A Brief History of Western Civilisation

I have been doing a great deal of reading lately on the rise of fascism after the First World War. It has been one of my keenest interests since my university days because of my deep concern that we are not free of this beast yet.

One of the books I have come to appreciate very much in that respect is Peter Viereck’s Metapolitics: The Roots of the Nazi Mind (1940). Another, which I just finished, is Stephen Roberts’ The House That Hitler Built (1938) which I had never heard of until a few weeks ago and ordered immediately (a remaindered copy arrived that was once in the Harvard University collection). Roberts’ book has been one of the most rewarding studies that I’ve read of the Nazi period. He spent about two years in Germany from 1935 to 1937 and had remarkable access to many of the Nazi leaders and their organisations, including an audience with Hitler.

I had read Viereck’s Metapolitics as an undergraduate. It was something of a breath of fresh air after having read so many liberal or Marxist interpretations of the fascist period. However valuable these were in their own way, I was always left with the sense that they were incomplete — that they did not fully account for the psychology and “spirit” of fascism in a way that would inoculate us from a recurrence of this sickness.

Viereck’s approach is that of a “conservative” — actually “Nietzschean” — who excoriates conservatism itself for its complicity in the rise of fascism. He points out that Nietzsche’s very public break with Wagner’s romantic nationalism (he accused Wagner of becoming “Reichsdeutsch“) and his break with his sister Elizabeth for her anti-Semitism proved the case that Nietzsche was no “proto-Nazi”. It is Viereck’s argument that the “roots of the Nazi mind” lie in Wagner’s “romantic” aesthetics and mythology — precisely the things Nietzsche eventually violently rejected and which destroyed their friendship — and he makes a very strong case.

And despite being himself “conservative”, he makes a very strong case that conservatives have been willing “fellow-travelers” and “useful idiots” themselves in facilitating the rise of fascism even as they protest the contrary.

That may not come as much of a surprise to “progressives”. The interesting thing about Viereck’s conservatism — something that had me practically rolling on the floor howling with laughter — was how he “had opened people’s minds to the idea that to be conservative is not to be satanic.’  But, he said, ‘once their minds were opened, Buckley came in’.”

In other words, for Viereck, one of the biggest threats to the ideals and traditions of Western civilisation is conservatism itself, despite its posturings to be the exact opposite of this.

That may not come as being much of a surprise to progressives either, given the tendency of “new conservatives” to eviscerate traditions of “common law” and concepts of human rights in force since the Magna Carta, which evisceration is, as much as anything, an aspect of “the new normal”.

Viereck’s conservatism has lot in common with Rosenstock-Huessy’s “counter-reactionary” conservatism, too. But there is one very important factor in which Rosenstock-Huessy’s conservatism differs from Viereck’s conservatism, and it is very enlightening.

Viereck, in his defence of “western civilisation” against barbarism, is forced to come up with a reasonable definition of what the term “Western civilisation” actually means. It’s a reasonable expectation, is it not? Most public intellectuals would merely skip over the term “civilisation” and “Western civilisation” as if it were something self-evident, or “common sense”, something that commands our absolute “loyalty”, and “loyalty” and obedience is a very conservative ideal, such as “my country right or wrong”. Here’s Viereck’s definition of the meaning of “Western civilisation”:

“A rough attempt in a single sentence: loyalty to western civilization means loyalty not to one particular portion of geography — that would be nationalism — but to a universal civilization compounded of three separate heritages: rationalism, classicism, Christianity”.

Ooops!

I understand what Viereck is trying to get at here, but to describe as “universal” civilisation only those civilisations as embrace rationalism, classicism, and Christianity as their basis is very narcissistic, very ethnocentric. In effect, by “universal” he means “catholic”, for anything outside these three streams of influence — rationalism, classicism, Christianity — must be considered as not belonging to “universal civilization”.

You will notice here, perhaps, the same old compulsion to think in terms of “three” terms: “liberal, socialist, or conservative”; or, “length, breadth, depth”; or, “liberty, equality, fraternity”; or, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”; or “thesis, antithesis, synthesis”, or “red, white and blue”, and on it goes. It’s a compulsion that has come to seem like “the common sense”.

Viereck’s definition of “Western civilisation” isn’t complete either (and this is where Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” is so valuable as a corrective to false consciousness). In effect, Viereck is saying that “western civilisation” is the product of three streams of influence: Greek rationalism (philosophy); classicism (Roman law and politics); Judeo-Christianity (the prophetic voice). In other words, Greece, Rome, and Jerusalem, or philosophy, politics, and religion are considered to have been the essential streams shaping the meaning of “Western civilisation”.

