Anatomy of Fascism.
If I ever go to Berkeley to get a degree in History, this guy can teach me!
I decided to read this to prepare for some lessons I will be teaching in the spring on Fascism in Europe between the wars. Specifically, i wanted to make sure I could explain as best as possible why Fascism and Socialism might appeal to different citizens at the same time.
Fascism is fascinating in that, out of all of the "isms", its the only one that appeared in the 20th century, additionally, it had never occurred to radical political theorists that a mass movement could be rightist. For seventy years, marxist, socialist and anarchist groups had monopolized the issues of class resentment and workers' anger, this all changed after the Great War.
As Paxton writes, "Fascists rejected the view that economic forces are the prime movers of history", instead relying on a burgeoning nationalism and xenophobia born of the resentment of what was seen as an unfair peace at the end of the first world war. Russia was never a workers' state, Trotsky wrote that Socialism had moved forward on the path of least resistance, i.e., as Czarist Russia was least capable of stopping socialist revolution, it was in Czarist Russia that the first socialist revolution took place. Socialist internationalists had long promoted the ideas of class solidarity, Fascistic politicians relied instead on middle class fear and resentment. They used that classic political trick, to make those who have little fear encroachment from those who have nothing, the same trick used by the right in the United States to make the working poor fear immigration, socialism, and black presidents.
Also interesting were the links between Fascism and Socialism, often thought of as diametrically opposed political philosophies, many Fascists had been under the influence of socialism before the war, Fascism was not so much a movement of the right as it was a movement opposed to centrism and leftism, sort of allying itself with conservatism because centrists and leftists wanted no part of it. But a surprising number of Fascists wanted the same sort of nationalization and well, socialization that the communists did, the key difference (beyond the pomp and militarism), was nationalism versus internationalism. Many early fascists were socialists but for the fact that they desired the supremacy of there own nation over the freedom of the workers of the world.
Resentment caused by the loss of empire stirred a nascent nationalism in the citizens of Germany, Austria, and Hungary (whose territories were often more than halved), and Italy (who lost know territory, but also gained none). Paxton remarks on this, "Italy, exceptionally, had belonged to the victorious alliance, but it had failed to achieve tha national expansion that the Italian nationalists who led Italy into the war had counted on. The victory was, in their eyes a vittoria mutilata.".
As a materialist, I agree only to some small extent with the notion that nationalism can be stronger than class, but only in that nationalism can SEEM to exert a stronger influence. In actuality, I believe that this sort of nationalism is an aftereffect of economic discrepancy.
Paxton goes on to discuss the possibility of some sort of fascist or neo-fascist movement arising today, including in the United States. He makes the point that any such movement will be defined not by the traditional memes of Fascism, but by patriotic ones. e.g. in the US, a neo-fascist movement will have as its symbols the stars and stripes and the Bald Eagle, and will be marked by pledges of allegiance, etc.
Obviously the notion of the American Right as fascist has become a cliche, but it is instructive to note how many of the traits of fascistic society are common the the neo-conservative movement.
Paxton defines Fascism on the final page of his book as,
"a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with a community decline, humilation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence, and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion".