Thanks to everyone’s hospitality. I like the good show you’ve put on, even providing me with my first troll. Now I know I have arrived.
The troll in question did make a comment that allows me to address an important issue:
Prussia no longer exists. The Nazis are finished. But the Militant Atheist Communists still have control of hundreds of millions of people, and oppress believers routinely.
I think that that gets this exactly backwards. The twentieth century saw a death-struggle against two worst embodiments of the reactionary counter-Enlightenment in the forms of Communism and Fascism. The former is finished. No one talks of a universal, proletarian revolution. But the latter is returning in a nasty way.
One has to be clear about this: when most people think “fascism” they think of Nazism, and the horrors of the final solution. But that is an outlier standing in for the whole trend. During the very early twentieth century, fascism would have meant Mussolini’s Italy, a state the preferred nationalist, and usually (thought not always) racial collectivism to the class-based one, married it to a strong welfare state and a state-supported industry, and had a degree of xenophobia but was not exterminationist, while promoting a militarist ethos and dealing in a mythology of the past. That model certainly has many takers today. Consider Putin’s Russia, with its powerful, clerical backing, or the reborn ‘red China’ which has made the smooth transition to a national bolshevist state. And don’t think that we in the West are immune to that either. The late great Hitch tells the following story:
Some years ago, I was interviewing Alan Clark MP about his book The Donkeys, a rugged study of British Great War generalship which became the script for Joan Littlewood’s Oh What A Lovely War. Hesuddenly said to me: ‘I daresay you’ve been told I’m a Fascist.’ I admitted that I had heard something of the sort. ‘Well, that’s all balls,’ he said briskly. ‘I’m a National Socialist.’ Obviously pretty well-used to the shock effect of this, he went on to explain that while Fascists were middle-class thugs who wanted to protect their dividends, National Socialists had a special responsibility to the worker and the artisan. ‘We betrayed the British working class three times,’ he told me sternly. ‘First by using them as cannon fodder in the Great War, then by rewarding their sacrifice with a slump and mass unemployment, then by letting them in for another war.’ (I was never sure, later on, whether to be impressed or disquieted when Thatcher made this hater of the brass hats and ‘the old gang’ into a Defence spokesman.)
Now that is not, in and of itself, a rotten point of view. The working classes in Europe were indeed used as cannon fodder in that conflagration. Here again one has to draw a sharp distinction between “national socialist” and “Nazi”. To take a certain recurring piece of stupidity from the discourse of our transatlantic cousins, for the Obama detractors, it is certainly true that the Nazi state had a strong comprehensive healthcare system, but this is not what most people object to. To take the Bush detractors, nor was “patriotism” the problem either. What turned the Nazis from just another fascist movement to the synonym of evil was a race theory fuelled by anti-semitism, a pathology that counts an ideology on its own.
I’m stressing this because as long as people do not treat fascism seriously and understand that there is almost certainly something about some fascist program that will be appealing to many people, including themselves, they will not confront its danger. This is only going to get worse as the world’s economic situation worsens; something that tends to drive people to become more insular and isolationist. Those of us who believe in internationalism are going to have a tougher time of it than ever under these circumstances.