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L_Monty
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The Anatomy of Fascism: Week 2 (p. 87-171)

For decades now, conservative historians and opinion-makers have labeled fascism as a leftist creation, often noting how the Nazi party was named, in fact, the National Socialist German Workers Party. This line of argument has been repeated recently in Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism.

Robert O. Paxton's analysis of how fascisms come to power directly contradicts this line of thinking. As he notes, the Italian Fascists won relatively meager gains in parliament, even after being endorsed by more established nationalist parties. Likewise, the Nazi party never garnered a majority of votes and even lost seats in the Reichstag before Chancellor von Papen entered into a coalition bargain with Hitler and named him Chancellor. Instead of either groups rising to power on a leftist tide, Paxton argues that established conservative groups used the Nazis/Fascists as active and violent bulwarks against the threat of leftist revolution, labor strikes and powerful workers unions, relying on them to prop up the legitimacy of conservative governments. The violence and destabilizing influences of these fascisms were to be deployed against mutual enemies of "the state," which were exactly the groups agitating for socialist change.

I hate to front-load the debate with arguments, so I'll stop here, but given the seeming polarity of these theories, do you think the two can be reconciled? Is Paxton's attribution of the Nazis' and Fascists' bargain with conservatives indicative of their thinking, or is it indicative of opportunism? Can Goldberg and Paxton's two viewpoints be modified and integrated in a more organic picture of fascisms?
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Choisya
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Re: The Anatomy of Fascism: Week 2 (p. 87-171)

[ Edited ]

To take up Paxton's point about looking at how fascist parties act, rather than what they say/write, I think that we should bear in mind that it was communists and socialists who initially fought on the streets against the Nazis in Germany and against Fascists in several other European countries. Communists and socialists were among the the first that Hitler sent to the labour camps. He stated that communism was a Jewish ideology - 'Judeo Bolshevism' - and that socialist and trade unionists were part of Jewish controlled international communism.  Mussolini's 'fascismos' were anti-communist but not initially anti-semitic.   

 

At an anecdotal level, my socialist father joined communist groups in Sheffield in the 1930s to protest against Mosley's Blackshirts and in the 1960/70s I joined them to protest against the fascist National Front.  And the Zionist movement is a socialist movement which has fought vigorously for the establishment of Israel for the Jews and against the (sometimes) anti-semitism of fascist parties.  (In his novel Altneuland Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, pictured the future Jewish state as a socialist Utopia based on cooperative principles.) 

 

IMO the emphasis on the name of the National Socialist German Workers Party should be on the word 'National' because nationalism and the need for a national revival is one of the defining political characteristcs of fascist parties. Both Mussolini and Hitler objected to socialism on the grounds that it opposed nationalism and was instead internationalist, therefore unpatriotic.  The Nazis in particular considered that it was lack of patriotism that had lost them WWI.  The 'socialist' element in these two fascist parties was directed at restoring the breakdown in social 'togetherness', of communities, which had taken place as a result of industrialisation and WWI, not at imitating an egalitarian socialist political programme such as that advocated by the Social Democratic Party of Germany.  It was Mussolini's break with the Partito Socialista Italiano which propelled him towards forming the National Fascist Party. 

 

(Is the Goldberg thesis based on what Paxton sees as the modern American tendency to consider liberals as the 'far left' rather than seeing liberals in European terms as those rooted in the French Revolution's goals of 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite'?  If they are defining liberalism in entirely different ways it seems unlikely that their viewpoints can be integrated.) 

 

 

 

 


L_Monty wrote:
For decades now, conservative historians and opinion-makers have labeled fascism as a leftist creation, often noting how the Nazi party was named, in fact, the National Socialist German Workers Party. This line of argument has been repeated recently in Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism.

Robert O. Paxton's analysis of how fascisms come to power directly contradicts this line of thinking. As he notes, the Italian Fascists won relatively meager gains in parliament, even after being endorsed by more established nationalist parties. Likewise, the Nazi party never garnered a majority of votes and even lost seats in the Reichstag before Chancellor von Papen entered into a coalition bargain with Hitler and named him Chancellor. Instead of either groups rising to power on a leftist tide, Paxton argues that established conservative groups used the Nazis/Fascists as active and violent bulwarks against the threat of leftist revolution, labor strikes and powerful workers unions, relying on them to prop up the legitimacy of conservative governments. The violence and destabilizing influences of these fascisms were to be deployed against mutual enemies of "the state," which were exactly the groups agitating for socialist change.

I hate to front-load the debate with arguments, so I'll stop here, but given the seeming polarity of these theories, do you think the two can be reconciled? Is Paxton's attribution of the Nazis' and Fascists' bargain with conservatives indicative of their thinking, or is it indicative of opportunism? Can Goldberg and Paxton's two viewpoints be modified and integrated in a more organic picture of fascisms?

