The 2020 election may soon be over, but the inaccurate name-calling isn’t going to end anytime soon. Republicans, fearing a Biden administration, will frequently lash out, calling their opponents "Communists and Marxists." Conversely, Democrats are rejoicing in the opportunity to rid the White House of the "Fascist GOP". Neither could be farther from the truth.
Labeling someone as Communist or Fascist based on their political leanings has become the default insult to hurl at both sides of the aisle. However, ask anyone who lacks an understanding of each term’s historical context and connection to complex political ideologies, to define either word and quickly you will realize how loosely each term is currently defined. Decrypting the jargon of Karl Marx or Benito Mussolini is a tall order for anyone, but that should not stop us from understanding the historical differences between the two and how removed their ideologies are from America’s present political parties.
To understand Facsim, one has to look to its strongest advocate and founder, Benito Mussolini. The word Facsim comes from the Italian word "fasci," meaning a "bundle of sticks," a symbol for strength in unity. Mussolini founded the Fascist Party in March 1919 after his falling out with the Socialists. Unlike Marxism, Fascism developed from a political party, not a single person. Benito Mussolini's criticism of Marxism was mainly based on disagreements of personalities and who was in charge, with a few small changes in ideology. Mussolini attached a solemn tone of Italian nationalism and patriotism, with newfound support for Italy's involvement in World War 1 on the side of the Allies, to create a powerful political party. At first starting small, Mussolini aligned Fascism with the Republican Party almost immediately. It is worth noting that this was not the Republican party of America. Italian Republicans in the early 1900s swung heavy left and have only now gradually shifted towards the center. Today the Italian Republicans can primarily be compared to Conservative Democrats, not Trump's right-wing leaning Conservatives. Following the war, Mussolini gained the support of Italian war veterans, and after long and bloody clashes with socialists, he finally took power of the government. At this point, we can begin to see Benito Mussolini's vision of a fascist Italy, which is a socially conservative, but anti-religious and based on capitalism with heavy government regulation of critical industries. Fanatically against individual rights, Mussolini's Italy was not Trump's America.
Almost immediately, Mussolini moved to dissolve free elections, jail political opponents, enact threatening labor laws, set maximum hours for work, establish paid vacation, change parliament into a majoritarian system, and indoctrinate the youth in Party ideology. These policies do not sound Republican but are aligned with hard-left learning Democratic politics of today. The Fascist party believed in the state's absolute dominance as the sole provider of rights and the sole judge of morality. Trump and the Republicans argue that individual rights come from God, not the state and that it is God who is the rightful judge of morality. While Benito Mussolini encouraged socially conservative ideals in his own home and was married in the Catholic church, his outward support for the Church was a ruse to gain the trust of the Catholics who were strong anti-communists. He would then wield this power to destroy parliamentary elections and silence the personal freedoms of his citizens. Trump actively encourages religious institution independence, seeks to dismantle parts of the American welfare system, supports the electoral college, and has not jailed dissenters.
Communism is a different beast altogether.
To fully grasp the roots of Communist ideology, we must look to Karl Marx. Marx, an Austrian quasi-intellectual, created the foundation for what would become Communism in the USSR. The idea of Dialectical Materialism drove Marx's thought which was less of a government structure and more of a way to view history, Dialectical Materialism views history as a struggle between various social forces driven by the need for materials. Marx focused his study on the battle between classes as the primary driver of the historical record. Marx believed that only by quelling the demands for material possessions through the redistribution of property and industry, could humanity reach its ultimate utopia's ultimate end goal. The term Communism was coined after Marxism as government officials in the USSR sought to organize work (especially in agriculture), where peasants would be organized into groups (communs). Thus Communism can be viewed as a child of Collectivism, and an economic system separate from Marxism, offering the best way to achieve Marx's goals.
Since Marx did not leave behind a government structure or practical blueprint for achieving his goals, various communist leaders have had to re-engineer Marx's vision. Vladimir Lenin added the "Vanguard Class" as those prominent revolutionaries needed to lead the proletariat to freedom and focused his economy around heavy industry, thus coining the term Leninism. Mao Ze Tong centered his Communism around agriculture and the workforce as Communist China had a plentiful crop of human resources, gaining the name Maoism. Marxism in the east has been subject to increasing dynamism as each Communist leader bends the basic views of Marxism into their country's unique culture and economy.
There is no place in America’s modern democratic party for Classic Marxism, even on its more radical and "progressive" side. Despite calls to "eat the rich" or complaints of the wealth of the 1%, class conflict is not the driving force behind the Democratic Party in America. Instead, twenty-first Democrats see race and skin color in America as driving forces of economic inequality. Thus, only by uniting these races can we achieve a more equitable future. Marx would have seen the focus on race as a distraction fabricated by the rich. Marx would not have seen the rise of Intersectionality or Critical Race Theory as a pressing concern. However, that doesn't mean that the radical left has not used Marxists' basic ideology effectively to promote their agenda. Instead of class conflict, it's racial conflict; instead of the bourgeoisie, it's white privilege. Leftist thought in America has more in common with Antonio Gramsci and the German Frankfurt School of Identity or Cultural Marxism. These political ideologues took Marxism and added to it culture, sex, and race. After the fall of the USSR, Cultural Marxists taught that by using conflicts in culture, sex, and race, the real People’s Revolution was attainable, thus sweeping classic Marxism to the dust bin. Identity Marxism may be a sub-group of Marxism but should be viewed differently, much like the differences between Stalinism and Leninism.
While Cultural Marxists may have found a home in the modern Democratic party, it is a stretch to label Joe Biden a classic Marxist. Despite the various calls for free education and health care, don’t be too quick to call that Communism. Both the NSDAP (Nazi) Party and the Fascists advocated for both, so the differences between the two must lie elsewhere. The Biden campaign of 2020 has frequently tried to distance itself from the more radical, left-leaning members inside the party and made no statements regarding the confiscation of wealth or property, a staple of the USSR’s Communism. A completely different discussion can be had whether members of the Democratic party have Marxist or Communist leanings, but that doesn’t necessarily include Joe Biden.
It is always tempting to label those we oppose with derogatory terms such as Fascist, Nazi, or Marxist, but that does not negate the historical burden of proof which must be met in order to be aligned with of one of these schools of thought. Fascists, Nazis, and Marxists all existed at some point in history, and we must be more responsible as those terms are not subjective. Their supporters did exist, they did live by a code and a set ideology that can be studied. When one is called a Nazi or Communist, it is assumed that they agree with the basic tenets of those complex ideologies, but that may not be the case. The overuse of Nazi, Fascist, and Communist as political insults has lost its effectiveness allowing them to be quickly brushed aside. However, the real danger may lie in the renaming and reimagining of one of these historical parties. Will we breathe new life into one of these failed, archaic political platforms provided they are not labeled Nazi, Fascist, or Communist?