This is the first essay in a series in which I will examine the nature of the Wokeism ideology and, I hope, start to encourage awareness of quite how dangerous the ideology really is. Many people will have noticed that Wokeism and Wokeist ideas are now more frequently part of the news cycle. Some will be starting to see Woekism appearing in their workplace, or hear Wokeism platitudes coming from their children. Wokeism is spreading, and it is having real impacts on the world. What is Wokeism? It has many names (e.g. identity politics) but it is, in essence, a revolutionary movement that seeks to change societies in very fundamental ways. It is not just about being more ‘inclusive’ or kinder or fairer or bringing a more just society. It is about tearing down the institutions of liberal democracy. This first essay is long, but I hope that it will be worth your time and start to raise some important questions in your mind about some of your assumptions.
Note: I have been updating certain sections to further strengthen the case made, and may do so on an ongoing basis. Part II is now available and compares Wokeism and the evil ideologies of the 20th century.
In part, the lack of recognition of the dangers of Wokeism is because, like many extremist ideologies that have come before, the goals that are espoused appear to the follower to be noble and good. Barbara Oakley (2013) coined the term ‘pathological altruism’ as a way of understanding that altruistic intentions do not necessarily result in good outcomes and that some outcomes of altruistic intentions are truly horrific. Thus, the 9/11 plane hijackers did not wake up on the morning of the attack thinking that ‘today, I will do some evil’ but instead woke up with the firm belief that they were going to do some good in the world. The same can be said of many (but not all) of the people who are adopting, supporting, or sympathetic to the ideology of Wokeism. They are certain that Wokeism is about building a better, fairer, and more just world. They are filled with moral certitude and moral fury as a result.
What Oakley is describing as pathological altruism is captured in the old proverb that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ As Oakley points out, altruism is universally assumed to be positive, as it is a desire to do something for good. However, Oakley reasonably suggests that we need to look beyond intentions and look at both means and outcomes if we are to determine what is really good and right. It seems reasonable to propose that the means should not be such that they cause so much harm that the harm outweighs any good in the end. Equally, it seems reasonable to propose that, even if the intentions and means are good, a bad outcome is still a bad outcome.
Wokeism is using bad means towards a bad end. We are currently watching the means in real-time, and they are appalling. In pursuit of their ideological goals, the Wokists are characterised by their intolerance, aggression, and puritanism. Alongside this, there is dishonesty and propaganda used to foment anger and hate as a means of rallying support to the cause. And there is violence. And the use of violence has been growing. If looking at the end goals of Wokeism, alarm bells should ring even louder. It is very clear that Wokeism is directed towards a complete reordering of politics, society, and culture. Therefore, the intentions are revolutionary. Not only is it a revolutionary ideology with an objective of overturning all that currently exists, but the world that will be the outcome of the revolution is also opaque and ill-defined. For example, Wokeism is anti-capitalist, but what will replace capitalism is left murky. After institutions are ripped down, what will replace them? How will the world look if Wokeism is victorious? We do not know the answers to these questions, and this is a feature, not a bug, of the ideology. In place of a positive vision, the ideology focuses on demonising, then destroying, existing institutions. As this is all done in the name of the right and the good, then surely what will follow will also be right and good? We have seen these Utopian extremist ideologies before, and the end result has always been the same; mountains of corpses and misery.
In this first part of the series, I will look at the origins of some of the evilest ideologies that the world has seen. In all cases, the majority of the followers did not follow the ideology with a conviction that they were endorsing evil, but instead, they endorsed the ideologies because they were fooled into thinking that the end goals were good and right. For sure, those inclined to evil will flock to evil ideologies, as these provide opportunities for evil. But most people are just fooled into pathological altruism. Since the industrial age, a central tenet of the most evil ideologies is anti-capitalism and, despite surface appearances, the foundation of anti-capitalism is always, and without exception, Marxism. This is true when the ideology proclaims its Marxist foundations, but is also true when it proclaims it is anti-Marxism.
The left and right of politics?
A significant problem in understanding evil ideologies is that we have developed a lazy habit of using the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ to characterise extremist ideologies. These terms have some very limited utility in dividing up political parties, such a Labour/National, Republican/Democrat but do not even work well in these examples. The problems of ‘left’ and ‘right’ become even more pronounced if looking at ‘extremist’ politics (those which diverge from classical liberal values). This is perhaps why more nuanced methods of categorising political values, such as the political compass, have been growing in popularity. However, they still use left and right as values on one of the axes (see below), and this again serves to obscure our understanding (see here for their explanation of the compass).
Whilst the political compass may be an improvement on the blunt terms ‘left’ and ‘right’, it is still a long way from being able to capture key features of different ideologies. Firstly, the economic scale should really be free-market versus state/government-control as this is implied in the scale but these anchors on the scale are more clear and transparent. It also misses another key feature that is vital in understanding any ideology, and that is where an ideology sits in relation to collectivism and individualism. Notably, the collectivism versus individualism dimension does relate to the authoritarian versus libertarian measure (one writer has even used this in a political compass, albeit it is simplistic). Individualism is about putting the rights and interests of the individual above the interests of any collective, and thus individualism is inherently libertarian. This becomes clearer when looking at collectivism. Collectivism inherently means that the interest of the collective is the primary and thus the interest and rights of an individual become secondary. This allows for authoritarianism (note here, the discussion refers to political ideology and is not about people voluntarily coming together for a collective goal, which is a necessity for human flourishing). However, it is quite possible to have authoritarianism without collectivism. For example, rule by a monarch (not symbolic as in the case of the UK) is not collectivist but is inherently authoritarian.
As such, rather than the neat quadrant offered by the political compass, it makes more sense to evaluate ideologies on three scales; (1) authoritarian versus libertarian, (2) free market versus state-controlled economy, (3) collectivism versus individualism. This does not allow for the same neatness as the political compass but better represents the differences between ideologies. I will later use this scale as a means of comparison between ideologies.
