Summary: We need to dig in order to understand what’s happening with America. Today look back to a critical moment in western history, a moment that’s shaped what we are today and will be for uncounted years to come. Tomorrow we look at how Nazi innovations in political mechanics have become mainstream in America.
“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 100%.
— Godwin’s Law, formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990.
Godwin formulated this as a description of the world, like the law of gravity. Since then it’s become normative — a bad behavior. That’s unfortunate; it’s an expression of our amnesia about one of the Third Reich’s worst horrors. Germany had a central role in western religion, philosophy, and science. We prefer not to remember that its people fell so quickly into evil. That we might fall so quickly into evil is too disturbing to contemplate.
Why do discussions about US society and politics so often end with analogies to the Nazis? Perhaps because Nazi Germany was the first nation to break through from traditional modes of western society into modernity. During and after WW2 the West followed Germany into a world with a new morality, plus new physical and political technology. Although we recoil from direct comparison to Nazis, we feel no ill conscience from this evolution. For good reason. The list of Nazi breakthroughs we have copied is long; here is a sampler:
- Eisenhower built our autobahn (interstate highways), for the same reasons the Third Reich did. We drive Volkswagens, the people’s car, and its successors.
- Our military uses much technology developed by the Nazis. Some examples are wire-guided missiles (which hit the battleship HMS Warspite in 1943), infra-red night vision systems, ballistic and cruise missiles, jets, and rocket-propelled aircraft.
- We use military tactics pioneered by the Nazis, such as strategic bombing of civilians.
- The Nazis normalized both pre-marital sex (it was a benefit of Hitler Youth membership) and out-of-wedlock childbirth.
- The Nazi’s ran the first anti-smoking campaign (30 years before the US), funded research about the effects of smoking, and in 1941 banned smoking in public places. They also ran campaigns against excessive consumption of alcohol. More details here.
- The Nazi’s created the first Medicare-like programs, in 1941 expanding the excellent health care system they inherited to include retirees (details here).
- On a trivial level — We wear Hugo Boss suits, for the same reason as the SS did (the Nazi’s contribution to fashion might be one of their two long-term contributions to the world). We wear Adidas footwear, as did the Wehrmacht.
- Perhaps their greatest long-term influence: the Nazi party introduced modern propaganda techniques, which became the basis for WW2 and Cold War politics — and beyond.
In so many things Hitler was not wrong, just early. Some of these innovations we applaud; some we prefer not to see. And then there’s the holocaust.
To manage the cognitive dissonance this creates we draw an imaginary line between those things which he forever stained — the Swastika (ripped away from its Native American history), eugenics, conquest for Lebensraum, etc — and those things which remain unsullied. Such as vegetarianism, highly structured youth groups, the conservation and appreciation of nature, conquest with pretense of pure motives, and the useful things listed above.
This imaginary division into clean and unclean legacies gives us a sense of order and control over the world, as it does for people following strict dietary regimes. This masks our uneasy awareness of the chaotic void that lurks beneath our civilization, the dark side within our souls.
We pretend that Hitler and the Third Reich were sui generis instead of a pathological growth of deeply rooted themes in western society (to state two obvious example, antisemitism and eugenics). This infection appeared in Germany, in many ways the center of Europe’s culture and science. If it appeared there, we are all vulnerable.
It should not surprise us that after 60 years we’ve not come to terms with the lessons of the Nazi’s madness, just as after 150 years the South has not come to terms with its embrace of slavery and rebellion.
We have not had our shots, and carry the infection. Let’s hope we do not come down with a similar dark illness of the soul.
Perhaps most discussions about America should touch upon an analogy to the Third Reich. It’s an awareness we need to accept.
Some advice from the past
“The world revolves around the inventors of new values; it revolves silently.”
— Nietzsche’s Thus spake Zarathustra , #12 (1885). See the full excerpt here.
The Nazis didn’t emerge from a crack in the Earth; they evolved from the main current of western philosophy. From Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom:
But when one ventures out into the vast spaces opened up by Nietzsche, it is hard to set limits. Measure and moderation are the real aliens there. Weber was just one of many serious persons who were affected by Nietzsche and popularized him without believing in the extremism that Nietzsche himself asserted is the result of positioning oneself beyond good and evil. The open-ended future contains many surprises, and all these followers of Nietzsche prepared the way by helping to jettison good and evil along with reason, without assurance of what the alternatives might be.
