I have some reservations.

Fascism… first emerged in Italy under Benito Mussolini, then spread to many other corners of Europe and Latin America. It took numerous forms, the most virulent of which was German National Socialism, which can be lumped into the overall fascist phenomenon, but only in certain respects. In others, it must be considered distinctly…

I think what follows to justify this distinction is hair splitting.

Mussolini… ultimately found communism’s collectivist obsession with class less satisfying than a collectivist obsession with nation, defined in group terms as the (Italian) people. National socialism offered an extreme version of this view, focused on an elaborate racial theory in which “Aryans” were good, superior, and entitled to rule, while others were inferior… Nazism was virulently anti-Semitic, more so than most other versions of fascism. Altogether, fascism was a politics based on accident of birth and on group membership. Individual identity, not to mention individual worth or individual rights, had no place…

A difference of looking inward to exalt vs looking outward to vilify. The in-tribe is still the volk. Professor Busch seems to agree;

It is not difficult to see a number of similarities between fascism and communism. Both… employed violence and intimidation to gain and keep power. Both grounded themselves in a version of collectivist identity politics. Both led in practice to all-powerful dictators supported by cults of personality. Both were enemies of liberty, hostile to the free market, property rights, limited government, and independent civil society. Both saw themselves as “revolutionary” and sought to displace God with a secular religion of totalitarian ideology… Indeed, one might easily conclude that fascism and communism were two versions of the same thing engaged in a bitter family dispute—two overlapping branches of the left wing rather than two opposite things.

On the merits, I do so conclude. See my post of August 18: Cosmetic Distinctions.

Nevertheless, two cardinal theoretical distinctions can be made. Where fascism fixated on race and ethnicity as the basis of collectivism and dehumanization, communism fixated on economic class. Where fascism adopted an explicitly oppositional attitude toward rational discourse, communism purported to be based on scientific principles, even though communists in practice made a mockery of such pretensions.

As to the first point, one might reasonably note that the difference is based on tribal identity. A group promoting racial privilege is temporarily allied with a group espousing privilege based on class; both wishing to commit the crimes delineated above. The differences between Antifa and Alt-Right, between the KKK and BLM – and between BLM and Antifa – are subtle points of doctrine; boiling down to a dispute over which collective will dominate the other at Statist gunpoint. If Antifa and BLM combine to “fundamentally transform” the United States, we can expect a replay of the Menshevik/Bolshevik, Trotskyite/Stalinist denouement.

The second point of differentiation is, if one takes the word “rational” seriously, actually not a difference at all. Theoretical, indeed.

While Antifa openly embraces violence, the Black Lives Matter movement does not. Nevertheless, BLM protests have featured chants calling for violence against police—“pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon”—and several have turned violent in reality, including in Baltimore, St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, where a shooter inspired by (though not affiliated with) BLM killed five police officers at the end of a BLM demonstration. Some members of the movement have also been implicated in attempts to silence critical speakers through intimidation and physical force.

As to the embrace of violence as a difference between BLM and Antifa, “pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon,” seems to me to qualify BLM as a promoter of violence. Maybe I’m missing something, but I doubt this sounds like a rendition of Kumbaya to police officers. Further, Professor Busch goes on to recount the disruption (by the threat of violence) of Heather Mac Donald’s speech (contra BLM orthodoxy) at Claremont. Perhaps too much heavy lifting is being required of the words “openly” and “affiliated.”

Professor Busch is generally correct in his assessment of Facism/Nazism and Communism, but seems overly concerned about the fine particularities of Statist branding, and too willing to excuse BLM violence compared to Antifa.

YMMV, and I reiterate my recommendation to read the piece.

Update 12:20PM Oct 7 17
FBI terrorism unit says ‘black identity extremists’ pose a violent threat

On the Failure to Recognize Patterns

Two from Jonah Goldberg, related to my post Cosmetic Distinctions, below.

The Alt-Right Is Bad — And So Is ‘Antifa’

There’s a natural tendency to think that when people, or movements, hate each other, it must be because they’re opposites. This assumption overlooks the fact that many — indeed, most — of the great conflicts and hatreds in human history are derived from what Sigmund Freud called the “narcissism of minor differences.”

Re: On Charlottesville, Trump, and Anti-Americanism

I’m reminded of this passage from Alan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind: “I have seen young people, and older people too, who are good democratic liberals, lovers of peace and gentleness, struck dumb with admiration for individuals threatening or using the most terrible violence for the slightest and tawdriest of reasons.” He continued: “They have a sneaking suspicion that they are face to face with men of real commitment, which they themselves lack. And commitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts.”

RTWTs

Bloom is writing about people avoiding the messy distractions of understanding their own ideas, because “[C]ommitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts.”

They are committed to no more than having unexamined good intentions: Liberal Ayn Rand?

Cosmetic Distinctions

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
Milton Friedman

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

Liberal Fascism
Jonah Goldberg

Coming Apart
Charles Murray

The Closing of the American Mind
Allan Bloom

Civilization and its Enemies
Lee Harris

The Vision of the Annointed
Thomas Sowell

After America
Mark Steyn

And a few related posts:
A Rafflesia by any other name -2007
Lessons from Obamaville -2011
To the Bernie Bros -2016

Mr. Thompson* speaks

“I have a Twitter account,” is the populist version of “I have a pen and phone.”

You might say these are just negotiating positions, but if the negotiating positions are immoral, where do the negotiations end up?

On health care

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

No, I get it. If you can’t pay for it we’ll steal it from others.

“In some circles,” is worthy of an Obama speech.

“It’ll be another plan. But they’ll be beautifully covered. I don’t want single-payer. What I do want is to be able to take care of people,”

Depends on your definition of “plan” and “single-payer,” I suppose: Direct from the Feds, or from insurance companies run by the Feds. A distinction without a difference. The former is socialist, the latter fascist. Both are statist.

“The question of whether the government should start negotiating how much it pays drugmakers for older Americans on Medicare has long been a partisan dispute, ever since the 2003 law that created Medicare drug benefits prohibited such negotiations.”

There’s a reason for that: It wouldn’t have passed if it put the Feds in control of pricing drugs. It was a partisan (a question of principle) issue when one party promoted fascism and the other paid lip service to free markets. Even that small distinction is being dissolved. The question that’s been forgotten is whether the government should be doing this at all. Just like “repeal and replace” is surrender because it assumes Obamacare should be replaced.

On tariffs

“Trump then attacked another carmarker, previosuly [sic] unnoticed by the president-elect, when he warned the United States will impose a border tax of 35 percent on cars that German carmaker BMW plans to build at a new plant in Mexico and export to the U.S. market.”

Now foreign companies are to be punished for operating in Mexico? Actually, it’s Mexico and American consumers being punished.

Ask yourself what Hank Reardon would have said.

*Mr. Thompson was US “Head of State” in Atlas Shrugged.

“He is not particularly intelligent and has a very undistinguished look. He knows politics, however, and is a master of public relations and back-room deals. Rand’s notes indicate that she modeled him on President Harry S. Truman, and that she deliberately decided not to call him “President of the United States” as this title has “honorable connotations” which the character does not deserve.”