Socialist or Fascist?

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Mussolini, the originator of fascism, was lionized by the left, both in Europe and in America, during the 1920s. Even Hitler, who adopted fascist ideas in the 1920s, was seen by some, including W.E.B. Du Bois, as a man of the left.

It was in the 1930s, when ugly internal and international actions by Hitler and Mussolini repelled the world, that the left distanced themselves from fascism and its Nazi offshoot — and verbally transferred these totalitarian dictatorships to the right, saddling their opponents with these pariahs.

What socialism, fascism and other ideologies of the left have in common is an assumption that some very wise people — like themselves — need to take decisions out of the hands of lesser people, like the rest of us, and impose those decisions by government fiat.

The left’s vision is not only a vision of the world, but also a vision of themselves, as superior beings pursuing superior ends. In the United States, however, this vision conflicts with a Constitution that begins, “We the People…”

That is why the left has for more than a century been trying to get the Constitution’s limitations on government loosened or evaded by judges’ new interpretations, based on notions of “a living Constitution” that will take decisions out of the hands of “We the People,” and transfer those decisions to our betters.

The self-flattery of the vision of the left also gives its true believers a huge ego stake in that vision, which means that mere facts are unlikely to make them reconsider, regardless of what evidence piles up against the vision of the left, and regardless of its disastrous consequences.

Only our own awareness of the huge stakes involved can save us from the rampaging presumptions of our betters, whether they are called socialists or fascists. So long as we buy their heady rhetoric, we are selling our birthright of freedom.

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  • truebearing

    My theory on Obama's Fascism is that the Left has become more pragmatic in using any and all of the tools of statism, and while not announcing it, have seen the advantages to incrementally moving first into Fascism, then into Socialism, once industry has become accustomed to taking orders from the government. It is a fairly smooth transition that hides the intent a little longer. From state controlled to state owned is not all that much of a leap. A few convenient bailouts and they are on their way.

  • Anamah


  • Zach

    Amazing article. Obama's slick "heads-I-win when things go right, and tails-you-lose" approach is just another form of socialist planned economy. which, according to the Frederich von Hayek's book "Road to Serfdom" inevitably leads to a dictatorship. We are so close to a point of no-return that immediate corrective action is required in November.

  • oldtimer

    Whatever he is, he's unAmerican.

    • Looking4Sanity

      And that's really all that matters, isn't it?

  • davarino

    Hopefully O will not get a chance to try it. I'm sure if he loses this November, him and his comrades will have to be drug out of the White House kicking and screaming.

  • Wendy

    Mr. Sowell, I so much appreciate your clarity of thought and writing.

  • Ageofreason

    Why not just call Obama's policies statist? The term covers any and all varieties of anti-individual, anti-liberty, collectivist policies. Socialists and facists are, in their souls, identical. Mussolini, as pointed out in "Liberal Fascism" was a communist until it became expedient to become a fascist.

  • StephenD

    I intend to reprint this and distribute it widely; of course, with your name on it Dr. Sowell.

  • Spider

    It is not an either or proposition – clearly the Kenyan is both.a socialists and a fascist..

  • Looking4Sanity

    I have one question for the esteemed Dr. Sowell.

    I thought that state ownership of the means of production was a defining characteristic of Communism, not Soc-ialism.

    We consider Great Britain to be a soc-ialist system…and yet the state does not control their means of production.

    I completely agree with the conclusions of your thesis…as usual. But this soc-ialism thing has me perplexed. I have always heard it said that soc-ialism was the last stepping stone on the road to Communism. I suppose my question is this…

    Can a country incorporate soc-ialist programs and systems and still not be defined as "Soc-ialist"? If so, where do we draw that defining line? Is there any practical difference between Soc-ialism and Communism?

    • Looking4Sanity

      No wonder I was perplexed! It appears that this topic is not as cut and dry as one might imagine. I did find a good reference site discussing the topic if anyone else is interested.

      "Modern soc-ialist parties tend to believe in a strong, centralised, welfare state, but they fall very short of communism, in that they support the right of individuals to own private capital. "

      "One difference between socialism and communism is that socialism is mainly an economic system, while communism is both an economic and a political system. As an economic system, socialism seeks to manage the economy through deliberate and collective social control. Communism, however, seeks to manage both the economy and the society by ensuring that property is owned collectively and that control over the distribution of property is centralized in order to achieve both classlessness and statelessness."

    • Stephen_Brady

      This post won't specifically answer your question. However, a socialist state taken to its ultimate conclusion, that is not "internationalist" but rather, nationalist, would be considered fascist or national socialist and, therefore, "right-wing". Almost literally, the only substantive difference between the Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany … or Mussolini's Italy … was the latter's emphasis on nationalism.

      What's going on before our eyes, however, is a redefinition of what it is to be left-wing. I seriously do not believe that Obama would give up his power as President to an international body. But he will scrape away at the various forms of national sovereignty and … in concert with other national leaders and international bodies … create a form of global sovereignty.

      Leftists of all stripes would be in favor of that.

