Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Some More Thoughts on Griffin's Modernism and Fascism

One of the themes that comes across strongly in Griffin's book is the sense of "spiritual" dysfunction in European society at the end of the 19th Century. What becomes apparent is that while there was the triumph of Positivism, which bore fruit in terms of scientific discovery and material power it came at a cost to the "inner life" of European man which was profoundly unsatisfying on a spiritual level. Durkheim called this unease Anomie.

Now Anomie is an interesting thing, some people seem perfectly fine with it, or at least accept it. On the other hand, as Griffin shows, there were many who were horrified by the mechanistic and deterministic universe that Positivism i.e. science, promised. It was these men, who while admiring the technics of Science, wanted to fill the void left by the metaphysics of it. It was these men that took part in the "revolt from Positivism" and laid the foundations of Fascist ideology.

It is Emilio Gentile who, by combining impeccable archival research with sophisticated conceptualization, makes the most authoritative pronouncements on Fascism's 'modernist' credentials, and in so doing explicitly imparts the term connotations that corroborate our primordialist perspective. He asserts that 'Fascist modernism sought to realize a new synthesis between tradition and modernity, without renouncing modernization in order to realize the nation's goals of power'. It was through the `sacralization of politics and the institutionalization of the cult of the fasces' that Fascism attempted to fulfill the key ambition of modernist nationalism, 'the construction of a lay religion for the nation'. Fascism's futural dynamic and civilizing mission emphasized by both Ventrone and Gentile is amply borne out by Pier Giorgio Zunino's comprehensive account of the matrix of Fascist ideology as inferred from the torrent of publications that poured forth from the new regime. He documents the way that for most Fascists the new state's mission to 'lead Italy out of its humiliating condition of marginalization' was linked to a much more ambitious goal, namely to 'spread the seeds of a new civilization in which the main problems inflicting contemporary society had been finally resolved'. Under Mussolini Italians were encouraged to feel they were living on the threshold of 'a new civilization whose essence as yet no-one can know', a 'third time', a 'new epoch', a 'new cycle'. Zunino insists that the countless texts, speeches, events, and rituals mass-produced under Mussolini aimed not to 'manufacture consensus', but to fill his most fervent supporters with a 'longing for tomorrow' and 'thirst for [making] history'." 
 By 1930 convinced Fascists at every level of society were now crowding onto the craggy outcrop of rock where once only Marinetti and a small artistic elite once stood enjoying the heady Nietzschean experience of standing 'on the last promontory of the centuries'. The experience of Aufbruch lauded by Expressionist poets had been democratized, the sense of an ending replaced by the heady sense of a beginning. Emilio Gentile himself draws attention to this factor when he claims that 'the principal impulse of fascism stemmed from its "movementist" and Dionysian feeling for existence, from the myth of the future, and not from a static contemplation of the past'. This futural dynamic is only apparently belied by the cult of Romanness (romanita) that came to assume such importance under the regime, for it too was 'celebrated modernistically as a myth of action for the future'. In the words of Giuseppe Bottai, the most technocratically minded of the Fascist gerarchia, the regime's fascination with Rome sprang not from erudition, not from books, not from so-called "dead history"', but above all from its capacity to inspire action in the present. Fascism meant to carry out 'not a restoration but a renovation, a revolution in the idea of Rome'.

Now there's a lot to unpack here, but the point I'm trying to get across is that they were attempting to "construct a new religion", a palliative to the anomie bought about the Enlightenment* led transformation of Western society. In many ways, the best way to think about fascists is that they were "romantic" socialists, providing a socialism that catered not just for the body but one which catered for the "soul". It needs to be understood that Fascism was more than a government organisation it was a pseudo religion. It gave people a purpose, a sense of belonging and justification for their acts. Perceptive readers will note that there was no mention of a return to Christianity. Italian, and German Fascism both wanted to form a new mythic religion which was specifically Christian lite. So in a sense, from the vantage point of this blog,  whether you think of Fascism as either modernist or reactionary it really doesn't matter, what matters is that it was anti Christian at its core. Hard core Nazi's specifically saw Christianity as a corruption of the "mythic" [Ed: invented by themselves] Aryan ideals and wanted it expunged. It was a competing weltanshauung to theirs. How anyone can square this claim up with European history is beyond me. But hey, intellectual consistency has never been a feature of mass movements.

