Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why Do Conservatives Accuse Everyone Of Marxism & Nazism So Much?

Anyone familiar with politics online has encountered the very common strain of right winger (some are "libertarians" instead of conservatives, but I didn't want to burden the title too much) who run around equating all forms of left wing politics from liberalism, social democrats and other soft-socialists to full bore Marxist-Stalinists, Maoists & (of course, nonsensically) Nazis & fascists.

Why do they do this?  I mean, the distinctions between left-of-centre politics as practiced in the entire rich world set of democracies and those totalitarian ideologies are glaring and numerous.  It can't be persuasive to anyone who can just look at a European style welfare state and realize whatever the faults, there aren't gulags, reeducation camps, political thought police, single party rule, abolition of private property, emigration controls and on and on.  Add to that the obvious general prosperity, happiness, health and long life in most such states and it's really boggling to reconcile on any kind of conherent or intellectually honest line of thought.

I'm sure many such people who make these absurd claims really don't get it, and actually can't see the distinction between liberalism and Stalinism (nevermind fascism).  Mostly though, this comes from their manifest inability to really argue against the outcomes of reasonably successful welfare states.  The people are mostly happy, well fed and prosperous.  It's not perfect, and you can imagine many criticisms but it's really not that bad.  Nothing about it aligns with the kind of catastrophe they're always predicting from any policy deviation from hard core laissez faire economics.

A fictional movie President of the United States (Michael Douglas in the speech at the end of The American President) called this when he said of an opponent:
I've been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it!
This sort of right wing hyperbole against the liberal welfare state & interventionists government has long roots going back (at least) to 1944 with the publication of Friedrich Hayek's "The Road To Serfdom."  1944 was a long time ago, seeing as we're not at "serfdom" yet (and really right wing neoliberal economics is what threatens to make serfs of most of the population if anything does) it's got to be one hell of a very sticky & gentle "slope" we're on here. 

Let us know when Norway implements single party rule, but until then this is just another right wing effort to reinvent reality to suit their myths.


  1. First, I am a libertarian. I am not a right winger in any sense of the word. (I am not a left winger either.)

    So I can't speak for them. The reason libertarians "run around equating all forms of left wing politics from liberalism, social democrats and other soft-socialists to full bore Marxist-Stalinists, Maoists & (of course, nonsensically) Nazis & fascists" is because they all fall into the ideological category of "collectivist."

    The left-right political spectrum that places communism on the left and Nazism on the right is meaningless. Nazi stood for "National Socialist" and the old USSR communist state stood for "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics." Both were just variants of socialism and socialism is just a variant of collectivism. So too is fascism, by the way.

    That's because by definition collectivism is any ideology that places the group above the individual while libertarianism places the individual above the group.

    So all ideologies logically fall into one of these two camps, collectivism or libertarianism. In collectivist countries the individual is subservient to the ruling class that runs the group; in a libertarian society the individual owns his own life and is subservient to no one. A libertarian society is a voluntary society.

    Yes, there are distinctions between the application of collectivism, from the massively murderous to the "reasonably successful welfare states" but in the end all are based on the same assumptions – that the individual exists for the sake of the group – and it's only a matter of time until the group is taken over by yet another Mao, Stalin, Hitler, etc.

    Remember that the U.S. was created as the freest society on Earth and now it is ruled by the very people both libertarians and the left despise: Big politicians, big corporations, big banks, big global empire-building military.

    Also, what you likely don't know about those "reasonably successful welfare states" you mentioned is that virtually every one of them is heavily subsidized by the U.S. in the form of massive military aid. Well over half of their national defense is paid for by the U.S. If those countries had to pay for their own defense they would not have money available for all the great social welfare programs that allow people to have "general prosperity, happiness, health and long life."

    What do you honestly think will happen to those socialist countries once the U.S., in attempting to become a socialist society itself, goes bankrupt in the process and can't subsidize other countries, let alone sustain ourselves? There is no United States Number Two that will come to our aid and subsidize us.

    Sorry, but belief in any form of collectivism is the result of a total lack of economic understanding. There is no free lunch, everything has to be paid for by someone somewhere whether one likes it or believes it or not.

