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David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. He is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000. His freelance work can be found at Salon.com, the Washington Post, MSNBC and various other publications. He can be contacted at dneiwert@hotmail.com.

Sara Robinson has worked as an editor or columnist for several national magazines, on beats as varied as sports, travel, and the Olympics; and has contributed to over 80 computer games for EA, Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other companies. A native of California's High Sierra, she spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver, BC in 2004. Her lifelong interest in the social effects of authoritarianism have most recently led her to pursue the MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. She's also a student member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and member of the Accelerated Studies Foundation advisory board on social and cultural issues. For fun, she raises kids and travels. You can reach her at srobinson@enginesofmischief.com.

Sara's recent series:
Cracks in the Wall: Parts I, II, and III.
Tunnels and Bridges: Parts I, II, III, and IV, plus a Short Detour.

Dave's recent series:
The March of the Minutemen
Intro: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Unhinged: Unhonest
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Other books by Dave [limited availability]:

"The Rise of Pseudo Fascism": An essay
Available in Adobe PDF format here

Support independent journalism:
Suggested $5 donation

Original posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.


Choice essays:

"The Political and the Personal"


"Bush, the Nazis and America":
Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.


Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
[PDF file]

[Suggested $5 donation]

[In HTML: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV. See explanatory note.]

[Also available in HTML, and with art, at Cursor.]


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When Rush speaks ...
Thursday, April 24, 2003  
Leave it to Rush Limbaugh to provide a vivid illustration of precisely the kind of phenomenon I hoped to address in "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism":

Little Dick Promises Fascism If Elected

This is a classic case of Newspeak -- diminishing the range of thought (it's telling that Limbaugh originally filed this under "Making the Complex Understandable") by nullifying the meaning of words, usually by inverting its definition. ["War is Peace." "Ignorance is Strength." In this case: "Democracy is Fascism."]

In fact, even as he ironically sneers at "people who don't have the intellectual chops to defend their ideas," he resorts to the notoriously inadequate dictionary definition of fascism in order to stand the meaning of the word on its head:

"Fas•cism: A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition."

Observe how Limbaugh abuses the definition he gives here by only emphasizing a couple of its aspects (centralized government and economic regimentation -- neither of which are actually applicable here, no more so than they would be to a hundred thousand other government programs) and utterly ignoring those aspects of it that clearly are not present in Gephardt's proposal (exalting nation and often race above the individual, forcible suppression of the opposition -- traits which, in fact, are often present in Limbaugh's own diatribes).

Any kind of consideration of Limbaugh's accusations of incipient fascism on the part of Gephardt will recognize that at the core of his argument is the suggestion that the current American bureaucracy itself, and indeed the bulk of Western civilization, particularly in its ability to tax and redistribute income, is "fascist" -- a claim that any reasonable person can see as plainly false.

Moreover, Limbaugh's "intellectual chops" notwithstanding, readers of the "Rush" series will recognize easily the many shortcomings of the ridiculously vague Merriam-Webster definition, particularly in contrast to a genuinely scholarly approach. Utterly lacking are the genuinely definitive aspects of fascism: its populism, particularly its claim to represent the "true character" of the respective national identities among which it arises; and its mythic core of national rebirth -- not to mention its corporatist component, its anti-liberalism, its glorification of violence and its contempt for weakness.

There is nothing in Gephardt's plan that even remotely suggests such behavior -- it is in fact clearly far removed from genuine fascism, especially if it were to live up to Limbaugh's rather absurd claims that it would ultimately lead to a wholesale government takeover of corporations, which is a communist and not a fascist behavior (fascism, as noted, has a clear component of open corporatism).

This is how Newspeak works: It renders language meaningless by positing a meaning of a word that is in fact its near or precise opposite.

Indeed, if we were to look for such traits, we would find them in Limbaugh's essay and numerous other of his outpourings of right-wing propaganda. Limbaugh constantly claims to be the voice of "real Americans" and regularly calls for a rebirth of the "American spirit" to be achieved by the destruction of all things liberal.

And as for forcible oppression of the opposition, observe one of the more recent outbursts by Limbaugh:
"Tim Robbins, who thinks he can say any thing at any time . . . I have a question: How is it that Tim Robbins is still walking free? How in the world is this guy still able to go to the National Press Club and say whatever he wants to say?"