He’s forgotten the era of the tribes — the “roots” of this civilisation itself. Exactly the thing that erupted in Nazism as the neglected factor.

“Western civilisation”, as Rosenstock pointed out, is the construction of four streams of speech: the tribal (the Bard), the Greek (the Philosopher or rationalist), the Roman (the Politician or legal), the Judeo-Christian (the Prophetic).

There are, therefore, four streams of influence, not three. Viereck has overlooked the influence of the tribal origins.

There are four streams of influence because our reality is fourfold: past (tribal, nationalistic);  future (destiny or “prophetic” — revelation); objective (rationalistic, “reasoning” our reality); and subjective (law, internal organisation). The “rational”, the “classical”, the “Christian” did not originate within the West. They shaped it from without. The tribe (community) was the only “native” element in the formation of Western civilisation, and it is the factor that has been ignored, but which became the entirely exaggerated factor in fascism.

So, one is entitled to ask: how could Viereck and others overlook the four streams of influence in the shaping of what is called “Western civilisation”? The tribal origins, the Greek mind, Roman law, and Judeo-Christianity? Or, poet, philosopher, politician, and prophet?

Only the one who embodies all four is “civilised”.

 

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19 responses to “A Brief History of Western Civilisation”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    Sometime I do not feel like to be the first to comment, but very often I feel as if I am pushed by the powerful hand talked about by Huessy to do so. I don think it is a question of three or four concepts, although sometime they help to understand the picture but he who embodies the truth is the civilized. Atrocities are committed by both those who call themselves civilized and by those who are called barbarians. Truth is the criterion. It is the intention that hides behind words what reflects the sincerity and the truthfulness of the words. Again it is this powerful hand that we need to lift us up from this misdirected language of our time and place us down in a new and more healthy, responsible and responsive vocabularies( the truthful divine words spoken by the human). This recall to my mind a saying by Ali Ibn Abi Talib that goes, Asceticism is not that you should not own anything, but that nothing should own you. This also recall to my mind a statement posted in one of your post talking about your refusal to be branded by any label It is sad that we are living in a time where we do not own the words, but the words own us, forgetting that every new era requires new language that adequately fits the time. Perverse out come,revenge effect and the four riders and their anti-entities are our effective soldiers in our battle toward defeat or victory. Nobody is in control of events, but the real who puts these events into circulation and manage their interplay to accomplish his intention that defy the human understanding, expectations and manipulations. We need to be modest and know our limit and to know that our transgression of these limits has limit where the perverse outcome comes into play. Sometime I feel that we are not using vocabularies that address the crises at hand, but using language that keeps us away from actually tackling the paramount problems of our age. The lies,the falsifications of every thing beautiful and replace it by trivial decorations, cheap entertainments and misleading words.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    I forgot to say that this no longer the problem of the west but the problem of the human race as a whole. What stir my attention also is not the addition of Judaism to Christianity by Huessy but the exclusion of the third religion, as if these well-educated intelligentsia do not know this third extension of Ibrahim

    • Scott Preston says :

      There are many types or moods of human civilisation, and Gebser, for example, makes them artifacts of particular structures of consciousness — archaic, magical, mythical, mental-rational structures.

      Our concern here is to get right down to the nitty-gritty in understanding what is meant by “Western civilisation” in order not to be seduced by it as a propaganda construct, or even as a “moral” construct. This understanding becomes especially important when we consider that the fascist Weltanschauung (world-view or “way of percieving things”) expressed itself in terms of “Kultur” versus “Zivilisation”. So, the fascists not only held themselves to be anti-modern and “anti-Western”, but also promoted themselves as the redeemers and saviours of Western civilisation (and, more grandiosely, of humankind more generally). Thus in their screed, war and imperialism were inevitable. Ruthless violence and war were “cleansing” and “purifying”.

      Viereck (with some justification) casts this Kultur versus Zivilisation conflict in terms of “romantic” versus “classical” consciousness. This is a common tendency amongst Western intellectuals (it recurs again in Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). “Romantic” are ostensibly those who are nostalgic for the Middle Ages, while the “classical” are those who cleave to the Greco-Roman ideal. “Romantic” thus comes to be associated with the “mystical” and anti-rational and informal, while “classical” with the sober-minded, the rational, the legal, the formal.

