Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fascism and the Future, Part One: Up From Newspeak

Over the nearly eight years that I’ve been posting these weekly essays on the shape of the deindustrial future, I’ve found that certain questions come up as reliably as daffodils in April or airport food on a rough flight. Some of those fixate on topics I’ve discussed here recently, such as the vaporware du jour that’s allegedly certain to save industrial civilization and the cataclysm du jour that’s just as allegedly certain to annihilate it. Still, I’m glad to say that not all the recurring questions are as useless as these.
One of these latter deserves a good deal more attention than I’ve given it so far:  whether the Long Descent of industrial society will be troubled by a revival of fascism. It’s a reasonable question to ask, since the fascist movements of the not so distant past were given their shot at power by the political failure and economic implosion of Europe after the First World War, and “political failure and economic implosion” is a tolerably good description of the current state of affairs in the United States and much of Europe these days. For that matter, movements uncomfortably close to the fascist parties of the 1920s and 1930s already exist in a number of European countries.  Those who dismiss them as a political irrelevancy might want to take a closer look at history, for that same mistake was made quite regularly by politicians and pundits most of a century ago, too.

Nonetheless, with one exception—a critique some years back of talk in the peak oil scene about the so-called “feudal-fascist” society the rich were supposedly planning to ram down our throats—I’ve done my best to avoid the issue so far. This isn’t because it’s not important.  It’s because the entire subject is so cluttered with doubletalk and distortions of historical fact that communication on the subject has become all but impossible. It’s going to take an entire post just to shovel away some of the manure that’s piled up in this Augean stable of our collective imagination, and even then I’m confident that many of the people who read this will manage to misunderstand every single word I say.

There’s a massive irony in that situation. When George Orwell wrote his tremendous satire on totalitarian politics, 1984, one of the core themes he explored was the debasement of language for political advantage.  That habit found its lasting emblem in Orwell’s invented language Newspeak, which was deliberately designed to get in the way of clear thinking.  Newspeak remains fictional—well, more or less—but the entire subject of fascism, and indeed the word itself, has gotten tangled up in a net of debased language and incoherent thinking as extreme as anything Orwell put in his novel.

These days, to be more precise, the word “fascism” mostly functions as what S.I. Hayakawa used to call a snarl word—a content-free verbal noise that expresses angry emotions and nothing else. One of my readers last week commented that for all practical purposes, the word “fascism” could be replaced in everyday use with “Oogyboogymanism,” and of course he’s quite correct; Aldous Huxley pointed out many years ago that already in his time, the word “fascism” meant no more than “something of which one ought to disapprove.”  When activists on the leftward end of today’s political spectrum insist that the current US government is a fascist regime, they thus mean exactly what their equivalents on the rightward end of the same spectrum mean when they call the current US government a socialist regime: “I hate you.”  It’s a fine example of the way that political discourse nowadays has largely collapsed into verbal noises linked to heated emotional states that drowns out any more useful form of communication.

The debasement of our political language quite often goes to absurd lengths. Back in the 1990s, for example, when I lived in Seattle, somebody unknown to me went around spraypainting “(expletive) FACISM” on an assortment of walls in a couple of Seattle’s hip neighborhoods. My wife and I used to while away spare time at bus stops discussing just what “facism” might be. (Her theory was that it’s the prejudice that makes businessmen think that employees in front office jobs should be hired for their pretty faces rather than their job skills; mine, recalling the self-righteous declaration of a vegetarian cousin that she would never eat anything with a face, was that it’s the belief that the moral value of a living thing depends on whether it has a face humans recognize as such.) Beyond such amusements, though, lay a real question:  what on earth did the graffitist think he was accomplishing by splashing that phrase around oh-so-liberal Seattle? Did he perhaps think that members of the American Fascist Party who happened to be goose-stepping through town would see the slogan and quail?

To get past such stupidities, it’s going to be necessary to take the time to rise up out of the swamp of Newspeak that surrounds the subject of fascism—to reconnect words with their meanings, and political movements with their historical contexts. Let’s start in the obvious place. What exactly does the word “fascism” mean, and how did it get from there to its current status as a snarl word?

That takes us back to southern Italy in 1893. In that year, a socialist movement among peasant farmers took to rioting and other extralegal actions to try to break the hold of the old feudal gentry on the economy of the region; the armed groups fielded by this movement were called fasci, which might best be translated “group” or “band.” Various other groups in the troubled Italian political scene borrowed the label thereafter, and it was also used for special units of shock troops in the First World War—Fasci di Combattimento, “combat groups,” were the exact equivalent of the Imperial German Army’s Sturmabteilungen, “storm troops.”

After the war, in 1919, an army veteran and former Socialist newspaperman named Benito Mussolini borrowed the label Fasci di Combattimento for his new political movement, about the same time that another veteran on the other side of the Alps was borrowing the term Sturmabteilung for his party’s brown-shirted bullies. The movement quickly morphed into a political party and adapted its name accordingly, becoming the Fascist Party, and the near-total paralysis of the Italian political system allowed Mussolini to seize power with the March on Rome in 1922.  The secondhand ideology Mussolini’s aides cobbled together for their new regime accordingly became known as Fascism—“Groupism,” again, is a decent translation, and yes, it was about as coherent as that sounds. Later on, in an attempt to hijack the prestige of the Roman Empire, Mussolini identified Fascism with another meaning of the word fasci—the bundle of sticks around an axe that Roman lictors carried as an emblem of their authority—and that became the emblem of the Fascist Party in its latter years.

Of all the totalitarian regimes of 20th century Europe, it has to be said, Mussolini’s was far from the most bloodthirsty. The Fascist regime in Italy carried out maybe two thousand political executions in its entire lifespan; Hitler’s regime committed that many political killings, on average, every single day the Twelve-Year Reich was in power, and when it comes to political murder, Hitler was a piker compared to Josef Stalin or Mao Zedong.  For that matter, political killings in some officially democratic regimes exceed Italian Fascism’s total quite handily.  Why, then, is “fascist” the buzzword of choice to this day for anybody who wants to denounce a political system?  More to the point, why do most Americans say “fascist,” mean “Nazi,” and then display the most invincible ignorance about both movements?

There’s a reason for that, and it comes out of the twists of radical politics in 1920s and 1930s Europe.

The founding of the Third International in Moscow in 1919 forced radical parties elsewhere in Europe to take sides for or against the Soviet regime. Those parties that joined the International were expected to obey Moscow’s orders without question, even when those orders clearly had much more to do with Russia’s expansionist foreign policy than they did with the glorious cause of proletarian revolution; at the same time, many idealists still thought the Soviet regime, for all its flaws, was the best hope for the future. The result in most countries was the emergence of competing Marxist parties, a Communist party obedient to Moscow and a Socialist party independent of it.

In the bare-knuckle propaganda brawl that followed, Mussolini’s regime was a godsend to Moscow. Since Mussolini was a former socialist who had abandoned Marx in the course of his rise to power, parties that belonged to the Third International came to use the label “fascist” for those parties that refused to join it; that was their way of claiming that the latter weren’t really socialist, and could be counted on to sell out the proletariat as Mussolini was accused of doing. Later on, when the Soviet Union ended up on the same side of the Second World War as its longtime enemies Britain and the United States, the habit of using “fascist” as an all-purpose term of abuse spread throughout the left in the latter two countries. From there, its current status as a universal snarl word was a very short step.

What made “fascist” so useful long after the collapse of Mussolini’s regime was the sheer emptiness of the word. Even in Italian, “Groupism” doesn’t mean much, and in other languages, it’s just a noise; this facilitated its evolution into an epithet that could be applied to anybody.  The term “Nazi” had most of the same advantages: in most languages, it sounds nasty and doesn’t mean a thing, so it can be flung freely at any target without risk of embarrassment.  The same can’t be said about the actual name of the German political movement headed by Adolf Hitler, which is one reason why next to nobody outside of specialist historical works ever mentions national socialism by its proper name.

That name isn’t simply a buzzword coined by Hitler’s flacks, by the way.  The first national socialist party I’ve been able to trace was founded in 1898 in what’s now the Czech Republic, and the second was launched in France in 1903. National socialism was a recognized position in the political and economic controversies of early 20th century Europe. Fail to grasp that and it’s impossible to make any sense of why fascism appealed to so many people in the bitter years between the wars.  To grasp that, though, it’s necessary to get out from under one of the enduring intellectual burdens of the Cold War.

After 1945, as the United States and the Soviet Union circled each other like rival dogs contending for the same bone, it was in the interest of both sides to prevent anyone from setting up a third option. Some of the nastier details of postwar politics unfolded from that shared interest, and so did certain lasting impacts on political and economic thought. Up to that point, political economy in the western world embraced many schools of thought.  Afterwards, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, the existence of alternatives to representative-democracy-plus-capitalism, on the one hand, and bureaucratic state socialism on the other, became a taboo subject, and remains so in America to this day.

You can gain some sense of what was erased by learning a little bit about the politics in European countries between the wars, when the diversity of ideas was at its height. Then as now, most political parties existed to support the interests of specific social classes, but in those days nobody pretended otherwise. Conservative parties, for example, promoted the interests of the old aristocracy and rural landowners; they supported trade barriers, low property taxes, and an economy biased toward agriculture.  Liberal parties furthered the interests of the bourgeoisie—that is, the urban industrial and managerial classes; they supported free trade, high property taxes, military spending, and colonial expansion, because those were the policies that increased bourgeios wealth and power. 

The working classes had their choice of several political movements. There were syndicalist parties, which sought to give workers direct ownership of the firms for which they worked; depending on local taste, that might involve anything from stock ownership programs for employees to cooperatives and other worker-owned enterprises.  Syndicalism was also called corporatism; “corporation” and its cognates in most European languages could refer to any organization with a government charter, including craft guilds and cooperatives.  It was in that sense that Mussolini’s regime, which borrowed some syndicalist elements for its eclectic ideology, liked to refer to itself as a corporatist system. (Those radicals who insist that this meant fascism was a tool of big corporations in the modern sense are thus hopelessly misinformed—a point I’ll cover in much more detail next week.)

There were also socialist parties, which generally sought to place firms under government control; this might amount to anything from government regulation, through stock purchases giving the state a controlling interest in big firms, to outright expropriation and bureaucratic management. Standing apart from the socialist parties were communist parties, which (after 1919) spouted whatever Moscow’s party line happened to be that week; and there were a variety of other, smaller movements—distributism, social credit, and many more—all of which had their own followings and their own proposed answers to the political and economic problems of the day.

The tendency of most of these parties to further the interests of a single class became a matter of concern by the end of the 19th century, and one result was the emergence of parties that pursued, or claimed to pursue, policies of benefit to the entire nation. Many of them tacked the adjective “national” onto their moniker to indicate this shift in orientation. Thus national conservative parties argued that trade barriers and economic policies focused on the agricultural sector would benefit everyone; national liberal parties argued that free trade and colonial expansion was the best option for everyone; national syndicalist parties argued that giving workers a stake in the firms for which they worked would benefit everyone, and so on. There were no national communist parties, because Moscow’s party line didn’t allow it, but there were national bolshevist parties—in Europe between the wars, a bolshevist was someone who supported the Russian Revolution but insisted that Lenin and Stalin had betrayed it in order to impose a personal dictatorship—which argued that violent revolution against the existing order really was in everyone’s best interests.

National socialism was another position along the same lines. National socialist parties argued that business firms should be made subject to government regulation and coordination in order to keep them from acting against the interests of society as a whole, and that the working classes ought to receive a range of government benefits paid for by taxes on corporate income and the well-to-do. Those points were central to the program of the National Socialist German Workers Party from the time it got that name—it was founded as the German Workers Party, and got the rest of the moniker at the urging of a little man with a Charlie Chaplin mustache who became the party’s leader not long after its founding—and those were the policies that the same party enacted when it took power in Germany in 1933.

If those policies sound familiar, dear reader, they should. That’s the other reason why next to nobody outside of specialist historical works mentions national socialism by name: the Western nations that defeated national socialism in Germany promptly adopted its core economic policies, the main source of its mass appeal, to forestall any attempt to revive it in the postwar world.   Strictly speaking, in terms of the meaning that the phrase had before the beginning of the Second World War, national socialism is one of the two standard political flavors of political economy nowadays. The other is liberalism, and it’s another irony of history that in the United States, the party that hates the word “liberal” is a picture-perfect example of a liberal party, as that term was understood back in the day.

Now of course when people think of the National Socialist German Workers Party nowadays, they don’t think of government regulation of industry and free vacations for factory workers, even though those were significant factors in German public life after 1933.  They think of such other habits of Hitler’s regime as declaring war on most of the world, slaughtering political opponents en masse, and exterminating whole ethnic groups. Those are realities, and they need to be recalled.  It’s crucial, though, to remember that when Germany’s National Socialists were out there canvassing for votes in the years before 1933, they weren’t marching proudly behind banners saying VOTE FOR HITLER SO FIFTY MILLION WILL DIE!  When those same National Socialists trotted out their antisemitic rhetoric, for that matter, they weren’t saying anything the average German found offensive or even unusual; to borrow a highly useful German word, antisemitism in those days was salonfähig, “the kind of thing you can bring into the living room.” (To be fair, it was just as socially acceptable in England, the United States, and the rest of the western world at that same time.)

For that matter, when people talked about fascism in the 1920s and 1930s, unless they were doctrinaire Marxists,  they didn’t use it as a snarl word.  It was the official title of Italy’s ruling party, and a great many people—including people of good will—were impressed by some of the programs enacted by Mussolini’s regime, and hoped to see similar policies put in place in their own countries. Fascism was salonfähig in most industrial countries.  It didn’t lose that status until the Second World War and the Cold War reshaped the political landscape of the western world—and when that happened, the complex reality of early 20th century authoritarian politics vanished behind a vast and distorted shadow that could be, and was, cast subsequently onto anything you care to name.

The downsides to this distortion aren’t limited to a failure of historical understanding.  If a full-blown fascist movement of what was once the standard type were to appear in America today, it’s a safe bet that nobody except a few historians would recognize it for what it is. What’s more, it’s just as safe a bet that many of those people who think they oppose fascism—even, or especially, those who think they’ve achieved something by spraypainting “(expletive) FACISM” on a concrete wall—would be among the first to cheer on such a movement and fall in line behind its banners. How and why that could happen will be the subject of the next two posts.


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John Michael Greer said...

For a variety of reasons, some good and some otherwise, the topic of this week's post is a hot-button issue for a lot of people, and tends to stir up incandescent emotions. I'd like to ask those of my readers who wish to comment to keep that in mind, and make a special effort to stay within the bounds of polite discourse -- keeping in mind that attempted comments that stray beyond those bounds will not be put through. 'Nuf said!

AlanfromBigEasy said...

I learned long ago that fascism was not a coherent political movement - but my analysis from my youth was that fascism was an emotion based political movement controlled by those that not merely wanted power, but almost worshipped power.

So I tend to see any movement where the followers are clearly being driven by emotions - emotions clearly being driven by manipulative & cynical leaders as being "fascist like".

The Tea Party is the clearest current example that I can think of.

I do not see fascism as an ideology but a form of creating and then controlling a political movement.

Any thoughts ?

Kutamun said...

Fascinating , is that a close relation to Fascism ? It imples some form of Enchantment Fascinate - to attract the strong attention of someone engross, captivate , enchant , absorb, beguile, bewitch, enthrall, enrapture, entrance...

Hmmm, i have been busy emailing all our Green members of parliament here in Australia , asking them if they would like to articulate what exactly their philosophical and spiritual underpinnings are . They seem an exlectic bunch of ex marxists , lawyers teachers , doctors and even ex investment bankers and military officers, They are potrayed as communists here in the neo con media , but i suspect this may not be the case . Curiously , they have no extant manifesto .

The Greens began as a movement in west germany in response to the seemingly imminent outbreak of nuclear war between the soviet union and western democracies ; some of its founding members were ex highly decorated Wehrmacht officers who returned from the Russian front with a keen sense of the reality of industrial scale slaughter and an understanding of just how capable mankind was of destroying itself . I understand Hitler was a vegetarian nature and animal loving artist who perhaps also was gay .

I am curious wether the Greens will morph into an anarchist collective of loosely affiliated local MPs , or will they attempt to particiipate in taking the reins of a slowly disintegrating hierarchical industrial system and exercising power that way. Time will tell .

Our Greens have their base and genesis in the surviving temperate rainforests of Tasmania , currently being earmarked for development with a new zeal by the neo con machine in Australia ( extractive industries) .. Tassie possesses a substantial hydro electric scheme , some of the best forests , farmnlands and fresh water supplies in the land

One Tasmanian neo con senate leader at the federal level is the great nephew of an SS. Brigadefuhrer who was Hitlers ambassador to Paris , another neo con senator is a Belgian from the Wallonian region , strong supporters of Nazism .

Greens in Australia seem reluctant to reveal their nature worship to the public or corporate media , if in fact it exists . My intuition tells me they would be better off pursuing decentralised anarchist model, with the writings of Thoreau , Emerson and Goldman as a guide , but they are at the moment a really mixed bag , probably infiltrated by various vested interests ,and heavily engaged in the management of the creaking industrial apparatus ..

Kuta '

M. Stirner said...

One other bit of fascism lore that gets completely overlooked is the total *normalcy* of the Fascist upright arm salute during the 20's and 30's. Today, we recoil at the creepy news footage, but at the time, it was completely mainstream.

Even more bizarre, it was how US schoolchildren performed the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. The hand over the heart thing only started in 1942.

Hard to believe, but true:

What we perceive as bizarre was as American as apple pie back in the day...

Cherokee Organics said...


I'd never considered that the story 1984 was a satire, but it seems obvious now from hindsight.

By the way, nice use of irony in your essay: "Newspeak remains fictional—well, more or less". Very amusing, but with a strong hint of truth.

Quote: "the near-total paralysis of the Italian political system allowed Mussolini to seize power".

I wonder how many people pick up the historical similarities to current political deadlock.

Quote: "argued that business firms should be made subject to government regulation and coordination in order to keep them from acting against the interests of society as a whole, and that the working classes ought to receive a range of government benefits paid for by taxes on corporate income and the well-to-do."

Extreme wealth inequality breeds this sort of wish fulfilment. To be brutally honest though, there is a certain appeal to those stated objectives in your quote.

It is always a bad look when executives on company boards vote themselves a pay rise whilst at the same time sacking employees and/or are at the helm of poorly performing businesses and being rewarded for bad decision making. Nothing breeds anger and resentment quite like those sorts of actions.

Too bad Australia is heading down the path of widening wealth inequality. I'm unsure whether you have heard, but the motor vehicle manufacturing industry in this country is now dead as of 2017 when all three manufacturers will pull out of the country. The final announcement was made a few days ago. In addition to this the largest canning operation in the Southern hemisphere is being closed down too.

I strongly suspect that these people and industries are being cut loose for ideological reasons in a self-defeating attempt by the political process to shore up the current status quo. I could be wrong, but it is just a gut feel. Cutting loose sections of the middle class is perhaps – as you’ve stated before – one way for the system to correct its current imbalances. However, the flow on effects of these decisions will be enormous here and will most probably push us into a semi-permanent recession.

On a note closer to the home front, I'd like to point out that the people and community in this area affected by the recent bushfires have been quite supportive. This is contrary to some peoples comments and expectations that I have read on this very blog.

In addition to this, I'll note - and this may be relevant to your current essay series - that centralised responses breed a lack of local resilience and encourage a certain helplessness.

Also in a peak oil world, such centralised responses as I witnessed by the authorities are probably going to be very difficult to maintain.

It would be nice if they just all backed off and allowed me to learn to manage the forest as needs to be done here.



Richard Larson said...

Well then, my first question will be; what will you term the current political process that holds power in Washington?

Here is an entry to the contest, it came to me as a nightmare last night. I added an, umm, somewhat happy ending. If there are any more nightmares, I'll send them along.

Enrique said...

So the “conservatives” of today are really liberals and the “liberals” are really National Socialists? That’s a difficult thing to wrap my mind around, especially after decades of misleading and frankly dishonest propaganda from both of those factions. But this is one of the reasons why the Archdruid Report is one of my favorite blogs. Intellectual integrity, brilliant essays on a wide range of topics and innovative research combined with a willingness to ask the hard questions, step on some toes and challenge “conventional wisdom”. Tis an ill wind that blows no minds…

Speaking of Newspeak, I had a university professor who was also active in conservative (or is that liberal, in the classical sense of the term?) politics who flat out refused to use the term “Political Correctness” on the grounds that PC is really a form of Newspeak and always referred to PC as Newspeak whenever he lectured or otherwise discussed the subject. Needless to say, this did not make him popular with the trendy middle and upper middle class leftists (their wealthier comrades are sometimes referred to as “limousine liberals” and “penthouse proletarians” for good reason) who tend to dominate university campuses in both Europe and North America, but he had tenure and a sterling reputation as one of the top academicians on campus, so he could ignore the slings that came his way.

I also had a friend who spent a year in China as an exchange student. He got back around the time the term “Political Correctness” was becoming popular. He was quite shocked, because he pointed out that there is a term in the Chinese language that translates literally as Political Correctness and roughly translated into English, it means something like “complete conformity with whatever the party line of the CCP currently is”. He was surprised that the liberal Left would use a term with such blatantly totalitarian, even Communist, connotations.

Robert Mathiesen said...

For whatever a single person's testimony may be worth, JMG's analysis of the history of the word "fascism" reflects the reality that I grew up with in the later 1950s and early 1960s, while I was a high-school and college student in Berkeley.

The only contemporaries of mine, in those years, who used "fascism" as a snarl word were a handful of red-diaper babies and another handful of their like-minded friends, and they used it as a kind of insider's jargon. For them, the word "fascist" was almost a technical term, applied to almost any opponent of Moscow and Moscow's policies. It was not precisely a snarl word in the mouths of these partisans, but close enough.

Only during the later 1960s, and especially the 1970s, did I see the word "fascism" begin to be used widely by liberals and left-leaning political people in general, including those who knew little or nothing about Moscow and its policies. At that point it had become a snarl word and nothing more, as JMG has noted. (By that time I had moved to the East Coast, so regional differences in the use of the word may have also come into play here.)

By then hardly anyone knew where the word had come from, or what exactly the Roman *fasces* had been and what they had symbolized about the power of a Consul in the ancient Roman Republic. So no one except a few Latin teachers paid much attention to the *fasces* -- the ax in the middle of a bundle of rods -- that stood at the center of the obverse of the new FDR dimes. It would have been impolitic to talk about the meaning of that design, once "fascism" had come to be used as a snarl word only.

By the way, the changing designs of United States coins have several other interesting things to tell about changes that have place in the political climate of the nation since its founding . . . I would include the new design for the obverse of the penny among these indicators of shifts in attitudes.

Jim said...

I am so often amazed that you can continue to produce, week after week, such thoughtful and informative writing. This particular essay was really great at clarifying and putting in context what I had vaguely understood about the difference between Fascism and Nazi-ism.

Many thanks for that!

russell1200 said...

That was an excellent short summary.

I do think that the military revival/expansion of the various fascist countries combined with the relatively new mass media marketing methods gave them a unique stamp that people recognized at the time. But as you very well note, much of the approbation was after the fact.

Doctor Westchester said...


You have a great job at fulfilling much of what I asked for last week about defining Socialism and Communism (not all of course, but perhaps the important details). It would seem that a real, versus theoretical, definition of Communism for much of the twentieth century might have been, “whatever Moscow’s party line happened to be that week.”

It appears a theme of this post, and perhaps the next two as well, is distance between what a political movement is theoretically about (and what a past movement is perceived to be about) and what it is or was really about. My cute comment last week about the problem between worker ownership of the means of production and maintaining an industrial system certainly falls on the theoretically side of things. Actual Communist rulers never have any issues with it and if anything did arise because of it – well that was the guys who were hammering out this week’s party line were supposed to handle.

The one thing this post brings up is the utter poverty of our current political discourse in this country with its binary options – socialism/fascism/communism versus democracy/capitalism. I just hope that this binary eventually breaks and third (and fourth, fifth and so on) options can finally reappear.

I have many more questions of course and am looking forward to seeing how many you are able to answer in the next two posts.

Tony said...

I'm quite looking forward to a description of how these seemingly ordinary political actions lead to the utter explosion of Europe within a decade or two, and what patterns of it are replicable rather than being a product of their place and time.

Andy Brown said...

I learned German in the 1980's, so I first became able to understand a Hitler speech during the Reagan era - and the thing that was immediately obvious was that Hitler's speeches and Ronald Reagan's speeches were quite similar. They both spoke in sweeping, aspirational terms of patriotism and prosperity and national destiny. I found it quite sobering to realize that fascism, if it came to America, wouldn't come as cartoon Nazism, but as folksy common sense.

Justin G said...

I'm pretty sure that graffiti artist in Seattle was simply trying to set up a Monty Python skit. Maybe the fascists eventually caught the perpetrator in the act, and if you return you'll see the phrase written 100 times with correct spelling.

John Michael Greer said...

Alan, I don't find that a useful definition. You could describe almost any political movement that way -- for example, the Obama campaign in 2008 was guided by a very forthright craving for power, and used crass emotional manipulation to pursue that goal. Does that make Obama a fascist? Of course not. I'll discuss Ernst Nolte's definition next week; it should provide at least a little clarity.

Kutamun, if your local Green Party leaders have any brains, they won't answer any such question, because that's a standard tactic of political attack -- lure the target into saying something that can be made to look bad, and then splash it all over the place.

