Frequently in our research we’ve come across claims such as Marxist communism and Fabian socialism are two different things, that Nazism isn’t/wasn’t real socialism, that fascism and Nazism were/are right wing, and so on, so forth, etc., etc. Of course, it might be helpful to define what we mean by “left,” “right,” and “center.”
|Belloc spoke of the Servile State|
We warn you ahead of time that the way we are using these terms is almost certainly not the way they are generally used. By “left” we mean a system in which government is sovereign on behalf of the collective (“the People”) and often owns or controls the means of production (French or European type liberal democracy). By “right” we mean a system in which a private sector élite is sovereign, and often owns or controls the means of production (English type liberal democracy).
By “center” we mean any significant degree of merging the French and English type of liberal democracy, e.g., Hilaire Belloc’s concept of “the Servile State,” that he viewed as a combination of capitalism and socialism without being purely one or the other, one in which people are forced into a condition of servile dependency through the maintenance of the wage and welfare system as the only way in which the great mass of people can gain income.
In this framework, and based on the fact that they both rely on concentrated government control at whatever level, fascism and socialism of all kinds are not “right wing extremes” but “left wing extremes.” We say, “at whatever level,” for whether control is imposed by an international authority as in Marxist communism, by the State as in Nazism and fascism, or by a local authority as in syndicalism or guild socialism, it is still control vested in some form of the State or community, and is substantively the same, regardless of the degree or form it takes.
|Voluntary, not coerced propertylessness.|
A commune of ardent pacifists who own everything in common and who recognize only “social rights” not individual rights inhering in each human person is as fully socialist, and is socialist in the same essential way, as Marxist communism or Nazism.
So does that mean that a religious order, such as a Buddhist monastery or Catholic convent in which the members of the community own everything in common and none have any private property, is socialist?
Absolutely not. We can’t say for certain about Buddhism and its theory of natural rights such as life, liberty, and private property, but we do know something about Catholic religious orders. Someone who becomes (for example) a Franciscan or a Benedictine (Catholic religious orders) agrees voluntarily not to exercise his or her natural rights of liberty and private property as a condition of joining the community. He or she does not surrender any rights, nor does he or she lose them. Anyone who chooses to leave the community is no longer under a vow of obedience and may own whatever he or she wants within the bounds of civil law.
|When did Jesus become a dictator?|
This, by the way, is how some of the early Christians lived as described in the Acts of Apostles. Yes, they shared goods in common, but it was purely voluntary, a “counsel of perfection,” not the abolition of private property as in socialism. Applying the term “communist” to this arrangement is not entirely incorrect, but it tends to give the wrong impression about voluntary versus coercive communal ownership.
Now, about those “right wing extremists” . . . do they actually exist? Well, yes, even if they aren’t Nazis or fascists. Actual right wing extremists tend to extreme individualism, not extreme collectivism. These include anarchists, some libertarians, followers of Ayn Rand — anyone, in short, who puts sovereignty into the individual as an individual without reference to the common good; where the collectivist extremist either insists there is nothing but the common good or separates individual good from common good completely or nearly so, the individualist extremist denies the existence of the common good altogether, often dismissing any manifestation of it as collectivism.
Sovereignty in the "right" instance tends to be reserved not for the collective, but a special individual or élite group, either one considered not as flesh and blood persons, but as abstractions. Thus, collectivism and individualism share a common assumption — that an abstraction instead of human persons is sovereign — but they apply it in different ways . . . usually.
The fact is, however, that collectivism always takes over the private sector, and individualism almost always takes over the public sector, so that there ends up being very little difference between the two extremes as they meet in the middle. In either of the extremes, the ordinary person without property (and thus without power) is left at the mercy of whoever owns or controls the means of production.