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Author Topic: Hyperbolic Use of Term "Fascist"
Sven
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posted 14 July 2008 03:13 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
From here:

In a May 2008 essay for The Times of London, playwright Tom Stoppard, the British son of Czech émigrés, explained his long-held contempt for his more hyperbolic comrades in the theater. “I felt myself out of patience with people who, from 1968 onwards, would denigrate this country that adopted me, this country that I’d adopted, as some kind of fascist police state. It just seemed so embarrassing that those countries that truly could be described as such were very, very different from Britain.” In Stoppard’s acclaimed 2006 play Rock ’n’ Roll, a meditation on Czech resistance to Soviet occupation, one character upbraids his daughter for her lazy use of the term, grumbling that many in her generation “think a fascist is a mounted policeman at a demo in Grosvenor Square.”

[SNIP]

As an indicator of a particular set of political beliefs, “fascism” has become a perfectly meaningless pejorative, a political cudgel that is obtuse and imprecise by design.

[SNIP]

More than six decades after the death of Hitler and 30 years since the collapse of Franco’s clerico-military dictatorship in Spain, fascism has returned as the preferred insult of the intellectually careless.

[SNIP]

The insult isn’t just for lefties anymore. Two recent bestsellers exemplify how fascism has evolved in our political discourse. With Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, Jonah Goldberg, a conservative columnist and editor-at-large of National Review Online, attempts to reappropriate the word from those who employ it willy-nilly against enemies to their right. “The major flaw in all of this,” Goldberg writes, “is that fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all.”

[SNIP]

[In Naomi Wolf's book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot,] Wolf offers several alleged examples of fascist-style suppression of dissent. When former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the “collective purge of all the [U.S.] attorneys,” which resulted in the dismissal of seven not considered “loyal Bushies,” it was certainly a matter of serious concern. But it did not, as Wolf writes, amount to “a professional Night of the Long Knives,” a reference to Hitler’s violent 1934 putsch against the powerful, street-brawling brownshirts. One act provoked a media outcry and led to the perpetrator’s resignation, and the other led to the brutal murder of 100 political rivals while solidifying Adolf Hitler’s power base. Wolf commits a bewildering series of mistakes that demonstrate not even a rudimentary understanding or familiarity with the subject of fascism. Readers are told that Hitler was a propaganda master because he was “trained as a visual artist.” (He was not.) Readers are informed that the “formal extermination camps” were “not established until the very eve of war.” (They were established in 1942.) Nor did Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels “develop the practice of embedding journalists.”[/b]

[SNIP]

At times, the contortions required to tie fascism with 21st century partisanship can bring Goldberg close to sounding like Wolf: “Fascists famously rules by terror. Political correctness isn’t literally terroristic, but it does govern through fear.” Well, yes, but being accused of racial insensitivity is rather different than seeing your family arrested on Kristallnacht.

While Hillary Clinton’s 1993 attempt at a government takeover of health care was disastrous and destined to failure, why view it as a failed bit of fascism rather than a failed attempt at generically Scandinavian socialism? And if the Clinton health care plan was socialist, does that mean that it was also fascist because, after all, both Nazi Germany and fascist Italy were economically left-wing? Is statism automatically fascism?

It is here that Goldberg’s book ultimately fails to convince.

Well, there's much more in the article itself. But, it's an interesting read on how those on the extreme ends of the political spectrum often throw out the word "fascism" and "fascist" to label anything, and anyone, they really, really don't like as particularly evil.


From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
Fidel
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posted 14 July 2008 03:31 PM      Profile for Fidel     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
And if the Clinton health care plan was socialist, does that mean that it was also fascist because, after all, both Nazi Germany and fascist Italy were economically left-wing? Is statism automatically fascism?[/qb]

Nazi Germany made use of Keynesian-militarism, a corrupted form of socialism.

Emil Kirdorf and industrialists funded the party after Hitler promised them state-capitalist business as usual if elected.

Railway magnates in WWII Germany were awarded no-bid contracts for mass transportation of people, in blocks of 500 tourist class.

IBM, Nazi front bankers on Wall Street and Bank for International Settlements, Ford, IG Farben, Krupp, General Motors and a long list of corporations made money during the building of a corporate-sponsored war machine to wage war of annihilation against Soviet communism.

Laissez-faire capitalism was ditched in the U.S. after a 30 year-long experiment 1900-1929. Critics said it was duller and greyer than Soviet communism. Conservatives have since become Keynesian-militarists, or neoconservatives, similar to the ideology followed in Nazi Germany. There are no more Liberals or laissez-faire conservatives for a long time. Today it's upside-down Keynesianism. They practice socialism for the rich while preaching free markets to the poor.


