Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Fascism


Fascism aims at carrying a nation to greatness through the thorough inculcation of ultra-nationalism and strong, nationalist leadership.

Ultra-nationalism means that all policies and organisation of society should be geared to national priorities, and that the lives of the members of the nation ought to be suffused with nationalist sentiment and with duty to the nation.  The nation is something greater  the sum of the members of the nation at any one time, and something more like a force or essence which expresses itself in them, and with which their lives are involuntarily bound up.  The good of the nation is the criterion and condition of every other value in the Fascist ideology.  Only State power is adequate to embody national leadership, and the State is therefore supposed in theory to subsume all other organisations, leaving no independent civil society.

Fascism competes with Socialism in that, where it seeks to raise up and organise workers, this is for the good of their nation, and for them as members of their nation, rather than for the good of the workers as a class opposed to the rest of society, and above all rather than as a class which transcends nationality.  Instead of instituting a revolution in ownership or control of industry and the means of production, Fascism emphasises the national role of industry and consequently seeks to organise industry, industrialists and workers both, along nationalist lines.

The Fascist ideal for society is militaristic, in that it is characterised by patriotic spirit, obedience and willingess to sacrifice.  A Fascist society is geared up for the contest of nations, meaning above all for war, for it is war that brings the national spirit to the fore and suffuses members of the nation with fervour, unity and duty to the cause.  To organise a nation in such a permanent wartime spirit is the Fascist ideal, and as such there is no end point at which to arrive, no moment when national greatness has been secured for all time, and nationalist fervour can be allowed to fall off.  Thus, although Fascism has an ideal mode of society, it has no Utopia in the sense of an end point at which it aims, and certainly no ideal conflict-less state of things for the sake of which it fights.  It prizes the national fighting spirit for itself, and hence no other ideology has provided such an inspiration to fight wars, to join in wars, to start wars.

National Socialism, or Nazism, is a German version of Fascism, but with the special feature of a belief in and commitment to Race War, and hence to the inculcation of racial consciousness.

This racism is really a version of the national idea, rooting it in biology and heredity, and hence it easily fits into the ideological morphology of Fascism.  It means that nationality is a function of heredity, which expresses itself in the nature and gifts of a nation, and that the greatness of a nation is in part a function of the purity of its racial inheritance.  Nazi racism is a specific conception of the idea of German nationality and greatness, and hence Nazism is not a separate ideology, but only a racialised German variation on Fascism.  However, it was this racialised national essentialism that made Nazism so ferociously bent on eugenics and genocide in a way that Italian Fascism, which lacked a strongly racialised national idea, was not.


Let us compare and contrast Italian Fascism with Nazism, in order to support the thesis that Nazism is a racialised German version of a generic Fascism.

Fascism has one idea at its core: the surpassing importance of the nation.  Individual rights and interests, claims to redress of grievances, are as nothing except in so far as they harmonise with the aim of raising up the nation to greatness.  All of life is to be subordinated to an overwhelming passion for the nation: "Our myth is a faith, a passion... Our myth is the nation, the greatness of the nation!  And to this myth, this greatness, which we want to translate into a total reality, we subordinate everything else."

The inspiration of Italian Fascism was the vision of a "new Italy, which has nationally come of age and is full of historical and political purpose."  It is to be achieved by force of will dedicated passionately to its cause.  The old Italy, that was to be split asunder by this new Italy, was characterised by division, lack of unity and purpose, slumbering national consciousness, and by everything that was summed up in the Fascist watchword, materialism.  This term signified everything unheroic, from a concern for private and civil rights, to economic profiteering and self-interest, to forgetfulness of the nation, seen as the one great cause.

The reawakening Italian spirit was catalysed by the First World War, into which the interventionists threw their country with gusto, having defeated the exponents of isolationism.  "The war brought into contact Italians separated by differences... making them live in the same trench, in the same mud... and, by making them love and suffer, hope and work together, it fused them in the same pride and the same love of their Fatherland..."  War is sought and celebrated; it provides the context for the progress of the reawakening of a demoralised, divided nation like nothing else can: "War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it."  This spirit of war is proper not only for the front, but for the whole of life, and here we find the root of Fascist totalitarianism: "this anti-pacifist spirit is carried by Fascism into the life of the individual [who] conceives of life as duty and struggle and conquest."  The Fascist ideal is a total way of life, being ultra-nationalist in the sense that what is good in life is only what contributes to the national struggle for greatness.  Only as a total way of life does Fascism hope to succeed in making the nation great.