M. Sterner, very true! Thanks for the example and link.

Cherokee, the refusal to step back and let things evolve is deeply rooted in today's industrial cultures. I may just do a post about that, because it ties into some very important issues.

Richard, how about just saying "corrupt and dysfunctional"? It seems to me that that covers the territory quite adequately. As for your story, thanks, but the minimum length is 2500 words and your piece is less than 1000; I'd encoruage you and other authors to check the rules for the contest here before sending in a submission.

Enrique, thank you. Yes, I remember the fuss about "political correctness," and yes, it was totalitarian, in the strict sense of the word (I'll be discussing that next week) -- a useful reminder that too much zeal in any cause can head down that road.

Andy Brown said...

I consider US Americans generally to be among the most politically unsophisticated humans I've ever known. Not just about political economy, but about how power works at all levels. I suspect it's a result of a number of things - bread and circus for one, Newspeak and media moronism for another, but also a willful blindness. When you take part in a vast system of oppression (US Empire, our racist/classist criminal justice system, the global economy, environmental degradation, etc.) it's hard to stay convinced that you're a good person if you develop too clear a picture of what's going on. Willful naiveté is one solution to that. I suspect that makes us easier to rule - or at least it keeps us from coming up with any alternatives.

madtom said...

Sincere thanks for this installment of my continuing education, JMG! I look forward every week to mind-opening expansions of my ability to put what I know of the world into an ever-better-connected structure, and I am never disappointed.

So please don’t take it as anything but my tiny contribution to the effort when I suggest that you rushed past “Sturmabteilungen” a bit too swiftly when you translated it as “Storm troops”. German has a word for troops: Die Truppen. Storm for Sturm, yes. But “ab” is a particle that means “away from” and “teil” is a part, while the "ungen" just establishes the plural noun.

So “Storm Divisions” (with division not a mathematical operation, but used in the same way as in other militaries) is a better translation, because it reflects the etymology and maximizes the points of contact between what would be heard/understood by speakers of German and English.

Apologies if this is overly pedantic, but for me it is often little clues like those exposed by the dissection of a word that let me connect the dots to form a more meaningful picture than I otherwise could.

onething said...

Well, this is all well and good, but what people loathe and fear about "fascism" was its association with or descent into extreme patriotism, surveillance, encouragement of snitching, and a party in power who could arrest and execute people without rule of law. So how does all that relate? Of course, the commies were doing all those things too; as my old friend from the former USSR said, the difference between the fascists (she meant Nazis) and the communists was that the fascists mostly killed others while the communists killed their own.

Also, I'd like to say that I appreciate the light this post has shone on a situation I have wondered about, i.e., what was going on in the heads of all those people at the time.

KL Cooke said...

"So no one except a few Latin teachers paid much attention to the *fasces* -- the ax in the middle of a bundle of rods..."

The symbolism of the fasces, as I learned it in school is that the rods meant the state had the power to beat you and the ax meant it had the power to kill you.

Pardon me if I purvey the obvious.

Deleted said...

I looked a little into the economy of both Italy and Germany during WWII, as well as into what a fascist economy looked like. The general conclusion was there was really no set "fascist economy" because leaders did whatever they thought was prudent at the time more than follow a set ideology. The one thing they did have in common, though, was they all had a large percentage of resources dedicated to their military branches.

This gets me wondering if European countries actually intended to mimic Nazi Germany economically or they simply came to similar conclusions about what to do economically during and after WWII.

Pinku-Sensei said...

JMG: Thanks for pointing out what the word fascist has become in preparation for talking about what it really was and should be understood as. I was a Republican for 22 years and got tired of people on the Left calling conservatives "fascists" as a general purpose insult. Fifteen years ago, I decided to do something about by seeing what the academic experts on the subject had to say. I'll start with what Stanley Payne, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, lists as the diagnostic features of fascism in his 1980 book "Fascism: Comparison and Definition":

A. The Fascist Negations

1. Antiliberalism (By "liberalism", this means free-market capitalism and representative democracy, not the democratic socialism and group-identity politics of modern American "liberalism").

2. Anticommunism.

3. Anticonservatism (Surprise! By "Conservatism" that means resistance to social change and allegiance to traditional sources of authority, such as the church and, in Europe, the crown. Fascism considers itself a modernizing, revolutionary movement that will produce new sources of authority. See Ideology and Goals).

B. Ideology and Goals

1. Creation of a new nationalist authoritarian state based not merely on traditional principles or models.

2. Organization of some new kind of regulated, multiclass, integrated national economic structure (national corporatist, national socialist, or national syndicalist; this is why Payne describes the m.o. of fascism as an "all-class revolution" in contrast to the revolution of the proletariat espoused by Communism).

3. The goal of empire or a radical change in the nation's relationship with other powers.

4. Specific espousal of an idealist, voluntarist creed, normally involving the attempt to realize a new form of modern, self-determined, secular culture.

C. Style and Organization

1. Emphasis on esthetic structure of meetings, symbols, and political choreography, stressing romantic and mystical aspects.

2. Attempted mass mobilization with militarization of political relationships and style with the goal of a mass party militia.

3. Positive evaluation of and willingness to use violence.

4. Extreme stress on the masculine principle and male dominance, while espousing the organic view of society.

5. Exaltation of youth above other phases of life, emphasizing the conflict of generations, at least in effecting the initial political transformation.

6. Specific tendency toward an authoritarian, charismatic, personal style of command....

Those criteria work very well to diagnose a mature fascist movement in power or rising into power and unite Mussolini's Fascism, Hitler's Nazism, and Franco's Falangism along with other authoritarian nationalist movements that arose in interwar Europe and Asia; a good many but not all apply to Argentina's Peronism. However, they don't help recognize a fascist movement in its infancy or youth and some may not work well in 21st Century North America. The list is also too long.

(To be continued)

Pinku-Sensei said...


A shorter description comes from another academic expert, Robert Paxton of Columbia University, whose list boils down to a single paragraph.

"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

Not only it more concise, it also identifies elements that would appear earlier in the movement's development.

There is an even briefer definition from British political theorist Roger Griffin, who devised what he called the "fascist minimum"--palingenetic ultranationalism, a radical political movement based on a myth of national rebirth. These movements also tend very strongly to right-wing populism. These criteria will pick out a proto-fascist movement rather early in its ontogeny. As AlanfromBigEasy pointed out, The Tea Party would fit this model. My opinion of the Tea Party is that its even more in denial of its fascism than it is of its racism. Fortunately, it doesn't have a youth movement or uniformed street thugs (cosplayers in Revolutionary War garb don't count), like a mature fascist movement would. Instead, it's a bunch of right-wing Gray Panthers, so it makes it less acutely physically dangerous. Its ability to cause political damage is another matter.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Enrique and JMG--I always use the term Political Correctness ironically. I had assumed that the original intent of the phrase (in English, not Chinese) was ironic and that people who used it non-ironically were dummies.

@JMG--Your post helps me understand the popularity of fascism between the wars and particularly the admiration Mussolini received from the likes of Cole Porter. I'm not sure I buy your definition, though.

The dictionary bundled into my computer's software says this:

fascism |ˈfa sh ˌizəm| (also Fascism)
an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
• (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.
The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–43), and the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.
fascist noun & adjective
fascistic |faˈ sh istik| adjective
ORIGIN from Italian fascismo, from fascio ‘bundle, political group,’ from Latin fascis (see fasces ).

My mental definition is similar to that, plus close cooperation between big business interests, Church and state for mutual benefit.

Not a snarl word, but a particular pattern of authoritarian social organization. Patriarchal social roles within the family, labor discipline, military-industrial complex, suppression of any recognition of competing group interests, a rising nation lifts all boots.

How is this incorrect?

Thijs Goverde said...

Well - that was informative! I especially liked to hear about the Fasci di combatimento - didn't know that, and I'd always wondered what exactly made the Fasces into such an appealing symbol for the Duce c.s.

However, I would take issue with your summaries of the Fascist and National Socialist policies. I think you left out an important element: the belief in a strong Leader, who embodies the 'will of the people' - embodies it to such an extent that, in the end, democracy can be done away with, because why would the people need to vote to make their will known, when said will is already seated comfortably in the reichskanzeler's chair?

I really think this is a central tenet of both fascism and nazism, and I think it's importnat to keep it in mind because in several European countries we've already got candidates for politicians who place their more or less mystical communication with 'the people' above the need to formulate a coherent political platform. MOst notably, I regret to say, mr. Wilders, whose party, in various political polls, occupies a comfortable nr. 1 position .

@Kutamun - Are you absolutely certain about the Wallonians? As far as I know it was mainly the Flemish who cooperated with the Germans in both world wars. The idea being that the Germans, speaking a germanic language like the Dutch-speaking Flemish, would break the rule of the French-speaking Wallonians.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

This week's blog entry prompted me to Google the Fascist monument, aka the Balbo Monument, in Chicago. Of the leading entries, this one is quite pertinent to the current topic:

The Wikipedia article has a more idiomatic translation of the inscription on the monument's pedestal than some of the others.

Mister Roboto said...

Two differences between national socialism and the socialism of the left (at least so far as I currently understand it): the socialism of the left, at least in its pre-Thatcher/ Reagan form, seeks a comprehensive redistribution of the wealth of society downward from the rich to the poor and outright government takeover (nationalization) of key industries, whereas national socialism does not seek these things.

Classic national socialism does, however, implement a command-style economy of sorts by creating a parternship between big government and big business in which the government is very much the senior partner, and the privately-owned economy is very much subject to government dictates. This was largely true of both Hitler's and Mussolini's regimes. (The Fascist "corporations" to which you referred were the government organs through which control of the economy was imposed in Italy.)

To answer the question you put to me last week, the word "fascist" has become (in addition to an emotion-driven "snarl word") a shorthand way of referring to any right-wing national/ racial-chauvinism based dictatorship (and the dictator in question need not necessarily be an individual, though that is a frequent component as much as it is in communist dictatorships).

Bernd Ohm said...

Good post, just a minor correction today: the German Imperial Army's storm troopers in WWI were called "Stoßtrupps" or "Sturmtruppen" (I suppose that's where George Lucas got the idea), while "Sturmabteilung" (literally, "storm department") was exclusively used by the Nazis for their party militia from the 1920s onwards

Michael and Yulia said...

My wife and I live in Ukraine, and the use of the word "fascist" has really spiked here recently.

Though much of the American media have missed this, Ukraine is in the midst of mass protests right now. One could even call it a revolution. Protesters have seized government buildings around the country and it is questionable whether or not the current government will be able to take them back without the use of considerable force. The protesters are against the kleptocratic government and widespread corruption. Many of them favor closer ties with the European Union, an independent judiciary, and, in general, comprehensive change to the way government works.

The pro-presidential party and its supporters have really increased the use of the word "fascist" lately to describe anybody who is against them. This is not surprising considering what you wrote about the use of the word in Soviet times. The supporters of the pro-presidential party are typically wistful for a return to the Soviet past.

The fascist hysteria in Ukraine can even be seen in English language texts about the situation: In this article (and, apologies, it's one of the mostly poorly written texts about the situation in Ukraine yet) the author claims that the city of Lviv is filled with fascist thugs. We happen to live in Lviv and, though one can't prove a negative, we have not seen any thugs around, let alone streets filled with them. To my wife and me, the protesters represent a huge chunk of Ukraine. They have many different points of view and represent a wide spectrum of society. They are united in their outrage at the current government which functions very much like a criminal organization. Claiming that all these people are fascists simply comes off as a simple and lazy way to discredit them and (what we think are) their legitimate concerns.

John Michael Greer said...

Robert, I didn't get to see a lot of the process, since I was born in 1962! Still, I had no trouble reconstructing that trajectory by selected readings from the last half century or so of political writing.

Jim, you're most welcome.

Russell, we'll get to that next week.

Doctor W., it's hard to talk about the political history of the last century or so without slamming hard into the gap between official intentions and actual results. As for the binary, exactly -- that's one of the most destructive binaries we presently have in American public life.

Tony, it's usually perfectly ordinary politics in a perfectly ordinary time that brings things crashing down -- consider the business as usual that kickstarted the French Revolution for another example.

Andy, now compare those same speeches to those of John F. Kennedy.

Justin, nice. That gets you tonight's gold star.

Andy, it's a complicated question -- what are the causes of the stunning political stupidity of most Americans today? I'm not sure that wilful ignorance covers all the territory, but it's certainly a factor.

Madtom, oh, granted -- I used "storm troops" because that's the translation with which most of my readers will be familiar.

Onething, well, you might want to look up the history of the Palmer raids or the McCarthy era here in the US. Every political system can fall into that sort of trap; it's not exclusive to fascism, communism, or for the matter representative democracy!

KL, duly purveyed. ;-)

Deleted, nah, you're missing the point. They weren't trying to copy a "fascist economy," because you're quite right, there's no such animal; they copied the national socialist economy, because that was the system they feared -- not the Italian one.

John Michael Greer said...

Pinku-Sensei, you're a little ahead of the game. I'll be talking about the definition of fascism next week, and Ernst Nolte's six minimum points are the ones I'll be using -- Payne's set is based on Nolte's, but the latter's are both simpler and to my mind clearer. As for palingenetic ultranationalism, yes, that will pick out fascist movements early on, but it will also pick out movements that aren't fascist by any stretch of the imagination -- Gandhi's movement for the liberation of India could be described in those terms, you know. You run the risk of identifying fifteen of the next three fascist movements well in advance.

Unknown Deborah, I didn't offer a definition of fascism in this week's post. I'll be discussing one next week. I did discuss a definition of national socialism, but that's not the same thing -- which was one of the points of this week's post, you know.

Thijs, once again, definitions of fascism are fodder for next week's post. National socialism is neither fascism nor Fascism -- there were plenty of national socialist parties that were perfectly content to work within the system, for example.

Deborah, that's a good example of the wholly respectable nature of fascism in America before we and the Italians ended up on opposite sides in the war. "Oceania has never been allied with Eurasia..."

Jason Heppenstall said...

I'm keeping a watchful eye out for anything that looks a bit like 'fascism' here in Europe. It was interesting to note that in 2012 the anti-Muslim English Defence League (EDL) chose Denmark as the location for their first official conference. As a result there was much hand-wringing by apologetic UK-based progressives, who tend to project a morally-simplistic Good (Denmark) and Evil (the UK) narrative onto political discourse.

But from my decade living in the former country I could not help but notice that the idea of being anti-Islamic is more or less salonfähig there - so it seemed like a logical choice for the EDL. Indeed, if one could read Danish, many of the commentators on news sites were supportive of this 'brave' group.

This, after all, was the country where the Danish People's Party - whose policies are basically 'a generous welfare state for ethnic Danes' - held positions of power for so long. I knew lots of people who voted for them - it was considered normal and even patriotic. Their leader would crop up everywhere; on breakfast TV, in newspaper op-eds and even (my favourite) in children's puzzle books.

They have fallen out of favour a bit now, but with the country's current government having just handed over much control of the country's energy supply to Goldman Sachs thus entering into a stage of political paralysis, I'm sure they'll be back soon.

I'm not saying any of this is good or bad, btw, it's just interesting to cast a wary out eye over the scene, take the pulse of the latest newspeak and realpolitik and then get back to digging my vegetable garden again.

Avery said...

"That’s the other reason why next to nobody outside of specialist historical works mentions national socialism by name: the Western nations that defeated national socialism in Germany promptly adopted its core economic policies, the main source of its mass appeal, to forestall any attempt to revive it in the postwar world."

Wow. Now that is a golden nugget of dangerous knowledge right there. I am fairly sure you are right, because the same thing seems to have happened in East Asia. This is going to be a long comment, but since we're going down the complex road of post-WW2 political regimes I think it will prove relevant.

Japan in the 1920s had an excess of left-wing intellectuals. In order to deal with them, the government gave them jobs in Manchuria. According to the diary of one of these men, "One group were men who had traveled to Manchuria after coming under severe attack in Japan with their political movements back home crushed. A second group were men who escaped to Manchuria after being arrested any number of times by the police and having renounced in writing their left-wing political views ... A third group was those who were unable to find work because of their activities in the political movement and had accordingly come to Manchuria." (Ito Takeo, Life Among the Manchurian Railway, p. 174)

That is to say, Japanese colonialism was basically a left-wing operation!

In Manchuria, after the military had helpfully set up a puppet state, the left-wing intellectuals created a complex bureaucracy. Legally, the Empire of Manchukuo was run by democratically elected Chinese politicians. Actually, the legal system was so convoluted that the politicians were completely at the mercy of Japanese bureaucrats, who had the power to stop any behavior they didn't like. The Japanese elites created a network of large corporations, like zaibatsu but under the control of the bureaucracy, and this in turn resulted in astounding economic growth.

The next part is a little sketchier but believable. According to the veteran journalist Eamonn Fingleton's book In the Jaws of the Dragon, the zaibatsu in Japan Proper were an independent political force and stood as a threat to implementing a similarly centralized, one-party system on the home islands. When MacArthur occupied Japan, the Japanese intellectuals advising him told him to break up these warmongering zaibatsu and replace them with smaller individual corporations (like Baby Bells). The broken-up businesses required government approval to link back together, and thus the zaibatsu (now called keiretsu) came under control of the postwar bureaucrats. The postwar electoral reforms, quietly designed after Manchukuo's system, also guaranteed that politicians would be powerless and at the mercy of the bureaucracy. Again, this strategy resulted in staggering economic growth in the 1960s.

Fingleton proposes that the Manchukuo system was in fact so successful that it was adopted across East Asia: in South Korea, Taiwan, and even China! Furthermore, Western journalists like to construct narratives about dissent within China, pretending that there is a European style democracy struggling to get out, but in fact Chinese businesses are so dependent on the bureaucracy for success that political revolt becomes less likely every year. The bureaucrats are in for the long haul, and freed from political concerns, they have the ability to plan for the oil crisis two decades down the road. (The manipulation of the Western media is proven to an embarrassing extent in In the Jaws of the Dragon.)

Whether the American dream stands a chance against this Confucian-style government is not something we can see through a crystal ball. But perhaps deeper thoughts about the creation of stable regimes in difficult times can help direct this discussion away from this facile dialectic of democracy vs. fascism.

John Michael Greer said...

Mister R., good. The difference between socialism and national socialism, in the terms I used in my post, is simply that socialism without the adjective focused on benefiting the working class at the expense of others, while national socialism claimed to be benefiting the whole national community.

Bernd, fascinating! I've seen a number of English language sources that missed that detail; I'll correct it in future discussions.

Michael and Yulia, I've been keeping an eye on the protests in the Ukraine -- there's pretty clearly foreign involvement on both sides, with the obvious players intervening in what ought to be a matter of internal politics. I didn't know the "f-word" was getting a workout in government propaganda, though -- that's fascinating.

Bill Pulliam said...

My early experience with PC was the same as Deborah's, that it was used by the left as a joke on itself.

I thought I posted another comment, hmm, I guess it got eaten. No matter. Maybe it wasn't PC... (joke!)

Matt Heins said...

Most illuminating!

I have suspected at times that I have been talking total rubbish when I said "fascism", but it is reassuring to have the true totality of my rubbish so succinctly explained. ;)

I think there must be a connection to our strange "American Empire Denial Syndrome" here.

For without the ever-useful snarl-words, in the Land of Proper Labels for Things, would we not be subject to the embarrassingly absurd spectacle of opposing groups of corrupt imperialists constantly shouting "Down with Corrupt Imperialists!" at each other?

Very much looking forward to next week.

Stephen Heyer said...

Hi John,

I enjoyed Fascism and the Future, Part One: Up From Newspeak greatly.

I knew some of this already – dad, like many pre WWII Australian unionists could not decide whether he was a Communist or a Fascist for a while.

It’s a carefully obscured fact that at the beginning of the war a lot of Australian unionists opposed Australia entering the war on the side of the Allies. They regarded themselves as National Socialists, brothers to the National Socialists in Germany and Italy, until, that is, Hitler attacked Russia.

Dad, however, being brighter than most, found out about some of the things the Communists and Fascists were doing and decided neither were his cup of tea. He was a bit of an idealist when it came to the welfare and freedom of the common man.

I’ve often wondered what the world would look like today if the German National Socialists had have found a more competent, intelligent leader than that spooky little Charlie Chaplin look alike - Starship Troopers anyone?

You have introduced me to a far more detailed view of that dark corner of history. Also, while I was sort of aware of the deliberate distortion of the meaning of certain words after the war, you really put it into perspective – thanks.

Now for a warning, please be very, very careful: This is an area where the public has been completely brainwashed and a lot of people with a lot of pull have considerable interest in keeping it that way.

You could well find yourself being PCd into oblivion. It has happened to others when they come up against the raw power of the supporters of some dogma that must not be questioned because to do so would not be PC (which mostly means (a) it’s not true and (b) that questioning it could shine an unwelcome light on those who are being advantaged by it).

Incidentally, over the years I’ve watched as all sides learnt to use PC. That’s the trouble with dirty tactics, eventually the other side learns to do it too, often better than you can and all that has been achieved is greater harm to all.

Dan the Farmer said...

Interesting how things come back around.

Ursachi Alexandru said...

JMG, it's a standard rhetoric among people who support Russia's foreign policy in Moldova to label anyone or anything that suggests this country's historical, cultural and linguistic ties to Romania as "fascist". Just as it's a standard rhetoric for people who oppose Russia's foreign policy to label anyone who they consider untrustworthy as "communist".

I'll admit sometimes being part of the latter problem, though. In Romania, especially among young people, if someone is overtly authoritarian (that includes uncharismatic highschool teachers), they are labeled as "communist", and I've been doing that myself sometimes. Yes, that is a standard snarl world in my country.

Lei said...

Thank you very much for this post. It touches upon some issuses that I was thinking about before when reading comments under your blog, and I had really strong temptation to intervene.

As a matter of fact, fascism as a type of ideology is so well described and defined by politologists, historians of ideologies and similar others that it would be useless to reinvent what they say. In any case, I warmly welcome your historical excursion, which comes as very precise to me.

I am indeed deeply troubled by the fact that real neo-fascism, as academically defines, is on its rise in the whole Europe now, which is also what serious peer-reviewed analyses tell us; what more, a new neo-fascist International is just being constituted all over Europe, and many parties that are genuinely neo-fascist or neo-nacist or at least are in close contact with such movements are gaining popularity - France, Netherlands, Greece, Romania, Hungary, but lately also Slovakia, and especially Russia, where one of the outstanding teoreticians of ultra-right is the adviser to the president. You know, we here in Central Europe, with our grandparents that were planned to play a certain role in the imagination of the Reich's leading ideologists and politicians (would have our grandparents ended in gas chambers, been moved to Argentine, or rather sterilized and "reeducated"?), are a bit oversensitive to such things as fascism and Nazism. It is really terrifying that you have now people who explicitly claim to be inspired by the legacy of the ultra-right regimes of 30's and 40's, and symbols derived from the fascist and Nazi symbols of the past in public.

What troubles me as well is that I can find some traces of more or less unconscious ultra-conservative thinking reminiscent of fascism in the peak oil blogosphere, but sometimes it is also relatively conscious programme that is close to genuine fascism. In my opinion, this is precisely the danger of a too dogmatic denial of anything related to modernity in toto - of everything that has been achieved in societal progress since Renaissance or Enlightenment. I can see too often the zeal of convertites, who came to realize the present situation is untenable. For too many people everything that has ever relied of fossil fuels, and especially everything that is a product of the present system, is evil.

A crystal clear case is Juhana here: a former liberal, now despising liberalism and promoting "neo-tribalism", welcoming the rising influence of the Orthodox Church in East Europe, and what you have. The fact is that Putin's Russia has declared herself the world's conservative power and that the ultraright doctrines, including Dugin's aggressive geopolitical teaching, are popular there; and both Dugin's "euroasianists" and the Orthodox Church have close contacts with neofascist movements both at home and all over Europe. After all what happened in Europe in 20's-50's, I simply cannot understand how anyone not totally brain-washed could ever welcome the rise of these movements. In the end, this simply amounts to support for the rule of skinheads - one can almost feel how Europe is becoming a dangerous place these days. For me, the most decadent and corrupt liberal democracy is million times better any of those "appealing" systems of thought for young, strong, authentic close-to-nature etc. ones. When I read Juhana's exposition of the evils of the discredited modernity and liberalism, I cannot but think of the critique of various facets of modernity by Nazi ideologues. And of course, one cannot but remind oneself of Nietzsche so dear to deaders of this blog, though of course, one can hardly blame him for WWII.

Lei said...

In this light, it is absurd for me that Mr. Orlov writes so enthusiastically about the possibilities of moving to Russia. And especially those Canadians and Americans featuring in commentaries below his blog preparing to do the same what Orlov proposes for his son. Well, saying that present-day Russia is in fact far saner place than any country in the West - this must be from the perspective of pure concern for bare survival, not taking account anything else than extense of free land, abundance of water or climate. But people do not live just by these, and especially until states exists. I wonder how these to-be-immigrants will be welcomed in Russia: immigrants are always terribly popular in ultra-conservative societies and in times of crisis. Russians will certainly embrace these Canadians and Americans - against which Alexander Dugin would like to fight in WWIII. Also, utterly technocratic, anti-liberal, anti-postmodern, anti-civil-rights, oil-burning and oil-selling Russia will certainly show understanding for independent permaculturalists or other alternative lifestyles - when it is already so nice on gays, environmentalist, journalists etc. A bit naive?