… Hitler did not cause a rethinking of politics here or in Europe. All to the contrary. .. After Hitler, everybody scurried back under the protective cover of morality, but practically no one turned to serious thought about good and evil.
We have the infection from two source. America draws from the same stream of western civilization as did Germany. And we grappled with Germany at the height of its sickness — an illness spread by contact.
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
— Aphorism 146 in Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (1886).
Update: interesting comments posted at Naked Capitalism
This post was listed on the daily links at at Naked Capitalism. The comments are fascinating. Interpreting such things is highly subjective. That said, these look to me as if this post hit a sensitive spot. Rather than rebuttal to specifics, there are ritualistic denunciations and reading FAILS (rebuttals to things I did not say).
For More Information
See “The Question of Nazi Modernity“, Alexander Mosca (Florida State University), 2007 Florida Conference of Historians — with excellent references.
Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and post your comments — because we value your participation. For more information see all posts about the Nazis and about Hitler. And these posts about the evil within:
- Bloodlust – a natural by-product of a long war?
- Another note from our past, helping us see our future.
- No longer a danger, but a reality: bloodlust in our minds, an inevitable side-effect of a long war.
- What will replace the Constitution in Americans’ hearts? Let’s check for Fascism.
- Bleak news, but vital for us to understand: American Morlocks: Another Civilian Massacre and the Savagery of Our Soldiers.
- National decay starts at the heart, and spreads like cancer.
- Voices from the past describe the coming New America.
In the 21st century even our abyss will be digital
This is “Abyss” by Naxmus Saquib, from his website. Click to see how this was generated, and what it represents.
38 thoughts on “How we became what we are today. See some dark origins of the New America.”
thought this might butt up with your post http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/posts/bodybuilding_and_nation-buildi
Godwin’s Law fulfilled – yet again
And not true. This is not the end of a discussion, but the start of one. Godwin’s Law is the subject, not the product, of the question.
Back in my student days, on campus there was the Socratic Society for the elitists, but people like me were PIGs or members of the Philosophical Interest Group where we learned the art of rapid-fire think-on-your-feet demolishing your opponent in debate by means fair or foul, with foul the preferred option and a rudimentary knowledge of Nazism an indispensable prerequisite.
A typical discussion might go like this:
A: (Makes assertion.)
B: That sounds very much like something Hitler said in that infamous address to the Reichstag of August the sixth, 1935.
A: May I answer that by quoting from Hitler’s well-known address at the Nuremburg Rally when he said, “Half of all Germans are women.” But of course that was merely a deluded fallacy to support his insane ideology.
B: Just as a matter of interest, can you tell me the date of the Nuremburg Rally?
B: The year even?
On a point of fact, the Japanese pioneered aerial bombing of civilians in China.Frank Whittle patented a design for a jet engine in 1930. I happen to know that the Gestapo commonly wore shoes but that doesn’t make shoes any more sinister or “dark,” but then I guess you need intriguing headlines to draw readers to this site. ;)
Now that is funny (shoes and all) and clever, too.
However in my student days I actually studied western Philo and did not have time to learn how to destroy a debating opponent. I refer anyone to the Stanford Encylopedia of Philo, JP Sartre, in particular. You may begin to sense that FM is on to something beyond Hugo Boss.
Hugo Boss suits are excellent, and rank high among the NAZIs contributions to western civ.
But I suspect this post strike to close to our heart for much comment.
Comments to posts tend to come from the expressions of the darkness in our souls. Posts about war and torture bring forth those overcome with bloodlust. Posts about expansion of the national security state bring forth our fascists. Posts about climate science bring forth anti-intellectuals, who see science only as a stick to further their politics.
Posts about the dark origins of these things spark closed eyes. Move along, nothing to see here.
I am unclear what you are saying. So you believe that the theory presented here is false, that were have not been “infected” by NAZI darkness? Perhaps so; it is hardly something I can prove.