Communism, Fascism, and Nazism
One of the most worrying aspects of the use of terms like far left and far right is that they have served to obscure the commonality of some of the most significant forms of ideological extremism; Communism, Fascism, and Nazism. Although claiming to be very different, there are remarkable similarities between these ideologies, in their origins, and in their practices. For many people, it may come as a surprise to find that Mussolini was a leading Marxist before starting the Fascist movement. It may come as an even greater surprise to find quite how much of the Nazi programme mirrored that of their rivals, the communists. As for communism itself, it is apparent that leading communists such as Lenin and Mao, although founding their ideology on Marxism, adapted Marxism in significant ways to support their rise to power. The rivalry in Russia between the Menshevik and Bolshevik communist factions was, at its core, a rivalry over how ‘true’ Marxism could and should be achieved (Figes, 2017). Another problem of analysis is the interchangeable use of the terms Marxist, Communist, and Socialist, both by advocates for Marxist ideas and opponents. For Marxism, I mean the writings of Marx, and I will try, where possible, to use specific terms such as ‘Bolshevism’ and ‘Maoism’ when describing derivatives of Marxism.
The Marxist Roots of Italian Fascism
As most readers will be aware, Fascism was developed by Mussolini in pre-World War II Italy, but most will not be aware that Mussolini started out as a Marxist. Neville (2014) provides an account of Mussolini during his early years in Switzerland, during which time he started to move into Marxist circles, for example falling in with Angelica Balabanof, a revolutionary who was an associate of Lenin. At this time, Mussolini was to start to contribute articles to Marxist journals prompting Neville to propose that Marx “was the single most important intellectual influence in his [Mussolini’s] life, although Fascists in Italy later tried to deny this.” (p.25). By 1907 Mussolini was writing entire editions of a socialist newspaper, and his Marxist connections saw him move towards the heart of the Italian Marxist / Socialist movement through involvement in publications and organisations. When later returning to Trento, Mussolini drifted for a while before his Marxist connections secured him a role as a local socialist party secretary. He continued in journalism and was to edit two publications, The Future of the Worker and Class Struggle. It might be noted that whilst Italy had a non-revolutionary socialist movement and a revolutionary Marxist movement, Neville places Mussolini within the latter. Moreover, Mussolini was overall growing more influentials such that, at the Socialist Congress of 1912:
Mussolini’s speech went down well with party activists, and his motion to expel Bissolati was carried by a large majority. At the age of only 29, Mussolini, together with his mentor Angelica Balabanoff, found themselves, members of the dominant grouping, the party directorate. A few months later, Mussolini’s first great triumph as a demagogue was followed by his appointment as editor of the socialist newspaper Avanti!Neville, P. (2014). Mussolini. Routledge, pp 30-31
Of course, as we know, Mussolini did not remain a Marxist. His views on war shifted with World War I, and his support for Italian involvement in the war forced Mussolini to resign from Avanti! Although he was to break with many Marxists, the key question is whether Marxism laid the foundations of his Fascist ideology. The first point of note was the attraction of Fascism for Marxists:
One need only read the pertinent passages about Italian fascism in the very interesting diaries of Victor Serge, a dissident Russian Communist, to understand the deep and lasting connection between the national and international leftist ideologies, socialism-communism and fascism. Serge writes about Nicola Bombacci, a Socialist who later returned to Italy and “collaborated.” When Serge met him in his exile in Berlin (1923-1924), Bombacci told him that Mussolini owed much to the ideas of the Communists. “Why,” Serge asked, “didn’t you get rid of Mussolini at the time of the destruction of the cooperatives?”” Because our most militant and energetic men had gone over to him.” Serge confesses that he then realized how much he was tortured by the attraction Fascism exercised on the extreme left.(von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, E., 1974, p.159)
Settembrini (1976) addresses the tight relationship between Marxism and Fascism at some length in an academic article. To commence the discussion, Settembrini quotes Palmiro Togliatti, who was a founder of the Italian Communist Party and later a member of the Comintern (Communist International). Toglatti draws the linkages between the origins of Fascism and their roots in Marxist syndicalism, even acknowledging that it retained ‘residues’ of Marxism. Settembrini (1976) follows Toglatti’s thinking to its logical conclusion:
Only the ‘militia’ in the ranks of Stalinism prevented Togliatti from pushing his reflections to their logical conclusion: that fascism was originally an attempt to give concrete form to the revolutionary idea vainly preached by socialist parties and movements for a century. In this respect, therefore, it did not differ in principle from Leninism, though the Italian situation was virgin soil when compared with that in Russia; hence the divergence in their points of departure. But even here there were remarkable similarities once one goes beyond the party credos, which indeed present a radical contrast. From its earliest moments, fascism repudiated any connection with Marxism, whereas Lenin always protested the complete orthodoxy of even his most contradictory actions. But in actual practice, Leninism was forced to move quite a long way from the Marxism of the Second International – and, though to a lesser extent, in the same direction as fascism.Settembrini (1976), p. 240
Settembrini addresses an obvious problem when comparing Leninism and Fascism, which is that they were bitterly opposed to each other in practice in Italy. Settembrini points out that a key difference was which of the ideologies was better suited to the development of the revolution in the Italian context and cites Amendola’s analysis that capitalism was far from collapse in post-war Italy and that Fascism could better create a consensus for the interests of the working class and peasants. Settembrini highlights that the initial difference towards nationalism was a key element in the conflict between Leninism and Fascism:
Is fascism, although politically in mortal conflict with communism, also intellectually, spiritually, and as an ethico-political entity, the diametric opposite of Leninism? To both these questions the answer emerging from Togliatti’s texts is negative; so that the political conflict between Fascism and Communism might be more correctly considered a consequence of the irreducible hostility, of first the Socialists and then the Communists, towards Mussolini’s revolutionary project, because of his uninhibited overriding of old taboos such as the extreme anti-nationalism of socialist tradition.Settembrini (1976), p. 243
Perhaps the most important observations of Settembrini relate to the problems encountered by socialists in bringing about a revolutionary change in liberal democratic systems. The proletariat was too easily seduced by the day-to-day improvements in their lives and thus the impetus towards revolutionary socialism would diminish. The autocracy in Russia, in conjunction with the chaos and breakdown of society under the stress of World War I, was very different from the situations in liberal democratic regimes. In other words, each situation called for different adaptations of Marxist theory if a revolution was to be achieved. Fascism an adaptation of Marxism for the context of Italy and Bolshevism to the context of Russia. However, in the case of Mussolini’s fascism, his approach to economics started to diverge from Marxism as he sought to address structural problems of resources and the still relatively low level of industrialisation. Mises (1951) has the following to say:
The programme of the Fascists, as drafted in 1919, was vehemently anti-capitalistic. The most radical New Dealers and even communists could agree with it. When the Fascists came to power, they had forgotten those points of their programme which referred to the liberty of thought and the press and the right of assembly. In this respect they were conscientious disciples of Bukharin and Lenin. Moreover they did not suppress, as they had promised, the industrial and financial corporations. Italy badly needed foreign credits for the development of its industries. The main problem for Fascism, in the first years of its rule, was to win the confidence of the foreign bankers.(Mises, 1951, p. 576)
As such, Mussolini initially pursued state interventionist economic policies that were not radically different from those of liberal democracies. However, as the years progressed, Mises argues that Mussolini’s economics came to closely resemble those of the socialism of the Nazis (see below). Mussolini did make a move towards a new economic structure which was called ‘corporatism’ and, rather than being the original idea claimed by Mussolini, the idea was instead ‘guild socialism’, originating in the UK. Although trumpeting corporatism, Mises points out that it was ‘mere idle talk’:
Never did the Fascists make any attempt to realize the corporativist programme, industrial self-government. They changed the name of the chambers of commerce into corporative councils. They called corporazione the compulsory organizations of the various branches of industry which were the administrative units for the execution of the German pattern of socialism they had adopted. But there was no question of the corporazione’ s self-government. The Fascist cabinet did not tolerate anybody’s interference with its absolute authoritarian control of production. All the plans for the establishment of the corporative system remained a dead letter.(Mises, 1951, p. 577)
One of the interesting points of Italian Fascism was that it was, at the time admired by progressive politicians, such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other ‘New Dealers’ in the US, a fact that was ignored by a generation of historians (Whitman, 1991). It was seen as progressive and successful. However, as Mises points out, it was later to take a similar shape and form to Nazi economics. As such, I will detail the (surprising for many) ties between Marxism and Nazism in a later section. In the next section, I will look at Zeev Sternhall’s (1986) book; Neither Right Nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France.