By carefully observing the machinations of the current spate of right-wing Newspeak emanating from transmitters like Limbaugh, however, it's possible to get a clear view of the movement's underlying agenda. This is possible when the meaning of Limbaugh's obfuscations are placed in their psychological context, because they constitute a fairly clear case of projection.

One of the first to observe this propensity on the right was Richard Hofstadter, whose The Paranoid Style in American Politics remains an important analysis:
The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional).

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry. Secret organizations set up to combat secret organizations give the same flattery. The Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy. The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through “front” groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy. Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist “crusades” openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth.

Self-proclaimed anti-authoritarians such as Limbaugh thus adopt the language and style of authoritarians themselves, and engage in Newspeak-laden propaganda whose sole purpose is to appeal to persons with totalist propensities. The anti-Gephardt essay is a classic example.

One of lessons I've gleaned from carefully observing the behavior of the American right over the years is that the best indicator of its own real agenda can be found in the very things of which it accuses the left. (Remember how during the Florida fiasco it regularly accused Al Gore of attempting to steal the election through court fiat?) When it accuses liberals of "fascism," it almost always is done so in an effort to obscure its own fascist proclivities -- and it reminds the rest of us just whose footsoldiers are in reality merrily goosestepping down the national garden path.

[A big thanks to Atrios for the heads-up.]

["Rush, Newspeak and Fascism": Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Postscript and A Little More.]

12:59 PM Spotlight

Fascism redux
Tuesday, April 22, 2003  
Christopher Skinner, who was responsible for much of the material in my recent addendum on fascism, sends in some of his own thoughts, including a nice, succinct survey of Roger Griffin's work in the field:
The most comprehensive attempt to synthesize new developmental models of fascism into a single, universalist description has been Roger Griffin's The Nature of Fascism. Published in 1991, Griffin's book attempted to respond to the theoretical fragmentation that began in the 1970s and continued into the 1980s.

In particular, Griffin responded to two stimuli. One was the growing concern on the part of some scholars that fascism was "nothing," an inchoate mass of competing definitions and programs that could not be used as a descriptor. The other was the plaintive sense that theoretical and comparative rigor had given way to a forest of specialized studies that threatened to ghettoize historians interested in fascism. The book begins with a thorough and useful review of the competing and complimentary definitions of fascism from the end of the war through the 1980s. Griffin does a useful job of sorting through the mass of literature and arguing for the need to come to a new consensus. He notes that Stanley Payne's tripartite definition of fascism (by looking at what a movement opposes, its ideology and goals, and its style and organization) "convincingly articulates much prevailing 'common sense' among non-Marxists on the nature of fascism." But Griffin criticizes this definition, as cumbersome, however, as it relies on 'style' and 'negations' as well as 'ideology' to define a movement as 'fascist'.

Griffin proposes, therefore, that generic fascism be best explained as a Weberian 'ideal type': Indeed, the 'conundrum' which fascism poses is largely solved once the deeper implications of the expression [ideal type] are appreciated. Max Weber coined the term 'ideal type' as a result of his sustained methodological musings on the special status acquired by a generic concept, which is made central to the investigation of processes and events concerning human beings. Once it is applied to phenomena outside Italy 'fascism' is just such a concept.

Griffin justifies the notion of the 'ideal type' because, if we can agree on an 'ideal type' of fascism, we can use that model to investigate specific (what Griffin calls idiographic) examples of fascist experience. Griffin's concludes that the generic term 'fascism' stems from the affinities Mussolini's movement had with other in the inter-war period.

This term cannot be precisely defined, because it is an ideal type, and no consensus concerning an appropriate model of 'fascism' has been reached by social scientists. Therefore, social science requires a new and more elegant theory of a 'fascist minimum.' In light of these conclusions, Griffin suggests a new 'ideal type' of fascism should describe a core of "fascist phenomena which can be treated as a definitional minimum," and 'clarify' this ideal type's relationship to other complex terms (e.g., 'the right,' 'imperialism,' 'totalitarianism').

