Friday, 27 February 2009
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
One of my favourite sayings, possible made, is by a Chinese diplomat in response to the question 'What were the consequences of the French Revolution?. His answer was 'It is too early to tell'. What I love is the succinct way it conveys the absolute and continued primacy of those earth shaking events of the revolutionary decade. Just as the Industrial revolution still effects the way people eat, sleep, work and organise societies, so the political revolution of 1789 still forms the base 'genetics' of political live, theory and conceptions. Whilst it was fashionable on the bicentenary of the storming of the Bastille to question, let us consider a incomplete list of ideas, issues, paradoxes and policies that those revolutionaires not only considered but also acted on.
- Capital Punishment
- The nature of Crime
- Gender and Power
- Nationalism in it's modern form
- Democracy and Republics
- The Citizen in a Pluralistic society
- The nature of Property
- The extent of the modern state
- Rights as a living breathing concern
- Civilian-Military balance
- Press freedom and responsibility
- Social welfare and moral economy
- The limits of free trade and the free market
- Jewish and Sectarian emacipation
- Church and State
- Mass killing for ideological goals
- The legitimacy of Revolution
- Mass Mobalisation
And for the purposes of this post, the political spectrum. Yes, I am defending that most maligned of political heuristic tools, the Left Right divide (henceforth LRD). While some have suggested, post end of history, that it is a dead conceit, I suggest otherwise. The LRD has a remarkable ability to get under the skin of political ideas and political policy in a way that few other metaphoric devices can. In 1789 as now, there is a divide in political thought that remains along a clear continuity from the debates of the National assembly and the wider reaction to the works of the revolution. The matter at hand is the direct of political action. On the left of the NA were assembled a very divergent group of believers who sought to create a new society, one more important than the pretensions of the monarch of the time. On the right were a similarly mixed bag of politicians who sought to preserve or regenerate the state as it was, that is as recognisably the same place that they had sprung.
Now I do not ascribe morality to these differing conceptions. Far too much blood has been shed by my side of the aisle to pretend that. Rather, there is a ongoing divide between what might be term emacipitory thought and that of a conserving/regenerative kind. This for me, is the essense of the LRD, not good and bad, state or non, futorial or anti-modern. Rather, just as those lawmakers and law givers struggled with this duality of soultions and preceptions, so we carry on today.
Why bring it up? Well as the great huntsmen Leo X said about the upstart Luther in 1520, 'A wild boar has invaded Thy vineyard'. Fascism, my academic passion and a kind of speciality has cropped up most persistantly on the blogosphere and in certain quarters of the media recently. The question at hands is where on the LRB it lies. Ian Dale and John Redwood, as noted by Dave Osler a few weeks back, have joined a wee host of commentators who have reset the phenomena on the political left. The grand daddy of them all is the NR's resident Jonah Goldberg's book 'Liberal Fascism', a hatchet job of unerring wrongheadedness that is now quoted regularly as some authority on fascism. Goldberg takes an outdated and heuristically dry definition of totalitarian theory, and drabs various left of centre American politicians with its contentions. Totalisers are statist, thus every state solution is totalising. Only the left suggests these solutions so only the left comes from the original totalising i.e. fascist solution. Thus he can adorn the cover with a smiley face plus Hitler tash and the oxy-moron (and one recognised as such when HG Wells suggested it) 'Liberal Fascism'.
Now I intend to read the bloody thing again to fisk it and Nick Cohen's grovelling review in a few days, but for now let me return to the LRD and the general case. Why is fascism on the political right of the spectrum? Well what is a working definition of Fascism for starters, one that takes its ideas seriously, not as window dressing like in the old Dimitrovite line and that seeks to differentiate it from other political ideologies? I would say the foremost at the moment is what is term, controversially of course, 'the new consensus'. Building on some of the Anglophone's world leader experts on the ideas of fascism, this reading has taken up much of the running with regards to new research and interpretation in the last 15 years. It can be surmised as an ultra-hyper-nationalism that via means of social and political action seeks to bring about a revolution and a rebirth at a national and anthropological level. It is committed entirely and inevitably to a decline-rebirth narrative. Indeed such is the extent to its commitment, it has be described by some as a classic case of a revitalisation movement akin to the Ghost dance or the Cargo Cult.