Your specific objections, however…
(1). “On a point of fact, the Japanese pioneered aerial bombing of civilians in China.”
Yes. No military innovation appears without pioneers. However the Germans have priority here. In WW1 they dropped aprox 6 thousand bombs on England using airships. In the Spanish Civil War they provided Franco the tools and training for his bombing of civilians.
But I said “strategic bombing of cities”, which is (however arbitrary) usually considered to start with the Blitz.
(2). “Frank Whittle patented a design for a jet engine in 1930.”
A turbojet is a prop turned by a turbine. Not a true jet engine.
(3). “I happen to know that the Gestapo commonly wore shoes but that doesn’t make shoes any more sinister or “dark,” ”
I made that exact point at some length in this post. It is central to the message of the post. Did you think I was condemning banning smoking in restaurants? Condemning the Interstate Highway System? Wearing Boss suits? Geez…
Our Editing Team has thrown a red flag on my answer. Whittle was the inventor of the turbojet — which is a true engine.
I checked my answer before typing, obviously suffering brain failure while doing so — since I still got it wrong.
Apologies for any resulting confusion.
Is this a commentary on the past, or a prediction for the future?
Are Americans the modern equivalent of pre-war Germans? If so, then will there be another group of people scapegoated for society’s ills? I other words, will there be another holocaust? Who will be the Czechoslovakia, or the Poland of this modern dynamic? Do Americans even want more living space? The modern economy is much more complex than it was in the 1930’s, as are international connections, so I don’t think things will play out as a reflection of the past, although maybe a rhyme.
Demographic scapegoats are quite common still in the modern world. I could imagine regional animosities and jealousies fomenting into something more substantial. Maybe inter-regional graft, or even de facto cross-border property seizures, justified by notions of innate superiority, either economic, social, or religious, could become a big feature of the political future of the USA.
will there be another group of people scapegoated for society’s ills?
“Sit down,” says Fred Phelps, rumored ogre, with an effusive Southern graciousness. “But I got to tell you, you know we’re going to preach the word, the same thing I’ve been preaching for 46 years, and it’s supremely, supremely irrelevant to us what anybody thinks or says. “You get a little bit of this message I’m preaching, you can’t ask for anything more. God hates fags-that’s a synopsis.”
I regret to say that it took me a while to understand what you meant, who was the group scapegoated for society’s ills. Evidence that I have not taken my own advice about a high awareness of the Third Reich & the lesson it provides us.
You raise many important questions! I keep my win/lost forecasting record shiny by making few predictions. But I will venture some thoughts on these matters.
* Demographic pressures will rise among the emerging worlds as their populations enter the last and most dangerous stage of growth — those with large fractions under 30 or 25 years old. Wars are an easy way to get rid of troublesome unemployed young men. Only among non-nuke powers, of course.
* What happens in developed nations that fall into evil? As the world learned in after 1932, that’s difficult to reliably forecast. Understanding the minds of Satan and his minions is beyond imagining for most of us. But it will not be good, and probably be different than the NAZIs (the abyss is the source of creativity, after all).
* Will another nation fall into evil? Yes. Who? When? Not knowable, but we’re responsible only that it does not happen to us. At all costs we are responsible for preventing this, as the people and institutions of Germany failed in the 1920s and 1930s (most especially, IMO, the Christian churches — who saw evil and didn’t recognize it).
I dissagree with a proposition that US inherited something from Nazi kulture. Nazi did not do nothing new that wasn’t done before, yes they used different means and language in that process, but such goals were pursued and acomplished many times in human history.
What Nazi were doing was given logical framework and formal name since the scale and time compression of their succes enabled it to see it with different eyes. Now, humanity was appalled at nature of humanity and it is studied and formalized in order to prevent the same process next time.
Stanford Prison Experiment gives answers to abillity of human to change under circumstances giving themselves variety of rationalizations for unspeakable evils. Give such processes a new name as it was done after WWII and future generations would think it was a new process. A Language change over time will confusse enyone not comprehending a historical description of a situation that is in different palce at the different time but in goals and internal processes is the same.
Holocaust is a new word for a genocide which were achieved many times in history in different circumpstances with different tribes. Sistemic nature it was done wasn’t something new given the industrial abilities at times.