Fascism in France
Sternhall’s (1986) book caused quite a stir when published, as it identified that fascism had garnered wide support in Europe in the pre-World War II period, and the movement was led by prominent intellectuals. I also suspect that part of the problem was that the socialist roots of French Fascism are very apparent. However, one of the most interesting points in the book is that the author continually refers to the Fascists and proto-Fascists as being on the ‘right’ of politics. What the author means by left and right becomes increasingly puzzling as you read on through the book. Like most authors, the delineation of the right is achieved only by reference to a rejection of some elements of Marxism. However, as is mentioned in an earlier section, groups described as Marxists also rejected elements of Marx. The Bolsheviks implicitly rejected fundamental parts of Marx’s theory. For example, Communism was supposed to be achieved in stages from Feudalism to Capitalism, to Socialism, then finally Socialism to Communism. Instead, Lenin pushed for an immediate revolution, even though Russia was far from the conditions laid out by Marx (Kotkin, 2014). Further, once in power, the Bolsheviks were tied in theoretical knots as they tried to square Marxist theory and their own actions and policies (Buchanan, 1996). Similarly, Mao’s revolutionary movement was centred around the peasantry, which was in direct opposition to Marx’s theory (Pantsov & Levine, 2013).
Just as in Italy, Sternhell commences by proposing the origins of Fascism as a crisis of liberalism, socialism and Marxism. In direct opposition to the thesis being laid out here, Sternhell argues that:
Fascism and Communism have one point in common: both want the destruction of the old order of things that gave rise to them and its replacement with new political and social structures.
As will be seen, by Sternhell’s own account, there is far more commonality than one point. However, to his credit, Sternhell does discuss that the term Fascism has multiple meanings. He argues that the reason is that Fascism has no single unifying source material, contrasting this with Socialism and Communism which both reference Marx. He also notes that historians tended to see Fascism as an aberration in European history, with Marxists proposing it as a tool of monopolistic capitalism and a support for imperialism. However, against this idea, Sternhell notes that, even from the outset, conservatives were bitterly opposed to Fascism, as were all liberals.
It is when Sternhell starts to describe the thoughts of the leading intellectuals in the development of Fascism that the idea of Fascism as ‘right’ starts to disintegrate. For example, Sorel, was a leading Fascist intellectual and this has led to discomfort for many, who sought to distance him from Fascism due to his strong Marxist background. It is not only Sternhell who saw Mussolini as an intellectual for the Fascists, including serving as a source for Mussolini’s Fascism. Indeed, Sorel viewed Mussolini favourably. Roth (1967) gives a clear account of these linkages:
Fascism was also welcomed by Sorel. He had been watching Mussolini since 1912 when the revolutionary socialists won control of the party and Mussolini became editor of the Avanti!
The Fascists he [Sorel] thought an elite and Mussolini he called a “political genius.” As long as the Blackshirts were masters of the street their opponents could hope for no success. As a revolutionary order, he saw fascism impelled by a morale compounded of the “social” and “national.” The state would be restored in grandeur under Mussolini’s leadership, resting on a corporate social and economic base. He saw in fascism a regime.
The attempts to deny the role of Sorel in Fascist thinking can be seen as an interesting example of the attempts to distance Fascism from what were clearly Marxist foundations. In the case of Sorel, he had seen the problems of the collapse of the economy in the Soviet Union and thus saw a need to integrate the bourgeoisie (middle classes) into the revolution to avoid this fate. Thus the ideas did not derive from theory but were a pragmatic response to the failure of another revolution. Instead of one idea in common with communists, the rhetoric and goals were very similar to the Communists. This is captured in the following quotes from Maulnier, a Fascist leader (all from pp.12-13)”
It is once more time to begin, like the prewar syndicalists, to combat both the political and social forms of the regime, for they are inseparable.
[in reference to a law] that delivered up the workers defenselessly to capitalist exploitation […]
It is against this blood-filled idol, it is against capitalist democracy itself and against all the parties, down to the communists, that, depending on it, become its defenders, that one must direct the battle.
Democracy and capitalism are one and the same evil: they can only overthrown together.
