Friday, March 15, 2013

A Dime's Worth of Difference

You hear the term "fascism" a lot, but almost never do you hear it used correctly.  HERE'S a post from awhile back that explains what it actually means.  Everybody's using it now, as nothing more than a term of opprobrium with no actual semantic content.  So, to try to straighten this all out, communists are not fascists, Obama is not a fascist, Republicans are not fascists, the tea party isn't fascist, and Jonah Goldberg notwithstanding, liberals are certainly not fascists.  Despite the illustration, there's much more than a dime's worth of difference between fascism and these other creeds.*  For one thing, a very simple thing, fascists are nationalists, and except for a few in the Tea Party, none of the groups mentioned are nationalist, and most are virulently anti-nationalist.

In tandem with that, fascism is a strong defender of traditional Western culture, and most of the groups, again, aren't much interested in that, and most are multiculturalist.

To some extent, fascism had its origin in opposition to communism.  The monarchists and the social democrats and all the other creeds of the early 20th Century seemed to be flailing about and losing to the communist advance in every instance, so fascism emphasized self-defense and organized private armies to stop the communists in the streets, something most governments couldn't or wouldn't do. But there's a lot more to it than that.  Fascism had versions that came to power in Italy, Germany, Spain, Romania, Belgium, Norway, Hungary, etc. and other versions in other countries that did not come to power. In each nation, fascism had its own flavor and emphasis, mostly in keeping with the local traditions.  Some fascist movements were strongly religious, some quite secular, some quite socialist, some more free-market oriented, and there were other differences.

But one thing seldom discussed is fascist esthetics. Here's a review of a new book that deals with that and other aspects of fascism:

Fascism & the Meaning of Life

Roger Griffin
Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

Roger Griffin, Professor in Modern History at Oxford Brookes University, first introduced the idea of “Palingenesis” to the field of fascist studies over 15 years ago, making him immediately a leading figure in his chosen vocation. He isolated the syncretic fascist core as being palingenetic, populist ultra-nationalism, with overtones of a phoenix-like heroic rebirth. Since then he has extended and elaborated his theory that essential to the definition of the “fascist minimum” is the notion of national rebirth or renaissance — “myths that generated policies and actions designed to bring about collective redemption, a new national community, a new society, a new man…engineered through the power of the modern state.” — culminating in this masterwork which rightly places fascism at the centre of wider modernist movements.

Epiphanic versus Programmatic Modernism

Griffin’s insights have previously been recognized as audacious and perceptive, no more so than here. Part One of the book tackles the at first seemingly tricky concept of Modernism itself, which Griffin clarifies brilliantly. Modernism’s “common denominator lies in the bid to achieve a sense of transcendent value, meaning of purpose despite Western culture’s progressive loss of a homogeneous value system and overarching cosmology (nomos) caused by the secularizing and disembedding forces of modernization.” Modernization is experienced by those caught up in its slipstream as a relentless juggernaut unzipping the fabric of meaningful existence and leaving in its wake the abyss of permanently unresolved ambivalence. In short, Modernism is defined as a reaction against the decadent[1] nihilism of intellectual, societal and technical modernization.

While Marx, other Leftists and liberals consider modern man’s condition as one of angst and alienation induced by class warfare and industrial production, the Right sees anomie as both the cause and the principle symptom of our modern malaise. “It is the black hole of existential self-awareness in all of us, our fear of ‘the eternal silence of infinite spaces’ that so alarmed [Blaise] Pascal, which produces culture.”

This modern culture is further divided by Griffin into what might be called introvert and extrovert reactions: the introvert reaction is generally individualistic and in Griffin’s expression an “epiphanic modernism” — the path of the artist — while the extrovert, collective reaction is defined as “programmatic modernism.” The latter seeks to change the world and resolve the permanent crisis of modernity (“all that is solid melts into air” – Marx) by a collective act of “reconnection forwards” (Moeller van den Bruck). It is not difficult to make the short step from “programmatic modernism” to fascism; the transcendent politics proposed by van den Bruck at the beginning of the Twentieth Century are not so different from Guillaume Faye’s “Archaic Futurism” at its end. Both are, in the phrase of Guy Debord, “technically equipped archaism.”

Amongst the epiphanic modernists Griffin includes Nietzsche, Eliot, Joyce, Proust, van Gogh, Kandinsky, and Malevich, but perhaps the truth of Griffin’s argument is demonstrated by the man widely acknowledged as the greatest modern painter: Picasso. In his earlier cubist works, Picasso sought inspiration from the primitivism of African masks, and later in the archetypal Mediterranean symbols of horses and particularly bulls (which surprisingly Griffin doesn’t mention).
(Read the rest HERE)

*For those of you who don't know, that's a fasces on the dime, and that's the origin of the word 'fascism.' The fasces is actually a very nice symbol, with layers of meanings, and you can read a nice article on that HERE.


  1. i actually remmber buying things with Merc dimes and the fasces symbol on them. Stood for Roman Republic (intellectual ancestor of US nation state) and e pluribus unam. Replaced by liberty torch when Roosevelt dime came out.Honest siver coin, stayed in circulation into early '60's. I niss honest money.
    Fascism has come to be a word that means whatever you want it to,however, most would agree it means a belief that people exist to serve the state and its leaders. they would be happy as piss ants, aand spiritually, most fascists are.

  2. Dear Ex-Army. I am a Sociology student currently enrolled in a course in nationalism. And I admit your blog has me captivated, I return to it time and again. It may be because as a Canadian, I don't know anyone who has identified as Libertarian that causes me to read your blog posts with such interest. My question is, where do you draw your definition of nationalism from? You seem to relate strongly to the ideas of Anthony Smith with the ideas of a nation being tied to common history, shared language and race. (Your most interesting posts, to me, have to do with immigration). Do you believe in the idea that nationalism as a set of shared values that revolve around the idea of 'being American'? As a nationwide community? Or do you define it differently? Obviously someone can chose to identify as Libertarian, but I would be interested to know what you believe makes someone a nationalist.