Propaganda was always done but given communication speeds troughout history it would look as something new. And propaganda was finaly given a whole new name since mass communication was new thing at the time.
Autobahn and other technological achievements were part of any longer term war or long term professional military specialization.
Any society is capable to go the way of Nazi regime and it will have brand new rationalizations since Nazi ones are allready used and can be warned against. Put any society in similar circumstances as Germany from the times and there are a lot of chances to go the same way.
General conditions under which Nazi succeded: Large percentage of the world population experienced change in economic conditions and after a long desperation were full of anger and decision never to let similar thing hapen again. Those that caused such economic hardships were unable to solve the problems but were providing range of rationalizations but blaming another group of people were finding the fertilest ground among the masses. Along comes a “Prophet” that solved the problem (Hitler with hard control and authority implemented Keynes’s theories employed all that wanted to join)- Solving such economic problem in short time it gave him unprecedented respect and following of previously hungy and angry populace which became set on to preventing repeat of the past from which they just pulled out.
It was easy to present them a new rationalization on who was to blame for such past from a person that suffered from multiple frustrations and hungry for power. Anger had to be pointed toward a goal and he gave it them. At the same time, another president in the same situation did not go for such goal: FDR also used Keynes theories and employed angry and hungry population but did not give them the fake rationalizations and FDR became only president with 4 terms.
You raise two points. I’ll take the small one first.
“Nazi did not do nothing new that wasn’t done before, yes they used different means and language in that process, but such goals were pursued and acomplished many times in human history.”
I agree fully, and did not imply that their social illness of NAZIism was new — just its expression in social and physical engineering (ie, from techniques of propaganda to jets). But the underlying social dynamics are ancient, probably (as experiments have shown) inherent. That’s what I meant by this:
Now for the big one:
“”I dissagree with a proposition that US inherited something from Nazi kulture.”
We can only guess at such things, of course. But Germany went first, and in some ways we appear to be following (tomorrow’s post gives one example). Did we “contract this” (to use a medical analogy) from Germany or generate it ourselves? Who can say? I believe it does not matter.
More important than that is IMO to see the similarity, and understand that we too can fall into evil. Our “city on the hill”, American exceptionalism is armour for our self-esteem, but not protection for our souls.
That’s why I believe Godwin’s Law should NOT be considered as a normative statement, in the sense of ruling as illegitimate comparisons to the Third Reich.
The nazis still fascinate us. An entire city of libraries could be filled with books about the nazis. They have become the dead metaphors of history. Fabius asks if they had some essential germ that america is at risk of catching? Fabius hands off to Bloom, who passes to Nietszche, who scores! The Death of God! The rise of Super men! Viola!
It’s predictable that any article discussing the darker side of the origins of American society or modernity which cast doubt on the peerless excellence of The Greatest Nation ® The World Has Ever Known ™ © will bring out commenters spewing derision in the same manner that lancing a boil sprays a three-foot jet of pus.
The extraordinarily close cultural ties twixt Germany and America seem to have been pushed into an orwellian memoyr hole in the wake of WW I and WW II. However, German-Americans still remain by far our largest cultural bloc, with some 25% of all Americans decending from German immigrants. (Far more than from English or Irish ancestors, surprisingly.)
America’s system of higher education is built entirely on the German model. Our highway system is patterned directly after Germany’s, as is our space program, our military reform movement (currently focused on 3GW maneuver warfare as advocated by William S. Lind’s new manual for the Marine Corps, a form of modern land warfare invented by the Germans in the closing days of WW I and perfected by Guderian in the lightning blitzkrieg through the Ardennes in 1940). Most of all, America’s entire sense of theater and spectacle is based around the Nazi regalia. You only need to watch absurdly proto-Nietzschian spectacles like the current movie Pacific Rim or go to any major rock concert to see vivid echoes of Triumph of the Will and the techno-primitivist gigantism of Leni Riefenstahl’s spectacles.
Entertainments feature supermen and giant mechanical wunderwaffen…politics based around charismatic figures who place themselves above and outside the framework of the law…demonization of “different-looking” minorities who get rounded up without trial or charges and tortured or murdered without regard for the rule of law…pundits who declare “the constitution is not a suicide pact” while openly advocating the extermination of their ideological opponents…
…Does any of this sound familiar?
