Horseshoe Theory


"Is there a more fundamental, ideological resonance between far left and far right? Again, only in the vaguest sense that both challenge the liberal-democratic status quo. But they do so for very different reasons and with very different aims. When fascists reject liberal individualism, it is in the name of a vision of national unity and ethnic purity rooted in a romanticised past; when communists and socialists do so, it is in the name of international solidarity and the redistribution of wealth.

Given the basic implausibility of the horseshoe theory, why do so many centrist commentators insist on perpetuating it? The likely answer is that it allows those in the centre to discredit the left while disavowing their own complicity with the far right."


Yep. That and the way it allows such commentators to pat themselves on the back for (supposedly) being clever.


Two reasons (besides the one you mentioned):

  1. Self-righteous assholes: A lot of people confuse apathy with open-mindedness. Pointing out the flaws and superficial similarities between opposing sides (because of course there are only two sides), allows them to present themselves, and believe themselves to be, more self-aware and balanced than others, despite having no actual opinions.

  2. Actual beliefs and consequentialist ethics: Marcus Garvey and the KKK both supported the back to Africa movement. While the intent couldn’t have been more different, the result would have been the same if it had succeeded. If someone adheres to a strictly consequentialist view of ethics, then there would be no difference. (N.B. I don’t hold that view, and I don’t think that view is tenable.)


Only the centrists believe in the horseshoe theory. The left and the right agree that it is wrong.


I’m no historian, but it seems to me that the most notorious fascist organization in the world was the Nazi party. Nazi is of course short for National Socialist; far-right and far-left ideologies meeting together to form the most evil force in modern history.

Until the Night of the Long Knives, when they purged their useful idiots on the left, among others.


Italian fascism arose as a reaction against socialism, and the Nazis were murderously opposed to real socialists from the beginning. They did not in any sense represent the left.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out…”

There’s also the point that “socialism” is not a far-left ideology. It’s a broad spectrum that, in its mildest forms, sits barely left of center.


I understand the prime mover in Nazism is far right ideology, but what people miss is that once you’ve detained, deported, destroyed anyone who would stand up to you, at the end of the day, someone has to pick up the garbage, till the fields, fight the wars.

The fools who thought they’d be the master race ended up being told by the government what job they’d have, what pay they’d make, what quota they had to meet, and they couldn’t say no unless they wanted to end up like the job’s former occupant.

So the “socialism” wasn’t the “free healthcare for all” variety so much as the “government controls the means of production and there’s nothing you can do about it” kind.

Socialism is not that the government owns the means of production but that the workers do, this is why some leftists are opposed to the characterization of, say, the USSR as socialist because the actual workers seem to have had very little say in how the country was ran, preferring a term such as state capitalist, the state being used as if it were a single capitalistic entity to exploit its workers.

For what it’s worth I don’t think that it’s helpful to try and classify the economy of the third reich along any normal ideological lines because there was no particular ideology to how the economy was ran, as I understand it. They were very egalitarian as far as that was concerned, doing whatever they thought got the results they wanted.

I’d actually be really interested in a book comparing and contrasting German and Italian fascism in the early to mid 20th century, as a matter of fact. As I understand it Mussolini cared far more about ideology and philosophical bases than the Nazis did, where they were more about forging the perfect volksisch ethnostate by any means necessary.


You do realize that the Nazis were not socialists. At all. Their policies were not socialist policies. Just because they used “socialist” doesn’t make it so.

They went after independent labor unions and communists first thing, focusing on their political enemies only then seeking to cleanse their own country of undesirable elements deemed a threat to the “purity” of their race.


Socialism isn’t just about the government running the means of production. It tends to blend government services with private industry. You’re confusing socialism not only with fascism, but also various forms of communism. These are different forms of government. If they have shared characteristics or seem to, it’s largely due to them seeking to solve similar problems created by capitalism.


My impression is that the attitude you’re describing is more typical of a social democrat than a socialist.



My perspective as a libertarian socialist.

I still believe that horseshoe theory can be true for authoritarians, but is mostly false for civil libertarians. Authoritarian leaders will go to where the power is and most of their followers will follow. There are a few examples of libertarians flipping between left and right, but not in the same proportions as with authoritarians. Libertarian movement leans towards the centre.

It’s still a poor theory though.

The movement of some libertarian capitalists to fascism can be understood if you accept that any dictator can declare that they are a free person.


By that definition Winston Churchill was also a socialist.


Does that mean that they are centrist?


kill them all, god will know his own is technically a centrist position. Unless you’re one of those pacifist types (and therefore a dangerous extremist)

And I went up there, I said, “Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I
Wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and
Guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill,

And I started jumpin’ up and down, yellin’ “KILL! Kill!” and he started
Jumpin’ up and down with me, and we was both jumpin’ up and down, yellin’
“Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!” and the sergeant came over, pinned a medal on me
Sent me down the hall, said “You’re our boy”.


Socialist isn’t communist either, though, and it’s certainly not a fascist, which is what I’m arguing against. And the way people use the terms are often confusing and contradictory and entirely contextual.

But again. I’ll stress the nazis weren’t in anyway socialists. That’s just historical fact. This seems to distress people who want very desperately for all bad people to be on the left and all heroes to be on the right. The reality is that no one is pure and good and the real problem remains the construction of power on the backs of others.


It means they are the opposite of centrist if you consider the center classic liberalism: personal liberty, free market capitalism, and a government elected by the people.

Nazi Germany had none of those things. Neither did the Soviet Union.

neither did weimar germany. The kind of liberalism you describe wasn’t terribly popular, because it didn’t address the real economic problems that Germany faced.