Quotulatiousness

August 18, 2017

“Rebel Commander Ezra Levant” calls retreat

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In the National Post, Chris Selley recounts the sudden changes in staffing and editorial policy at Ezra Levant’s mini media empire:

If Rebel Media’s uppance was coming, if some event was finally going to wipe the smirk off its face, it could hardly have been more hideously appropriate than what happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

Live on the internet, Rebel personality Faith Goldy was blathering on about how intolerant the left is, and about left-right double standards in the media and in policing, and about all the other things that gladden the hearts of the Rebel’s grievance-based nihilist-conservative fans.

And then, right there in the frame, someone rammed his car into the crowd of counter-protesters she was mocking, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many others. That guy, allegedly, was 20-year-old James Alex Fields, whose high school teachers said he was obsessed with Adolf Hitler in all the wrong ways.

Fun time was over. This was, apparently, a real live neo-Nazi committing, certainly, real live murder.

At this point, Rebel Commander Ezra Levant could have steered his vessel in one of several directions. “Nothing to do with us,” he could have said, plausibly enough.

[…]

Levant could have gone there; instead, he blinked.

“When I first heard of the alt-right a year ago, I thought it simply meant the insurgent right, the politically incorrect right … the right that backed Trump and his ‘Make America Great Again’ style over Jeb Bush and the swamp,” he wrote in a purported “staff memo.”

“But the alt-right has changed into something new, especially since Trump’s election,” Levant lamented. “Now the leading figure … is Richard Spencer, and other white nationalists.” There were actual Nazi flags in Charlottesville, Levant noted, waxing appalled (while allowing they might have been carried by “agents provocateurs”). That’s “racist,” he averred, rather than “conservative,” and he would have none of it.

It is, in a word, pathetic. Spencer coined the term “alt-right,” for heaven’s sake. He has never, ever been shy about his white nationalist views. A manifesto he released before the march in Charlottesville talks of “a shared civilization” that “sprang” from the “Aryan” race, and dismisses the idea of “Judeo-Christian values” as “a distortion of the historical and metaphysical reality of both Jews and Europeans.”

I haven’t closely followed the adventures of Ezra and his Rebel Media organization, so the sudden rash of departures (Brian Lilley and Barbara Kay, in particular) caught me somewhat by surprise. I don’t use Rebel Media as a source, but I have linked to non-Rebel Media articles by Lilley and Kay, and probably other contributors outside that affiliation. I had noted the organization’s dedication to “afflicting the comfortable” — almost always those on the political left — without much corresponding “comforting the afflicted” to balance it out. Explicitly abandoning the Richard Spencer wing of the alt-right is probably a good move, but it may have come too late to prevent the alt-right taint from permanently damaging their brand.

July 5, 2017

QotD: Mussolini’s crimes

On the face of it, Mussolini’s collapse was a story straight out of Victorian melodrama. At long last Righteousness had triumphed, the wicked man was discomfited, the mills of God were doing their stuff. On second thoughts, however, this moral tale is less simple and less edifying. To begin with, what crime, if any, has Mussolini committed? In power politics there are no crimes, because there are no laws. And, on the other hand, is there any feature in Mussolini’s internal régime that could be seriously objected to by any body of people likely to sit in judgement on him? For, as the author of this book (The Trial of Mussolini by ‘Cassius’) abundantly shows — and this in fact is the main purpose of the book — there is not one scoundrelism committed by Mussolini between 1922 and 1940 that has not been lauded to the skies by the very people who are now promising to bring him to trial.