 

 

 

Message Edited by Choisya on 02-17-2009 05:37 AM
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Choisya
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Re: The Anatomy of Fascism: Week 2 (p. 87-171)

I came across this article positing that the US may be on the brink of fascism and using some of Robert Paxton's arguments.  It may interest those who have read The Anatomy of Fascism.
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L_Monty
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Re: The Anatomy of Fascism: Week 2 (p. 87-171)

Ahhh, Sarah Robinson. She also writes at the blog Orcinus, with David Neiwert, whose book The Eliminationists I wrote about in this Unabashedly Bookish blog post.

 

I don't know how to feel about that article of hers. It's not incorrect, but I'm not sure if I think it's right yet. The funding of the Tea Party phenomenon by Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich's Freedomworks in unmistakable, as is insurance-company funding and organizing and guidebooking the anti-healthcare protests, and that factor of the conservative moneyed elite funding a disaffected and increasingly violent populist elements cannot be ignored. At the same time, I'm not ready to embrace Robinson's conclusions just yet. What she sees as an increasing tide still seems like a self-defeating anger to me, something that delegitimizes itself as it increases in strength.

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Re: The Anatomy of Fascism: Week 2 (p. 87-171)

[ Edited ]

Whether or not current US political conditions fit Paxton's criteria is difficult for me to ascertain, difficult for me to get a feel of.  I posted the article because I thought it might make for an interesting discussion, not because I agreed or disagreed with it (which is the case with a lot of the articles I post).

 

Certainly the hysteria surrounding the current proposed health reforms are a cause for concern and are attracting a lot of comment here. The merits of the NHS apart, it seems that a small, vocal, ultra right wing, militant minority is about to overturn what those who elected Obama seemed to want, just as the small, vocal, ultra right wing militant minority of Nazis elected Hitler. But is there likely to be a Beer Hall Putzch? Does what you see in Congress have the makings of the dissolution of the Reichstag?  (And perhaps more importantly, are there left wingers there who will fight to the death to oppose it, as the German communists did.)  I somehow do not see Obama as a Hindenburg and your democracy is far stronger than that of Germany in 1932.

 

However, fascism is certainly on the rise in Europe as the recent elections showed and we perhaps need to remember that it was the economic downturn of the 30s which in part facilitated the rise of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco.  It would be a mistake IMO to turn a blind eye to what is happening in Europe or America now vis a vis fascism in the light of the blind eyes which were turned in the 30s.  Like the Boy Scouts, we need to be prepared and maybe Robinson's anger is useful as a 'wake-up call'.

 

One thing which concerns me about US opinion is that many seem to see fascism as arising out of socialism whereas, in fact, it was socialists (and communists) who were at the forefront of fighting it in Europe (as their executions showed).  If Americans are now persuaded by right wing propaganda to turn on what they see as 'socialist' proposals, like those for health care, because they see them as both communistic and fascistic, then that shows serious political misjudgement such as  that shown by Europeans in the 30s and it could lead to something more serious.  It is one thing to reject the health care proposals for, say, economic reasons, but quite another to be persuaded that they are fascistic and to turn to the right wing because of that. 

 

 

 


L_Monty wrote:

Ahhh, Sarah Robinson. She also writes at the blog Orcinus, with David Neiwert, whose book The Eliminationists I wrote about in this Unabashedly Bookish blog post.

 

I don't know how to feel about that article of hers. It's not incorrect, but I'm not sure if I think it's right yet. The funding of the Tea Party phenomenon by Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich's Freedomworks in unmistakable, as is insurance-company funding and organizing and guidebooking the anti-healthcare protests, and that factor of the conservative moneyed elite funding a disaffected and increasingly violent populist elements cannot be ignored. At the same time, I'm not ready to embrace Robinson's conclusions just yet. What she sees as an increasing tide still seems like a self-defeating anger to me, something that delegitimizes itself as it increases in strength.


 

Message Edited by Choisya on 08-14-2009 10:21 AM
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Re: The Anatomy of Fascism: Week 2 (p. 87-171)

PS to my previous post:

 

 

I know you do not like William Rivers Pitt or Truthout but this came into my inbox this morning and as it seems relevant to my previous post I am taking the risk of posting it.  How much 'truth' there is in it I am not qualified to say.  I was saddened to read, however, that 'a recent USA Today Gallup Poll seems to indicate that support for these [nazi-like?]protesters has been solidified by their yowling messmaking' etc.   

 

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Connemara
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Re: The Anatomy of Fascism: Week 2 (p. 87-171)

Going to buy the book today. I'll catch up while at B & N. Look forward to talking with you all.