Aside from an anti-Communist reference, this might well have come from a Communist. It is no wonder then that Sternhell notes that the leaders of Fascism were ‘to be found as much on the left as on the right of the political spectrum, and often more to the left than the right’ (p.14). Sternhell notes how the French Communists were to lose large numbers of supporters to the Fascist movements, and this was to prove to be an ongoing process. The reason given for this shift was that the revolutionary nature of the ‘extreme left’ had proved to be ‘largely theoretical’ and, thus, Sternhell claims that the reason for the defection to the Fascists was simply that they wanted to overthrow the liberal order. On the face of it, this seems improbable. After all, who just wants to overthrow and order with no guiding ideological reason? Instead, Sternhell’s identification of the ‘Sorelian’ synthesis from Sorel explains the attraction; the combination of Socialism with Nationalism to create National Socialism. Quite rightly, Sternhell notes that this was a response to the failure of Marxist determinism, whereby the working class would revolt, and failed to do so. As a result, Sorel wanted to transcend Marxism:
For Sorel, nothing was more despicable than the form of Marxist orthodoxy exemplified by Karl Kautsky, than the immobilism of of that left wing that used a petrified Marxism, frozen into hackneyed formulas, to excuse its own impotence. (p.16)
Again, Sternhell proposes that intellectuals such as Sorel, in going beyond Marxism “in practice generally led outside Marxism and very far away from it” (p.16). In reading this kind of statement, it often seems Sternhell is trying to reassure himself. There were substantive differences, such as Nationalism, a more positive view of the bourgeoisie, but these are responses to the failures of Marxist doctrine, and did not involve a move away from key ideas such as socialism, anti-capitalism, anti-liberal democracy, collectivism and so forth. Indeed, Sternhell, just a page later, concedes:
Indeed, Sorelian socialism insisted from the beginning on the importance of the ethical dimension of Marxism, and Sorel stressed the moral content of Marx’s thought as a tool for historical analysis and a means of transforming society. (p.17)
Sorel’s argument was, therefore, not with any principles in Marxism, but rather with the elements that seemed to be failing in practice. Thus, if the class conflict did not produce a socialist revolution, find a new lever to achieve the same goal. In this context, Sternhell describes that “it was the revision of Marxism that constituted the most significant ideological aspect of Fascism” (p. 20) and thus repudiates his own earlier claim that there was no unifying source material for Fascism. There was. The unifying source material was Marx and, in the minds of the Fascists, they were extending, fixing, and improving Marxism. Just as the Bolsheviks adapted Marxism to the Russian context of a poorly developed autocratic state, the Fascists were adapting Marxism into a form that might succeed in a liberal democracy. In order to succeed in overturning liberal democracy, they simply needed a different formula from the Bolsheviks. As for explaining the antagonism between the Fascists and Communists, the antagonism between the more purist Marxism of the Mensheviks and the heterodoxy of the Bolsheviks provides a reasonable parallel.
The Nazi Party
Unlike Mussolini, Hitler was never an avowed Marxist. Instead, he was a fanatical anti-Semite, and an extreme nationalist driven by racism. If having the misfortune to read the relevant sections of Mein Kampf (see note 1), a book written by Hitler in the early days of his rise to power, it is apparent that his antisemitism led him to reject international capitalism and Marxism on the basis that he believed both were part of a (bizarre) Jewish conspiracy of domination. However, in an odd concession, Hitler describes Marxism as a mix of human reason and human absurdity. Unfortunately, Hitler’s confusing and rambling style makes opaque which part of Marxism he saw as ‘reason’. What is apparent is that Hitler was disgusted with the rejection of nation and individual in Marxism, but also that his conception of the individual is far from the individualism of classical liberalism. In particular, the individual is still subsumed under the rule of the state and the collective of the German race. Hitler’s rise to power commenced with his joining and later leading the German Worker’s Party, later called the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party). There is, of course, a clue in the latter party name which indicates foundations in / commonalities with Marxist thinking.
When one remembers that the word “Nazi” was an abbreviation for “der Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiters Partei — in English translation: the National Socialist German Workers’ Party — Mises’s identification [of Nazism as socialist] might not appear all that noteworthy. For what should one expect the economic system of a country ruled by a party with “socialist” in its name to be but socialism?
Nevertheless, apart from Mises and his readers, practically no one thinks of Nazi Germany as a socialist state. It is far more common to believe that it represented a form of capitalism, which is what the Communists and all other Marxists have claimed.(Reisman, 2005)
Although Nazis were ostensibly anti-Marxist, Nazi ideology shared much in common with Marxism, most obviously in their revolutionary anti-capitalist stances, rhetoric, and actions. In this, they mirrored the Fascists of France and Italy. From the outset, before Hitler joined the party, the Nazi party members shared Hitler’s opposition to capitalism and blended this with anti-Semitism, reflecting a growing current of thought at the time. For example, a small radical news outlet had published a ‘volkisch’ list of 12 points that encompassed anti-capitalism and antisemitism and was later closely reflected in the 25 points the Nazi party announced in 1920 (Phelps, 1963). The Nazi 25 points encompass the desire to reverse the post-World War I treaty settlement, antisemitism, and overtly Marxist agendas e.g. Point 13 is “We demand nationalization of all businesses which have been up to the present formed into companies (trusts).”
The underlying Marxist agenda of the Nazis was reflected in their campaigns before finally coming into power, and can be found in their rhetoric on economics. Noting that historians have failed to recognise the importance of Nazi economic policy and how important the Nazi economic platform in the rise of Nazism, Szejnmann (2013) highlights that the Nazis were often taking on their communist opponents with the same arguments, language, and even metaphors. It should be noted, however, that Szejnmann argues that the proposed anti-capitalist stances of each side derived from different belief systems. It is an interesting point but should not distract from the many overlaps between the Marxists and Nazis which are detailed in the paper’s discussions. This, for example is a quote from Strasser, the leader of the Nazi economic programme before the Nazis came to power:
We have recognised that the capitalist economic system and its exploitation of the economic weak, and its theft of the labour of employees, and its immoral evaluation of humans according to property and money, instead of nobleness and performance, must be replaced by a new, fair economic order, by a German socialism!(Quoted in Szejnmann, 2013, p.366)
As Szejnmann recognises, the Nazi economic programme mirrored Marxist ideas, but with solutions that mingled in volkisch-German socialism of racism and ideas of performance. Szejnmann’s argument and case is more nuanced than can be captured in an overview, but nevertheless it was apparent that Nazism shared more in common with Marxism than Marxists would care to admit. In the conclusion, Szejnmann says the following:
This has led to consistent misunderstandings about the nature of Nazism. Indicative of this is the complaint by contemporary communists: ‘We must realise that a great part of the Nazi-proletarians are misled workers who really believe that they are fighting against capitalism and for socialism.’ Indeed, Nazis fought against international capitalism and for German socialism.(Szejnmann, 2013, p.375)
Although Nazism was anti-capitalist, Szejnmann points out the chameleon nature of the Nazis, who would downplay their more radical policies according to their audience and this has allowed for a view that the Nazis were aligned with business. Certainly, they promoted that their vision of socialism as a better alternative to the Marxist alternative. Just as importantly, the Nazis were seen as a bulwark against the violent street agitation of the revolutionary Communists.
