Consider the debate over the minimum wage. The controversy centered on what to do about what Sidney Webb called the “unemployable class.” It was Webb’s belief, shared by many of the progressive economists affiliated with the American Economic Association, that establishing a minimum wage above the value of the unemployables’ worth would lock them out of the market, accelerating their elimination as a class. This is essentially the modern conservative argument against the minimum wage, and even today, when conservatives make it, they are accused of — you guessed it — social Darwinism. But for the progressives at the dawn of the fascist moment, this was an argument for it. “Of all ways of dealing with these unfortunate parasites,” Webb observed, “the most ruinous to the community is to allow them unrestrainedly to compete as wage earners.”
Ross put it succinctly: “The Coolie cannot outdo the American, but he can underlive him.” Since the inferior races were content to live closer to a filthy state of nature than the Nordic man, the savages did not require a civilized wage. Hence if you raised minimum wages to a civilized level, employers wouldn’t hire such miscreants in preference to “fitter” specimens, making them less likely to reproduce and, if necessary, easier targets for forced sterilization. Royal Meeker, a Princeton economist and adviser to Woodrow Wilson, explained: “Better that the state should support the inefficient wholly and prevent the multiplication of the breed than subsidize incompetence and unthrift, enabling them to bring forth more of their kind.” Arguments like these turn modern liberal rationales for welfare state wage supports completely on their head.
Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change, 2008.
December 7, 2013
November 30, 2013
September 8, 2013
Learned controversies, reverberating for years on end in American magazines, have not even been able to determine whether or not Fascism is a form of capitalism. But still, when we apply the term ‘Fascism’ to Germany or Japan or Mussolini’s Italy, we know broadly what we mean. It is in internal politics that this word has lost the last vestige of meaning. For if you examine the press you will find that there is almost no set of people — certainly no political party or organized body of any kind — which has not been denounced as Fascist during the past ten years. Here I am not speaking of the verbal use of the term ‘Fascist’. I am speaking of what I have seen in print. I have seen the words ‘Fascist in sympathy’, or ‘of Fascist tendency’, or just plain ‘Fascist’, applied in all seriousness to the following bodies of people:
Conservatives: All Conservatives, appeasers or anti-appeasers, are held to be subjectively pro-Fascist. British rule in India and the Colonies is held to be indistinguishable from Nazism. Organizations of what one might call a patriotic and traditional type are labelled crypto-Fascist or ‘Fascist-minded’. Examples are the Boy Scouts, the Metropolitan Police, M.I.5, the British Legion. Key phrase: ‘The public schools are breeding-grounds of Fascism’.
Socialists: Defenders of old-style capitalism (example, Sir Ernest Benn) maintain that Socialism and Fascism are the same thing. Some Catholic journalists maintain that Socialists have been the principal collaborators in the Nazi-occupied countries. The same accusation is made from a different angle by the Communist party during its ultra-Left phases. In the period 1930-35 the Daily Worker habitually referred to the Labour Party as the Labour Fascists. This is echoed by other Left extremists such as Anarchists. Some Indian Nationalists consider the British trade unions to be Fascist organizations.
Communists: A considerable school of thought (examples, Rauschning, Peter Drucker, James Burnham, F. A. Voigt) refuses to recognize a difference between the Nazi and Soviet régimes, and holds that all Fascists and Communists are aiming at approximately the same thing and are even to some extent the same people. Leaders in The Times (pre-war) have referred to the U.S.S.R. as a ‘Fascist country’. Again from a different angle this is echoed by Anarchists and Trotskyists.
Trotskyists: Communists charge the Trotskyists proper, i.e. Trotsky’s own organization, with being a crypto-Fascist organization in Nazi pay. This was widely believed on the Left during the Popular Front period. In their ultra-Right phases the Communists tend to apply the same accusation to all factions to the Left of themselves, e.g. Common Wealth or the I.L.P.
Catholics: Outside its own ranks, the Catholic Church is almost universally regarded as pro-Fascist, both objectively and subjectively;
War resisters: Pacifists and others who are anti-war are frequently accused not only of making things easier for the Axis, but of becoming tinged with pro-Fascist feeling.