From: Viva La Revolución | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged
al-Qa'bong
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posted 25 August 2008 08:53 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
This thread makes me think of vegetables.
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Cueball
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posted 25 August 2008 09:06 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
You Fascist!
From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Catchfire
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posted 26 August 2008 01:56 AM      Profile for Catchfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The article is dishonest and poor. First of all, does the author provide the 'correct' definition of Fascism? Of course not. He does, however, offer this rather dubious conclusion:
quote:
When both sides see creeping fascism lurking around every bit of political rhetoric and action they disagree with, then the term doesn’t need to be reappropriated or redefined, it needs to be buried.

Buried? Surely we don't want to bury the single most fearsome word in politics at the moment it is most contested?

Of course, Moynihan is simply ressurecting Orwell (without citing him). From 'Politics and the English Language' (1946):

quote:
In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, "The outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality," while another writes, "The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its peculiar deadness," the reader accepts this as a simple difference opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable."

My fear is this: by stealing, uncredited, this well-known statement by Orwell, Moynihan steals inside our psyche unannounced, picking out a truism we've absorbed in high school. 'Oh yes, you can't bandy about "fascism"' we think. But we don't know why--and Moynihan doesn't tell us. Instead, he lodges a very petty and poor attack on Naomi Wolf's book that critiques her 'facts' but not her philosophical position. How can he? He doesn't offer a correct definition to compare to the one Wolf employs. I think it is no accident that Moynihan reserves his lengthiest and most applied criticism to Wolf--he almost lauds Goldberg for his laughable effort to show that Fascism has roots in left-wing ideology. He should try selling that to the communists who fought Franco in Spain...

Moynihan is obtuse and ignorant in his criticism.

quote:
Even when not flubbing or oversimplifying the broad details of fascist ideology, The End of America commits the fatal sin of contorting every sinister moment of the 20th century to ensure that it lines up with some aspect of the “war on terror.” It is clearly with Al-Qaeda in mind that Wolf wrote this stunningly ignorant passage on the construction of phantom enemies: “What matters to a fascist leader is not to get rid of the enemy but rather to maintain an enemy,” a piece of analysis that would certainly surprise the families of untermensch liquidated during the Second World War.

Aside from the fact that Moynihan is utterly incapable of differentiating between what Wolf calls 'a fascist shift' and full-fledged fascism, this piece of criticism obtusely misses Wolf's point. But that's not even the case, is it? I'm not here to defend Wolf, but to point out that Moynihan is less here to buttress the semantic integrity of the word 'fascism' than he is to show that capitalism is not fascist. He can't do it, because he can't give us a proper definition. Instead , he casually throws around unsupported statements like 'It is true...that the left-wing roots of fascism have been deliberately obscured' or that certain facets of fascist economics were 'argument[s] borrowed from National Socialism'.

What Moynihan's article amounts to is an apology for the barbarity of centre-right liberal capitalism, and a hackneyed mockery of principled leftist philosophy. And he does this under the veil of semiotic integrity. It is quite telling, then, that Moynihan's conclusion is to 'bury' the term (and concept) of fascism: those he protects would like nothing better.


From: On the heather | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged
Lard Tunderin' Jeezus
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posted 26 August 2008 05:14 AM      Profile for Lard Tunderin' Jeezus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thanks for taking the time to dissect this nonsense so thoroughly, Catchfire. It is far more interesting when taken apart, pinned out and labelled than it was in its original jumbled mess.

No thanks to Sven for dumping it here in the first place, however.

FYI: Any article touting an author who purports fascism and/or nazism to be of leftist origin can be ignored as garbage immediately; as should any writer who thinks such morons are worthy of the spotlight.

How many times are we going to endure this drivel? Over the years, it has been effortlessly dispatched here in several dozen threads. Unless someone finds a new 'Great Right Hope' with a remarkable new twist on the tired old argument, this crap should be left where it lays.

[ 26 August 2008: Message edited by: Lard Tunderin' Jeezus ]


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Frustrated Mess
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posted 26 August 2008 05:53 AM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Bravo, Catchfire!

quote:
How many times are we going to endure this drivel?

Until the Big Lie begins to take hold and history is allowed to repeat itself.

From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
oldgoat
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posted 26 August 2008 07:45 AM      Profile for oldgoat     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
But, it's an interesting read

No


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Fidel
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posted 26 August 2008 11:46 AM      Profile for Fidel     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Today we have "friendly fascism, and even "Liberal fascism" NeoCons and Liberal Democrats in the U.S. have become one and the same political entitity. There are no FDR-style Liberal Democrats of old on the horizon. They've embraced neocon ideology for deregulation, and basically what led to great concentration of wealth leading up to 1929. Former IMF chief economist and Harvard professor Kenneth Rogoff said this month that the worst is yet to come for the New York-London based financial system.
Both the right and partners on the centre-right support American empire. And their British partners in crime aid them in the maintenance of neocolonialism in Africa, Middle East, Central Asia. New York electronica musician Moby wrote in song lyrics, ~ And then it fell apart like it always does, like it always does Extreme ways are back again.