      So the tendency toward dualistic thinking is there as well, and worst of all the intellectuals moralise this dualism of “romantic” and “classical”. Their error is so simple (yet so widespread) that on this basis “Western civilisation” cannot be understood except as a moral or even propaganda construct. And despite his book being quite useful in some ways, Viereck commits all the same errors as those who he condemns in the book.

      First of all, the critical tension in the Western tradition is not between “romantics” and “classicals”, but between Parmenides and Heraclitus.

      Second, even after recognising three streams of influence or speech having shaped the meaning of “Western civilisation”: “rationalism, classicism, and Christianity” (or Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem) he can still reduce the issue to a simplistic “romantic” versus “classical” orientation (both backward looking orientations in any case). So, his own error was staring him in the face and he didn’t even recognise it. It’s so simple it’s pathetic. The other factor shaping the meaning of “Western civilisation” was the Age of the Tribes, or what is “native” to the Western mind itself. The fascists simply showed that this tribal factor is still quite active in the psychic make-up of the West.

      So, not three, and not two, but four main streams of influence have gone into making up the meaning of “Western civilsation”, and the evidence for this is not even hard to come by. It’s evident in the grammar of the European languages, highly influenced as they are by Greek, Latin, Hebrew and their own indigenous origins. English alone is about 60% Latin or even more.

      Nazism, in particular, was the violent rejection of the Greek, the Roman, and (especially) the Jewish streams, leaving only the tribal Germanic as the “pure”, and everything else as “pollution”.

      Until recently, a Western man or woman wasn’t even considered educated unless they knew — Latin, Greek, and the Bible. But of their own origins in “paganism”, they knew absolutely nothing. Deracinated and rootless, this other factor of influence persisted only as a disquieting subconscious influence, corresponding to what Seth calls “the ancient force”, but which we call “Nature” itself. Viereck, for the same reasons, deliberately represses it again in his take-down of what he calls “romanticism”.

      There are not “two souls” contending in the Western psyche in terms of “romanticism” and “classicism”. There are not just “three” streams of influence in terms of Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem. There are four streams: the Poetic, the Philosophic, the Political, and the Prophetic streams of speech correspond to that psychic makeup, each trying to temper the others. This pattern belongs the everlasting fourfold self, and every civilisation has them in one way or another. They are indispensible, however they may be represented — the artist, the thinker, the politician, the priest. It was the conviction of the democratic era that the “well-rounded” human being could embody all four.

      We call “fanatic” percisely the over-specialisation of one aspect of the fourfold human. “History” is pretty much the quest for the balance. There is something in us that almost instinctually revolts against over-specialisation and the “much, too much”. And it fails again and again in its revolts because of a false model, a false consciousness. We are not dual beings. We are fourfold beings, exactly as Blake has also characterised it.

      Fascism was, in many ways, the revolt of repressed, resentful, blind, unconscious Nature (the Pagan and “the ancient force”) against the repressions of the “Modern world”, against “Zivilisation”. “Kultur” was identical with this same “ancient force”. The Nazis made no bones about it: “The cross must die so Germany can live!” was a slogan.

      So, to set up “romantic” and “classical” as the norms of civilisation just won’t do at all. It leads to false consciousness. Our real situation is not twofold but fourfold, and over-specialisation of one function — one faculty, one human type, one form of speech — is totalitarianism. And Gebser (and Rosenstock) and William Blake are quite right — fascism is going to be the perpetual temptation and even fate of this “Western civilisation” until such time as the “integral consciousness” is realised — ie, that we are fourfold beings.

      • Scott Preston says :

        By the way, any fantasy some (like Anders Behring Breivik) might have about the “re-Christianisation” of the West is just that — a reactionary fantasy. It ain’t going to happen. But it is very very important that the meaning of Christianity be understood, because only that understanding can prevent a re-paganisation of the West.

        That is pretty much the gist of William Blake’s manifesto “There is NO Natural Religion” and his attack on “druidism”. Blake might even be described as pre-mature anti-fascist, and certainly as counter-reactionary. Blake may have distanced himself from “religion”, but that is because he understood it and the meaning of the prophetic spirit.

      • abdulmonem says :

        I read your comment again and the attempt of the German to replace, the cross of Christ by the cross of Hitler and thought there is a need to think about the precedent the Nazi had in the Anglo-saxon banner of the white man burden and their message of civilizing the world that is colonizing it and replacing all the crosses of the world by the so-called the cross of Christ.It is another interpretation.