Supporters of the war: War resisters usually base their case on the claim that British imperialism is worse than Nazism, and tend to apply the term ‘Fascist’ to anyone who wishes for a military victory. The supporters of the People’s Convention came near to claiming that willingness to resist a Nazi invasion was a sign of Fascist sympathies. The Home Guard was denounced as a Fascist organization as soon as it appeared. In addition, the whole of the Left tends to equate militarism with Fascism. Politically conscious private soldiers nearly always refer to their officers as ‘Fascist-minded’ or ‘natural Fascists’. Battle-schools, spit and polish, saluting of officers are all considered conducive to Fascism. Before the war, joining the Territorials was regarded as a sign of Fascist tendencies. Conscription and a professional army are both denounced as Fascist phenomena.
Nationalists: Nationalism is universally regarded as inherently Fascist, but this is held only to apply to such national movements as the speaker happens to disapprove of. Arab nationalism, Polish nationalism, Finnish nationalism, the Indian Congress Party, the Muslim League, Zionism, and the I.R.A. are all described as Fascist but not by the same people.
George Orwell, “What is Fascism?”, Tribune, 1944
June 29, 2013
What is the use of pointing out that a World State is desirable? What matters is that not one of the five great military powers would think of submitting to such a thing. All sensible men for decades past have been substantially in agreement with what Mr. Wells says; but the sensible men have no power and, in too many cases, no disposition to sacrifice themselves. Hitler is a criminal lunatic, and Hitler has an army of millions of men, aeroplanes in thousands, tanks in tens of thousands. For his sake a great nation has been willing to overwork itself for six years and then to fight for two years more, whereas for the common-sense, essentially hedonistic world-view which Mr. Wells puts forward, hardly a human creature is willing to shed a pint of blood. Before you can even talk of world reconstruction, or even of peace, you have got to eliminate Hitler, which means bringing into being a dynamic not necessarily the same as that of the Nazis, but probably quite as unacceptable to ‘enlightened’ and hedonistic people. What has kept England on its feet during the past year? In part, no doubt, some vague idea about a better future, but chiefly the atavistic emotion of patriotism, the ingrained feeling of the English-speaking peoples that they are superior to foreigners. For the last twenty years the main object of English left-wing intellectuals has been to break this feeling down, and if they had succeeded, we might be watching the S.S. men patrolling the London streets at this moment. Similarly, why are the Russians fighting like tigers against the German invasion? In part, perhaps, for some half-remembered ideal of Utopian Socialism, but chiefly in defence of Holy Russia (the ‘sacred soil of the Fatherland’, etc. etc.), which Stalin has revived in an only slightly altered from. The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions — racial pride, leader-worship, religious belief, love of war — which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronisms, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action.
[. . .]
Mr. Wells, like Dickens, belongs to the non-military middle class. The thunder of guns, the jingle of spurs, the catch in the throat when the old flag goes by, leave him manifestly cold. He has an invincible hatred of the fighting, hunting, swashbuckling side of life, symbolised in all his early books by a violent propaganda against horses. The principal villain of his Outline of History is the military adventurer, Napoleon. If one looks through nearly any book that he has written in the last forty years one finds the same idea constantly recurring: the supposed antithesis between the man of science who is working towards a planned World State and the reactionary who is trying to restore a disorderly past. In novels, Utopias, essays, films, pamphlets, the antithesis crops up, always more or less the same. On the one side science, order, progress, internationalism, aeroplanes, steel, concrete, hygiene: on the other side war, nationalism, religion, monarchy, peasants, Greek professors, poets, horses. History as he sees it is a series of victories won by the scientific man over the romantic man. Now, he is probably right in assuming that a ‘reasonable,’ planned form of society, with scientists rather than witch-doctors in control, will prevail sooner or later, but that is a different matter from assuming that it is just round the corner. There survives somewhere or other an interesting controversy which took place between Wells and Churchill at the time of the Russian Revolution. Wells accuses Churchill of not really believing his own propaganda about the Bolsheviks being monsters dripping with blood, etc., but of merely fearing that they were going to introduce an era of common sense and scientific control, in which flag-wavers like Churchill himself would have no place. Churchill’s estimate of the Bolsheviks, however, was nearer the mark than Wells’s. The early Bolsheviks may have been angels or demons, according as one chooses to regard them, but at any rate they were not sensible men. They were not introducing a Wellsian Utopia but a Rule of the Saints, which like the English Rule of the Saints, was a military despotism enlivened by witchcraft trials. The same misconception reappears in an inverted form in Wells’s attitude to the Nazis. Hitler is all the war-lords and witch-doctors in history rolled into one. Therefore, argues Wells, he is an absurdity, a ghost from the past, a creature doomed to disappear almost immediately. But unfortunately the equation of science with common sense does not really hold good. The aeroplane, which was looked forward to as a civilising influence but in practice has hardly been used except for dropping bombs, is the symbol of that fact. Modern Germany is far more scientific than England, and far more barbarous. Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany. The order, the planning, the State encouragement of science, the steel, the concrete, the aeroplanes, are all there, but all in the service of ideas appropriate to the Stone Age. Science is fighting on the side of superstition. But obviously it is impossible for Wells to accept this. It would contradict the world-view on which his own works are based. The war-lords and the witch-doctors must fail, the common-sense World State, as seen by a nineteenth-century Liberal whose heart does not leap at the sound of bugles, must triumph. Treachery and defeatism apart, Hitler cannot be a danger. That he should finally win would be an impossible reversal of history, like a Jacobite restoration.