Finally, I would also warn against too excesive scapegoating in commentaries. For example, I think your account of baby-boomers is quite moderate and I cannot say anything against it. However, what evolved in discussion in the commentaries below, that was true scapegoating as I understand it.

It may sound strange, but this is not about fears of peak oiler of fascism, this is about peak oiler's inevitable proneness to ultra-coservative thinking, which is an integral part of any fascist doctrine.

Phitio said...

Dear JMG, I'm Italian and you are right on mark when explaining what was really such things like Fascism and Nazism in the real history.

It is a real and crude nature's joke that things that was born to help to solve people's problems become the problem itself, or a worse problem at all.

I suppose that there is a a kind of law behind it: starting from the French revolution which ended in a bloodbath and in a tyranny , to the soviet revolution, to the national socialist and the fascist government. There were also bloody form of government in those days also in Spain and in Greece, but it seems that they were not so appealing to be used in the political contest.

Nowadays there are a LOT of proto-facist and proto-nazist movements in Europem and also in USA.

The only way to avoid repeating the same errors is : never stop to study the past, or you will not recognize the danger in time.

Robert Mathiesen said...

The Ukrainian situation has a very complicated history behind it, which I probably should explicate if we're going to talk about modern Ukraine and its "Orange Revolution."

In a nutshell, the land now called Ukraine straddles one of the most historically significant old fault-lines in Europe, namely, the line between Catholic (Roman) Christianity and Orthodox (Byzantine) Christianity. This line runs through Finland, the Baltic countries and Belorus in the North, through Ukraine, between Hungary and Rumania, splits at Bosnia and goes around both sides of that region, and passes between Croatia and Serbia until it ends on the Mediterranean coast. (Bosnia was a third kind of Christianity, neither Catholic nor Orthodox, during much of the Middle Ages.)

In the centuries before this fault-line developed, there was a fairly powerful state centered on the city of Kiev in what is now -- but was not then -- called Ukraine. A variety of factors broke the power of that state around the time that the Catholic-Orthodox fault-line developed, and turned its territory into a natural border-land between stronger powers.

Like all such European borderlands, Ukraine has served as the rope in a tug-of-war between more powerful countries across that divide: Poland and Germany in the West, Muscovite Russia in the East. Each of these players had its partisans among the people who lived in the borderland. This resulted in strong fault-lines within the modern culture(s) of those people. WW2 only strengthened these divisions: caught between Russia and Germany, many Ukrainians preferred Germany, many others preferred Russia, and yet others preferred independence, saying to the two powers, "A plague upon both your houses." Since both Germany and Russia were seen as "Leftist" states at the time, the "Rightists" in Ukraine were largely forced into the third camp. After the war Ukraine was incorporated into the (Russian-dominated) USSR, and all these old allegiances and preferences became things too dangerous to discuss dispassionately.

And here's where I walk through a live mine-field . . . The situation was hugely complicated by the history of political power in Muscovite Russia, which had borrowed all its institutions, titles and political vocabulary from the Kievan state, and claimed that it was the sole legitimate successor of that state.

It wasn't. Depending on how you judge succession, there was either no successor state or two competing successor states. The other contender (with much the same institutions, titles and political vocabulary) was based in Vilnius, not Moscow, and originally it lay on the Orthodox side of the fault-line, not the Catholic one. Eventually this other contender state was absorbed into Poland in an almost accidental fashion (and thus became aligned with Catholicism rather than Orthodoxy), more by political and diplomatic means than by military ones.

But in Moscow, the old failed Kievan state was seen as a major source of Moscow's legitimacy, and any failure to control Ukraine feels in Moscow like a threat to the legitimacy of of the Russian government. (Many Ukrainians don't see it that way, of course.) So the stakes are very high indeed here, maybe as high as those involving Serbia and Kosovo.

Richard Larson said...

I don't know Archdruid, you could be right. I've been thinking lately that our government has taken capitalism into actual governing. Government shouldn't be capitalizing (there is an argument that all capitalism is not a sustaining economic situation), and I suspect there would be a great resistance to capturing a name to such a collosal failure of governance, while most everybody is still enamored with the power of it.

Otherwise, concerning submission, it feels good to be rejected for not following the rules!

Odin's Raven said...

Here is an entry for the competition, or even two!

This time there's an actual story, with characters. Its in a setting that is not only post-Oil, but post- American and even post-English. Rather than a tale of technical ingenuity keeping the future like the present only less so, it is one where the present had become not just history but archaeology and its technology is not regarded altogether as a blessing.

An Unholy Book or How to Read a Magazine

Claudia Oney said...

Words are important and their meanings important as well. Of course, that is why I read JMG weekly. But the successful push back (now deemed pc) against use of words like 'broad', 'cripple' and other slurs degrading minorities made our lives much more comfortable. That 'political correctness' is now demonized by the word totalitarian does not recognize the push back was simply a demand for polite discourse.

YJV said...

Where did the Trotskyists sit in this picture? Originally the F- word was used to demonise them, I believe.

AlanfromBigEasy said...

Fasces are/were perfectly good American symbols. Two fasces flank the American President during his State of the Union speech in the House of Representatives chamber.

The Mercury dime (1916 - 1945) had a fasces and an olive branch in the reverse side.

The seal of the US Army has fasces. And more.

Fasces were used to symbolize the power of the state IMHO.

kristofv said...

In that sense Franklin D. Roosevelt was also a (national) socialist. Would you agree that part of the economic mess the western world finds itself in, is (besides peak oil) because of a long ongoing reversal of the economic policies of the 30-60's?

The economic solutions that are now being pursued in Europe are exactly the policies that didn't work in the 1930's and after 5 years it is safe to say they still don't work. The reason that this failure has been tolerated is probably multi-faceted but one is the fact that most of the wellfare state institutions are still in place in one form or another. Dismantling the wellfare state further will surely lead back to more extreme political parties as in the 30's. The rise of those parties in some of the European periphery indicates so.

Bard Of Bwyd said...

Brilliant post as usual John. I can't wait for the rest of these entries. I'm also always amazed at the quality of comments on this blog. The entire community does itself proud with such intelligent discourse. Thanks to all.

Zach said...

John Michael,

Well shoveled indeed!

May Godwin's Law not ambush you in this effort to reconnect words with meanings. :)


(Capcha amusement: "obcdaya rules")

Zach said...


I have joked for some time now that I am so far to the "right" that it confuses people into thinking I'm a leftist. :) I currently suspect that an accurate political label for myself might be "distributist neo-reactionary."

At any rate, for those few Americans who like to attach meanings to political words, it's a source of ironic amusement that the political tradition our "conservatives" are conserving is "classical liberalism." Yes, this leads to some interesting inversions in terminology, especially when trying to compare with European politics.


Zach said...


That's fascinating, thank you.

I have suspected for some time that the post-Mao Chinese reforms ("profit is patriotic") mean that China has moved to a fascist/national socialist model. This really does not compute for most Americans, who are trapped in that political binary that JMG identifies. So, either the ChiCom leadership must be "really" Maoists at heart, and the economic changes are simply superficial fluff to fool us Westerns into accepting their dastardly plans, OR else they must "really" be proto-free market capitalists at heart, and Western democracy is almost ready to break out!

The notion that it might be a third thing entirely is completely incomprehensible.


shtove said...

Wikipedia has a handy page on definitions of fascism:

It includes Umberto Eco's 1995 essay on Ur-fascism (eternal fascism). He doesn't give a definition but lists the badges, one of which (#9) is a confused Armaggedon complex.

ps. I never came across salonfähig until earlier this week - and within a few days a second time. The internet is a worryingly small world. Or maybe the first time was in JMG's last post!

Ice Torch said...

M Stirner, I never knew about the Bellamy salute and am fascinated. Pity you had to spoil your reference with a bit of apple pie fascism:

“What we perceive as bizarre was as American as apple pie back in the day...”

So we poor Europeans had to wait for the USA to invent the apple pie? Here are two links to disabuse you of that notion:

Thijs Goverde said:

“Are you absolutely certain about the Wallonians? As far as I know it was mainly the Flemish who cooperated with the Germans in both world wars. The idea being that the Germans, speaking a germanic language like the Dutch-speaking Flemish, would break the rule of the French-speaking Wallonians.”

The Nazis were skilled at accentuating different parts of their eclectic program to appeal to their target groups. From 1943 they emphasised to the occupied peoples their aim to save European culture from Bolshevism, and this enthused a small number of West Europeans to join the S.S. Legions. My stamp collection of World War 2 includes some of the military field post stamps of those legions, including a set for the Wallonian Legion. Just Google “Léon Degrelle” and “Wallonian Legion”.

The Archdruid said:

“They weren't trying to copy a "fascist economy," because you're quite right, there's no such animal; they copied the national socialist economy, because that was the system they feared -- not the Italian one.”

The Nazis implemented a pick and mix of policies from the left and the right, including some pseudo-socialist or social democratic policies. It’s also in the nature of democracy that impulses from both left and the right get incorporated into the system over the years, so I’d say that the post war Western economies were based on what worked, and it’s accidental that they resemble the Nazi economy in any aspect.

The Archdruid said:

“As for palingenetic ultranationalism, yes, that will pick out fascist movements early on, but it will also pick out movements that aren't fascist by any stretch of the imagination -- Gandhi's movement for the liberation of India could be described in those terms, you know. You run the risk of identifying fifteen of the next three fascist movements well in advance.”

I’d define ultranationalist as meaning “my nation or race above all others”, with the corollary that you consider yourself absolved of any moral compunction in your treatment of those of other nations or races. By that token, Gandhi was merely nationalist, as he was too spiritually-inclined to be ultranationalist.

onething said:

“As my old friend from the former USSR said, the difference between the fascists (she meant Nazis) and the communists was that the fascists mostly killed others while the communists killed their own.”

True up to a point, but the Nazis also defined various Germans as “other” (or “life that is unworthy as life”) and then killed them: Jews, gays, the handicapped, communists, democrats, etc.

Marc L Bernstein said...

One point that occurred to me in reading your weblog relates to Sheldon Wolin's definition of what we now have in the USA as "inverted totalitarianism", in which economic power and influence dictate much of what passes for government policy, and in which the citizenry have a much reduced impact on who ends up in congress, and which national policies are chosen.

Corporate lobbyists have largely usurped the role of the citizenry in the sense that congress is beholden more to the lobbyists than to the citizens, and it is my understanding that representatives of big corporations write many if not most of the laws today.

In fascism, government has substantial independent power and can dictate to business interests constraints that they must adhere to. This is quite distinct from inverted totalitarianism. Instead, economic forces have constrained much of the US government, which seems to suffer from inertia.

One might point to Barack Obama as being the mascot for the corruption and degeneracy of the liberal class (as Chris Hedges has done), or one might point to Obama's cooperative policies with regard to Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, insurance companies, mining companies and fossil fuel companies as being exactly what one might expect from a leader in an inverted totalitarian industrialized state.

In any case, what we have in the USA is far removed from fascism, either in the original definition or the one used by Mussolini.

I believe that you were correct several months ago in pointing out that in reality we live at a time in which our national government is weak (although large, corrupt, intrusive and wasteful), and in which there is really nobody in charge in a truly significant sense.

A strong government should be able to change course quickly in response to changing international and domestic circumstances. Our government shows no signs of being capable of any real course correction. In this sense it is also very far from being a fascist state.

Yupped said...

There's fascism for what it was originally - corporatism - and then fascism for what it became, a kind of pop culture, street theater sort-of-thing. I remember back in the UK in the 1970s, when the economy was really struggling, there was a notable increase in hard-right, anti-immigrant, English-patriot organizations such as the National Front and British National Party. And in response there was in increase in left-wing counter protests. This led to a few years of protest marches and street battles and such, and a few of these nut-jobs ran for local council elections and won. But while it probably only involved a few thousand people nationwide, and a few noisy weekend rallies, it became a huge narrative in the media - "OMG, the fascists are coming!"

Meanwhile, the corporations and unions and other big organizations of the day continued on with their normal business of lobbying the government and quietly getting what they wanted to get.

John Dunn said...

Towards the end of WWII the former VP Henry A. Wallace wrote an opinion piece: The Danger of American Fascism. Easily surfed and an excellent read.

sgage said...

@Robert Mathiesen

"the ax in the middle of a bundle of rods -- that stood at the center of the obverse of the new FDR dimes."

Actually, the fasces was the center of the reverse of the preceding dime (since 1916), the so-called Mercury Head dime (it was actually young Liberty with her Phrygian winged cap).

When the FDR dime was minted in 1946, the fasces was changed into a torch...

Joseph Nemeth said...

@JMG -- these about-face reversals (e.g. modern conservatives are actually old-school liberals, or the way the Democrats and Republicans in the US have completely switched places since the Civil War) are always fascinating. It seems to be one of the Fundamental Laws of human behavior: that we become the enemy that we fight, and then lie to ourselves about it to preserve the illusion of historical continuity.

xhmko said...

Kutamun, Tasmania was the first place in the world to have a Greens Party and it began around the Franklin Dam, not the forests.

The Greens contain a variety of people just like any political party. Their policies differ markedly from the old parties mainly because they are less anthropocentric in their views of how economy relates to ecology.

Barbara Terry said...

This is not a response to the post above. It is just something I saw and thought of your thinking about it. Particularly that you even used this very thing as an example of the relentless faith in scientific progress despite all evidence to the contrary.

Diana Haugh said...

Of course, Spain also embraced Fascism, though one of my professors called Franco's Falange movement 'not so much Fascism as it was Corporate Catholicism.' The similarities I see between the various Fascist governments (and the 1950's America I grew up in) was an emotional, near hysterical enforced patriotism and exaltation of the military. Fascism in Spain meant the expulsion of university professors who did not endorse the appalling historical, cultural and racial nonsense preached by the Falange; many of the Falangist professors who did endorse it are still holding University chairs in Spain, so the reach is long. With that legacy and the Retroactive Law of Political Responsibility still in the minds of many Spaniards (anything you said at any point could be used against you at any future point) the fear of Fascism's return still haunts Spanish politics. Diana

Goldmund said...

My father liked to tell the story of a memorial that stands in Grant Park that was a gift from Benito Mussolini to the people of Chicago following the 1933 World's Fair that was held there that year. It commemorates the successful trans Atlantic flight of an aviator and member of the Fascist party named Balbo. My dad told this story to point out that at the time Fascism and Mussolini were greatly admired by many. As far as I know the memorial is still there.

exiledbear said...

I liked your comment about how the supporters of the NSDAP didn't go around flogging "WE'RE GOING TO KILL 50 MILLION PEOPLE".

Nobody ever thinks they're evil, everyone always thinks they're as pure as the wind driven snow. I'm sure the deluded people working at the NSA believe in themselves, in their mission and that they're making the world a better place. They have to, otherwise they would fall apart.

IMHO, the greatest evils committed aren't committed by people who really want to do evil, they're all committed by earnest people who really do think they're making the world a better place by whatever it is they're doing.

Discarnate entities have commented that all the atrocities that Hitler was responsible for, happened to the native americans here. Hitler pretty much said the same thing in rebuttal when FDR rebuked him.

There's an old article entitled "Who Goes Nazi"? Perhaps we all should read it again, because it's still as relevant now as it was then.

xhmko said...

The National Socialist German Workers Party was a catch-all title that seems politically designed to include all people in its appeal. The Communnist party in Russia started life in the same way as a faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. And in that vein, today we have the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea.

When I begin my move towards despotism I think I'll name my revolutionary party the People's National Anarchist Social Green Worker's Republican Democratic Labour Party.

Jasmine said...

Dear Mr Greer

Great post. One of the problems in the 20th century was that those on the left had a tendency to overlook or try to excuse the tyrannies of the extreme left, while those on the right had a tendency to overlook or try to excuse the tyrannies of the extreme right. In my experience the word fascism has often been use by these on the left to describe those on the right. This is why I prefer to use the term “totalitarianism”, as this is a term that is free of left/right bias and can be equally used for tyrannies of the left and right. It is those political movements that want to remove the restraints imposed by demoracrary, free press etc that pose the real threat. It does not matter which end of the political spectrum they come from.

It strikes me that as we go further down the slope of hubberts curve that a 20th century concept of left and right may start to lose its relevance. If we are going to be moving into what Spengler call the second religiosity, then the battle ground may move back to older religions like Islam and Christianity etc. We already see this happening in the middle east. I know that the battles in the 20th century were about the secular religions of progress. Once progress goes down the drain the older religions could come back.

Joseph Nemeth said...

@Andy -- Modern US Americans seem to be some of the most generally unsophisticated and ignorant people on the planet, and not just politically.

I speak as one of those modern US Americans, and I certainly include myself in that broad brushing.

For myself, I'll say that my profound ignorance of these matters comes from a few causes.

None of this material was ever covered in school: I was never exposed to it. Our treatment of history and human behavior in the public schools is straightforward religio-patriotic brainwashing, and by the time we get free of the compulsory system and into college, we've already "specialized" into something more lucrative than history: sciences, business, etc., and in the name of efficiency, do not get a broad education in matters outside that specialty.

There is almost no substance at all in our mainstream media, which is why a lot of us have tuned it out. The only things of value in our media are (some) entertainment, but the themes are so limited and predictable, it's really not even entertaining any more. It certainly isn't educational or challenging: it's mostly pandering to pre-existing prejudices and tastes, with the goal of financial profit.

Never having been exposed to meaningful historical information in school or media, we don't discuss it amongst ourselves -- not at coffee-shops, not at potlucks, not at church socials. If you do know anything at all, you are like a chess player in a world of tic-tac-toe. I already know far too much; negotiating a typical political conversation at a party has become, for me, an exercise in watching my tongue.

There is also a strong anti-intellectual cultural streak throughout much of the country, though there are other regions where this isn't true. But most of the West, where I grew up, will beat you up in your youth if you are "too smart for your own good," and this general attitude follows people well into adulthood, with a significant number of people who remain ignorant, and proud of it, right up to the casket. It's acceptable, once you reach adulthood, to be knowledgeable in your field, but you aren't supposed to know anything outside that field. We're supposed to buy into a kind of general myth that "you can be good at One Thing."

That has fostered a culture of specialization, expertise, and credentialing. So in the eyes of many Americans, JMG would be just a blowhard because he does not have whatever imagined credentials are required to critique modern civilization. I see this frequently regarding Noam Chomsky -- what business does he have, talking about US foreign policy? He's just a "linguist."

This general ignorance serves a political purpose, of course, else it would have been fixed a long time ago.

Ekkar said...

Very good. It always amazes me. Yesterday (Wednesday) I was just reading 1984 (which I highly reccomend, again, or for the first time.)
Also thanks for the clarification on fascism. I apperantly was miss using it as well. I had always , I guess took for granted, that fascism was when a country was controlled by corporations. Sign of the times I guess.

Cathy McGuire said...

Since I didn't see my posting of my story contribution in the last week's section (I uploaded yesterday, kind of late), may I be permitted to post it this week? It comes in at 7,500 words exactly, and I have also listed it at the new green wizards site, in the story list. I appreciate comments, and will put them through once I see them. Thanks, all - and thanks, JMG for another contest!

Don Plummer said...

I had believed that the adjective "national" in "national socialism" stood for nationalism (in roughly the same sense as jingoism), not that the party claimed their policies would benefit the nation as a whole, not just one class at the expense of another. Certainly we witnessed an outpouring of the jingoistic kind of nationalism in Hitler's Germany; are you saying that wasn't really the point of "national" socialism, at least as originally configured?

I would suggest that at least part of the willingness to hang the "fascist" (meaning, as you correctly point out, "Nazi") epithet on certain radical pseudoconservative ideologies (e.g., the Tea Party) comes from a notion that jingoistic nationalism is part and parcel of "Nazi" ideology.

SMJ said...

Hello JMG

So paid holidays for employees were invented by Hitler?

Steve W. said...

JMG: Excellent column, as always! Lots of interesting ideas to wrap my head around.

Your column this week reminds me of your earlier piece about "binary thinking": the conventional wisdom nowadays is that we only have two options: either "laissez-faire" capitalism or Soviet-style socialism. There are any number of ways we could go. Are you familiar with the works of Allen Butcher? He has spent years studying the "intentional community" movement, and demonstrates how different communities can have multiple economic systems, based on who owns the wealth (private vs. public ownership) and who makes decisions about that wealth (consensus methods vs. democratic majority vs. small authoritarian group). Some of these ideas probably wouldn't be practical on the level of a nation state, but on a local level, many of these systems could work very well.

Eddie Tennison said...

Mr. Roboto said:

"Classic national socialism does, however, implement a command-style economy of sorts by creating a parternship between big government and big business in which the government is very much the senior partner, and the privately-owned economy is very much subject to government dictates. This was largely true of both Hitler's and Mussolini's regimes."

I think this is the key to understanding fascism. It was well understood by critics of Hitler and the Nazis, like the artist John Heartfield.

When government is run by a consortium of generals, politicians, and titans of industry, for the benefit of those classes, you got fascism. It's pretty hard to determine exactly who the "senior partner" is most of the time. They're all in bed together.

By this definition, the USA has been fascist for a long time now. It's not gonna happen. It already happened.

Thomas Daulton said...

I'm still trying to wind my head around the "doublethink" -- if I may borrow the term -- of simultaneously keeping in mind the stated verbal policies of these numerous dead and gone historical political parties, versus what they actually did. Confusing, and I'll have to return to this essay a few times in order to even follow your next couple of posts, I suspect. I'm an engineer, not a historian.

Meanwhile, I note a modern irony which this particular historical perspective presents to me -- something I have always felt but found it difficult to put into words:

Those in America today who most proudly call themselves "progressives," are actually conservatives, at least in the near-to-medium historical sense. American Progressives today fight to preserve the system of relatively moderate government co-ordination and regulation of businesses, with institutionalized fringe benefits handed out to the poor and middle class -- the same system which rocketed Germany from a provincial fiefdom into the technological, military, economic and political leader of the world, for a decade or two back around 80 years ago. In another irony, that system flourished in America immediately after America defeated it in Europe, and the system (fueled by petroleum of course) also rocketed America from a former agrarian backwater into the technological, military, economic, and political leader of the world. That system has been under blistering attack for the past 30 years -- not least because of the waning of the fossil fuels it is based upon -- but also, politically, by those in America who call themselves "conservatives".

Those Americans who most proudly call themselves political "conservatives", also ironically, are apparently radical progressives. Their stated verbal policy is to "return" America to a bizarre paradisiacal state which has, far as I know, never actually existed in Earth's history... A kind of self-levitating commerce-ocracy, based entirely on rational economic transactions between free individual consumers and unregulated businesses, without any apparent infrastructure or support from governments nor even guilds or social movements. That's their stated verbal goal, and as with all political rhetoric no doubt the bulk of their members believe it in their hearts. But I suspect in real life the actual practice of such policies would lead the society backwards into something more like a feudal state... a feudal state that had modern technology. Which sounds distasteful to our modern ears, but I remember you saying once or twice that absent moral judgment, feudalism is a reasonably stable mode of organization for tribes of humans to live.

Just my 2-cents, please let me know if I am severely misinterpreting something...

btidwell said...

This promises to be an even more educational series of post than usual! I've already learned a good bit this week. Perhaps I'm getting ahead of the conversation but I don't see National socialism, as you defined it having a significant influence over American politics for many years.

When I use "fascism" in conversation, I have been referring to a government controlled and motivated by corporate interests. This different from Socialism in that the government does not own private corporations, but also different from classic capitalism in that (I think) capitalism places an interest in profitable economics in general while the philosophy I called fascist is willing to suppress the rights of small businesses and free markets, as well as individuals, to increase corporate power. It is not pure aristocracy, either. While the "1%" is it's principle financial beneficiaries the focus is not on supporting their interests as much as the collective abstract corporate entities themselves.

I have long said that the American people are only free because it is good for business. It's coming out now that one of the more substantive (not justified) objections to Obamacare is that it removes health insurance as one of the chains of wage slavery. Conservatives are blatantly saying that is an utter disaster that independent access to healthcare will give people more choice in where, or if, to work. Even that legislation was largely written by the insurance industry to end run around more significant reforms.

When the American people stand up, refuse to continue participating in mindless materialism and demand equal wealth distribution, they will be smacked down hard and fast, including the possible installation of a corporate sponsored dictatorship. That will be deffended by calls to patriotism and a fight against the internal "terrorists" who would undermine the interests of (corporate) America. It will be a very long time before the people, or their charismatic leader, have enough power and influence to install a government that takes their interests into account in any significant way at all. Even outright violent revolution will be largely ineffectual until the armed services revolts against the government.

But that's just my observation. I'm eagerly awaiting your reasons for predicting facism. Also, is there a particular term that denotes the political situation I described?

Dustin Hamman said...

JMG as you have stated in the past, a word is simply a generally accepted term used to group a set of ideas to help facilitate communication with another person. (You said it much more eloquently, but hopefully the group of words I put together to describe a ‘word’ conveyed the ideas I was intending.) It is just a label we assign to something and the something everyone agrees upon at the moment is the extent of its usefulness. In this case, the alternative news outlets I pay attention to consistently use the term ‘fascist’ today to describe the merger of corporate and state power. When I hear the word ‘fascist’ that is immediately what comes to mind, thus to me it is useful in that setting. It is also interesting to note that the more critical thinking outlets I peruse don’t seem to blindly throw the term about and will sometimes examine its definition or inform the reader/viewer of their definition when they do use the term. (James Corbett’s most recent video is an example.) I am guessing outside of that setting, say in the mainstream media, it is thrown about much the way you have described. (Though, I wouldn’t really know. I tuned the mainstream media out long ago.) I don’t want this to detract from your post JMG, so I will say that I certainly do find it interesting and sometimes useful to discover the history of words and how their meaning has changed through time. Just look at how much fun it is to point out to the devout believers in our two-party system how the terms ‘Democrat’ and ‘Republican’ have evolved through time.