Griffin extensively illustrates how modernist approaches were used to project this "new religion" onto the community. Furthermore Fascist aesthetic ideals seem to yield more to human nature than Western contemporary art does now. It's rejection of the deformed, the ugly and the repellent shouldn't be seen reactionary, rather Fascism's Dionysian dynamic was complemented by an art which reflected these values rather than challenged them. There was no doubt allowed with regard to the legitimacy of the aesthetic vision. Art was not there to dialogue with the ideal, it was to serve it.
Fascism had no problem with modernist art or technology as long as it was subordinate to these ideals and Griffin shows with numerous examples the embrace of Modernism by the Fascists.

It's a hard going book, and Griffin is sometimes excessively verbose but I think in many ways he brings across the appeal of Fascism in a way that Gregor doesn't. Fascism wasn't just a response to the social crisis of the early 20th Century it was also a response to the anomie bought about by the dechristianisation of Europe.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Roger Griffin: Modernism and Fascism

Two other books which I had to the pleasure to read and which complement Gregor's book are Roger Griffin's, Modernism and Fascism and, A Fascist Century. Once again, these should be staple texts of the Right.

Griffin made a bit of name for himself in the field in the early 90's with a book The Nature of Fascism. Modernism and Fascism is his attempt to attend to the deficiencies inherent in that book.  Griffin's unique viewpoint is that, unlike other academics, he tries to understand Fascism in the same way that Fascists understood it themselves. He is clearly no apologist for Fascism yet what's apparent in this book is just how novel this approach is in academia and the hostility he has earned as result of it.

Firstly, he defines Fascism movement as one which advocates Palingentic Ultranationalism. He has been criticised by Gregor on the grounds that the definition is not specific enough-- I agree, more on that later--but whereas Gregor gives an account of the intellectual development of Fascism illustrating how Fascism came about, Griffin focuses on why it did so.

Like Socialism, Griffin traces the origins of Fascism in cultural turmoil of the late 19th Century, when Christianity had begun to lose its hold on the cultural elites.  The culture of the late 19th Century with its materialistic capitalism and individualism slid society towards decadence. This and the pressing social problems of the times  disgusted many in society who felt that a "moral renewal" and a "cleansing of the filth", was required to alleviate the pressing social problems of the time. Two broad streams of thought emerged from the chaos, those based upon nationalism and those based upon international proletarianism. Both solutions were premised on the notion that the past was unrecoverable. God was dead and the Ten Commandments would no longer do.