From: Viva La Revolución | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged
M. Spector
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posted 26 August 2008 12:05 PM      Profile for M. Spector   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Liberals and even most of those who consider themselves Marxists are guilty of using the world fascist very loosely today. They fling it around as an epithet or political swearword against right-wing figures whom they particularly despise, or against reactionaries in general.

Since WWII, the fascist label has been applied to such figures and movements as Gerald L. K. Smith, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Senator Eastland, Barry Goldwater, the Minutemen, the John Birch Society, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George Wallace.

Now, were all these fascist, or just some? If only some, then how does one tell which are and which aren't?

Indiscriminate use of the term really reflects vagueness about its meaning. Asked to define fascism, the liberal replies in such terms as dictatorship, mass neurosis, anti-Semitism, the power of unscrupulous propaganda, the hypnotic effect of a mad-genius orator on the masses, etc. Impressionism and confusion on the part of liberals is not surprising. But Marxism's superiority consists of its ability to analyze and differentiate among social and political phenomena. That so many of those calling themselves marxists cannot define fascism any more adequately than the liberals is not wholly their fault. Whether they are aware of it or not, much of their intellectual heritage comes from the social-democratic (reformist socialist) and Stalinist movements, which dominated the left in the 1930s when fascism was scoring victory after victory. These movements not only permitted Nazism to come to power in Germany without a shot being fired against it, but they failed abysmally in understanding the nature and dynamics of fascism and the way to fight it. After fascism's triumphs, they had much to hide and so refrained from making a Marxist analysis which would, at least, have educated subsequent generations.

But there is a Marxist analysis of fascism. It was made by Leon Trotsky not as a postmortem, but during the rise of fascism. This was one of Trotsky's great contributions to Marxism. He began the task after Mussolini's victory in Italy in 1922 and brought it to a high point in the years preceding Hitler's triumph in Germany in 1933.

In his attempts to awaken the German Communist Party and the Communist International (Comintern) to the mortal danger and to rally a united-front against Nazism, Trotsky made a point-by-point critique of the policies of the social-democratic and Stalinist parties. This constitutes a compendium of almost all the mistaken, ineffective, and suicidal positions that workers' organizations can take regarding fascism, since the positions of the German parties ranged from opportunistic default and betrayal on the right (social democratic) to ultra-left abstentionism and betrayal (Stalinist).

The Communist movement was still on its ultra-left binge (the so-called Third Period) when the Nazi movement began to snowball. To the Stalinists, every capitalist party was automatically "fascist". Even more catastrophic than this disorienting of the workers was Stalin's famous dictum that, rather than being opposites, fascism and social democracy were "twins". The socialists were thereupon dubbed "social fascists" and regarded as the main enemy. Of course, there could be no united front with social-fascist organizations, and those who, like Trotsky, urged such united fronts, were also labeled social fascists and treated accordingly.

How divorced from reality the Stalinist line was may be illustrated be recalling its translation into American terms. In the 1932 elections, American Stalinists denounced Franklin Roosevelt as the fascist candidate and Norman Thomas as the social-fascist candidate. What was ludicrous as applied to US politics was tragic in Germany and Austria....

After the Nazis came to power, the Stalinists boasted that their line had been 100 per cent correct, that Hitler could only last a few months, and that a Soviet Germany would then emerge. The time limit for this miracle was extended from three, six, to nine months, and then the idle boasts dwindled into silence. The magnitude of the defeat suffered by the working class, the special character of fascism, distinguishing it from other reactionary regimes or dictatorships, became apparent to all, and the threat to the Soviet Union or a rearmed German imperialism began to take on reality. This brought about a change in Moscow's line in 1935 and the Communist parties throughout the world thereupon zigzagged far to the right, to the right even of the social-democrats. This was their stance in the face of the spreading fascist danger in France and Spain.

The military ruin of German and Italian fascism in WWII convinced most people that fascism had been destroyed for good and was so utterly discredited that it could never again entice any followers. Events since then, particularly the emergence of new fascist groups and tendencies in almost every capitalist country,have dispelled such wishful thinking. The illusion that WWII was fought to make the world safe from fascism has gone the way of the earlier illusion that WWI was fought to make the world safe for democracy. The germ of fascism is endemic in capitalism; a crisis can raise it to epidemic proportions unless drastic countermeasures are applied.


