May 7, 2022

For my work in corporate social responsibility, I was recently reading The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi’s critique of capitalism, when something he wrote gave me one of those really uncomfortable “Aha” moments.

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Polanyi was discussing the alternatives to capitalism — left socialism and right socialism (which we call “Fascism”). His point was that these two socialisms were created to undo the disruptions of capitalism which had privileged “money power” to degrade human sociality into atomic individualism driven by self-seeking greed.

When I read his observation that the Fascist phase of anti-capitalism brought about “Irrational philosophies, racialist aesthetics, anti-capitalist demagogy, heterodox currency views, criticism of the party system, widespread disparagement of the ‘regime’,” I thought “How odd, that sounds just like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the postmodern Left.”

So, I took a moment to do a quick scan of Polanyi’s criteria of a Fascist movement to see how well they embrace our postmodern Left.

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I concluded that our postmodern Left meets each of Polanyi’s criteria:

  1. Irrational philosophies: Postmodernism is an irrational will to power; intersectionality is irrationally prejudicial; toxic masculinity is irrationally prejudicial; destruction of a fetus when it can survive as a person outside the womb is an unbalanced application of the principle of human dignity.
  2. Racialist aesthetics: stigmatizing “Whites” or considering them morally deformed by “White Privilege” is a racialist aesthetic regarding human persons; blaming institutional racism for the achievement gap is racialist aesthetics at work in public education; Harvard created a special racialist aesthetics for Asians to denigrate their possible contributions to “student life”.
  3. Anti-capitalist demagogy: Green New Deal, Medicare for All, forgiveness of college debt, Woke Capitalism.
  4. Heterodox currency views: Modern Monetary Theory
  5. Criticism of the party system:  privileging ideology with cancel culture
  6. Widespread disparagement of the ‘regime’:  the narrative of Systemic White Racism; defund the police; the fervid anti-Trump Resistance using mainstream media, the CIA, the FBI, and a special prosecutor; setting up a purifying “Ministry of Truth” in the Department of Homeland Security, our modest version of a Ministry of State Security; abolishing the Electoral College, and packing the Supreme Court.

I investigated further, pulling out my copy of Mussolini’s pamphlet The Doctrine of Fascism (1932), finding the 25-point program (1920) of the German Workers Party (which was soon renamed the National Socialist German Workers Party) and the 1919 Manifesto of Mussolini’s new Fascist Party in Italy, to see how our progressive Left might align with the national socialist goals of that earlier era.

Perfectly, it seems.

The 1920 Program of the National Socialist German Workers Party demanded that the State nationalize all industries; arrange for a division of profits of all heavy industries; expand old-age welfare; create a healthy middle class and the contract directly with small firms; expropriate land for public use, abolish land taxes and prevent of all speculation in land, provide higher education for every capable and industrious German and subsequently give them leading positions, and elevate national health.

The 1919 Manifesto of the Italian Fasci of Combat (Mussolini’s new party) demanded that the State provide Italians with: an eight-hour workday, a minimum wage, worker and union power to supervise industry; medical care; retirement at age 55; and impose “a strong progressive tax on capital (including a “partial expropriation” of concentrated wealth).”

Fascism thus proposed replacing the market with the national State. Mussolini said that “The one who can resolve the contradictions of capitalism is the State.” The National Socialist German Workers Party program demanded: “For the execution of all of this we demand the formation of a strong central power in the Reich. Unlimited authority of the central parliament over the whole Reich and its organizations in general.”