I confess to some puzzlement over the framework of Dinesh D'Souza's new book, which I recently picked up. It's called The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left.
Whither the Communist roots of the American Left? Seemingly gone in a Sieg Heil, along with FDR's admiration for (and manipulation by) "Uncle Joe" Stalin and the rest, although I will have to wait and see how it all comes out.
D'Souza sets out to "turn the tables on the Democratic Left and show that they -- not Trump --are the real fascists. They are the ones who use Nazi bullying and intimidation tactics and subscribe to a full-blown fascist ideology."
But who are the "real fascists" anyway? Nazism, of course, is national socialism. Mussolini, the uber-fascist, was deeply influenced by Marx. We are looking at a smorgesbord of related totalitarianisms where the differences become less important than the collectivist, coercive perils they each pose to individual liberty. The terminology itself, which may seem to derive from a system of practically zoological certainty -- national socialism, communism, Stalinism ... Fabianism, Alinskyism, statism, progressivism -- becomes a smokescreen that obscures terrible variations on totalitarian themes. Confusion usually ensues.
"Hitler and Mussolini were indeed authoritarians," D'Souza writes, "but it doesn't follow that authoritarianism equals fascism or Nazism. Lenin and Stalin were authoritarian but neither was a fascist."
This reminded of the extraordinary meeting between two former agents of Stalin's intelligence services: Whittaker Chambers, the great "witness" to the workings of the Soviet underground inside the Roosevelt administration, and Walter Krivitsky, the high-ranking NKVD defector who was one of the first to reveal and warn of Stalin's horrors and deceptions. Their discussion of where they thought the Soviet regime had gone was an exchange about "fascism."
From Gary Kern's A Death in Washington:
He extended his hand to Krivitsky, noticing his "professionally distrustful," but "oddly appealing" eyes. Krivitsky merely touched it and sat down at the far end of the living-room couch. Chambers sat at the other end. He looked at Krivitsky, who looked straight ahead. Silence.
"Ist die Sowjetregierung ein faschistische Regierung?" Krivitsky suddenly asked.
Chambers pondered: "Is the Soviet government a fascist government?" He was convinced that it was -- that was why he had broken with it. Yet he found it hard to acknowledge the fact out loud. Finally, he answered heavily and deliberately.
"Ja, die Sowjetregierung ist ein faschistische Regierung." ["Yes, the Soviet government is a fascist government."]
Krivitsky turned and looked at him. Chambers' inner struggle before making the reply had convinced him he was sincere.
"Du hast recht," he said, "und Kronstandt war der Wendepunkt."
Chambers, who had taught himself German as a boy and later made money translating it, besides using it to communicate with Soviet officers in the underground, pondered this statement, too: "You are right and the turning point was Kronstadt." He understood that Krivitsky traced the fascism of Stalin's regime back to the beginning of 1921, when Lenin ordered the suppression of the sailors at the Kronstadt fortress outside Petrograd ... From then on, [the Bolshevik government] would succeed by state terror, dictatorial rule, fascism..."
Hard to argue with this pair, but even so: amputating one totalitarian ism from another seems unlikely to lead to greater clarity over all.