Zed Ttaltjat said...

Brilliant and fascinating as usual. I have one minor point that I hesitate to bring up because it relies on subjective and anecdotal interpretations of broad words like "average," but I guess I'm bringing it up anyway. When you say

>[the Nazis] weren’t saying anything the average German found offensive or even unusual [about Jews]

I'm reminded of my reading of William Sheridan Allen's The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town and his descriptions of rural German Jews and Christians living peacefully side by side before 1933. I don't deny antisemitism in the 1920s was a potent force and casually widespread in ways most Westerners would consider shocking today, and I get your larger point, but I do have to think parts of Mein Kampf, published in full by 1926, expressed antisemitic ideas that were more extreme than those held by average Germans. For instance, I don't think Hitler's declaration that "the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew" was something most average Germans, who in the cities shopped in Jewish-owned stores and in many small towns had Jewish neighbors, agreed with in the 1920s. I DO think most Christian Germans though were wildly more antisemitic about Eastern European Jews though than they were about their Jewish countrymen and women.

One can quibble about who is and isn't "average," and obviously a great number of Germans even before 1933 considered Hitler's antisemitism acceptable enough, even if they didn't personally agree with all of it, that they were OK overlooking it and supporting him. Certainly none of this negates anything about your larger points.

MPL said...

On another note, it appears that our energy problems will soon be resolved. Hallelujah lasers! (Never mind the fine print.)

Eddie Tennison said...

JMG said:

" Newspeak remains fictional—well, more or less...".

Respectfully disagree. There are plenty of examples of how TPTB deliberately distort the language for their own ends.

A case in point would be the term "the one percent" In reality, half of the world's assets are concentrated in a much smaller group...literally the .001 percent. According to a recent Oxfam report, the world's 85 richest individuals own the same amount of wealth as the world's poorest 3.5 billion people.

Another example would be the term "middle class". Virtually everyone in America with a job today thinks they're middle class. NPR is fond of news stories that more or less call for eating the rich, but their definition of rich is anyone who makes a hundred grand a year. What they are really supporting is "eat the middle-class". They make no distinction between a working surgeon who might make 400K a year, and the likes of the world's Romneys and Bushes, sitting on bushels of bonds handed down from their parents and grandparents for generations.

These sorts of subtle distortions are not accidental. They are very deliberate and brought to you by your .001 percent owned media, courtesy of their corporate sponsors.

Paul Thompson said...

"Facism" is used by people opposed to the trend toward authoritarianism now evident in the declining industrial societies of the West. As you say, it's a 'snarl' word, used to give pause to a growing majority who are accepting authoritarianism in the hope that it will 'make the trains run on time', again.

Jetgraphics said...

I enjoyed the article’s attention to historical backstory. However, falling into the trap of terms that have multiple and contradictory meanings, leaves us still confused.

Perhaps it would be simpler to say that there are political ideologies that support traditional government (“right wing”) and those that oppose traditional government (“left wing”).

Thus, the left wing Communists / Marxists / Socialists were on the “same team” as the left wing Nazis / Fascists (Italian)... opposition to traditional government.

In America’s case, “traditional” government has two jobs : (a) secure rights, and (b) govern those who consent. Anything more is suspect. Anything less is unacceptable. Since 1933, and the “State of Emergency,” the government appears to have focused its energies into establishing a totalitarian police state under collectivism via national socialism (FICA / Social Security). This has been done by incremental taxation and restrictive regulation, amounting to the overt takeover of the nation’s people, vocations, and property. (When you need permission / license and pay a tax to do that which your ancestors did without permission or taxation, you had better realize you’re no longer a free man.)

In that regard, America has been solidly “left wing” since 1935, and the alleged rivalry between liberals and conservatives are far left of center. Frankly, until the state of emergency is ended, and people volunteer out of national socialism (FICA), America is the shining beacon of glorious socialism (aka The Peoples Democratic Socialist Republic of America) without absolute ownership rights and natural liberties that our forefathers endowed us with.

The “Takers” outvote the “Taken,” so there is no remedy in the ballot box nor reform in the democratic form of government. That leaves us the one viable solution : the republican form of government (not synonymous with “republic”). Sadly, not 1 in 100,000 Americans know of it, nor can they accurately define it, or even realize that they have surrendered their rights in it. Such is the victory of the world’s greatest propaganda ministry, bar none.

Anna said...

A fine mythbusting job! But I must say that the most interesting bit for me was the part about the arguments in bus stops.

Mr. Archdruid, you and Ms. Archdruid have some very interesting conversations! (chuckle)

Marcello said...

I have a minor observation "Fasci di Combattimento" was the name of Mussolini's political organization in 1919. The actual italian name of the italian WW1 shock troops was "Arditi".
(wikipedia but basically correct).

Cherokee Organics said...


Just to clarify your comment, are your referring to my actions with the forest, the authorities centralised actions and strategy or both?

Perhaps learning to manage the forest was a poor description. I'm not sure English has the right words to describe the actions.

Basically, I'm just culling eucalypt species which have dominated the forest to the detriment of all other plant and animal species.

The strategy is working and bio-diversity is increasing rapidly.

The unfortunate thing that I have to deal with is that there is most probably an arsonist to the south of my location. It is a problem because if I do nothing, there will most certainly be a wildfire one day and all plants and animals will suffer as a result.



Agent Provocateur said...


The etymology and history of fascism is interesting. And yes, it is used as a snarl word. Nonetheless, it may still have meaning if defined narrowly. My favourite definition of fascism comes from the quote attributed to Mussolini that runs as follows:

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."

Benito was unusually concise and lucid on this occasion. Your readers may enjoy his more characteristic bombastic drivel at

Because it is such an emotionally loaded word (this being Mussolini's fault as much as that of anyone else), if people use the word without defining it, I'd say that is a “tell”. It gives away the game. Now you are in the realm of polemics i.e. argument for the sake of victory not truth.

As defined in the quote above, fascism isn't something that may happen in the future. It is obviously something that has already largely arrived in many countries. Since it is pointless to argue definitions, if a word needs to be defined every time you use it, it may be time to retire the word.

Lovely post.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Thank you, AlanfronBigEasy and sgage; I had confused the obverses of the FDR dime and the so-called "Mercury" dime, writing in haste. Apologies!

Saturnboy777 said...

John, I've been lurking around your blog for a few months now and never cease to be blessed by your insights. I originally came across your work indirectly through the work of Poke Runyon and Lon Milo Duquette. Then while reading Peter Bane's "Permaculture Handbook" I saw where he quoted you and thought I would be wise to look you up. I'm glad I did!

After reading this week's post, my question is what are your thoughts on Rudolf Steiner's concept of the threefold society as it relates to the eco-technic future? Is it something we might expect to see develop in a post-industrial society in the far future? Since Steiner lived in Germany when national socialism was beginning to gain a foothold it seems relevant to your discussion in some way perhaps. As an organic gardener yourself, I'm sure you are familiar with his ideas on biodynamic agriculture as well. Might biodynamics be considered a potential "future green technology"?

Ric Steinberger said...

The kinds of fascism that were embraced in Central Europe in the middle of the 20th century, and to a lesser extent in South America afterwards, are unlikely to return in anything like their prior forms. That said, we may see a few countries in the Balkans try to revive prior far right wing political parties and states over issues of immigrants and economics.

But the disappearance of 20th century fascism does not mean the end of authoritarianism. I think that's what JMG hints at in the final paragraph.

Any kind of major environmental disaster (major flood, prolonged drought, long-term interruption of electrical power over a wide area, substantial interruption of food supplies, pandemic that affects tens of millions of citizens in the modern, industrial world) or global economic and/or energy supply related sustained "event" could easily have a large percentage of the affected population demanding that governments come in and assert control, re-establish order and just "bring back the good old days". But once governments "take over", people may quickly find that they like the ways that "the trains run on time" (sometimes), and that all those undesirables who begged for food and money on the streets and sidewalks are suddenly gone and no one knows where they went. [Well, some people know!]

So authoritarianism is the "friend" of chaos, at least for a while, and maybe a long while.

Eventually even authoritarian governments cannot put Humpty Dumpty together again and even these governments are forced to contract and fragment. Then it's only communities that have gotten somewhat prepared for self governance, self defense [a requirement often overlooked by Transition groups], and self preservation that stand a chance of surviving in the long run, post national authoritarianism.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Maybe this is the right time to tell again a personal story I told here some years ago. It bears on fascism in the USA

My father, who was Danish-American, had worked all his adult life in the defense weapons industry (starting with the Norden Bombsight Project), and had a very high level security clearance, took me aside one day in the summer of 1960, just before I started college, for a very private conversation. He told me that there was something I would never hear in any course in American history, but should know anyway. That's how important he thought it! And he also thought it dangerous enough knowledge that it had to be passed on in private. (This was the only time in his life where he took any precautions to keep any conversation with me private.)

What he wanted me to know was how very close a thing it had been that the US had not entered WW2 on the side of Nazi Germany -- a fact that everyone would now just as soon forget.

The sort of people he had worked with -- Military brass hats, top executives in the defense industry, captains in other industries, weapons engineers with high-level security clearances, and so forth -- had been pretty much equally divided into thirds about entering WW2. About one third of these people wanted to stay out of the war altogether, and another third wanted badly to enter the war on the side of the Allies. And the final third wanted with equal passion to enter the war on the side of the Axis. This final third seemed to him to be winning the debate in the months before the Axis attack on Pearl Harbor.

This last third argued that Germany, after all, had the best engineers, made the best machines and machine tools, and had perfected the scientific method. It also had had the good sense to follow our own home-grown American lead in matters of eugenics, the sterilization of the "unfit," and "racial science" in general. (These were regarded by very many as real advances in the progress of American science at the time.)

Had it not been for that attack, he was fairly certain that we would have entered WW2 on the Axis side within a few months, and that this would have made all the difference: the Axis would have won WW2, and shaped the subsequent course of Western history. He did not like to contemplate what this would have meant for the future course of our civilization.

So anyone who might hope, "it can't happen here," needs to think hard about the possibility. It nearly did happen here. It wouldn't take all that much for it to happen again -- not as a plot by some secret evil cabal, but as the open expression of popular will.

MawKernewek said...

I think Newspeak is all too common. Just look at any government press release, or a train company apologizing for not being able to take the drinks trolley down the train but careful to avoid using the word "overcrowded"...

As far as PC language is concerned, the limiting factor is that the replacement neutral terms eventually also become pejorative, so unfortunately you don't necessarily change the way people think by changing the words.

Andy Brown said...

I think Joseph is right that Americans often make a virtue of ignorance. And I agree that schools and mass media are designed to make no dent in that ignorance. I also think that if you do develop political sophistication here, there's no immediate payoff. I wonder if you could take Kuebler-Ross's stages of grieving and map them over the average political activist's awakening relationship with democracy - as they deal with the "death" of the republic they'd been taught they live in.

John Michael Greer said...

Jason, I've long thought that Islam may play the same role in an upcoming reboot of fascism that Judaism did in the German version of the original series…

Avery, interesting. I'll have to look into that.

Bill, well, I didn't delete anything by you, so Blogger must have wanted a snack.

Matt, exactly. That's precisely the spectacle we have, of course – it's just that everybody likes to pretend that it's not.

Stephen, I'm not too worried about being banished to oblivion – as a heretic and infidel who dares to criticize the religion of progress, and publicly discusses just how little difference there actually is between Democrats and Republicans, I was consigned to the outer darkness with wailing and gnashing of teeth a long time ago. That's why my books are sold by small publishers and my blog is only referenced by other inhabitants of the fringe, you know.

Dan, everything I post here comes out of the same broad philosophy of history, and yes, I do end up having to make the same point in different ways at different times!

Lei, the one point you've made that I disagree with – and I'll be covering that next week – is your characterization of fascism as ultra-conservative. Not so; the ultra-conservatives in Germany and Italy were diehard opponents of fascist regimes, and German ultra-conservatives in particular were the ones who kept trying to blow Hitler to kingdom come. Other than that, no argument – and I share your curiosity about just how warm of a welcome Dmitry and his friends will find waiting for them in today's Russia!

Phitio, exactly!

Robert, thank you – my own less extensive readings in Eastern European history had led me to some of the same conclusions about the current Ukrainian mess, though I think it's also pretty clear that the US and/or the EU are funding the anti-Russian side of that mess, in an attempt to pry the Ukraine out of Russia's orbit and attach the breadbasket of Europe to the West.

Richard, my take, for what it's worth, is that what you're seeing in Washington DC just now is the normal death spiral of a democracy: unconstrained graft and corruption combined with increasingly vicious partisan hatreds and a diffusion of power to the point that the only thing anybody can accomplish at all is one or another form of plundering the corpse of the national commons.

Raven, got it. I'll be in touch about the length issue.

John Michael Greer said...

Claudia, if political correctness had stopped at that, I don't think more than a few people would have criticized it. Of course it didn't stop there.

YJV, good! In Europe between the wars, many of the Bolshevists (whom I mentioned in the post) were followers of Trotsky.

Alan, exactly – just one aspect of the imagery and terminology of the Roman Republic that was borrowed en masse by the United States in its early years.

Kristofv, a good case could be made for that.

Bard, thank you.

Zach, thank you also!

Shtove, well, Eco has his own axe to grind, of course.

Torch, I think you're wrong on two counts. First, the German national socialist program was by no means as eclectic as all that – as I mentioned in my post, national socialism was a recognized position on the spectrum of political economy, and the Hitler regime's gleichschaltung of German industry after 1933 was straight out of that position. Second, however adaptable democracy might be, it's still the case that none of the democracies adopted such measures before 1933, and most of them rushed to do so after 1945. I don't think that's accidental.

Marc, good. I'm a little baffled, though, by the phrase "inverted totalitarianism" for plain old-fashioned corruption and graft; I'm far from sure your author knows what the word "totalitarian" means, in fact. I'll be covering that next week.

Yupped, yes, one of the things that makes fascism invisible today is that so many people are fixated on the 1930s fashion-statement end of it.

John, thanks for the reference!

Joseph, "what you contemplate, you imitate" is a basic law of magic, after all.

Barbara, fusion scientists are always making enthusiastic claims like that. That's how they keep their funding coming in. Several of the people who commented on the article pointed out that the reporter was wrong in claiming that more energy came out of the reaction than went into it. Still, people will cling to their fantasies…

escapefromwisconsin said...

FWIW, I've long distinguished political parties from authoritarian movements. They are two completely different animals. The Nazis, Fascists and Communists are clearly examples of the latter. In the U.S., the Democratic party has an economic platform closer to national socialism, but the right-wing Republican party in America has configured itself into an authoritarian movement based largely on the John Birch Society of the 1950's, merged with discredited "Austrian" economic theories, Christian reconstructionism, and the social Darwinism of Ayn-Rand. The signatures of an authoritarian movement include:

1. Scapegoating of minority groups for the nation's problems (Jews and gypsies in Germany, blacks and Hispanics in the US)
2. Intolerance of homosexuality and embrace of "traditional values." Hatred of so-called "degenerates."
3. Macho chauvanism and embracing of martial virtues, including gun fetishism.
4. Reverence and worship of the miltary and military strength. Deference to all soldiers as "heroes" regardless of their role.
5. Complete and total aggreement and a sidelining of any opposing voices. Marching in lock-step.
6. Rewriting history and unthinking reverence for past leaders (compare Reagan to Lenin, Mao, etc.)
7. Government regulation of personal behavior and victimless crimes (abortion, drug use, etc.).
8. Mass surveillance of the citizenry (NSA, although this is embraced by both parties).
9. Use of physical intimidation and citizen militias to frighten their enemies (Brown shirts then, Brooks Brothers riots, bringing guns to town hall meetings, and patrolling polling places for "fraud" today).
10. Use of incessant propaganda to reinforce belief systems which spin a "different" truth for followers (compare Goebbels "big lie" to FOX news, Drudge, Limbaugh, etc.)
9. Politicization of every aspect of life, including things like transportation policy, science, etc. (e.g. trains and bikes are socialism; global warming is a hoax. Compare to Lysenkoism and Horbigers' World Ice Theory).
10. The branding of opponents not just as people with different ideas about governance, but as subversives and traitors to the nation to be eliminated at all costs (e.g. anything written by Ann Coulter).

I would argue that this is far more useful to understand the dangers of political parties than focusing on economics. That's why I prefer to use the term authoritarianism instead of Fascism, since authoritarianism is agnostic of an economic platform. The above checklist is accurate to authoritarian parties from the Nazis and Communists, to today's far right parties such as Jobbik and the Golden Dawn (the Greek version, not the mystical lodge). Although it should be noted that the American Republican version may be the first and only one to leave most of its followers worse off economically.

John Michael Greer said...

Diana, the Falangist movement in Spain's always been an equivocal issue in the study of fascism – it has a lot of similarities but, as you noted, a lot of differences. That Spaniards are still worried about it seems sensible to me.

Goldmund, it is indeed – Google "Balbo monument" sometime and you'll find the details.

Exiledbear, it's not just discarnate entities who have made that comparison. I've read – though I can't find the reference at the moment – that the concentration camps of Hitler's regime were directly inspired by Indian reservations in the US.

Xhmko, no, it wasn't a catchall title – did you read that part of my post at all? National socialism was a very specific point on the spectrum of political economy, and a movement of working class Germans who supported that approach to the nation's economic problems – which is basically what the NSDAP was to start with – was being quite up front in taking that name.

Jasmine, it's an interesting question – will the Second Religiosity bring a revival of older religious forms, or the emergence of completely new ones? My guess is the latter, but we'll see.

Ekkar, a lot of people on the left spent a lot of time and money to make sure that that's what comes to mind when you hear the word "fascism." It's not accidental!

Cathy, got it – you're in the competition.

Don, that's exactly what I'm saying. Most parties in Germany between the wars engaged in one form or another of jingoistic nationalism – so did most parties here in the US, and in most other countries as well.

SMJ, no, just imposed by his regime.

Steve, no, and I'll have to remedy that. Thanks for the suggestion.

SLClaire said...

As other readers have pointed out, this post helps to clarify some of your previous posts about political ideas and terms. I'll be re-reading it to get even more out of it than I already have.

Here's an experience from earlier this week that is at least relevant to the broader themes of your blog, if not precisely this post. A new bridge over the Mississippi in downtown St. Louis will be opened to vehicle traffic later this month. Last Saturday, it was opened for several hours to pedestrians and human-powered wheeled vehicles. On Monday I looked at Facebook to see what was there. I found a post from an acquaintance who calls himself a climate change activist extolling the actions of another such, a woman, who had walked the bridge with a sign urging people to act on climate now. It hit me wrong, so I asked how she had gotten to the bridge to make her statement, saying I hoped she hadn't driven as it would negate the power of her message. First he seemed to misunderstand my question, so I repeated it and said I'd stopped going to protests by car when driving cars made whatever was being protested against worse. Then he told me that while he respected my choice, I was not to be critical of him or other climate change activists because they are doing what they can to engage others. He said "our opposition" would love for us to sit at home and tend to our organic gardens but he and other activists would not give them the satisfaction. She joined in the conversation and it turned out she drove her Nissan Leaf all electric car downtown to a charging station to get most of the way to the bridge, where another friend picked her up and drove her to the bridge. Our electric utility generates 73% of its electricity from coal, so it could fairly be said that she did more damage driving the Leaf than she would have by driving a gasoline-powered car. She also said she's got solar panels generating 70% of her electricity, so maybe that makes the car a little greener than I gave her credit for above. Still, this exchange indicates not only their idea of themselves as the holy opposition, but that I and others are not to question what they do in that regard. I find that rather chilling. And that may dovetail into the theme of this and the next few posts.

Ruben said...

Wow, JMG, the comments are pouring in.

I am curious to hear your thoughts on the Groupist (or ultranationalist) predilection for bigotry. We see it in Greece's Golden Dawn, and in all the British far right parties (hating the Roma and whatnot).

Maybe it just our Canadian narrative of our Cultural Mosaic, but I can't figure out why it is more attractive to hate "foreigners" (always a little rich in the recent colonies). I can understand closing the borders, but not why they wouldn't want to work with the people already inside those borders.

Mark Rice said...

I am starting to think the labels I use are broken.

First I need a name for a system that has these traits: The system is autocratic or authoritarian. Often there is a charismatic leader at the top. This system achieved and maintains it's grip by playing the emotions of people under it in particular ways. First they play the peoples feelings of victim-hood. They also play a fear of the Other. Some sort of identifiable group is blamed as the cause of their problems or their decline. There is a propaganda machine to make lots of "verbal noises linked to heated emotional states". And a large part of the population buys into this nasty emotionalism.

Based of the post by Pinku-sensai the word Fascist may fit. But if this word has devolved into just a snarl word then most people will not understand the intended meaning.

Second, how could we label a system where the government is run for the benefit of multination corporations. The government could be obviously autocratic or it could go through the motions of being a democracy.

One possible label is corpocracy but that sounds a lot like corporatism. I have just learned corporatism is more about giving workers or government more control and ownership. That label does not fit. I could call this second system bannana republicanism but then no one would know what I mean by this label.

Varun Bhaskar said...

As a student of Political Science, which is the crappier version of history, I always used the words totalitarian and authoritarian to describe governments that I don't like. Of course since I'm always been part of the privileged class (I'm a Brahmin from a civil service family) those kinds of systems always end up benefiting me.

About 5 years ago, slightly after the energy crisis and subsequent recession began, I noticed an interesting trend among my lefty friends in college. I kept seeing how many of them were changing the definition of communism to dis-include the excesses of the various soviet, Asian, and Latin American governments. It was one of those weird and rather juvenile attempts to whitewash a political ideology so it could be popularized and put back to use. Of course if you've read even a few history books from those periods you understand that there's always nuances. Actually if you've read any books that should be obvious. Plus even a high-schooler should know better than to use the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

Anyway on a weird coincidence me and a friend were talking about the coming chaos and he pointed out that the US is going to head into a Blairesque nanny state. What do you think of that suggestion? That the public will not be crushed under jackboots on their way to the dark-age but hugged and coddled into it instead. I mean with the proliferation of drugs and alcohol I'm already seeing many people in my generation simply fade away.

I'm more worried about the rise of ethnic ultra-nationalism, which I'm seeing appear in a lot of different places.

To those proposing fusion power as our savior, I'll see your fusion and raise you a solar! Good job everyone dark-age averted, high-fives and hugs all around!

Has anyone noticed the number of energy articles that have popped up this week? Especially after bout of depressing news?

View on the Ground continues its coverage of the decline. We're slowly getting better and have just published our first article about the California drought. (
We could do better if more people sent us articles of interest. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Please e-mail us at viewontheground at


Varun Bhaskar
Chief Administrator
View on the Ground

John Michael Greer said...

Okay, I was wondering when the pushback was going to begin. Eddie, you're an example of Pushback Method #1: pretend that my post didn't say anything contrary to the conventional wisdom, and talk right past the points I made instead of responding to them. Here's your test question: how many "generals and titans of industry" were in the inner circle of either the German or the Italian fascist regimes? Answer: none. Ergo, your definition of fascism doesn't correspond to the historical reality; as I noted, it's been distorted for partisan ends, just like "socialism."

Thomas, nope, you're square on the money.

Btidwell, authoritarian regimes run by and for the interests of very large businesses have been quite common in the last century or so, especially in Latin America, where the US used to impose them at gunpoint for the benefit of United Fruit and several other corporations. Those differed from fascism in a great many ways -- we'll talk about some of those next week. If you want a convenient slogan, you might talk about the idea that the rich want to turn the US into a banana republic, to the extent that they haven't done so already.

Dustin, the problem there is that using the term "fascist" in its modern debased sense makes it harder to recognize actual, classic fascist movements – and as I commented in my post, I'm deeply concerned that such movements could play a large and disastrous role in our future. Those who like to decry today's failing democracies as fascist states have forgotten that some of the likely alternatives are far, far worse. More on this two weeks from now.

Zed, even those Germans who objected to anti-Semitism were used to it, knew that plenty of their neighbors believed in it, and treated it by and large as just one more set of opinions that some people had. That's the point that I was trying to make. \

MPL, well, of course. The fracking bubble's losing air, so people have to come up with some other way to convince themselves that they can expect limitless energy from a finite planet.

Eddie, not so. You're engaged in the very common tactic of taking a real phenomenon and exaggerating it to the point of absurdity. Please go read Orwell's novel, pay attention to the role that Newspeak plays in it, and notice the differences between that and the current misuse of language.

Paul, and because it's being used for relatively modest steps toward authoritarianism – how many of your friends have been rounded up and sent to prison camps? – the misuse of the word is making it much more likely that actual fascism will not be recognized when it appears.

Jetgraphics, well, that's another way to classify things; I'm not sure that it's particularly useful, but it's an option.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Robert Mathiesen--As you know, FDR pursued a policy of containing Japan, which is why she took the risk of a first strike. I believe Democrats controlled the Senate throughout this period. The faction you write about might have had the power to keep the USA neutral, but I don't think it could have forced the USA into the war on the Axis side while Roosevelt was in office.

captcha same Teaseme

shtove said...