    • alex jay says :

      “What stir my attention also is not the addition of Judaism to Christianity by Huessy but the exclusion of the third religion, as if these well-educated intelligentsia do not know this third extension of Ibrahim.”

      Yes, my good-hearted Sufi friend in higher consciousness. It is an unfortunate omission, bearing in mind its interwoven connection to the other two ugly sisters (should be brothers actually as they are – have been – the male dominating scourge for 3,000ish years of history), as Islam completes the triangle of the Yahwehist cartel of human division – and misery. At least Hegel had the acumen to envisage a synthesis. These three Yahwehist traditions subscribe to only their way or no way – thesis vs antithesis (conversion, tribute or destruction is the only game in town – take your pick – ergo the historical genocide of the “either your with us or against us” meme). With these linear chronological power grabs initiated by men on a mountain communicating with a god, angel or falling off a horse and bright lights imparting some divine revelations, who would command them to go out and destroy anyone who did not comply with their interpretation of His projected delusion (in other words,our delusion). And yet, despite their psychopathic Old Testament cultural origins – accelerating in this era of reactionary “Fundamentalism” – there have been those in the past (Scott cites a litany of these in his blog) and some currently who see beyond the superficial curse of dogma – particularly eclectic dogmas which are nothing more than an extension of an elitist con-game against the majority of humanity (the 1% against the 99%) since we walked out of a cave into the sunlight.

      • abdulmonem says :

        Thank you Alex the ugliness not in religion, but in the human interpretation of the words and this is the tragedy of the three, trying to cancel each other,instead of joining force to serve the same truth and this is not among different religion, but inside the same religion. Look at the shiah and the sunni. . Islam is basically an interfaith religion and look how the fundamentalists distorted its picture. Only honesty and truthfulness with ourselves and with others save us, and that is a very hard task. This remind me of Kathleen Raine verse that drips with bitterness and sorrow, just listen to the wave of her tortured and sad disclosure, Being what I am/ what I could do but wrong, but that does not make us lose hope because the basic premise is health and not sickness despite of the killing nature of some diseases. It seems God does not want us to forget, but to be vigil all the time, to be present in his watchful presence. Blake said, one power alone make a poet, imagination, the divine vision. Yeats concurred and said, poetry and religion are the same thing.

        • alex jay says :

          “Thank you Alex the ugliness not in religion, but in the human interpretation of the words …”

          If that were the case my wise friend? The problem is that religion, in its broad sense, has never been interpreted by a “human” collective, rather by an elite establishment of rabbis, priests and imams, which all have a vested interest in self-preservation to maintain their status within the power structures at any given point in time. When the general population is given the opportunity to interpret for themselves (as the case with the introduction of the printing press which led to the Protestant revolution) then the establishment panics. We are seeing this today with the introduction of the internet and the free flow of interpretations, which are challenging the status quo brainwashing in every field of previously held indoctrinated convictions.

          You are right: it is all about interpretation. The difference is whether the interpretations are coming from some self-appointed/annointed “priest class” or from the reason, intuition, emotion, and imagination of our God given birthright when we descended from spirit to matter to ascend from matter back to spirit in this wonderful play of living.

          • abdulmonem says :

            Exactly and that is why god warns people not to hand out their right of interpretations to the few and that is why we are regaining our right anew through print or the internet. When are people going to sober up to their innate rights and stop being fooled by the dishonest talk of human rights, as if the rights of the human is given to him by another human. What a buffoonery.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    It is very interesting, it raises so many questions, as what is the code we are using to condemn fascism and How we define a fascist. On the four Ps, the prophets and the poets( the artists) speak about the divine code or the muse which is not accessible to most people. The philosophers and the politicians speak about the mental code which almost most people go along with with the exception of the few, so How are we going to strike a balance. Some Sufis and some Hindues speak about the seven folds of consciousness, no four and not five, then what is the arching principle that encompasses the all and push them toward accepting each other. Truth and honesty, by these we protect each others. Fragmentation of knowledge demands that. I think you have read about Obama trying to legalize political lies, so where are we going.

    • Scott Preston says :

      It is very interesting, it raises so many questions, as what is the code we are using to condemn fascism and How we define a fascist

      This continues to be a point of controversy even amongst scholars. In some ways, the simplest understanding is already contained in the meaning of the word “fasces” itself — the Latin for “bindings” or “bonds”; The “binding” power in Nazism was “Blut und Boden” — blood and soil (race doctrine), and no one was free of their “racial character” because of the blood bond. For that reason race “instinct”, rather than reason, was supreme, and this subconscious “instinct” formed a “Weltanschauung” — a total world perspective or outlook. Race was fate. Contemplation is pointless.