For the purposes of his allegory ‘Cassius’ imagines Mussolini indicted before a British court, with the Attorney General as prosecutor. The list of charges is an impressive one, and the main facts — from the murder of Matteotti to the invasion of Greece, and from the destruction of the peasants’ co-operatives to the bombing of Addis Ababa — are not denied. Concentration camps, broken treaties, rubber truncheons, castor oil — everything is admitted. The only troublesome question is: How can something that was praiseworthy at the time when you did it — ten years ago, say — suddenly become reprehensible now? Mussolini is allowed to call witnesses, both living and dead, and to show by their own printed words that from the very first the responsible leaders of British opinion have encouraged him in everything that he did. For instance, here is Lord Rothermere in 1928:

    In his own country (Mussolini) was the antidote to a deadly poison. For the rest of Europe he has been a tonic which has done to all incalculable good. I can claim with sincere satisfaction to have been the first man in a position of public influence to put Mussolini’s splendid achievement in its right light. … He is the greatest figure of our age.

Here is Winston Churchill in 1927:

    If I had been an Italian I am sure I should have been whole-heartedly with you in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism… (Italy) has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism.

Here is Lord Mottistone in 1935:

    I did not oppose (the Italian action in Abyssinia). I wanted to dispel the ridiculous illusion that it was a nice thing to sympathize with the underdog. … I said it was a wicked thing to send arms or connive to send arms to these cruel, brutal Abyssinians and still to deny them to others who are playing an honourable part.

Here is Mr Duff Cooper in 1938:

    Concerning the Abyssinian episode, the less said now the better. When old friends are reconciled after a quarrel, it is always dangerous for them to discuss its original causes.

Here is Mr Ward Price, of the Daily Mail, in 1932:

    Ignorant and prejudiced people talk of Italian affairs as if that nation were subject to some tyranny which it would willingly throw off. With that rather morbid commiseration for fanatical minorities which is the rule with certain imperfectly informed sections of British public opinion, this country long shut its eyes to the magnificent work that the Fascist régime was doing. I have several times heard Mussolini himself express his gratitude to the Daily Mail as having been the first British newspaper to put his aims fairly before the world.

And so on, and so on. Hoare, Simon, Halifax, Neville Chamberlain, Austen Chamberlain, Hore-Belisha, Amery, Lord Lloyd and various others enter the witness-box, all of them ready to testify that, whether Mussolini was crushing the Italian trade unions, non-intervening in Spain, pouring mustard gas on the Abyssinians, throwing Arabs out of aeroplanes or building up a navy for use against Britain, the British Government and its official spokesmen supported him through thick and thin. We are shown Lady (Austen) Chamberlain shaking hands with Mussolini in 1924, Chamberlain and Halifax banqueting with him and toasting ‘the Emperor of Abyssinia’ in 1939, Lord Lloyd buttering up the Fascist régime in an official pamphlet as late as 1940. The net impression left by this part of the trial is quite simply that Mussolini is not guilty. Only later, when an Abyssinian, a Spaniard and an Italian anti-Fascist give their evidence, does the real case against him begin to appear.

Now, the book is a fanciful one, but this conclusion is realistic. It is immensely unlikely that the British Tories will ever put Mussolini on trial. There is nothing that they could accuse him of except his declaration of war in 1940. If the ‘trial of war criminals’ that some people enjoy dreaming about ever happens, it can only happen after revolutions in the Allied countries. But the whole notion of finding scapegoats, of blaming individuals, or parties, or nations for the calamities that have happened to us, raises other trains of thought, some of them rather disconcerting.

George Orwell, “Who are the War Criminals?”, Tribune, 1943-10-22.

June 29, 2017

Hidden fears about Germany’s national character

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Some interesting thoughts about Germany and the current German chancellor, Angela Merkel. First from Theodore Dalrymple a few weeks back in City Journal:

When the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, decided to take in 1 million migrants and refugees (the precise numbers have yet to be established and probably never will be), it is difficult to believe that thoughts of Hitler and Nazism were far from her mind. Hitler believed that the German national interest was the touchstone of morality; anything that served it, in his opinion, was justified. So catastrophic was this monstrous ethic that for a long time, it seemed virtually impossible for anyone other than a neo-Nazi to speak of the German national interest. When Germany won the soccer World Cup in 2014, the nation exploded in joy and celebration. Newspapers suggested that Germany had finally overcome its postwar feelings of guilt, so that it was possible for Germans to express an unapologetic pride in their country. This, however, seems false: everyone understands that, in this context, sport is unimportant, a distraction. A rally to celebrate the German trade surplus as a vindication of the German people compared with its neighbors would be another thing entirely — and it is inconceivable that it would take place.

