I want to reiterate the point that the slain suspect Michael Wade Page was not a conservative, he was a Nazi. I think the problem people have is whether or not fascist or Nazi ideologies can be placed at the far-right of the political continuum. I mentioned Bob Belvedere's post, for example, "Sikh Shooting: Don’t Buy The Leftist Lies." And linked there is William Jacobson, who writes:
Needless to say, the MSM and left-blogosphere have concluded the shooter was a white supremacist/neo-Nazi based on tattoos and being a former member of what they describe as a “skinhead” band — which they then obscenely generalize to be “right-wing,” a way of trying to link him to the political right. This is the age-old tactic. If Page was a white supremacist/neo-Nazi/skinhead, then he stood against everything the political right stands for.That's not a problem, per se, to locate Page on the "far-right." Conservatives routinely use the term "far-left" in referring to hardcore progressive radicals and neo-communists. The left-right ideological spectrum has been used that way for over 200 years, since the French National Assembly --- after the toppling of the Ancien Régime --- arrayed political factions from the radicals (on the left) to the reactionaries (on the right). While folks can question that seating arrangement as arbitrary and historically isolated (time-bound), nevertheless since then talk of modern political ideology has employed that left-right axis.
It's way too simplistic, of course. [
Another complicating factor in analysis is an ideology's orientation toward race and racial identity. Both Marxian socialism and Nazi millenarianism emphasize cleansing aspects to the social order. Marx was Jewish but despised religion as the "opiate of the people," and he has often been cited as one of the founders of Europe's historical anti-Semitism. But Italy's fascists, while originating in leftist socialist-labor circles, later specifically identified Marxian socialists as the political enemy. As the Interwar Period wore on, Mussolini's brand of fascism became increasingly identified with Hitler's Germany. The key difference, however, was that the Nazis' fundamental orientation was toward preserving the purity of the Medieval German "volk," which was idealized as the perfect "Aryan" race, and thus the establishment of the Nazi Third Reich would restore a master race of pure-bred Germans to the center of Europe.
The Soviet Union, however, especially it its pre-Stalinist development, was in principle committed to ethnic assimilation under the banner of Marxist-Leninist ideology. Political scientist Gail Lapidus discussed this in a 1989 ariticle in Foreign Affairs, "Gorbachev's Nationalities Problem":
The "Leninist compromise" created a federal system that granted political-administrative recognition and the symbols of nationhood to a number of national groups (whose historical homelands now became nominally sovereign republics within the U.S.S.R.) and committed itself to the development of their national languages and cultures. At the same time, it was built around a highly centralized and increasingly authoritarian party organization imbued with a radically internationalist ideology.Notice the stress at the last paragraph on the priority of Russian dominance as the key to Soviet nationalities policy. But that's more a political development more than an ideological one. The Soviets, for example, sought to assimilate Jews not as a religious group but as a national one. The Soviets even tried, unsuccessfully, to establish a Jewish national homeland within the Soviet Union, called the Jewish Autonomous Province (Oblast). In Russia today the entity is known as the Jewish Autonomous Region.
A fundamental tension was thus built into the Soviet system from its very origins: the federal structure offered an organizational framework and political legitimacy for the protection and advancement of the interests of national groups, but at the same time Soviet ideology anticipated the ultimate dissolution of national attachments and loyalties and sought the creation of an integrated political and economic community based on universal Soviet citizenship. What balance to strike between these two orientations has remained an enduring dilemma in Soviet politics.
The Stalin era was marked by a dramatic shift toward greater centralization, cultural Russification and the repression of non-Russian national elites. The rights of republics and autonomous regions were whittled away, their boundaries arbitrarily redrawn, and the populations of some liquidated or forcibly resettled during World War II, as in the cases of Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, Chechen-Ingush, Volga Germans and Meskhetian Georgians. National histories were rewritten to emphasize the progressive character of Russian imperialism, and criticism of Great Russian chauvinism came to an end. Central economic ministries treated the entire territory of the U.S.S.R. as a single complex, establishing new industries and relocating workers without concern for republic boundaries. The cultivation of national languages and cultures was replaced by a process of Sovietization that was sometimes indistinguishable from Russification. The imperial features of the Soviet system were further strengthened during World War II with the forcible annexation of the Baltic states, the western Ukraine and Byelorussia, and part of Moldavia.
The point here is that the recognized far-left and far-right ideological formations of the early 20th century created radically opposed orientations toward race and ethnicity (but not toward the concentration of political power). The Nazis called for the extermination of the Jews, as well as gypsies (mainly Eastern Europeans) and the disabled. The Soviets, in the Leninist compromise, sought a multi-national compromise for lack of any realistic alternative, since more than 100 ethnic groups formed the multi-national state of the early Soviet Union. That's not to say there wasn't ethnic cleansing or genocidal eliminations (just ask the Ukraines, for example). But it does point to an extremely complicated set of world historical circumstances that create huge obstacles for the easy ideological pigeonholes partisan attempt to exploit today.
