At the end of the film The Wrath of Khan, when Spock is exposing himself to deadly radiation in order to save the crew of the Enterprise, he reminds Kirk that: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.Or the one.” When I saw this, my first thought–probably because of reading Ayn Rand–was “this is a rather neat description of Socialism.” It’s the sacrifice of the individual for the collective. And it is this notion from which all the other aspects of Socialism derive.
Supposedly, this idea is alien to the United States of America, where we value individualism. Part of the idea of “American exceptionalism” is that we are more friendly to the rights of the individual than other nations; hence, Socialism is a philosophy that Americans seemingly reject.
Or do we?
In an earlier post, I said that “War is a fundamentally Socialist undertaking.” And, indeed, it is in wartime that the Socialists and anti-individualist philosophies gain the greatest acceptance in the United States of America. Witness Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus in the Civil War, the efforts at managing the war economy in World War I, or even the very idea of conscription. All these sacrifice the rights of individuals for the purpose of winning a war.
One of the redeeming factors of Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism is that he seems to have grasped this point. It sort of undermines his own thesis, of course, but nonetheless he figures out that the United States is, historically, susceptible to this sort of socialistic mood. Of course, Goldberg calls it “fascism”, and he may be right about that as well.
I have said in the past that “Fascism is nothing more than a particularly militaristic brand of Socialism”, and while I’m no longer sure if that’s the only difference, I think it’s clear that fascism is more militaristic than socialism. So, perhaps I should rephrase my earlier statement: war is a fundamentally socialist undertaking–and it’s called fascism. Again, Goldberg makes something of a decent case that socialism and fascism have some similarities that people don’t know about. (Of course, he seems to think they’re almost interchangeable.)
I realize this post is somewhat disjointed and confusing–it’s a combination of a post I’d been working on for a while, plus the stuff about Goldberg’s book that I was reminded of by this–but what I’m ultimately trying to do here is figure out just what the hell fascism actually is, and how it relates to socialism. Anyone care to help? So far, the best explanation I’ve read is here.