Thursday 11 June 2015

Conceptualizing National Socialism - a negative, reactionary definition

National Socialism specifically, and Fascism in general, has never been adequately defined - that is because it was negatively conceptualized as a reaction-against Communism.

When Fascism arose, just after the Russian Revolution, Communism was an urgent and imminent threat. To be anti-Communist was, for many people - indeed significant majorities in some countries - sufficient; so Fascism and National Socialism attracted powerful and highly-motivated supporters.

Such supporters were drawn from a wide spectrum of anti-Communists, including religious groups and persons; but Fascism and National Socialism were themselves secular parties, with secular priorities - they did not envisage running the state according to and within religious priorities.

So, National Socialism seemed OK because they were against the primary threat of Communism; but, of course, they weren't OK.


Update to now - modern secular reaction is also negatively conceptualized and secular - being against the New Left/ Feminism/ Antiracism/ Political Correctness/ Social Justice Warriors and the rest of it.

But the difference is that New Leftism is not new (its dominance dates from the middle 1960s), nor is its threat urgent and immediate - not least because New Leftism is The Establishment.

Therefore, (unlike Fascism and National Socialism) reaction against the New Left is not powerful, nor is it a majority, nor is it highly-motivated.

Furthermore, it may seem that any party who is against the insane evils of the New Left is OK, just what we need. We might even be tempted to wish for a secular reactionary revolution. But - even if there was sufficient support for it to happen - any anti-Left party with secular priorities that attained power would surely go the same way as National Socialism or Fascism - why not?

Do not tempt fate by thinking, or saying, 'anything is better than' or 'things can't get worse'... That is a sure and certain path to things becoming very bad, very swiftly.



Matias F. said...

What do you think of Franco? Would you say he ran the state according to religious priorities? I would be surprised if you said that his anti-communism was not OK, but maybe there was enough of a difference between Spanish anti-communism and Italian anti-communism to make a distinction.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Matias - Franco fought communist (and other Leftist) forces who were nakedly and explicitly and primarily anti-Christian; they singled out priest, monks and nuns for systematic atrocities.

So, Franco was the leader of an anti-communist alliance which included the Roman Catholic church - who were powerful and influential; but Franco himself, and his party, were secular (mostly nationalists - and nationalism was the earliest form of explicitly secular politics, dating back to the early-mid 19th century).

When he won the civil war and formed a government, Franco governed with the cooperation and help of the RCC, in a quid pro quo relationship where the church supported the Falange party and in turn received financial support and other privileges.

Later, in the post-39-45 war period; Opus Dei economists saved Spain from economic collapse, including years of wartime famine in which tens of thousands died of starvation.

So the relationship was close. But Franco's state was not a theocracy - it was a nationalistic military dictatorship.

Nor was Franco an 'anointed' monarch, nor were the state's priorities 'other worldly' - those of salvation, devoutness, piety etc. (As were the priorities of Byzantium, Holy Russia or Charlemagne.)

Franco's state had the usual priorities of a secular state; and the RCC acted mainly as a very powerful special interest group; perhaps analogous (not identical) to the role of Trades Unions in Britain through the 1940s-70s; or General Motors (etc) in the USA of the same era.

The RCC benefitted materially from the Franco regime, but was compromised spiritually; and when Spain introduced democracy the RCC, and Christianity, the RCC was massively rejected and has virtually collapsed (as has the fertility rate).

By contrast, the churches in communist countries, which were not allowed to compromise themselves (even had they wanted to) because communism is primarily anti-Christian, survived their dictatorships with reputations enhanced and religious resurgence often followed immediately on the introduction of democracy (Russia, Romania, Poland).

JP said...

New Leftism is not new (its dominance dates from the middle 1960s), nor is its threat urgent and immediate - not least because New Leftism is The Establishment.