One can imagine no policy more distant from Hitler’s than Merkel’s acceptance of the million migrants. Her gesture says: we Germans are as far from Hitler as it is possible to be. We need not think whether the policy is wise or just; it is sufficient that it should distinguish us from what we were before.

It is not only in Germany, however, that the national interest may not be mentioned for fear of appealing to Nazi-like sentiments; indeed, any such appeal routinely winds up labeled as “far right,” a metonym for Hitler or Nazism. The identification is a means of cutting off whole areas of inquiry, nowhere more so than in the question of immigration.

One of the justifications for the European Union that I have often heard is that it brings peace to the continent. This, usually unbeknown to its proponents, is an argument ad Hitlerum, for the likeliest source of war on the continent is Germany: Portugal would never attack Denmark, for example, or Sweden Malta. No: what is being said here is that the Germans, being Germans, are inherently militaristic and racist nationalists, and the logical consequence or final analysis of these traits is Nazism; and that unless Germany is bound tightly into a supranational organism, it will return to violent conquest. I personally do not believe this.

And this, from Nikolaas de Jong in American Thinker earlier this week:

… it is important to point out that the popular image both of Angela Merkel and of modern Germany is deeply flawed. Because far from representing a negation — or a misguided attempt at negation — of past German policies and attitudes, the modern German mentality is in many ways a mutation or an update of the same mentality that has guided Germany since the eighteenth century, and especially since the unification of the country in 1870.

Let us begin with the more obvious parallel: German support for further European integration. Despite all the German talk about subordinating narrow national interests to the European project, careful observers must have noticed the coincidence that the Germans always see themselves as the leaders of this disinterested project, and that the measures deemed to be necessary for further European cooperation always seem to be German-made.

Are the Germans really such idealistic supporters of the European project? It is more probable that in reality they see the European Union as an ideal instrument to control the rest of Europe. Indeed, in 1997 the British author John Laughland wrote a book about this subject, The Tainted Source: the Undemocratic Origins of the European Idea, which is still worth reading for anyone who wants understand what kind of organization the EU actually is. According to Laughland, the Germans are such big supporters of the European ideal because they know that all important decisions in a confederation of states can ultimately only be taken by or with the approval of the most important state — in this case, Germany.

Thus, on closer scrutiny, there is a strong continuity between the foreign policy of Wilhelm II, Hitler, and Merkel. And this continuity can easily be explained by looking at Germany’s position within Europe. On the one hand, Germany is the strongest and largest country in Europe, but on the other hand it is not strong or large enough to dominate the rest of Europe automatically. In consequence, ever since German unification in 1870, the country has been presented with the choice either to subordinate its wishes to those of the rest of Europe — which has always appeared rather humiliating — or to attempt the conquest of Europe, in order to ensure that Germany’s wishes would always prevail. Unsurprisingly, the Germans have consistently chosen the second course, and both World Wars were attempts to permanently bring the rest of Europe under German control.

Realpolitik or reductio ad Hitlerum?

June 16, 2017

“Who knew, either, that there was so much hate within the left?”

Filed under: Britain, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Julie Burchill on her relatively recent discovery of the depths of hate members of the left have for the rest of us:

Growing up in a communist household, I thought ‘Tory’ was a curse word till I was a teenager. My father was the kindest and, yes, most noble of men — maybe the fact that his socialism was a product of being genuinely working class, rather than a pose struck to impress/shame others, had something to do with it — but I had no idea until Brexit of the bigotry that lurks within the Brotherhood of Man. We are often reminded of the ‘hatred’ the referendum and recent election ‘stirred up’ in our society — warned off democracy by those who would control us for our own good, as if we were wayward children eyeing the biscuit tin. What these sorrowing sad-sacks fail to add is the hate comes largely from their side. Too much democracy has merely flushed the poison out. Brexit did indeed unleash hate — but the hate it unleashed was not that of the British for foreigners but rather of the liberals for the masses.

