Fascism is most often described by leftist ideologues and talking heads as a philosophy attributed uniquely to the right of the political spectrum. They tend to claim that the inherent authoritarianism present in fascism is a foundational characteristic of mainstream right-wing thought. Not only is this misconception incorrect, but it’s dangerous; the inability to distinguish distinctive ideologies could lead to situations where true warning signs are missed.
Many attribute the rise of fascism to Italy’s Mussolini. However, few know the name of the man Mussolini regarded as the father of fascism— Giovanni Gentile. Gentile was an Italian philosopher who was influenced by Giuseppe Mazzini, a politician and member of the Action Party, a left-wing party that strongly advocated for the establishment of large supranational organizations such as the EU. Gentile also drew influences from other prominent leftist philosophers, among them Karl Marx (as seen in his essay The Philosophy of Marx) and Georg Hegel (as seen in their respective descriptions of the role of the state in Hegel’s Elements of the Philosophy of Right and Gentile’s Manifesto of the Fascist Intellectuals).
Aside from the purely philosophical contradictions that arise when evaluating Gentile’s works with the ideas and policies supported by the political right, practical inconsistencies also exist. In The Doctrine of Fascism, often attributed to Mussolini (but ghostwritten in large part by Gentile), fascism is described as a system in which “everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value, outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian ….” This is not only inconsistent with the traditional values of the political right but entirely antithetical to some of the most deeply-rooted convictions held by conservatives, such as the idea that individualism ought to be encouraged, not dispelled, as is the case in Gentile’s fascism.
Furthermore, while Gentile’s ideology may appear to advocate for the privatization of industries, in reality it was merely state corporatism that viewed “private organization of production [as] a function of national concern,” in which “the organizer of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.” This autarkic desire for the reliance of economic outcomes to be within the control of the State is far from the laissez-faire advocacies of Adam Smith.
As Dinesh D’Souza explains, many on the left tend to point out that fascism is to the right of communism. While this may be true, it does not mean that fascism is an inherently right-wing ideology. For example, socialism is also to the right of communism, but nobody would argue it is a traditional right-wing system. The concentration of Federal authority in absentia of a system of Checks and Balances, which occurred on the Grand Council of Fascism under Mussolini and Gentile, is not right-wing. The eradication of individuality in favor of a collectivist society homogeneous in every way is not right-wing.
Fascism is not merely a radical appreciation of individualism, capitalism, and freedom (values universally cherished by the right); it relies instead on a totalitarian implementation of socialism with radical nationalist tendencies. True fascism— Gentile’s fascism— stands diametrically opposed to the foundational principles of conservatism and the mainstream political right. To pretend that fascism is a right-wing ideology, and worse, to attribute those characteristics to members of mainstream political thought, is to ignore the words of its founding philosopher and the dark history of its inception.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.