What is Fascism?

I see that there is a concerted effort by revisionists and reactionaries today to paint Hitler as a “man of the left” and to characterise fascism as a left-wing movement. Where it is not just ignorance, it is likely a diversionary and propaganda tactic to deflect attention from their own predilections towards fascism — an old subterfuge and propaganda trick called “direction by indirection”.

Let’s clear this nonsense up by examining what we might call “classical” fascism as it developed in the Axis Powers — Germany, Italy, and Japan — and what these different flavours of fascism actually had in common.

Now, I’m less familiar with the Italian and Japanese fascist propaganda systems than with the German one. I know German. I studied in Germany. And I studied the Nazi propaganda system as it developed during the interwar years and the effects it had upon the German language, culture, and consciousness. I also won an award for my research in that area. I have had to rely on the original research of others in the case of Japanese fascist propaganda, but the pattern was the same.

Hitler actually admired the German communists (the KLP) because they were violent and effective streetfighters. (They also gave Hitler the fascist martyr he wanted — Horst Wessel). But he despised completely the German Socialists (the SPD) because there were three things about and socialist left that he and the Nazis detested: internationalism, egalitarianism, and pacifism. These are the three pillars of democratic socialism.

Fascism wanted to be the complete and absolute antithesis to this, so the propaganda system worked to persuade the public that the antitheses to all these were true and natural. Extreme nationalism was superior to internationalism; elitism (racial or otherwise) was superior to egalitarianism; and violence and war more natural than peace. These might be said to be the three pillars of fascism which distinguish it in absolute terms from socialism, despite the appropriation by the Nazis of the word “socialist” and the pretense of being a “Workers Party” (which it never was). It was strictly the party of reactionary nationalism, and whatever left-leaning element was represented in the Nazi Party — the Strasserist Faction — was purged in the Night of the Long Knives (also called “Operation Hummingbird”).

The co-optation of the name “Socialist” by the German fascists was also done in Japan in the case of what was called “National Buddhism” or “Imperial Way Buddhism”. Japanese Buddhism was in a minority position in comparison to Shintoism, and when the Japanese fascists came to power, the patriotism and loyalties of the Buddhists fell under suspicion and for the same reasons. Buddhism, following the example of the Buddha, was universalist, egalitarian, and pacifist, and the Japanese Buddhists, fearing for their position as a minority in fascist Japan, pretty much voluntarily turned Buddhism on its head by denying its own foundations in something that has an uncanny resemblance to Peter’s “three acts of denial” of Christ.

Japanese Buddhism’s shame here was documented by Brian Victoria in his eye-popping book Zen At War. Victoria was also very surprised at how little resistance the Japanese Buddhists offered to their own co-optation by Japanese fascism except in a couple of notable heroic instances he documents.

This perhaps should not be found as too surprising since many of the German and Italian Churches and religious also allowed themselves to be co-opted by fascism (in the German case, Hitler called it “Positive Christianity” by which he meant a Christianity not in contradiction with his will or which did not contradict the three pillars of fascism. That basically meant that German Christianity had to deny itself). The history of that particular co-optation is related in a book by Karlheinz Deschner entitled God And the Fascists.

It seems rather remarkable that I would even have to write up something about all this. And I probably wouldn’t were it not for the problem of “post-historic man” who has no collective memory. The fascists were not socialists, and Hitler had only one objective: preparing the German public for the resumption of the war and the imperial expansion of the Third Reich, which Hitler had believed Germany had lost only because of a “stab in the back” by Jews and Socialists (which, for him, were pretty much the same thing — Marx having been Jewish Lutheran after all).

The “stab in the back” was largely a face-saving fiction. But why it could gain traction among reactionary nationalists was because workers were striking for peace in Germany even while the soldiers were fighting in the trenches for what was already a lost cause because of the incompetence of the German General Staff. Whatever Hitler did was always with an eye towards resuming the war for “Lebensraum” — especially an expansion into the fertile lands of Eastern Europe, its ruthless “ethnic cleansing” as depopulation (which the Nazis became ruthlessly efficient at), and the replacement of its indigenous population by German colonists. So, a big aspect of the fascist propaganda system was to habituate the mind of the populace to think of the populations to be exterminated as “inhuman” or “subhuman”, and without guilt or remorse about it.