It sounds strange coming from someone who has made a lovely life out of peddling vitriol for pleasure and profit, but I’ve been amazed — and not a little amused, comparing their swivel-eyed social media savagery with their mollycoddling manifestos — at the level of nastiness that the Great and the Good (or, as I think of them, our Betters and Wetters) have displayed over the past year. During my entire career of evil, from 17-year-old enfant terrible to 57-year-old grande dame, I only recall wishing death on one person — well, two: the Eurythmics. But my dad, when he shouted ‘Tory!’ at the TV, was content to leave it at that.

What my dad didn’t do, unlike Alastair Campbell, was compare those who thought differently from him to jihadists. He wouldn’t, unlike Julian Barnes, have wanted those who thought differently from him ‘punished’ by an unelected club of bureaucrats. Unlike Ian McEwan, he didn’t look forward to a time when those who’d voted differently from him were ‘freshly in their graves’. He wouldn’t, as Paddy Ashdown did, have referred to those who disagreed with him as ‘Brownshirts’.

My dad left school at 14. He had no privilege. Yet he knew more and was capable of far more decent behaviour than these privileged, highly educated men. He was from the working class, so he knew better than to dismiss the working class for thinking that they deserve something better than sleeping six to a room and working weekends for the minimum wage. If he’d seen the tax-avoiding multi-millionaire Bob Geldof and his boatful of Remainer mates mocking a flotilla of men worried about making a living under EU rules, he’d have known which one was the ship of fools.

June 15, 2017

Why is Rommel so complicated? – Erwin Rommel vs. Desert Fox

Filed under: Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 17 May 2017

This video takes a look at why Erwin Rommel often called the “Desert Fox” is so complicated due to the various interest groups and his complex situation in World War 2.

April 16, 2017

QotD: The fascination of Hitler and Nazi Germany

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

This morning I read Marina Fontaine’s review of Downfall (http://marinafontaine.blogspot.com/2017/03/netflix-review-downfall.html), yes, including mention of that scene, the one that’s been recaptioned several gazillion times, some with more humor than others. In the review, she asks why the fascination? What is it with the Nazis and Hitler?

I have a theory. It is purely mine, based on reading a metric crap-ton about all manner of things (and don’t ask me for cites because this stuff has stewed so long in the back of my head I no longer remember where I originally read whatever triggered any particular piece. You can get most of the raw facts off Wikipedia). It is also a very broad generalization. Coming years will determine whether or not it is correct in the big picture. I’m not optimistic (I hope I’ve got this horribly wrong. I fear I haven’t).

Okay. So.

The ongoing fascination with Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Simply put, it’s the most well-documented and acknowledged demonstration of the allure of evil and how easy it is for a more or less civilized people to descend into utter brutality. As such, it holds an unclean fascination not helped by uniforms that were designed to look good as well as be practical (or by the simple fact that evil, when done effectively, is sexy. Because it is invariably power, and untrammeled power at that. We’re human. Power attracts and corrupts us. The wiser among us acknowledge this so we can fight the effect).

The various Communist regimes can be dismissed as “not counting” because to the minds of those who do the dismissing, Russia, China, North Korea, and Eastern Europe “weren’t civilized”, and so Communism/Socialism would work just fine implemented by civilized people (they usually point to one of the Nordic nations when they do this). These same people are a big part of why the wrong lesson keeps being drawn from Nazi Germany.

The problem was not nationalism. It was not even the disgusting racial laws. Those laws could never have been passed, much less enforced, without the one big thing Socialism, Communism, and yes, Nazism have in common.

