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Sunday, January 26, 2003
FASCISM, ESPECIALLY IN THE WAR ON TERRORISM, CLARIFIED AS A CONCEPT
1) FASCISM AND THE WAR ON TERRORISM
A little clarification about "fascism" and its meaning is in order, particularly since our commentaries here refer repeatedly to Islamo-fascism, Islamo-fascist totalitarianism like Iraq's, Syria's, and Iran's regimes, and Islamo-fascist fundamentalism of the militant sort that flourishes in Shia Iran, Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, Taliban Afghanistan, and in movements like Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Note in passing that the concept of fascism for analytical purproses, as opposed to stigmatizing political opponents for propaganda purposes, has been called into question the last two or three decades by certain specialists in interwar European history. Why? The more they studied specific fascist-like countries ---Mussolini's Italy, Hitler's Germany, reactionary and clerical Spain under Franco or Portugal ruled by Salazar, and a half dozen to a dozen more fascist-like states in East Europe both before and after WWII --- the more they found noticeable differences. So what? Specific historical inquiry
almost always ends up underscoring the differences for ALL the specific subjects they study: countries, cultures, ethnic and other sub-national groups, and for that matter individuals as opposed to human-kind or national character and so on. Ultimately, to clarify with the last example, no two individuals even within a family --- not even identical twins --- are the same in all respects, a banal observation that any psychotherapist could verify in 5 minutes discussion of personalities and their differences among their clients despite similar DSM-IV diagnoses.
And yet of course all humans have a great deal in common about which you can genealize, irrespective of these differences, and in contrast to other species. Generalizing observations are essential not just to science and social science work, but to make sense of the world. Fascism, for all its pejorative misuses as an emotional and propaganda tag, has a clear common core
2) FASCISM'S ORIGINS
It's a term that was born with Mussolini's fascist movement, which gained control of Italy in 1922 --- inspired in no large part by Leninist Bolshevism (Mussolini and all the other leading fascist leaders were one-time socialists), only substituting nationalist struggles against the "Have-Powers" (Britain, France, the US) for class struggles against the Capitalists --- and which in turn inspired Hitler and a host of tinpot imitators throughout almost all of West and East Europe up to the Soviet Union's borders. There were even fascist or Nazi movements in Britain, several in France, and in Holland and some of Scandinavia; and they gained control in variations of core-fascism of the Mussolini sort in Spain, Portugal, and almost all of East Europe by 1941.
The core-fascism of Mussolini's had several crux doctrines and tenets:
1. Hatred of bourgeois democracy, bourgeois civilization (unheroic, money-grubbing compromisers), and bourgeois liberalism and moderate conservatism.
2. Hatred no less of Marxisms of all sorts, including Mussolini's own former socialism, with its stress on class-conflicts that divided the national community against one another. Substitution in its place of virulent nationalism and a struggle between the Have-Not countries (Italy, its allies later) against the Rich Capitalist Democracies (France, Britain, the US).
3. Glorification of the State, the Cult of Personality, the Charismatic Leader's Dominance of the Mass Fascist Party, and the Dominance of the State by the Party. Dictatorship, Secret Police Rule, and Terror Against Fascist Enemies at Home.
4. State-control of the Economy. Not necessarily nationalization (a Marxist doctrine), but state-direction of the private economy, especially to make it powerful and better equipped for war and imperial expansion.
5. The Cult of Heroic He-man Militarism, and Imperial Expansion and Glory, with struggle and war seen as the true test of the Survival-of-the Fittest (a militarized Social-Darwinianism).
6. Substitution of the Corporatist State --- the national community divided as in medieval times into organic, cooperative estates (classes) --- for disgusting, timid bourgeois Parliamentarism.
7. In principle, individualism was denounced as bourgeois materialism, and the individual was to be seen as part of an organic national community, under statist direction.
8. Mass Propaganda, Mass Rallies, Mass Demonstrations . . . the charismatic leader directly communing with the nationalistic masses (In the Hitlerian version, Ein Volk, Ein Staat, Ein Fuerher: One People, One State, One Leader.
3) HITLER AND NAZISM
Hitler's Nazism adopted all these fascist principles, adding to it an extreme Social-Darwinian racism (Aryans, sub-humans, enslavement or extermination of the sub-humans) as an ideological twist with appeal to the Germans and others. This kind of ideological racism was generally foreign to most of Italian fascism, though eventually in WWII, under intense German pressure – especially once the Anglo-Americans invaded southern Italy and liberated Rome and Mussolini was reduced to a German-client in the North until he was captured and killed by Partisan forces --- the Fascists began delivering Italian Jews to the Germans who, in turn, moved them to the death camps in East Europe.
About the only other addition of Nazism here was that Hitler ruled a far more powerful, far more disciplined, and hence far more destruction and dangerous state.
