September 20, 2003

A Difficult Position

As a secondary blogger on Flit, there are some real limitations that good sense and common decency impose on my position here. One is the obligation, as a guest, not to nitpick over minor points. The generous gesture that Bruce Rolston has made of including my writings on his forum and exposing me to a much wider audience than I would have been able to scare up otherwise in such a short time gets him a great deal of slack in my book and he has liberally made use of it during our collaboration.

However, there are limits.

First, something that we agree on. Jonah Goldberg is something of a twit. Anybody who makes regular usage of his couch and his dog as column fodder (with both playing speaking parts) cannot avoid it, really. However, he isn't wrong about fascism being socialism in one country. The terms Nazi and fascists are, for all intents and purposes synonyms and Nazi is a contraction of the term "national socialist", a socialist who believes in one country, or nation. The basic point is unassailable when looking at the original term.

As for National Review, it is a contender for the world's most consequential political magazine of the latter half of the 20th century. It is hands down the most consequential political magazine in the US for that time period. Since 1955, it's been advocating a particular form of conservatism that they have always termed fusionism, the coalition of social conservatives and economic free market types with a sprinkling of libertarianism for leavening. It is certainly not bumper sticker conservatism but a highly influential magazine read by US conservatives (including conservative intellectuals) that has literally changed the face of this political movement from one that is in disarray to arguably the dominant force in US politics today.

Sometimes revisionism cleans out the spin and propaganda of the original advocates of an idea. At other times, a clear understanding of an event or a movement is obfuscated by later apologists and returning to the start of it all is essential for the hunt for truth. The fascists were quite clear about who and what they were and who were their progenitors, allies, imitators, and descendants. It may be highly uncomfortable for advocates of the arab Middle East that Hitler's book Mein Kampf does brisk sales all across the region but its something that should not be swept under the rug if we are to have a reliable understanding of the region.

Now the modern usage of certain terms has often descended into just a bad word, something to toss around as an insult. For another example of definitional descension, who really thinks much about the phrase "your name is mud" which is a corruption of the original "your name is Mudd", a term of insult born out of the US Civil War when John Wilkes Booth was treated by Dr. Mudd after he assassinated Lincoln. Like this phrase, it makes no sense to seriously look at a definition of fascism except by starting with the root, original meaning.

Fascism as a human rights system, is an ordering of people by rank with varying rights based on their race or nationality. In economics, it is public control of the means of production while maintaining a virtually meaningless formal private title and has no internationalist impulse. As politics it is dictatorship and thought control, virtually indistinguishable from its international socialist half brothers.

Personally, I have been the subject of cries of 'fascist', 'nazi', when any reasonable reading of my politics is libertarian and my fate in any true fascist regime would be a quick trip to the camps fairly early on. Thus, the revisionist movement is particularly loathsome to me personally. And, yes, the NYT article furthers the revisionist cause.

From the original NYT article:

"Other characteristics on most scholars' checklists: the rejection of both liberalism and socialism; the primacy of the nation over the rights of the individual; the demonization of the nation's enemies; the elimination of dissent and the creation of a single-party state; the dominant role of a charismatic leader; the appeal to emotion and myth rather than reason; the glorification of violence on behalf of a national cause; the mobilization and militarization of civil society; an expansionist foreign policy intended to promote national greatness."

The false revisionism occurs in omitting the word internationalist from fascist's rejection of socialism. It's international socialism that they reject, not socialism. The problem is the internationalism that corrodes the bonds of the people or the race, not any love for private property or economic freedom which all fascist governments have decried as liberalism (another piece of murky reporting when European liberalism in a US context is more accurately called libertarianism). The labeling of free market advocates as fascists is just Orwellian. Most outspoken US conservatives and libertarians have had it happen to them personally and there is something of a justified sensitivity over it.

Posted by TMLutas at September 20, 2003 03:36 PM