Different historiographical lines of thought are in agreement that the ubiquitous spread of political violence was one of the central structural problems of the Weimar Republic. For example, all the current forms of totalitarianism theory emphasize that an ideological and fanatical willingness with the help of paramilitary organizations to destroy the state’s monopoly on violence was an essential characteristic of totalitarian movements in the 1920s, both on the left and on the right.(Ziemann, 2003, p.80)
In practice, this meant gangs of Communist and Nazi thugs fighting on the streets, and a wider population made fearful by the violence. The Nazis therefore not only mirrored the Communists in rhetoric and policy but also in the use of violence in support of their goals. Despite the commonality in methods and policies, the Nazis nevertheless managed to persuade political leaders in the Weimar republic that they were a better alternative to the Communists. For example, whilst the German Nationalist Party had a poor opinion of the plebeian politics of the Nazis, they saw them as an ally against the Communists, despite the fact that they recognised the socialist nature of the Nazi programme (Walker, 1979). Similarly, following the success of the Nazis in the 1930s election, the decisions to work with the Nazis were taken with reluctance due to their radical stances:
Under these circumstances, Schleicher and his associates formulated a strategy for “taming” the Nazi beast that rested upon a two-fold premise, first that the radicalism of the Nazi movement could be moderated by saddling it with political responsibility, and second that the NSDAP’s entry into the government would deprive it of the advantages it enjoyed as an opposition party. At the same time, the support of the NSDAP would provide Germany’s conservative elites with the mantle of legitimacy they needed to carry out a fundamental revision of Germany’s constitutional system.(Jones, 2005, p.208)
This then brings us to what the Nazis actually did once in power and how this might compare with what are viewed as more conventional Marxist economics. Mises (1944), an economist, makes just such a comparison with the Soviet Union. He notes the very different contexts of Russia and Germany. Russia was a resource-rich but industrial-poor country and Germany an industrial-rich but resource-poor country. For the former, autarky (self-sufficiency) is possible but, for Germany, foreign trade was essential if the country was to have sufficient food and resources. This requirement necessitated an industrial sector that was competitive enough to trade in international markets and thus allow for the purchase of resources. Mises argues, therefore, that German socialism was a pragmatic response to the constraints imposed by this situation. The approach of the Soviet Union would not produce the efficiency for essential German trade to survive, such that German socialism engendered a form of socialism that allowed for the outward trappings of capitalism, even as the state took complete control over the economy. Although less efficient than a free market, it was more efficient than the Soviet system. Mises provides an outline of quite how deep state control was in practice:
There are, however, no longer entrepreneurs but only shop managers (Betriebsführer). These shop managers do the buying and selling, pay the workers, contract debts, and pay interest and amortization. There is no labor market; wages and salaries are fixed by the government. The government tells the shop managers what and how to produce, at what prices and from whom to buy, at what prices, and to whom to sell. The government decrees to whom and under what terms the capitalists must entrust their funds and where and at what wages laborers must work. Market exchange is only a sham. All the prices, wages, and interest rates are fixed by the central authority.(von Mises, 1944, p.56, see Buchheim, C., & Scherner, J. 2006 for a different interpretation, but which also mirrors key points in this summary)
One possible reason why Nazism has been wrongly viewed as capitalist is that, at the very start of the regime, the policy towards business was ‘corporatist’ (Overy, 1985), meaning private businesses worked to closely meet government objectives. However, there was to be a major shift in economic policy, which Overy (1985) discusses from the point of view of the ‘Reichswerke Crisis’. The crisis was Göring’s plan to establish a state-run steel industry which he was to implement later (the Reichswerke, was later to absorb many private industries, as well as expanding even further internationally with Nazi conquests). In part, the establishment of the Reichswerke was a power grab for Göring but also reflected core Nazi ideology and demands that the ideology was enacted.
The practical arguments were augmented by a renewed effort to compel the economy to conform more with Nazi ideology. The new direction in economic policy was accompanied by a growing chorus of criticism of big business in the Nazi press and among Nazi leaders. Goring accused the iron and steel barons of displaying ’the crassest economic egoism’, and returned frequently to arguments about the needs of the community taking precedence over the needs of the individual.(Overy, 1985, p.318)
Unsurprisingly, the business interests, the major corporations, threatened by the establishment of the Reichswerke sought to gather their collective strength to resist the plan. However, they were facing a totalitarian state and were forced to accept the change. As Overy describes, it was a key moment where the nature of Nazi socialism became apparent.
Though they could still profit from the system, they were forced to do so on the party’s terms. Profit and investment levels were determined by the state, on terms much more favourable to state projects. Competition in the market was replaced by competition within the political structure; rational calculation gave way to the ‘primacy of politics’, completing the disintegration of traditional patterns of social power begun during the depression.(Overy, 1985, p.324)
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that industry was to dance close to the tune of the Nazi four-year plan, a concept that mirrors the five-year plans of the Soviet Union. They did so even as the Reichswerke received the lion’s share of industrial investment and started to grow at an ever-faster pace. Thyssen, one of the industrialists who had supported the Nazis, had believed the Nazis would form a ‘paternalist corporate state’ but fled from Germany under the new economic regime. The fundamental question that might be asked of Thyssen was why, given Nazi rhetoric and stated policy goals, he might have believed what he believed. Overy, concludes his discussion as follows:
In the long run Nazism was moving to a position in which the economic New Order would be controlled by the party through a bureaucratic apparatus staffed by technical experts and run through arbitrary political intervention, not unlike the system that had already been built up in the Soviet Union.(Overy, 1985, p.334, emphasis added)
Were the Bolsheviks Different?
