fascism and nonsense

Jon Beasley-Murray jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu
Fri Nov 10 19:45:48 MST 1995

On Fri, 10 Nov 1995 owner-marxism-digest at jefferson.village.virginia.edu wrote:

> From: Adam Rose <adam at pmel.com>
> Date: Fri, 10 Nov 95 14:41:35 GMT
> Subject: Re: go see an analyst
> Bloody hell, all this nonsense is putting me in a really stroppy mood
> today.

Well, I feel like saying the same thing.
> You seem to think the problem with fascism is that it's a rather unpleasant
> set of ideas. Of course it is. But the actual problem is that it's very
> unpleasant social force. The point of any analysis of fascism is to
> guide the struggle against it. How does this bizarre stuff about
> Eichmann, Iago , Macbeth, and Richard III help ?

Are *you* deliberately missing the point?  Again, as I said to Louis, the 
point--according to Arendt, at least, who mentions Eichmann (bona fide 
fascist), Iago, Macbeth and Richard III (nasty literary figures with 
unpleasant sets of ideas)--is that the problem with Eichmann is *not* 
that he holds an unpleasant set of ideas.

Of course the problem with fascism is that it's an unpleasant social 
force.  But there are many of these.  Saying "it's unpleasant" is not 
analysis.  Again, among the things that's disturbing about fascism is 
that it is and has been very attractive.  I'm trying to ask what makes it 
simultaneously unpleasant and attractive.
> > I hope to go to the matter of fascism's modernity in more detail later, 
> > but clearly I think it has something to do with the faperceived failure 
> > of Enlightenment rationality that characterized the "moderns" from say 
> > 1880 onwards, and at the same time with the phenomena of intense 
> > modernization and rationalization of the state and technology that 
> > characterized the same period, in which in a certain sense we are still 
> > living.
> Can I translate this into English as "Nazis had something to do with the
> crisis of capitalism, which was very bad in the 30's but is still going
> on today" ?

No you can't, though this is not to say I'd disagree with your statement.

I'm sorry if you don't understand what I'm trying to say.  Yes, I'm 
talking about culture to some extent here.  Sorry if you think that's a 
problem.  If, as Sternhell points out (and I think no one who knows 
anything at all about the subject could disagree), there was a "cultural 
revolt against the universalistic heritage of the eighteenth century" 
(251) at the turn of this century (incidentally, for the 
postmodern-baiters on the list, Sternhell very much sees postmodern 
thought as within this tradition and equally damned), for Sternhell, 
"fascism was the hard core of the cultural revolt and succeeded in 
translating it into a political force" (252).

Now I don't think this is the end of the story about fascism, otherwise 
we could just read Sternhell and go home.  But on the other hand if *you* 
already think you have your analysis of fascism down pat, then I suppose 
we just need to listen you for a short while and then go home.
> > His banality is not a quality 
> > necessarily shared by everyone but rather the lack of quality and the 
> > lack of character that mark human behavior in societies where the 
> > valorization of conformism displaces individual autonomy."  (xvii)
> Excuse me, but are we talking about a mass murderer here ?

No need for apologies.  Yes we are.
> > A little later, Kaplan (following Sartre) states what she sees at the 
> > "three major stumbling blocks that fascism presents to the theorist: the 
> > coexistence of left and right wing in fascism, the 'heresy' that fascism 
> > constitutes in terms of class analysis, and the erotic dimension of 
> > fascism (people's 'fixation' and 'attraction' to it)." (14)
> Ever get the feeling the analyst is the one that should be on the couch ?

Which means, I take it, that you disagree.  Why and in what ways?

I am not going to continue to apologize for my sources.  I didn't happen 
to be around in the 30s, so I get what I know from books.  So?

Anyhow, here is some Wilhelm Reich, in an attempt to stimulate rather 
than express my frustration with this discussion:

"The German freedom movement prior to Hitler was inspired by Karl Marx's 
economic and social theory.  Hence, an understanding of German fascism 
must proceed from an understanding of Marxism....

It became more and more clear that [Marxist] political mass propaganda, 
dealing as it did solely with the discussion of *objective* 
socio-economic processes at a time of crisis (capitalist modes of 
production, economic anarchy, etc.), did not appeal to anyone other than 
the minority already enrolled in the Left front.  the playing up of 
material needs and of hunger was not enough, for *every* political party 
did that, even the church; so that in the end it was the mysticism of the 
National Socialists that triumphed over the economic theory of socialism, 
and at a time when the economic crisis and misery were at their worst....
In their political practice, to state it briefly at the outset, the 
Marxists *had failed to take into account the character structure of the 
masses and the social effect of mysticism*." 
				(_The Mass Psychology of Fascism_, 3, 5)

> Adam.

Take care


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

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