Griffin acknowledges the objections that the 'fascist minimum' may not be generalizable among countries, and that to "concentrate on its ideology is to impose an artificially homogenous intellectual coherence on a rag-bag of third hand ideas and specious rationalizations." Moreover, that to concentrate on an 'ideal type' of generic fascism sanitizes the reality of the crimes and outrages of fascist states. To avoid the problems and pitfalls of previous scholars, Griffin presents a very specific definition of 'ideology.' The core of Griffin's definition lies in his insistence that all human thought has ideological components, all ideology is different when lived in practice from its theoretical premises and promises, and that all ideology is inherently irrational. Thus, suggesting that fascist ideology is an 'ideal type' is not to give it an 'elevated' gloss, nor will it give fascism historical legitimacy. Finally, this 'ideal type' will better illustrate the dangerous illusions of fascism's appeal than foregoing efforts at definition.

Griffin's new 'ideal type' of generic fascism is a political movement whose violent revolutionary style of politics defines its values as much as any theory it espouses. It is a utopian revolutionary movement that appeals to a heterogeneous following on the basis of "largely subliminal elective affinity," and one that cannot, because it depends on a conception of permanent revolution, ever achieve its utopian goals in power. Although it may appeal to facts, it is rooted in irrational myths, and because it competes in both ideological and non-ideological arenas for support, it cannot be seen as "reducible to the theories of policies of any one ideologue or leader."

Griffin takes pains to distinguish fascism as a 'political ideology ' from a 'political religion.' He argues that social scientists have misused concepts such as 'chiliasm' and 'millenarianism' when associating them with fascism. Fascism does not invoke religious belief systems in its revolutionary quest for national rebirth, and it is to the concept of rebirth that is the core of Griffin's 'ideal type' of fascism: "a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism." Palingenesis means "rebirth after a period of destruction." Griffin argues that the linkage between ultra-nationalistic conception of the state as an organism, and its rebirth as a utopia following the destruction of its decadent elements amounts to the 'fascist minimum' when adopted as the core ideology of a political movement. Griffin calls this adoption "the expression of an archetype of the human mythopoetic faculty in secular form," and argues that this 'fascist minimum' can be summarized as a myth: "the national community rising phoenix-like after a period of decadence that had all but destroyed it."

This characterization of the 'fascist minimum' means that fascism as a political system is doomed to fail from the outset. The notion of "rebirth" cannot be sustained, as there will be a point at which the movement can no longer fulfill its promises of renewal, even if it succeeds in seizing power. Also, the populism of its ultra-nationalism will not survive the elitist notions at the core of creating, through national rebirth, a "new fascist man." The two premises, of rebirth, and the creation of a fully integrated national community, are not only both unrealizable myths, but also are fundamentally incompatible. Griffin argues that, as generic fascism as a political movement is doomed to political marginalization, the rise of fascist regimes comes only as an outcome of massive structural crises.

Having suggested both the nature and the inviablity of generic fascism, Griffin gives this summary definition:
Fascism: a genus of political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism. The fascist mentality is conditioned by the sense of living through an imminent turning-point in contemporary history, when the dominance of the allegedly bankrupt or degenerate forces of conservatism, individualistic liberalism and materialist socialism is finally to give way to a new era in which vitalistic nationalism will triumph.

Griffin argues that the ideological roots of fascism are not anti-modern, but rather, propose an alternative path of development besides that of "liberal" modernism. Fascism rejects the 'decadent' features of modernism, and seeks a new path based on the preceding definition. Thus, fascism is revolutionary. It is also "essentially racist [in that it seeks a palingenetic, homogenous national community], but not intrinsically anti-Semitic or genocidal, and it is nationalistic but not necessarily imperialistic." Finally Griffin embraces Sternhell's definition of fascism as a phenomenon "neither right nor left," and suggests that it be placed in a "category of its own."

Griffin's discussion of fascism in Italy and Germany is abbreviated. However, in the case of both countries, he attempts to trace the arc of fascism from its roots in the pre-war period through its ultimate failure and defeat. Griffin begins with Italy. He outlines the connections between syndicalism, nationalism, and violent action (squadrismo) familiar to readers of Gregor, and argues that Mussolini, in his shift from pacifism and socialism to interventionism and corporatism, was probably substantially more of a convert than an opportunist. Griffin rejects the notion that fascism must be seen as a movement. It can be a marginalized "publicistic and activistic phenomenon on the fringe of mainstream political culture and developments." This is precisely what Italian fascism was until the crises of the Italian liberal state fertilized it. Griffin characterizes the natural state of fascism as a "minute grouping on the fringe of politics."

Only the fear of left revolution in 1919-1920, the rise of the "trenchocracy" in Fascist cells, and the admiration that conservative elites had for the violence perpetrated by this trenchocracy in the form of squadrismo, allowed Mussolini to be at the head of a mass movement by 1922. And it was the desire of King Victor Emmanuel to stabilize that state that caused him to offer Mussolini the opportunity to form a government. The squadristi performed their largest ideological service to this uneasy coalition of Fascist and nationalist deputies by murdering "the reformist socialist Matteotti in June 1924." The removal of his chief critic, and the indecision of his opposition, allowed Mussolini to accept personal responsibility for the assassination, purge his own party of revolutionaries, and still retain control of his office and the state.

But Fascism "had now been metamorphosized . . . into an authoritarian regime exercising power in the name of a popular revolution." The regime's "chimeric nature" becomes apparent after Fascism fails to achieve much more than the seizure of power in terms of realizing its revolutionary goals. While it did achieve that initial milestone, the regime in power could not reconcile its ideology of rebirth with real policies and world. As Griffin says, "the esoteric visions of a heroic national community cultivated by [Fascist ideologues] remained alien to the vast mass of Italians because they were a myth projected on to contemporary history by a self-appointed and profoundly unrepresentative elite."

Since, alas, that elite did hold the power of the state, they were able to lead Italy into both the invasion of Ethiopia in 1936, and into the Second World War in 1941. The logic of the palingenetic myth made establishing continuing "revolutionary" situations a necessity, and war was a logical project of this kind. The failure of the regime to create the "new fascist man" in practice also helps to explain Mussolini's increasing willingness to embrace Nazi racial doctrine after 1938. Griffin notes, "however pathetic then squalid the Fascist regime turned out to be, its failures were not due to a lack of ideology. If anything the original movement had accommodated too many rival versions of what it stood for ideologically, all of which shared a core which could only produce a grotesque travesty of a reborn nation once translated into practice."

Griffin's treatment of Nazi Germany follows the same narrative arc as his discussion of Fascist Italy. Nazism has it roots in a tradition of völkish nationalism, which lacked the "ideological, structural, or tactical cohesion of a political grouping such as the Italian futurists." Rather, these nationalist ideas "were a diverse current with many nuclei of assorted organizations and publications." They tended to be centered on myth making about Germany's past and future with the Volk at the center a "nebulous abstraction." Sternhell illustrates the romantic and unpolitical nature of this culture in the Bayreuth Circle around Richard Wagner, and the Georgekreis, the "exclusively male" cluster of young "seer poets" that developed around the poet Stefan George. While the Bayreuth grouping was quite anti-Semitic, both groups were "esoteric" and passive. They were a "publicistic" group, along with anti-Semites such as Houston Chamberlain, and their writings had little impact on wider German society. Even völkish groups that had an associational purpose (such as the 'Cartel of Productive Estates') had little impact on the politics of the Second Reich. The Pan-Germanism inspired by the Boer War and World War One did not translate into revolutionary nationalism even as the Second Reich entered the third year of the latter conflict.

The crisis of defeat in World War One, however, created a new wave of radical völkish nationalism. The Frontlebnis (trench combat experience) returned to Germany a generation of men who were to shape things very differently for the future of their country. These men joined into veteran's bands that went by names such as Werwolf, and "preached hostility to the Weimar Republic in "unmistakably palingenetic terms." Groups of organized, angry, and armed young men were taking up the themes of the "publicistic" völkish fringe groups of the Second Reich. Griffin is quick to point out, however, that the largest such group, the German Völkish Defensive and Offensive League (DVSuTB) was paternalistic and authoritarian, seeking "influence in high places and mobilizing the masses at one remove."

The rise of Nazism, according to Griffin, was "to change all the rules" as to the nature of the right in Germany. Hitler, originally assigned by the army to spy on the German Workers Party (DAP), took it over in order to translate "völkish utopianism into political power." The French occupation of the Ruhr industrial region, and the subsequent hyper-inflationary spiral of the Deutschemark, made Hitler believe that a coup might be possible. However, the coup was quickly suppressed and Hitler was imprisoned, leaving his party, now the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) to flounder. Griffin argues that the party would have floundered even without Hitler's imprisonment, as Chancellor Stressemann guided the Republic out of its monetary crisis.

