Joined: Feb 2010
Hmmm...This is an interesting question. First, I think we need to understand that both fascism and communism are not eternal blueprints, political philosophies that can just be applied in a cookie-cutter way to a society in any time or place, but rather were dynamic outgrowths of certain historical circumstances. Fascism, particularly, has been difficult to quantify as a political doctrine - the search for a 'fascist minimum', fascism's place on the right-left political spectrum, its relation to reaction and revolution, and even a basic definition of fascism have been some of the most hotly debated questions in modern historical studies. The term is often misused to characterize "right-wing" authoritarian regimes in general, but true fascism is characterized by a complex, almost idiosyncratic synthesis of elements drawn from a particular period of European history, and crystallized under conditions that are unlikely to be replicated.
Communism, if what is meant by this term is Marxism, is more likely to seem a true political philosophy, a systematic intellectual blueprint which can be applied to the organization of society to achieve certain results; of course, this way of thinking about political philosophy is itself indebted to Marx, who claimed that his socialism was scientific, based upon a set of discernible laws that he perceived in history and that could be applied across the board to understand the inexorable movement of human economic, social and political organization through inevitable stages (thus Marx as the forefather of social science). But this view of communism ignores the considerable intellectual history of socialism from the pre-Marxist "utopian" socialists to the anarchists to "heretical" Marxists such as Sorel (whose influence on fascism was considerable), as well as the actual adaptability of Marxism to varying historical conditions never anticipated by Marx himself, from Leninism, to Stalinism to the anti-colonial Marxism of the Third World to the state-sponsored capitalism of modern China.
The point of all this is, I suppose, that when we understand the complexity of these movements we may come to some unexpected conclusions. Mine is that we in the United States are much closer to communism than fascism, and we may yet see the fulfillment of Marx's prophecy that communism inevitably proceeds from capitalism, though the specific features of that communism will be very different from what we are used to thinking of as Marxism.
First, we need to understand that Marx himself did not hate or despise capitalism, per se; on the contrary, he viewed capitalism as an absolutely necessary, even admirable force for the development of communism, as the most revolutionary force that had, hitherto, ever existed. Capitalism had destroyed the basis of the "medieval" society with its deference to tradition and religious sentiment and replaced it with an industrial organization based on a view of man and life that was totally materialistic - a view which Marx shared and approved, and which was indeed the fundamental basis of his thought. Capitalism had created the idea of man as an Economic Animal and paved the way toward a total atheism by reducing all significant social interaction to cash exchange. This profound transformation in Western civilization confronted men with a sense of loss, with a sort of existential crisis that gave rise to the Romantics in art and letters, to the forebodings of Edmund Burke, and as the changes wrought by the new society progressed, to a plethora of intellectual responses either reacting against or embracing (or often an ambivalent, confused, or resigned mixture of the two) these changes. This is, in my opinion, the roots of true fascism, with its peculiar combination of revolutionary and reactionary, romantic and futurist, nationalist and socialist sentiments.
Where Kierkegaard wrestled with the anguish of keeping faith in an increasingly faithless world, and Nietzsche trumpeted the death of God (a complex elucidation of both the failure and the potential of the new civilization), and visual art elicited responses from the pre-Raphaelite to Dada and Surrealism, the Marxists plowed right ahead with their zealous embrace of pure materialism. Now, I ask you, where is our vigorous, existential response to the triumph of materialism in contemporary America? It seems as if the primacy of man the Economic Animal is de facto in American culture today, and God is indeed dead - even among those who cling to the "politics of Christianity" which offers no fundamental challenge to capitalist materialism, and indeed, on the contrary, merely exists to coopt the religious into a sort of capitalist auxiliary.
Another observation of Marx is that capitalism had brought into being an industrial working-class, organized as a force upon industrial principles to serve the expansion of industry. In other words, people were being socialized to exist fundamentally as a labor force for the maintenance of the capitalist economic system - and this identity was paramount within the capitalist system, the economic relationship of the worker to industry and the market overtaking all other relationships and identities. This is a feature of modern American life, where many or most identify with their work, their role within the economy, above and beyond all else, where students are the products of a system of "mass-produced" education designed to train them for a place within a labor force and where technical, technological, mathematical and scientific/engineering skill are increasingly emphasized at the expense of the humanities and arts. Whereas Marx foresaw this capitalist-created proletariat as overthrowing the class that had created it (Frankenstein's monster?) it has instead come to identify its interests with capitalism. And despite the claims of the Republican party to be against Big Government, American society has come to be dominated by a system of capitalist mass socialization that is absolutely dependent upon the existence of a large bureaucracy of social engineering, a convergence of interests between labor, state and business that is much closer to the world-view of Marxism than we are used to thinking.
Communism? Maybe not, but much closer to communism in its pure materialism and its regard for the primacy of the economy above all else than to fascism with its romantic, ideal and mythic strands and its ambiguous, confused, almost extemporaneous synthesis of multiple elements in response to a specific sense of crisis in interwar European history.