Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Dialectic of Fascism

An attempt to answer charges that fascism was just another form of socialism and also that it was a form of State Capitalism as described by thinkers like Max Shachtman.

Fascism in all its forms but specifically in Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany consisted of two contradictory impulses: that of the corporate state and of the Will to Power of individuals.

The corporate state has been touched on a lot in reference to an apocryphal statement by Mussolini that Fascism consists of the fusion of state and corporate power, but it hasn't really been described in detail in these discussions. The corporate state is the feature that bore some superficial similarity to Soviet society: there were workers' associations, youth groups, business groups, special cultural groups, women's groups, agricultural groups, and of course military groups, who were thought not to just be for self defense but for developing strong individuals.

In Soviet society my understanding is that except in high Stalinism things like recreation groups, where people could go to a community center and play cards and maybe read a newspaper, weren't overtly politicized although there was a socialist undertone to them. On the other hand you have the Nazi equivalent of "Strength through Joy", which explicitly linked recreational activities to an ultra-conservative and ultra-nationalistic agenda.

But back to the dialectic.

Complementing the urge towards Corporatism was the belief in the new individual, a superior type of individual who was self made and self sufficient, who could rise to the top through talent and sheer will to become a leader, who was thought somewhat to also exemplify the values of the nation. In Mussolini's Italy the concept of the strong individual was not linked to race but had overtones of avant garde culture mixed with some nationalism. Hitler and Mussolini presented themselves as self made superior men who rose to the top through skill and hard work and who had a right to lead their nations because that was what superior people were thought to be entitled to.
Fascism may have provided corporatist opportunities but it didn't believe in equality except in a very general sense, linked to extreme nationalism. Instead, the sense of stratification and of letting people who were thought to be suppressed by the pre-Fascist culture was the order of the day.

Unfortunately, this is why many intellectuals in Italy went over to Mussolini, particularly the representatives of the Futurist arts movement: they saw themselves as superior individuals who hadn't been given their fair share and thought that with the rise of Mussolini they'd be able to get the recognition they thought they deserved.

Similar impulses were present in Hitler's Germany, only the enemies thought to be keeping down talented individuals were Jews and Communists. Certain pro-Nazi scientists employed in Universities applauded the removal of Jewish scientists from their ranks because they felt that their work had been given unwarranted applause because of their ethnicity and religion. Jews towards the end were excluded from official school lists no matter how well they did and were forbidden from competing in professions that they had previously done well in, all because of the belief that the superior German individual had been unfairly kept down by the presence of Jews in these positions. The truly superior, it was thought, would rise to the top not only of their professions but of society itself once the 'parasites' were excluded. And people at the top of the hierarchy in Nazi society did extremely well, with people connected to the administration of the Nazi state itself possessing castles, weekend retreats, and living in luxury. Despite the calls for populism, the sense of the entitlement of superior men to superior things was a foundation of the Nazi state.

Corporatism in the light of the doctrine of the superior man also meant that though a corporate structure was maintained that there weren't many attempts to seriously challenge the distribution of both income and power within the corporate structure once those companies involved had submitted to the demands of the fascist parties in reference to supporting the fascist states both politically and financially and altering their structures to accommodate fascist sponsored labor unions. The belief was that if the superior man rose through the ranks of business to attain a high position that he was entitled to much of what he earned provided that it was come by through the fascist definition of 'fairness'.

*This is part one of a multipart series, I'll get to the difference between state Capitalism and Fascism in a later part, along with an analysis of what periods of Soviet history the idea of State Capitalism may be applicable to and which ones it probably isn't.

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