      • Stephen_Brady

        L4S, so much for my reasoned reply to your post. There was nothing offensive in the above post, and nothing that would test the language filters. It's one of the reasons I rarely post here, anymore.

  • Swatty Jim


  • Steeloak

    Fascism & Nazism became defined as pathologies of the Right only AFTER Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Prior to that, the hard left was just fine with their fellow travelers on the far left. Hitler had the unmitigated nerve to attack their golden idol – Stalin.

    • Chris Nichols

      Correct, the American left loved Hitler until he attacked the Commie Mother Ship. Left wing academics have spent years redefining the fascism and ignore the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.


      hitler / stalin Non-Aggression pact of 1939.

  • Supreme_Galooty

    I believe that it was Gentle Joe Stalin who referred to his fellow Statist (communist, socialist, fascist, collectivist, Gaia-ist, warmist, etc. – not a nickel's worth of difference here….} as a RIGHT winger – as in right wing socialist. Because our gentler brands of socialistic murderous lefties here in this country disapproved – not of his murdering Jews – but of his obscene militaristic brand of NATIONALISM, they proceeded to brand all patriotic Americans as right wingers akin to Hitler.

    Hitler was a far left radical just like Stalin, Obama, and Pelosi. Let's not forget that it is leftists who are mass murders.

  • Western Spirit

    a leftist jew i knew used to say all jews would be fascist if it were not for hitler. i don't understand her point but find dr. sowell's definition of fascist informative.

    considering the number of jews who are leftist it gives credibility to her statement. although i can't understand how a people who suffered so much from fascists could then turn around and embrace fascism in any of its forms. surely the principles america was founded on, that has made it a haven for them, would make them disciples of the right including every meaning of the word right.

    • Supreme_Galooty

      Fascism, a political/economic construct, was not responsible for the mass murders. Bigoted, racist brutes were. The problem with many who embrace socialism/fascism/communism/collectivism is that they believe in their own innate goodness. They don't realize that "minding other peoples' business" such as is required by those "isms," always ultimately ends in violence. The list is long – Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, Kim, et alia – and the result is always millions dead in the cause of the "Greater Good."

  • Stephen_Brady

    Excellent article, and spot on!!

  • Amused

    Western Spirit Your freind is mixed up .
    Looking4Sanity – You call Obama "socialist " because of Obama -Care , yet tout your candidate Romney , who instituted the very same but on a statewide scale in Mass. as Governor – hypocrite. And that B.S. diatribe about socialism and communism is just that – B.S.
    Steel Oak , Republicans and Conservatives have morphed into an entity that is far closer to facism than the Democrats . And please save your revisionist history for the DULLARDS here , Facism and Nazis , have never been considered to be on the Left , whether before or after Hitlker invaded the Soviet Union .

    • ratonis

      You have refuted nothing. Accusation and denial does not add up to refutation. Your technique of argument is a bit, well . . . DULL.

      Whether seen as left or right, there is not much difference between "progressivism" and "fascism," as Jonah Goldberg amply demonstrates (through cogent citation of historical voices). By the way, few people, even those supporting Romney, embrace even his socialist approach to the health care issues. They regard it as a problem. The reason we support Romney over Obama is because Mr. Obama has NO relevant business or executive experience that would qualify him for the job of President, and it shows, luridly. Although we can't be certain about things that haven't happened, I seriously doubt that Mitt Romney, with his background, would have tolerated a process where a bill of 2,500 pages full of verbiage that even experts in legalese could not understand, and which remained unread by many "leaders" who helped pass it, is rushed to passage so that (in Pelosi's words) "we can find out what's in it." I seriously doubt Romney would have signed on to that process, which has no resemblance to responsible government or any kind of leadership.

    • Supreme_Galooty

      You can rewrite the dictionary as you wish, but just because YOU spout a lie does not make it true. Fascism is leftist. Historical fact. Take it to the bank. When you say that Nazis "have never been considered to be on the left," you are talking ONLY about fellow leftists who remain in the thrall of Stalin. Liberalism is, indeed, a mental disorder, and one of the first clues is their insistence that Hitler was not a leftist – a FELLOW leftist.

      • fightwarnotwars

        A person with a basic high school education knows that this Hitler was a Leftist rhetoric is complete BS.

        While fascism and national socialism both have roots in the European left (Mussolini for example), once they shaped their own programs and ideology they became staunchly anti-socialist/anti-communist. Who do you think were the first group of people sent to concentration camps by the NS government in Germany? Oppistion party members and dissidents. The USSR under Stalinism definitely resembled a "fascist" state, but any self-proclaimed Fascist or NationalSocialist could tell you themselves that they have no love or closeness to socialism, social-democracy, communism, etc.

        "Dachau, was founded in March 1933.The press announcement said that "the first concentration camp is to be opened in Dachau with an accommodation for 5,000 persons. All Communists and – where necessary – Reichsbanner and Social Democratic functionaries who endanger state security are to be concentrated there, as in the long run it is not possible to keep individual functionaries in the state prisons without overburdening these prisons."

