No less significant is the intellectual history of many of the Nazi and Fascist leaders. Everyone who has watched the growth of these movements in Italy or in Germany has been struck by the number of leading men, from Mussolini downward (and not excluding Laval and Quisling), who began as socialists and ended as Fascists or Nazis. And what is true of the leaders is even more true of the rank and file of the movement. The relative ease with which a young communist could be converted into a Nazi or vice versa was generally known in Germany, best of all to the propagandists of the two parties. Many a university teacher during the 1930s has seen English and American students return from the Continent uncertain whether they were communists or Nazis and certain only that they hated Western liberal civilization.We have lost our old definitions and the cardinal points of our old political compasses. Is Trump a Republican? Is Sanders a Democrat? Are Schumer and Ryan politics opposites, sharing as they do, the onerous task of reviving the old establishment parties? Is the Antifa, fascist, communist, anarchist, or simply thugs? Hard to say anymore, lacking the cardinal points as we do.
It is true, of course, that in Germany before 1933 and in Italy before 1922 communists and Nazis or Fascists clashed more frequently with each other than with other parties. They competed for the support of the same type of mind and reserved for each other the hatred of the heretic. But their practice showed how closely they are related. To both, the real enemy, the man with whom they had nothing in common and whom they could not hope to convince, is the liberal of the old type. While to the Nazi the communist, and to the communist the Nazi, and to both the socialist, are potential recruits who are made of the right timber, although they have listened to false prophets, they both know that there can be no compromise between them and those who really believe in individual freedom.
I think Hayek is right. I think National Socialists and Fascists are cut from the same cloth and sit at the cardinal opposite of Classical Liberalism, a liberalism rooted in liberties, rights, freedom, rule of law, equality before the law, individualism, etc. National socialists and Fascists both centralize power, they both dispense with rule of law, they both despise individual liberties. They are the same thing with a different accent.
Likewise, in our contemporary context, I think postmodernists, critical theorists, antifa, social justice people, identitarians, etc. are all down there with the National Socialists and Fascists. They stand in contrast to the freedom loving, rule of law loving, Classical Liberals who have been under assault from the academy and the media for the past couple or three decades. Time to revivify and celebrate Classical Liberalism again instead of trying to figure out which is better, National Socialists or Fascists.