The left-leaning "Last Generation," who block roads endangering lives and damaging paintings in museums, claim the right to decide what they deem legitimate actions for their "holy ends." Climate pope Greta Thunberg calls for overcoming the "oppressive" and "racist" system of the West without naming an alternative. The AfD - also together with ultra-right groups - opposes the policies of the federal government and the sanctions against Putin's Russia and pushes the high energy prices as an argument.
Public opinion evaluates the political goals differently: The motives of the “last generation” – from the left to the extreme left – their protest against climate policy are generally considered to be positive and democratic motives, even if the group is increasingly being criticized for the implementation of its goals . On the other hand, protests and demonstrations by the right-wing AfD are per se considered fascist and a threat to democracy.
Fascism, whether right or left, is characterized as the fixation on an anti-pluralistic state that stands above all else. Benito Mussolini, who started on the left and landed on the right, put it this way: everything for the state, nothing outside of the state, nothing against the state.
The accusation of being a right-wing fascist is an often sweeping stigmatization of those who think differently. Politicians like the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni are generally considered post-fascist because of their political past, without considering whether and to what extent they have changed their views in the meantime. On the other hand, former Stalinists in Maoist guise, such as former EU Council President José Manuel Barroso, are not described as post-Stalinists, but as “left-wing activists” or “old 68ers”.
Classification as post-fascist or post-Stalinist does not do justice to this situation. There should be acceptance that on either side, right or left, former left or right fascists can transform and become respectable democratic politicians.
Historically, National Socialism developed in Germany as a specific form of right-wing fascism, and communism very quickly transitioned into Stalinist communism, left-wing fascism, not only in the Soviet Union.
Both systems committed mass murders, albeit for different motives. National Socialism directed its will to annihilate primarily outwards, Stalinism primarily murdered within its own society. Right-wing fascism in the form of National Socialism also committed a singular breach of civilization by destroying European Jewry.
In Germany, National Socialists and Stalinist communists contributed to the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the handover of political power to right-wing fascism. Whether National Socialism would have come to power without the world economic crisis and the collapse of some bourgeois parties remains to be seen here. Nevertheless, both sides called for the fall of the republic.
On the left, for example, Rosa Luxemburg, who has been characterized as a left-wing icon to this day, insulted the delegates to the Reichsrätekongress as “Eberts Mameluken”, as “willing tools of the counter-revolution”, and, completely misjudging the situation, called on the councils in the Reich to to declare the decision of the "unfaithful shop stewards null and void". However, the councils did not heed the calls of the left-wing radicals, but voted for a pluralistic parliamentary order.
The right and the left fascism also made a pact together. In the so-called Hitler-Stalin Pact of August 1939, the two powers not only agreed not to wage war against each other, but both fascisms also agreed in an additional declaration on the division of the (European) world. Left-wing politicians and media representatives in the Federal Republic, as well as later the SED state, denied this additional declaration in the Hitler-Stalin pact. Only shortly before the fall of the wall did the GDR feel compelled to confirm the existence of the supplementary declaration.
The thesis put forward by the historian Ernst Nolte that the confrontation between Stalinism and National Socialism is about a world civil war fails to recognize that it was a war between three systems: the National Socialist, the Stalinist and the liberal-democratic West. Decades later, the latter emerged victorious from the World Civil War. The American political scientist Francis Fukuyama then spoke of the "end of history" because the West would dominate the world in the future. There is no alternative to him. That was a misjudgment, as current developments in many countries, not just in Russia, show.
George Orwell in his fable "Animal Farm" impressively described how after the revolution, which was supposed to bring about the social and political liberation of the oppressed, the revolutionary leaders very quickly slipped into the role of the oppressors. After all, humans and pigs are no longer distinguishable.
The adherence to liberal democracy, which places the value of the individual above abstract ideological future goals, remains the most important achievement of Western societies. Not only climate change can lead to a catastrophe, but also focusing on a vision of the future, in addition to which everyday suffering is considered secondary. The historical experience should be a cautionary tale of how quickly right and left ideologies can turn into crimes.
The political scientist Klaus Schroeder heads the research association SED state of the Freie Universität Berlin and teaches as a professor at the Otto Suhr Institute.