The inspiration of Fascism is utterly Romantic, celebrating the spontaneous and emotional commitment to a great and living cause, and opposed to materialist concerns, which are petty and unworthy, and make a nation small and weak.  This Romanticism, or irrationalism, means that Fascists happily resort to emotive and rhetorical appeals in order to whip up nationalist sentiment: "Reasoning does not communicate, emotion does.  Reasoning convinces, it does not attract."

All this, Nazism shares with Italian Fascism.  Not for nothing was Hitler's account of his life and the establishment of the Nazi Party called "My Struggle".  Nazism too brings the fight for national greatness down to the level of the individual life, to be lived in service to the nation.  Like the Italian interventionists, it was in the trenches of the Great War where Hitler found his ideal and which epitomised the spirit which he admired.  However, Hitler's experience of the war left a different taste in his mouth: that of bitterness at betrayal on the home front of the soldiery, that meant that all their sacrifices had been in vain.  This historical difference between Germany and Italy produced a legacy of the strongest disgust among Nazis for the "November criminals" who had stabbed the soldiers "in the back" and surrendered, so Hitler claims, just as the possibility of decisive victory opened up.

But above all, so Hitler believed, Germany was defeated because its national spirit, its whole organisation from its politicians down to the working man were not rightly inspired.  Elements of the population were allowed to operate which undermined the national stuggle.  The Nazi, like the Italian Fascist, movement was aimed at renovating and inspiring the whole of life as a means to making the nation great: "The revolution we have carried out is a total one... It has completely changed and recast the relationship of people to each other, to the State, to life itself... At bottom it is the struggle for existence of a people which, left to its old forms of cultural life and played-out values, was otherwise destined to collapse... The purpose of the revolution which we have carried out is the forging of the German nation into a single people..."  Like Italian Fascism, Nazism aimed at suffusing all of social organisation with nationalist duty.  The economy was to be run, as one Nazi put it, as "soldierly socialism," that is, with a view not to profit and gain, but the harmony and strength of the nation.  Although Fascism was opposed to Socialism, as in the collective administration of the economy in the pursuit of social goals, it opposed it not in the name of individualism but of an alternative, national collectivism.

Hitler, like the Italian Fascists, also celebrates the irrational appeal as a means of fomenting nationalism, and is particularly scornful of the German propaganda effort, which, he writes, failed so badly that the slogans of English propaganda became the grievances of the home front.  Propaganda, for Hitler, must be utterly subjective in its advocacy of national rights, that the nation is rights, that its enemies have no legitimate claims.  Moreover, national struggles are not a matter for negotiation; the people do not admire two leaders who shake hands over their differences, he writes, but leaders who defeat and humiliate their enemies.  Nazism is for the uncompromising pursuit of national greatness, and the utter defeat of the rest, with no quarter given.

Italian Fascism and Nazism shared the project of a total renovation of the spirit in which a society lived, its ethos and way of life, in order to unify, embolden and strengthen it as a nation.  But the core of shared ultra-nationalism also defines the enemies of Fascism: whatever forces and ideas affect to de-nationalise the consciousness and aspirations and conscience of a people.  There is in both Italian Fascism and Nazism an "organic" conception of the nation whereby the parts conduce to the health of the whole insofar as the parts are conscious of and defer to the whole, which comes before the parts.  The nation is always present, only for periods it slumbers among an unconscious people, whose national spirit is sapped by what Fascism sees as the decadence-inducing forces of pacifism, socialism, Marxism, humanitarianism, liberalism, finance capitalism and parliamentary democracy.  These enemies forces are also frequently conflated, and regarded as different arms of one force, or two sides of one coin, and often as the ideological weapons of "Jewry": "Marxism always follows capitalism like its shadow.  Both grow from the same root—Jewish Gelddenken."  Hitler regarded Marxism as a Jewish conspiracy to make Jews the rulers over every nation.  Whether they ruled through the stock market or Communist revolution was all the same; they were behind every enemy current all at once.

