When acts of historical revisionism are concerned, one can be sure that two or more pundits pulling the same trick signals a more organised attempt to re-imagine the past. So when Dan, Dan the Oratory Man and Iain Dale both recycled the old chestnut about “fascism being left-wing”, as Mrs Beckermann told Charlie Croker in The Italian Job, it wasn’t an accident.
I said, you'll have to speak up
“So total is the Left's cultural ascendancy that we dare not mention the socialist roots of fascism” proclaims Hannan, while Dale echoes this line with “Fascism Is Intrinsically Left-Wing”. Dan has a Nazi poster talking of “Nazional-Sozialismus”. That’s telling you rotten lefties: you’re all like Adolf. Sadly, the spread of fascism between the wars does not quite tally with this instant analysis.
For starters, as Hannan has decided to feature the Third Reich, we might look more closely at just how “left-wing” this was. The regime was anti-communist, and trade unions were abolished, as was free movement of labour. Collective bargaining was ended. Apart from significant military spending from the start, a mixed economy of free markets and Government works was the norm.
“Mixed economy” is what most western countries have right now, and it certainly doesn’t equate to socialism, and nor does banning unions. Maybe Mussolini in Italy can help Dan and Dale? Well, apart from some state intervention, sadly not: “Il Duce” was hot on Government control, and much of the peasantry remained poor during his tenure. No significant redistribution there.
Again, there was the idea of removing the power of organised labour, this time by making the unions puppets of Government. Left-wing? Well, maybe Francisco Franco can help? Not really. El Caudillo brought Francoism, which meant authoritarianism, nationalism, conservatism, and a rejection of leftist policy. Government controlled the (permitted) unions.
Maybe Franco was not sufficiently fascist, but he was certainly a dictator in a similar style to Hitler and Mussolini. So was Antonio de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal, who consolidated his power in the early 1930s and remained in charge until a stroke incapacitated him in 1968. Salazar supported Franco, and was equally anti-socialist, authoritarian, and for many years kept most Portuguese poor and illiterate.
Whether or not Salazar can be, like Franco, considered fascist, the parallels with the Third Reich are there, although the latter had a more interventionist economic policy – latterly through military spending. Trying to link “left-wing” with rampant militarism I will leave to Dan and Dale. And quoting Hitler claiming to be a socialist is not what counts, but the reality of his regime.
So good try chaps, but you aren’t getting that one past me.