      The name “fascist” is also connected, in that respect, with fascinate and fascinum (a magic spell, an enchantment) and so connected with power. Intoxication with power and speed are also seem to be characteristic of fascism. Also, war and violence determine who and who is not “fit” and therefore is the principle of “natural selection”.

      Fascism is also a myth and a religion competing with the universal religions. By its very nature, fascism rejects universality or equality before the law.

      So far, I’ve found that three core motifs that characterise fascism in its Nazi expression anyway (discounting the race doctrine): Kultur over Zivilisation; Nazism as a “Weltanschauung” — connected with the idea of “Kultur” a “Weltanschauung” is the true expression of “the Volk Soul” (the race, nationalism); and “Gleichschaltung” or “co-ordination” or “alignment”, ie, everything not a pure expression of this “Weltanschauung” is to be purged and enforced by terrorist methods. All aspects of social life are to be “co-ordinated” with this “Weltanschauung” — a total world view. This “Gleichschaltung” even includes regulation of the sex life of the nation – ie, sex and marriage becomes really nothing more than “breeding” and the nation like a stockyard.

      “Weltanschauung” is not ideology. It is a total “myth”. In effect, National Socialism was a religion competing with Christianity, and the “Leader” a redeemer competing with Jesus. It is telling that the only real centres of organised resistance to the Nazi Gleichschaltung (alignment with Hitler’s “will” or the Volk Soul) were the Churches — the Evangelical, the Confessional, and the Catholic Churches (and not always for the noblest of reasons).

      The point of controversy is often whether the “race doctrine” and blood mysticism is crucial to the definition of fascism, or whether other forms of “binding” would serve just as well. In Germany, anyway, “national” and “socialist” were entirely racial concepts, and even mystical concepts of the “Volk Soul” of which Hitler was held out to be the avatar, prophet, oracle, and redeemer.

      Certainly “Gleichschaltung” involved also the language. It was altered radically to conform to this fascistic “Weltanschauung” and to enforce it — a total monopoly on consciousness and a total uniformity of perception and a total predictability of action was wanted. The changes to the German language were so radical, in fact, that the German author Stefan Zweig committed suicide rather than write in German any longer. He felt he couldn’t write in German without invoking or conjuring up the old Nazi gods and horrors.

      Basically, I think people have come to treat the words “fascism” and “totalitarianism” as being identical. I think there’s some truth to that. Even the old Soviet Union was nowhere near as totalitarian as the Nazi state. Although the objective of “everyman a worker” could only lead to the proletarianisation of the entire Russian population (which wasn’t Marx’s aim anyway), the Bolsheviks didn’t regulate the people’s marriage and sex life like the Nazis did.

      I’m still trying to puzzle it all out myself, for if I knew the gist of it, I would stop reading it and studying it. My interest here is answering the question: what are the conditions — spiritual, cultural, political, economic — in which some abomination like fascism is accepted as being an answer or a solution to the human condition?

      Well, I can answer some of these anyway: a high degree of paranoia (so then comes the question, what is paranoia?); a persecution complex (the sense of being a victim); a sense of exceptionalism; All these are, in some ways, connected with narcissism.

      Ultimately the real question is this: what is it that in men like Hitler or Mussolini the people felt that they were truly and rightly guided rather than completely seduced and misled?

      • abdulmonem says :

        What capture my mind and pained its soul is the approach taken by Stefan Zweig to address the problem.

  4. abdulmonem says :

    And why did we give precedent to the internal code and not to the external code and why the external codes are so rampant and yet the human internal code still functions improperly and what is the interplay between the inner and the outer. I think faith is the anchorage that saves us from this malady, that is the truthful functioning of the internal code. Again truth and honesty.

  5. LittleBigMan says :

    “It has been one of my keenest interests since my university days because of my deep concern that we are not free of this beast yet.”

    This is a very worthy concern. I believe that we are not “free of this beast yet,” and the main reason for this, it seems to me, has been the persistent propaganda to portray fascism as the philosophy of a few individuals rather than an aspect of every man’s psyche. If the propaganda was to let up, or if every man was educated and instructed to recognize fascism within themselves, that would do so much to unmask the beast and prepare the ground for its destruction.

    “Only the one who embodies all four is “civilised”.”

    And the question in my mind is ‘Do I want to be civilized?” I mean, do I want to be so different than the indigenous peoples of the North America that I admire so much?

