cj#593> What is fascism?

1996-10-27

Richard Moore

        "Fascism" is a problematic term, and is often used carelessly as a
generic, derogatory explitive.  Nonetheless, my observation is that it is a
phenomenon that did not die in 1945, and that it is undergoing a major
worldwide resurgance only slightly below the surface, though not always
immediately recognizable.

        I'll defer my own analysis on this topic, until after those
interested have had a chance to review the following piece which, I hope
you'll agree, does a reasonable job of establishing a definitional context,
and provides a useful point of departure for discussion.

        The main point that I believe is missing below, and in many
discussions of fascism and totalitarianism in general, is the central role
they play in imperialism, and the extent to which they are tools of outside
interests.


Regards,
rkm

________________________________________________________________
Date:         Fri, 25 Oct 1996
Sender:       "Hank Roth's Progressive List [& PNEWS CONFERENCES]"
              <•••@••.•••>
Subject:      ARTICLE: The Modern Totalitarian State

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From: •••@••.•••
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                               NAZI FASCISM AND
                         THE MODERN TOTALITARIAN STATE
                             by Gary M. Grobman


   Synopsis

   The government of Nazi Germany was a fascist, totalitarian state.
   Totalitarian regimes, in contrast to a dictatorship, establish
   complete political, social, and cultural control over their subjects,
   and are usually headed by a charismatic leader. Fascism is a form of
   right-wing totalitarianism which emphasizes the subordination of the
   individual to advance the interests of the state. Nazi fascism's
   ideology included a racial theory which denigrated "non-Aryans,"
   extreme nationalism which called for the unification of all
   German-speaking peoples, the use of private paramilitary organizations
   to stifle dissent and terrorize opposition, and the centralization of
   decision-making by, and loyalty to, a single leader.

Totalitarianism

   Totalitarianism is a form of government in which all societal
   resources are monopolized by the state in an effort to penetrate and
   control all aspects of public and private life, through the state's
   use of propaganda, terror, and technology. Totalitarian ideologies
   reject the existing society as corrupt, immoral, and beyond reform,
   project an alternative society in which these wrongs are to be
   redressed, and provide plans and programs for realizing the
   alternative order. These ideologies, supported by propaganda
   campaigns, demand total conformity on the part of the people.

   Totalitarian forms of organization enforce this demand for conformity.
   Totalitarian societies are hierarchies dominated by one political
   party and usually by a single leader. The party penetrates the entire
   country through regional, provincial, local and "primary" (party-cell)
   organization. Youth, professional, cultural, and sports groups
   supplement the party's political control. A paramilitary secret police
   ensures compliance. Information and ideas are effectively organized
   through the control of television, radio, the press, and education at
   all levels.

  Totalitarian Regime vs. Dictatorship

   Totalitarian regimes differ from older concepts of dictatorship or
   tyranny. Totalitarian regimes seek to establish complete political,
   social and cultural control, whereas dictatorships seek limited,
   typically political, control. Two types of totalitarianism can
   sometimes be distinguished: Nazism and Fascism which evolved from
   "right-wing" extremism, and Communism, which evolved from "left-wing"
   extremism. Traditionally, each is supported by different social
   classes. Right-wing totalitarian movements have generally drawn their
   popular support primarily from middle classes seeking to maintain the
   economic and social status quo. Left-wing totalitarianism has often
   developed from working class movements seeking, in theory, to
   eliminate, not preserve, class distinctions. Right-wing
   totalitarianism has typically supported and enforced the private
   ownership of industrial wealth. A distinguishing feature of Communism,
   by contrast, is the collective ownership of such capital.

   Totalitarian regimes mobilize and make use of mass political
   participation, and often are led by charismatic cult figures. Examples
   of such cult figures in modern history are Mao Tse-tung (China) and
   Josef Stalin (Soviet Union), who led left-wing regimes, and Adolf
   Hitler (Germany) and Benito Mussolini (Italy), who led right-wing
   regimes.

   Right-wing totalitarian regimes (particularly the Nazis) have arisen
   in relatively advanced societies, relying on the support of
   traditional economic elites to attain power. In contrast, left-wing
   totalitarian regimes have arisen in relatively undeveloped countries
   through the unleashing of revolutionary violence and terror. Such
   violence and terror are also the primary tools of right-wing
   totalitarian regimes to maintain compliance with authority.

Fascism

   Fascism was an authoritarian political movement that developed in
   Italy and several other European countries after 1919 as a reaction
   against the profound political and social changes brought about by
   World War I and the spread of socialism and Communism. Its name was
   derived from the fasces, an ancient Roman symbol of authority
   consisting of a bundle of rods and an ax. Italian fascism was founded
   in Milan on March 23, 1919, by Benito Mussolini, a former
   revolutionary socialist leader. His followers, mostly war veterans,
   were organized along paramilitary lines and wore black shirts as
   uniforms. The early Fascist program was a mixture of left- and
   right-wing ideas that emphasized intense Nationalism, productivism,
   anti-socialism, elitism, and the need for a strong leader. Mussolini's
   oratorical skills, the post-war economic crisis, a widespread lack of
   confidence in the traditional political system, and a growing fear of
   socialism, all helped the Fascist party to grow to 300,000 registered
   members by 1921. In that year it elected 35 members to parliament.

The Philosophy of Fascism

   The intellectual roots of Fascism can be traced to the voluntaristic
   philosophers who argued that the will is prior to and superior to the
   intellect or reason.

   Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher who held that
   the will is the underlying and ultimate reality and that the whole
   phenomenal world is the only expression of will. Human beings have
   free will only in the sense that everyone is the free expression of a
   will and that we therefore are not the authors of our own destinies,
   characters, or behavior, he wrote. He theorized that space, time, and
   causality were not absolute principles but only a function of the
   brain, concepts parallel to the scientific discoveries of relativistic
   physics two generations later.

   Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher and poet best
   known for "Thus Spoke Zarathustra." He theorized that there were two
   moral codes: that of the ruling class (master morality) and that of
   the oppressed class (slave morality). The ancient empires grew out of
   a master morality, and the religions of the day out of the slave
   morality (which denigrates the rich and powerful, rationalism, and
   sexuality). He developed the concept of the "overman" (superman) which
   symbolized man at his most creative and highest intellectual capacity.

   Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was a French philosopher of Jewish parents
   who was the leading rejectionist of the concept that scientific
   principles can explain all of existence. He asserted that metaphysical
   principles also apply. He found credence in applying the biological
   theories of Darwin (which pointed to the "survival of the fittest" in
   biological systems) to social theory.

   George Sorel (1847-1922) was a French social philosopher who had a
   major influence upon Mussolini. Sorel believed that societies
   naturally became decadent and disorganized, and this inevitable decay
   could only be delayed by the leadership of idealists who were willing
   to use violence to obtain power. His anti-democratic, anti-liberal
   views and pessimistic view about the natural life-cycle of a society
   were antithetical to most of his contemporaries.

   Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863-1938) was an Italian politician, poet,
   dramatist, novelist and war hero who was a supporter of Mussolini.

Fascist Ideology

   Fascist ideology was largely the work of the neo-idealist philosopher,
   Giovanni Gentile. It emphasized the subordination of the individual to
   a "totalitarian" state that was to control all aspects of national
   life. Violence as a creative force was an important characteristic of
   the Fascist philosophy. A special feature of Italian Fascism was the
   attempt to eliminate the class struggle from history through
   nationalism and the corporate state. Mussolini organized the economy
   and all "producers" - from peasants and factory workers to
   intellectuals and industrialists - into 22 corporations as a means of
   improving productivity and avoiding industrial disputes. Contrary to
   the regime's propaganda claims, the system ran poorly. Mussolini was
   forced into compromises with big business and the Roman Catholic
   Church. The corporate state was never fully implemented. The
   inherently expansionist, militaristic nature of Fascism contributed to
   imperialistic adventures in Ethiopia and the Balkans and ultimately to
   World War II.

Nazism

   Nazism refers to the totalitarian Fascist ideology and policies
   espoused and practiced by Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist
   German Worker's Party from 1920-1945. Nazism stressed the superiority
   of the Aryan, its destiny as the Master Race to rule the world over
   other races, and a violent hatred of Jews, which it blamed for all of
   the problems of Germany. Nazism also provided for extreme nationalism
   which called for the unification of all German-speaking peoples into a
   single empire. The economy envisioned for the state was a form of
   corporative state socialism, although members of the party who were
   leftists (and would generally support such an economic system over
   private enterprise) were purged from the party in 1934.

Paramilitary Organizations

   Nazism made use of paramilitary organizations to maintain control
   within the party, and to squelch opposition to the party. Violence and
   terror fostered compliance. Among these organizations were the:

   S.A. (Sturmabteilung): Stormtroopers (also known as "brown-shirts")
   were the Nazi paramilitary arm under Ernst R=EEhm. It was active in the
   battle for the streets against other German political parties.

   S.D. (Sicherheitsdiest): the Security Service under Reinhard Heydrich.

   S.S. (Schutzstaffel): Defense Corps, was an elite guard unit formed
   out of the S.A. It was under the command of Heinrich Himmler.

   Gestapo (Geheime Staatpolizeil): the Secret State Police, which was
   formed in 1933.

   Nazism also placed an emphasis on sports and paramilitary activities
   for youth, the massive use of propaganda (controlled by Joseph
   Goebbels) to glorify the state, and the submission of all decisions to
   the supreme leader (Fuhrer) Adolf Hitler.

VOCABULARY

    Communism - A social, political, and economic system characterized by
   the revolutionary struggle to create a society which has an absence of
   classes, and the common ownership of the means of production and
   subsistence and centralized governmental control over the economy.

   Dictator - A ruler having absolute authority and supreme jurisdiction
   over the government of a state; especially one who is considered
   tyrannical or oppressive.

   Elitism - Philosophy that a narrow clique of the "best" or "most
   skilled" members of a given social group should have the power.

   Fascism - A philosophy or system of government that advocates or
   exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the
   merging of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of
   belligerent nationalism.

   Hierarchy - A body of persons organized or classified according to
   rank, capacity, or authority.

   Ideology - The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and
   aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.

   Left-wing - As used in this chapter, individuals and groups who desire
   to reform or overthrow the established order and advocate change in
   the name of greater freedom or well-being of the common man.

   Nazism - The ideology and policies of Adolf Hitler and his National
   Socialist German Worker's Party from 1921 to 1945.

   Propaganda - The systematic spreading of a given doctrine or of
   allegations reflecting its views and interests.

   Right-wing - As used in this chapter, individuals or groups who
   profess opposition to change in the established order and who favor
   traditional attitudes and practices, and who sometimes advocate the
   forced establishment of an authoritarian political order.

   Totalitarianism - A form of government in which all societal resources
   are monopolized by the state in an effort to penetrate and control all
   aspects of public and private life, through the state's use of
   propaganda, terror, and technology.
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