George Orwell, “Wells, Hitler and the World State”, Horizon, 1941.
May 3, 2013
In the sp!ked review of books, Mick Hume looks at the book that got Orwell tossed out of the inner circle of leftist writers, not because it was bad, but because it was honest (and made Stalinism look too similar to Hitlerism):
George Orwell could have been killed twice in the Spanish Civil War. Once when he was shot in the throat by General Franco’s fascist forces; then when he was hunted by official Communist agents who, with the backing of Stalin’s Soviet Union, stabbed the revolution in the back and imprisoned, tortured and killed leading leftists and anarchists who were ostensibly on the same Republican side. Orwell learned the hardest way that the war against fascism in Spain was also a civil war against Stalinism.
Homage to Catalonia, Orwell’s famous account of his time in Spain from his arrival in Barcelona on Boxing Day 1936 to his escape in June 1937, has just reached its seventy-fifth anniversary. Like its author, the book almost didn’t make it either. The radical journalist and author’s usual publisher, Victor Gollancz, turned the book down without even seeing the manuscript, insisting that he would not publish anything ‘which could harm the fight against fascism’ by criticising the Communists.
Most of those from Britain and Europe who went to write about and fight in the Spanish Civil War took a similarly one-eyed view and followed the pro-Soviet line. What was unique about Orwell was that he hated fascism, but also stood apart from the official Stalinist-dominated left of his time. The radical maverick wrote about what he saw in Spain, rather than simply what he was told was true — although he also warned his readers to ‘beware my partisanship’ when seeking an objective account. He questioned the ‘official’ Stalinist-dictated account of events in Barcelona and elsewhere that was accepted around the world. This heresy made him the subject of a hate campaign when Homage to Catalonia was finally published in 1938, a campaign which continued well into the 1980s.
[. . .]
Orwell’s brilliant firsthand account of the conflict stands apart from and well above the I-was-there school of emotive, narcissistic war reporting we witness too often today. He also attempts to put his personal experiences into some proper political context, in two chapters now removed (at his request) from the narrative text and published at the end as appendices.
Here, Orwell closely interrogates and challenges the ‘official version’ of events in Barcelona, put about by the Communists and their many international apologists to justify their brutal repression of the non-Stalinist left. As he unravels the twisting of truth by propaganda organs such as the CPGB’s Daily Worker, you can almost see the ideas he was soon to express in his novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is also cutting about the way that the Communists simply branded their opponents as ‘Social-fascists’ and ‘Trotsky-Fascists’ to avoid engaging in important political arguments. Many who express their admiration for Orwell today have yet to absorb his point that screaming ‘Fascists!’ in the faces of those you disagree with is not the same thing as making your case. ‘Libel’, as he concludes, ‘settles nothing’.
February 16, 2013
May 28, 2012
In sp!ked, Patrick Hayes looks at the predictions of populist disaster from the EU elite:
There is little the EU elites fear more than so-called ‘populism’. According to one commentator, ‘in conferences and dinner parties from Brussels to Bratislava, the topic of populism dominates conversations’. As Corrado Passero, Italy’s minister of economic development, declared earlier this year, ‘our worst enemy right now is populism’. Clegg echoed such concerns in his interview with Der Spiegel. ‘Frankly’, he said, ‘questions about the British debate on EU membership will just be a small sideshow, compared to the rise of political populism’.
[. . .]