    “But it is very very important that the meaning of Christianity be understood, because only that understanding can prevent a re-paganisation of the West.”

    That’s why I am reading and enjoying “The Antichrist.” 🙂

    “Ultimately the real question is this: what is it that in men like Hitler or Mussolini the people felt that they were truly and rightly guided rather than completely seduced and misled?”

    Because Hitler and Mussolini simply stirred to the surface what was already part of the psyche of all those people who followed them to their deaths. My current understanding of this question tells me that those who followed Hitler and Mussolini were not misled at all. They literally materialized the deepest aspects of their own psyche.

    This is something for which nowadays I get affirmation every single day when I step into the public sphere – that my thoughts and emotions define me completely, not anyone that I might be thinking about. Thus, those millions of people who thought fascists and what they stood for were worth following were really affirming genuine fascistic tendencies within themselves – already brewing in their feelings of superiority and thoughts of purity.

    With our thoughts and emotions we are literally fulfilling the prophecy hidden within our disposition or psyche. Hitler and Mussolini simply held a mirror to the millions who followed them with admiration. And to those who did not follow those disturbed personalities from 1939 to 1945, fascist was something that they were not.

    Without Hitler and Mussolini, how could the fascist part of Europe have developed a historic awareness of who they were? And without this valuable history, how would we know to seek an antidote for it?

  6. abdulmonem says :

    It is a very worthy concern, i like the way you handled the issue LBM, they know the muli-colored layout of the internal code of the human and they utilized that aspect which serve their purpose, that is why humanity goes up and humanity goes down. If there is no crooked Harper, honest people like Scott would not have talked. This is the way humanity have been kept going. We have to accept the rule of the game and to play the role that we have chosen or have been chosen to us or both.The way of the divine is filled with tricks, that is why the Islam book keeps reminding us to be on guard. The watchful presence!

    • LittleBigMan says :

      Yes, Abdulmonem, “The watchful presence!” pretty much defines my approach as I step into the real world every day. The universe is speaking to us and tapping us on the shoulders constantly, and “The watchful presence!” is needed in order to receive the stream of messages that are sent in the direction of each of us.

  7. donsalmon says :

    Just stopped by – I noticed one of the themes is how difficult it is to define fascism. I wonder if anybody is familiar with the attempts to Jonah Goldberg and others on the right to claim that progressivism is the root of fascism (they take the phrase “National Socialism” literally, as if the anarchistic libertarian socialists of the late 19th century were the natural parents of the Nazis.)

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes it is difficult to come up with a definition of fascism, but it’s relatively easy to describe its characteristics, or (better perhaps) its “anatomy” — the term used by Robert Paxton in his Anatomy of Fascism, and Paxton also noted how difficult it is to come up with a definition.

      There are a number of revisionist histories of Nazism and fascism that make that claim that Hitler was a “man of the left”. I’ve read some of them and I’ve found them to be disingenuous, usually written by conservatives as self-exoneration for their own complicity in paving Hitler’s pathway to power. And although they blather on frequently about liberals being Lenin’s “useful idiots”, even a cursory acquaintance with the rise of Hitlerism shows that conservatives were no different in that respect, also serving as “useful idiots”. Neville Chamberlain was a Conservative, let alone the German conservatives who abetted Hitler’s rise to power in the naive belief they could control him.

      That kind of double-talk and disingenuousness really, really gets my goat, as they say.

      Hitler carried on a tradition of appropriation of the enemy’s language and tactics that began with Edmund Burke in his propaganda against the French Revolution. In fact, arguably, Burke is the father of modern propaganda, or at least an important contributor to it. “National Socialism”, along with much of Hitler’s 25-point programme, was such an appropriation to try and wean working men and women away from their loyalties to their working-class organisations. It wasn’t very effective, in that respect, and it’s well known that the bulk of Hitler’s political base was drawn from the petite bourgeoisie and fed on their ressentiment. In fact, any genuine anti-capitalist elements in the Nazi movement — ie those who insisted on the complete implementation of the 25-point programme — were purged and liquidated during the Night of the Long Knives.

      That doesn’t mean there weren’t honourable conservatives who did resist Hitler and fascism, but the resistance cut across all kinds of political and religious lines. There was a whole concentration camp dedicated to no one else but the religious — Catholic priests and Lutheran pastors who objected to Hitler’s version of “Positive Christianity”.

      “National Buddhism” in Japan aped “National Socialism” in Germany, and both Buddhism and Socialism were perverted by nationalism.

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