Nonetheless, when Hitler emerged from the Landsberg jail, he found the movement in disarray. It required the disciplined organizational skills of Hitler's deputy Gregor Strasser, and the crisis of the Great Depression to turn the movement from a "fringe" association of "palingenetic idealists" into a mass party. Even then, the way to power was opened only by the "key personal decisions" made at the highest political levels that allowed Hitler to form a government as Reich Chancellor. "However," Griffin points out, "Hitler would never have been in the position to demand the chancellorship had his party not become firmly associated with the message of radical change and the only vehicle by which it stood a chance of being implemented."

The Nazis harvested the seeds of "integral nationalism," sown since the 19th century, as "the depression started biting deep into Germany." According to Griffin, the movement offered a "genuine trans-class and trans-generational appeal." The public, and its conservative leadership, had 'fallen for' the "palingenetic appeal" of Nazism as outlined in its propaganda from Mein Kampf onward. According to Griffin, the leaders of the NSDAP had 'fallen for' palingenesis as well. They were not mere opportunists; they believed their goal was to "create mankind anew." Griffin argues that this conviction made the Nazi party far more able to quickly consolidate power in Germany than the Fascists had in Italy.Hitler was 'direct.' He was not 'aimless,' as Mussolini had been in 1922-1925.

After ruthlessly suppressing communist and socialist opposition, the NSDAP began to "coordinate" German society through steady infiltration of institutions. Wehrmacht officers, for example, were "Nazified" through oaths to Hitler, and schools and universities given "Aryan principles in every discipline." Workplaces and professional associations underwent similar upheavals. Griffin argues that none of this 'coordination' was "an end in itself," as he suggests the reorganization of Italian society was between 1925 and 1936. It was rather "the prelude to an unbroken sequence of dynamic events set in train by the new state that fully merit the concept of 'permanent revolution' with all its ultimately self defeating and unsustainable connotations." However, only in genocide did the regime ever fulfill its objectives. As in all fascist regimes, according to Griffin, Nazi Germany faced "the chasm that must yawn between what fascism promises and what it delivers." The drive to the East made war inevitable, and defeat as well, as Germany could not fight the entire Western world alone. That it would fall, Griffin argues, "was predictable a priori from its core myth of national rebirth."

This core myth is, for Griffin, the most disturbing thing about Nazism. Nazism was not a "cynical or gratuitous experiment," but rather a campaign against decadence that sought to rebuild after destroying. Griffin notes, however, "rarely has the need to destroy been made so central to the theory by which a political system legitimates itself as it was in Nazi thought, whether the ideologue is Hitler, Rosenberg, Darré, or some obscure party official writing in Nationalsozialiste Monatshefte." German fascism is not a unique phenomenon caused by a separate path of development (Sonderweg), nor by its biological racism, but it is for Griffin the 'fascist maximum,' the point at which the 'palingenetic core' of fascism was most fully played out.

In the rest of Europe, in which fascism remained at most "marginal" and usually "publicistic," Griffin notes that fascist movements met one of seven fates, ranging from dissolution through the despair of their own membership to collaboration with the Nazi regime during World War II. None achieved power, and none threatened the nations in which they developed. Griffin is at pains to differentiate the groups he sees as having a "palingenetic core" from what he calls the "radical" or "anti-conservative" right. Here Griffin includes the Parti Social Français, the Jeunesses Patriotes, and a host of others that "our taxonomy locates on the margins of fascism." Griffin uses the term "para-fascist" to describe many of these movements, in that they were really conservative elements masquerading in fascist fancy dress.

Frequently, authoritarian and conservative "para-fascism" destroyed or exploited authentically "palingenetic" movements, as in case of Hungary. Griffin lists many types of groups, from the RNF in Vichy to the BUF in England, because, he argues "the specialist studies and primary sources relating to [them] point to the presence of a core of palingenetic ultra-nationalism." Griffin concludes that all of these movements, including Nazism and Fascism, were an "abortive revolt against alleged national decadence." Sternhell, Griffin argues, is wrong to see the ideal type of fascism as a "synthesis of (revolutionary) nationalism and (non-materialist) socialism," for it leaves out the "palingenetic" component of Griffin's thesis. The real impetus to fascism, argues Griffin, was the "malaise and historical crisis" to which fascism seemed to offer a cure.

