Two Sides of the Same Coin

Communism and fascism, cousins in disrepute.

Issue: Summer 2000

A. James Gregor, The Faces of Janus: Marxism and Fascism in the Twentieth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).

When, in her famous article "Dictatorships and Double Standards", Jeane Kirkpatrick emphasized the distinction between totalitarianism and authoritarianism, she was accused of seeking to excuse the misdeeds of right-wing regimes. In fact, she was only invoking a taxonomy that had been widely employed in academia as recently as the 1950s and 1960s but had since fallen into disfavor. More precisely, it had been driven from general academic discourse on the grounds that it was too polemical. The concept "totalitarian", which grouped communist and fascist regimes in a single category, was said to be a Cold War throwback, gratuitously smearing the far Left with the discredit belonging to the far Right.

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