There is no doubt that Heinlein was one of those writers who liked to lecture his readers and spout political theory, but I think this is most apparent in his later writings, not so much the earlier. (And I'll absolutely disagree with you, when you imply that writers are incapable of producing protagonists that are anything but mild copies of themselves.) I doubt, for instance, that in Starship Troopers he was seriously proposing a system of voting franchise predicated upon national service. I think it just made for an interesting backdrop upon which to hang his story. (Extreme societies always do.) Sort of like how there is a whole subset of works set during World War 2 dealing with the Nazis, because it creates a very dramatic environment for characters. Reading a story with well fleshed-out Nazi characters is always interesting, precisely because they have to a certain degree a mindset that most people find difficult with which to empathize, but which can be used to create some intense drama, be it internal or external.
Anyway, I stand by my contention that he was more of an extreme libertarian, not a fascist. After all, doesn't:
"...a contempt for government, a contempt for the "left", [...] the belief that pacifism is foolishness and that armed individuality is the proper response to life's challenges,..."
sound like the scarier libertarians? I should know- my brother in law is one of them, and even ran for office, once.
I mean, you're right- some of his stories glorify individuality at the expense of all government (most of his later works), some deal with very autocratic governments (Starship Troopers), some deal with the overthrow of autocratic governments (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress), etc. So how can you POSSIBLY pick out what his real beliefs were? Well, I propose that his later, more pedantic works are probably a better measure, and they are DECIDEDLY libertarian.
Farnham's Freehold was the story I was talking about when I mentioned blacks enslaving whites. (When you first mentioned it, I confused the title with the story from The Puppet Masters, for some reason.) I read it long after reading Heinlein's later works, as do many modern readers, and like many people found it disturbing, on many levels. If you want my honest opinion, I think that it likely WAS simply a manifestation of the widely-accepted, taken for granted bigotry of that era. (As I said, he was born in 1907 Missouri, and his views mutated through his life.) But a few critics think it was a deeper work than that. I read somewhere, once, that the storyline of the middle of the book closely copies some sort of traditional American slave narrative. Excepting the cannibalism, there really is nothing in the book that American slaveowners didn't regularly inflict upon their slaves: selective breeding, breaking families, institutionalized inter-racial sexual exploitation and rape, etc. These critics contend that Heinlein may have been trying to shock readers with the racial aspect. (You must admit, that one sure would shock any unreconstructed Southerner who read it and, possibly, seriously shake their laughable contention that American slavery was somehow benign.) Since he was most familiar with the antebellum American model of slavery he may have thought that the system in his story had to be racially-based, too, contrary to most of Western history. (And unlike S.M. Stirling.)
Predictably, Heinlein has only ever given pithy, terse, curmudgeonly answers to questions about the story, IIRC.
So, in my opinion he probably was to some degree a racist, particularly earlier in life, but for the large part I don't think he was a flaming bigot. Certainly not in the later half of his works, or so. Otherwise, again, how do you explain all of the minoroty protagonists, often with the elitist libertarian ideals to which Heinlein obviously subscribed? Off the top of my head I can name a Filipino, a couple of Asians or part-Asians, a Hispanic, and a genetically-engineered Native American who by the way was a victim of discrimination. If you contend that he was a racist bigot, then I'm really interested in your analysis of Friday, brother. (Less, of course, Heinlein's sexual fetishes.)
So, like you, I find it hard to disagree with Thomas, that he was sort of in his own league, politically. All over the place. Definitely a wierd guy. And he ALWAYS causes arguements like this when people discuss him.
How about we jump all over S.M. Stirling, now? His obsessions with chattel slavery and les6ians just SCREAMS for criticism... :o)
P.S.- Equating "right-wing" with fascism is a bit disingenuous, isn't it? Should I refer to you as a communist? (I guess I should be careful- there undoubtedly are communists on this board.) Personally, I think that both fascism and communism are off the main sequence, politically, if you get my meaning. And, oddly, they are very similar in one way- both are very AUTOCRATIC. I think most Westerners, at least, don't have much of a problem IN THEORY with most of the political systems along the capitalist vs socialist scale, until they get autocratic. I really don't, for instance. (As much as I am a difficult, individualistic American, I have seen socialism work very well.) But I grant that a lot of people get heated up over such things in practice.