A. James Gregor, who sees fascism as a form of 'heretical Marxism,' blames the left for all excesses of the 20th century. He's an old-fashioned, hard-line cold warrior, an adherent of Goldwaterism. Many historians also have taken issue with Gregor's conclusion that Fascism can be understood as heretical Marxism. Roger Eatwell denies it without mentioning Gregor in his text, as does Alexander De Grand. Zeev Sternhell argues that Mussolini was influenced by the national syndicalist writings that Gregor delineates, but that these writers had long broken with any kind of recognizable Marxist position. Sternhell notes of revolutionary Marxists that "they [Lenin, Trotsky, and Martov] never deviated from the final objective: the destruction of capitalism by the proletariat. For them the revolution had never had any other purpose than to put an end, above all, to capitalist exploitation and the system of the market economy." To leap from the national socialist position taken by the Fascists of 1919 to the Bolshevik revolution under Lenin, as Gregor does, seems an ill-advised extrapolation. Even the Fascist program of 1921 made allowances for private property and investment, as Gregor himself notes. Gregor goes on to argue, however, that because Fascism favored state planning in its economic apparatus, it was anti-capitalist in character. But to argue that this fusion of capitalist and state-directed enterprise prefigured Stalin's industrial policy is an example of what Robert Paxton calls "comparison by juxtaposition."


The thing that interests me in Griffin with regard to your discussion is the notion that the NSDAP reaped the harvest sowed by a fusion of 19th century and early 20th century crises. I am not sure that we stand on the brink of an era of American Fascism, but I think that we ARE sowing the seeds of one. It may take ten years for the seeds to flower, and the lucky gardeners to reap their crop. It may take 50. I don't think we can yet say. But I do agree with Paxton, and his complete refutation of the 'anti-modern' thesis that fascism can only flourish in place in which democracy and political participation are shallowly rooted. This argument has been used many times, particularly by right wing historians such as Gregor, to inoculate right-wing elements in 'real' democracies (the U.S., England) against the charge that they have fascist tendencies, or to pooh-pooh the notion of the rise of fascism in one of their 'favored' or 'privileged' countries.

What's also crucial in this discussion is the neo-con view of history. Francis Fukayama and his ilk (I include here Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams) really believed that the 'defeat' of the USSR would somehow stop the clock on history. What they ignore is that history is not a process. It is time itself, the 'fire in which we burn,' as Malcom McDowell so elegantly states in Generations. Since the neo-cons have discarded 'history,' they have discarded the past, the future, and all possible mutations or outcomes in systems that they find unpalatable. For these fellows, we live in the day of the endless now, with Darwinian free-market triumphalism and unilateral foreign policy saving democracy at every turn. They believe the lyrics to the Talking Heads' great song, Heaven":
When this kiss is over
It will start again
Never be any different
Be exactly the same.

What these neo-cons have either failed to grasp or have willfully blinded themselves to, is that there are numerous other passengers on their little Betway Bus, many of whom are fighting with them for control of the wheel. One large, and internally diverse group, the Christianist right, is fairly unappealing to these guys, but they need its general validation. The other group, the Rumsfeld-Cheney axis, are, in my opinion, out-and-out authoritarian corporatists, who would 'climb any mountain,' including Fat Tony Scalia's theocratic one, if they thought that it would achieve the desired result. The Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bolton crowd are NOT neo-cons, they are not-so-incipient fascists.

11:41 PM Spotlight

Back to the blog
Just returned from a very pleasant vacation in San Diego. A lovely time was had by all, especially The Princess, who had a grand time at the Zoo, Sea World, and Coronado Island.

Also met with my agent, Frank Scatoni, who is every bit as pleasant in person as he is on the phone and online. We began ironing out details in my forthcoming book deal, for a book titled Death on the Fourth of July: Hate Crimes and the American Landscape. I'll have details when the deal is final.

As it happened, I wound up being unable to log in to my ISP -- which was fine, since we were too busy having fun anyway. Thanks to everyone who kept visiting in the meanwhile.

I'll catch up on my mail and then get back to my old tricks soon.

11:01 PM Spotlight

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