Democracy & free
markets vs socialism
July 26, 2003
I recently came under fire for referring to Saddam Hussein's
regime as fascist. Some argued that I was wrong because the
Baath Party was actually socialist. Well, both views are correct.
Hussein ran a totalitarian fascist regime that in practice
was similar to a totalitarian socialist regime -- or maybe
it was vice versa. While there are many differences between
the two, the finer ideological distinctions are generally
lost on the regime's victims.
In either dictatorship, the state reigns supreme. Secret
police roam at will, the maximum leader's images are omnipresent
in schools and workplaces, the masses are mobilized to support
the state, there's a bloated state-run economy and militarized
society as well as lots of prisons where dissenters are tortured
and killed. In practice, when it comes to state control, there's
little difference between extreme socialism and fascism. Both
are the antithesis of American constitutional principles.
With most of these dictatorships, only the ideological rhetoric
differs. For Hussein's Socialist Baath Party, it was about
Pan-Arabism. For Castro's Communist Party, it's international
socialism. For Hitler, it was national socialism (Nazism).
For Mussolini, it was corporate statism (true fascism).
While some had much more blood on their hands than others,
all these dictatorships shared similar forms of totalitarian
repression. In fact, what many of them have in common is their
espousal of populist socialism of one form or another.
Ironically, it's the left that constantly uses the fascist
bogeyman against the so-called conservative right. While this
may have some resonance in Europe or Latin America where the
right may still be associated with militarists, statists and
nationalists, it certainly has little relation to reality
in the United States, where conservatives generally promote
uniquely American ideas of liberty and constitutional republicanism.
So, it's entertaining to hear the left regularly denounce
President Bush and his conservative supporters as fascists.
Either these folks have no idea what fascism means, or conservative
Republicans really do want a militarized, one-party, state-run
society. I tend to believe the former.
In fact, mainstream American conservatism and the GOP, for
the most part, actually promote classical liberal ideas of
liberty and individual rights. Like our Founding Fathers,
they believe in a smaller, less intrusive government; less
taxation, property rights, the rule of law, individual responsibility,
and free and competitive markets. They are staunch defenders
of the Constitution and the principles it represents. Those
who veer too much from that consensus -- Pat Buchanan may
be an example -- quickly find themselves on the outside.
Even among the religious conservatives who focus on promoting
traditional American social values, I haven't found any fascists
or theocrats. Most are regular folks who believe strongly,
as our founders did, that a self-restrained, moral people
is the bedrock of democracy and that government should not
be eroding the moral values that form the foundation of our
In reality, modern American conservatives have more in common
with classical liberals than many of today's so-called liberals
can ever hope to have. This is particularly true because American
liberalism in many ways has been hijacked in recent years
by a collectivist and pacifist left wing that is closer to
European socialism than to American ideals.
These differences do matter because the battle now is not
between right-wing fascism and left-wing liberalism. The contest
is between American constitutional democracy and free markets
on one side and leftist socialism, rightist statism and ultimately
totalitarianism of any stripe on ther other.
Today ''right-wing'' conservatives are the ones promoting
democracy and liberal American ideas throughout the world,
while many of our so-called liberals seem bent on opposing
This is the real battle between right and left.
Paul Crespo is a public policy consultant and writer in
Miami and Washington, DC. A former Marine officer, he was
a member of the Miami Herald Editorial Board and writes regularly
on politics, military affairs and diplomacy for The Herald,
AEI Magazine Online and Tiempos del Mundo.
©2003 Paul Crespo. Reprinted on The Tocquevillian
by permission of the author.
2003 Tocqevillian Magazine