…as answered on Quora….

I will try to be brief.

Facts for the case for “right-wing”? Fascism is nationalist and militaristic. This is usually considered “on the right.”

Facts for the case for “left-wing”: fascism grew out of socialism and socialist agitation, and fascists regarded their economic policy as neither socialist nor free-market. It is heavily dirigiste. Mussolini himself was a man of the left, and one of his main influences for his move away from Marxist socialism was the work of Georges Sorel. Was Sorel leftist? He was deeply anti-capitalist, and desired to bring together worker solidarity. Seems to be a man of the left, to me. But others may disagree.

And if you consider Nazis fascist (and that is, actually, a stretch) then the leftist element is quite strong.

Both fascists and Nazis were famously anti-communist. Nazis made a name for themselves for street fights with communist revolutionaries, and one reason for their rise to power was that Germans in the Weimar Republic judged them the lesser of two evils — compared to the openly revolutionary stance of the bloody-minded commies.

The communists definitely tarred Nazis with the “fascist” label, a move that continues to this day and which has muddied up much thought.*

Trouble here, is: what one starts out believing is not necessarily where one ends up. So an anti-revolutionary stance early in an ideological career does not mean that one isn’t a revolutionary as the State gets captured by one’s party. Similarly, socialists and folks of the left often talk peace, peace: but they get into power, their programs immediately prove slippery and unworkable, and quickly they come to mass executions and preservation of their power by violence. Where is the “left” or the “right” in that dialectic of power? One can start out “on the left” but quickly seem “on the right” without ever giving up any of one’s professed leftist beliefs.

Adolf Hitler never gave up on the Marxist interpretation of economics, for example. He just disagreed on the “internationalist” aspect of Marxian Communism, thinking it a fine thing to keep corporations around so long as they were heavily controlled. The Third Reich also established the most egalitarian welfare and labor policy ever achieved — that seems “left-wing,” eh?

But, the “right-wing” element may lie in the wealth that Nazis used to sustain the Third Reich — it did not come solely from “the rich” as such. It came from dispossessed Jews and conquered territory. Is that “right wing”? Maybe. (See Götz Aly, Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State [2005; 2006].)

Nazi Germany was totalitarian. And Hitler admired Stalin’s efficiency in handling his enemies. Is that left-wing or right-wing? Meanwhile, in actual fascist countries, totalitarianism was not really in operation. It was a more limited affair.

Yet it was Mussolini who said “All within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” I consider this extreme statism to be a leftist thing, not rightist. The traditional distinction is made between totalitarianism and authoritarianism, but, as conceived, fascism is theoretically quite totalitarian, anti-individualist. This all strikes me as left-wing.

You see, “left” and “right” are not easy to determine. Individualists like me have long harped on the difficulty of using the terms to map the ideological spectrum for one obvious reason: it is a directional binary that makes sense only in the context of where you are looking.

Mussolini, Giovanni Gentile, Alfredo Rocco and other paradigm-establishing fascists all strongly opposed laissez faire, any hint of laissez faire. Does that make them leftist? Is “laissez faire” rightist? Seems dubious to me. Laissez faire is a middle ground position among many competing statist programs, of both left and right variants. But your view may differ.

So, though facts can be brought to bear on this issue, it is not facts alone that can decide. The winds of doctrine blow many directions, including up and down as well as forward and back — not to mention left and right.

I advise being circumspect about using these terms. Individualists (like me) tend to regard the real issue as between unlimited state force and a rule of law limiting force. Left and right distract us on the way to confronting that issue.

And in all of this, we must remember that politicians (and this includes ideological activists in universities and on the streets and in voting booths) lie to themselves and lie to others, so mapping their “beliefs” is tricky. And all ideology has huge elements of fantasy, much of it unworkable. So, the outcome of their fantasied utopias is usually dystopian. And it would be wrong to call “utopia” leftist and “dystopia” rightist. In that gambit lies deep delusion.

* This propagandistic labeling may have prevented western liberal-ish societies from catching on to the horrors of Nazism early on, for ‘fascism’ was quite popular in America . . . until, suddenly, it wasn’t. Fascism’s affinity with Progressivism was quite clear, at the time, which Jonah Goldberg made hay of in his disastrously titled 2008 volume, Liberal Fascism.

N.B. The curious might wish to consult David Ramsay Steele’s forthcoming essay collection, The Mystery of Fascism. A simple Internet search will call forth free-to-read versions of the title essay, well worth the effort.

Paul Gottfried’s treatise, Fascism: The Career of a Concept, is a more thorough exploration, but since I have not finished reading it yet, I should perhaps only cautiously advise it.