4) CLERICAL FASCISM IN THE INTERWAR PERIOD
Clerical-fascism is the term that was coined to make sense of the close alliance in the rule of Franco in Spain, Salazar in Portugal, and their imitators in East Europe with either the Catholic or Orthodox churches (overwhelmingly the former). And generally, at least in the Iberian countries, which remained neutral in WWII, the regimes approached a more reactionary form of statism, modified militarism, and less ideological form of rule, despite the glorification of nationalism, hierarchy, and traditional Catholicism.
The fascists in Spain operated on the edges of the Franco coalition, known as the Falange Espanola Tradicionalista, merging with Franco's Carlist militia in 1937 during the civil war that overthrew the Republic. Though it was recognized as the official party of the Franco Nationalist Regime, it never had the influence that Fascist ideology and the party hierarchy had in Mussolini's Italy; and after WWII, as the Francoist regime was transformed into something like a rightwing developmental state (similar to South Korea and Taiwan during their military corporatist days from 1950 until the late 1980s), its already weak influence virtually disappeared. Franco himself died in 1975, the direction of the Spanish state given over to the monarchy, which in turn guided Spain quickly toward a democratic regime. Portugal's dictatorship was overthrown about the same time, thanks to a military coup of middle-level officers, and they for their part also transformed Portugal into a democratic regime. Both joined the EU in the mid-1980s, with Spain joining NATO soon afterwards (Portugal had been a member since NATO's founding).
5) POST WWII DEVELOPMENTALISM AND ADAPTATION OF FASCISM TO ECONOMICALLY BACKWARD SOCIETIES
Many of the statist-socialisms and statist-tyrannies in the developing countries, especially in the first two or three decades after colonial revolutions, have been clear links to Mussolini's fascist solutions to Italian backwardness, internal class and ethnic conflicts, and weak power internationally..
Essentially, fascism is a movement of elitism --- with an appeal to purified nationalism or purified traditional religion or some other anti-liberal, anti-western doctrine of social identity (Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism, revivalist and radical Islam) --- that appeals to the frustrations and resentments and, oppositely, hopes for redemption of "humiliated peoples" . . . blaming national backwardness or former colonial status on foreign enemies (even in the post-colonial period) and justifying a large statist authoritarianism and statist control or direction of the economy, along with dictatorship, the cult of personality, and secret police rule. The ideologies invoked are usually incoherent or fantasized mumbo-jumbo of some ideal past when "true Islam" or "true African man" or true "Arab man" lived harmoniously, according to some ideal nationalist or religious or Pan-People code of behavior, uncorrupted by western capitalism and liberalism and "sham" democracy.
The fascist-Arab states of Syria and Iraq are closest to the Mussolini model, the Baath Parties that rule them having drawn explicitly on Nazism especially (we sent long commentaries and documents on this before, including the role of the Mufti of Jerusalem, the spiritual head of the Palestinian people, who lived in Berlin in WWII, was a fervent Nazi enthusiast, helped form the mass-exterminating Haader SS-Division among Bosnia Muslims, and urged that the extermination of the Jewish people be practiced in the Middle East. The Mufti in turn influenced Yasser Arafat directly, to the point he claimed that Arafat was a blood relation, and Colonel Nasser of Egypt, the leading Pan-Arabist of the 1950s and 1960s). About all that distinguishes the two regimes is that Saddam Hussein is a much more megalomanical risk-taking sociopath, as compared to his rival in Syria, Hafez al-Assad, a militarist who seized power and ruled as an autocrat in that country from 1971 until 2000 when he died, his successor al-Assad-Jr, or Jr himself. On a different level, Syria's economy has only limited petroleum sources, and hence limited funds for its WMD programs, whereas Iraq has the largest petroleum reserves in the Middle East next to Saudi Arabia's.
The Iranian clerical regime is much more like the clerical-fascist regimes of East Europe that allied with the Nazis in WWII. Its official hostility to the West is supplemented by its devotion to an extreme form of radical Shia Islam, along with constant support for Islamist terrorisms. Beginning in the mid-1990s, elections were held --- with the mullahs-in-charge weeding out political parties they opposed --- and to the diehards' surprise, moderate mullahs and their supporters favoring more freedom came to power in parliament and the presidency. Since then, a stark backlash --- including assassination of reformers, initimidation of others, and intensified secret police repression and jailings --- has undermined most of the hopes attached by the masses of Iranians, shown even in government-sponsored polls to hate or oppose the regime, for peaceful change.
Taliban Afghanistan comes the closest to a brutal, violence-worshipping regime, hoping to use terrorism as a means of destroying Western influence and restoring somehow the glory of Islam and purified Sunni Islam (very close to Wahhabi Islam in Saudi Arabia) to a dominant role in the world. As with the Iranians, those in Afghanistan who lived under brutal Islamist radical-fascism have learned to hate and des;ite their oppressors.