Like Gregor, Griffin too, realises that Fascism was born of pressing moral problem which came about with the removal of the weltanschauung "sacred canopy" afforded to men by Christianity.  But it wasn't just the philsophical arguments that mattered, the whole progress of "modernisation" had profoundly uprooted European society so that by the late 19th Century, Capitalism and the ideals of the Enlightenment were being discredited by the experience of life.
MODERNISM: the generic term for a wide variety of countervailing palingenetic reactions to the anarchy and cultural decay allegedly resulting from the radical transformation of traditional institutions, social structures, and belief systems under the impact of Western modernization. These reactions were fostered by the growth of reflexivity and its concomitant, the progressive temporalization of history characteristic of Modernity, one consequence of which was the trend towards re-imagining the future as a permanently 'open' site for the realization of utopias within historical time. Modernism gained momentum in the second half of the nineteenth century when liberal, capitalist, and Enlightenment myths of progress lost the partial cultural hegemony they had attained during the French Revolution and early industrial revolution, with the result that the manifold changes that society was undergoing became increasingly identified by intellectual and artistic elites with decadence, so that modernity itself became a trope for degeneration (Modernity).
The important point that Griffin hammers out is that movement which became Fascism was essentially modernist, i.e. sharing many of the same philosophical foundations of Socialism.  However, where it differs from Socialism is that Fascism was more "Romantic," in that the fascists turned inwards into themselves find a  Dionysian "spirituality" which gave them the strength to live. This task was supported by numerous philosophers, artists, writers architects etc.
Marx believed that, unlike `bourgeois ideologies', socialism was not to 'draw its poetry from the past'; that is, it could do without myth and the aestheticisation of politics — though in practice it could not do without them, as all the regimes of 'actually existing socialism' have demonstrated. By contrast, fascism celebrated precisely such forces as the way to recreate a sense of reality, meaning, and subjective revolution. This can be seen in the title of Alfred Rosenberg's The Myth of the Twentieth Century, or Mussolini's declaration in his 'Naples speech' of 24 October 1922, only hours before the March on Rome, that
we have created our myth. The myth is a faith, a passion. It is not necessary for it to be a reality. It is a reality in the sense that it is a stimulus, is hope, is faith, is courage. Our myth is the nation, our myth is the greatness of the nation.
On close inspection, whether it was the myth of Aryan blood or the myth of the past glories of Rome, all fascist celebrations of the past are in fact future-oriented, and an integral part of fascists' quest to find a Third Way out of the cul-de-sac of Western history which they felt liberalism arid Marxism represented.
On close inspection, whether it was the myth of Aryan blood or the myth of the past glories of Rome, all fascist celebrations of the past are in fact future-oriented, and an integral part of fascists' quest to find a Third Way out of the cul-de-sac of Western history which they felt liberalism arid Marxism represented.
At the heart of this Third Way lies the myth of the regenerated national community (in German, Voiksgemeinschaft), whose realisation is conceived by fascists as providing a solution to several basic problems characteristic of liberal-capitalist; modern society, notably (it the troubled relationship between the 'masses' and the state; (il) the crisis of morality, identity, and authority posed by life exposed to modernisation; and (iii) the tensions between the individual's private existence and ethnicity, culture, society, nationality, and history in the civic realm.
At the heart of this Third Way lies the myth of the regenerated national community (in German, Voiksgemeinschaft), whose realisation is conceived by fascists as providing a solution to several basic problems characteristic of liberal-capitalist; modern society, notably (it the troubled relationship between the 'masses' and the state; (il) the crisis of morality, identity, and authority posed by life exposed to modernisation; and (iii) the tensions between the individual's private existence and ethnicity, culture, society, nationality, and history in the civic realm.
One of the points that Griffin successfully gets across is that Fascism was a revolt against the "mechanistic" view pushed by Marx--a view rooted in Positivist metaphysics. In many ways Fascism, and Socialism, provided an alternative spirituality--a political religion--to replace the one lost by cultural failure of Christianity. But the paradox being that it was ultimately a religion that found inspiration in the feelings generated by the self. It was a sort of malignant new age spirituality.

One of the other tropes that Griffin smashes is the received wisdom that the Fascists were anti-Modernist, and that by being so they were cultural brutes. While it is true, that the Germans were not as sophisticated as the Italians, the fact is that many modern artists put themselves in the service of Fascism which they quietly downplayed after the war. Philip Johnson, Mies Van der Rohe and Walter Gropius were all prepared to work for the Reich. The Fuhrer may have shut down the Bauhaus school but seem quite unconcerned with its influence in industrial and architectural design.  The fact is that while the Fascists deplored depictions of "degeneracy" in the arts, they were surprisingly tolerant of modernist modes of artistic expression. There was a huge battle in the Nazi party on the merits of German Expressionism, pushed by Goebbels, finally overturned by Hitler.

Mussolini certainly had no problems with modernist art, and actively encouraged it. Evola, for instance, originally started off with Dadaist ambitions, while Hitler seemed quite prepared to accept "non degenerate" Modernism. (.pdf)  The fact that Hitler found deformed depictions of form repulsive did not mean that he was anti-Modernist unless the appreciation and depiction of deformity is equated with Modernism. And this is not even touching on the enthusiastic embrace by the Fascists of technology and its application on all spheres of life. The idea, pushed by international socialists especially, that the Fascists were reactionary traditionalists trying to reassert themselves is quite simply false.

Of the two books, A Fascist Century is the easier one to read, and there is an interview in the end of it with Griffin which is worth the price of the book. Modernism and Fascism is a far harder read, lacks the focus of Gregor but is very impressive in the scope of its erudition and is meant as a more academic treatment of the subject. Its other problem is that it is written in academese and simplification of its language would ensure a far greater audience and easier grasp of its ideas. Still it is a book worth the effort and should be a foundational text of the Dissident Right.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Gregor on Marx and Darwinism

Marx recognised early on that there was a synergy between his material interpretation of history and the Darwinian theories of evolution. It was only a matter of time that the significance of human "material" would be recognised as one of the economic determinants of production.

