Fascism and Nazism are both phenomena of the left. This makes ideological sense, because at their core they represent ideologies of the centralized, all-powerful state. Moreover, fascism grew out of Marxism, and fascism’s founder Benito Mussolini, was a Marxist and lifelong socialist. Hitler, too, was a socialist who headed the National Socialist Party and in fact changed the name of the German Workers Party to make it the National Socialist German Workers Party.
How, then, did progressives in America re-define fascism and Nazism as phenomena of the right? This sleight-of-hand occurred after World War II, once fascism and Nazism were discredited with the reputation of Holocaust. Then progressives recognized it was important to cover up the leftist roots of fascism and Nazism and to move them from the left-wing column into the right-wing column.
The man most responsible for the progressive redefinition of fascism is Theodor Adorno, a German Marxist intellectual and a member of the influential Institute for Social Research, otherwise known as the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School scholars were leftists and most of them were refugees from Nazi Germany. Some settled in Europe; others like Adorno and Herbert Marcuse came to the United States.
Adorno’s influence in defining how fascism came to be understood in America cannot be underestimated. When he and Marcuse arrived, America had just waged war against the Nazis, and after the war Nazism became the very measure of political horror and evil. Not much was known about fascism and Nazism, outside of superficial newspaper and radio coverage. In academia and the media, there was an acknowledged curiosity about what had attracted so many people to fascism and Nazism, with its attendant anti-Semitism.
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