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Some political analysts place fascism at the extreme right of the political spectrum, Communism at or near the extreme left. This classification has been much favored by Marxist writers who believe that fascism is the last desperate effort of embattled capitalism to stave off the proletarian victory. Doubtless, Communist writers are aware of the value in some circles of the leftist label with its overtones of progress, freedom, and the general welfare. We have already noted the origin of the terms "Left" and "Right" in the French Revolution when they were used to distinguish between the advocates of change and the more conservative. Survival of these labels into a later age with vastly different problems and proposals has not helped clarify political thinking. It may already have occurred to the thoughtful reader that to classify Nazism as a near relative of conservatism creates as many difficulties as it solves. Similar difficulties attend the classification of Russian Communism as a party of the Left. [excerpt]

Additional Resources

Excerpt of Materials for the Study of the Soviet System have been removed from this section due to copyright restriction. See an earlier edition of Meisel & Kozera's book here.


This is a part of Section XVIII: The Western World in the Twentieth Century: The Historical Setting. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.