of some fuzziness regarding the difference between various
historical forms of fascism, I think it is possible to outline
a list of features that are typical of what I would like to
call Eternal or E-Fascism. These features cannot be organised
into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are
also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But
it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism
to coagulate around it.
first feature of E-Fascism is the cult of tradition.
Traditionalism is of course much older than fascism. Not only
was it typical of counterrevolutionary Catholic thought after
the French revolution, but it was born in the late Hellenistic
era, as a reaction to classical Greek rationalism. In the
Mediterranean basin, people of different religions (most of
the faiths indulgently accepted by the Roman pantheon) started
dreaming of a revelation received at the dawn of human history.
This revelation, according to the traditionalist mystique,
had remained for a long time concealed under the veil of forgotten
languages -- in Egyptian hieroglyphs, in the Celtic
runes, in the scrolls of the little-known religions of Asia.
new culture had to be syncretistic. Syncretism is
not only, as the dictionary says, "the combination of
different forms of belief or practice;" such a combination
must tolerate contradictions. Each of the original messages
contains a sliver of wisdom, and although they seem to say
different or incompatible things, they all are nevertheless
alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth.
a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth
already has been spelled out once and for all, and we can
only keep interpreting its obscure message.
you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores, are
labeled New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine,
who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint
Augustine and Stonehenge -- that is a symptom of E-Fascism.
implies the rejection of modernism. Both Fascists
and Nazis worshipped technology, while traditionalist thinkers
usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values.
However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements,
its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology
based upon blood and earth (Blut und Boden). The
rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal
of the capitalistic way of life. The Enlightenment, the Age
of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In
this sense E-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.
also depends on the cult of action for action's sake. Action
being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without,
reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore
culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical
attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been
a symptom of E-Fascism, from Hermann Goering's fondness for
a phrase from a Hanns Johst play ("When I hear the word
'culture' I reach for my gun") to the frequent use of
such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals,"
"eggheads," "effete snobs," and "universities
are nests of reds." The official Fascist intellectuals
were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal
intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.
critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is
a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community
praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For E-Fascism
disagreement is treason.
disagreement is a sign of diversity. E-Fascism grows up and
seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural
fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist
or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders.
Thus E-Fascism, is racist by definition.
derives from individual or social frustration. That is why
one of the most typical features of the historical fascism
was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class
suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political
humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social
groups. In our time, when the old "proletarians"
are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded
from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find
its audience in this new majority.
people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, E-Fascism
says that their only privilege is the most common one, to
be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism.
Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the
nation are its enemies. Thus as the root of the E-Fascist’s
psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly
an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The
easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.
But the plot must also come from the inside: minorities like
Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage
of being at the same time inside and outside. In the United
States, a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be
found in Pat Robertson's The New World Order, but,
as we have recently seen, there are many others.
followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth
and force of their enemies. When I was a boy I was taught
to think of English-men as the five-meal people. They ate
more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are
rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance.
However, the followers of Ur-Fascism must also be convinced
that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous
shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same
time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned
to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of
objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.
an E-Fascise there is no struggle for life but, rather, life
is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with
the enemy. It is bad because <>life is permanent
warfare<>. This, however, brings about an Armageddon
complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be
a final battle, after which the movement will have control
of the world. But such a "final solution" implies
a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the
principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded
in solving this predicament.
is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as
it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic
elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. E-Fascism
can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs
to the best people of the world, the members of the party
are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought
to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians
without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power
was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered
by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness
of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler.
such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero.
In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in
E-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism
is starkly linked with the cult of death. It is not by chance
that a motto of the Spanish Falangists was Viva la Muerte
("Long Live Death!"). In nonfascist societies, the
lay public is told that death is unpleasant but must be faced
with dignity; believers are told that it is the painful way
to reach a supernatural happiness. By contrast, the E-Fascist
hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for
a heroic life. The E-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In
his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.
both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play,
the E-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters.
This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain
for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard
sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even
sex is a difficult game to play, the E-Fascist hero tends
to play with weapons -- doing so becomes an exercise in maleness.
is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative
populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have
individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have
a political impact only from a quantitative point of view
-- one follows the decisions of the majority. For E-Fascism,
however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the
people is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing
the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can
have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter.
Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act;
they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus
the People is only a theatrical fiction. There is in our future
a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response
of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted
as the Voice of the People.
of its qualitative populism, E-Fascism must be against "rotten"
parliamentary governments. Wherever a politician casts
doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer
represents the Voice of the People, we can smell E-Fascism.
speaks Newspeak. Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in
the novel 1984, as the official language of what he called
Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of E-Fascism are common
to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist
schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an
elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex
and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other
kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent
form of a popular talk show.
is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be
so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene
somebody saying, "I want to reopen Auschwitz”.
But life is nto that simple. Life is not that simple. E-Fascism
can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty
is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new
instances -- every day, in every part of the world. Franklin
Roosevelt's words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling:
"If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living
force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the
lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our
land." Freedom and liberation are an unending task.
article was first published in Utne Readers, an alternative
publication of the United States.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004