Gregor dwells less on the Darwinian aspect of Marxism as compared to its nationalist component but, once again, he clearly shows how a moderate Marxist "racial consciousness" developed into a rabid racial doctrine once the evolutionary struggle of Darwin was fused with the revolutionary Positivism materialism of Marx. Many of the arguments made by the Marxists were similar to the ones we see today repeated by the HBD crowd and it really is quite surprising to see the the descent into rassenkampf  being recognised by Marxism's theoreticians very early on.

By the turn of the twentieth century, it was evident that Marxism was undergoing fundamental revision. Not a few Marxists were reshaping revolutionary doctrine and policy by reinterpreting some of the basic tenets of doctrinal Marxism. Woltmann was clearly numbered among them—and while the analyses of the nature of science and truth, human thought, will, and morality were issues employed in the reshaping, it was Darwinism that was to have the most radical impact. 
By the time Dietzgen put pen to paper in the 1870's, Darwinism had already exercised influence on the European continent for more than a decade—and Marx himself had identified Darwinism as an intellectual activity sharing "affinities" with his own "historical materialism". In those circumstances, what Dietzgen did was to take some of the central propositions of Darwinism—"the struggle for survival; "survival of the fittest; and the conception of "progressive evolution"—and tailor them to fit what he took to he the Marxist inductive "science" of moral judgment.
In one place, for example, Marx identified "race" as one of the natural "physical conditions" that influences the productivity of labor. That productivity, in itself, was critical to social development. Somehow or other, it would seem, racial traits influenced the very fundamentals of human social life. Engels, in his fullest maturity, in the year before his death, did speak of "economic conditions" as the factor that ultimately shapes historical development, to quickly add, "but race is itself an economic factor." Woltmann pointed out that it was uncertain how such notions were to he understood if they did not allude to heritable racial properties.
While the prime motivation for Bauer's stork arose out of his recognition of the importance of national sentiment among Europe's proletariat, some of his intellectual strategies can be traced to that preoccupation among Marxists, at the end of the nineteenth century, to link the materialist conception of history to Darwinian notions of evolution. Years later, Karl Kautsky could still insist on their shared continuities. He reinvoked the memory of Ludwig Woltmann, and agreed with him—with reservations—in seeing Darwinism as an essential part of the "material foundation" of Marxism. Bauer was of similar persuasion. In his judgment, Darwinism was an intrinsic part of the rationale of the materialist interpretation of human history. In attempting to provide the most comprehensive scientific basis for Marxism, Marxists in general, and Bauer in particular, invoked Darwinism and advanced an account of human history that proceeded from biological, to social, evolution. 

Engels had originally tendered the claim in a variety of publications and with a variety of qualifications. Whatever their qualifications, Marxists like Dietzgen, Woltmann, and Kautsky embraced Darwinism as an essential part of Marxism as a theory of history. While acknowledging Darwinism as a material prologue to Marxism, Kautsky complained that Woltmann had pursued Darwinism into racism.  And of course, Kautsky was correct. 
Woltmann's philosophical curiosity was to propel him still further. He took his studies of Darwinism, and his allusions to the role of race in the economic history of human kind, and tied them to the moral principle that Josef Dietzgen had made the lodestar of Marxist ethics. In his final works, the highest good that shaped Woltmann's individual and collective ethics was, as it was for Dietzgen, the "general welfare of humankind" 

What distinguished Woltmann's conception of the general welfare of humankind from that of Dietzgen turned on Woltmann's conviction that the biological survival and collective integrity of Nordics constituted the agency responsible for what that general welfare might be taken to he. Woltmann could affirm, with profound conviction, that if the secular progress of which all Marxists spoke was a function of the intellectual and creative talents of a racial minority of human beings, then the security, sustenance, and fostering of that race became a moral imperative of the highest order!' Its survival and expansion was the necessary condition for the production of all the welfare benefits, material and spiritual, of which Marx had spoken—and to which Dietzgen had alluded.
By the time Woltmann published his Politische Anthropologie, his heterodox Marxism had been transformed. Darwinism dominated not only his conception of human evolution, but social evolution as well. The social dynamics we continue to identify with historical materialism remained largely inviolable, but the motive force behind technological invention Woltmann identified with heritable properties—creativity and intelligence—traits he increasingly identified with select individuals and select racial communities. By the first years of the twentieth century what emerged was a political ideology that had originally found its inspiration in classical Marxism—but which, as a consequence of systematic and sustained criticism, had been so altered that it could only be identified as a Marxist heresy. Whatever that is taken to mean, it obscures the reality that Woltmann's racism was the natural child of classical Marxism. [ED]

