It’s conventional to view fascism and liberalism as antithetical, and to some extent this is true. Their respective social bases, and imagery, and language, seem very different, and their policy preferences seem to be opposed – Build A Wall, for example, versus… versus what? Are liberals for open borders? Not exactly. On closer examination, the liberal turns out to have a different, more tasteful design for the wall, and proposes a staff of civil-service clerks to sift those who seek to pass through it, and decide who’s meritorious and who’s not.
In fact, liberalism and fascism are like the two heads of that marvellous mythical beast, the amphisbaena, a serpent with a head at each end of its body, both equally venomous. In this case, the amphisbaena’s belly, and heart, and lungs, and spine, are our old foe Capital.
Of the two, perhaps the one whose fangs call for a bit more examination is the liberal one. After all, we already know what fascists are about, right?
The liberal believes in social hierarchy, as long as it’s meritocratic – that is, based on standardized tests and where you went to high school; and as long as misery is equally shared – it’s important that the bottom 10% of black people not be worse off than the bottom 10% of white people. Opulence and power, of course, must also be equally shared – there must be an even balance between the male and female mass murderers around the big table in the War Room, and ditto for the corporate boardroom.
Liberals believe in institutions and loathe what they call “populism” (a thing which might more accurately be termed “democracy”). They love the Supreme Court, as long as their guys have a majority, and don’t mind the Electoral College, except when they lose an election there. They tend to consider the US Constitution a remarkable achievement of the human intellect, and they think Hamilton was a great show (and what a brilliant stroke to blackwash the Founding Fathers!). The institutions are sublime and flawless in conception, except that the wrong people have the helm. If the libs themselves were in charge, all would be well.
For American libs and fascists alike, the history of the US is fundamentally a happy history of promise and progress and triumph, besmirched, to be sure, by a few regrettable episodes. And both libs and fascists postulate a recent decline, though the fascist says “Make America great again” and the lib says “Take back our country.”
Both liberalism and fascism are authoritarian, but fascists personalize authority – the Strong Man – and liberals impersonalize authority, which is to say they locate it in mechanical, supra-human, bureaucratic institutions.
The fascist is counter-oedipal – he protects himself from the monster-father by identifying with him; the liberal is oedipal – he wants to kill the monster-father and replace him. The leftist, I would argue, is neither oedipal nor counter-oedipal, but inimical: He wants to kill the monster-father and not replace him.
Liberals are great incarcerators, as are fascists. The history of mass incarceration in the US exhibits this identity of outlook very clearly: it’s been a solidly bipartisan project for the last forty years or more.
Libs are always complaining that somebody’s punishment wasn’t severe enough. And they love defining new crimes, or aggravated versions of old crimes – consider the odious concept of “hate crimes”. Assault and battery and murder have been crimes ever since there was law; why exactly does the motive make them worse? The answer, of course, is that libs want to discourage hatred of the Other by punishing it. Severely. The more severely you punish a thing the less of it there will be. Obvious, right?
Libs are great believers in due process, except when the offense in question is something they particularly dislike. In that case, accusation must always imply guilt. Fascists are more consistent; they have no use for due process at all.
Libs in the US and, even more, in Germany and France, are very happy to write laws defining advocacy for Palestinians as “hate speech” – and here again, the covert connection with fascism becomes rather overt, considering that the beneficiary of such initiatives is a manifestly fascist, but much-coddled, unpleasant little statelet in the Levant.
“Left” is not just farther in the same direction as liberal. The space is not one-dimensional. “Left” is orthogonal to the axis that connects liberal and fascist, in another dimension.
Both the liberal and the fascist are thoroughly modern. The liberal fictionalizes and abhors the past, the fascist fictionalizes it and appropriates the fiction. Both the liberal and the fascist see the outcome of history as the apotheosis of the state, though the liberal revels in this fact and the fascist denies it. The liberal and the fascist both adore technology and see it as the ultimate answer to all the questions history poses, though the liberal sees technology as the midwife of the post-biological trans-human and the fascist sees it as the means for conquest of the Galaxy.
It is not always easy to tell the liberal and the fascist apart. There’s an old Commie joke: Scratch a liberal and a fascist bleeds.