And for those that will insist that the economics of the Soviet Union were entirely different from Nazi Germany, I would remind them that the same kind of pragmatic approach to policy seen in both Germany and Italy was applied in the Soviet Union. Although the Bolsheviks aggressively grabbed the reins of the economy during the period of ‘war communism’, the abysmal failings in the economy saw Lenin introduce the New Economic Policy (NEP), which operated from 1921-7. Bandera (197) thus describes the economy:
As we compare the industrial organization of the NEP model with that of other economic systems tried under communist regimes, one feature stands out: state enterprises and, indeed, the entire productive network, had to function in the context of a market. This was true despite extensive and increasing constraints imposed by the new regime in the form of explicit laws and regulations. Even the structure- changing macroeconomic policies and the commitment to planning subsumed the market orientation of individual productive units in the system.(Bandera, 1970, p.110)
As Bandera explores the details of how the NEP functioned, it might even be argued that, at some points, the Nazis exerted greater state control than the Bolsheviks. This is captured in the following summary from Bandera:
To the extent that the Leninist NEP represents an ideologically acceptable precedent, it might be useful to recall that the model incorporated significant competitive elements in the form of a substantial private participation in manufacturing, some overlapping of the output mix among the trusts, a market-oriented banking system, consumer-sensitive cooperatives, and a foreign trade policy partly cognizant of international opportunity(Bandera, 1970, p.120)
It is simply not credible to claim that, with regards to economics, ideologies traditionally labeled as ‘Marxist’ substantively differed from Fascism and Nazism. The only way this claim can be substantiated is if picking two specific times for comparison as the basis for the claim i.e. picking time periods to create a contrast. Instead, if looking over a longer period, it is apparent that economic policy was a matter of a contest between ideological commitments and pragmatism, regardless of the adaptation of Marxism that is examined.
Evil Ideologies: Not Only Economics in Common
The actuality of Nazi rule was not just economically related to Marxism but was also eerily similar to Bolshevism in other areas. For example, both the Soviet and Nazi regimes shared in common an idealistic aspiration towards ‘transformation of the individual citizen into a “new man” […]’ (Fitzpatrick & Ludtke, 2009, p.270). As Fritzsche and Hellbech (2009) observe, the English translation of ‘new man’ does not capture the ethos and intent of this concept, whereby the ‘new man’ is not gendered or referring to individuals but instead ‘the subject and object of transformation’ was ‘the collective’ (p.306). As such, both regimes were to direct the power of the state in the service of ‘the possibility of transcending liberalism, of working on the self, and of serving larger entities’ (p304). In particular, even though commencing from different ideologies, Nazi and Stalinist visions commenced with the premise that ‘human psychology was chaotic and passive and therefore required rational intervention in order to be activated or directed’ (p.316). It should come as no surprise that both the Soviet and Nazi regimes not only sought to take complete control of education but also of culture.
Yes, the Bolsheviks were Racist too
As for the anti-Semitism of the Nazis, this was also apparent under Stalinist rule in the Soviet Union, albeit with consequences that were not comparable to the hideous outcomes of Nazism. Wistrich (2003) noted that, in the early 1930s, Stalin was engaging in anti anti-Semitic rhetoric in 1931, but later in 1949:
[Stalin] was beginning to sound like Adolf Hitler when it came to “the Jewish question.” He adopted the classic Nazi mythology of “rootless cosmopolitanism” and applied it to Soviet Jews. Stalinist accusations which developed out of this slogan followed the pattern of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This had an obvious propaganda value in Soviet Russia, as it did in all of the East European satellite countries that fell under communist control in the late 1940s, where anti-Semitism already enjoyed great popularity. The fictitious “world conspiracy” invented by the Stalinists offered a suitable backdrop for totalitarian claims to world rule alongside the crusade against Wall Street, capitalism and imperialism.(Wistrich, 2003, p.65)
The anti-Semitism did not disappear with the death of Stalin. Somewhat shockingly, Wistrich points to the truly absurd idea being promoted in Soviet propaganda in the 1970s that the rise of Hitler and the Nazis was a Zionist plot. Returning to Stalin, Martin (1998) points to the growing evidence that Stalin, just before his death, was going to relocate the entire Jewish population to Siberia. The idea was not without precedent, as ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the Soviet Union was large scale and commonplace. This started before the World War II but was to accelerate in the war:
Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union led to a massive escalation in Soviet ethnic cleansing. The Soviet government immediately deported 1.2 million citizens of German origin from European Russia to Siberia and Central Asia. After the retreat of the German army in 1943–44, the Soviet state deported its entire Crimean Tatar, Kalmyk, Chechen, Ingush, Balkar, Karachai, and Mesk-hetian Turk populations to Central Asia on the charge of collective treason. In addition, from 1944 through 1953, a number of peoples—Kurds, Khemshils (Moslem Armenians), Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians from the Black Sea re-gion, Iranians—were deported away from the Soviet border regions in Crimea and the Transcaucasus.(Martin, 1998, p. 820)
As Martin observes, the policy of ethnic cleansing in the Soviet Union mirrored the Nazi goals in their newly conquered territories in the East. Soviet ethnic cleansing differed from the Nazi variant as it was not accompanied by overt murder, but instead, the process had features that ensured high levels of death. For example, the speed of the relocations and appalling conditions at the end destination led to very high levels of death from starvation and there were also large-scale arrests leading to the misery and likelihood of death in the ‘Gulag’. Further, the ‘cleansed’ ethnic groups were often the subject of demonisation, and were particularly hard hit during the period of Stalin’s terror and during the collectivisaton of the countryside. Both periods coincided with an upswelling of ethnic conflicts and resentments that fed into the targeting of ethnic groups for particularly harsh treatment. For example, Martin provides a rough estimate for arrests in the Terror of ethnic minorities, finding that 25% of the arrests were of minority populations, despite their comprising just under two percent of the population. The extremity of some of the Soviet action in the terror, according to Martin, ‘verged on the genocidal’ (p.822). It might be noted that Martin characterises Soviet xenophobia as different from ethnic xenophobia, suggesting the fear was of capitalist influences and other negative influences seeping into the Soviet Union i.e. it was ideological. However, when stigmatising and abusing an ethnic group, it is difficult to see any real substantive difference is demonstrated (see note 2).
What About Militarism and Nationalism?
One objection to the idea that Bolshevism, Fascism and Nazism are very similar might be the militarism of the latter two. This would, again, be to totally disregard the history of the Bolsheviks. One of the attractions of the Bolsheviks was their promise to end Russia’s involvement in World War I, which seems to confirm this idea. However, shortly after the civil war, as soon as the home situation stabilised, the Soviets invaded Poland (Kotkin, 2013). This is not widely known, for the simple reason that the entire campaign was a fiasco, incidentally with Stalin contributing significantly to the failure as one of the important leaders of the campaign. And then there was the huge growth of the Red Army. This accompanied increasingly nationalistic propaganda campaigns, which served as preparation of the hyper-Nationalism of World War II.