The casual equation of ‘populism’ with xenophobia, racism and even Nazism reveals much about the EU elites, and not a great deal about the actual views of the public. After all, that word — ‘populism’ — is commonly defined along the lines of the Collins dictionary as, ‘a political strategy based on a calculated appeal to the interests or prejudices of ordinary people’. Which raises a question: do Clegg and the many other politicians and commentators fretting about populism see xenophobia, racism and nationalism as being the default political prejudices of the public? From the public discussion, it would seem that if the ignorant, feral masses are not kept in their place by a liberal elite which understands their genuine interests, then concentration camps are just around the corner. As a Guardian editorial put it: ‘When Brussels or Berlin loses sight of [democracy], voters reach for simpler and uglier solutions.’
The widespread concerns being voiced by the political classes about the dangers of populism speak to an elitist disdain for mass politics. Trying to represent the uncontrollable electorates is seen to be cynically pandering to their proto-fascistic whims. The fear of the rise of populism, then, comes not from a genuine concern that a Fourth Reich is imminent, but rather from a terror of the public. The only solution is seen to be greater consolidation and centralisation of power in Europe-wide institutions in Brussels. These can then insulate the enlightened elite from the barbarian hordes roaming across Europe, so they can continue in their attempt to keep civilisation alive. The worst xenophobes are in fact among the European political elite, petrified of the ignorant, bigoted Others that make up the rest of the European populace.
January 10, 2012
December 19, 2011
As the most common comparison of the late Christopher Hitchens is to George Orwell, it seems inevitable that Brendan O’Neill would find fault with that:
Since Christopher Hitchens’s untimely death, his impressively less talented imitators in the Liberal press and blogosphere have been singing the praises of his Orwell-style arguments against tyranny. At a time when some sections of the Left are happy to snuggle up with weird-beards and dictators, we need more Orwell-inspired, Hitchensesque intolerance of authoritarianism, they tell us. It would indeed be a good thing to see some proper Left-wing liberty-mongering. However, there are two important differences between Orwell’s anti-authoritarianism and that practised by his modern-day acolytes in the Hitchens and post-Hitchens sets.
The first is in the use and abuse of the f-word. Today’s Orwell wannabes use the word “fascism” with gay abandon. For them, everything horrible is fascism. Four idiots from the north of England carrying out a terror tantrum in London? Fascism. Saddam Hussein? Fascist. Gaddafi? Fascist. Three men and a dog in a bedsit in Karachi fantasising about destroying the world? Fascists. Hitchens himself suffered serious bouts of this ahistorical Tourette’s syndrome (branding everything from Thatcherite policies to Islamic militants as fascistic), though not on the same level as his fanboys, who, lacking Hitchens’s linguistic flair, just come across like whiny teenagers railing against their parents when they bandy about the f-word.
March 16, 2011
March 2, 2010
I originally just added this as a comment on this post, but it appears to have a bit more life in it.
Gil LeBreton made this pithy observation in his column about the Vancouver Olympics on the 28th of February:
After a spirited torch relay ignited pride in every corner of the country, the Olympic Games began and quickly galvanized the nation.
Flags were everywhere. The country’s national symbol hung from windows and was worn on nearly everyone’s clothing.
Fervent crowds cheered every victory by the host nation.
But enough about the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
I thought it was amusing, so I just added it to the comment thread, but I guess I wasn’t the only one to notice Mr. LeBreton’s insight:
So true. The parallels between Berlin 1936 and Vancouver 2010 are clear, if you just pay attention.
Not everyone has the perspicacity to discern the neo-Nazi threat north of America’s borders. Fortunately, Mr. LeBreton does. Because he’s more observant than most. He makes the cognitive connections others miss:
“For 17 days we were barraged with Canadian flags, rode buses and trains with people in sweatshirts and jerseys adorned with Canadian maple leafs, and were serenaded at venues by Canadian spectators, lustily cheering for Canadian athletes.”
My God. It’s spine-chilling.
The rest of the world was lulled into complacency and Olympic fever. But the Star-Telegram’s crack reporter wasn’t fooled by the crafty Canucks. Their display of patriotism reminded him of something. Something terrifying.
“I didn’t attend the ’36 Olympics, but I’ve seen the pictures. Swastikas everywhere.”
You see? Maple leaf flag equals swastika. Damn you, Canada.
He’s so right. Connect the dots! Look it up, sheeple!
January 6, 2010
Rondi Adamson posted an interesting Martin Amis quote:
I just transcribed and edited a speech Martin Amis gave in Toronto recently. The whole thing was wonderful, but this — about Islamic fascism — was the best line:
I have to take my hat off to the left in that they have found something to defend in a movement that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, totalitarian, inquisitorial, imperialist and genocidal. Perhaps it’s their view on usury that is attractive to the left — low interest rates or non-existent interest rates.