Forget Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. Close Only Counts in the Center.

Featured image: Font by dgbomb and image by Talaj on Shutterstock. Edited in Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo. For audio, see the highlight from the video of my live reading on Twitch.


4 for Now

I want to address something that’s been bothering me: the prevalence of the idea that the far left and far right are the same. The Horseshoe Theory is the idea that because both extremes oppose centrists and the capitalist status quo, they must be similar. While that may not be entirely false, there are unquestionable differences between communists and fascists.

Horseshoe theory. A crude illustration of a horseshoe shape, open ends pointing down. Top is labeled "Center." Left and right ends are labeled respectively.

For starters, communists are anti-fascists. You’d think that would be enough to demonstrate the differences, but apparently not. Communists—whose ideology stems from the idea of structuring society around common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state—want to see the needs of all individuals met.

Fascism—based more on feelings than philosophy—seeks to make the nation stronger, more powerful, larger, and more successful. (Spoiler: this usually only happens at the expense of individuals’ well-being and freedoms.)

Meanwhile, centrists seek to maintain the status quo. As TheKomradeKenny has said, “Liberalism doesn’t challenge power. It seeks to accommodate power.” (Another spoiler: as long as the left isn’t allowed into politics, doesn’t start a revolution, or doesn’t gain power another way, that means centrists accommodate the right.)

Yes, there have been times the left and right have worked together. Notably, when Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland. However, as Noah Berlatsky points out, “Stalin didn’t join with Hitler because he was fascist. He joined with Hitler because he had no particular dislike of anti-Semitism or atrocity, and because it was in his interest to do so.”

Besides, because of their love for the way things are, centrists have worked with the right far more often. For example:

  • Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement, granting Hitler part of Czechoslovakia, hoping Hitler would stop there.
  • Obama and Biden advancing corporate interests and contributing to increasing xenophobia and Islamaphobia.
  • Numerous Republicans seemed perfectly happy with Trumpism.

Does this mean Fishhook Theory is right?

Fishhook theory. A crude illustration of a fishhook, with the eyelet on the left (marked "Left") and hook curving to the right and up. The barb end is labeled "Right" while the approximate center, below the barb, is labeled "Center."

Fishhook Theory suggests that the far right is closer to centrists. That may make us on the left feel better about ourselves, but considering the amount and types of infighting among the left, I’d have to say it’s not all that accurate, either.

Berlatsky proposes “Tendril Theory”: the far right is to the far right, but fascism sends tendrils across the spectrum.

Noah Berlatsky's Tendril Theory. A straight line with Left and Center marked accordingly, with the rightmost label reading "Fascism." There are lines coming from the Fascism end curling towrds three different spots along the line, each labeled "Fascism."

Any two groups of people are going to have similarities and differences, because we’re all human. I think it’s more important to focus on achieving goals that serve humanity than to argue about whose beliefs are the same or what labels to call each other.

The bottom line? People who support humanity are in line with communist goals. People in favor of increasing the money and power of the nation are in line with fascist goals. The folks sitting back and watching it all, or throwing their hat in for the money and power, are in line with centrist goals. Anyone telling you any of these groups are the same is just wasting your time.


4 for Later

  1. Let’s Put an End to Horseshoe Theory Once and for All by Noah Berlatsky (10-minute read)
  2. Fishhook Theory, Explained by Para (2-minute read)
  3. What Is Fascism? by Jessie Szalay (22-minute read)
  4. In Defense of Litmus Tests by Briahna Joy Gray (40-minute read)