Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Social economic and ideological sources of fascism

I recognize that you can't cover all of a subject like this in just one short entry, but I'll report what I've recently come up with.

First is that fascism in Italy and in Germany made use of the threat to the middle classes of being declassed by workers' movements in order to establish itself. Italy had massive strikes and factory occupations after World War I and Germany saw an intense Communist movement that sought to turn Germany into a copy of the Soviet Union. I don't know how things played out in Spain, but the fact that an actual civil war was fought between the anarchist workers and Republicans on the one side and conservatives and fascists on the other is suggestive. However, I don't think it was just the middle class. Many workers supported Naziism. My one sentence analysis of that is that they hoped to gain social advancement by linking themselves to the middle class. The rich, at least some of them, supported Naziism, not because they liked the middle class doctrines of it but because they thought that it would suppress the workers---and that it wouldn't get out of their control. They, then depended on the success of an ideology that would appeal to the middle class to preserve themselves.

This leads into just what was the appeal for middle class people of Naziism and Fascism. Was it just status anxiety, the possibility of being declassed and having to become workers? I think that bound up with it was a sort of bourgeois fantasy of what life was like that they wanted to preserve, and that Naziism and Fascism presented a fantasy of what the nation was like or could be like that agreed with their own beliefs. Although extremely violent to its enemies, to the people who it wasn't attacking but whose support it wanted Naziism presented itself as representing the values of a bygone time, where traditional values still ruled, where people had faith in their country, where the chaos of democracy was replaced by an order which resembled in ways the Prussian social system that was dismantled after World War I.

All of these things were illusions. The values that they represented in all probability were not actually being challenged, the sanctity of German womanhood for instance, but in a changing world it may have felt to some people like this was happening.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The appeal and support of mass movements shouldn’t surprise anyone … the things people say and do today under the cover of contemporary mass movements would be very shocking to us if we were not accustomed to it.

What goes on in American politics in many of the cities today is barely better than Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany especially in public institutions. There is little doubt that freedoms are becoming less and less in america. The revolutions of the 1960's which were supposed to "make us free" have spawned a whole host of new "grim realities". No one should doubt that Orwell is in strong contention as the spokesman for our age.

We have plenty of nazi’s running around today who merely lack one thing – POWER. For example, what do you think Louis Farrakhan and his group would do if they gained power ?

I think that the people of germany didn’t have much of a choice. As one female nazi commented “we were all good Nazis, what else could we be ?”. We think of the nazi’s as “the evil ones” so it is very easy for us but at that time people were both seduced and coerced by nazism. Political movements don’t allow that many choices even in a pluralistic society and if you want your family to prosper in the society, you have to make, at the very least, a tentative peace with them.

Many german’s actually felt and came to believe that the Nazis were ushering in a better world and a better society … a new roman empire, a coming pax augstia, based on fitness and competence which would last 1000 years. The axis powers came within a hairs breath of succeeding and the world would be totally different today had they won.

A gay german soldier who had to hide his homosexuality during world II was recently asked to go along with our contemporary views of the Nazis – he merely smiled and said “well, we were proud of our militarism”.

The germans, like us today, were caught up in forces which they could not control. We probably make a mistake however if we demonize the germans and fail to see that aspect of human nature in ourselves. When we open a newspaper what is it that we are being told to do, and what is it that we are afraid of saying ?

How much of our politics and beliefs are based on merely going along with current fashion and trying not to get crushed by the forces of contemporary society.

Anonymous said...

Correction:

Pax Augusta... not Pax Augstia