The supremacy of the state.

[…]

That bare listing of facts accounts for the rise of Hitler, but not the continuing notion that the Nazis were conservative (only if you define ‘conservative’ as ‘nationalist’). That one comes from two sources. One was Soviet propaganda aimed at making Communist and Nazi ideologies seem much more distinct than they actually were. The other was Allied propaganda aimed at much the same thing. It wouldn’t do, after all, to have people realize they were allied with a dictator every bit as vile as Hitler.

So in American and British media, the evil of the Nazis was played up, while the evil of the Communists was minimized where it couldn’t be silenced altogether. The Communist plants and fellow-travelers in both nations helped.

They were – and are – almost the same. Both demand an all-powerful state. The state determines who is deserving and provides for the deserving. The state dehumanizes the undeserving prior to eliminating them. The state determines the direction of industry (in the case of the Nazis, by requiring business owners to support the regime where the Communists took over the businesses). The state cares for you – but if you’re no use to the state, your care will be an unmarked grave in a prison camp/work camp/concentration camp/gulag. All hail the state.

Kate Paulk, “The Ease of Evil”, guest-posting at According to Hoyt, 2017-03-21.

March 17, 2017

Peronism, fascism, and socialism

Filed under: Americas, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

David Warren is in fine form:

Peronism came to Argentina and never left. Not only have the Partido Justicialista and its avatars dominated Argentine electoral politics, through their various iconic husband-and-wife acts over the last seventy years, but they have contaminated the thinking of the whole country, which adhered to their arbitrary and contradictory doctrines even during the sixteen years they were banned, and adheres to the present day when once again they are nominally out of power. Actually it is a century, now, since Peron’s “Radical” predecessors first won election (dating from Hipólito Yrigoyen, 1916). Moral, intellectual, and material squalour is their chief legacy to a country which was once among the world’s most prosperous and most free. The spiritual equivalent has now migrated to Rome.

This, at least, is the impression I have formed from afar. “Justicialism,” so far as one can read, embodies every sort of rhetorical populism, across the political spectrum, but with a heavy and perfectly consistent bias towards centralized power. It stands for “social justice” — an absolutely imaginary and therefore unattainable ideal. It is on the side of labour and of management, it is Catholic and anti-Catholic, racist and anti-racist, isolationist and aggressive, leftist and rightist and dogmatically nationalist with all the contradictions nationalism entails. Yet it is not unique.

Socialism is leftwing Fascism; Fascism is rightwing Socialism. Other than that, they are the same. They vie for the same voters, and politicians may move comfortably back and forth between their symmetrical (i.e. identical) extremes. The principle underlying both is that the government should control everything, for the government’s idea of the common good. Whether the government technically owns everything is neither here nor there. Indeed, Socialism/Fascism works better, for the government, if private actors can be made to take the blame and the losses for all of the government’s goon-show mistakes. Any “excess” income on which they fall in their government-assigned monopolist stations can then be impounded.

February 28, 2017

QotD: “Mr. Keynes’ excellent little book”

Filed under: Books, Economics, Europe, History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Interestingly, Mussolini found much of John Maynard Keynes’s economic theories consistent with fascism, writing: “Fascism entirely agrees with Mr. Maynard Keynes, despite the latter’s prominent position as a Liberal. In fact, Mr. Keynes’ excellent little book, The End of Laissez-Faire (l926) might, so far as it goes, serve as a useful introduction to fascist economics. There is scarcely anything to object to in it and there is much to applaud.”

After the worldwide Great Depression, Mussolini became more vocal in his claims that fascism explicitly rejected the capitalist elements of economic individualism and laissez-faire liberalism. In his “Doctrine of Fascism,” Mussolini wrote: “The Fascist conception of life accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the State. . . . Fascism reasserts the rights of the state. If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government.” In his 1928 autobiography, Mussolini made clear his dislike for liberal capitalism: “The citizen in the Fascist State is no longer a selfish individual who has the anti-social right of rebelling against any law of the Collectivity.”

