Alt-right, alt-left and in between
September 19, 2017
"When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross." Attributed to Sinclair Lewis.
In Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11-12, violent riots broke out. A young woman was murdered and many people were injured. The "alt-right" and "alt-left" were blamed. A Sept. 1 LVN column by Tom Riggins attempted to explain these terms. Discussing this or any issue is an exercise in futility unless we start with accurate facts and definitions.
At the most basic level, there are two main types of governmental systems and two main types of economic systems. The two basic governmental systems are democracy and dictatorship, with many variations. Most people favor a democratic form of government.
The two economic systems are capitalism, based on private ownership, and socialism, based on communal or government control.
The confusion comes when people equate an economic system with a political system. Democracies today are a combination of socialism and capitalism. The problems occur when either economic system is practiced under a dictatorship. Soviet-style Communism is dictatorship combined with socialism. The flip side is fascism, dictatorship combined with capitalism.
The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini founded modern fascism in 1919. His basic definition says, "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." Wall Street running the White House. Another tenet of fascism is extreme nationalism, including racism.
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Adolph Hitler admired Mussolini and his fascist philosophy. When Hitler came to power in Germany, he called his version of fascism "National Socialism" or Nazism. Nazism is unrelated to Communist socialism, which the Nazis hated.
Just as Communism is extremely left-wing, fascism is extremely right-wing. In 2010, white supremacist Richard Spencer coined the term "Alternative Right," shortened to alt-right, to include such groups as the neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, KKK, and other extreme right-wing groups. The Anti-Defamation League says, "This vague term actually encompasses a range of people on the extreme right who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms of conservatism that embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy."
These groups support violence as a way to achieve their goals, demonstrated by their websites and social media outlets. In Charlottesville, on Aug. 11, members of a synagogue near the University of Virginia were worshipping when they were threatened by a large group of white supremacists marching outside their synagogue, shouting anti-Jewish slogans, with some of them carrying semi-automatic rifles.
These were not "fine people" marching for free speech. The next day, one of these same marchers murdered a young woman, Heather Heyer, when he rammed his car into a crowd of peaceful protestors. There was no such equivalent violence by the people protesting the white supremacists.
The alt-right tries to create a false equivalence between themselves and what they call the alt-left, which isn't a thing. Groups such as Antifa (anti-fascists) are not organized in the same way the neo-Nazis, KKK, etc., are. Their goal is to fight fascism, and they helped protect many peaceful protestors in Charlottesville from being beat to a pulp by the alt-right, although some protestors did get beaten. Protecting the vulnerable isn't wrong.
Republicans today claim they're not alt-right, that they're the Party of Lincoln, ignoring the fact that Lincoln was a progressive liberal who was fighting the conservative Democrats. The Democrats wanted to preserve the status quo, including slavery. The Republicans wanted to reform government and society. Yes, Democrats helped found the Ku Klux Klan. They were the conservatives, and were okay with using violence to get their way. The liberal Republicans were the ones fighting for people's rights.
It was during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s that the philosophies of the two parties finally switched. Democrats became the liberals, fighting for all people. Republicans became the conservatives, embracing many anti-civil rights ideas. In 1963, Republicans created their "Southern Strategy," appealing to racist southern Democrats to join the new Republican Party. They did, and the south turned Republican.
After Charlottesville, President Donald Trump said there are "fine people" in the KKK, neo-Nazis, and such. Republicans must resist this attitude absolutely. By claiming false equivalencies, they are aiding and abetting the goals of the alt-right. A New York Times article, Sept. 12, 1938, summed it up perfectly: "When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled 'made in Germany'; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, 'Americanism.'" We can't let that happen here.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org