I would suggest that FM is getting a violent response because he’s hit a nerve.
“The Greatest Nation ® The World Has Ever Known ™ © ”
Who owns those marks? They must be a gold mine!
“FM is getting a violent response because he’s hit a nerve.”
This is a quiet, mild comment thread. Nothing like the climate change discussions — where citing climate scientists and the IPCC brings forth fevered fantasy from anti-intellectual climate alarmists (sprinkle peer-reviewed research on them and they melt).
It’s almost somnolent compared to the threads about
economics in 2008 (recessions are not possible under Bush the Great!), or
our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (we can win if you’d just believe in fairies) — or
torture (scores of people auditioning for jobs with a US Gestapo).
“Taken as a parody of S&S, the book hits all its targets. There is the Hero, the Alpha Male with his muscles of steel and his clear eyes and his manifest destiny; …” http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/1/leguin1art.htm
Le Guin points out one possible culprit, wounded masculinity!
With all due respects, it is hardly surprising that two Western 20th/early21st century societies share features in common. I realize you have further posts coming.
But as things stand right now, a pussy cat and a sabre tooth likewise share much.
My point is not that there are similarities among western societies.
My point is that we deny the most problematic of these similarities. Awareness of threats is the key to managing them.
Scapegoats…let’s see: Hispanics? The biggest boogeymen among conservatives/Republicans are Hispanics. Hispanics are the largest minority in the nation and growing. At some point in the next few decades, the states that were once New Spain/Mexico will revert back to their roots, at least demographically. Once that happens and Hispanics decide to flex their political muscles, it will spell trouble for the GOP.
Hispanics come from a different culture, are primarily Roman Catholic and speak a different language. In addition, Hispanics also may look different depending on whether Native American or African blood is mixed in. It would not take much for Republicans, already a stones throw away from being fascist (Franco/Pinochet/Argentine Junta Style) and being better organized than Democrats, to walk the US further down that dark path if they regain power. As is, with the Voting Rights Act defanged and congressional districts gerrymandered their favor
All the Republicans need now is a Darth Sidious of their own to lead the way and con the rest of us into electing him/her President.
Provocative speculations! Brilliant, too.
No matter how bad I find our situation, I am shown that it can become worse.
Unfortunately most people that comment on NAZI’ism have never read Mein Kampf, where Hitler laid down, pretty much exactly what he intended to do and his philosophy.
They also mistake fascism for National Socialism (ie NAZI). Fascism was invented by Mussollini, which, at its heart, was a seamless bond between Govt and Big Business (eg the US by that definition is now fascist state, but it is not a NAZI state).
They also don’t credit it with its successes, like full employment in 3 years … and that re-militarisation happened after the economy was fixed. Unlike Mussolini he created an economic and social revolution, then did a military expansion. Mussolini tried to create a military expansion to create an economic and social revolution.
That he (this is the socialism part) broke down the German class system, which was as (perhaps even more) rigid than the English one.
Pre war the average German’s (non Gypsy, non Jew, non mentally impaired, non gay, non social democrat, non communist, etc that is) standard of living was well beyond the average British or American’s. This was reflected in very simple terms, like height and weight. 5 foot nothing British soldiers going up against much taller (and non rickets impacted) Germans was a regular feature.
Note that list of the ‘excluded .. and sooner or later dead’, would resonate with a lot of British and Americans .. and French and Polish and Austrian … well a lot, then …. and now.
Hitler admired the British Empire, for being able to dominate so much of the World with so few people. Right to the end he thought that war between them was a mistake (they should have been partners he thought and said repeatedly even in bunker at the end).
And the idea for lebensraum (from his own words though not in MK)? One of the sources of that is what the US did. The superior race expanding and exterminating the original inhabitants. Taking the land and resources. He went east, the US went west.
Unfortunately he made that great mistake that so many have done and never recovered from, as the great Montgomery said: there are 3 rules of warfare “never attack Russia, never attack Russia, never attack Russia”.