Woltmann was not the only Marxist who traveled that path. In 1862, decades before Woltmann's "heresy"; Moses Hess, the "communist rabbi"—the person who purportedly made a communist of Karl Marx—made very clear his racist and nationalist predilections with the publication of his Rome and Jerusalem. After having worked with Marx and Engels on some of their most important early publications, with the appearance of Rome and Jerusalem, Hess was to leave them behind. In his book, Hess made the case for Jewish psychobiological superiority, to advocate the creation of a Jewish homeland in the effort to assure Jewish survival—in order that they might continue to provide benefits for all of humanity. The Marxism of his young manhood had been transmogrified in much the same manner as had the Marxism of the young Ludwig Woltmann.
In our own time, Woltmann's intimate association with Marxism is rarely, if ever, cited—and one of the principal sources of the revolutionary racism of the twentieth century thereby obscured. It was the decay of classical Marxism that contributed racism to the mix of revolutionary ideas that were to torment our time. Neither Moses Hess nor Ludwig Woltmann can he dismissed as anomalies. As the subsequent history of revolutionary Marxism was to reveal, racist and reactive nationalist variants of Marxism were to inspire revolutions throughout the doleful history of our most recent past.

I must admit that I was completely blown away by the knowledge of Moses Hess. It's perhaps one of history's most tragic irony's--in more ways than one--that the "grandfather" of the doctrine that would lead to ovens of Auschwitz was Jewish.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Gregor on Marxist Notions of Nationalism

One of the best chapters in Gregor's book is the Marxist treatment of the subject of nationalism. It alone is worth the price of the book. What becomes apparent following the death of Marx and Engels is that, with regard to the nationalism, Marxist intellectuals split into two main schools, those who embrace nationalism and those who don't. What becomes apparent in reading the book is that those who embraced nationalism seemed to grant human nature fare more legitimacy than the "internationalists". Indeed the Leninst faction of Marxism was not really concerned with the feelings of the proletarians since the vanguard movement that Lenin was leading knew better than the proletarians what was true proletarianism. It was a movement led by an "elite" group of proletarians in contrast to Fascism which sought its legitimacy in the political will of the proles. As Mussolini said when putting down Marxist-Lenninism, "Fascism is the socialism of proletarian nations."

In the course of his exposition, Stalin undertook to do something not undertaken by Lenin. Stalin offered a lexical definition of what he understood a "nation" to be. He told his audience that "a nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture." He went on to argue with considerable confidence that should "a single one" of those properties be missing, "the nation ceases to be a nation. He conceived nations as transient, having a beginning and ending sometime in history. More than that, Stalin conceived the nation, an historical artifact, as belonging to a definite epoch—that of emerging capitalism. 
Prior to the Great War, both Lenin and Stalin made very clear their total rejection of nationalism as a political vehicle for the mobilization of revolutionary masses in the service of socialism. Neither ever completely abandoned that conviction. Within the conceptual notions of Marxism-Leninism, nationalism could never serve "proletarian" purpose. At its very best, and under whatever guise, nationalism served only bourgeois interests. Lenin did approve the invocation of nationalism, however, in order to mobilize masses for revolution in the regions peripheral to the advanced industrial nations—only because such revolutions impaired the survival capacity of international capitalism......

..In the years leading to the First World War, both Lenin and Stalin were insistent in rejecting nationalism as part of Marxism-Leninism's revolutionary strategy because both saw the local nationalisms of the many ethnic groups that made up the Russia of their time depleting the collective energies of the international proletariat. Both sought a unified, centralized association of workers, loyal to their class, rather than to any "abstract" national, interests.
Lenin maintained that once industrial capitalism had "matured"—that is to say, when it gave evidence of being "ripe" for socialist revolution—any manifestation of regional national sentiment was intrinsically counterrevolutionary. That was because Marxism knew of no nationalism appropriate to the needs of the international proletariat. Nationalism was intrinsically divisive at a time when the international revolution required a unified revolutionary class. The responsibility of Marxist revolutionaries was to "break down national barriers, obliterate national distinctions, and to assimilate nations"— following the secular trends of industrial capitalism itself—trends that were seen as "transforming capitalism into socialism." Those realities, Lenin insisted, left ultimately only two alternative "world outlooks" available to revolutionary leaders: reactionary "bourgeois nationalism" as opposed to progressive "proletarian internationalism:"  There could be no third altrnative. [ED]
The treatment of nationalism, reflected in the work of both Stalin and Lenin, was to perceive it as something to be thwarted. In principle, nationalism was not to he recommended under any circumstances. Socialism's primary task was identified as "regrouping the proletariat of all countries into a living revolutionary force [having] only one conception of its tasks and interests"—abjuring national sentiment and rejecting any association with political nationalism. The "immediate mission" of socialist agitation was understood to he "the spiritual liberation of the proletariat from the tutelage of the bourgeoisie, which expresses itself through the influence of nationalist ideology.""