    Sorry to run on so long but that's as short as I could get it and still make it meaningful.

    1. Garry,

      This is a great case in point of how libertarians can't argue with actual liberalism in practice, so they redefine it as "collectivism" (or sometimes "statism"), group with a bunch of historical atrocities, and then argue with the worst possible aspects of that - e.g. Stalinism. It's a collossal exercise in straw man sophistry. Liberals aren't stalinists and there's no evidence they become stalinists.

      Whales swim in the sea, fish swim in the sea, but whales aren't fish and don't become fish. Similarities matter, but so do differences.

      It's also abundantly, evidently wrong, liberal democracies largely wrestle with rights of the invidividual versus the collective and frequently side with the former. I'd agree we do not make it an absolutist position, but that does not make us "collectivists" except in the most trite manichean sense.

      You make a bunch of other points, but they're not relevant to this topic.

  2. I think a far more useful model is to see the political spectrum as circular rather than linear.

    Draw a circle. Put "totalitarianism" inside at the top and "democracy" inside at the bottom.

    Then on the outside at the very bottom put "liberal". To the right of that put "conservative" and to the left put "socialist."

    Now, as you move away from the bottom "democracy" in either direction you become continuously more authoritarian, transitioning into totalitarian nearest the top.

    This model, of necessity, is political and the economic aspects are secondary. The notion those are linked has been shattered.

    For example, as a Cold War baby boomer I was brought up to believe that capitalism and democracy were but two sides of the same coin. One was the political model, the other its companion economic model. That made capitalism the economic religion of democracy.

    We ignored how well capitalism could flourish in European democracy and especially in Scandinavian socialism. We treated those as outliers.

    Then along came China's embrace of free market capitalism. Here we had a totalitarian state adopting capitalism and the barons of capitalism finding the totalitarian state quite to their liking also.

    I think liberal democracies, at their best, wrestle to balance individual versus collective rights and interests. Abraham Lincoln spoke at length about the struggle between labour and capital and found that, in every case, labour was by far the superior. Teddy Roosevelt adopted Lincoln's views in his Square Deal speech of 1910.

  3. The fairly rude counter comments I received from Daniel are about what I expected from a blog that is obviously committed to groupism and opposed to individualism.

    Even the name of the page, "Autonomy For All," makes no sense when applied to collectivism, a perfectly good word that was not "redefined" but subsumes socialism.

    Autonomy comes from the Greek autos meaning "self" and nomos meaning "law."

    This is the very definition of libertarianism – self law or self rule – and why one of the biggest, best known and most successful LIBERTARIAN websites on the net is called "Advocates for Self-Government."

    In reply to The Mound Of Sound, this site also has the diamond political model as opposed to your "better" circular model and the traditional linear model. It's called "The World's Smallest Political Quiz."

    To both commenters above, we clearly disagree on definitions, which make meaningful discourse virtually impossible through no one's fault, so let me make this easy:

    ALL of my positions, definitions and beliefs stem from the libertarian Zero Aggression Principle which states that everyone has the absolute right to do as we please as long as we reject coercion, intimidation and fraud as a means of organizing society. Everything must be voluntary.

    On that basis I'll likely mess with your minds by stating that Lincoln was America's first great dictator, Teddy Roosevelt was just another ruling class politician, a "free market" is not free unless it is free from government coercion as well as individual coercion, Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same coin, democracy is just mob rule, and all governments are criminal organizations because they operate in the same way and for the same reasons that street gangs, drug cartels, and the Mafia operate – to benefit the sociopathic ruling class thugs who run them.

    Now you have some small idea of what a libertarian really is.

    But then I speak only for myself because libertarianism, like virtually all isms, including socialism, exists in a range of internally differing viewpoints amongst its adherents.

  4. I think some do it simply to goad liberals, but for others, and unfortunately a number of family members, it's a combination of fear, pride, close-mindedness, and failure to see people as fully upright and thinking human beings. The irony here is that the knee-jerk reactionaries who use language like this accuse liberals of being "bots." Well, they should take a nice long look in the mirror.