"Shtove, well, Eco has his own axe to grind, of course."

Please, what does that "of course" mean?

Deleted said...

JMG said:

"Torch, I think you're wrong on two counts. First, the German national socialist program was by no means as eclectic as all that – as I mentioned in my post, national socialism was a recognized position on the spectrum of political economy, and the Hitler regime's gleichschaltung of German industry after 1933 was straight out of that position. Second, however adaptable democracy might be, it's still the case that none of the democracies adopted such measures before 1933, and most of them rushed to do so after 1945. I don't think that's accidental."

I believe such claims need evidence behind it, and thus far it seems, thus far, that you're making the correlation is the same as causation fallacy. I have tried to find anything that said Europeans deliberately copied the National Socialist economy and came up with nothing. Thus, before I can accept what you say, I need more than "I don't think that's accidental." I also think that's a reasonable request.

Dustin Hamman said...

@JMG. OK, I see where you're coming from now. Thanks. True fascism can be much, much worse than the current use of the word implies and we don't want to lose sight of that. Gotcha. Would it help to start using the terms 'modern fascism' and 'classical fascism'in common discourse to differentiate the two? Or would it be better to just drop the term in its modern use all together and replace it with something else? I see banana republic was mentioned. Either way, it seems like it might help for us all to come to a common agreement on what to call the mess we're currently facing today. (I have the feeling it would take more than one word to adequately accomplish that feat!) Thanks again.

Robert Mathiesen said...

You're welcome, JMG. But there are *two* outside, alien parties pumping money and material support into Ukrainian politics at the moment: one is the US and EU; the other is Post-Soviet Russia.

Unfortunately, English-language textbooks, even on the university level, and media (like their Russian-language counterparts) often treat the history of Ukraine (and Belarus) as if it had always been a natural part of the history of a mythical Greater Russia, that is, a state and polity with an unbroken historical identity from the 9th century down to the present. The most recent form of this myth of a Greater Russia posits three closely related Slavic nations, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, living in fraternal harmony from the dawn of their history, and fated by nature always to do so.

It's a powerful myth, with very real political consequences, and very real penalties for challenging its truth. Even so, as history, it's a load of frack. The actual cultural and linguistic history of these lands was vastly more complicated, and it bears no resemblance whatever to the myth

(This is surely not the place for a detailed history lesson, but if you think otherwise, I am willing provide the outlines of one.)

Robert Mathiesen said...

@ Deborah Bender

No indeed, not while FDR was still able to exercise power. But he had been in very poor health since at least 1940, and might have died at any time.

Nor was it at all certain, even if FDR lived, that he would be able to retain presidential power throughout his term of office. The Presidency then was not as powerful as it has become now, and there had already been at least one attempt at a plot meant to reduce FDR to a powerless figurehead.

It's a safe bet that the plot which General Smedly Butler exposed was not the only such plot being considered, since its members seem not to have been the brightest bulbs in the pro-Fascist chandelier at the time.

Avery said...

@Thomas Daulton: Those Americans who most proudly call themselves political "conservatives", also ironically, are apparently radical progressives.

I think you are right in two different ways. First, as G.K. Chesterton says, "progress takes for granted an already defined direction: and it is exactly about the direction that we disagree." Everyone believes in progress towards their own idea of goodness. "Progressivism" is in that sense as useless a term as "fascism".

Second, as you were pointing out, American conservatives these days are actually liberals, because they believe that the golden age was an age of freedom from government. So they are progressives in that sense too.

In any case, you make an excellent case that the much-hyped left-right divide in America actually boils down to a debate over the meaning of "freedom", and what kind of freedoms should be on our agenda. The top comment here accuses the Tea Party of fascism for believing in personal freedom, while I'm sure there are people out there accusing Obama of fascism for believing in social freedom.

But what freedoms we'd like to preserve or progress on but is a tiny aspect of the role of a political regime in maintaining the health of a nation. On subjects like America's unsustainable military empire or the willful destruction of our hard industry, I am pretty sure most readers of this blog recognize a huge problem looming straight ahead regardless of our "political orientation", but we are so caught up in this mean-spirited freedom argument that these concerns get shoved by the wayside.

John Michael Greer said...

Anna, true enough. Sara reads more literature than I do -- she's a particular fan of Jane Austen and other 19th century British authors -- and so when the two of us are standing at a bus stop talking, the conversation might well end up banking off magical philosoply, Celtic legend, word origins, and some plot twist from Sense and Sensibility by the time it really gets going!

Marcello, interesting. I'd read that "fasci di combattimento" was another term for "arditi" -- if that's incorrect, so noted.

Cherokee, sorry for the confusion! I was referring to the actions of the authorities, of course. What you're doing is precisely a matter of trying to work with an evolving system, rather than applying some harebrained rationalizing scheme to it.

Agent, okay, here we have Pushback Method #2: pull a very brief statement out of context, neglect to note that the meanings of the words have changed, and use that to try to defend the conventional wisdom. Here's your test question: how much did the corporazione Mussolini was talking about have in common with, say, Goldman Sachs? Answer: nothing. He wasn't talking about corporations in the modern American sense, he was talking about syndicalist structures that forced management and labor to sit down together and negotiate under the beady eyes of Fascist Party officials. (You can look this up in any book on Italian Fascism.) I did mention this in my post, you know...

Saturnboy, Steiner's biodynamic methods have very strongly influenced my organic gardening style, and of late I've been putting a fair amount of time into studying his elucidations of Goethe's work in the natural sciences; I haven't studied his sociopolitical thought. (As I'm sure you're aware, there's a lot of Steiner to read!) Thus I can't really comment on its potential viability in a deindustrial world. As for biodynamics, though, that's a slam-dunk -- it's a good system, and entirely workable in a nonindustrial world.

Ric, no, that's not what I was hinting at, but it's a good point. The word "authoritarian" is a good one for those social forms that stress centralized authority and expect (and compel) people to obey. Yes, we're going to see a lot of that; the movement toward "state capitalism" of the Russian and Chinese sort is a good example.

Robert, many thanks for sharing that story. I spoke in an earlier series of posts about the old division in American society between the Anglophile coasts and the Anglophobe hinterlands; that was a much more powerful force before 1941 than most people remember -- and the attitudes that guided Hitler's regime were a good deal more popular here than most people like to admit.

MawKernewek, "Newspeak" was a good deal more than euphemisms. You might want to reread Orwell's book one of these days.

Andy, fascinating. That's worth considering.

Escape, excellent. Not all authoritarian movements blame their troubles on minority groups, unless you consider "the rich" as a minority group, but other than that, your taxonomy is pretty much spot on. It's crucial, as you point out, to remember that this sort of system can emerge from any point in the political spectrum -- another detail that today's easy talk about fascism tends to miss.

SLClaire, that story's utterly appropriate to the current topic, as well as the broader topic of this blog. It's precisely the insistence, on the part of activists, that actions of theirs must not be judged because they're doing all of it in a good cause, that leads by few and easy steps to the equivalent of armbands and prison camps.

KL Cooke said...

"I've been keeping an eye on the protests in the Ukraine..."

Keep an eye on Bosnia while your at it. They're really raising some H.

These kinds of popular uprisings seem to be breaking out everywhere where the economy is particularly weak and the government particularly corrupt.

How long can it be before...?

John Michael Greer said...

Ruben, that's specific to a certain subset of Groupists -- Mussolini's regime, again, was no more xenophobic than the government it replaced. The origins of what, here in the States, used to be called Nativism is a complicated issue, though it might be worth a discussion down the road.

Mark, exactly -- the labels you use are broken. They were deliberately broken, to keep you from being able to use them to make sense of your world. Now step back from labeling for a while, look at the world around you without benefit of single-noun labels like "fascist," and see what the world looks like. (By the way, the phrase "banana Republican" badly needs to get into general use, as it's mostly the GOP these days that's pushing the country into banana-republic status -- the Dems have their own bad ideas, but they're different.)

Varun, the US doesn't have the financial resources left to manage a nanny state -- the cost of hiring that many nannies, so to speak, would finish the job of bankrupting us. Mind you, drinking and drugging yourself to death is a common habit in imploding empires, so I expect to see a lot of that in the years ahead.

Shtove, are you familiar with Eco's writings and activities more generally? He's basically the trad Catholic equivalent of Richard Dawkins -- and yes, I know that comparison would infuriate both of them! Still, they're birds of a feather: intelligent, arrogant, and utterly uninterested in walking away from a potential fight. Where you see either one, the sound of grinding axes is always to be heard.

Deleted, and of course I had bugs in the presidential residences of a dozen nations so I could tape record the conversations in question. Correlation doesn't prove causation, but I'm not sure if you're aware that it doesn't disprove it, either!

Dustin, I'd encourage people to use "fascism" only for movements that are along the same lines as historical fascism, and use words such as "authoritarian" and "corrupt" where those terms are a better fit. "Banana republic" has its virtues too!

Robert, no argument at all -- the reason I mentioned the US and EU is that most of the media I've seen have discussed the Russian involvement in detail and pretended that we ain't doing nothin'.

John Michael Greer said...

KL, that depends on who's willing to pay for it. You certainly don't think these things are spontaneous, do you? Quite the contrary, it takes a lot of funding, channeled through an assortment of "nongovernmental organizations," to manufacture a color revolution. Gene Sharp's 1993 handbook From Dictatorship to Democracy is the usual template. As for how long it'll be before that gets tried here in the US, well, why do you think the federal government is pumping so much money into domestic "antiterrorist" measures? Since the US is the world's most active sponsor of canned revolutions, its current leaders have got to know that sooner or later, what goes around will come around.

Peter Robinson said...

Thank you dealing with a sensitive topic in a clear, fair way.

This reminds me of conversations that I had with my father - a kindly, liberal man - about walking holidays that he had in Germany in the 1930's. He greatly enjoyed these, and was much impressed by the way that the country was run, in particular with the attention paid to health, outdoor exercise, youth and the general welfare of the less prosperous members of society.

However, he did mention a German phrase, which I have long since forgotten, that was translated roughly as the "Over the Shoulder Look". This described what anyone he spoke to did before criticizing the government or any official, however mildly.

His opinion of the German government changed somewhat in following years as he fought Waffen SS divisions up the spine of Italy as an artilleryman in the Eighth Army.

Shane Wilson said...

Speaking of the anglophobe/anglophile divide in the US, had King Edward not abdicated, it's highly likely Britain would have acquiesced to Hitler and not put up an effective opposition, leaving no Allies for the US to join. Edward was sympathetic to the Nazis.

John Michael Greer said...

Peter, that would certainly change one's opinion! Still, the thing that half a century of propaganda has tried to erase is that before 1939, many people of good will had high hopes for fascism as a movement. I suspect that that's one of the reasons it's been turned into a content-free snarl of late.

Shane, there was a substantial pro-German faction among the British upper class generally, so yes, that's one of the what-ifs that authors of alternative history like to play with.

John Michael Greer said...

Blue Peter (offlist), when you put through a not-for-posting comment, please include your email address, otherwise I have no way to respond to it. Many thanks!

Bill Pulliam said...

I think the missing comment was just a suggestion that your "Anti-facist" graffiti artist was probably just a teenager angry at the cops for telling him he couldn't skateboard somewhere.

I also noted that the individuals and groups that might ultimately coalesce into a fascist movement are at present scattered among many different labels. For example, one can find hints of this in both the Green movements and the Tea Party movements. But a minority within both.

I'll also be very interested to hear your (less jargon-filled) synopsis of Nolte. That might make it easier to recast the characters with present-day "actors." There certainly seem to have been commentors on this very blog who have expressed beliefs that might fit the bill; again, from a wide variety of perspectives.

In some ways one might argue that the hard-core neo-primitivists, with their opposition to all social developments since 8000 B.C., are the ultimate fascist movement.

Bill Pulliam said...

Political correctness -- when did this come to be just about language? As I mentioned before, when I first heard the term about 30 years ago it was being used by the left about the left in a self-parody. It was about actions, attitudes, beliefs, not just words. In fact I think the very first time I heard it was among lesbian activists, joking that hanging out with a straight man in public was not "politically correct." And I reiterate, this was a JOKE, about the silliness of extreme dogma.

The attitude itself is dang-near universal across society from all directions; so many pundits now who slam someone for "political correctness" are doing so just to enforce their own brand of "political correctness" on that same someone. It's not politically correct to suggest that a public school's celebrating "christmas" is not politically correct. And at that point the parody becomes a parody of a parody, and the concept is meaningless.

KL Cooke said...

"KL, that depends on who's willing to pay for it."

That leads to the next question.

If and when it happens here, who'll be paying for it?

John Michael Greer said...

Bill, nah, the neoprimitivists lack two of Nolte's six factors -- a cult of charismatic leadership and a uniformed Party militia. They've got the opposition to Marxist, liberal, and conservative ideas, and the totalitarian agenda -- giving "totalitarian" here its correct meaning of "a movement that seeks to transform and control every aspect of human life." Does that help clarify things a little?

KL, oh, I don't know. Can you think of a nation that's a major rival to the US, and has, say, a trillion spare dollars or so that it knows are going to be worth less than toilet paper in the not too distant future? Such a nation would be crazy not to invest some of that trillion into encouraging a little regime change here...

S P said...

The thing about America is that its decline is likely to rhyme with the decline of the European empires, but the manifestations will be different.

Nevertheless, for those of us who pay attention (and that's perhaps 5% of people in America, but grown from less than 1% pre-crisis), the outlines are becoming clear.

The first event will likely be a convulsive civil war that nobody expects, our "WW1". Timeline is early 2020s. The second event will be a reaction to the first, and it will involve a fascistic rally around whiteness and Christianity, to restore order and greatness to the country. Timeline 2030s. This will be our "WW2", and, like England and Germany before, no side will emerge the victor.

This will be the final end to the age of empires, and imperialism will be discredited for millenia, along with other ideas such as population growth, wealth expansion, etc.

KL Cooke said...

"I don't think it could have forced the USA into the war on the Axis side while Roosevelt was in office."

Key phrase being "while Roosevelt was in office."

Here's how he traveled around.

"Armor-plated with 5/8-inch steel on the car’s roof, floor, and sides and fitted with three-inch thick windows and two escape hatches, the refurbished car weighed 285,000 pounds, double its original weight. U.S. Car No. 1 is the heaviest railcar ever built in the United States. Security removed the name Ferdinand Magellan from the sides of the car and only "Pullman" remained, making the coach resemble, from a distance, an ordinary private car. For the remainder of World War II, this rolling fortress moved under the code word "POTUS" for President of the United States. POTUS had the right-of-way over all other rail traffic."

It seems there was someone named Prescott something-or-other who didn't like him.

Justin G said...

When you mention Islam potentially playing a similar role to Judaism in the Fascist revival, I can't help but think that would go over even more poorly than the first round. The world's two billion Muslims would likely put up a bit more resistance that the few million Jews ever could have, and that's before factoring in the massive energy resources of the Middle East or support they would get from China or other rising powers.

Agent Provocateur said...


OK, that quote from Mussolini is no longer my favourite definition of Fascism if it causes so much trouble. I wasn't trying to deliberately misrepresent Benito's intended meaning. Nor was I defending anything. I also wasn't attaching you. Perhaps your essay didn't define “Fascism” as such; but giving the etymology and history comes pretty close. In any case you weren't using the word to snarl. I understand you will define it next week.

So the quote was: "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."

As you indicated in your post, “corporate” had a wide meaning. Then as now it could refer to any chartered organization regardless of the ownership structure or business model. Though I don't have a book on Italian fascism handy, I accept your assertion that Mussolini used the term “corporate” in the sense of “syndicates” owning (or attempting to own) a business enterprise as opposed to the legal entity called a “corporation” owning the same.

Was Mussolini addressing small businesses? Is that where syndicate/corporate “power” lies? No, I think he was concerned with big business. So in either case (syndicate or corporate owned), Mussolini's definition was concerned with large commercial business enterprises and the state's relationship to these. That these would be syndicate owned was a given under his scheme.

So to answer you question: “How much did the corporazione Mussolini was talking about have in common with, say, Goldman Sachs?” The correct answer is “Quite a lot.” Goldman Sachs is a legal entity that controls a large commercial business enterprise. The corporazione were legal entities some of whom controlled (or sought to control) large commercial business enterprises. A syndicate is just one type of entity involved in control or ownership of a business. I'm not sure it matters much who owns the specific business enterprises; particularly if Mussolini intended to direct the owners.

So what would be the relationship between the state and large commercial business enterprises under Mussolini's Fascism? I think its clear from the foregoing and the quote that Mussolini understood that the state is “merged” with big business under Fascism. There is no indication in his definition, or my post, as to who had/has the upper hand in the relationship then/now. Nonetheless, Benito's intention was that the state would have the upper hand. Under Mussolini’s Fascism, such worker owned big commercial businesses would be directed by the Fascist state to serve (ostensibly) national (as opposed to purely private or class) interests.

Currently, big business interests often controls government through “regulation capture” and other means. The center of power is entirely different. Who decides what is in the nation's interest is entirely different. Nonetheless, has government not merged with big business in both cases? So in that sense, governments merged with big business can be called “Fascist”.

But wait. Why am I arguing definitions against my own advice? Ah, polemics rears its ugly head. Though it does come from Mussolini, I'd admit the quote is a pretty narrow definition. It gave only one dimension of Fascism. There was and is a good deal more to it. I look forward to your next essay when you go into this.

P.S. What is Pushback Method #1 and are there more than two such methods? Perhaps you should do a post on these one day. Inquiring minds want to know. ;-)

Derv said...

Fantastic as always, JMG. The confusion about the terms fascist and national socialist is one I've attempted to address with many, many people. As a side note, I think that the political apathy and stupidity in the US is more a product of our general distaste for the current system than anything else. Our democratic model requires binary thinking for political success, yet only a small minority will agree wholeheartedly with the entire platform, so most people avoid identifying with it. They think politics means Red vs. Blue - which in the US it does, usually - and opt out. I can't blame them.

As for the terminology, though... there comes a time when words get so bogged down, so distorted, so warped, that their meaning is forever changed. Language evolves, and is horribly exploited for political purposes. You intend to try removing the clutter around these terms, yet judging by the comment section, it hasn't really worked. These words are too loaded. You'll fail to get through to a lot of people simply because of terminology.

This whole system of speaking doesn't work anymore. Capitalism, Liberalism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism, Conservatism, Progressivism. All of these words are irreparably broken. Everyone brings different baggage with them for each term, so trying to describe anything with them is just an awful mess of misunderstandings. Again, look at the comments. I'm not belittling anyone, but a number of the general political ideas you put forward would be wholeheartedly supported by the same people who are trying to identify the newest fascist boogeyman. I've seen at least six mentioned here so far. What good is the word if no one will associate with it, even those who wholeheartedly believe it? These words are dead as useful terms, I say.

We need new words! They could be based on some form of logic or structure, or even simple compound words (like when they first whipped up national socialism as a term), or even just gobbledygook. But anything, ANYTHING, is better than saying fascism or nazism.

I realize that it's awfully difficult to try and whip up new words, or even just related words, to describe these concepts that once had perfectly good terms. But people identify a group as fascist for acting like national socialists from their view because they are liberals who identify as conservatives who in reality are actually statists! How can we talk like this?!

End the madness for us, please! :)

Juhana said...

My comment should belong to previous post actually, but as the idea behind book I am presenting is quite compelling, here I go.
This one guy build an around the year livable house purely from salvaged construction "waste". As you have been speaking about forthcoming age of salvage, here is one more example how a person with some manual skills can help to build decent and humane living space with nothing but "waste" and muscle-powered tools at hand. Certainly a ray of light into the darkening future.

When it comes to current topic, I have lately come to conclusion that it is just waste of time to speak politics with persons outside your own interest group.

I have long had this feeling how industrial societies, especially the West, are like passengers inside the plane guided by the autopilot. That autopilot is malfunctioning and the course is bound to cause a crash. As clock is ticking, passengers just shout to each other, not hearing what the other dude is actually saying. As one subgroup highlights one angle to problem of predicament caused by autopilot crash, the other ones do not actually listen what they have to say but already think ways to strengthen their own original opinion about how reality really is.

That's not the way to have a conversation, or to have true decision-making process. So I personally think that the time when it made sense to talk about politics with outsiders is long gone in the Europe, and probably in the US also. In the end of the day, one group shall win and rule the others, derailing them into darkness and misery.

The faith of the class of people represented by certain political movement depends if they win or lose in this ongoing zero-sum game. World is in the state of flux, and old certainties don't hold any more. One thing is crystal clear though: during earlier period of European history the most bitter political hatred and resentment was reserved for movements representing native working class in the red corner and the bourgeois in the blue corner. Now this rivalry is between middle-to-upper-class "progressive" liberals (American style) and native working classes. If one of them wins, the other is bound to lose.

As this new situation is quite unpleasant for members of European hipster Marxist academia, slur words like "fascism" are bound to be hurled around. But who cares about them, outside their own circles?

Everyone stands with his/her own. I think Western decay has reached the level where there is no more meaningful exchange of opinions between different classes/interest groups inhabiting the same rotting carcass, or genuine will to understand distress of other subgroups pressured by unintended side effects of the globalist ideology. So while your article has great historical appeal, I see no point to contribute into conversation about it more than this. Good historical sweep, though.

Here is the link to the book about this house build from salvaged waste. If you can maybe Google translate it, it probably makes a good read.

Unknown said...

But was rancourous inequity also a harbinger of full-blown fascism in the 30's? No doubt we'll wander into the latest Kristallnacht polemics of OWS and Black Block vs. Plutocrats and Kleptocrats in the next juicy chapter.

Anselmo said...


1 ) It was not necessary to expel dissident teachers because there were none. That expulsion, imprisonment and even execution happened in the end of the Civil War.
2nd) The racial issues , understanding race as a biological concept . Simply did not exist , because the population was racially homogeneous , because the Spanish nationalism was based on the concept of a shared past and in the goal of Christianize for their inclusion in the imperium , regardless of race. On October 22 the discovery of America is celebrated in South America and that day is called " Columbus Day " , referring to a cultural unity and character rather than biological patterns .
3rd) The so-called " transition to democracy " in the year 78, was based on an amnesty for political crimes committed by both sides . Something bad for Justice but so we avoided another civil war.
3rd) The amnesty of 78 also benefited alleged criminals on the Republican side , the most striking is Santiago Carrillo , Stalinist Communist leader who was accused of being responsible for the execution of several thousand of political prisoners in Paracuellos (Madrid), some of them very youth . Carrillo not only had to not face any police investigation, but was one of the most important people in the current political regime and also because of his talk , intelligent and entertaining , he was a person with a strong presence in the media communication , until the day of his death, few years ago
4th) Spain is the European country with less presence of fascists in political life . 0 Members, 0 mayors, councilmen 0 , despite 30% unemployment virtually impossible to see a resurgence of fascism. Not so in other European countries.
The only case I know is that xenophobic mayor some years ago in a village in Catalonia , which remained only one term .
There are some fascist movements , but do not have popular support.

Ice Torch said...

The Archdruid wrote in his blog:

“The first national socialist party I’ve been able to trace was founded in 1898 in what’s now the Czech Republic, and the second was launched in France in 1903. National socialism was a recognized position in the political and economic controversies of early 20th century Europe.

National socialist parties argued that business firms should be made subject to government regulation and coordination in order to keep them from acting against the interests of society as a whole, and that the working classes ought to receive a range of government benefits paid for by taxes on corporate income and the well-to-do. Those points were central to the program of the National Socialist German Workers Party from the time it got that name.”

In practice, the difference between National Socialist and Social Democratic policies regarding the working classes are not clear – only the theoretical emphasis is different.

And the Archdruid said to me:

“Torch, I think you're wrong on two counts. First, the German national socialist program was by no means as eclectic as all that – as I mentioned in my post, national socialism was a recognized position on the spectrum of political economy, and the Hitler regime's gleichschaltung of German industry after 1933 was straight out of that position. Second, however adaptable democracy might be, it's still the case that none of the democracies adopted such measures before 1933, and most of them rushed to do so after 1945. I don't think that's accidental.”

National socialism may have been a recognised position, but when had it ever been in real power before the Nazis? The complexity of managing an economy means that some “positions” have to be abandoned over time.

In any case, Hitler was consciously opportunist and did not believe in rigid programs. When did he ever ban department stores? Yet that was one of his party’s 25 points. In 1932 he gave a speech in which he said something along the lines of: “People ask me, what is your program? I will not stand before the German people and give them cheap promises!” Of course he had ideas about how to run his state and country, and it’s clear that he stole some of them from Lenin and Stalin (Dolfuss, the so called “Austro-fascist”, abhorred the Third Reich as “Stalinesque”). Initially he believed that capitalism satisfied the pseudo-Darwinistic concept of “the survival of the fittest”. However, by the mid-1930s he came to admire Stalin’s economic achievements, and so in 1936 the Nazis instituted their first (and last?) Four Year Plan, in direct imitation of Stalin’s Five Year Plans.

Hitler believed that the economy should be secondary to his war aims, and when his finance minister disagreed with him, he was sacked. From Wikipedia:

“Hjalmar Schacht served in Hitler's government as President of the Reichsbank and Minister of Economics. As such, Schacht played a key role in implementing the policies attributed to Hitler. Since he opposed the policy of German re-armament spearheaded by Hitler and other prominent Nazis, Schacht was first sidelined and then forced out of the Third Reich government beginning in December 1937, therefore he had no role during World War II.”

