Thursday, March 02, 2017

Marxism, Fascism and Totalitarianism


In retrospect, what becomes evident is the fact that by the last years of the nineteenth century, there was little that might count as a single and definitive "orthodox Marxism." So rich in ambiguity and discontinuities was it that by that time at least four principal variants of Marxism could be identified: that of Bernstein and Woltmann in Germany,. the critical deconstnictionism of Benedetto Croce in Italy, and the ethical reformism of Sorel in France.
Blogging has been light recently because I've been trying to catch up with some reading. One of the books I had a chance to read was  A. James Gregor's, Marxism, Fascism and Totalitarianism.

Firstly, let me say that this is a superb book and should be required reading by anyone on the Dissident Right.  Quite simply it should be a foundational text. It's that good. Gregor is a professor of Political Science at Berkeley* and is one the worlds foremost experts on Fascism, particularly Italian Fascism and Marxism.  The book is not particularly long--400 pages--it is clearly written, conceptually precise and Gregor's habit of repeating the main points at the beginnings of chapters a great way of reinforcing the main ideas he is trying to get across. For people who are time poor, it's an excellent and clearly written overview on the subject of Marxist doctrinal development.

One of the things that depresses me endlessly is the right's "tolerance" of Fascism. While many think it extreme, they see it as an ally against the Left and criticise those who "punch to the Right".  The problem is that the Fascists were never of the Right in the first place, and their embrace of nationalism is simply a mechanism to bring socialism to fruition.

In the Socialist world of the 19th Century, Marx and Engels functioned as almost defacto dual papacy defining Socialist doctrine. Socialists who differed on doctrinal points would appeal to the two for guidance given that many of Marx's concepts were vague and not fully though out. Furthermore practical experience with implementing the revolution came up against real world difficulties which had to be worked out. With their death, this guidance was gone and Socialists, much like Christians interpreting the Bible, began to fissure with regard proper interpretation of the Master.

The big issues upon which the Marxists differed were on the subject of free will, the issue of "class", leadership of the proletariat and nationalism.

Marx was a strict materialist/Positivist at that human morality and action was simply the expression of current material and economic conditions.  Marx also held Darwinism in high esteem and it didn't take too long for his followers to fuse the two and introduce race as an "economic determinant", with certain races being better economic determinants than others. The go to guy was Ludwig Woltmann, who was very influential in German Socialism and intellectually prepared to the ground for the Natsocs. (Note, Socialists really play down the role of Woltmann)

The second interpreters were those who could not accept the strict determinism of Marx and gave man more "free will" in the direction of history. Chief among this school of thought was that of George Sorel who saw decadence in the bourgeois and virtue among the "workers" and in the work ethic.  Sorel's noble worker would rise up against the bourgeois and bring socialist society into fruition. Sorel emphasised the dignity of work

But the problem with workers is that they were more loyal to their country than to class and with the advent of the First World War many socialists saw that the appeal to country motivated the masses towards revolution rather than an appeal to class. Italian socialists who admired the martial virtues of Sorel's workers realised that the best way to bring about social revolution was to marry it to the cause of Nationalism, this was the approach of Mussolini and it is here where Fascism is born.

Lenin, on the other hand, rejected any form of Nationalism as a bourgeois distraction, designed to stymie the revolution, and insisted upon a Russian flavoured internationalism which would unite the working classes.  In fact, anyone who Lenin, who thought himself the only true interpreter of Marx, defined anyone who disagreed with his view as bourgeois reactionary. I sometimes wonder if Lenin was a Puritan from New England. Stalin continued the tradition.

The important theme that comes out of Gregor's work is that just as Protestantism and Catholicism are rival interpretations of Christianity, so are Fascism and Leninism rival interpretations of Marxism.

Gregor clearly lays the doctrinal development of each of the strands of Marxism. What's also quite impressive is the role of Italian thinkers in the development of the nationalistic interpretations of Marxism. The Italians thinkers were quite conceptually advanced in their understanding of Nationalism and offered a more "humane" version of Fascism than its Nordic cousin.  Compared to the Italian thinkers, the Germans were rubes.  It's quite interesting that Italian Nationalistic Marxism i.e. Fascism  was racially "lite" and there were quite a few Jewish Fascists among the Blackshirts.