Here's one more example. Recall I mentioned Robert Paxton's book earlier, The Anatomy of Fascism. While lots of conservatives today like to place fascism on the left of the spectrum, and not without good reason, it's worth noting (see Liberal Fascism), fascist ideology often does merge toward racial exclusionism. Early fascists focused on romanticism and the elevation of a populist "chosen people" who would fulfill the destiny or mission of a self-identified group of people. Hitler's Mein Kampf, published in 1923, rested on explicit master race theories, and these were accepted in Italy as well, in Aldo Bertele's, Aspetti ideologici del fascismo in 1930. As Paxton writes of the emergence of fascism in the 1920s, at his introduction:
Fascism ... was a new invention created afresh for the era of mass politics. It sought to appeal mainly to the emotions by the use of ritual, carefully stage-managed ceremonies, and intensely charged rhetoric. The role programs and doctrine play in it is, on closer inspection, fundamentally unlike the role they play in conservatism, liberalism, and socialism. Fascism does not rest explicitly upon an elaborated philosophicalsystem, but rather upon popular feelings about master races, their unjust lot, and their rightful predominance over inferior peoples. It has not beengiven intellectual underpinnings by any system builder, like Marx, or by any major critical intelligence, like Mill, Burke, or Tocqueville.The emphasis on collective salvation is key to fascism, as it's an ideology that fetishizes the state. And in that sense, in contemporary American politics, it's the hard-left that venerates the state over the individual. The left romanticizes state power, and the natural tendency of that ideology is to suppress deviations from the approved collective program. We see it time and again, in the neo-statist programs of the Obama administration and in the social policy fascism of the left's homosexual rights agenda. You can't step out of line. Further, that strain on the left departs radically from the constitutional liberalism (libertarianism) of the tea party.
In a way utterly unlike the classical “isms," the rightness of fascism does not depend on the truth of any of the propositions advanced in its name.Fascism is “true" insofar as it helps fulfill the destiny of a chosen race or people or blood, locked with other peoples in a Darwinian struggle, and notin the light of some abstract and universal reason. The first fascists were entirely frank about this.
We [Fascists] don’t think ideology is a problem that is resolved in such a way that truth is seated on a throne. But, in that case, does fighting for an ideology mean fighting for mere appearances? No doubt, unless one considers it according to its unique and efficacious psychological-historical value. The truth of an ideology lies in its capacity to set in motion our capacity for ideals and action. Its truth is absolute insofar as,living within us, it suffices to exhaust those capacities [A. Bertele].The truth was whatever permitted the new fascist man (and woman) to dominate others, and whatever made the chosen people triumph.Fascism rested not upon the truth of its doctrine but upon the leader’s mystical union with the historic destiny of his people, a notion related toromanticist ideas of national historic flowering and of individual artistic or spiritual genius, though fascism otherwise denied romanticism’sexaltation of unfettered personal creativity.
The fascist leader wanted to bring his people into a higher realm of politics that they would experiencesensually: the warmth of belonging to a race now fully aware of its identity, historic destiny, and power; the excitement of participating in a vast collective enterprise; the gratification of submerging oneself in a wave of shared feelings, and of sacrificing one’s petty concerns for the group’s good; and the thrill of domination. Fascism’s deliberate replacement of reasoned debate with immediate sensual experience transformed politics as the exiled German cultural critic Walter Benjamin was the first to point out, into aesthetics. And the ultimate fascist aesthetic experience,Benjamin warned in 1936, was war.
So let's be clear: Wade Michael Page was a Nazi. He espoused racialist theories and white supremacy. He was thus not at all within the mainstream of conservative thinking today, no matter what the MSM hacks will try to tell you. Still, it remains inaccurate to attempt a simplistic left-right placement, and it's simplistic to argue that only the left is totalitarian. Here's the key: With the exception of some on the left, no one in American politics today openly espouses Alolph Hitler's racial exterminism (Hitlerism, in Jonah Goldberg's formulation, which left-wing anti-Semites approximate). Moreover, while conservatives naturally repudiate hard-right racialist theories, many on the left today openly venerate Stalinist ideology. The ANSWER Coalition --- which has been perhaps the leading hard-left protest organization for the last decade --- traces its background to the Stalinist World Workers Party. Folks like this are widely embraced by progressives, at my college, for example, and during the left's "One Nation" protest in D.C. in 2010. There's is nothing remotely equivalent among conservatives, or in William Jacobson's words, "on the political right" today. To the one, when extremists or racists showed their faces at the tea parties they were repudiated and ejected from the events. What we call the conservative movement today repudiates the "far-right" that hacks like Jonathan Capehart exploit for political gain. Not so on the America's contemporary "far-left."
So there you go. There might be a couple of conservatives who might favor a bit more clearly defined categories (putting fascists entirely on the left, for example), but it's not like that. Despite complications, though, there's still plenty of difference between the main antagonists in American politics today to make a left vs. right framework useful, as I mentioned above. That left-right ideological continuum is the established frame to discuss the programs of the major political actors. Historians and political scientists have deployed that framework for over a hundred years. There's nothing wrong with keeping it, as long as people are clear about the practical differences of today's major political formations. The left today, what we would call the progressives and the Obama-Democrats, are authoritarian in orientation, with combined attributes of hard-line socialist dogma and fascistic strains in the social realm. Wade Michael Page doesn't fit easily on that side of spectrum, but Jared Loughner does. And even Anders Behring Breivik fits better on the left of the spectrum than the right, despite the the left's "blame-righty' attacks after the Norway shooting. Indeed, one of Breivik's heroes is hard-left progressive Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs.
* At London's Daily Mail, "Revealed: Sikh temple gunman was being monitored by feds before massacre - as 911 call from shooting is released."
* At Fox News, "Sikh Temple Shooter Michael Wade Urged Fellow White Supremacist to get Involved."
* At the Guardian UK, "Wade Michael Page's acquaintances recall a troubled man guided by hate."
* At the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal (via NBC 26 Wisconsin), "Shooter's Odd Behavior Did Not Go Unnoticed." And, "Through band, Page says he wanted get results 'in our sick society'."
* At New York Magazine, "Wade Michael Page’s White Supremacy Was No Secret Prior to Sikh Temple Shooting."
BONUS: The white power Label|56 dropped ties to Page. The press release is here. And there's a Stormfront thread here. The group's not please with a report out last night titled, "US racists worried over Sikh killings."