- From George Weissman's 1969 introduction to the pamphlet, Fascism: What it is and how to fight it

[ 26 August 2008: Message edited by: M. Spector ]


From: One millihelen: The amount of beauty required to launch one ship. | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Catchfire
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posted 26 August 2008 02:08 PM      Profile for Catchfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
That is a wonderful essay. Thank you.
quote:
If the means of production remain in the hands of a small number of capitalists, there is no way out for society. It is condemned to go from crisis to crisis, from need to misery, from bad to worse. In the various countries, the decrepitude and disintegration of capitalism are expressed in diverse forms and at unequal rhythms. But the basic features of the process are the same everywhere. The bourgeoisie is leading its society to complete bankruptcy. It is capable of assuring the people neither bread nor peace. This is precisely why it cannot any longer tolerate the democratic order. It is forced to smash the workers and peasants by the use of physical violence. The discontent of the workers and peasants, however, cannot be brought to an end by the police alone. Moreover, if it often impossible to make the army march against the people. It begins by disintegrating and ends with the passage of a large section of the soldiers over to the people's side. That is why finance capital is obliged to create special armed bands, trained to fight the workers just as certain breeds of dog are trained to hunt game. The historic function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery.

The fascists find their human material mainly in the petty bourgeoisie. The latter has been entirely ruined by big capital. There is no way out for it in the present social order, but it knows of no other. Its dissatisfaction, indignation, and despair are diverted by the fascists away from big capital and against the workers. It may be said that fascism is the act of placing the petty bourgeoisie at the disposal of its most bitter enemies. In this way, big capital ruins the middle classes and then, with the help of hired fascist demagogues, incites the despairing petty bourgeoisie against the worker. The bourgeois regime can be preserved only by such murderous means as these.


[ 26 August 2008: Message edited by: Catchfire ]


From: On the heather | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged
N.Beltov
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posted 26 August 2008 02:57 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Still too much hyperbole.

Georgi Dimitroff's definition is still useful: Fascism is a blood-thirsty, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, chauvinistic and aggressive factions of the exploiting classes, brought about by crises under capitalism. It's a response to crisis or a last ditch attempt to prevent change and preserve the status quo.

It differs from other reactionary dictatorships by the vast contacts with the population and its ability to mobilize masses of people in the interests of the exploiting class. It is characterized as well by extreme anti-communism, rejection of humanism, justification of the regimentation of social life, state paternalism and, typically, racism.


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
al-Qa'bong
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posted 26 August 2008 04:35 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
The illusion that WWII was fought to make the world safe from fascism has gone the way of the earlier illusion that WWI was fought to make the world safe for democracy. The germ of fascism is endemic in capitalism; a crisis can raise it to epidemic proportions unless drastic countermeasures are applied.

Hmm, great minds think...etc., etc.

Back on my old website I had a section on Musso, and said that if we take the meaning of fascism to be corporatism, or government and corporations working together for the benefit of the latter, then the fascists won WWII.

The only "freedom" we were left with was the freedom to choose between Pepsi and Coke.

[ 26 August 2008: Message edited by: al-Qa'bong ]


From: Saskatchistan | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
M. Spector
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posted 26 August 2008 04:52 PM      Profile for M. Spector   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by N.Beltov:
It differs from other reactionary dictatorships by the vast contacts with the population and its ability to mobilize masses of people in the interests of the exploiting class.
That could describe any capitalist regime that is able to raise a mass army.
quote:
It is characterized as well by extreme anti-communism, rejection of humanism, justification of the regimentation of social life, state paternalism and, typically, racism.
Sounds just like the liberal democracy of the USA!

One characteristic not mentioned is the crushing of the trade unions and the outlawing of workers' political organizations.


From: One millihelen: The amount of beauty required to launch one ship. | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
N.Beltov
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posted 26 August 2008 05:04 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Spector, my remark about fascism being different, or a NEW kind of dictatorship, was that previous dictatorships relied virtually exclusively on repression as a means to retain power. Fascism had this new feature that is worth underlining. I mean a "political" army, not just people who are looking for employment and so become soldiers. Previous dictatorships prohibited political involvement and expression. Fascism channeled political involvement into approved paths.

Chomsky has made the remark, more than once, than ideological control is more important in countries like his own USA, or Canada, than in countries where direct repression is used more. I think the capitalist countries have learned - so to some degree you are right that it is still just a general description of capitalism.

quote:
M. Spector: One characteristic not mentioned is the crushing of the trade unions and the outlawing of workers' political organizations.

Yea, good point. I actually use that as my rule of thumb for what could become a fascist political trend.


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Fotheringay-Phipps
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posted 26 August 2008 06:27 PM      Profile for Fotheringay-Phipps     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Was it Arno Mayer who defined fascism as the extremism of the centre? I've always liked that definition's pithiness and challenge.

It's not precisely a definition of fascism, but Umberto Eco's "Eternal Fascism" can't be beat for the way it lays bare the contradictions at the heart of this philosophy. You can find a much-condensed version of the essay at

Eternal Fascism

It's worth looking up the complete article to enjoy all its subtlety.


From: SW Ontario | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged

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