Lawrence K. Samuels, The Socialist Economics of Italian Fascism, quoted by Perry de Havilland in “Mussolini admired ‘Mr. Keynes’ excellent little book'” at Samizdata, 2015-07-08.

February 11, 2017

QotD: The Nazi Final Solution in Denmark and Bulgaria

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… most nations of Central and Eastern Europe were occupied by or allied with Germany during this period. The Nazis made it clear that deporting their Jews to the concentration camps in Nazi territory was a condition for continued good relations; a serious threat, when bad relations could turn a protectorate-type situation into an outright invasion and occupation.

Pride of place goes to Denmark and Bulgaria, both of which resisted all Nazi demands despite the Germans having almost complete power over them. Most people have heard the legend of how, when the Germans ordered that all Jews must wear gold stars, the King of Denmark said he would wear one too. These kinds of actions weren’t just symbolic; without cooperation from the Gentile population and common knowledge of who was or wasn’t Jewish, the Nazis had no good way to round people up for concentration camps. Nothing happened until 1943, when Himmler became so annoyed that he sent his personal agent Rolf Gunther to clean things up. Gunther tried hard but found the going impossible. Danish police refused to go door-to-door rounding up Jews, and when Gunther imported police from Germany, the Danes told them that they couldn’t break into apartments or else they would arrest them for breaking and entering. Then the Danish police tipped off Danish Jews not to open their doors to knocks since those might be German police. When it became clear that the Nazis weren’t going to accept any more delays, Danish fishermen offered to ferry Jews to neutral Sweden for free. In the end the Nazis only got a few hundred Danish Jews, and the Danish government made such a “fuss” (Arendt’s word) about them that the Nazis agreed to send them all to Theresienstadt, their less-murderous-than-usual camp, and let Red Cross observers in to make sure they were treated well. In the end, only 48 Danish Jews died in the entire Holocaust.

Bulgaria’s resistance was less immediately heroic, and looked less like the king proudly proclaiming his identity with oppressed people everywhere than with the whole government just dragging their feet so long that nothing got done. Eichmann sent an agent named Theodor Dannecker to get them moving, but as per Arendt:

    not until about six months later did they take the first step in the direction of “radical” measures – the introduction of the Jewish badge. For the Nazis, even this turned out to be a great disappointment. In the first place, as they dutifully reported, the badge was only a “very little star”; second, most Jews simply did not wear it; and, third, those who did wear it received “so many manifestations of sympathy from the misled population that they actually are proud of their sign” – as Walter Schellenberg, Chief of Counterintelligence in the R.S.H.A., wrote in an S.D. report transmitted to the Foreign Office in November, 1942. Whereupon the Bulgarian government revoked the decree. Under great German pressure, the Bulgarian government finally decided to expel all Jews from Sofia to rural areas, but this measure was definitely not what the Germans demanded, since it dispersed the Jews instead of concentrating them.

The Bulgarians continued their policy of vaguely agreeing in principle to Nazi demands and then doing nothing, all the way until the Russians invaded and the time of danger was over. The result was that not a single Bulgarian Jew died in the Holocaust.

Scott Alexander, “Book review: Eichmann in Jerusalem”, Slate Star Codex, 2017-01-30.

January 29, 2017

The pundits only seem to know two Orwell books…

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

As Colby Cosh rightly says, you can find cheap “we’re now living in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four” pieces everywhere. On the evidence, you’d have to say that the majority of editorial writers working today know of Orwell for only two of his (admittedly brilliant) novels. I’m not an Orwell scholar (I’m actually no kind of scholar at all), but I’ve read much more of Orwell’s work — spoiler: he really was a socialist — and we sell the man’s message very far short if it can only be used as a quick literary check-off that the current president of the United States is bad:

I’ll start by admitting that I have a hipster’s childish, proprietary feeling toward the works of George Orwell. It’s a common disorder. Being an admirer of the man’s work I ought, reasonably, to be delighted by anything that makes it more popular. But, dammit, all anybody ever buys are the hits.

Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency has set off such a mighty public hunger for Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four that the novel shot to the top of Amazon’s fiction charts. That, in turn, has created a land rush in Orwell-Trump thinkpieces. The Guardian even did a full workup of “Orwell experts” who all assure us that the parallels between the 1949 book and the current situation are strong and undeniable, with claims like “Trump takes doublethink to a new extreme” and “Trump is not O’Brien. He is more like a cut-price version of Big Brother himself.”

You can find “Are we living in Orwell’s 1984 (yet)?” articles printed in any year of the last 40 or so. But 2017 has already seen dozens, maybe hundreds. And the great majority of them seem to answer: “Yes, definitely. Here we are. Enjoy your Victory Gin.”

This is not a healthy or sensible reaction to the election of a bold, chauvinistic liar. That, after all, may be a good description most of the heads of government that have ever existed — the leaders under which most modern humans have lived. You’re allowed be afraid of or discouraged by Trump without losing your mind altogether. He displays a great deal of the style and technique of a classic caudillo, a Juan Peron or a Ferdinand Marcos; no sane liberal can be happy to see these things brought to the American scene. Trump has terrible power and may abuse it. He may be awful for the world, may even initiate wars.

In interests of full disclosure, this article triggered me enough to buy another couple of volumes of The Complete Works of George Orwell, these being from the post-WW2 era. I don’t yet have the full set, but I’m working on it (the full Orwell bibliography can be found here). I found A Patriot After All: 1940-1941 and Keeping Our Little Corner Clean: 1942-1943 to be absolutely fascinating, not only as informal war chronology, but also as a view into Orwell’s reasons for simultaneously fighting against totalitarianism in both Fascist and Communist forms.

January 2, 2017

QotD: A key to Hitler’s early success

Filed under: Books, Europe, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

[Hitler] grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all “progressive” thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarised version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them “I offer you struggle, danger and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet. Perhaps later on they will get sick of it and change their minds, as at the end of the last war. After a few years of slaughter and starvation “Greatest happiness of the greatest number” is a good slogan, but at this moment “Better an end with horror than a horror without end” is a winner. Now that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.

George Orwell, “Review of Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler”, 1940.

September 9, 2016

QotD: Mussolini

Filed under: Europe, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One hears murmurs against Mussolini on the ground that he is a desperado: the real objection to him is that he is a politician. Indeed, he is probably the most perfect specimen of the genus politician on view in the world today. His career has been impeccably classical. Beginning life as a ranting Socialist of the worst type, he abjured Socialism the moment he saw better opportunities for himself on the other side, and ever since then he has devoted himself gaudily to clapping Socialists in jail, filling them with castor oil, sending blacklegs to burn down their houses, and otherwise roughing them. Modern politics has produced no more adept practitioner.

H.L. Mencken, “Mussolini”, Baltimore Evening Sun, 1931-08-03.

August 13, 2016

QotD: The aftermath of the Spanish Civil War

Filed under: Europe, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The declared portion of the Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936 to 1939. It has passed into legend among Western leftists as a heroic struggle between the Communist-backed Republican government and Nazi-backed Franco, one that the good guys lost. The truth seems rather darker; the war was fought by two collections of squabbling, atrocity-prone factions, each backed by one of the two most evil totalitarianisms in human history. They intrigued, massacred, wrecked, and looted fairly indiscriminately until one side collapsed from exhaustion. Franco was the last man left standing.

Franco had no aspirations to conquer or reinvent the world, or to found a dynasty. His greatest achievements were the things that didn’t happen. He prevented the Stalinist coup that would certainly have followed a Republican victory. He then kept Spain out of World War II against heavy German pressure to join the Axis.