These forces listed above are indicted for weakening and misleading the nation from its martial and competitive instincts and imperatives, and making it appease its enemies, who are typically conceived as cynically deploying morality against the nation (pacifism); for setting the nation against itself, one part against another (Marxism), as well as putting nationals in league with foreigners against it own co-nationals (socialism, internationalism); for preventing the nation from setting its own goals, setting the national economy to serve the nation, and instead using it to enrich an international (read Jewish) monied class and oppress the workers (finance capitalism); to throw the State to faithless, corrupt, chattering, irresponsible, indecisive, nationally-unconscious politicians, and allow the press to confuse and demoralise the people (liberalism).

In opposition to these forces, the State sets out to endow the whole corpus of the nation with well-directed energy, to bring out its latent forces, to make all its elements co-operate and suppress the wastefulness of competition and in-fighting.  Fascism looks to leadership undertaken in a spirit of dedication and ultimate responsibility, as opposed to practical accountability and free expression of approval and criticism, for democracy cannot assure the qualities and effects that the greatness of a nation demands.  Rather, democracy is perfect for introducing disorder and corruption; it makes a politician look to the voters and their passing whims, rather than to the eternal good of the nation, which rises far beyond the horizon of the individual.  It is not for individuals to aggregate in the State and decide its future by the aggregation of their preferences, but rather it is individuals who are to be animated by the unifying goals of the nation.  Democracy is derided either as a merely quantitative exercise, deciding courses of action according to the largest number, rather than according to the quality of a policy as pro-national; or by elitists as a thin veil for the rule of elite minorities.  Either critique is amenable to the Fascist attack on democracy.

As we see in the case of the critique of democracy, Fascism is not monolithic but diverse, since many parts of its ideology can fit one conception or another, with the constraint only that it validates ultra-nationalist transformation and leadership of society.  Hence why it can seem that the diversity of Fascisms precludes classifying them all under one name; but it is the outline structure of Fascism—an ultra-nationalist core which conditions all other values—that unites them, no matter which conception of the nation, or which arguments against democracy are deployed.  There is no other ideological family which shares the ultra-nationalist core.  Nativist or anti-immigration parties are not Fascist on that basis alone, since anti-immigration nationalism is not in itself ultra-nationalist, implying neither than nationalism should permeate all spheres of society nor that it conditions the value of all other values and institutions.  Nor is an anti-communist dictatorship Fascist unless it seeks not only to resist class war and alignment of its working class with foreign Communist powers, but also to transform society along ultra-nationalist lines.  Fascism is not conservative, but transformative in its own way.

Pace Roger Griffin, if Fascism has often been expressed in terms of national "rebirth," this is less because rebirth and resurgence are essential to the Fascist ideology, and more because the recovery of the proper moral spirit for one's society is a matter of spiritual rebirth, in a sense: the sloughing off of unworthy aims, deception and false idols, and submission instead to a duty and sentiment which is felt to arise from the very needs of the moment.  Why should such a born-again (the term really signifies the first discovery of one's moral compass or self-knowledge) national spirit be called Fascism when a nation-state pre-exists, but not when one is coming into being through struggle?  The "rebirth" theme in Fascism should be interpreted as the spiritual effect of a whole nation rising to national self-consciousness, and not used to restrict the classification of Fascism to movements which seek the more literal rebirth of a nation-state that already was.  That is a contextual rather than ideological distinction.  Rebirth should be understood not as "born for a second time", but as a spiritual achievement for the nation, of which attaining full status as a nation-state could be an example.

Since the Fascist national spirit can decay, and other currents can sap it, the positive totalitarian ideal of the life inspired by nationalism must be complemented by the negative powers of surveillance and intolerance, of the one-party State, which aims at inculcating against and eliminating all dissenting and all independent aspects of social life, and "cleansing" culture of anti-national, "degenerate" elements.  There is a notable difference of content between Italian and Nazi Fascist writings, in as much as Nazism was much more concerned with its enemies: Nazis seem to spend more time and energy on detailing the ideological and anti-national enemies with whom they will have to reckon.  Italian Fascist writing tends to seek to discredit anti-Fascist ideas and politics as ineffective, corrupt and failed, but not as eternal enemies, whose destruction is demanded.  This contrasts with Nazi writing, which describes an almost cosmic encounter between the resurgent German nation and its enemies.

