There is a fundamental difference between ends and means which cannot be ignored by those who equate even the worst Stalinist states with fascism. Yes, they were both nightmarish 1984 style dystopias. But to equate the two would be folly. I am, of course, as the title suggests, a Trotskyist. I disdain Stalinism for it’s inherent lack of genuine democracy, authoritarianism after the fact, and lack of even formal liberties. However, the end goal of the fascist states had already been established in one sense. The end goal of fascism is a totalitarian state, one which, as Hitler put it, was to last ‘a thousand years’.
The state, being an inherently violent institution, is nothing but a weapon for the suppression of one class over another. The end goal of the fascists WAS an ‘eternal totalitarian state’. The end goal of the Stalinists, and indeed of all communists, myself included, is a communist society. What is a communist society? It is a society without social classes, money, private property, or the state. It has been said that the end goal of anarchists and marxists (yes, even Stalinists) is the same, and this is absolutely true. If you do not believe me, allow me to quote one of the most ardent anti-revisionist stalinists of the 20th century, Mao Zedong:
“Don’t you want to abolish state power?” Yes, we do, but not right now. We cannot do it yet. Why? Because imperialism still exists, because domestic reaction still exists, because classes still exist in our country. Our present task is to strengthen the people’s state apparatus – mainly the people’s army, the people’s police and the people’s courts – in order to consolidate national defense and protect the people’s interests.
“On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” (June 30, 1949), Selected Works, Vol. IV, p. 418.
There is also the infamous ‘horseshoe theory’ which alleges that far-right and far-left politics have more in common than apart, that they are really just two sides of the same coin. But this theory quickly falls apart when put into historical context. For instance, compare the far-left and far-right in times of slavery, in times of feudalism. In every instance the ‘centrists’ whom the horseshoe theory holds in the highest regard have been the ones to passively go along with the prevailing exploitative social system, even if they ‘see logic in both sides’. In every instance the far-left has been willing to use violence to end oppression and exploitation, and the far-right has been willing to use violence to systematically enforce and maintain said exploitative and oppressive social systems. Such a theory also negates that many on the far-left, and even the far-right, are anarchists almost as often as totalitarians. But if you compare a fascist to an anarcho-communist (far right vs. far left), or a Stalinist to an ‘anarcho’-capitalist (far left vs. far right), you will quickly see how easily such an absurd notion falls apart. Below is an image of the horseshoe theory put into historical context.
If we hold all acts of political violence to a non-sensible Kantian standard of timeless morality, than perhaps the far-left and the far-right are the same. But this is to equate abolitionists with slave-owners, is to equate brutal capitalists with communists (even Trotskyists like myself). It also ignores the fact that political violence will always exist insofar as the state exists. A ‘pacifist’ that idly accepts a prevailing social order that kills hundreds of millions of people every decade has as much, if not more blood on their hands as does a revolutionary who is attempting to end said exploitation by direct force of arms. There is talk of ‘The Terror’ of the French Revolution which mercilessly killed the former oppressors and counter-revolutionaries as an example of the barbarity of the far-left. But there is less talk of, as Mark Twain put it, the second terror which the former sought to end:
“There were two ‘Reigns of Terror’, if we could but remember and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passions, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon a thousand persons, the other upon a hundred million; but our shudders are all for the horrors of the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and heartbreak? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief terror that we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror – that unspeakable bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.”
With such a view, one can easily justify Robespierre’s ‘totalitarian excesses’, as the ends clearly justified the means. The far-right however, historically has used terror solely to maintain exploitative social systems, and in reaction to attempted liberation from such. It was the reaction to both the French and Bolshevik revolutions that sparked the necessity of the far-left to take such drastic actions in self-defense of the revolution. Both ‘Red Terrors’ were but responses to white (far-right) reactionary terror. In the words of Danton, the committee of public safety was compelled to “be terrible as to spare the people the need to be so”. It could be said that there is but one justification of violence: The greater, not individual, good. If that is the standard, then we should hold the far-left in far greater moral esteem than both centrists and far-rightists alike. It should also be noted that we are referring to revolutionary terror, as in, terror after a revolution, not terror as it is known today. Marxism is irrevocably opposed to individual terrorism.
If one equates the ends with the means then one makes a forgivable, yet foolish mistake. If one equates Robespierre’s ‘reign of terror’ (the means) with capitalism and a democratic republic as such (the ends), can it not be said that the person making such a judgement is in error? Can the same not also be said for one who equates the Stalinist states of the 20th century (a totalitarian means which many communists, myself included, disapprove of) with ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ as such (the ends)? But one can certainly equate the ends and means of a fascist state as the two are one in the same, the goal of fascism is to establish a totalitarian state that lasts forever. In that light, we should hold the far-left in infinitely greater esteem than the far-right.