Fascism: the rubbish bin for discarded left-wing strongmen

In response to Madonna Labels Maduro a Fascist on Instagram:

The aging pop star has a fine sense of history.  Leftists for generations have used “fascism” as the rubbish bin for their discarded strongmen.  Every left-wing superhero who grows too hideous for the cameras to ignore becomes a “fascist.”  Yesterday every liberal in the land hailed Hugo Chavez and his Mini-me Maduro as bold reformers whose enemies were all right-wing capitalist stooges who couldn’t handle all the Hope-and-Change flowing through the streets.  Today Maduro looks bad on CNN, so he’s a “fascist.”  If the Castro regime dies in blood and fire, with a few executions caught on tape, they’ll instantly become fascists too.

For the record, a lack of familiarity with the phrase “human rights” does not automatically make you a fascist.  Plenty of other Isms besides fascism have trouble with that concept.  Socialism, for example, usually ends with human rights violations in the final stages of its collapse.  The question at hand is how much dissent the State can tolerate, what it does to those who resist too much, and what level of hatred it needs to gin up against scapegoats.  

Fascism is especially feral because the model of private industry dominated by the total State creates a great appetite for scapegoating.  Nothing that goes wrong can be the fault of the great and noble State, whose centralized plans are always brilliantly-conceived expressions of the highest moral principle.  No, the failure of the great government/business fusion must always rest entirely upon the shoulders of the latter.  Maintaining that illusion when things go really bad requires a combination of fierce loyalty to the State, combined with outrage at its treacherous Little Partners in industry.  That way, the people eagerly embrace further expansion of the State’s powers as the solution to all of the problems it causes.

Does any of that sound familiar?

Well, anyway, it would have been nice if Madonna and her friends had noticed the human rights violations inherent in declaring private businesses “parasitic” and sending in storm troopers to take them over.  But that didn’t bother them so much, so now things have finally degenerated to the kind of human-rights abuse they can’t ignore, and they can only think of one word to describe the horror they see.  

I wonder what the lazy term for ultimate evil would be, if Stalin and Hitler hadn’t gone through their big falling-out back in the day, and all those left-wing enthusiasts for fascism’s miraculous power hadn’t soured on the Axis?  Personally, I think we ought to have a clear understanding of what “fascism” is, instead of throwing it around as an all-purpose devil word.  One peril of doing so is that it blinds us to how brutal the other flavors of collectivism can be… as if there’s only one way for totalitarian politics to go wrong.