It being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in America, we are treated to an endless stream of Republicans lionizing a man who expressed antipathy for their values and perspective. Of course, when someone is granted civic deification the way Dr. King has, one offers up praise the way Romans once did to their deceased and deified Emperors, regardless of one’s personal thoughts.
However, there is a cultural tic amongst conservatives that demonstrates that so many people, supposedly plugged into politics and the currents of American life, simply do not understand how things work. If you’ve paid attention to conservative discussion of race, you will inevitably encounter that the conservative will accuse progressives of being “the real racists”, usually because of they infantilize or deny agency to Black Americans.
This is a stunningly dumb thing to say if you are a creature of the right. Do you believe that the right course in politics is to go with the side that is deemed to be the least racist? If so, congratulations, here’s a jersey for Team Blue. If not, why make this claim? It is not hoisting the left by its own petard, it is accepting progressive standards as universal standards. It makes their judgement of who is racist and who is not more of a weapon, it does not defang them, nor are you turning it against them effectively.
Not only that, while the conservative may hold onto some literal definition that racism is harboring race-specific prejudice, in reality, the left’s definition will prevail. After all, it is their word, they invented it as a weapon against the right, like they do with so many words (See figure below). And their de facto definition is that racism is defined entirely by opposition to progressive policies.
“Democrats are the real racists” is such an often repeated phrase by a certain class of conservative, that when someone decided to parody the whole group, they chose the Twitter name: @DemsRRealRacists. I even collected some of their best tweets.
Likewise, there is another “-ism” word that the left throws at any successful right-wing movements, “fascism”. And like with the word racism, there are plenty of conservatives who seek to prove that it is not they who are fascists, but their opponents.
This is, again, rather silly. Not only does it again create a bad standard: that being closer to fascism than your opponent ideologically is disqualifying, it again creates a situation by which the right will always be judged lower than the left.
The even bigger problem is that it ignores the more obvious comparison between the left and the other mass-murdering, expansionist ideology of the 20th century: communism. The American left flirts closely with views and tactics that are strongly associated with this movement, and they deserve to be judged for it.
You can use all sorts of good names too: Trotskyite for the democracy-spreading supporters of perpetual war, Menshevik for the Bernie Sanders crowd, desperately clinging for a place in their party, Maoist for the Social Justice Warrior and their online struggle sessions, Stalinist for the ones who go completely off the rails.
Not only were fascists and Nazis joined by Communists in operating industrial scale murder machines, the other things we associate with Nazis are the sorts of things that inevitably appear during a revolution. The scary thing with the Nazis and Italian fascists is they created the apparatus for revolution and gained power without a civil war. In revolutions that turn violent, the presence of a group like the Brownshirts would not be alarming. Partisan paramilitary groups are a harbinger of civil war. The Weimar Republic was just so weak that the Nazis never had to start a civil war in Germany.
Here’s an example of what I mean, take a look at this picture. They are German, it is 1927, the picture is taken in Berlin. You might think these are brownshirts at first glance, but, in fact, these are German communists.
A big part of this is accepting that fascism is, in fact, a movement of the right. While it shares violent totalitarianism with Stalinism and Maoism, there is a crucial difference. Fascism embraces and promotes the culture of the people it rules over and uses a unifying national identity to motivate support for the regime’s policies. Communism explicitly seeks to degrade and destroy the nation and its culture and replace it with a new one to rally the people around. This is not a simple issue that can be glossed over, it is a fundamental difference in goals and in political orientation.
My point with all this is, that if you want to try and associate someone on the left with an ideology in order to discredit them, there is no reason to call them fascists. There are more left-wing groups who have committed horrible crimes than you could ever need to use in partisan mud-slinging. Using a truly left-wing group has the added benefit of forcing your opponent reject communism as well, which is one of the toughest things to make a leftist do.
In summary, do not waste your time of accusing the left of being what the left relentlessly accuses the right of being. Do not accuse them of not living up to their moral standards. Instead, accuse them of secretly being in league with the most extreme forms of leftism and accuse them of not living up to your own moral standards.