 Nationalism, in all its formulations and expressions, was seen as nothing more than a bourgeois snare and subterfuge, a cover for antiprolitarian machinations. Through some occult process, the bourgeoisie managed to instill national sentiments in the proletariat. Such unreal sentiments could only work against the interests of the working class. 
[Otto] Bauer's account differed from the "orthodoxy" common among German theoreticians in that he recognized that whatever bourgeois motives there may have been behind the emergence of national consciousness, in order for it to become a political reality, there must have been a susceptibility among workers and peasants. The bourgeoisie could hardly impose a sense of nationality on a population; there had to have been a ready receptivity that could account for its acceptance and persistence. Nationalism most have found a ready response among people quite independent of the specific content supplied by transient economic circumstances. It seems reasonably clear that Bauer found the standard Marxist explanation for the rise and significance of national sentiment simplistic. His work is dedicated to advancing an explanation with greater inherent plausibility 

Bauer saw national sentiment rooted in the Darwinian history' of human-kind. Like Dietzgen, Kautsky, and Woltmann, as well as many of the lesser Marxist intellectuals of the period, Bauer sought to trace the continuities between Darwin's convictions concerning human descent and Marxism as a conception of historical development. He sought to link national sentiment to the evolutionary history of humanity. He sought a credible explanation of why the mass of workers and peasants would become possessed so readily of a sense of national identity. Whatever the influence exercised by the bourgeoisie, it could not alone account for the broad-based national passion exhibited by members of the working class. 
By the beginnings of the twentieth century, Bauer concluded elements of national sentiment had become so intrinsic to the psychology of the proletariat, that one could hardly expect them to be surrendered for a "naive cosmopolitanism" that entertained no distinctions whatever between communities. He insisted that there was every evidence that the internationalization of the industrial means of production did not mean the disappearance of a sense of national differences.. For the members of many communities, in fact, the realization that they were perceived "backward;' economically and culturally retrograde, by those nations industrially sophisticated, prompted a response among them that could only be characterized as reactive nationalism. As a consequence, Bauer anticipated that nationalism might well become a significant political force to be reckoned with even in those nations that lacked an industrial base or an effective bourgeoisie. 
The importance of Bauer's variant of Marxism can be measured by the venom with which it was attacked by Lenin and Stalin in the years that were to follow. Both charged Bauer's interpretation with major responsibility in socialism's subsequent failure to meet the challenge of the Great War. In an uncritical sense, they were right. On the occasion of the war, the working masses of Europe chose to identify with their several nations—employing arguments that shared a significant similarity with those advanced by Bauer. In fact, some of Bauer's central convictions were to serve as a bridge between nineteenth-century Marxism and the Fascism of the twentieth.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Gregor on Marxist/Fascist Morality

I thought I would pull a few quotes from Gregor's book just to show how important morality and metaphysics were for the early Marxist theoreticians.  Left Marxists and Right Marxists may have differed on many questions but in the end they were all socialists.