“National Buddhism” (or “Imperial Way Buddhism”) pulled off the same trick, having persuaded itself and justified fascism to itself because, although the Chinese Buddhists were brethren, Chinese Buddhism was degenerate, needed to be cleansed away, and taken under the tutelage of true Japanese Buddhism!

So, yes. It’s possible to pervert anything.

15 responses to “What is Fascism?”

  1. Benjamin David Steele says :

    Then again, there is one thing in common between fascism as authoritarian statism and communism as authoritarian statism… well, besides the authoritarian statism. Both were socially conservative. The Nazis and Stalinists shared common enemies in anarchists, anarchosyndicalists, labor organizers, Marxists, Trotskyists, democratic socialists, social democrats, artists, intellectuals, homosexuals, and anyone perceived as socially deviant or politically subversive.

    This is supported by the social science research that shows that authoritarians in the capitalist West tend toward right-wing ideologies, whereas authoritarians in former communist countries tend toward left-wing ideologies. But in both cases it is authoritarianism and a key feature of all authoritarianism is social conservatism. Although there are some distinctions to be made, the overlap between authoritarianism and social conservatism is undeniable.

    • Benjamin David Steele says :

      Basically, here is the point. The only way to be consistently anti-authoritarian is to be socially liberal. To defend social liberalism is simply another way to advocate for social democracy. They are the same thing. And in the end, there is no clear distinction between social democracy and democratic socialism, the one shading into the other.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        ?

        A movement is only as strong as the groups that back it. Successful movements of the past incorporated diverse stakeholders and developed a clear message that appealed to many different groups. By identifying shared grievances, this principle goes a step beyond fostering solidarity for each others’ causes and, ultimately, underscores the ways in which citizens can be united together in common cause. — Waging Nonviolence

        Monbiot and Bollier, at least, are mostly on the right track.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes. Well, Stalin was called “the Red Czar” pretty much for that reason. Things like the Russian Revolution or the Chinese Revolution weren’t really Marxian revolutions. They were modernising ones who tried to modernise in one generation what took the West about 8 generations.

      Both states were feudal at the time of the revolutions, and neither conformed at all to Marx’s description of the last stages of capitalism (because capitalism didn’t even really exist at all in Russia or China). One was Czarist, the other Confucianist.

      Marx held that capitalism was actually a “progressive” force, but one which would eventually begin to devour itself, and only at that stage would the “world revolution” occur and the means of production would pass into the hands of the revolutionary proletariat and thus end also the condition of proletarianism completely. This wasn’t even possible in Russia or China which had no industrial proletariat. Stalin and Mao were modernisers in a hurry, and they weren’t queasy at all about liquidating everybody and anybody they deemed tainted by feudalism or Confucianism.

      • Scott Preston says :

        But the key difference between Soviet (or Chinese) totalitarianism and Fascist totalitarianism is this: Stalin and Mao were rushing into the future (modernisation) while Fascism detests modernity, rejected all of it, and tried to rush back into the past, reviving the pagan religions and the forms of the Roman Empire. This is really the tension that existed between them despite many similarities in terms of totalitarianism and authoritarianism.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Another key reason why we can’t really consider the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolutions to be really Marxian ones is this: Marx thought of communism as the end of the condition of proletarianisation, but Russia and China effectively made everyone a proletarian. This was exactly the opposite of what Marx had intended.

        So their idea of egalitarianism was “everyone a prole”, which was actually the great perversion.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    When you think about it, virtually none of the alleged “socialist revolutions” of the 20th century were that at all. They were principally wars of national liberation that never met (at least the theoretical) requirements for a socialist revolution.

  3. O Society says :

    It’s very simple. German Nazi fascists were not left-wing “liberals” or “socialists.” How do we know this?

    Because the Germans under Hitler rounded up socialists, social democrats, communists, and anarchists, put red badges on their chests, and exterminated them in concentration camps.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_concentration_camp_badge

    These political prisoners were the first to go (as in before the Jews), so there would be little resistance to the Third Reich regime. This fact is memorialized by Niemöller – duh!

