Left-wing fascism

Left-wing fascism and left fascism are sociological and philosophical terms used to categorise real or perceived tendencies in extreme left-wing politics otherwise commonly attributed to the ideology of Fascism. Fascism has historically been considered a far right ideology, but crossovers may be expected according to the theory of extremes meet (French: Les extrêmes se touchent), where the touching point between the far left and the far right may be the use of power and/or political terrorism. Syntagmas such as left-wing fascism provide shorthand labels, but they lack any universally understood or agreed meaning and in common parlance may be used as a pejorative for any left-wing political position, or where unusual (or contradictory) hybrid political positions are perceived.

The term has its origins with criticism by Vladimir Lenin of the threat of anti-Marxist ultraleftism, before being formulated as a position by sociologists Jürgen Habermas and Irving Louis Horowitz.


The most prominent early user of the term left-fascism was Jürgen Habermas, a sociologist and philosopher influenced by the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School. He used the term in the 1960s to distance the Frankfurt School from the violence and authoritarianism of left-wing terrorists.[1][2] Habermas, whose work emphasizes the importance of rational discourse, democratic institutions and opposition to violence, has made important contributions to conflict theory and is often associated with the radical left.

Sociologist Irving Louis Horowitz, in his 1984 book "Winners and Losers", built on Vladimir Lenin's work "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder.[3] Lenin describes the enemies of the working class as opportunists and petty-bourgeois revolutionaries, which he links to anarchism. Horowitz argues that there was a similar political strain in the United States in the 1980s, which he characterizes as "left-wing fascism". Horowitz argues that it is dangerous to assume clear distinctions between left, centre and right, and that various combinations are possible. He warned of "left fascism" during later years of the European Years of Lead, which were rife with red-black terrorist groups such as the German Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF) and the Italian Red Brigades, which had mixed left- and right-wing influences. Horowitz argues that "left-wing fascism" in the United States, as in Europe, is capable of combining very different ideological strains into a political formula that has the potential for mass appeal. He argues that it operates through mystified language, attributes faults "everywhere and always in an imperial conspiracy of wealth, power or status", and uses anti-Semitism as a pseudo-populist tool.

Horowitz argues that a tenet of "left-wing fascism" in the United States is a rejection of American ideals and the democratic system, and an assertion of socialism as an idealized abstraction. He argues that "left-wing fascists" uniquely examine socialism without comment on the activities in the Soviet Union. He also argues that the potential strength of left-wing fascism, which he alleges was practiced by Lyndon LaRouche's National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC), is in the combination of motivating principles for development of a new fascist social order. The effectiveness of the NCLC is seen in the success in building single-issue alliances with the far right and anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby, Black Muslim movements and conservative Teamsters Union officials.

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the term left fascism has been used to describe unusual hybrid political alliances.[4] Historian Richard Wolin has used the term left fascism in arguing that some European intellectuals have been infatuated with post-modernist or anti-enlightenment theories, opening up the opportunity for cult-like, irrational, anti-democratic positions that combine characteristics of the Left with those of fascism.[5] Bernard-Henri Lévy, a philosopher and journalist, calls this political hybrid neo-progressivism, new barbarism or red fascism. Lévy argues that it is anti-liberal, anti-American, anti-imperialism, anti-Semitic and pro-Islamofascist.[6]

See also


  1. Wallace, R.A. and A. Wolf, Contemporary Sociological Theory: Continuing the Classical Tradition, 3rd ed. (1991) p. 116.
  2. Hohendahl, Peter Uwe, Reappraisals: Shifting Alignments in Postwar Critical Theory (Cornell University Press, 1991) ISBN 0-8014-9706-X, 9780801497063, pp. 9-10
  3. Horowitz, Irving Louis, Winners and Losers: Social and Political Polarities in America], (Duke University Press, 1984) ISBN 0-8223-0602-6, ISBN 978-0-8223-0602-3, Ch. 17., pp. 219 et seq. https://books.google.com/books?id=Au_Ktn22RxEC&pg=PA217&dq=%22left+fascism%22
  4. TELOS, Fall 2008 (no. 144)
  5. Wolin, Richard, The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (Princeton University Press, 2004)
  6. "A Revivified Corpse: Left-Fascism in the Twenty-First Century"in TELOS
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