In 1995, the Italian left-wing novelist Umberto Eco wrote an essay about the 14 common features of fascism. After the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, Eco’s essay was used by American media outlets to brand the president as fascist. However, four years later, we now find that the radical left far better fits the writer’s criteria.
Eco is most known to the American audience for his novel The Name of the Rose, which inspired the film featuring Sean Connery and Christian Slater. He was born in Italy in 1932 and grew up under Benito Mussolini’s regime. Until his teens, he knew no other political realm than fascism.
Thus, while Eco’s analysis of fascism is not final, his firsthand knowledge makes it valuable.
#1: Cult of Tradition
Eco identifies fascism as an irrational worship of lost traditions. The perfect word for this psychological state is nostalgia – yearning for utopia, either in the distant past or in the distant future.
At first glance, this is as remote from the far left as you can imagine. However, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that “man is born free, but everywhere he is found in chains.” He believed that humans are born good, but society corrupts innocent human nature.
Thus, he believed in the noble savage, the nostalgic idea that sometime in the distant past, before the destructive force of civilization and modernism, humans lived in harmony with nature.
Rousseau is the father of progressivism, which is the belief that we can crawl out of the muck of society into the glorious future where the utopia of noble savages awaits us.
#2: Rejection of Modernism
Eco said that even though the fascists and the Nazis were proud of their technological achievements, they rejected reason, science, individualism, and the enlightenment project. Fascism is, therefore, a fundamental rejection of modernism. This is most clearly seen in postmodernism and critical race theory, which is an explicit rejection of science, reason, logic, and capitalism as “white” forms of “oppression.”
#3: Action for Action’s Sake
Fascism glorified unthinking, intuitive action. Today, this manifests most clearly in the ongoing riots of Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Initially, the death of George Floyd sparked a flurry of protests against police brutality. There was a broad bipartisan consensus that police reform was needed. However, the protests didn’t stop and turned violent. Today there seems to be no purpose or goal with the riots. The rioters are rioting for riots’ sake.
#4: Disagreement Is Treason
According to Eco, “the critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture, the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.” Therefore, in fascism, “disagreement is treason.”
Critical race theory sees science as racist. Disagreement with the far left makes you “far right” and, therefore, a traitor to humanity. That is why they reject free speech and make such claims as “silence is violence.”
#5: Fear of Difference
Fascism creates consensus around a fear of difference, typically an intruder. Eco focused on the racist element of this fear. On the surface, the radical left mainly fears diversity of opinion, but they ascribe views based on race. For them, a black conservative is a “race traitor” who has “internalized whiteness.”
#6: Appeal to Social Frustration
Eco says that fascism appeals to groups “suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation.” The core tenet of leftist identity politics is to divide groups into hierarchies of oppression, with the white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, Christian male as the ultimate bogeyman who oppresses various sexual, ethnic, religious, and gender minorities.
#7: Obsession With a Plot
Fascism is based on conspiracy theories. The radical left promotes several of them. Most important are “white privilege” and “systemic racism.” They build on the belief that non-communists are “white supremacists” who hate people of color. In the Trump era, the left is also obsessed with several political conspiracy theories, such as Russian collusion.
#8: Misjudgment of Their Opponents
Eco writes that “Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.” In 2016, the left radically underestimated the support for then-candidate Donald Trump. To this day, Hillary Clinton and many of her supporters still believe that he “stole the election.” Now the left claims that President Donald Trump is so incompetent that everything he attempts results in chaos, while at the same time he is so dangerous that he will become a dictator.
#9: Pacifism Is Trafficking With the Enemy
Eco pointed out that fascism grew out of boredom with peace. For fascists, fighting is what creates meaning. If no enemy exists, they will make one to generate a fight.
Social justice warriors and the members of Antifa and Black Lives Matter who are rioting in the streets fit this description perfectly.
#10: Belief in Supremacy
Fascists believe that their group is supreme to all others. Today, critical race theory promotes woke supremacy, the idea that those who believe in the tenets of the radical left are morally supreme and that everyone else is disgusting and can be denigrated. They form a hierarchy of contempt.
#11: Cult of Heroism
In a fascist ideology, everyone is educated to become an exceptional being – warped hero worship. Leftists try to show their exceptional nature through woke virtue signaling. It is a way of telling the world that they are better human beings than the deplorables.
#12: Sexual Power Games
The cult of heroism ends up in sexual power games, where one gender oppresses and denigrates another. In the 1930s, fascism targeted women. Today, it targets men.
A free nation is built on individual rights. In fascism, there are no individuals, only monolithic identities. In the 1930s, the individual was only a token of the Common Will, a representative of the People.
In its modern leftist incarnation, there are many such monolithic identities: black, white, male, female, binary, non-binary, etc. You have no individuality, only these preordained identities that subsume your entire being. That is why Joe Biden unironically could say that if a black person has “a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, you ain’t black.”
Fascism is Orwellian and redefines words to mean the opposite. The postmodernist left has been doing this incessantly in universities for half a century. Today, they say that being “colorblind” contributes to racism. Ominously, they say “diversity is strength” while censoring and canceling everyone who disagrees with them.
The Left Fits the Bill
That the radical left fits the definition of fascism may come as a surprise to many. That is because the left has been working incessantly for nearly a century to place fascism on the right. Mussolini was the leader of the Italian Socialist Party before World War I. The full name of the party of Adolf Hitler was the National Socialist German Labor Party. It appealed to the same voters as the communists. If historians were honest, these politicians would be credited as precursors to cultural Marxism and identity politics.
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