Left-wing fascism and left fascism are sociological and philosophical terms used to categorize tendencies in left-wing politics otherwise commonly attributed to the ideology of fascism. Fascism has historically been considered a far-right ideology.
The term has its origins with criticism by Vladimir Lenin of the threat of anti-Marxist ultraleftism before being formulated as a position by sociologists Jürgen Habermas and Irving Louis Horowitz. Another early use of the term is by Victor Klemperer, when describing the close similarities between the National Socialist regime and the German Democratic Republic.
The most prominent early user of the term left fascism (linker Faschismus) was Jürgen Habermas, a sociologist and philosopher influenced by the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School. He used the term in the 1960s to distance the Frankfurt School from the violence and authoritarianism of left-wing terrorists and to criticize the violent methods of protest of the Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund. Habermas, whose work emphasizes the importance of rational discourse, democratic institutions and opposition to violence, has made important contributions to conflict theory and is often associated with the radical left.
Seymour Martin Lipset, in 1960, classified as left-wing fascism some nationalist and authoritarian regimes in underdeveloped countries, namely in South America, like Peron in Argentina and Getulio Vargas in Brazil, characterized by an appeal to the working classes against the upper classes, and accusing the latter of being guilty for the underdevelopment of the country and for the subjection to foreign interests.
Sociologist Irving Louis Horowitz in his 1984 book Winners and Losers built on Vladimir Lenin's work "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder. Lenin describes the enemies of the working class as opportunists and petty-bourgeois revolutionaries operating on anarchist premises. Horowitz claimed that "left-wing fascism" emerged again in the United States political life during the 1980s in the form of a refusal to disengage radical rhetoric from totalitarian reality.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the term left fascism has been used to describe unusual hybrid political alliances. Historian Richard Wolin has used the term "left fascism" in arguing that some European intellectuals have been infatuated with post-modernist or anti-Enlightenment theories, opening up the opportunity for cult-like, irrational, anti-democratic positions that combine characteristics of the left with those of fascism.
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- Jürgen Habermas, "Die Scheinrevolution und ihre Kinder. Sechs Thesen über Taktik, Ziele und Situationsanalysen der oppositionellen Jugend" (Frankfurter Rundschau, 5 June 1968) in: Wolfgang Abendroth, Oskar Negt, Die Linke antwortet Jürgen Habermas, Europäische Verlagsanstalt, pp. 5–15. Habermas later retracted the term in: Jürgen Habermas, "Probe für Volksjustiz", Der Spiegel, 10 October 1977.
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- Lipset, Seymour Martin (1960). "Fascism—Left, Right, and Center" (PDF). Political Man. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company. pp. 131–176. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
- Horowitz, Irving Louis. Winners and Losers: Social and Political Polarities in America (Duke University Press, 1984). ISBN 0-8223-0602-6. ISBN 978-0-8223-0602-3. ch. 17. p. 209.
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- Wolin, Richard. The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (Princeton University Press, 2004).