fascism and unions and the masses

Jon Beasley-Murray jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu
Wed Nov 15 15:23:45 MST 1995

On Wed, 15 Nov 1995 owner-marxism-digest at jefferson.village.virginia.edu wrote:

> From: Adam Rose <adam at pmel.com>
> Date: Wed, 15 Nov 95 08:58:43 GMT
> Subject: Re: Report on the 18th Brumaire - Svar
> Fascism is different. It destroys independent trade unions
> and abolishes not just formal bourgeois democracy but
> also all the other ways independent organisation of any
> sort might develop. Any "Unions" which may exist under
> fascism aren't independent workers organisations at all,
> but are in fact its precise opposite, a means of preventing
> workers organisation.

You've then got the interesting possible counter-example of Peronism
(sometimes suspected of being a form of fascism; definitely an example of
populism) in which the unions were *both* mobilizing and demobilizing
institutions (on this, cf. Danny James' _Resistance and Integration_,
whose title also signals this dichotomy).

Again, I think this double movement--mobilization and demobilization--is
typical of fascism also, and is definitely not just a one way street of

It was interesting to hear about Norwegian unions under Nazism, but I
don't know anything about the status of unionism in either Italy or
Germany during fascism.

Re: Gary's post, by the way, on Paisley.  Again, both fascism and
populism may tend to rely to a great extent on demagoguery (often in very
sophisticated ways, as with the German use of radio and film that I've
already mentioned), but demagoguery itself (let alone the manipulation of
the mass media) are scarcely specific to fascism.

On the spectacle of fascism, however, Kracauer's comments on the mass
ornament are interesting: he suggests that fascism always arranges the
individual as a passive part of a mass (cf. the Nurenburg rallies etc.
etc.), to be the object of spectacle rather than the subject of action.
This clearly links in with Arendt's point concerning fascism's
de-individualizing impact.

But, of course, the implication of this might be taken to be that we need
to rescue the Enlightenment individual, bourgeois ego etc. (again,
Sternhell's point), and of course (I think) any left political project has
to go beyond such privatized subjectivity.

Too often, left movements fail to take notice of the point made by
Raymond Williams that "there are no masses, only ways of seeing people as
a mass."  Part of what made fascism possible was such a way of seeing.

> Adam.

Take care


Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu

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