Hitler’s minions competed with each other for influence, and the policies eventually implemented were as much as result of this as any well-considered plans by Hitler, who was definitely not a “detail” person, except when he was philosophising about propaganda and pseudo-racial theory, and carving up the map of Europe.

During the war, the Allied economies became more state-directed of necessity, and this necessity persisted post-war, as the ruined cities and towns and economies had to be rebuilt. What was once a necessity became habit, until this was challenged by Reagan, Thatcher and others in the 1980s. I don't think there was anything National Socialist about it, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Stephen Heyer said...

John Michael Greer: “I've read – though I can't find the reference at the moment – that the concentration camps of Hitler's regime were directly inspired by Indian reservations in the US.”

Hi John,

I was always under the impression that they were directly inspired by the concentration camps the English herded the Boar women and children into when they could not directly defeat the gorilla tactics of the Boar resistance during the Boar War.

To quote Wikipedia “During the later stages of the Second Boer War, the British pursued the policy of rounding up and isolating the Boer civilian population in concentration camps, one of the earliest uses of this method by modern powers. Women and children were sent to these camps. A report after the war concluded that 27,927 Boer (of whom 22,074 were children under 16) and 14,154 black Africans had died of starvation, disease and exposure in the camps.”

Given the tiny Boar population the death rate was horrendous, probably as bad as anything Hitler did. When the Germans (who had been involved on the Boar side) faced what they thought were similar problems they simply copied the British, who they greatly admired.

Anselmo said...

I would say, in the case of Nazism , rather than a political system we must speak of a political ideology that involves a religion "Blood and Soil" based in the Teutonic religion (which arose in Germany as a result of Romanticism ) , and Social Darwinism .
Comment by @Pithio on different revolutionary processes , has brought me back to examine the concepts of " archaic " and " Futurism " .
According to the teachings of Toynbee , fascism belongs to an attempt to shorten the path to a future ( futurism ) and are due to the inability to implement the archaism , which is the attempt to find solutions fleeing the past , characteristic of our civilization who is disintegrating from XVII century.
One manifestation of futurism is the destruction of monuments , books, clothing, etc. .
I think fascism are unique , but we should expect other futuristic idoelogies , which can be worse than fascism . I fear that the next futurisms will be Malthusianist and environmentalist type and, I dare, genocide but on a scale much higher than the Nazis.

I would add that the success of fascism was largely due to the fear of communist revolution and consequently the extermination of the petty bourgeoisie and upper classes , as had happened in Russia (another futuristic regime ) and the fact that the regimens MEPs were unable to contain the threat. Consequently , I see no possible a coming of fascisms.

Not all are as bad futurisms the ideology in which Gandhi was based to free India , it seems a kind of futuristic movement.

SMJ said...

If the Nazis were the party offering mandatory paid holidays then gosh, I can't honestly say that I wouldn't have voted for them. Like you say, they weren't marching behind banners saying "Vote for Hitler so 50 million will die!"

Anselmo said...

Michael and Julia:

I see probably that Russia militarily support the government of Ukranie which is likely a strong repression, for Russia it is a matter of survivaltiy. Neither Europe nor the United States will risk to thermonuclear war with Russia. They have not done in Syria. On the other hand the EU integration will not implies the final of corruption.
It is also a fact that the UE is not willing to provide financial support to Ukraine, at least for the next few years.

Phil Knight said...

"I've read – though I can't find the reference at the moment – that the concentration camps of Hitler's regime were directly inspired by Indian reservations in the US."

I don't know about that, but according to the historian Adam Tooze "Lebensraum" was certainly inspired by Manifest Destiny.

Juhana said...

...And I meant all sides are just shouting and nobody is listening. Blame is shared one in that. No scapegoating there. Sad truth is that negotiating and making compromises went out of fashion in the Western Europe some time ago... If other guy disagrees with you about immigration policy or EU integration policy, he must nowadays be either cartoon Nazi version of Darth Vader or lunatic Leninist revolutionary, depending from the point of view of viewer... Throw in our current energy predicament, and you have quite toxic mix ready to be swallowed... There is no middle ground there, really. I guess atmosphere was like this during Roman republic after Gracchus brothers, when normal political differences take turn into nastier direction, leading eventually to Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Gaius Iulius Caesar.

I have this uneasy feeling that EU elections of the spring shall start period of extreme volatility and partisan hatred in Western Europe... Because so many are going to vote "wrong" this time. One must hold his hat during that roller coaster ride and hope that his side wins eventually.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

JMG and all,

Greetings. I'm not up enough on theories of modern political history (another mis-educated American, I guess) to be able to make a substantive comment. However, two questions:

1. "If what you contemplate you imitate" is true, how does one avoid imitating authoritarianism and its fascist variant if one spends too much time analyzing, reading about, discussing and contemplating same?

2. Our situation now, in which climate instability and increasingly detrimental resource depletion and environmental destruction are beginning to contribute in very real ways to decline, seems on a fundamental level different from the global situation in which modern totalitarianism, authoritarianism and fascism arose. So I'm wondering how new variants might differ? Actually, I can imagine, but would love to hear what you and others think, once we get past the definition of terms part of the discussion.

(OT: I'm planning what to plant this spring: cheering thoughts in the midst of a long, cold winter (for those of us in the Midwest, at least, while staying concerned for those commenters in California and Australia and for opposite reasons those in the South of England).

Cathy McGuire said...

This is probably more apt for the Steampunk Future post, but a wonderful little (modern) BBC clip about a young man who's collecting old weaving looms(looks steampunk to me!)and using them in a small way to make "handcrafted" cloth - certainly can see how that small set-up could be steam or solar-powered! So glad that some are already acting on this!!

(PS very weird Captcha - a teddy bear image and "romance" - is Captcha developing sentience and knowing it's Valentine's Day! ;-))

Joseph Nemeth said...

@Juhana - tend to agree. If I have followed JMG to this point, this used to be the norm, e.g. before "socialism" became "national socialism." The former was a straightforward class movement: the workers versus the world, particularly the owners and managers. By converting it to "national socialism," it embraces everyone in one big, happy class, and totally ignores the very real economic distinctions.

The basic problem is that those economic distinctions are quite real, and there is no "national" class at all. So as classes lose the political cohesion, and then the language, and eventually even the very concept that they belong to an economic class ("We're all Americans here, love it or leave it"), the most advantaged classes have absolutely no pain associated with exploiting the weak. As they do so, however, the fiction of "national" socialism starts to become a bad joke in poor taste.

Of course, the economic classes will eventually rediscover themselves (as you are saying), and the result can be explosive and very destructive.

Is there any point to dialogue between classes? Maybe not. They are at war, whether it is contained within a political system that grants every class some concessions, or in passive-aggressive subversion and corruption at every level, or in open armed revolt.

One friend who has traveled extensively in the Middle East says that bribery is the only way to cut through the bureaucracy. You hand over your papers with the local equivalent of $10, or $100 folded into it (depending on the service requested), and your papers are processed immediately with a smile. No money, you're told to go wait. For days. Months, even. The reason is simple: the bureaucrats are not paid enough to live on. If they don't demand bribes -- call them tips, for service -- their families don't eat.

The only place dialogue really makes sense is within the containment of a functional political system that can grant and enforce concessions between the classes. The US government certainly no longer fits that requirement.

Juhana said...

BTW, people should check out these newest "free" trade agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Heavy stuff, that shall take away TOTALLY national sovereignty and national democracy from European countries, if fully implemented.

And what other kind of democracy there is than national? 2013 was a busy year for "free" trade lobbyists. Austerity for European citizens, fat salaries for unelected officials from Ring of Rings... I mean Fund of Funds, IMF. There was this American guy using term "inverted totalitarianism" some years ago... What a visionary he was.

Like Holy Roman Empire which was neither holy nor Roman, free trade is not free nor real trade. In actual trade transaction other side can CHOOSE if he wants to participate...

If choice is between living in this brave new world of international "free" trade paradise and turning inwards, towards national autarky, choice is pretty easy... Nationalism is last bastion against this no holds barred attack by bankers and high society underworld against decent working families of Europe...

Robert Mathiesen said...

JMG wrote: "Robert, no argument at all -- the reason I mentioned the US and EU is that most of the media I've seen have discussed the Russian involvement in detail and pretended that we ain't doing nothin'."

Hmm, maybe I should pay attention to the media from time to time. I thought it had been made quite clear that we were meddling, too. If not, that's a bad sign.

Agent Provocateur said...


Thinking over my last comment, I thought the best thing to do was consult the man himself. I conjured Mussolini's ghost last night and put the following question to him: “Would you regard the merger of state and big business found in some nations today as Fascist?” I can't help thinking his response was coloured by his irritation at being summoned from his cozy cell in Hell to a cold house in Canada in the middle of the night in mid February. Nonetheless, my allegiance to truth compels me to relate that he agreed with you. He wouldn't call the current arrangement Fascist. He reasons were different than yours though.

Mussolini's ghost gave the following two reasons for did not recognizing the current merger as Fascism: 1) If he were a head of such a state, he would not really be in charge of things (not a selling point for him – a central feature of any state called Fascist has to be strong central government control); and 2) Such governments lack the fashion sense so characteristic of what he calls Fascism. I'm sure he would have given other reasons too, but my house was cold and he was in a hurry to leave.

There you go. You were right.

shtove said...

"Shtove, are you familiar with Eco's writings and activities more generally? He's basically the trad Catholic equivalent of Richard Dawkins -- and yes, I know that comparison would infuriate both of them! Still, they're birds of a feather: intelligent, arrogant, and utterly uninterested in walking away from a potential fight. Where you see either one, the sound of grinding axes is always to be heard."

I'm familiar with some of his fiction - even managed Baudolino, the story of the search for Prester John.

I agree on Dawkins, and can see him trading blows with Eco over intertextuality.

But I don't see the axe grinding in ur-fascism.

Thanks, and I'll be back next week.

HalFiore said...

I suppose if the Nazis gave national socialism a bad name, then the post-war European and American prosperity and stability might be thought to have at least somewhat rehabilitated it, at least among those who know what the term means. (I was not one of those people before Thursday.)

But I'm not sure I agree that today's conservatism is equivalent to classic liberalism. Maybe in Russell Kirk's day, or WF Buckley, or even Goldwater. Post Reagan, it's just a marketing label.

Helix said...

Always an interesting reat. Thanks JMG!

flook said...

You pretty much match the conclusions of conservative author Jonah Goldberg in 'Liberal Fascism' -

Marcello said...

"Thinking over my last comment, I thought the best thing to do was consult the man himself."

Agent, if the man was sincere he would have told you that he had been after power first and foremost and would have done everything necessary to get it, including sucking up to big business, which he did. He would have also told you that if it had been entirely up to him he would have like to introduce some sort of syndacalist/socialist system with a nationalist bent. But of course had he tried something radical the King (with the army and police forces at his call), the bourgeoisie, and quite likely some of his followers would have booted him. So, while he made some noises and modest moves in that direction, particularly in 1919 and in 1943-45 he always chose power over principles.

Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, the term corporation while having the same technical definition both in italian and english is going to trigger very different images in the mind of native speakers of both languages.
In italian the term is used almost exclusively to indicate medieval guilds and no doubts that was why it was chosen. In english corporation will probably trigger the mental image of a large joint-stock company; the 30's italian term (currently a different one is employed) for that would sound like "Anonymous Society" or thereabouts.

"If the Nazis were the party offering mandatory paid holidays then gosh, I can't honestly say that I wouldn't have voted for them"

Of course part of the package was that working hours were increased, by the late 30's 72 hours work week was normal.If you had something to say about your next vacation would be spent in Dachau..

Robert said...

One of the scary things about what seems to be the complete corruption of the mainstream left parties (or pretty much any western mainstream parties), is that the extreme right is making a lot more sense to many people.

Some of the sharpest commentary and investigations on Soros, Goldman and the neo-liberal global banking order comes from the extreme right these days. I've been reading some of their material - there is some really good, well researched stuff from some of them, sometimes with some solid questions about economic alternatives & dealing with the damage.

Then you start reading what else they stand for...
From pretty standard racism and anti semitism to real space-cadet lunacy and occasionally advocating some very violent divisive views.

But on what is important to most people - security, stability, real jobs, not having their life savings stolen by trans-national elites, not being ruled by elites who are essentially foreign & owe no loyalty to the people they are supposedly representing; the idea of having a future; purpose...

Really starting to get a gut understanding of how Nazi Germany happened lately.

John Michael Greer said...

S P, you lost me with that last step; given the eagerness with which the next round of imperial powers are bellying up to the bar in anticipation of America's decline, expecting empire to go out of fashion strikes me as a bad example of wishful thinking. More generally, of course, your hypothesis is possible but, like any attempt to predict political events in advance, far from certain.

Justin, no kidding. That doesn't mean it won't be tried.

Agent, using your logic re: Goldman Sachs and Italian Fascist corporazione, I could prove without difficulty that Mussolini's party was a Girl Scout troop: both wear uniforms, use a lot of symbolism, etc. As for Pushback Method #1, I noted that in responding to a comment before yours -- and yes, there are many more than two. I'm waiting for the others to show up.

Derv, I'd suggest that it's not the words that are broken -- the problem is simply that Americans have never learned to think, and so use these as vague verbal noises conveying simple emotions. Given a willingness to learn, I suspect most Americans could figure out how to attach actual meanings to words again.

Juhana, see my comment to Derv. There's a lot of thought-free discourse these days...

Unknown, rancor and inequity are features of every political system in the real world. The 30s had plenty of both.

Ice Torch, the fact that national socialism had never been in power before 1933, but had its policies adopted by every Western nation after 1945, is exactly my point -- and it wasn't just a matter of more state involvement in the economy, it was specific policies of the sort already discussed.

Stephen, that's also quite possible, since the Boers (not, btw, Boars -- you might want to check your spellcheck program!) were heavily supported by German public opinion.

Anselmo, good -- Toynbee's categories are worth considering here. On the other hand, I think it's unwise to assume that the only possible driver for fascism is an exact repeat of the historical conditions that launched the first wave of it in the 1920s. I'll be discussing this as we proceed.

SMJ, exactly. What makes the current distortion of the concept of fascism so dangerous is that it obscures just how promising and plausible the original fascist parties looked in their time -- and thus how promising and plausible their equivalents may look in the years before us. More on this in a bit.

Phil, also not a surprise. The author Hitler loved most in his boyhood was Karl May, who wrote adventure fiction mostly set in the American West. It was a common taste in his generation, and got a lot of Germans thinking about the concept of geographical space.

Advocatus Diaboli said...

The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze

I suggest you have a look at this.

onething said...

I for one hope that Ukraine does not join up with Europe, where they may find themselves second class citizens and unable to afford the new lifestyle. More than that, the best food I have ever had was in Ukraine, a rather organic and free country. Hate to see all that tied up in regulations and machinations by Big Agra.

Andy Brown said...

@Robert, that seems like a pretty sound analysis. From the left wing the Occupy Movement made very similar critiques - (though with different crazy concomitants). And you're right. When things start to suck and politics is discredited, times are ripe for some radical political entrepreneurship.

DeAnander said...

Awww, the captcha is hearts and "chocolates". cute. But about PC, such nostalgia... I feel compelled to ramble on for a moment or two.

"Politically correct" was a test or shibboleth taken seriously only by the tiny community of hard-line doctrinaire Marxists in the US -- the UK version was "ideologically sound" iirc. It was a measure of the conformity of one's thought and utterance to the Party line. To be "ideologically unsound" was to be suspect, in danger of exile from the (ever shrinking) in-group; of course, if you were in Moscow the consequences could be far more serious and the exile literal and geographical!

The term was used *as a joke* by people on the larger Left, in various social movements, in gentle mockery (often good-humoured, sometimes a bit more edgy) of the notoriously self-important and humourless cadres of the Party. [Marxist zealots and Bible-thumping zealots have a lot of personality traits in common; the lyrics may vary but the tune is similar, if you get my drift.] Good-hearted attempts to curb the use of cruel/dismissive/contemptuous epithets in common speech sometimes got a bit over-fussy (depending on who you ask) and were joked about as "PC" -- words and actions were tagged as "PC" or "Non-PC" in the same kind of taxonomic playfulness that gave us "U" and "Non-U" in British humour. There were even light-bulb jokes.

On the defensive Right however, the self-important and zealous cadres of Angry White Men seized on the phrase with glee -- first off, it glibly linked *all* social reform movements to "humourless Communist cadres" which was a godsend for propaganda/thaumaturgy purposes, and secondly its actual vernacular usage (i.e. the admission that conscious social reform was maybe going a little OTT at times) suited their position that *any* curbing of traditional whitefella impunity, swagger, and roost-ruling was an outrageous excess. Suddenly it became suspiciously "PC" to assert that the N-word should not be used by WASPs talking about Black people, or to object to male bosses feeling up female employees in the workplace, and so on; rudeness and casual assertion of social supremacy could be thaumaturgically morphed into a noble last-stand resistance to "totalitarian communist greeny hippie faggy women's libbers" -- or in other words, to anyone who in any way critiqued the unexamined privilege of the defensive [usually] whiteboyz.

And then, as usually happens when a meme (like an empire) passes its best-by date, everyone was using it like Humpty Dumpty to mean whatever they wanted it to mean, and the word or concept became somewhat useless. The feminist-movement variant remains in fond memory however, in the funny little pastiche-song "Ms PC".

I used to snort when people started fussing over what was PC and what was not PC -- speech terms, that is -- and often reminded 'em that it might as well stand for just Plain Courteous, or perhaps basic Polite Conduct. Your Mama could (and should) have taught you how to speak respectfully and kindly to and of other people; it's not rocket science, and it doesn't take a BA (or a lot of BS) in Politics either. A lot of jargon seems to me, at this late stage in life, like a weirdly desperate attempt to paint crazy grandiose graffiti all over basic commonsense. Anyway, enough nostalgia...

Marcello said...

"So the “conservatives” of today are really liberals and the “liberals” are really National Socialists?"

Enrique at least in italian "liberal" would trigger the mental image of someone who was in favor of laissez faire ecoomic policies and of center or center-right political orientation. I suspect liberal=leftist is a very US thing.

"I looked a little into the economy of both Italy and Germany during WWII, as well as into what a fascist economy looked like. The general conclusion was there was really no set "fascist economy" because leaders did whatever they thought was prudent at the time more than follow a set ideology. The one thing they did have in common, though, was they all had a large percentage of resources dedicated to their military branches."

From what I recall of Tooze's "Wages of destruction" german pre WW2 economy was largely based upon war preparation and there would have been unpleasant consequences had there not been military victories happening more or less on schedule. Italy on the other hand had been in a state of limited war for much of the 30's but without any serious mobilization being undertaken for a "big" war, to a certain extent peace or at least businness as usual was the expectation. I would note that in general extensive economic controls and direction had been done in WW1.

"What he wanted me to know was how very close a thing it had been that the US had not entered WW2 on the side of Nazi Germany -- a fact that everyone would now just as soon forget."

Robert, the USA joining the Axis was never contemplated by the people who really called the shots at the top. That american army officers of the pitiful interwar establishment might look with envy at the prestige and resources being lavished upon their german counterparts is understandable. That american business leaders had simpaties for a system that tolerated no unions, strikes etc and made sweet deals with big corps is well known. But in strategic terms a german victory in WW2 meant a german hegemony over most Eurasia, which meant the birth of a superpower which was at least potentially capable of challanging the US on more or less equal terms and had in fact every inclination to do so. Massive own goal.
Churchill for example seemed to have been rather warm towards fascism as a socio-economic system but geopolitical concerns overrode that.
Besides had the US been inclined to help the Axis simply cutting off supplies to Britain/USSR would have very nasty consequences for both. Things were of course moving steadily in the opposite direction well before Pearl Harbor, by then the US and Germany were already engaged in an undeclared naval war.

Chris G said...

JMG et al. - The history/etymology of fascism is interesting and informative, and appreciated. But I think what most people *fear* about fascism, at a root/gut level, the thing that gives the snarl word its vehemence, is its association with the police state, genocide, mass surveillance, centralized power, secretive parties in control and manipulating the public, etc.. Now, beyond that, you will never get a better understanding from the majority of people. The vast majority of people are not adept at that kind of analysis. But they see scary images from the History Channel or wotnot. Then, sophisticated operators can use those root fears by attaching the word fascism to whatever they think people should consider the most politically heinous.

This, I believe, is the price of incredible power - and increasingly to my mind, a great reason to be thankful that in reality *they* will NOT think of something else to replace fossil fuels. Thanks be to God that humanity will not uncover some greater energy source!!

Compared to the time of WW II, humanity has an even greater sum of power at its disposal and control - even though it is peaking, and declining, still we are at the peak. America's similarities to the political structure of Nazism go beyond those you recognized. I mean, the same kinds of mass incarceration, genocide, surveillance, and forced patriotism, coercion, mass manipulation, are being conducted now. The difference is, it's not revealed, as it was. History is told by the victors. The methods, like the power behind it, the industrial energies, are better now, and a consequence is that much of what is happening remains concealed.

One way to conceal it is simply to conduct genocide, or its effective equivalent, in other countries, such as Congo, East Timor, Iraq... Also, mass media is clearly much more advanced in some respects...

Even that, perhaps, could not be avoided, considering the power humanity has at its disposal - chiefly controlled by a very tiny few people. Because if we didn't do the violence, someone else certainly would have - maybe the Iraqis, Congolese, or Indonesians even. It's much like Jevon's Paradox.

I won't go on with that, but it is certainly worthwhile and for practical purposes to consider in what ways the methods of manipulation and control by those who own the industrial energies will be adapted to the decline of living standards, running into the pressures of population growth, migrations, and in consideration of some of the new, but temporary technologies available, particularly the forms of mass media. I suspect a goal will be simply to convince people, in some way, that it's just not happening even as it does. Sadly, most people, as they already have been, are likely to continue to go along with it, and continue to agree that some bright new technological future will be opening up any day now, as their grandchildren's schoolbooks turn to dust. Really, there are few alternatives to going along for most people.

A worthwhile quote from Reinhold Neibuhr, who discussed the matter of hidden evil:

"The stupidity of the average man will permit the oligarch, whether economic or political, to hide his real purposes from the scrutiny of his fellows and to withdraw his activities from effective control. Since it is impossible to count on enough moral goodwill among those who possess irresponsible power to sacrifice it for the good of the whole, it must be destroyed by coercive methods and these will always run the peril of introducing new forms of injustice in place of those abolished."

Rik said...

So.. What on earth made people in early 1920s Europe resort to this, barbaric, group-ism thingie? Some will point to the death of God, I'm sure - but perhaps one can better attribute "it" to the death of the Middle Ages. With Wilhelm II fleeing, a Moscovian coup deposing the Czarist regime, one has reason to say a particular worldview ended with 14-18. Those identity politics avant la lettre must've come from somewhere.

Matthew Lindquist said...

A few things come to mind:

One, the rise of a new fascism might very well be facilitated by modern governments' penchant for gutting the safety net, regulations, and other policies put into effect post-1945. I think you've commented on this before, but governments seem to be responding to the rising spirals of crises by cutting expenditures wherever possible, and that usually happens to hit the people who can't afford lobbyists. Whether it's austerity in Europe or Republicans(and often Democrats happy to let Republicans take the blame for something they wanted to do too) here in the US, it seems that one of the major bulwarks against a revival of fascism is being enthusiastically undermined by those currently in charge. I never had a clearer idea of how they're tying their own lamppost swings than I do today!

Second, regarding your conversation with SP, I also believe that Imperialism will become a thing of the past- eventually. As in, it might not even happen for another million years down your "Next Ten Billion" timeline. As I understand it, Imperialism requires an imbalance of some combination of advantages between societies such that one society can conquer others both profitably and repeatably. While that will almost certainly continue to be a recurring phenomenon for a great long while, it is possible that eventually the diminishing returns of all forms of advantages that societies might conceivably achieve over their neighbors might render an Empire impossible to build, or at least maintain at any significant size. For example, the post-1492 imperial extravagance of Europeans and their successor states is now impossible to recreate on the same scale for the simple reason that the rest of the world now has gunpowder, iron, and firearms, to say nothing of smallpox! There will be more advances discovered somewhere(after the dark age, perhaps?) that will allow allow humans to subjugate their neighbors, but I'm willing to bet that the disparity won't quite be as huge as a late-iron-age society with rudimentary firearms running into Huayna Capec. Rinse and repeat for many thousands of years, and the law of diminishing returns will render each successive advance less of an advantage over one's neighbors than the previous one, until empires just aren't what they used to be.

Please note that I'm not saying people will "learn their lesson" or achieve some moral variant of the March of Progress- if anything, the far future may resemble a high-tech version of the Maori of New Zealand, where no one tribe could really get an advantage over the others, or at most like the city states of ancient Greece, where the hegemony of Athens barely lasted a generation, followed by equally short-lived Spartan and Theban moments in the sun. And neither of those situations were run by the better angels of our nature!

In any case, however, that's not up to us to deal with but for people born very far into the future. Which is to say, apologies for getting a little off-topic!

DeAnander said...

About classic cowboy lit -- well yep, of course it would be a natural wish-fulfilment Good Read for colonialists and those with a colonialist mindset: the Aryan-esque heroes successfully battle "savage" indigenes to demonstrate their superiority and their implicit higher claim to the territory being annexed. No surprise if Hitler enjoyed reading Karl May far more than Karl Marx!