The special feature of the Nazi Fascism was that the struggle for the nation against anti-national elements and ideas was racialised as a struggle of the Germanic race against the Jewish race, and racialised in a way that Italian Fascism was not to be.  This showed historically in that Fascist Italy was never wholly committed to the destruction of the Jews of Europe, and its army at times acted to preserve the Jewish populations of areas it occupied in South-East Europe.  Italy saved 80% of its Jews, more than France (c. 75%).  There were indeed Jewish Italian Fascists in earlier years, which would be unthinkable to Nazis.  Mussolini himself had declared: "The Jews have lived in Rome since the days of Kings [and] shall remain undisturbed;" and he ridiculed German racial thinking, saying of it: "Thirty centuries of history allow us to look with supreme pity on certain doctrines which are preached beyond the Alps by the descendants of those who were illiterate when Rome had Caesar, Virgil and Augustus."

Italian Fascism did take an anti-semitic line in the 1930's and Jews were removed from positions in civil society from 1938 on, while mixed marriages were forbidden, and along racial rather than religious or cultural lines, but the movement never burned with anti-semitic hate as Nazism did, and the laws were laxly enforced.  According to Gioacchino Volpe, who wrote what was regarded as the official history of Italian Fascism, only in 1938 were efforts begun to "identify the materialistic content" of Italian nationality, and official Italian racism "at least in its first formulation, did not talk about superior and inferior races, and did not establish a relationship between biological and moral values."  So although Italian Fascism did become anti-semitic, this seems to have been a late addition to its ideology, and most probably largely an inspiration drawn from closer ties with Nazi Germany, but there remains a wide gap between Italian Fascist anti-semitism and its position front-centre in Nazi thinking.

Earlier Italian Fascism does not appear to problematise Italian nationality and to question whether it is defined by culture or by race, or how the two are linked, in the same way as the issue of Germanness was seen as a vital one by the Nazis in their resistance to anti-national subversion.  The problem of internal non-Italians and the idea of Race War were not the concerns of Italian Fascism until its closer rapprochement with Nazism, in the 1930's.  On the other hand, the unanswered question of who was an Italian did leave a window open for a racial definition which in truth, as Mussolini had said, did not do justice to Italian history and culture.  There is no particular reason why Fascism should not permit a cultural, or civilisational, definition of its core concept, the nation, and a purely cultural conception of what constitutes its greatness; this would however leave room for the persecution of groups living in the national space who were perceived as unable or unwilling to be absorbed into the nation, so it should not be thought that only racialised Fascism provides the ideological resources for attacking minorities.  Furthermore, since Fascism is an ideological of militarism, fervour and conflict, it is liable to find enemies to attack and conquer, even if they do not present much of a threat, for example Abyssinia, which Mussolini invaded for the sake of national glory and to prove that Italy could be a great imperial power.

The definition of the enemy of Fascism as at once the Jewish race and the anti-national spirit was expressed as follows by a Hungarian Fascist: "in the purification of our economic life not only the solution of the Jewish question is essential, but also the exclusion of those Christian Hungarians contaminated by the economic spirit of Jewry... we shall not be guided by the spirit of Jewish morality, but by the life-force, resourcefulness and will for life of our Hungarian people."  Thus "Jewry" is at once the Jewish people and also their supposed ethos, which can be taken up by non-Jews.  It was a peculiarity of Nazism, and perhaps of the dictatorships set up by Nazi Germany in occupied countries, that Jewish influence, a common Fascist bogeyman, was given a further definition as a racial threat, residing in the biological inheritance of Jews, and resisted in part by "racial hygiene" as well as by ideological monopoly and social control.

