You would have to be blind to miss the fact that we are living in revolutionary times. There are forces on the left who are doing their utmost to piggyback onto the momentum generated by the death of George Floyd, hoping to foment radical political change. We need not wonder about the desired direction of travel for the vast cohorts of 21st century radicals egging on the protests. Some of them may still use tamer labels (e.g. ‘progressive’), but many make no secret that they desire a revolution that is redder than red. Like ghouls refusing to die, the spirits of Marx, Lenin and Mao haunt our age once again (as if 100 million deaths in the 20th century was not quite enough).
We can spill much ink about the kind of idiocy that drives yet another generation to promote an ideology that failed so signally (and fatally) in every context that it has been tried. No doubt we will once again hear that all those disasters were ‘Not real socialism’. Still, with this article I would like to make a different, and hugely important, point. It is simply this: Revolution breeds reaction.
In general people do not take kindly to their whole world being turned upside down and ripped apart. Some keep their heads down in order to try and keep the peace. However, once it becomes clear that revolutions don’t have brakes, an inevitable, and often violent, reaction is bound to follow. A surprising part of the historical reactions against Socialism was the fact that so many of the ‘reactionaries’ were once part of the revolutionary cohorts themselves! This is surprising because we tend to think of Fascism as the polar opposite of Socialism. It is, in fact, the one thing most despised by the modern brand of Socialists. Some of whom (cf. ‘Antifa’) self-consciously define themselves in opposition to Fascism.
You have to wonder if even 1 in 1000 of the modern Anti-Fascists have any idea of the history of Fascism and that its deepest roots can be found in Socialism itself. The clue is right there in the name of the movement that they despise above all. Nazi is short for, wait for it, National Socialist German Workers Party. True, the Nazis were not orthodox Marxists but there can be no denying that they were all about nationalising the means of production and elevating the collective above the individual. Both themes that modern ‘progressives’ get misty eyed about.
As if the ideological convergence between Fascism and Socialism is not striking enough, consider the careers of some of the most important 20th century Fascists:
• Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), the arch-Fascist and coiner of the phrase, rose to prominence as a member of the national directorate of the Italian Socialist Party and as a journalist at Avanti! the pre-eminent Socialist newspaper in Italy. Later in his life he still continued to value the contribution of Marx and advocated for Marxism coupled with Nationalism (as opposed to Soviet Socialism that was globalist in nature).
• Joseph Goebels (1897-1945), the Nazi Propaganda chief, was a deep admirer of Socialist ideas and continued to make it clear, right up to the end of his life, that he despised Capitalism. Like Mussolini he differed from the Soviet Socialists not in terms of their core ideology but in the belief that Socialism should primarily be applied in national entities. Again, this emphasis is right there in the name of the movement: ‘National Socialist’.
• Many other examples of the fact that Fascist ideology had deep roots in ‘orthodox’ Marxism, and differed from it only in terms of its focus (global vs. national), can be cited. However, nothing brings this point home more forcefully than the fact that there was a widely recognised term describing the fact that many Nazis cut their political teeth in Marxist and Communist circles. Such people were called ‘Beefsteak Nazis’. People who were brown (Nazi) on the outside and red (Socialist) on the inside. In fact, the majority of the members of the SA (Sturmabteiling), under Ernest Rohm (1887-1834), were former Communists. Hitler famously suppressed the SA in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ but not because he disagreed with their ideology. He did this because the SA became so powerful that it represented an alternative power base that could challenge him in the long run.
What is going on here? Perhaps we have become so blinded by the binary distinctions between ‘left’ and ‘right’ that a simple truth evades us. Doctrinaire Marxism and Fascism are much more similar than their adherents would care to admit. In a word they are both totalitarian ideologies. With that comes the ruthless crushing of dissent, the elevation of the collective above the individual and utopian visions of the future (once the pesky ‘other side’ is destroyed).
The fact is that the stark black-and-white thinking (sometimes in the most literal sense), the unwillingness to compromise and the demonisation of all opposition practiced by the modern grandchildren of Marx has all the hallmarks of classic totalitarianism. As sure as night follows day, this revolution will invite a reaction. A reaction that will sometimes be led by modern ‘Beefsteaks’, totally schooled in the methods of the ‘reds’ but now manning the trenches on the other side. Thus, one ironic consequence of the antics of the modern Anti-Fascists could be that they will empower the very thing they claim to despise so much.
Once you abandon freedom in the pursuit of totalitarian thinking, monsters (often of your own creation) will continue to haunt you. Our world has seen enough totalitarian-inspired bloodshed. Free peoples, with a deep appreciation of the rights of the individual, must therefore do their utmost to prevent an erosion of our basic rights even if, or perhaps especially if, it comes to us speaking the language of utopia.
I am currently working on a book looking at the links between the radical left and Islamism, hence this article on one of the unintended consequences of leftist ideology. The book will be published on the next few months. In the meantime I’m sure you’ll enjoy ‘The House Built on Sand’, a novel focussing on the earliest years of Islam that will make you view its truth-claims in a totally new light. Get your copy here.