Huge expenditure was devoted to the growth of the Red Army, including massive investment in the armaments industries. Finally, in the lead-up to World War II, the Soviet Union also invaded Finland. Again, the campaign was a fiasco, but that was primarily due to appalling leadership as well as brave and effective resistance by the Finns. Despite the poor performance of the Red Army, they did prevail and Stalin used the victory to extract territorial concessions from the Finns. As such, the Bolsheviks and Stalinists were very much inclined to militarism. The history of the Cold War tells the same story.
The same, if you look over a long time period
Although it is commonplace to delineate Communism from Nazism and Fascism, the ugly truth is that they share far more commonality than apologists would ever admit. This becomes more true if looking at the development and evolution of the ideologies over time. For example, when the Bolsheviks seized power, there were Bolshevik leaders who were Jewish and there was little anti-Semitism. This did not stop the eventual drift into anti-Semitism in Stalin’s later years. The devil of the commonality and differences is often in looking at the detail over time. It is beyond the scope of this essay to track the complex histories on each fine point, but hopefully, the discussion so far has served to overturn obfuscating ideas such as ideologies being delineated on the hard right and hard left. The commonalities greatly outweighed their differences. Instead of delving further into the complexities of history, in the next section, I will look at an example in the present; the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
The Chinese Communist Party was an offshoot of Stalinism, which was later to go ‘renegade’ as the leader of the party, Mao Zedong sought CCP independence from Soviet overlordship (Chang & Halliday, 2010). As such, the roots of Chinese evolution can be seen as a linear progression from Marxism to Bolshevism, Bolshevism to Stalinism, Stalinism to Maoism, and Maoism to the modern Chinese Communist Party (call it Xi-ism, if you like). What is the modern CCP? Firstly, for the economy, China has been deepening the power and influence of state-owned companies:
Over the past few years, the Chinese economy has been characterized by rapid expansion of the state sector and the simultaneous slow development or even retreat of the private sector. In addition, rapid shrinkage in the number of state-owned enterprises has been accompanied by the expansion of power of the CSOEs. In spite of these developments, the state-owned companies retain their power and influence in China. The centralization of assets and profits in a few increasingly influential CSOEs not only strengthens the monopoly status of state companies, but also projects the resurgence of the state in China.(Yu, 2014, p.162)
Although increasingly under pressure, there is also a large private sector in China, which developed as a result of the opening up of China after the death of Mao. However, the corporations are under ever closer control by the CCP:
The U.S. Congress may or may not have been particularly alert to the specifics of this investigative case; nevertheless, over the past decade, private enterprises with Communist Party branches have become increasingly common in China, regardless of their scale or the nationality of their ownership. Official statistics indicate that by the end of 2014, approximately 1,579,000 private companies in mainland China had established CCP connections, accounting for around 53.1 percent of all Chinese private businesses. In the same period, the proportion of officially defined large private companies with CCP connections exceeded 95 percent, representing a major increase since the late 1990s. In 1998, only 0.9 percent of China’s 12 million private enterprises had established party connections, rising to only about 16 percent by 2008. Today, however, the rapid expansion of the CCP into the private sector is an undeniable trend, confirmed by a nationwide survey of private enterprises in China. Figure 1 shows the percentages of private enterprises that established CCP branches from 1993 to 2012 [the figure shows around 36%].(Yan & Huang, 2017, p. 38)
Modern China therefore has an economic structure that could be recognisable in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Further, the economic history of China conforms to the thesis of Mises (1944) in his discussion of Soviet and German socialism, and why they differed. At the time of the founding of the CCP, China was not industrialised and was also relatively resource-poor. Mao, in line with his Stalinist derived ideology, instigated a Stalinist economic system, but did so despite the fact that China was relatively resource poor. Unsurprisingly, China was miserably poor under Maoism. However, the evolution of China towards the Nazi economic system has seen China’s standard of living significantly improve. Using the expertise and technology of Capitalist countries, China was able to industrialise and this has allowed them to address their resource problem through the development of export industries. As Mises noted, the German solution was still inefficient, but much more efficient than the Soviet system.
The comparisons go beyond economics. Even from its early years, the CCP has been profoundly nationalistic but has also become racist and genocidal; it is now becoming widely accepted that the CCPs policy for the Uyghurs is, indeed, genocidal. In addition to these commonalities, the CCP is obsessed with tightly controlling culture and education. Furthermore, the CCP’s nationalism has long been militaristic. China’s wars are as follows (I do not include the very large numbers of clashes, skirmishes etc., such as with Taiwan and even the Soviet Union):
- 1950, Tibet (annexation)
- 1950-53 The Korean War
- 1960, China-India war
- 1965-69, Vietnam War
- 1979, War with Vietnam
And now the militarism and nationalism is translating into an even more aggressive and expansionist approach to the outside world which naturally brings comparisons with pre-war Germany (was allowing the building of the Islands in the South China Sea a ‘Munich’ appeasement moment?). I could go on with comparisons, but I hope the point is clear. The CCP, which is still called ‘communist’ now looks remarkably like a Fascist or Nazi state. If we were to compare the modern CCP with Soviet Communism post-Stalin, the CCP looks more like the Fascists and Nazis than the Soviets. But then again, at times, the Soviets have looked like the Nazis. And thus we come to the problem with the way we have become used to classifying the world, which is with terms such as hard left and hard right. Rather than illuminate our understanding of extremist ideologies, these kinds of terms only serve to obscure that the underlying Marxist foundations are the same and that the foundations provide for adaptations of the same basic structures over time and according to varied contexts.
In addition to identifying the fundamentally socialist nature of the Nazi state, Mises also recognised the connection in ‘spirit’ between Bolshevism, Fascism, and Nazism. The quote below provides a fascinating insight, as it was written at the start of World War II:
Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini constantly proclaim that they are chosen by destiny to bring salvation to this world. They claim they are the leaders of the creative youth who fight against their outlived elders. They bring from the East the new culture which is to replace the dying Western civilization. They want to give the coup de grace to liberalism and capitalism; they want to overcome immoral egoism by altruism; they plan to replace the anarchic democracy by order and organization, the society of “classes” by the total state, the market economy by socialism. Their war is not a war for territorial expansion, for loot and hegemony like the imperialistic wars of the past, but a holy crusade for a better world to live in. And they feel certain of their victory because they are convinced that they are borne by “the wave of the future.”(Mises, 1940, P.87)
Hopefully, at this point, you are convinced of two things. Firstly, that ideologies such as Bolshevism, Maoism, Xi-ism, Fascism, and Nazism are actually very closely aligned in their fundamental ideas. Secondly, they share a commonality that they have foundations in Marxist thought and that each has evolved away from ‘pure’ Marxism, albeit to different degrees and in different ways at different times. One way of understanding this is to see that core features are retained such as collectivist and anti-capitalist. Other elements are retained by one variant of the ideology and yet discarded by another ideology, such as the internationalist versus nationalist divide, only to reappear later. The important point here is that the core remains, and the core inevitably directs to other features (e.g. authoritarianism, see Hayek, 1944 for a discussion) and encourages other features. For example, even though a Jew himself, Marx was clearly very anti-Semitic (see here for a discussion) and this was replicated (not copied) in Nazism and in the later years of Stalin’s regime. Anti-Semitism is not a core feature of Marxism but once starting down the road of viewing people as collectives, it is easy to collectivise them into further collective groupings. Although group identity can be a good thing, it becomes extremely dangerous outside of the classical liberal primacy of the individual. Viewing people as collectives instead of individuals allows for division, demonisation, and the development of out-groups. Thus, variants of racism and other forms of group oppression are more likely to arise.