If you were a Jew or a Communist in 1930s Germany, you would know that the threat from Nazism was urgent and immediate. If you were a citizen of the 1930s USSR, you would know that the threat from Stalinism was urgent and immediate. You would not dismiss the threat as "not urgent and immediate" because the ideology "is The Establishment"; indeed, in these cases, as with New Leftism today, the threat was real and immediate because it was The Establishment. For those living under New Leftism today - as for those living in the 1930s Germany and the USSR - your job, your family, and your life exist at the whim of The Establishment. No institution stands between you and the ideologically directed power of the state. You can be destroyed at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all.

(unlike Fascism and National Socialism) reaction against the New Left is not powerful, nor is it a majority, nor is it highly-motivated.

Internal reaction against Hitler's rule, and against Stalin's rule, was not powerful or a majority. It was practically insignificant, consisting only of a few highly motivated individuals. The majority of the people, faced with the overwhelming power of the state, hunkered down and hoped not to be noticed. It is much the same today in the West. There is no powerful, mass reaction to New Leftism because New Leftism controls the state, and the optimum strategy is to hunker down and hope not to be noticed. Only a few, highly motivated individuals are the exception.

Nazi Germany and the USSR were destroyed from without. The German case was obvious; Allied armies conquered the country and executed The Establishment. The Soviet case, perhaps less so, not least because apologists for Communism continue to insist that the West (especially the despised Reagan administration) had nothing to do with it. Nonetheless, the USSR collapsed due to external political, economic, and military pressure. It is certainly obvious that the existence of the "Free World" was a powerful source of encouragement to those living in the Eastern Bloc.

There is nothing "outside" New Leftism today. No foreign armies will conquer it. There is no way to go "over the Wall" to freedom. No anti-New Left regime is broadcasting propaganda, encouraging resistance, or serving as a counter-example that cannot be ignored. We may hope that Russia may (ironically) serve this purpose at some point in the future. The only other source of opposition to New Leftism is the barbarism that is encroaching on Europe.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - I don't understand the line you are taking. Surely the differences between the nature of threat of imminent Communist revolution and insidious New Leftism are obvious enough?

And I think you are simply being perverse to equate the fall of National Socialism - unconditional surrender and occupation after six years of international war - with the fall of the USSR. The difference is qualitative, not just a matter of one being more obvious than the other.

JP said...

The line I am taking is that one does not see "powerful, majority, highly-motivated" internal resistance to totalitarianism. No such resistance existed in Nazi Germany; no such resistance existed in the USSR; no such resistance existed in Mao's PRC. Thus we should not expect to see such resistance to New Leftism. However, the lack of such resistance by no means indicates that such regimes are not clearly understood by their subjects to represent a large and immediate threat to them. The way most people respond to an overwhelming, immediate threat is to submit and hope they are not destroyed by the threat.

I think you are simply being perverse to equate the fall of National Socialism - unconditional surrender and occupation after six years of international war - with the fall of the USSR. The difference is qualitative, not just a matter of one being more obvious than the other.

The point is that both were destroyed by outside forces. No such outside force exists to destroy, or even seriously to challenge or pressure, New Leftism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - There are outside forces, and formidable inside forces too. As I explained in Thought Prison there is no reason for outside force to be powerful when the New Left will not enforce laws or defend themselves against them. eg. . The ruling elite are, in essence traitors almost to the last person - as well as infected with suicidal self-hatred (they are not defending their own medium-term future, let alone their children's future (although not many of them have have children). While they are not whole-heartedly and actively-committed to the destruction of Western civilization - what they are, is enough.

HofJude said...