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_

    World War II was won by Joseph Stalin and the Russians. The Communists saved the world from fascism. Some 90% of casualties on the Allies side (against Hitler) were Russian.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/05/08/dont-forget-how-the-soviet-union-saved-the-world-from-hitler/?utm_term=.d112915fc44b&noredirect=on

    Now, we can make a case Stalin and his Great Purge (as well as Chairman Mao in China’s Cultural Revolution) were nasty evil bastards in the same league as Hitler as far as how many of their own citizens they murdered.

    What we cannot do is say Stalin’s Soviet Communist Russians and the right-wing Hitler fascist Third Reich were the same thing or on the same side in WWII.

    This sort of thing is so ridiculous to the point of being babble, anyone stating this is definetly trolling, and perhaps an imbicile to boot depending upon whether or not the troll actually believes the babble coming out of their own mouth.

  4. O Society says :

    It took me less than an hour to write this, which definitively shuts the door on this nonsense:

    http://osociety.org/2019/07/29/what-is-a-fascist-neo-nazi-troll/

  5. John Wolsey says :

    Excellent post! Much appreciated. I’m going to read the Zen at War book. No doubt you have probably read Victor Klemper(sp) Language of the Third Reich? I also read Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism, which was brilliant; even though he was considered somewhat of a pariah in the field (orgone theory etc.). Wondering if you read that, and if not, I do recommend it!
    Again, a superb and highly important topic.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Oh My God!!! Victor Klemperer. I originally read some of his writings in digest form, and always intended to get his books (especially the one that was always cited as *Lingua Tertii Imperii* or “Language of the Third Reich”) but for some reason forgot about him right until you brought him up again (ordering him right away). And yes, Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism, although sometimes criticized, is still considered a classic in the field.

      A particularly good one is Stackelberg & Winkle’s The Nazi Germany Sourcebook: An Anthology of Texts which is a kind of chronicle of the development of fascism in Germany through translations of original documents, speeches, talks, etc in order from 1919 to the Fall of the Third Reich. I should probably go back and re-read that book, because I never thought that there could be any confusion at all about Nazism being anything else but a totalitarianism of the extreme right. So I suspect quite a few historians of the Third Reich are also going back to their original sources to debunk this strange historical revisionism that Nazism or fascism was a radical movement of the left, and not what it actually was — an extreme reactionary movement against the Left.

  6. Scott Preston says :

    I see my little piece here has attracted some attention from Japan, too.

  7. Jagd Fly says :

    On the more esoteric level i have read (was it you ?) that Fascism involves the reiification of unconscious archetypes which are then evoked into taking over the collective unconscious of the people, the energies focused through the symbolic personage of Der Fuhrer.
    Explains why people still struggle to explain what happened 70 years later. Explains the various esoteric orders in the SS and the civiiian ones. Very powerful when joined to an efficient propaganda machine.
    I dont see this happening with the USA today.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Sounds like something I might have mentioned, but also a lot of psychologists did point out the role of the “unconscious” in the eruption of fascism besides Jungian psychologists. Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism also emphasises, from a Freudian viewpoint, unconscious forces in the formation of fascism.

      I have pointed out a few things about fascism — it’s anti-intellectualism coincident with rebirth of myth and magic, especially blood myth and blood magic. The idea that the race soul is in the blood leads to slogans like Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil), Blut und Ehre (Blood and Honour), or the Blutfahne — the Blood Flag that became a holy relic of the Nazi movement. The Blood Bond is essentially the meaning of fascism — the ties that bind.

      I’ve also pointed out that the Black Sun symbol of fascism (the Sun Wheel) is the symbol of the Shadow, and of the alchemical “nigredo” (death or putrefaction), and word magic was essentially the meaning of Nazi propaganda. Goebbels especially was a pretty good example of what Gebser means by the convergence of the deficient mental-rational and the deficient magical that results in the corruption of both the mental-rational consciousness structure and the magical one. And even this harkening back to symbols of the Roman Empire displays a regression into the unconscious because, as we’ve said, what we call “the unconscious” or “the collective unconscious” is essentially deep time itself.

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