As one wag once quipped, the "civilised" West will never forgive Germany for doing to European Jewry almost exactly what "civilised" Europe had already done to indigenes world-wide. The crux of the matter could be seen as the redefinition European Jewry as "White" (another content-free emoticon that really means "Us", since there really ain't no such animal as a "pure" white-person), and there's actually a whole book about that called "How the Jews Became White Folks." In the UK in the 30's it was quite common for a popular fiction writer to refer to a character as "Oriental" or "Mediterranean" or some other "foreigner" tag to indicated that character's Jewishness and hence alienness; in the US in the same era, most country clubs, upper-class neighbourhoods, golf courses did not admit Jewish residents or members (they were nieblankes); but after full exposure of the extermination campaign by those Bad Guys in Germany, this was not OK any more.

The hardening of Israel into a settler state with a cowboy attitude to Palestinians is just one more of history's painful rhymes... aiee. Crooked timber indeed.

When the Captcha is sending me Valentines, it's wicked today -- many retries before I get anything even vaguely interpretable.

DeAnander said...

Wish I could edit comments once posted... typos in my last, sorry -- shoulda been "redefinition OF European Jewry" and "When Captcha ISN'T sending me".

rj8957 said...

Hello JMG,

I'm curious about how the popularity
of Libertarian ideas will fit into this future. Judging from commenters online(and at the University that I attended)most people who are politcally aware seem to follow the aforementioned Ayn Rand and/or Ron Paul. It would seem that this would conflict with a future "Groupism". Also, this thinker makes some interesting points about what a true political spectrum would look like:

Marcello said...

"it seems that one of the major bulwarks against a revival of fascism is being enthusiastically undermined by those currently in charge. I never had a clearer idea of how they're tying their own lamppost swings than I do today!"

Very few of the conservative politicians who actually ran pre-fascist Italy suffered any grisly fate. The vast majority suddenly realized they were fascist too and joined the movement; most of the rest retired.
I expect that the poor will be so busy killing other poor that going after the top wont occur to most.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Marcello quoted me and wrote:

"'What he [= my father] wanted me to know was how very close a thing it had been that the US had not entered WW2 on the side of Nazi Germany -- a fact that everyone would now just as soon forget.'

Robert, the USA joining the Axis was never contemplated by the people who really called the shots at the top. That american army officers of the pitiful interwar establishment might look with envy at the prestige and resources being lavished upon their german counterparts is understandable. That american business leaders had simpaties for a system that tolerated no unions, strikes etc and made sweet deals with big corps is well known. But in strategic terms a german victory in WW2 meant a german hegemony over most Eurasia, which meant the birth of a superpower which was at least potentially capable of challanging the US on more or less equal terms and had in fact every inclination to do so. Massive own goal."

Marcello, were you there at the time? And if you were, how high was your own security clearance?

My father was there, and he had a security clearance higher than mere "top secret." I think you dismiss too easily the alternate course of history that worried him at the time.

It is unlikely that he mistook the routine thinking of the people he associated with every day in his line of work. Most of the important men he knew and worked with in the defense weapons industry were of recent Northern European ancestry, or had even been born in Northern Europe: the surnames that I heard growing up were generally Dutch, German and Scandinavian ones. It would have been natural for these men to think that the best prospects for the future of the USA in the 1930s, which they viewed as a backward and unsophisticated country, lay not in trying to "go it on its own" as a world power in its own right, but in forming a permanent close alliance with Northern Europe.

If anyone had suggested to these men that United States could ever become a world power in its own right, they would have thought it a bad joke. As it happened, they were proven wrong. But it was contingent events that proved them wrong, not any necessity of history.

Many of these men were Anglophobes (and Francophobes, too), and they also favored political programs like that of the Technocratic Party -- essentially, absolute government by impartial engineers and scientists.

In consequence, they despised the older political establishment from New York and New England, headed at the time by FDR. This establishment certainly did *think* that it "called the shots at the top" (as you put it). In reality, however, this was by no means a certain conclusion.

The Presidency had not yet acquired the preponderance of power over against the Congress that it now possesses. And FDR himself was becoming weaker with every passing year, both physically and politically. His failing health was certainly not a secret in the military establishment. And the unprecedented run he made for a third term -- to say nothing of a fourth term! -- was an enormous risk. FDR had always seemed arrogant, but now he was beginning to appear foolish as well. That let many people to think he had outlived his usefulness for the country.

All in all, it does seem to me that things were not so cut-and-dried as you suppose.

John Michael Greer said...

Juhana, I certainly think of the very late Roman Republic when I watch current American partisan polemics, so you may well be right.

Adrian, the best way to avoid imitating something you need to contemplate is to make sure you're not contemplating it all the time! As for potential forms that a new fascism might take, stay tuned...

Cathy, fascinating. Many thanks for the link.

Robert, the only places I've seen discussions of US/EU involvement in the Ukrainian mess has been in fringe publications online. Maybe it's getting into parts of the mainstream media I don't follow, but I haven't seen it elsewhere.

Agent, good! I don't recall anybody else using necromancy to respond to my comments, but it may be a good idea from time to time. The esthetics of fascism, by the way, are much more important than most people realize nowadays -- Hitler wasn't the only important figure in those movements who was an artist type in the counterculture, after all.

Shtove, going through it line by line and talking about who different clauses are aimed at might be an entertaining exercise some day.

Hal, listen to your common or garden variety Republican. What do they propose? Free trade, fewer regulatory burdens on industry, and lower taxes. That's the old liberal playbook.

Helix, thank you.

Flook, I'd have been more impressed with the book if it had been a little less obviously aimed at pasting the word "fascist" on the Democratic party.

Robert, that's one of the things that gives fascists and communists alike their power. When no other political movement is willing to talk about the things that are actually wrong with the current system, they get attention, because their critiques are by no means wholly off base. It's the alternative systems they propose that are the problem!

Advocatus, thanks for the recommendation.

Onething, well, it's that or be tied up by the Russians. It's no picnic to be living in a contested geopolitical region!

John Michael Greer said...

DeAnander, I was finishing my degree at an American university in the early 1990s, and then and there, political correctness was by no means a joke: it was a force that factions of people were using to wedge themselves into privileged positions and exclude people they didn't like from academic careers. No, I wasn't one of those who got excluded, because I decided to do something else with my life long before that would have been an issue -- but the rigid intellectual dogmatism I encountered under the banner of PC was a significant factor in that decision.

Chris, I know -- people think they're frightened of fascism, when they're actually frightened of an authoritarian regime of any kind. The problem with the F-word, again, is that people are so fixated on the notion that they already know what a fascist state is that they run a very real risk of supporting a fascist movement they don't recognize as such.

Rik, you're not paying attention. People at the time didn't see fascism as barbaric; it looked new and exciting, a cutting edge political movement that could break through the partisan logjam and actually make desperately needed changes in society. More on this as we proceed!

Matthew, no argument on your first point -- governments in most of the Western industrial societies are hard at work recreating the conditions in which they are most likely to be overthrown by fascist movements. As for your second point, though, er, I'd point out that Rome's advantages over the other great powers of the Mediterranean world weren't technological -- they were political, cultural, and organizational, and thus of kinds that could very well arise in a deindustrial world. Thus I think you're quite mistaken in expecting empires to go away.

DeAnander, oh, granted, the definition of "white" has changed remarkably over the years. Irish weren't, for quite a while; Italians still weren't until the middle of the 20th century; to most white Americans, Hispanics still aren't, though they will be. That is to say, it's not a designation of an actual biological reality, simply a label for a certain category of privilege.

RJ, I'm not sure that I'd consider fans of Ayn Rand and Rand Paul to be politically aware -- dogmatic adherence to an embarrassingly dysfunctional belief system doesn't fit any definition of "aware" I know of. As for Mitchell, he's a good deal more interesting -- his distinction of kratos and arche is usefully nuanced.

Shane Wilson said...

I may be ahead of the discussion, but I'm already thinking of ways the new Fascism may be different. To start, imagine no Marshall plan to rebuild Europe after the War, and Europe would be in a much different place. Europeans would probably still be living among the ruins of WW II. The aftermath of a new Fascism is going to be like living in a post WW II world without the petroleum fueled reconstruction that occurred after WW II. Secondly, Europe was so thoroughly destroyed by the last Fascism that it was reduced to client state status in the Cold War. I simply can't see how a homegrown Fascist movement could come to power in Europe again, unless a rising outside power, like Russia bankrolls it. Now, a Fascist Russia coming to save Europe from the "Moorish hoards" would have some appeal, but the US is too far gone to bankroll European Fascism, part 2.
Brings me to my next contrast between past and future Fascism, as regards the US, while German Fascism was an expansionist, explosive, imperial power (at least until the tide turned in the War), American Fascism is going to be a strictly inward, implosive, "circular firing squad" sort of affair. The US is well beyond its peak of imperial power, and Fascism is going to take place in the US as the American empire implodes. I doubt if the US will even be able to impose Fascism on Canada or Mexico, let alone any other country.

Shane Wilson said...

I perceive Europe to be a weakened, toothless, geriatric tiger, I just don't see it possessing sufficiently power on its own to perpetrate a new Fascism against the current Other, Islam, and to try seems as tragic a lost cause as the Confederacy in the US

Chris Bonhomme said...

Words dictate how you think.

Here's an example of modern "Newspeak" used as a means to deliberately change the way people think and to prearrange their thoughts through language:

The richness of the English language is reduced and politicized through the following newspeak words:

"Ms." instead of Miss, Mrs. or Madame...

"Partner" instead of husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, lesbian girlfriend, homosexual boyfriend, lover, fiancee
Spouse...All are made equal by the use of this word.

The latest howler, "avoiding the gender binary"

ChaosAdventurer said...

Marc said
"A strong government should be able to change course quickly in response to changing international and domestic circumstances. Our government shows no signs of being capable of any real course correction. In this sense it is also very far from being a fascist state. "
This sounds very reminiscent of the German Weimar Republic of the late 1920's and early 1930's

On how the accepted narrative of a scociety can be so out of sync with its stated goals

steve pearson said...

Another inter-related factor that drew many Germans to the Nazi/Hitlerian side of national socialism was the feeling of a regained national pride after the humiliation of Versailles. They had been forced to accept the complete blame & economic reparations for the entire WWI, which they had, arguably, been more ready to avoid than either the French or the Austrians. Most upper and upper middle class Germans, who thought they could control or channel the Nazis, soon found they had a tiger by the tail.I advise anyone who has not done so to see "Cabaret".
Robert, I certainly can not say your father was wrong, but his statement to you goes against everything I heard growing up and since.
I was born in NY four months after the start of WWII in Jan. 1940. My father was the head of the branch office of a British firm.He was a WWI veteran, but had very right wing pro Nazi views during the 30s, as did many of his class in US, UK, France. I think much of this was a respect for order and a fear of communism and chaos. Most of these peoples views changed with the German/Soviet non aggression pact in 1938. My mother was from the American industrial upper middle class. So most of the adults in my childhood were either anglophile upper middle class, left wing, bohemian middle class( some ex Lincoln or Garibaldi battalion),or working class. All this is just to give you an opportunity to reject my opinion if you choose.I am aware that other parts of the country and other ethnicities might tell a completely different story However from the adults I knew and throughout my later life, I would say that 1/3 or more of the population of the US was politically apathetic and anti involvement, 1/3 more or less pro German, but anti involvement and 1/3 pro allied. I think the element who would have favored a pro German involvement was very small.
Of course much of the story hinged around Edward VII, or more accurately Wally Simpson, and his abdication. Had his faction remained in power, it might be a very different world. Churchill actually wanted to have him tried for treason and executed, not sent to be governor general of the Bahamas.

c2fb0c96-960f-11e3-ad23-000bcdcb471e said...

Some of the statements regarding fascist Italy need reworking

"The Fascist regime in Italy carried out maybe two thousand political executions in its entire lifespan"

That's an underestimate. Probably that number was already internally achieved in the mid 1920s. We know that resistance fighters deported from Italy to concentration camps were in the 1000's alone. And if we add in Italian Jews (who were not, contrary to received opinion, simply deported under pressure from Germany) who were killed in the camps, then the tally increases. Still nowhere near Germany's, but let's not soft-peddle what was going on.

"Mussolini's regime, again, was no more xenophobic than the government it replaced"

The sundry racial laws Mussolini instituted argue against such a claim.

I haven't even touched upon Ethiopia in all of this.

"Rik, you're not paying attention. People at the time didn't see fascism as barbaric;"

Well, considering there was immediate opposition (hence some of those murdered by the Fascists), some people certainly recognized it.

More crucially, the very public ideological strains such as Marinetti and D'Annunzio who fed into fascism would not have seen 'barbaric' as necessarily either an insult or inaccurate.

As far as the claim the Native American genocide (or Social Darwinism, etc) was the inspiration for the Holocaust, I'd just say read historian Norman Cohn's work. It's pretty apparent where the Nazis got most everything from, ideologically and emotionally (right down to the yellow stars).

KL Cooke said...

"Words dictate how you think."

My favorite is the current substitution of "male" for "man."

Now we have women and males.

Malevolent, malicious, malfeasant, malodorous...

steve pearson said...

@Chris Bonhomme, I have never taken offense at someones posting here before,but you are either one naive young puppy or one bitter old white man.What you consider the debasement of the English language is actually the hard won victory of a lot of people. The different reception and treatment a woman used to receive if she went by miss or Mrs. was immense. Men always got away with Mr.Wake up. If you want to not splash your personal life upon everyone you meet, consider the different reaction upon referring to your partner as opposed to your husband wife,homosexual boyfriend, lesbian girlfriend, etc.
I am an old hetrosexual man, who is glad these labels have changed to give a lot of other people the freedom and anonymity I have always enjoyed.
JMG, If this is too rude, please feel free to delete it.

Cherokee Organics said...


No problems and thanks. I really try hard to work with nature as it is always teaching me.

I'm reading a book by Robert Ruark, "The Old man and the boy". Is this an American classic? It was actually a present from my Grandfather who has now been dead almost two decades and is a signed hardback edition. I wasn't mature enough to understand the book when it was given to me, so I left it alone, but something drew me to it recently. Perhaps a feeling of unfinished business?

Anyway, this a relevant but also nice quote, which seemed somehow appropriate to those that listen to nature: "Boy, he said. I will tell you a very wise thing. If a man is really intelligent, there's practically nothing a good dog can't teach him. But a dumb man can't learn anything from a smart dog, while a dumb dog can occasionally learn something from a smart man. Remember that."

The book is full of home spun wisdom, which is far more nature centric than today's culture.

Apologies to everyone for not posting the lemon cider recipe, but it hasn’t been forgotten! Unfortunately, the recent bushfires have thrown a massive spanner in the works here. It has been a bit mental here, to say the least.

Yesterday, I performed my annual pilgrimage to the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo. It was very good as usual and I picked up a few new chooks.

What was interesting was that because of the extreme heat in this part of the world, the chooks that were available to purchase were both down in numbers and up in price. In the past 3 years, chooks have increased in price 300%. I now have to pay about AU$45 per chook and silkies were even a little bit more at AU$50 each. Mind you, at that price they were still selling and it was mostly sold out by lunchtime.

I understand that in the US this is not the way to buy chooks, but things are more along the UK lines here with agricultural shows and poultry auctions being the way to purchase chooks.

Having my own egg supply (with surplus to give away for both social and business currency), I completely ignored the recent article in the newspapers about egg production dropping off due to the extreme heat and completely didn't put two and two together until late yesterday. However, the chooks have finally come home to roost! hehe.

Anyway, because of the bushfires, I then got home from the Expo and had to dig by hand another 20m (60ft) trench to install yet another tap for the new strawberry bed. A blackberry bed maybe in the near future too... The heat has made the wild berries all small and fermented. A shame because a large amount of my years jam comes from those berries.

Today, I visited a mate for a housewarming party. What was interesting was that he had a 35 litre demijohn (9+ gallon) of alcoholic ginger beer (amongst other demijohns) - which was suspiciously like the lemon cider but with ginger. Good stuff, but it is very interesting to see the telluric currents in action. Plus other people at the barbeque were making mead etc. at their own homes. There must be something in the water! hehe!

Please accept my apologies about the lemon cider recipe, but I'll get there over the next few days, promise.

Back to the chooks though and the young buck (or girlie) has entered the fray and one of the 18 week old chooks in her first night slept on the second top perch. This is no easy feat. Tonight however, she completely threw me for a six (cricket reference) and is sleeping on the top perch with the boss chook and the enforcer chook. I must say, that I'm feeling a little bit nervous about such preciousness. Well, it is a little bit scary.



Anselmo said...


1) II WW were a revival of the first.

1) U.S. was supporting with military equipment theUK and Russia, before Germany declares war on USA. Roosevelt did everything possible for Germany to declare war on USA.

2nd) Germany was allied with Japan, which for its expansion in the Pacific had to face USA.

3rd) UK was a protectorate USA. And USA did not pressure him to surrender, but supported it.

4th) USA could not allow that the control of Eurasia fall into German hands, since that meant give world supremacy.

  4th) The Jews of USA, they would not be toleraqted this alliance.

These facts arent´t against the fact of some americans feel simpathy for the German cause.

Anselmo said...


When it is said that the fascist regime killed about two thousand people (Payne, The Fascism), is understood before the war. And, indeed, it was not as bloodthirsty as the Nazis or the Communists. Her favorite system for to trat the politic opositors was beat them up, in extreme cases till the dead , or purge with castor oil to humiliate them.

The deportation of jews and excutions of resistens happened during the german occupation, I think.

Ice Torch said...

The Archdruid said:
“Ice Torch, the fact that national socialism had never been in power before 1933, but had its policies adopted by every Western nation after 1945, is exactly my point -- and it wasn't just a matter of more state involvement in the economy, it was specific policies of the sort already discussed.”
I’ll repeat that: “national socialism…had its policies adopted by every Western nation after 1945.” EVERY Western nation? The interplay of forces (democratic and not: business, the military, the civil service, etc.) in such a diverse bunch of nations would surely not have allowed such a uniform and blanket response – unless the Bilderberg group and the so called “Illuminati” really do wield the power that the naïve ascribe to them. And if the West adopted national socialism out of fear that the real national socialists would snatch power – then surely there could be no possibility of the revival of which you speak?
As I see it, post-war, the Nazis were a symbol of the consequences of discrimination. The professed ideals of communism (as opposed to the sordid practice) therefore gained influence in the West, (particularly because the USSR became a power in the world and its propaganda gained a certain influence) along with socialism and social democracy. Intellectuals in Britain were already turning against the idea of empire in the 1930s, and post-war, the intellectual climate (as well as economic and logistical necessity, and the US disdain of British imperialism) allowed Britain to give up her empire without too much fuss. The USA and the West found subtler means of being imperialists, of course.
This anti-discrimination trend has led to some of the wilder shores of “PC”. And as for the influence of national socialism on our societies – where does gay marriage come in?
To quote the Archdruid again:
“It wasn't just a matter of more state involvement in the economy, it was specific policies of the sort already discussed.”
Perhaps it’s too big a subject for a wide-ranging post, but you need to be far more explicit and bring to the argument the same depth and intellectual rigour that you brought to your theory of catabolic collapse before you will convince me. What you see as “national socialism”, I see as anti-national socialism, and social democratic and socialist influences, which were already at work even in the time of Bismarck, who is credited with the beginnings of a welfare state in Germany. I would have no qualms about accepting the idea of national socialist techniques that were however put to a good cause. It’s just that I don’t see that you have made the case that you think you have.

Juhana said...

@Shane Wilson: Youth culture is always a good indicator to what direction a country is going. In the 60's, well-fed whites from secure environment started this "flower revolution" in the US, which has created the world where current Westerners live. I have been around former Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe, and there has been strong underground culture forming from 90's onwards advocating panslavism and conservative cultural revolution towards the ancient national roots. In it's most extreme forms, it turns into Black Socialism. I don't believe they are going to lose to this new Other in the East... They suffer no Western weaknesses.

Appeal of this new thinking among youth seem to be quite wide, especially among those south Slavs, whom Americans bullied around at the 90's.

Slogan familiar for anyone who ever visited CCCP, "SLAVA KPSS" has been widely reformulated into what Arkona sings about. Now they praise not the Party but the Nation. Interesting examples about this new cultural tide taking form in the Eastern Europe right now:

Bill Pulliam said...

Reading through the comments here, all of Nolte's "antis" are present in abundance. But, here is the catch, they are present in different people. And everyone who is "anti" one of the items is strongly "pro" some of the others. One regular poster, for example, is clearly strongly antisocialist and antimodernist, but he is just as strongly proconservative. The antiliberals or anticonservatives tend to be prosocialists or promodernists. And this reflects what I see around me living in daily life out here in the backwoods. I'm just not seeing much of a strain of the "anti-everything" sentiment that would be required. Even the whacko "Agenda 21 New World Order" conspiracy theorists tend to be very pro-conservative. And they drive their SUVs and use their smart phones in their PV-powered off-grid hideouts, so they are not really in a position to be antimodern in a practical sense.

I'll be very curious to see how your arguments develop in the coming weeks, because I am just not sensing the roots of a "traditional" fascist movement even here in the countryside that most folks from the rest of the U.S. would expect to be the source of it. Now, theocratic totalitarianism, that is a whole different matter... but still only if folks don't have to give up their smart phones and digital television.

Juhana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathy Johnson said...

I think "bully worshiper" would make a good replacement for what most Americans refer to as "fascist." I found it in George Orwell's essays. Today though I guess people would associate it with the anti-bullying movement in schools and that's only one child face of what Orwell and I are talking about.

Marcello said...

"Marcello, were you there at the time? And if you were, how high was your own security clearance?"

I hope that you realize that it is the same sort of reply that people give in such cases when they claim that aircraft carriers which in drydock reveal entirely conventional hull forms and propellers can somehow make 50 knots or other outlandish claims. I always reach for my pinch of salts in such cases.

The facts are that Lend-Lease had been in effect since March, while the "Shoot on sight" policy against u-boats had been in force since September. The US was not a neutral in the same sense of Switzerland and Hitler himself had no illusion about that.
For the USA to come down on the side of Germany the following had to happen:
1) Roosvelt had to be neutralized.
2) The pro-british faction had to be put in check; these were not all two bits players.
3) A complete 180° foreign policy course had to be executed.
4) The people had to be convinced to go at war against Britain while they would rather have no war at all, which was the same non trivial problem FDR had but in reverse.
All of this was not, strictly speaking, physically impossible but you cannot say that the US was on the verge of war with Britain in 1941. A lot of things would have to come together for that to happen; neutrality might have been in the cards, stabbing the british in the back was, shall we say, a somewhat more difficult proposition.

"If anyone had suggested to these men that United States could ever become a world power in its own right, they would have thought it a bad joke. As it happened, they were proven wrong. But it was contingent events that proved them wrong, not any necessity of history."

Of course the US was already a world power in the interwar period, sheer economic size had already underwritten that. Or do you think that, and this is just an example, the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 which had sanctioned naval parity with the british empire was just a random fluke that happened for mysterious reasons?
That the US would become the super duper hyperpower of the 1990s and 2000s was not written anywhere. But for the US not being a world power of substance things would have to change a lot earlier than the 1940s.

Hypnos said...

I really look forward to the development of this post series. As an Italian this strikes very close to home - fascism remains a powerful undercurrent especially in southern European political thought, which is why the current EU policy of destroying the Mediterranean periphery to support the Northern core's banks is so misguided and dangerous.

In fact, in the 2006 parliamentary election an Italian citizen could've walked into any voting booth and found this symbol on the ballot:

Granted, it only got some 3% of the vote, but its value is symbolic (although note that the recreation of the National Fascist Party is forbidden by the Italian Constitution. Admittedly so would be most of the economic policies currently being enforced by the EU, but lets not go into that).

Currently in Italian politics the space that could be occupied by a neo-fascist movement is taken up by the anti-political, anti-party (or non-party, as they call themselves) Five Star Movement (M5S), which is a mishmash of tens of different ideological strains united only by their anger against the current political system and its inability to explain (and reverse) the decadal Italian decline. Some interesting parallels could be drawn between M5S’s manifesto and the 1919 founding document of the Fasci di Combattimento, which contained a heap of contradictory statements taken from early fascism’s socialist, nationalist and conservative souls.

The M5S went from nowhere to 25% of the vote and a third of parliamentary sits in the space of four years (2009 to 2013). Something to watch closely, I believe.


Hypnos said...

What is most interesting and what I hope will be explored in this series going forward is fascism’s self-identification as a Third Way movement – against both liberal democracies and the various strains of socialism. And fascism did so by rejecting the narrative that underpinned both liberalism and socialism.

Both free market liberalism and communism have, at their basis, a Christian teleology and Christian values.

Fascism is at its core a profoundly irrationalist, anti-modern ideology. It proposes not a rehash of Christian morality and narratives under a fancy new cover - call it the myth of progress or the perfect communist society - but a radical new alternative that completely rejects Christian morality.

In this sense fascism is a true alternative to the myth of progress, and a powerful, compelling one at that.

It is no coincidence that fascism in its most virulent form – German National Socialism - emerged in Germany. That country had long harboured an underground philosophical counter-current - an anti-history to the triumphal march of progress and the Enlightenment, which in Germany had taken the shape of conquest at the hands of French revolutionaries.