The most persuasive commentators - I think of the German historian Ernst Nolte, who actually thought Hitler was worse than Stalin, but was so driven to distraction by German PC types that he hinted he felt the opposite, and was pilloried - explains Fascism and Communism as rival anti-bourgeois, anti-liberal (in the English sense), anti-religious movements which each affected to speak for the working classes, and so, of course, they regarded one another as their most bitter and immediate enemies. Hitler, he felt, should be compared to Lenin, not Stalin, who executed in petto every ghastly thing that Stalin later did, and was the originator whose career of murder was cut short by an early death. And of course, the Communists in Germany ensured Hitler would be elected in 1933; and the conquest of Europe and the Holocaust could not have been undertaken by Hitler alone without his ally Stalin - who in turn would have been conquered by Hitler without the heroic supply effort of Britain and America that made it possible for the Red Army, as journalists now tell it, to "defeat Hitler single-handedly."
The differences between them are trivial, but at the present moment the threat from Left-crypto-communists is far greater than from right neo-Nazis, who are hunted down in order to draw attention from the far greater threat. It's hard to say which movement was a great threat to religion - Hitler's anti-Christianity was deeply rooted in his belief that it had been corrupted by Jewish humanism; whereas Stalin dealt more pragmatically with Russian Orthodoxy, and bent it to his needs - pluralism!

Bruce Charlton said...

@HoJ - Good comment. You may know, but I cannot assume that you do know (because the data are not easily accessible, and I only came across it via my interest in Russian Orthodoxy) the huge scale and severity of anti-Christian persecution under Lenin and Stalin for the first twenty-something years of the Soviet Union. In both numbers and effect it was very similar to the anti-Jewish Holocaust - although of course the methods and focus were different.

I think the scale of the anti-Christian genocide is underestimated because people do not realize the astonishing numbers and concentration of cathedrals, churches, monasteries, bishops, priests, monks and nuns that existed in Russia pre-1917 - far, far more than we have ever experienced in the West - even in Medieval Europe, for instance.

HofJude said...

Yes, I did know, and it was terrible - (It's Sam, Bruce!) but it had Russian precedent in the persecution of Old Believers in the 3 centuries before 1917 (and like 1917, following what Oakeshott would call a "rationalist" reform of Russian Orthodoxy) and a modern European precedent in the persecution not only of priests, monks and nuns but of Catholic lay believers by the French Revolution. I should have made a distinction between the pre-war and postwar Stalin - the latter left a saving remnant of pliant Orhodox churchmen whom he turned into collaborationists against the emigre Russian Church Outside Russia (while persecuting Roman Catholic and Uniates behind the Iron Curtain with unabated fury.) And this section of the clergy has become a tool of Putin, attesting to his piety and Godly mission (which attestation is all that I believe he has of piety) while he renews the war of submission against Orthodox Eastern Europe and the war of destruction against indepenedent Slavic non-Orthodox entitities.
So much of this I learned from you and Fr Seraphim Rose during your Orthodox phase, Bruce!

Bruce Charlton said...

@HoJ - Yes, sorry Sam, forgot your pseudonym. The persecution of the Old Believers was truly horrible.

As I have stated elsewhere, I take Putin and the modern Russian Orthodox church pretty much at face value as evidence of a genuine large scale Christian revival in Russia - this from British convert Orthodox Priests who had been in Russia and were in a position to know. I think the explicitness of Putin's deference to the Church, and that no Western leaders have made this kind of association, means that we ought not to be too keen to read subtexts into Russia's Christian revival. Furthermore, if Putin really was cynically pretending to be Christian and pretending to support the Church, as a way of manipulating the population; then this would be a very foolish thing to do - given the depth and strength of Christianity in Russia - the situation could rapidly get out of hand and Christianity become real and strong. I don't think Putin is so foolish - indeed, qua leader, Putin is one of very few genuine natural leader-type among major heads of states (most of the others being merely over-promoted middle managers or affirmative action hires and they are habitually foolish, when they are not being purposively evil).

But others of my Orthodox penfriends are in the 'remnant' Russian Orthodox Church Overseas that are very hostile to Putin and modern Russian state Orthodoxy - and I can see their perspective as well, and sympathize with their principled stance.

Bruce Charlton said...

COMMENT FROM HoJ - " agree with you about the nature of Russian Christians, and about the natural leadership qualities of Putin, and we shall see about Putin's relationship with the faithful. The messianic Jewish Chabd cult is very close to Putin. As for disappointing the faithful (...) A really great leader can't disappoint his followers even if he tries.