Marxists can be nationalists

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Explaining the nature and origins of fascism isn’t an easy task, as Jonah Goldberg demonstrated in the fairly definitive book, Liberal Fascism. For starters, as Goldberg has noted, it is difficult to get people to agree on even a definition of the ideology.

Dinesh D’Souza, author of The Big Lie, is correct when he identifies fascism as a species of socialism. That is exactly what fascism is — and, as he argues, Giovanni Gentile got the fascist (wrecking) ball rolling.

But D’Souza appears to be guilty of a little bit of oversimplification.

In a new Prager University video, D’Souza says:

“While the socialism of Marx mobilizes people on the basis of class, fascism mobilizes people by appealing to their national identity as well as their class. Fascists are socialists with a national identity. German fascists in the 1930s were called ‘Nazis,’ basically a contraction of the term ‘national socialist.'”

It’s not an altogether terrible theory and it may offer a useful intellectual framework for those just learning about political ideologies, but it has a flaw. The problem is that the practitioners of “the socialism of Marx” have long tapped into nationalism to get things done. Mobilizing people on the basis of love of country, which can consist of railing against evil foreigners, has been commonplace in socialist countries for a long time.

When it has been helpful to their cause, such socialists in places like the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cuba, and Venezuela have appealed to national pride and patriotism and often to outright racism. They don’t always don Trotsky spectacles and hum the Internationale in unison while confining their rhetorical agitations to the usual Marxist claptrap about the brotherhood of men. They urge action to protect and advance the interests of their respective motherlands.

It is an unfortunate shortcoming in an otherwise enjoyable and informative public service announcement.