But back to his love of the (as he called them) the English. Read Mein Kampf and his analysis of British long term European (pre WW1) diplomacy and aims was pretty much correct.
But read it, turgid, badly written, et al. But if you have any aspiration to understand WW2 its causes and what happened, then it is a must read.
For those less interested in that then download it, delete every reference to ‘Jew’, some statements will amaze you.
Arguably he was mad (then again Stalin or Churchill?) but he was not stupid by any means. And quite a bit of the ‘practical’ advice about running an organisation to meet a desired ideology would be considered, today, as SOP.
“Unfortunately most people that comment on NAZI’ism have never read Mein Kampf, where Hitler laid down, pretty much exactly what he intended to do and his philosophy.”
I don’t want to imply any similarity on a moral level, but conservatives in America have been quite clear about their intent to roll back much of the New Deal — and even restore key parts of the Gilded Age. Several key documents have surfaced from the 1970s and early 1980s describing how they intend to accomplish that.
At the time those seemed insane goals. Now they’re just news. Too bad the Democrats didn’t take them seriously, or copy some of their methods — when they had the resources to do so (e.g., building a network of well-training and financed activists starting in college — as the SHAME project has so well documented).
It has been surmised that a big reason that Edward VIII abdicated, other than the affair, was his sympathy for Hitler. Had Edward been on the throne when WWII started, things may have been different. A sympathetic Britain on Hitler’s West Flank would have allowed Hitler’s full attention to be placed on the USSR and kept the US from fighting in Europe. Could Hitler have then entered into a non-aggression pact w/ the US? Why not? Americans and Germans had more in common then, and still do, than is realized.
In my mind a worst case scenario for the US is a Spanish/South American or South African style of fascism.
A dirty war being waged by a fully fascist US gov’t is not out of the realm of feasibility. One more sizable economic downturn and the subsequent election of a GOP president and a GOP controlled senate is all it would take to start the ball rolling. Add in the FOXification of the rest of the media and you will end any ideological battles for good(By the way, conservative think tanks and media have effectively won this battle). This will also neutralize liberals in the NE and West since they will not have an easy way of disseminating info (The threat of job loss will also work here). Net neutrality will also end via legislation further blocking opposing memes from sprouting.
Next would be the effective disenfranchisement of blacks and latinos in the midwest and former Confederate states (The Dem’s biggest failure was allowing the GOP/Tea Party to take over state legislatures in a census year. They have a structural grip on power for now). After that would come the quiet purge of leftists. Mass protest movements will be controlled to let off steam and dissipate naturally, or will be crushed by drones and law enforcement infiltration if they get too far.
The end result will be white minority gov’t controlling a majority non-white population Apartheid style.
Sorry for the long, bleak, speculative post. I just wonder if people realize how tenuous things are right now.
That’s a great question, and one I too wonder about. There are polls which ask such question, but I suspect the answers are determined more by politics (must be bad if the wrong party is in the White House) and where we are in the economic cycle.
If the comments on the FM website are an indicator — and if I’m interpreting them correctly — the number of people with deep concern is rising. BUT not to the point where the number of people willing to act is increasing — which is all that matters.
People on the Titanic were worried when it visibly tilted. But they went passively to their doom nonetheless. There are many things they could have done, but for the missing ingredient: adequate leadership.
I think there is an analogy to America in there, in several forms.
Good point about Edward. I always wondered about Churchill’s support for him (which wrecked his career, saved only by WW2). Was there some calculus at work, or just romanticism?
As for the US, I don’t believe we can do more than sketch possible scenarios. While the direction of trends seems clear, life doesn’t run along rails. However, you sketch some sobering possible outcomes.
You are correct regarding speculation. The conditions are ripe for a fascist gov’t to emerge, but that path is not fully set yet. What is scary to me is how the GOP is fighting an all out war against Obama, while Obama seems to be willing to engage in give and take. Why this screams of Chamberlain era Britain to me I do not know. I do know how history has judged Chamberlains pre-WWII actions, however, and they are not pretty..
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AC, the US is already fascist, as determined by the inventor of fascism: Mussolini.
Want proof: The US has now to publicly promise, in public no less, that ‘it wont kill or torture Snowdon’ as an appeal to extradite him from Russia.