There is a very interesting essay by Karl Polanyi, written in the early ‘40s when it appeared that fascism would indeed triumph on both liberalism and communism, in which he argues for the essential impossibility for fascism to achieve its ideological goal – the complete destruction of Christianity and the reversal of values held true by Western philosophy for two thousand years:

“The Christian idea of society is that it is a relationship of persons. Everything else follows logically from this. The central proposition of Fascism is that society is not a relationship of persons. This is the real significance of its anti-individualism. The implied negation is the formative principle of Fascism as a philosophy. It is its essence. It sets to Fascist thought its definite task in history, science, morals, politics, economics, and religion. Thus Fascist philosophy is an effort to produce a vision of the world in which society is not a relationship of persons. A society, in fact, in which there are either no conscious human beings or their consciousness has no reference to the existence and functioning of society. Anything less leads back to the Christian truth about society. But that is indivisible. It is the achievement of Fascism to have discovered its whole scope. It rightly asserts the correlatedness of the ideas of Individualism, Democracy and Socialism. It knows that either Christianity or Fascism must perish in the struggle.”

Robert Mathiesen said...

I think you are probably correct, Steve Pearson, to suppose that perceptions like my father's would have varied from one part of the country to the next, and also would depend on one's social class.

In the San Francisco Bay area, in the '40s and '50s, the Chinese were a familiar ethnicity, with which one felt comfortable and at home, while the Europeans there seemed way more strange and exotic, almost as if they had come from another world entirely. I am sure that this was a quirk of the SF Bay area.

And my father's family was on the upper end of the lower class, not very far above real poverty; he was the first to attend so much as a junior college. For him and his relatives, the Democratic Party was the party of big business and wealth, as typified by FDR. It was, in their perception, the Republicans and the Socialists were grouped together who were two like-minded parties that worked for the common man. (Of course, these were still Lincoln-esque Republicans, not the sort we know now.)

So . . . clear regional and class differences in perceptions of the past area at play here.

But also something else: my father said, when he told me the story, that pretty much everyone wanted to forget that they had ever favored the Nazis, and that American history textbooks had been heavily whitewashed out of shame and guilt. If he was, perhaps, wrong, about the details of his story, he was certainly right about the general whitewashing that masks the real history of every nation.

Nastarana said...

Juhana, It is very interesting what you write about compromise have gone out of fashion in Western Europe because here in the USA, one thing which has made our own politics toxic is that folks want what they want for free.

Whatever someone's "issue" might be, no compromise, even on other matters unrelated to The Cause can be allowed. The Sacred Cause, whether prolife, pro choice, support for Israel, support for Palestinians, GMO labeling, anti-GMO labeling, gay marriage, defense of (traditional heterosexual) marriage, must be defended and promoted at all costs and all other matters are to be decided on the basis of plain old self interest, or the interest of one's class or tribe. For example, I sometimes attend meetings of good food activists, and when I dare to suggest that the ill effects of the poisonous American diet could be partially alleviated if only the poor and working classes were allowed to grow food in the yards of their rented dwellings, well, the activist becomes instantly a champion of "property rights" and the financial interests of property owners, whose convenience must be allowed to trump all other considerations.

And so it goes. The "immigrant rights" groups won't hear of a progressive farm bill--one which might eliminate some of the more outrageous subsidies to absentee owners and which reinstates commodity support prices--because factory farming is their entry level jobs program, ill paid and dangerous though those jobs might be. Zionists won't hear of GMO labeling because Israel has bio tech firms. Pro life activists are deaf to pleas that young men need to be able to support families and therefore need wages which would let them do so. And, each and every "issues" voter considers him or herself a shining example of principled virtue amid the corruption of everyone else. The notion of win/win, you get something you need and I get something I need, and we both give a little, seems to have been banished to outer space.

Incidentally, anyone who thinks that the Tea Party believes in individual rights has never worked for or lived next door to a TP sympathizer.

Joseph Nemeth said...

@JMG - Always much to think about in your posts.

While this discussion of fascism is very enlightening, in the end, I'm not sure it matters what we call the thing that US government will transform into. A concern about fascism as opposed to, say, Islamic totalitarianism, or Christian Dominionism, or straight-up Marxism, or Tea-Party Libertarianism, or what-have-you, is pointless unless there is still some contingency left in the system. That is to say, suppose fascism is coming? Is it contingent, like the abdication of Prince Edward, or is it as inevitable as the decline of industrial society? Are any of the alternatives preferable?

The insight I have pulled from this latest post is that the attempt at national socialism (by a different name) in the post-depression US was important in unifying the nation under the "national" part, but also laid the groundwork for disenfranchising all economic classes as political entities. I was raised in what I believed (i.e. was taught to believe) was a "classless" society, and would have regurgitated that belief until very recently -- even though my life experience (i.e. reality) has persistently taught me otherwise.

Without identity, the classes have no political solidarity, and therefore no possible political representation in government, even if the government wants to represent them. The only remaining classes with a well-defined identity are the uber-rich, and the uber-poor. The rich have both the identity (common identifying marks, outlook, and objectives) and the means to seek and obtain effective political representation. The poor are too busy surviving to be political.

So the question becomes, what possible forms of government can exist when the only real political representation is held by a small, privileged, easily-identified class, supported by an illusion of "participation" by every other class, all other classes manipulated into 49% versus 51% outcomes in every test of participation, backed by militarized internal security forces and a surveillance system that is also managed and operated by very few people?

Does it matter whether we call it fascism, communism, plutocracy, kleptocracy, totalitarianism, dictatorship, or frackism, or what color bunting it drapes over the podium?

When it eventually breaks -- and this modern house of cards is nothing like the Egyptian dynasties, or the Roman Empire, or even the European monarchies, it's going to fracture when the underlying economic system cracks -- it seems to me it's going to be like getting caught in a tsunami, and all of us are going to become good little fascists, or communists, or frackists, if we want to live. We'll either participate in the collective atrocities, or become victims of them.

Afterwards, survivors will look at the blood spilled and offer up their regrets to whatever gods they worship, vow "Never again!" (how many times has that been said in the history of the human race?), and move on.

I apologize (somewhat) for the strong tone, but while one can identify the stages of grief, it's never that tidy. You'll find yourself caught up in anger (again) long after you've thought you'd come to acceptance. Right now, I'm angry (again) with what I see going on in the US.

ed boyle said...

Nice to hear a clear historical discussion such concepts. The brutality of the industrial revolution was such that, from what I read in my "history of technology" books, it was the biggest break in the way of life in the normal population since the beginning of agriculture. It took decades for the British population to ameliorate the extremest of Dickensian conditions. Govt. regulation to workplace conditions and social policies contributed to all of this along with worker participation in decisions, unions and voting reform. On the continent this whole process took place 50 years later and quicker (as nowadays in China and the NICS,etc.) when technology was that much more destructive so that there was less time and experience in population, govt. and industry to get used to the new situation and so ideologies(which are extremely dangerous) took the place of organically grown systems which slowly developed in Brtiain that had avoided revolutionary type behaviour while developing a healthy middle and working class.

Generally a democratic system of deabate between interest groups in a parliamentary democracy takes decades, if not generations to learn as union formation in the USA against industrial interests shows. Acceptance of rigid working times and industrial lifestyle were low at the start of industrial revolution but the workers got used to working within the system and not trying to destroy it and the industrialists got used to worker's rights although they are constantly nowadays trying to undermine them and regualtion through lobbying, job export, automation. Essentially it is an ongoing history of a war between those with access to capital, who control the technological frontier and the masses and governments, who are always well behind the curve. Letting the genie ofut of the bootle, like with mobile communications and internet has had consequences politically that no technologist foresaw, destabilizing the whole global system in the last 20 years. Micro-ideologies (Peak oil, animal rights, climate activists) and mass movements like islam have networked to trade information and ameliorate bad elements of the industrial system, furthering democracy(i.e. informing a broad public discussion and public awareness of systemic abuses, leading to reform pressures).

Dustin Hamman said...

So, (hopefully I have this straight) if we (the public) keep blindly using the term fascism to describe the corrupt and authoritarian governments we are facing today, without understanding the true origins of fascism, we (the public) could unwittingly end up welcoming with open arms true fascism as the solution to our problems. ...scary thought, and I'd have to agree. I'd also like to point out that the public has already welcomed, with wide open arms, an incredible loss of their personal freedoms over the last decade-plus due to an irrational fear of terrorism brought on largely by a glaring false flag operation designed to mobilize public opinion for war. Our public's ability to think deeply about serious issues is questionable at best... but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try!

Matthew Lindquist said...

Regarding my first point: Thank you! Always glad to know a certain sinking feeling is justified ;)

As for the second point... I'm not as wedded to this idea as I might have come across, which is why I put this hypothetical situation so far in the future. Also, in my rough draft of that comment I had a bit about "social technologies" such as the political organization of the Romans that I probably should have left in. But anyway, you're right- empires certainly can and will exist in the deindustrial future. What I'm really trying to express here is a gut feeling that nothing lasts forever; and just as the vast majority of humans no longer live in hunter-gatherer tribes, there will quite possibly come a time when most of us are no longer living in empires, and that was my attempt to mentally model that scenario.

I will say this, though- The thing that got me thinking about this was something that you pointed out: that not all dark ages are created equal. After the collapse of Mycenae, the Greeks lost their system of writing. After the fall of Rome, the alphabet was still in use. After us, perhaps we'll even have radio. You are correct in that the situation that I just modeled would require carrying over social technologies as well, and I have no idea what that would look like. But the idea you presented about dark ages that can preserve a little knowledge from the past does suggest a certain (dare I say k-selected?) resilience that would make imperial conquests more difficult, though not impossible- and if things continue along those lines for a very, very long time we could end up with a human ecology that renders empire-building an obsolete social strategy.

I'm not saying that empires won't exist at all, any more than hunter-gatherers no longer exist, or grass no longer exists because we have forests. But it would be a very different world than what we have today.

Again, though, this is just a castle in the sky. Not something I want to get into a heated argument over, for sure!

Enrique said...

@ Chris Bonhom and Steve Pearson:

I too am disgusted by the deliberate distortion of the English language in the name of a radical Leftist socio-political agenda. All of this silliness about "gender pronouns", "gender identity", etc is a classic example of too many lotus eaters with way too much time on their hands. It's also a classic example of Newspeak in action. After all, Newspeak is really nothing but the deliberate redefinition and distortion of language in the name of an extremist political and social agenda, and this is one of the reasons why political correctness has been such a controversial issue.

Ever notice how most of these campus leftists and professional activists are white middle class and upper middle class children of privilege? This sort of nonsense is one of the things that will come to an end during the Long Descent, because few if any people will have the luxury of being professional activists and society will not be able to afford the sort of destructive consequences in a world where everyone is simply trying to survive.
Here is a great example of the madness that Chris was talking about:

Shane Wilson said...

@ Juhana
I guess we'll just have to disagree about the outcome. I think it's a lost cause and tragic. From my understanding, Middle Eastern peoples fill the same role in Europe as Latinos in the US. I'm looking at it from two perspectives, wealth and demographics. The US and Europe both have wealth, that creates desire in those lack it, and creates an unavoidable demographic pressure by those that lack wealth, people from the Middle East and parts of Latin America. Couple that with a demographic imbalance: anemic birth rates in Europe and, to a lesser extent the US, and the stage is set. You can either welcome them with open arms or fight them tooth and nail, but come they will and there's not much you can do about it over the long haul. I think JMG has said as much.
The whole racial/ethnic thing is arbitrary, Middle Eastern people I've spoken with point to the shared history of the Middle East and Europe as part of the same classical empire (Rome) to say that any division between Europe & the Middle East/Northern Africa is arbitrary. Indeed, Arabs qualify as "white" in the US. By the same token, Latinos point to shared ancestors claiming their exclusion from "whiteness" is arbitrary.
I do agree that any ethnic nationalist movement that claims to save Europe from the "Moorish hoards" will come from the East-Russia is the only imperial power that could bankroll such an effort. The rest of Europe is dependent on outside imperial powers for their own power.
I think if I were an evil dictator I'd establish a policy of forced "miscegenation" to promote social cohesion (I'm not an aspiring dictator, but I'm thinking of the effectiveness of the foundational myth of "La Raza" in promoting social cohesion in Mexico)

Shane Wilson said...

One remnant of modern day's "conservatism's" liberal past is the continued usage of "neoliberalism" to describe the economics espoused by conservatives

steve pearson said...

@Robert Mathiesen, I think it was also pretty easy in the late 40s & 50s to whitewash one's pro Nazi past with the anti communist hysteria of those times. There was no equivalent of Joseph McCarthy looking for old Nazis.They wouldn't have wanted too look to hard at the German scientists they imported.Nor would Britain or the USSR, I think. People could just say they had been anti communist all along; get ahead of the curve.
For sure they edited the text books; always have,always will. How often does one hear of the American suppression of the Philippine independence movement after the Spanish American war, etc.,etc.

bicosse said...


German National Socialism seems to have been a very complex, eclectic blend of Enlightenment and anti-Enlightenment elements. John Gray (the political philosopher, not the Mars & Venus relationship guru!) is very informative on this, see e.g. 'Black Mass'.

The irrational, anti-Enlightenment side of Nazism is well-known and does, as you say, have deep roots in some aspects of German history and culture.

The Enlightenment side can be seen in the Nazis' enthusiasm for 'racial science' and eugenics, which were scientifically much more respectable in those days, and were used to justify the sterilisation of 'unfit' people in 'enlightened' countries like Sweden and the USA.

The Nazis also believed in 'progress' in the sense that the Third Reich was to be the culmination of German Empires 1 and 2, a utopian, thousand-year Reich born out of ferocious but purifying violence.

The influence of Christian apocalyptic - the thousand-year rule of the saints, the messianic political leader - is pretty clear here, as it is in the choice of the Jews as the demonic other, though Pagan apocalyptic of the Twilight-of-the-Gods type seems to have been part of the mix, too.

Some observers at the time drew parallels between Hitler and Jan of Leyden, the violent anabaptist leader who tried to establish the New Jerusalem by force at Muenster in 1534 - both were marginal, oddball but charismatic figures who were able to win the support of normally conservative people because it was a time of crisis in which the existing authorities were discredited, in Hitler's time by the catastrophe of defeat in World War One followed by a humiliating treaty, occupation by the victors' armies, hyperinflation and then a global economic crash.

Interesting to see what JMG will make of this, given his past writings on apocalyptic delusions, specifically the mistaken beliefs that history must either be a tale of unending progress or of apocalyptic collapse, with no other options, and how these tales are 'secondhand theologies', half-understood versions of Christian apocalyptic, post- and pre-millenialist. But maybe I'm jumping the gun here...

sunseekernv said...


Thanks for the link to Brian Patrick Mitchell.
Nice to see a trichotomy instead of the usual dichotomy.
Was odd that he focused on 8 ways and left populism as a bit of an afterthought; two sets of 3 makes for 9 possibilities, kind of like the enneagram.


I'll share your concern over being told "not to be critical" of someone - civil dialogue is one means how we learn.

But "… it could fairly be said that she did more damage driving the Leaf than she would have by driving a gasoline-powered car." rather depends on the mileage of the gasoline-powered car in question.

The Union of Concerned Scientists did a detailed report on EV emissions and fuel savings.
It covers 26 electricity grid regions in the U.S, and gives a buying-guide value for the mpg of a gasoline vehicle with equivalent greenhouse gas emissions to an EV at .34 kWh/mile (e.g. a Leaf).
The Saint Louis area is rated 37 mpg, meaning one has to have a gasoline car of better than 37 mpg to be better than an EV. Alternatively, one can say a Leaf emits as much as a 37 mpg gasoline car when recharged in St. Louis. (chart on page 12).

45% of Americans live in areas where the grid is clean enough that an EV is better than a 50 mpg gasoline car, and 38% live in their "better" category, where an EV is equivalent to a 41-50 mpg gasoline vehicle (e.g. a hybrid).

Then you say solar panels make 70% of her electricity so "...that makes the car a little greener…"

The appendix to "State of Charge"
says SRMW (SERC Midwest) is 80% coal (the UCS report was done in 2012, using 2009 EPA data, Ameren's 2013 report says 73% coal now - so the grid is already getting cleaner).
Using the chart on page 5 of the main report, solar is 500 MPGghg, coal is 30 MPGghg, etc.
If 30% of her electricity is(was) 37 MPGghg from Ameren, and 70% is 500 MPGghg from her PV panels, then (.3 * 37) + (.7 * 500) = 361 MPGghg. So her Leaf "emitted" as much greenhouse gases as a 361 mpg gasoline car (assuming charging at home - not in this case, but even if only half the time, that's still 180 mpg!). I'd call that a lot cleaner, since gasoline cars kinda top out at about 50 mpg, assuming they can get gasoline, 'cause there's this thing called "peak oil"… .

There are several nice bike racks for Leafs, and the rear seats fold down, leaving enough room to just toss most conventional bikes in without even removing a wheel. I would question her on that (or the bus, etc.) as stage 2 of the journey. If it's the new I70 bridge, it's what? 1.5 miles from downtown per Google maps - a pleasant stroll.

39% of California Plug-in EV owners surveyed have PV systems.

DeAnander said...

@bonhomme :-)

Ya know, I can remember when my parents' generation could not refer to a female doctor as "a doctor" - she had to be called "a woman doctor" or "a lady doctor," because it was just not *normal* for a woman to practise medicine and the spoken language reflected that convention. The fact that most of us don't feel compelled to do that any more is imho a good thing, not so much a weakening of our language as a broadening of our minds.

While we're restoring the, er, colour and flavour to the poor old beleaguered English language, maybe we should bring back "quadroon" and "octoroon" while we're at it? [that was mild sarcasm, just in case anyone missed it] My point is that the language of every generation reveals its obsessions. Sometimes leaving the language behind helps to leave the obsession behind as well, or at least some of it, and in many cases that's not such a bad idea. Personally I don't give a toss if a friend's domestic relationship is gay, straight, or wavy; I'm more interested in what they're growing and whether we can swap seeds. That seems to me a more reasonable priority than insisting on figuring out (or kidding myself that I can figure out) what they may or may not be doing in their private moments.

Maybe gender isn't the single most important attribute of the next person I meet; but then, I don't need every Jew in my world to be clearly designated by a yellow star, either. Times change, mores also, language takes a little longer.

Candace said...

I could use JMG's analysis on the difference between "Newspeak". and "Political Correctness". Liberal Activists pushing to change language from Mrs. (beloning to Mr.) or Miss to Ms. or spouse, fiancee or girl/boyfriend to Partner seems to me to be an example of "Political Correctness". Activists of a particular ideological group are advocating the change. "Newspeak" exists by government mandate. The use of "collateral damage" to describe civilian casualties from military activities seems more like an example of government defined language.

I understand the frustration of having language and opinions being limited in a setting that is supposed to support inquiry and open-minded thought. But some language is rude and demeaning even if it is in popular use. The terms "moron", "idiot" and "mental retardation" used to be medical diagnosis, but through popular use became derogitory terms. So now the term "cognitive disability" is being substituted to try and move away from the corrupted terms. Personally I'm glad there is some attempt to change how people treat others by changing the terms that are used.
Times have also changed. My sister has been in a living together relationship with a man for over 20 years. They are not getting married so he is not her husband or fiancee. It also sounds wierd to describe a long term reationship as a boyfriend. "Significant other" sounds oddly clinical. Personally I think domestic partner is an appropriate description.

John Michael Greer said...

Shane, fascism got going the first time in a Europe economically crippled by the impact of the First World War, and seized power in Germany precisely because the economy was flat on its back, so I don't know that the contraction of the global economy will be any hindrance! As for the circular firing squad model of American neofascism, though, that's entirely possible.

Chris Bonhomme, okay, now look at the distinctly Orwellian way you've used the label "Newspeak" to impose your own take on what, from another perspective, is an ordinary shift in social habits -- I doubt you address people as Milord and Milady these daysfor example. Aren't you simply saying that "Ms." is doubleplusungood?

c2, the estimate I used was out of two academic histories of fascism. The deportation of resistance fighters to camps was a feature of the German occupation, and it's by no means simply "received opinion" that Mussolini's government wasn't greatly interested in anti-Semitism -- here again, that's a point that has repeatedly been discussed in the historical literature. More broadly, it's very easy to trot out the standard tropes in dealing with fascism, but -- as I've tried to point out -- those tropes may well make it impossible to recognize a revived fascism in our own time. More on this as we proceed.

Cherokee, I'm not familiar with the novel -- will have to check it out. The old man's advice about dogs strikes me as spot on.

Ice Torch, if I ever have the time ind inclination to research and write a book on the impact of national socialism on the western world in the second half of the 20th century, I'll keep you in mind. Until then, well, if you disagree with me, you disagree with me; I don't mean to be rude, but that's not exactly an overwhelming issue to me, you know.

Bill, we're not quite there yet. I'm sure that if you'd been hanging out in Bavaria or Swabia in, oh, 1910 -- I figure those are more or less the German equivalents of Tennessee -- you'd have seen about the same thing you're seeing now. More on this as we proceed.

Kathy, that might work. I'd point out, though, that the most important difference between fascism as it actually existed, and fascism as it's portrayed in the 21st century American imagination, is that fascism as it actually existed was an insurgent movement seeking radical change, not the existing elites seeking to preserve the status quo.

Hypnos, thank you for a thoughtful response! I hope that a good many of my readers go click on the URL you've given, and note the Fronte Sociale Nazionale -- that would be National Social Front in English, which some may find reminiscent of a certain other name. I don't propose at this point to get into the deeper dimensions of fascist thought, as discussed by Polanyi and of course many others; that's not useful in terms of the goals I'm trying to pursue just now. Still, we'll see about the future.

Joseph, once again, it matters because the way people think about fascism right now makes it really quite likely that they will end up supporting fascism when it next appears on the American scene. If they understand what it is, they might be a little less likely to fall into step behind the banners. Not all authoritarian societies are created equal; some are much more murderous than others -- and a case can be made, I think, that helping to immunize at least a few people against one of the most murderous kinds is worth doing.

Ed, nicely put. A very strong case can be made that radical authoritarian regimes such as fascism and communism are what happens when the transition from agrarian to industrial economies happens too fast -- and that raises the question of what will happen in the case of a fast transition from industrial to agrarian economies.

John Michael Greer said...


Thank. You. For. Getting. It.

That's exactly what I've been trying to say, and will be discussing in more detail as we proceed.

Matthew, that's an interesting speculation. I'm still not at all sure it's justified -- for example, as far as I can tell, it's only because of abundant fossil fuels that the less hospitable corners of the planet aren't still inhabited mostly by hunter-gatherers, or by the highly stable and flexible fusion of hunting and gathering with small-patch horticulture and animal raising that's still common in the world's tribal societies -- once we're out of energy resources needed to extend the power of industrial societies to the world's far corners, my guess is that a lot of areas will revert to one or the other system. Still, it's at least plausible to suggest that the far future may include many other kinds of human social organization, including some that may make empires obsolete.

Shane, good! I'd missed that, and should have thought of it.

Kyoto Motors said...

So I appreciate the notion of a “snarl” word. It is very apt here, where disliked (evil?) powers-that-be are “fascist” because we “the people” aren’t getting our way…

At best Fascism seems to be a misnomer. Clearly a succinct recollection of the historical details would (should) put this misuse to rest, except that I suspect that the broader, fuzzier definition of the misnomer is here to stay… Here’s a checklist from a recent Facebook meme making the rounds, trying to suggest that the current government of Canada is approaching fascism:
Powerful continuing of nationalism
Targeting enemies; using scapegoats
Rampant sexism
Obsession with national security
Protection of corporate power
Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
Cronyism and corruption
Disdain for human rights
Supremacy of the military
Controlled mass media
Religion and government intertwined
Suppression of labour/ unions
Obsession with crime and punishment
Fraudulent elections

These are not my terms, but if this were to define fascism, then it has been close to home for some time now.

Meanwhile, from the perspective of certain activists (the sub-culture of so-called anarchists and leftists, etc.) who attend protests and confront riot cops from time to time, ours is a police state, which according to many essentially fascism… Similarly, workers who have confronted strong-arm tactics and union-busting on the part of employers and/or government might readily complain of the fascist state we live in… Just a snarl and a misnomer perhaps.
However, are we looking for historical accuracy or might we accept a generic definition of the term? …one that encompasses a government’s tendency to circumvent democratic processes? …for example, the excessive use of police or military to foist the rule of law upon the masses, and to suppress political organisation and dissent?

If police or soldiers were to be found on every other corner, and meetings of more than a few people in public were broken up on a regular basis, I’d call that fascism… inaccurate as it may be I have adopted this definition, and no, I don’t think we are there yet.

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG already touched on tis in his last rounf of responses bit still..

I need to hear one of you who rant against gender neutral language explain to me exactly how this damages society.

And about PC... have any of you actually heard anyone on the American political left use this term in a non-ironic manner in the last 15 or 20 years? Because I ONLY hear it now from the right as a snarl word about the left. Usually as a means to dismiss and belittle someone else's opinions or theories without even addressing them. Or, often, as an excuse for saying something blatantly racist and/or sexist, in the name of "well, I'm not PC."

Kyoto Motors said...

The more I read here among the comments and responses, I realise my initial input was not well grounded; that "fascism" is far more specific than commonly understood and should be better understood as such. I suppose it has wrongly been conflated with all sorts of totalitarianism and militarism... I also suspect that the ability to recognise fascism, and its consequences, is of major importance...
I appreciate the lesson, and will love to learn more as we proceed. Thanks!

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