We can use the analogy of a personal computer to help understand why Marxist derived ideology are prone to coincide with each other in their adaptations. The computer absolutely must have key features such as a processor and storage, but we can also add or remove other items such as a USB port. There may also be variations in the processor, or operating system, for example with one computer using an upgraded processor versus the original. Further, the processor architecture is designed to include certain add-ons, such as a graphics card which means that it is more probable that a graphics card will be added. As such, although there are differences from one computer to another, and we may label one an Apple computer and another a Dell computer, the computers will nevertheless share many features and we can still see that the object is a computer.
Bearing this in mind, we can see the commonalities between Bolshevism, Fascism, and Nazism on the scales I proposed at the start of the essay. I contrast these ideologies with liberal democracies, which tend to move on the scales over time, with individual policy changes moving the overall picture further left or right, but remain within the boundaries of classical liberalism (see note 3). I have used formal measures as the basis for the rankings (where possible) for the liberal countries, albeit I am dubious about some of the rankings (e.g. for liberty, the UK is ranked higher than the US despite ‘hate speech’ laws being enacted in the UK, and the UK health industry is primarily in state hands whereas in the US it is largely private). There is also plenty of room to argue about the general position on the scales for all the liberal countries, but they are all still in the realms of classical liberalism. However, Wokeism is a direct threat to the classical liberal foundations of the countries shown. For the Marxist derived ideologies, it is possible to debate on fine points, such as the period of time that they reference, but they are in the broadest sense going to be ‘about right’. Nevertheless, the positions on the scales should in all cases be seen for what they are, subjective heuristics to illustrate the principles that have been outlined so far.
An important consideration to keep in mind when looking at the innocuous appearing scale above is the murderousness of the Anti-Liberalism Regimes. They all share in common that they were truly appalling and evil. As for whether Nazism was worse than Bolshevism, we need to look at the reality of the individuals being murdered, abused, and tortured. Is the victim of an ideology going to say ‘I feel so much better because I am being killed for my class rather than my race’, and another victim ‘I feel so much better because I am being killed for my race rather than my class?’ The people who are being so abused do not care, they just care that they are being tortured, murdered, or abused. As soon as society moves out of the classical liberal part of the scale, the door starts to open to vile and evil deeds, and this is true regardless of the label given to the ideology. Fine-grained distinctions between evil ideologies do not mean much to the person about to be murdered by one.
When looking at the evolution and adaptation of Marxism, it is apparent that the variants were a response to the context of the time and place in which they emerged. In most cases, there were competing variants, for example with Communists and Fascists in Italy, or the Bolsheviks and Social Revolutionaries in Russia. What is taking place in these cases is analogous to Darwinian selection, in which the variant that is best adapted to the economic, historical, political, and cultural environment wins out (a notion that would have pleased the Nazis, it is unfortunate to say). There is no simple formula, but rather the variants need to evolve and adapt until they find the formula which will allow effective manipulation of the levers of society to gain sufficient support to overturn the existing order. The variants may also adapt and change over time, often trying to resolve the contradictions and problems that the ideology has itself created (e.g. the terrible poverty in Mao’s China).
To return to the analogy of the computer, a personal computer used by a keen gamer will likely be different from a computer that is just used for surfing the Internet and posting on social media. In order to understand Wokeism it is necessary to address why it is the adaptation that it is, in the same way, that we can examine why a computer used for gaming is specified as it is. In the next essay, I will start to examine the ideology of Wokeism and see what has been retained, what has been bolted on, and which element of the ideology can be found in the many previous variants and adaptations of Marxism. In this way, we will be better able to understand how and why Wokeism is managing to fool so many people in the context of modern Western liberal democracies. In other words, worryingly, Wokeism has now adapted and evolved to allow it to threaten modern Western liberalism. I leave this essay with a final quote:
“Modern society is hypnotised by socialism. It is prevented by socialism from seeing the mortal danger it is in. One of the greatest dangers of all is that you have lost all sense of danger. You cannot even see where it is coming from as it moves swiftly towards you. Socialism of any type leads to a total destruction of the human spirit… to destroy a people, you must first sever their roots.”Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Soviet dissident who won a Nobel Prize for the Gulag Archipelago, an account of the horrors of the Soviet Union.
Part II: A Comparison Between Wokeism and Other Evil Ideologies can be found here.
Note 1: I was curious to see Hitler’s views on Marxism firsthand and downloaded a translated pdf of Mein Kampf. Although only looking at sections discussing capitalism and Marxism, it was truly awful to read. It was also shockingly absurd. If it were not for knowing where the ideology would lead, it would seem so silly as to be slightly comical. That such poor thinking can have such a profound and terrible impact is, of itself, disturbing in the context of our current situation.
Note 2: It might be noted that Martin characterises Soviet xenophobia as different from ethnic xenophobia, suggesting the fear was of capitalist influences and other negative influences seeping into the Soviet Union i.e. it was ideological. However, when stigmatising and abusing an ethnic group, it is difficult to see any real substantive difference is demonstrated. There seems to be a relentless desire to minimise the evils that take place under Communism, and this may be due to the problem of left versus right i.e. they are on the left, so their evil behaviour reflects badly on all of the left. Thus the evil must be minimised and largely kept hidden. Again, this is why left versus right is not useful, albeit it remains unfortunately necessary to use it as it is a common currency of political discussion.
Note 3: As an illustration, in the case of the UK, one example of a move away from freedom is the lessening of free speech, and an example of greater freedom is the legalisation of homosexuality.
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