marxism-digest V2 #20

David McInerney davidmci at
Wed Sep 20 07:46:47 MDT 1995


interested to read your comments on Sternwell and Laclau.  I haven't read
the former but I am familiar with the arguments of Laclau.

I read Laclau's piece as a critique of Nicos Poulantzas's theory of
ideology in *Fascism and Dictatorship*.  It seemed to me that his aim was
to expose the theoretical inadequacy of Poulantzas's ideological "class
elements" in which fascism is seen as an essentially petty-bourgeois
ideology.  He argues that we cannot understand the way in which fascist
discourses of race and nation were able to interpellate workers.  The
appeal of fascism to workers seems to be Laclau's concern in this text.  It
is in this text that one can see the theory of the construction of
equivalences (which is a major part of *Hegemony and Socialist Strategy*)
first taking shape.  This text is, of course, prior to Laclau's
anti-Marxist turn.

Poulantzas reformulated his position in his later texts (esp. *State,
Power, Socialism*).  The essentialist tactic of discovering ideological
class elements seems to have been abandoned.  My question is, I guess, what
are your (or other subscribers to this list) thoughts on Poulantzas's later
works for the question of fascism?  I've been looking at his theory of the
nation (in *SPS*) but have not yet looked at his analysis of the state's
role in constituting the nation for an analysis of a specific (exceptional)
form of nation-state, the fascist state.

Another point is that there has been a lot of posts lately on
national-liberation and marxism, be it the Nation of Islam or other
'movements of the oppressed'.  I think we should remember that nationalism
is a two-faced creature; one of pride, love, and community, the other of
hate in all its forms: xenophobia, racism, mysogyny, and homophobia.
Marxists should remember this when supporting nationalisms of an ethnic
variety (recalling Leah Greenfeld's distinction between a nation as an
ethnic community and a nation as the citizens of a particular state) and
instead concentrate on making the capitalist state eat its democratic
rhetoric.  Community, it seems, is always patriarchal.



>From: Jon Beasley-Murray <jpb8 at>
>Date: Wed, 20 Sep 1995 03:41:29 -0400 (EDT)
>Subject: fascism
>I have now finished what I said I would do, and read both Zeev
>Sternhell's _The Birth of Fascist Ideology_ and Laclau's _Problems in
>Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism.

>Sternhell and Laclau have very different tasks at hand.  Most obviously,
>I think, S wants to explain the intellectual attraction of fascism in the
>period 1900(ish) to 1939.  L, on the other hand, wants to analyze its
>popular attraction--he sees fascism as a variant of populism (in fact as
>a populism of the dominant classes).

A point to ponder, however: the trajectory
>Sternhell traces is, it seems to me, very similar to the trajectory run
>by Laclau (and with him others, for their own reasons), but Laclau is
>arguing explicitly on the basis of self-conscious *anti*-fascism.
>Take care
>Jon Beasley-Murray
>Literature Program
>Duke University
>jpb8 at
>     --- from list marxism at ---

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