      • Amused

        You are entitled to your own opinion , but not to your "Own facts " .But I guess to a mind like yours [ shaped easily like putty ] revisionism is an easy jump . In the warped conservative view , anyone who disagrees is a "leftist -commie -marxist -socialist -nazi "…….oooops , left out EEEEEEVIL . Cognitive dissonance is the trademark of you birdbrains ,niot to mention you're a bunch of sanctimonious self -righteous hypocrites .

      • Amused

        Well Supremne Gabooty , I can not refute you because , the Administrators on this blog have deleted my reply which was devoid of foul language or any offensive language, but that is typical of a bunch of people who claim patriotism but in reality are edging towards facism .

        • Steeloak

          I suggest you research the Bavarian Soviet Republic, before you continue to make a fool of yourself. Many of the Nazi party founding members were WWI veterans like Hitler, who had joined the communist party shortly after WWI and participated in the Bavarian Soviet Republic uprising. There are historical photos from this period which show a young Hitler wearing a Bavarian Red Army uniform. It was only after the collapse of the uprising that a number of former Bavarian Red Army communists founded the Nazi party. I suggest you read Prof. Thomas Webber's book "Hitler's First War" whic covers this subject in some detail.

    • Tony C.

      The only thing amusing around here is your complete lack of understanding of Fascism and National Socialism (that's Nazism, if you didn't know). The left often thinks that volume and repetition can compensate for the lack of an argument or evidence. So, pray tell, what part of the Fascist platform is right wing? Is it the heavy regulation and state-direction of the economy? The bourgeois-proletariat warfare rhetoric? The expansion of the welfare state and the government workforce? I'm just asking, you know, cause I'm confused how these positions can be aligned with the right…

  • Asher

    Socialist, Fascist, and Narcicist.

  • PAthena

    Fascism, and Nazism (National Socialism) are nationalist forms of socialism. Benito Mussolini was a leader of the Italian Socialist party and editor of its newspaper, Avanti, before World War I. According to Marx -socialist theory- war was between capitalists, and socialists, as internationalists, should stay out. Mussolini was opposed to Italy's participating in World War I (on the side of Britain and France), but in 1917, he joined the Italian army, He founded the Fascist party – the name based on the ancient Roman symbol of authority, the fasces, an axe bound with wheat – as nationalist socialism, in opposition to the internationalist socialism he had previously supported.

  • ratonis

    Newspaper editors protect Mr. Obama from accurate assessment by insisting that to suggest he is a Marxist or a Fascist, or even that his policies are such, is to engage in "name-calling." So, he is covered on the op ed pages from people who attempt to point out what Dr. Sowell is doing here.

    Our media establishment would have been admired and envied by Dr. Goebbels!!

    • Amused

      The propaganda on the right would be the envy of Goebbels. Every one in the country KNOWS that a one payer system would benefit them , [even Nixon tried ] cut healthcare costs , yet they vote against their own best interests because they hate Democrats ….makes a lot of sense , just remember that when you have to go the Emergency Room , and get the bill $4000 for medication and medical supplies ………..and remember also , even though Insuirance will pay if you have it and if it's covered , YOU pay for it anyway , one way or the other .

      • Amused

        And for those who find it easy to be smug , because they think they have a good healthcare plan with their good non-union job ….lol…just wait till Management start boosting your contribution , and yoiu can bet the barn on it that they will . I'm just wondering while you repocons are gritting your teeth when that inevitably happens …..what will you call the Corporations ? " Commies " …."Socialists " …..Marxists etc. ?

  • pagegl

    This is probably one of Sowell's best articles.

  • Amused

    Amin , since you insist on deleting legitimate rebuttals , you are in effect proving my point . Cognitive dissonance , the trademark of the conservative mindset .

    • Tony C.

      Don't use words you don't understand.

  • Supreme_Galooty

    You cannot deny that the father of Fascism, Mr. Mussolini, was a huge favorite of every single prominent leftist in America. These folks were worshipers of The State, ridiculed the concept of Individual Liberty, and denied the founding principals of the US at every opportunity. They were likewise in love with Hitler right up until it became too embarrassing to express their admiration. When Stalin called his fellow leftist, Hitler, a "right winger" it gave Progressives a convenient out – which they have ridden like Hogan's Goat – aromatically dishonest, without any modicum of truth involved.

  • Amused

    " without any modicum of truth " …..exactly what you're spouting Gabooty . More fractured fairey-tales . Make history fit your political rhetoric . That's called revisionism .

    • Russ P.

      No, the notion that Hitler was a "right-wing socialist" is revisionism plain and simple. Not to mention ridiculous.

    • Supreme_Galooty

      How do you find the toilet paper when you need it? Just curious.

  • Beatrix

    As long as companies like Chase, the car industry and the housing industry keep messing up the way they have, people are not going to object to government control of private business. In fact, the head of Chase said he welcomed it,.

  • Ronald Johnston

    osama obama and his fascist helpers = pure evil!!!! He wll go down in history as the biggest mass murderer in history, probably killing more people than mao, hitler and stalin combined!!!!