David R. Henderson  

Friday Night Video: Mussolini--A Man of the Left

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My friend, Lawrence K. Samuels, a local libertarian activist in Monterey County, gave a talk in April on his research on Mussolini. The bottom line: Mussolini was clearly on the left and he never wavered from the left.

0 to 2:00: My introduction of Lawrence
5:20: What the Internet and Wikipedia have covered up
6:37: Mussolini's own words
8:15: Wikipedia again
11:30: The idea that in supporting WWI, Mussolini turned to the right, is rubbish.
24:30: Mussolini's death
27:50: George Bernard Shaw on Mussolini.
35:30: Talk ends.


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COMMENTS (14 to date)
Roger McKinney writes:

Interesting! Just today I was reading the compilation of Mises' essays in Planning for Freedom and in one of them he explained that even though most people in the West considered the Nazis and fascists to be capitalists they were in fact devout socialists.

Both groups fooled gullible journalists and intellectuals by allowing business owners to retain paper titles to their businesses while the state controlled every aspect of the business. They created a socialist system with a thin veneer of capitalism and it fooled most people.

The confusion was so bad that it forced Hayek to write Road to Serfdom.

Pajser writes:

Left is defined with egalitarianism.

Mussolini was anti-egalitarian in more-less all aspects. I'd say that he was obviously less egalitarian than typical libertarian in all aspects of the politics (democracy, nationalism, racism, gay rights) except economy. And what about economy?

The fascist economy in early phase was more on extreme right than libertarian economy - that's what you get if you leave free market and restrict workers rights on organization. In later phase fascist restricted rights of the owners as well, but replaced it with state control. The state was elitist and ideologically anti-democratic, so it was not egalitarian form. And how it was in function, did it ruled in the interest of the working class? Real wages dropped for some 25% in period between 1921-38 although in the same period GDP/capita increased for some 30%.

So, I'd say he was significantly more anti-egalitarian, hence, on the right in all aspects than any of the usual political currents, including moderate conservatism and libertarianism.

Roger McKinney writes:

Pajser,
I don't think you understand the left. They are egalitarian only as far as the masses are concerned. They treat their leadership differently and not only allow but encourage huge differences in inequality of all kinds between the masses and the leadership. That's what the USSR and China were the most unequal places on the planet.

They take pride in that inequality because their leadership works for the right cause and for the good of the people. See Schoeck's Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior. That has been true since the founding of socialism by Saint-Simon. See Hayek's The Counter-Revolution in Science.

Also, the left has always been anti-democratic because the masses are by definition stupid sheep and need to be told what to do.

Of course real wages dropped. Unless the nation is as backward as China, socialism destroys capital and that reduces real wages.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Pajser,
I highly recommend that you watch the video.

Carl writes:

The translation Samuels cites does not say "this will be the century of the Left", nor does it say "this will be the century of the Right". The first authorised translation of Mussolini's article appears in Political Quarterly, Nov 1933 edition.

It says:

"it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism, and hence the century of the state".

From the same section:

"But the Fascist negation of Socialism, Democracy and Liberalism must not be taken to mean that Fascism desires to lead the world back to the state of affairs before 1789, the date which seems to be indicated as the opening years of the succeeding semi-Liberal century. We do not desire to turn back; Fascism has not chosen De Maistre for its high priest. Absolute monarchy has been, and can never return, any more than blind acceptance of ecclesiastical authority."

Fascism, to my mind at least, was a form of right-wing collectivism. To many Americans that sounds odd because they think government is what lefties do, while private affairs are conducted by righties. But surely libertarians of all people should not make this mistake?

Thomas Hutcheson writes:

I really don't think it makes much sense to try to locate totalitarian regimes on a left-right continuum. The regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, were much more similar to each other than they were to those of Roosevelt or Churchill. The idea that Obama is a "leftist" (if that means like Mussolini) is as silly as that Mitch McConnell or even Ted Cruz is a "rightist" (if that means like Hitler). It just muddies the language and, as Orwell points out, politics. Calling Musolini a "leftist" does not give any guidance at all about the best way to reform health insurance finance or deal with CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere.

Thomas Hutcheson writes:

I really don't think it makes much sense to try to locate totalitarian regimes on a left-right continuum. The regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, were much more similar to each other than they were to those of Roosevelt or Churchill. The idea that Obama is a "leftist" (if that means like Mussolini) is as silly as that Mitch McConnell or even Ted Cruz is a "rightist" (if that means like Hitler). It just muddies the language and, as Orwell points out, politics. Calling Musolini a "leftist" does not give any guidance at all about the best way to reform health insurance finance or deal with CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere.

I am trying to figure out the setting of the Samuels talk. Is that room in a public library?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Richard O. Hammer,
No. It’s the Peace Resource Center in Seaside, California.

Lawrence Samuels writes:

Mussolini's "The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism" is now available. This is the 1933 authorized translation by Jane Soames (1933) and the sentence about Mussolini and Italian Fascism belonging to the "Left" is on page 20 near the top. http://historyuncensored.wix.com/history-uncensored Living Age (1933) also has this reprinted at http://www.pauladaunt.com/books/Banned%20books%20and%20conspiracy%20theories/The%20Doctrine%20of%20Fascism%20-%20by%20Benito%20Mussolini%20%28Printed%201933%29.pdf Also, The Political Quarterly does indeed say "Left". I have a copy of it.

Pajser writes:

David Henderson: You are selling me short. Of course I have watched the video before my first comment.

Lawrence Samuels: In original Italian text (found on net) it is: "Si può pensare che questo sia il secolo dell'autorità, un secolo di «destra» [engl. right], un secolo fascista;" But it is only detail; the main problem is that you didn't defined "left."

Brian S. writes:

Since no comments has mentioned it yet, I will: Chapter 2 of Jonah Goldberg's book Liberal Fascism is "Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left." Chapter 1 is titled "Mussolini: The Father of Fascism." From the publisher's web page for the book:

Jonah Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were really on the left, and that liberals from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler's National Socialism and Mussolini's Fascism.

Pajser writes:

La dottrina del fascismo in recent edition and excerpt from original on google books.

James Oswald writes:

I think it's a waste of time to argue who is left and who is right when discussing totalitarian dictators. Pinochet has more in common with Stalin than he does with any U.S. President, despite being "very far right" and Stalin being "very far left". The important difference is democratic vs. despotic and freedom vs. tyranny. Spoken like a libertarian, I know, but saying Mussolini was leftist and trying to browbeat mainstream Democrats with that label is silly.

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