Now, where do we place this nexus of ideas? Well academically, much of the consensus on this issue reflects the traditional placement on the right. The few dissenters such as Zeev Sternhell have seen it as transcending the LRB all together. I am currently unaware of any serious voices that place it wholly within the left, but I await enlightenment on that matter with interest. My reasons are tripartite:-
Firstly. the major thinkers of early fascism along with proto-fascist groups are mainly of the right. The ANI and the Vocacists in the case of Italy and the PNF, the Vaterland Partei, Spengler, Junger and Schmitt in the case of the NSDAP, the Croatian Party of Right with the Ustasha, the groups around Goga and Cuza with the Iron Guard, Action Française in France. Groups like the Proudhon Circle and the Futurists that are not neatly placed (but can be with care) on the LRD can neither be placed on the left either. Italian Nationalism in the Fin de Siecle, dubbed by its leading historian, the great Emilio Gentile, 'Italianism' which was to find form in the PNF was a clear rejection of both types of Liberal Nationalism in Italy, Cavour's and Mazzini's.
Secondly, after 1919 there is to my knowledge only one real instance of a leftist group in allegiance with a fascist one during the high mark of fascist confidence and intellectual independence. That is a plot against Salazzar's New State in Portugal between some Fascist dreamers and a small anarchist group. The liberal National Peasants party of Iuliu Maniu did form a brief electoral alliance with the Iron Guard in 1932 but broke off contact soon after. That is the sum of left-fascist alliance during the inter-war period. On the other hands, Nationalists and conservatives of the Right in Portugal, Spain, the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Estonia, Croatia, Romania, Hungary, Serbia/Yugoslavia, Greece and Finland had long term relationships with fascist movements and grouplets over a long period of time and proudly exclaimed the cross-pollination of ideas
The Third is to return to the start of this post. That primary importance of the revolution of 1789 and those that sought to emulate it, such as 1798 in Ireland, 1820 and 1868 in Spain, 1794, 1831 and 1846 in Poland, the international events of 1830 and 1848, the Commune of 1871 and those of 1905 and Feburary 1917 in Russia are a chain of narratives, of individual national mythologies and history. To states or would be states such as Romania, Italy, Germany and Hungary, the liberal revolutions were a vital, even existential part of national identity. Yet like its great forebear, these produced a left wing aimed at emancipation and a right aimed at regeneration. For the left, national revolutions like these were steps forwards towards their particular telos, for the right, they were corrupting plots of miscreants gone horribly awry. Despite their uber-nationalism, fascist movements had no place for these revolutions. To take Hungary as an example, Kossuth, the first great modern popular leader of Magyars outside of the political nation, was entirely disdained by the Arrow Cross, his revolution, the work of Jews and rabblerousers. It is no small irony that until recently the FN was unwilling to 'accept' the work of the great revolution, even after much of the right had moved into deeply critical loyalty. This might seem minor, trivial even. But how one conceives of the most important political event of the modern era and how it manifest itself within your own society and the world is no small matter. It is one of the most important bases on which to place your ideology. It is the ultimate litmus test.
Fascism conceives liberal or socialist or anarchic emancipation as a false consciousness, a denial of self-evident and eternal truths, anti-spiritual and anti-national. That is not toi say that there are not violent and considerable tensions between Conservatism or traditional Authoritarianism and Fascism, but like those between Social Liberals or Neo-Jacobins or Social Dems or Trots or Black Flag-ers, they are in house or 'in-aisle'
Thus endth my boring wee rant.
More 'Liberal Fascism' next, you lucky souls
Friday, 13 February 2009
Our flag flies at half mast this week. Sad news
The British People's Alliance
a) a new mass party with considerable but covert elite support, with a socially conservative, economically social democratic program. A party perched to gain mass backing and parlimentry representation
b)the comically farcical delusion of a lonely wee man, who has only his sockpuppets for company and the thought of yet another tedious post on HP or Bomber Kamm's site to live for
Is not contesting the Euro elections.
Please join some of us mourners in lamentation and shreiks here
Thursday, 12 February 2009
So far, excellent.
One line, however, jumped out at me. When they were questioning Ibrahim Asgharzadeh about the planning behind the capture of the embassy, he said of Ahmadinejad's worries over the operation that they were primarily concerned helping the left, ‘The real threat to the revolution is Russia and the Marxists’ (32.44). A timely point for the left to remember