Although it is not clear from Hitler's thought just how the Jewish biological inheritance causes the Jews to have the spirit or political aims they supposedly have, the different streams of Fascism's enemies are entwined and brought ultimately back to a Race War between Jews and other nations: "For a racially pure people which is conscious of its blood can never be enslaved by the Jew... in politics he begins to replace the idea of democracy by the dictatorship of the proletariat... Culturally he contaminates art... drags men down into the sphere of his own base nature [etc.]."  The Jews are depicted as racially conscious themselves, and engaged in a long-run strategy to undermine all nations, racially, economically, culturally, politically, in their spirit, and all in order to live parasitically on and within them, and without ever being able to join as part of them.  Jews are forever a foreign body in the nation, their race preventing them from joining the nation.  If they have assimilated to a greater or lesser degree, this is only a ploy to insinuate themselves into the nation like an infection.  The Jewish modus operandi is exhaustively detailed in Mein Kampf, where Hitler effectively regurgitates the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which he believes to be a true document from the other side, or at the very least a correct picture of the truth.  It is partly this supposedly inborn, persistent diabolical role of the Jews that inspired Nazism with the justification to undertake a "Final Solution" of the "Jewish problem," since eradication of the carriers of an evil, anti-German force, appeared the only way of defeating them and cleansing the world.

It was, similarly, the special Nazi racialised Fascism that led to policies of eugenics (sterilisation, control of German breeding pairs).  When nationalism conditions all values, as it does in Fascism, and the success of the nation depends on its racial purity and quality, the dignity and protection of the individual as such disappears, and he appears instead merely as better or worse stock from which to perpetuate the nation.  Whenever a social group has all the evil of the bad old world loaded onto it, an evil which it is irredeemable bound to epitomise and sow, it is possible for all moral constraints in dealing with human beings to fall away, and the hardest, most cold-hearted resolve to take over.  Communism is capable of producing a similar hardness, as for example in Khmer Rouge Cambodia, where parts of the population were conceived as obstacles to the most wonderful transformation of life; as with the idea of national greatness in Fascism, the principle to be fulfilled, and which conditions and colours everything else, permits the sacrifice of everything in its pursuit.  The political and economic organisation of the Fascist total State are characteristically unspecified as ultimate values: "the essence of the whole National Socialist revolution encapsulated in one word national honour!  This single thought is all that is need to build a new political State system, and foster a new type of economic thinking, a new economic ethic."

The ideological power of Fascism, like Communism, is to set up a single value and a single goal as the be all and end all, where that goal is defined independently of the individuals who will achieve or enjoy it.  The nation comes before its members; the Communist Utopia is the glorious future, and it matters not whether any workers alive at the time live to see it.  Such is the core idea of Fascism which any other idea or principle must satisfy in order to have any value at all.  Personal virtue is service to the nation, obedience to leadership.  Hence the utter disregard, indeed ridicule of traditional morality or natural law-human rights thinking; whose ends do they serve?  Not the nation's?―Then they are but a trap for the weak-minded.  Both Fascism and Communism erect a double-standard morality: the quality of an act depends on who perpetrates it upon whom, what ends it serves.

The Fascist conception of national success or greatness is, however, ambivalent, for there is often at once a recognition of fellow national Fascisms as equivalent movements, and at the same time a need to assert the primacy of one's own nation and against others.  International relations for Fascism tend to be seen as a zero-sum game.  For example, Mussolini looked forward to a Europe where, after a century of Fascist success, "the Italian people would have the possibility, the numerical strength, and the spirit to enable them to act as an effective counter-weight to the power of Germany, a power which is now overwhelming."  Thus it is unclear whether the aim is to build a joint European Fascism as "a material and spiritual force to mobilise against the eventual enemies of Asia and America," or whether Italy would have to challenge German supremacy.  Would a self-respecting Fascist of principle accept to share power with another nation?  To share resources and room which could be put towards the greatness of his own nation?  There is no stable future peace to aspire to in Fascism, no definition of greatness except continual besting of other nations, of accruing the means of greatness at their expense.  Even if a century of Fascist peace is expected, it is only a period of preparation for greater clashes on an even bigger scale.

To conclude, Fascism is an ideology of a fanatical nationalism to which all else is subordinated, and which promotes it by indoctrination and discipline, aggression against perceived anti-national forces, and international aggrandisement.  The Nazi variation on Fascism took on the special character it did because it gave both the German nation, and anti-national forces and ideas, a racial characterisation which led to racial citizenship, eugenics and genocide.  Every Fascism will give a different account of the nation, and what constitutes its special value, its decadence or greatness, but Fascisms are united by the ultra-nationalism they advocate as the way to make the nation great: not through individual liberty and peaceful co-existence, but discipline, obedience and aggression.

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