The horrors of German National Socialism are clearly attributable to its Socialist origins which ,when hybridised with materialistic Darwinism and Ariosophy,  produced the killing machine which destroyed much of Europe and itself. Nazism was a HBD version of Socialism cloaked in Nationalism.

As Gregor shows, the only thing "Right" about Fascism is the nationalism it uses to cloak its ultimate vision of implementing a socialist society.

It's an outstanding book.

(*The Irony of the recent protests against Trump at Berkeley would not have been lost on Gregor)

10 comments:

Nulle Terre Sans Seigneur said...

Good to see you've been reading more of Gregor. As I've stated here previously, I regard him as the best scholar of fascism.

Also essential are "Young Mussolini" and "The Search for Neofascism". The latter is basically a detailed destruction of every idiot who yells "fascism" at everything vaguely embodying a veneer of authority. Gregor goes through various people and groups accused of being "neofascist" - Evola, the post-war Italian MSI, Islamic fundamentalists, miscellaneous nationalist parties, etc. and proceeds to marvelously debunk the accusation. If more liberal democrats were like Gregor, there might never have been an alt-right populist revolt worth talking about.

Despite Sorel's importance in the national syndicalist circle that would later be fertile ground for fascist intellectuals, I regard his concept of political myth to be a useful analytical tool. In particular, he very capably showed the frivolity of vulgar historical materialism (as did the Italian liberal Croce).

There's also a great paper by German Neue Rechte academic Karlheinz Weissmann called "The Epoch of National Socialism" (translated to English by H-H Hoppe) that gives a succinct yet comprehensive view of all the lower-case national socialist tendencies that were to be most successfully realized in fascism: https://archive.org/details/TheEpochOfNationalSocialism

By the way, it isn't exactly true that Lenin was anti-nationalist. Yes, his histomat doctrine demanded him that he condemn nationalism as "bourgeois" (as did Stalin, who instead opted to call his nationalism "socialist patriotism"), but his actions are very revealing. In 1917, Lenin and Stalin signed a declaration that was probably the most radical nationalist statement of its time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_the_Rights_of_the_Peoples_of_Russia

A radical break with tsarist orthodoxy, to say the least.

Also, not only were there important fascist Jews, but there's a plausible historical thesis that Mussolini's long-time Jewish mistress Margherita Sarfatti was a pivotal influence on Mussolini's transition from socialism with nationalist doubts to fascism proper. Sarfatti's memoirs are an interesting read, whatever may be the case.

It's also important to note that there was a sycophantic and openly etatiste element to German social democracy from the beginning. Ferdinand Lassalle was firmly behind Bismarck's ambitions, for instance. You then later had a more conservative current in the SPD represented by thinkers like Johann Plenge and Paul Lensch, who would prove to be an important stepping stone to both national socialism and the National Socialism of the NSDAP.

Overall, socialism besides being destructive has been profoundly weird.

Chris B said...

I highly recommend his "Mussolini's Intellectuals" for an in depth analysis of the Italian fascists. It really drove home to me how there are certain points of breaking with liberalism that must be addressed, especially with regard to the empirical individual of liberalism and the denial of context to any empirical observation. Based on Gentile's Actual idealism, they developed an extremely sophisticated body of work which actually placed human agency within a historical context, especially in the area of language.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I have put this book on my list to read.

I too think that these two movements are ripe for re-evaluation.

Reading Leddhin persuaded me of Fascism's leftism. Furthermore, applying Thomas Sowell's concepts of tragic v utopian, I think Fascism and Nazism are utopian, unconstrained visions. However, there are rightist elements as well, so I would describe them as hybrids.

Check out this guy:

https://pragmaticallydistributed.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/modern-european-nationalism-is-parliamentary-nationalism/

He has excellent stuff. We had an extended discussion over the nature right and left there — mostly about Nazism, as I actually know very little about Italian Fascists.

Can you give me some more examples, and of intellectuals, who steered Marxism towards fascism?

Thanks.

Dark Reformation.

MK said...

Nazism was a HBD version of Socialism cloaked in Nationalism.

The problem with this is that the Germans actually had a unified high IQ race to try and make their racial superiority dream happen. Who has that in the West anymore? Certainly not "whites". No unity like that. Besides no numbers. In China,, maybe. But National Socialism isn't going to happen in my lifetime. No racial unity. No brains to pull it off.

n/u3 said...

