[Marxism] Fascist intellectuals?

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Sat Aug 26 08:28:35 MDT 2006

From: "Louis R Godena" <louisgodena at ids.net>

> Well, both Gregor and Zeev Sternhell regard fascism as a "legitimate" 
> revolutionary movement (which it certainly was, being one of several 
> anti-bourgeois formations dedicated at birth to overthrowing "decadent" 
> capitalism).   Sternhell goes so far as to declare it a "revision" of 
> Marxism itself; its intellectual progenitors like Sorel certainly owed a 
> great deal to Marx.  Indeed, it may be this "revisionism" that proves the 
> most capable of attracting mass followings from among the workers, 
> something the traditional Left has signally failed to do.

The analysis of fascist ideology and politics puts strains on the categories 
of classical Marxism (as opposed to 20th century varieties of Western 
Marxism that have married it with other paradigms (for better or worse) from 
psychoanalysis and so on). To analyse fascism in such terms requires primary 
attention paid to its class character, relationship to private property and 
big business, etc. Now, these things are certainly vital to an understanding 
of how fascism was able to flourish (for example with respect to the role of 
big business in petitioning Hindenburg to make Hitler Chancellor - that 
said, I still believe that some Marxist analyses of the Nazis assign events 
such as this too primary a role) and survive, but do not necessarily tell 
that much about the very ideology of fascism itself. Because, as I see it, 
in an economic sense fascism was essentially a social democratic ideology, 
married to nationalism. One could call it 'social democracy in one country' 
(and, in the case of Nazi Germany, 'social democracy for one race'; Fascist 
Italy was somewhat different). But this tells little about various other 
defining attributes of fascism: primitivism, racial suprematism, mysticism, 
the cult of the irrational, the bizarre combination of anti-individualism on 
one hand and the will to power as expressed collectively, also the 
combination of both anti-communism and anti-high-capitalism and so on. 
Obviously imperialism was a major feature of the actions of Nazi Germany, 
but can one say that about Fascist Italy? Were events like the take-over of 
Ethiopia more of a belated symbolical act to attempt to place Fascist Italy 
on a par with other Western European imperial nations, rather than intrinsic 
to Fascist ideology per se?

I am not aware of any 19th century writing by Marx or later Marxists that 
seems to adequately foresee the possibility of fascism as experienced in the 
20th century (if some subscribers have some examples of this, I'd be very 
interested to see them). Fascism may have its roots in economics, but its 
ideological being developed such a degree of autonomy that economic 
reductionism becomes inadequate for the task.

What neo-conservatives will never fail to make all they can of is possible 
convergence between fascism and communism. To demonstrate the fundamental 
differences (and as Louis says, fascism was indeed an 'anti-bourgeois 
formation'), one *does* have to consider the two ideologies economically, in 
which respect they differ absolutely. But it is not impossible for those 
espousing a certain type of psuedo-Marxism, one which downplays the 
economic, to make a shift towards fascism without too much trouble. It is by 
understanding the primacy of the economic that we are best able to 
understand and combat ideologies for which economics are not the primary 


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