It will he surprising to some—though certainly not everyone—that among the first issues engaged by the revolutionary thinkers at the turn of the twentieth century were those having to do with choice and determinism, with morality and ethics, with nationalism, with leadership, with the mobilization of masses, and how revolution was to be understood in the broad expanse of history. They are questions that continue to shape the revolutionary thought of our time.
Morals and ethics lie at the core of revolutionary commitment. As such, moral and immoral behavior, sustained or abjured by appropriate ethical assessment, becomes critical to any revolutionary enterprise. That enterprise is inextricably associated with the advocacy of, or resistance to, violence. At some stage in the process it becomes necessary to systematically address ethical and moral questions. At the very least, the proponents of revolution must justify to themselves or others their endorsement of real or potential violence. As early as his first efforts at revolutionary analysis, Karl Marx extended what could only be characterized as a slack interpretation of morals and ethics—as well as a singular account of human conceptual life in general. In The Communist Manifesto  of 1848, he simply dismissed the notion that there were "eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc.;" or that any such ideas should independently influence the course of human conduct. He argued, instead, that such ideas, other than eternal, were relative, a function of the time, place, and circumstances in which they find expression—and whatever influence they exercise, as we shall see, was to be understood to be the derivative result of objective factors that, taken together, he identified as time-specific "modes of production?'
Those were the convictions that shaped Marx's view that it would soon be the case that the "mass" of contemporary revolutionaries, the proletariat, would no longer entertain archaic notions about religion and the whole attendant "learned" nonsense about a transcendent morality emanating from the "realm of God", Marx informed the revolutionaries of his time that the morality of the proletariat would represent the "interests" of the emerging productive forces—the productive forces of the future—and as such would represent the only defensible morality for rational actors.
For all the efforts made to distinguish Marxism from fascism in any of its real or fancied forms, there is a lingering suspicion that the two ideological systems arc somehow related. The similarities were noted even before Italian Fascism had reached political maturity. Many Marxists were there at the birth of Fascism. However strenuously resisted by some, the relationship was recognized in totalitarianism. During the tenure of the regime, it was acknowledged by some of Fascism's major theoreticians. And after the passing of Leninist communism, its relationship to fascism, in general, was acknowledged by many of its erstwhile practitioners.

The difficulty that many have had with all that is the consequence of political science folk wisdom that has made fascism the unqualified opposite of any term of Marxism. So fixed has that notion become in the study of comparative politics that the suggestion of any affinities between the two is generally dismissed. And yet, some contemporary comparativists recognize that there was an unmistakable "essential ideological kindredncss" shared by fascism and Leninism. It was equally clear that at "certain pivotal ideational junctures, les extremes se touchent. (extremes come together)". It is important to try to understand how that could be possible. In answering that, one has a foothold on how one might explain the concept "totalitarianism”—that has fascism and the variants of Marxism as its referents. Attempting to begin to explain the relationship is part of the story of revolutionary thought at the turn of the twentieth century.
Italian Fascism was not Hitler's National Socialism, and it was not Lenin's Bolshevism—but all three shared some sort of affinity, however minimal. For the purpose of the present exposition, the relationship between Mussolini's Fascism and Lenin's Bolshevism is of central concern. It speaks to the ideological relationship shared by Italian Fascism and one or another variant of Marxism, and helps us understand why relevant similarities regularly resurface in any study dealing with modern revolutionary political systems. It is a story that covers almost half a century of European radical thought—and involves some of the major intellectuals of the first quarter of the twentieth century.

While it is only a thread in the complex tapestry of revolution in our time, it is an important and interesting concern. It deals with revolutionary morality and the ethical system that sustains it. It addresses the issue of how the revolutionary theorists at the beginning of our time attempted to understand human choice and political decisions. It deals with revolution and its motives, and violence and its uses.

In the course of time; all these concerns were addressed by self-selected Marxist revolutionaries at the end of the nineteenth century; some of whom were to become the leaders of revolutionary movements in the twentieth. History was to subsequently identify some as "Marxists" and others as "fascists." Those with whom we shall concern ourselves were all Marxists of one or another persuasion. The most interesting, for our purposes, were to ultimately be identified as "Mussoliniani;' intellectual leaders of Italian Fascism.

The reactor core of any political movement are the ideas that motivate it, but these ideas are themselves supported by a metaphysical structure which in turn shapes their nature. Old Europe starts dying when it rejects its Christian heritage and embraces the materialism of the Positivists. Those of the Alt-Right who are positivists/materialists are simply the Left dressed in right wing garb.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Marxism, Fascism and Totalitarianism

In retrospect, what becomes evident is the fact that by the last years of the nineteenth century, there was little that might count as a single and definitive "orthodox Marxism." So rich in ambiguity and discontinuities was it that by that time at least four principal variants of Marxism could be identified: that of Bernstein and Woltmann in Germany,. the critical deconstnictionism of Benedetto Croce in Italy, and the ethical reformism of Sorel in France.
Blogging has been light recently because I've been trying to catch up with some reading. One of the books I had a chance to read was  A. James Gregor's, Marxism, Fascism and Totalitarianism.