All you are doing here is shuffling cards from a deck of paper tigers. It's obvious you don't know or care to find out what Nat Soc is, or Socialism, or Marxism, Anglo Imperialism etc. because a clear and truthful definition is presupplied from mainstream propaganda - designed from the outset to keep people stupid - saying very much about nothing, and nothing about very much, much like your article.
Bruce what is more obvious than Nrx or NeoReaction are the neo-NEOCONS.
You have two modes: a) creating fantasy caricatures of Nazi's or Socialists and crying 'we have no choices left but to submit to the clammy, mucilaginous claspers of the AngloJewish
neoworld order.
b) pausing for a humid moment and reflecting on the base decency of the AngloJewish Nrx neoworld order, at least compared to shitlisms or squatamalians... and of course, last but not least, white people who won't submit to complete bullshit, and will do to you what you plan to do to us.

The Social Pathologist said...

@NTSS

Thanks for the link.

Karlheinz's Riessman's article is fantastic. I'd recommend others to read it as well.

As for Sorel, his political myth concept IS interesting, especially as a political motivant, but what I found more interesting was Gregor's portrayal of him as an ethicist, grounding his ethics in nationalism and work. Gregor cites the influence of Proudhon's thinking on Sorel. As for Proudhoun, from the brief look I've had at his writing, he does seem to be espousing and idea of "prole conservative morality". If we link all the concepts together we get Sorel pushing an ethical system of "proletarian
conservaitsm" within a socialist framework----> Natsoc. Hence its "instinctive" appeal to the "traditionalist masses".

As for Lenin, he wanted a specifically Russian internationalism, so yes, I'm aware that both he and Stalin were nationalistic. For those who lived in communist Eastern Europe, the oppression was percieved to be both Communist and Russian in nature. Hence the Russia hate, much to the surprise of Americans, over there. In fact for many in EE communism was perceived as a Russian form of imperialism.

I think that one aspect of Facist analysis that doesn't get much air time is its contingency to the popular franchise. It is a form of proletarian conservatism. BTW, when I use the term proletarian I'm not trying to signal any form of social status, rather emphasising that it is a form of "instinctive" conservatism of the cognitive miser.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Chris B

Agree. I hope to read up Gentile's idealism when I get the chance, but yes, the fascists did develop a rather consistent body of doctrine. My problem with Gentile's idealism, from the brief bit I have read, is that it effectively negates the concept of the individual, it's the sublimination of personality of the mass and another variant of the ideology of totalitarianism.

@Anon

It really is a good book and definitely read it!

As for the intellectuals that developed Fascism it depends on which strain of "right" socialism that your talking about.

German Fascism was heavily into HBD and Ariosophy.

Some of its thinkers were:

Moses Hess: (This blew me away!) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Hess
Jozef Dietzgen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Dietzgen
Lugwig Woltmann: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Woltmann

The Ariosophic movement.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariosophy

Cercle Proudhoun: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cercle_Proudhon

Lurking in the background through all of this are the ideas of Charles Darwin. It important to emphasis that among a lot of European intellectuals "God was Dead" and this created a philosophical problem for many which was solved by the idea of the Darwinian Struggle. A lot of the social reformist movements of the time were heavily influenced by Darwin.

Italian Fascism

Sergion Panunzio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergio_Panunzio

Link to other Italian thinkers here.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_syndicalism

Bennedeto Croce: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedetto_Croce

Giovanni Gentile: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Gentile

These are just some I've pulled from the internet and not listed in order of importance.

The Social Pathologist said...

@MK

National Socialism isn't going to happen in my lifetime.

It certainly can happen again. The Italian variant being definite possibility.

Furthermore, I don't think you fully understand the point I'm trying to get across. It's not the nationalist component that is the problem it's the "Socialistic/Positivistic" metaphysics that allows the "ovens and gulags" to be built.

@n/u3

It's obvious you don't know or care to find out what Nat Soc is, or Socialism, or Marxism, Anglo Imperialism etc.

I'm all ears.


Scott said...

I may be mistaken, but I think Gregor was an active "race" intellectual before he became a mainstream scholar. Wrote in various marginal publications about Brown v. Board, issues like that. My memory of this comes from coming across his work about 20 years ago.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Scott

That was my impression as well though "race" is not really the focus of his book.