“ Fascism” is a particular political response to a perceived national crisis. To fascist practitioners, the root cause of the crisis is identified as contamination of a pure, virtuous national polity by alien elements, maybe ethnic, maybe religious, maybe cultural, often “all of the above”. The national essence must be purified, first by creating an unpolluted kernel of activists in a mass movement. The movement has its own armed force, to protect itself and impose its will on others. The purpose of the movement is state capture: to seize control of the state and purify it, other key institutions and, if possible, the territory of the nation from the contaminating elements.
Follows is an extract from the article “Is Narendra Modi the Leader of the World’s Largest Democracy…Or the World’s Most Successful Fascist? Both, actually (see endnote).
By China Matters
Hitler was a nasty, clever practitioner of fascism, but not its creator. The roots of fascism go back to the 1880s. What Hitler did was adopt the current best practice in insurrection, the mass mobilization of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and subsequent crash industrialization in Russia, to Germany. With a twist.
For Hitler, the virtuous conspiracy to capture state power would be conducted against the polluting influence of Jews and Bolsheviks by the Volk under the leadership of the Nazi Party, instead of by the proletariat perfecting the class and productive relationships in Russia under the guidance of the Bolsheviks.
I am willing to defer the knotty question of whether fascism and Bolshevism are qualitatively the same, or if one is worse or better than the others, to the philosophers. Both exploited the unchecked power of the ruling party and group to do massively horrible things to the world.
But the relevant point here is that both systems were astounding successful, albeit for relatively brief periods of time.
When the bourgeois liberal capitalist world was flat on its ass during the Depression, Hitler created an economic and military power that subdued continental Europe. During the same period, Stalin’s USSR achieved feats of high-speed industrialization that I suspect still have not been equaled.
Truth be told, it’s easier to awake the demon of nationalism than it is to persuade people of their class interest, so I guess that’s why there are only four nominally communist regimes left in the world, while fascism is doing great everywhere. Indeed, if the geopolitical obsession of the United States with Russia and China is set aside, the main enemy of liberal democracy today is not godless communism; it’s good old fascism.
The fascists’ brutal and somewhat transitory achievements of wealth and power still exercise a dark attraction for people who see their nations in crisis. Moving beyond the “all or nothing” categorical assertions of the defenders and enemies of the current Kyiv regime, the classic example of a purely fascist strain in European politics today is within the Pravy Sektor/Svoboda factions in Ukraine.
I wrote on the relatively undiluted fascist character of these movements in Counterpunch a while back and concluded with this observation:
It is anathema to liberal democrats, but it should be acknowledged that fascism is catching on, largely as a result of a growing perception that neo-liberalism and globalization are failing to deliver the economic and social goods to a lot of people.
Democracy is seen as the plaything of oligarchs who manipulate the current system to secure and expand their wealth and power; liberal constitutions with their guarantees of minority rights appear to be recipes for national impotence. Transnational free markets in capital and goods breed local austerity, unemployment, and poverty. Democratic governments seem to follow the free market playbook, get into problems they can’t handle, and surrender their sovereignty to committees of Euro-financiers.
Fascism, with its exaltation of the particular, the emotional, and the undemocratic provides an impregnable ideological and political bulwark against these outside forces.
Fascism has become an important element in the politics of resistance: a force that obstructs imposition of the norms of globalization, and an ideology that justifies the protection of local interests against the demands of liberal democracy, transnational capital, and property and minority rights.
For some, resentment will, inevitably, congeal around nationalism and the perception that fascist resistance, defiantly militant, uncompromising, and irrational, racial and undemocratic, exclusionary and brutal, is the best instrument to achieve local identity and agency—power– in an ever bigger, more dangerous, and less responsive continental order.
Fascism, I’m afraid, isn’t just part of Europe’s past; it’s part of Europe’s future.
And also India’s future, as can be seen through my review of the rise of the RSS and BJP…and Narendra Modi.
In summary, “fascist” is not a shorthand term for “racist”, “xenophobic”, “authoritarian”, “totalitarian” or “brutal, murdering asshole”. When I use it, I’m referring specifically to an alarmingly nasty and relatively robust strategy for popular mobilization, state capture, and governance.
And consider this extended digression as a notice that, when I say that the Narendra Modi’s roots are fascist, I am not employing the term as a lazy perjorative.
From, Dictionary of New Humanism – Silo – Collected works, volume II
Nationalistic, authoritarian, anti-communist political concept, the enemy of liberal democracy. Takes its name from the Roman allegory of state authority: a bundle of rods bound around an ax (fascio). This political ideology and organization were created in Italy in 1919 by Benito Mussolini. It claimed to be neither capitalist nor socialist, but advocated a corporativist State. It was the model for Germany (Nazism), Spain (Falangism), and Japan in that period. The British Fascist Union was founded in the United Kingdom, and the Croix de Feu in France. Together with national socialism (*), f. constitutes the most radical anti-humanist movement. F. denies human rights and leads to the degradation of the personality.
F. aspired to establish a new order (*) – the millennial fascist State – through war, and in this endeavor it was principally responsible for unleashing the Second World War, which by official count cost more than fifty million human lives.
The fascist regime is tyrannical, dictatorial, and rigidly hierarchical. Its principle is “the leader is always right,” and the duty of each person is unconditional obedience to the leader. It is a totalitarian regime, which rejects democracy and establishes the monopoly of the fascist party, concentrating in its hands all economic, political, and ideological power. The fascist system is militaristic par excellence and converts all inhabitants of a country into soldiers who carry out the will of the leader. For f., the nation state stands above everything. It is a repressive regime that allows no opposition, no dissent.
The fascist ideology is eclectic and contradictory. It groups together mutually exclusive ideas, mixing elements of socialism, nationalism, paganism, elitism, egalitarianism, and militarism. It posits violence (*) as the absolute method for social and political control.
F. promoted the model of rapid social mobilization to carry out a “national objective.” Since f. utilized subversion and violence as its principal methods of political action, in addition to clandestine forms of organization, its parties have been declared illegal since the Second World War. This has obliged fascists to create neo-fascist organizations, which deny their fascist origins while using fascist methods and ideas, modernizing and disguising them in the form of xenophobic nationalist movements. These groups have gained strength especially in Italy, Germany, France, and Austria.
N.H. considers that the threat of fascism demands the urgent implementation of reforms to resolve the problems of unemployed youth, bankrupt small businesses, jobless professionals and public employees, impoverished retired workers, and other marginal groups. In order to avoid the rise of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts in the current process of European and American regional integration, it is necessary to bear in mind the problem of national identity and of ethnic and cultural minorities; it is important to provide economic and social assistance to less developed countries in order to lessen the stimulus for migrations toward more developed areas. These measures can reduce the social base of neofascist movements and extend the reach of democracy.
* denoted further definitions in the book, Dictionary of New Humanism.
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