That is how far the US has fallen.
And god damn you to hell those people that have destroyed that once great country.
Old Skeptic: These are Emilio Gentile’s Tenet’s of Fascism from Wikipedia:
1: A mass movement with multi-class membership in which prevail, among the leaders and the militants, the middle sectors, in large part new to political activity, organized as a party militia, that bases its identity not on social hierarchy or class origin but on a sense of comradeship, believes itself invested with a mission of national regeneration, considers itself in a state of war against political adversaries and aims at conquering a monopoly of political power by using terror, parliamentary politics, and deals with leading groups, to create a new regime that destroys parliamentary democracy. Do we fit this? No.
2: An ‘anti-ideological’ and pragmatic ideology that proclaims itself anti-materialist, anti-individualist, antiliberal, antidemocratic, anti-Marxist, is populist and anti-capitalist in tendency, expresses itself aesthetically more than theoretically by means of a new political style and by myths, rites, and symbols as a lay religion designed to acculturate, socialize, and integrate the faith of the masses with the goal of creating a ‘new man’. Do we fit this? No.
3: A culture founded on mystical thought and the tragic and activist sense of life conceived of as the manifestation of the will to power, on the myth of youth as artificer of history, and on the exaltation of the militarization of politics as the model of life and collective activity. Do we fit this? No, but getting there.
4: A totalitarian conception of the primacy of politics, conceived of as an integrating experience to carry out the fusion of the individual and the masses in the organic and mystical unity of the nation as an ethnic and moral community, adopting measures of discrimination and persecution against those considered to be outside this community either as enemies of the regime or members of races considered to be inferior or otherwise dangerous for the integrity of the nation. Do we fit this? No, but the GOP is getting there.
5: A civil ethic founded on total dedication to the national community, on discipline, virility, comradeship, and the warrior spirit. Do we fit this? No. The idea of collective action for the greater good has to be relearned. Ask anyone who has had to lead a volunteer organization what it is like.
6: A single state party that has the task of providing for the armed defense of the regime, selecting its directing cadres, and organizing the masses within the state in a process of permanent mobilization of emotion and faith. Do we fit this? No, though some say that we do.
7: A police apparatus that prevents, controls, and represses dissidence and opposition, even by using organized terror. Do we fit this? We are on our way here.
8: A political system organized by hierarchy of functions named from the top and crowned by the figure of the ‘leader,’ invested with a sacred charisma, who commands, directs, and coordinates the activities of the party and the regime. Do we fit this? No, we have come close on the GOP side and some will say the same w/ Obama.
9; A corporative organization of the economy that suppresses trade union liberty, broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power, yet preserving private property and class divisions. Do we fit this? We’re getting there on this one.
10: A foreign policy inspired by the myth of national power and greatness, with the goal of imperialist expansion. Do we fit this? The first part, yes. The second part, not directly.
I will let you decide for yourself if you think the US fits these characteristics yet.
That’s a great comment, and I agree. I ran a shorter list in What will replace the Constitution in Americans’ hearts? Let’s check for Fascism.
These things — democracy, fascism, etc — can take different forms at different times. It’s important IMO to see the similarities, and avoid excess formalism about the details.
Another interesting question: how quickly might we close the gap between where we are and fascism? It depends on the resiliance of our institutions. My guess (emphasis on guess) is that most are quite weak, and under stress might fail with astonishing speed. Even so, that might take decades. It took ony a decade in Germany, quite weak after WWI and the following hyperinflation. Even so it took the Great Depression to bring down the Wiemar Republic, allowing Hitler to take power.
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I wonder if the French Revolution did not really get this whole game going. In a way the Nazi merely emulated the Jesuit and the Communist. German modernity was there in WWI. England was losing the trade war with German technics.
Great point! So much of what’s happened finds roots in the French Revolution. Many historians believe it had a larger effect on western culture than the American revolution.
This post was listed on the daily links at Naked Capitalism. The comments are fascinating.
Interpreting such things is highly subjective. That said, these look to me as if this post hit a sensitive spot. Rather than rebuttal to specifics, there are ritualistic denunciations and reading FAILS (rebuttals to things I did not say).