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It is generally agreed that fascism was expansionist, primarily because of the events leading to the Second World War. The one real world experiment with fascism led the main fascists states to conquer their neighbors. It is a small sample size so there are people who argue that fascism is not necessarily expansionist. Franco’s Spain had no territorial ambitions. The same was true of Salazar’s Portugal. The counter there is that these two examples are products of their unique history.
Communism, in contrast, was expansionist and explicitly so. Marxist theory assumed that communism would transcend national borders and national identity. The Bolsheviks expanded on this assumption to argue that the advanced industrial states would move to communism first, then help the backward states to industrial and socialize, by exporting revolution to those states. While communism did not advocate conventional wars of conquest, it advocated ideological wars of conquest.
In these debates, there are three main defining issues. One is the ideological nature of the political system. Both fascism and communism were ideological, in that both revolve around a set of beliefs or philosophies. Communism was the better defined of the two, owing to the deeper intellectual tradition. It also had a theory of history that provided something like a divine purpose. The national character of fascism also limited its ideological scope compared to communism.
That brings up the second defining issue. The reason fascism was less expansionist than communism is universalism. Fascism was rooted in national identity, which by definition limits its exportability. Some countries would simply lack the national character for fascism. Communism, in contrast, was universal. It assumed that all people were naturally egalitarian and possessed the same potential. Further, communists argued that inequality between peoples was due to capitalism.
The third defining issue is the revolutionary character of the systems. Fascism was revolutionary only in so far it was a revolt against modernity. In this regard, it was more revanchist than revolutionary. Fascists wanted to restore a lost past in order to gain a lost future. Communism sought a direct break from the past in order to move into the next phase of history. The revolutionary impulse of fascism was limited while revolution was a defining feature of communism.
Using these three scales, it is easy to see why communism was unabashedly expansionist and fascism was debatably so. In fact, communism cannot exist without some new ground to conquer, while fascism is at least capable of operating within national boundaries as a good neighbor. Every communist country has been a nuisance to its neighbors, while we have examples of fascist countries like Spain and Portugal that managed to behave themselves.
When it comes to liberal democracy, there is not much debate about the expansionist impulses of the system. It is assumed that since this system eschews state violence, it eschews conquest in the conventional sense. There is also the claim that democracies do not go to war with one another or launch wars in lieu of negotiated settlement, so it is not expansionist by nature. Liberal democracies are dragged into conflict by illiberal systems that only understand force.
Yet, when we look at liberal democracy in practice, using the three scales to measure the expansionism of other ideologies, liberal democracy looks every bit as expansionist as 20th century communism. The United States, the epicenter of liberal democracy, has been at war for over a century. In fact, the reason for the past tense when speaking of fascism and communism is the United States conquered these two systems in the name of liberal democracy.
Liberal democracy is the most ideological political system ever conceived. It shares the same intellectual traditions as communism, but has become much more narrow over the course of time. Unlike communism, which assumed economic justice would solve the moral questions, thus ending the need for politics, liberal democracy assumes it has solved the moral questions. Liberal democracy is a set of cultural truths about which it tolerates no debate or dissent.
Of course, this assumes a degree of universalism that the communists would have found challenging. Fascists, of course, found the egalitarian claims of liberalism to be absurd and dangerous. Fascism was as much a revolt against liberalism as communism, because of the egalitarian nature of both systems. Liberal democracy combines egalitarianism and the blank slate to make claims about the human condition that no political system has ever entertained.
This is what makes liberal democracy the most revolutionary system of the three ideologies to compete in the last century. Absolute egalitarianism and the blank slate makes mankind limitless. It turns the vanguard into gods who can shape humanity to fit the needs of the ideology. Fascism was a revolt against modernity. Communism was a revolt against the past. Liberal democracy is a revolt against nature, specifically the natural limits of the human animal.
In the three measures of fascism and communism that defined their expansionism, liberal democracy exceeds them. This explains why liberal democracy, after having defeated fascism, quickly declared war on communism. Once communism was defeated, it declared war on the world. Fukuyama’s claim that liberal democracy was the final answer to the great ideological debates of the Enlightenment was not an observation, but a warning.
We see this in Ukraine. National interest should have led all parties to the negotiating table to sort out the problems in Ukraine. In fact, the conditions that led to war should not exist, but the expansionist impulse of liberal democracy created many of the conditions that led to war. It is the stated desire of the liberal democracies to conquer Russia that is keeping the war going. Russia, having shed revolutionary communism, is now at war with revolutionary liberal democracy.
The brewing war with China over Taiwan is another example of the expansionist impulse of liberal democracy. The Taiwan issue could be negotiated, but Washington likes to use Taiwan as a provocation. The radar system that it has installed in Taiwan is part of the explicit nuclear threat against China. The war with Russia is now being used as justification for further provocations. Washington has said that Beijing is next when it comes to regime change.
The very fact that the phrase “regime change” exists at all is a good example of the expansionist nature of liberal democracy. The fascists never expressed any interest in how other countries did politics. The communists were all about exporting revolution to other countries in order to alter their political orientation. We see the same thing with liberal democracy. It first exports the cultural goods of liberal democracy and then begins the color revolution process to effect regime change.
It is a big topic that deserves a deeper analysis, but on the surface it is quite clear that liberal democracy is the most revolutionary, expansionist and intolerant ideology to emerge from the 20th century. The limited expansionism of fascism triggered a war in Europe then world war. The explicit expansionism of communism plunged the world into a forty year cold war. The hyper-violent, revolutionary expansionism of liberal democracy now promises something far worse.
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