Firstly, let me say that this is a superb book and should be required reading by anyone on the Dissident Right.  Quite simply it should be a foundational text. It's that good. Gregor is a professor of Political Science at Berkeley* and is one the worlds foremost experts on Fascism, particularly Italian Fascism and Marxism.  The book is not particularly long--400 pages--it is clearly written, conceptually precise and Gregor's habit of repeating the main points at the beginnings of chapters a great way of reinforcing the main ideas he is trying to get across. For people who are time poor, it's an excellent and clearly written overview on the subject of Marxist doctrinal development.

One of the things that depresses me endlessly is the right's "tolerance" of Fascism. While many think it extreme, they see it as an ally against the Left and criticise those who "punch to the Right".  The problem is that the Fascists were never of the Right in the first place, and their embrace of nationalism is simply a mechanism to bring socialism to fruition.

In the Socialist world of the 19th Century, Marx and Engels functioned as almost defacto dual papacy defining Socialist doctrine. Socialists who differed on doctrinal points would appeal to the two for guidance given that many of Marx's concepts were vague and not fully though out. Furthermore practical experience with implementing the revolution came up against real world difficulties which had to be worked out. With their death, this guidance was gone and Socialists, much like Christians interpreting the Bible, began to fissure with regard proper interpretation of the Master.

The big issues upon which the Marxists differed were on the subject of free will, the issue of "class", leadership of the proletariat and nationalism.

Marx was a strict materialist/Positivist at that human morality and action was simply the expression of current material and economic conditions.  Marx also held Darwinism in high esteem and it didn't take too long for his followers to fuse the two and introduce race as an "economic determinant", with certain races being better economic determinants than others. The go to guy was Ludwig Woltmann, who was very influential in German Socialism and intellectually prepared to the ground for the Natsocs. (Note, Socialists really play down the role of Woltmann)

The second interpreters were those who could not accept the strict determinism of Marx and gave man more "free will" in the direction of history. Chief among this school of thought was that of George Sorel who saw decadence in the bourgeois and virtue among the "workers" and in the work ethic.  Sorel's noble worker would rise up against the bourgeois and bring socialist society into fruition. Sorel emphasised the dignity of work

But the problem with workers is that they were more loyal to their country than to class and with the advent of the First World War many socialists saw that the appeal to country motivated the masses towards revolution rather than an appeal to class. Italian socialists who admired the martial virtues of Sorel's workers realised that the best way to bring about social revolution was to marry it to the cause of Nationalism, this was the approach of Mussolini and it is here where Fascism is born.

Lenin, on the other hand, rejected any form of Nationalism as a bourgeois distraction, designed to stymie the revolution, and insisted upon a Russian flavoured internationalism which would unite the working classes.  In fact, anyone who Lenin, who thought himself the only true interpreter of Marx, defined anyone who disagreed with his view as bourgeois reactionary. I sometimes wonder if Lenin was a Puritan from New England. Stalin continued the tradition.

The important theme that comes out of Gregor's work is that just as Protestantism and Catholicism are rival interpretations of Christianity, so are Fascism and Leninism rival interpretations of Marxism.

Gregor clearly lays the doctrinal development of each of the strands of Marxism. What's also quite impressive is the role of Italian thinkers in the development of the nationalistic interpretations of Marxism. The Italians thinkers were quite conceptually advanced in their understanding of Nationalism and offered a more "humane" version of Fascism than its Nordic cousin.  Compared to the Italian thinkers, the Germans were rubes.  It's quite interesting that Italian Nationalistic Marxism i.e. Fascism  was racially "lite" and there were quite a few Jewish Fascists among the Blackshirts.

The horrors of German National Socialism are clearly attributable to its Socialist origins which ,when hybridised with materialistic Darwinism and Ariosophy,  produced the killing machine which destroyed much of Europe and itself. Nazism was a HBD version of Socialism cloaked in Nationalism.

As Gregor shows, the only thing "Right" about Fascism is the nationalism it uses to cloak its ultimate vision of implementing a socialist society.

It's an outstanding book.

(*The Irony of the recent protests against Trump at Berkeley would not have been lost on Gregor)