Fascism -- Left, Right, and Center
THE return of De Gaulle to power in France in 1958 following a military coup d'état was accompanied by dire predictions of the revival of fascism as a major ideological movement, and raised anew the issue of the character of different kinds of extremist movements. Much of the discussion between Marxist and non- Marxist scholars before 1945 was devoted to an analysis of fascism in power and focused on whether the Nazis or other fascist parties were actually strengthening the economic institutions of capitalism or creating a new post-capitalist social order similar to Soviet bureaucratic totalitarianism.
While an analysis of the actual behavior of parties in office is crucial to an understanding of their functional significance, the social base and ideology of any movement must also be analyzed if it is to be truly understood. A study of the social bases of different modern mass movements suggests that each major social stratum has both democratic and extremist, political expressions. The extremist movements of the left, right, and center (Communism and Peronism, traditional authoritarianism, and fascism) are based primarily on the working, upper, and middle classes, respectively. The term "fascism" has been applied at one time or another to all of these varieties of extremism, but an analytical examination of the social base and ideology of each reveals their different characters.