Domestically, Spain could have suffered worse. Spanish Fascism was quite brutal against its direct political enemies, but never developed the expansionism or racist doctrines of the Italian or German model. In fact it had almost no ideology beyond freezing the power relationships of pre-Republican Spain in place. Thus, there were no massacres even remotely comparable to Hussein’s nerve-gassing of Kurds and Shi’as, Hitler’s Final Solution or Stalin’s far bloodier though less-known liquidation of the kulaks.

Francisco Franco remained a monarchist all his life, and named the heir to the Spanish throne as his successor. The later `fascist’ regimes of South and Central America resembled the Francoite, conservative model more than they did the Italo/German/Baathist revolutionary variety.

One historian put it well. “Hitler was a fascist pretending to be a conservative. Franco was a conservative pretending to be a fascist.” (One might add that Hussein was not really pretending to be about anything but the raw will to power; perhaps this is progress, of a sort.) On those terms Franco was rather successful. If he had died shortly after WWII, rather than lingering for thirty years while presiding over an increasingly stultified and backward Spain, he might even have been remembered as a hero of his country.

As it is, the best that can be said is that (unlike the truly major tyrants of his day, or Saddam Hussein in ours) Franco was not a particularly evil man, and was probably less bad for his country than his opponents would have been.

Eric S. Raymond, “Fascism is not dead”, Armed and Dangerous, 2003-04-22.

August 7, 2016

QotD: “… there were no good guys in the Spanish Civil War”

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Pio Moa’s thesis is that the Spanish Civil War was not a usurping revolt against a functioning government, but a belated attempt to restore order to a country that had already collapsed into violent chaos five years before the Fascists landed in 1936.

I’ve studied the history of the Spanish Civil War enough to know that Moa’s contrarian interpretation is not obviously crazy. I had an unusual angle; I’m an anarchist, and wanted to grasp the ideas and role of the Spanish anarchist communes. My conclusions were not pleasant. In short, there were no good guys in the Spanish Civil War.

First, the non-anarchist Left in Spain really was pretty completely Stalin’s creature. The volunteers of the International Brigade were (in Lenin’s timeless phrase) useful idiots, an exact analogue of the foreign Arabs who fought on in Baghdad after Iraqi resistance collapsed (and were despised for it by the Iraqis). They deserve neither our pity nor our respect. Insofar as Moa’s thesis is that most scholarship about the war is severely distorted by a desire to make heroes out of these idiots, he is correct.

Second, the Spanish anarchists were by and large an exceedingly nasty bunch, all resentment and nihilism with no idea how to rebuild after destroying. Wiping them out (via his Communist proxies) may have been one of Stalin’s few good deeds.

Third, the Fascists were a pretty nasty bunch too. But, on the whole, probably not as nasty as their opponents. Perceptions of them tend to be distorted by the casual equation of Fascist with Nazi — but this is not appropriate. Spanish Fascism was unlike Communism or Italian and German Fascism in that it was genuinely a conservative movement, rather than a attempt to reinvent society in the image of a revolutionary doctrine about the perfected State.

Historians and political scientists use the terms “fascist” and “fascism” quite precisely, for a group of political movements that were active between about 1890 and about 1975. The original and prototypical example was Italian fascism, the best-known and most virulent strain was Naziism, and the longest-lasting was the Spanish nationalist fascism of Francisco Franco. The militarist nationalism of Japan is often also described as “fascist” .

The shared label reflects the fact that these four ideologies influenced each other; Naziism began as a German imitation of Italian fascism, only to remake Italian (and to some extent Spanish) fascism in its own image during WWII. The militarist Japanese fascists took their cues from European fascists as well as an indigenous tradition of absolutism with very similar structural and psychological features

The shared label also reflects substantially similar theories of political economics, power, governance, and national purpose. Also similar histories and symbolisms. Here are some of the commonalities especially relevant to the all too common abuse of the term.

Fascist political economics is a corrupt form of Leninist socialism. In fascist theory (as in Communism) the State owns all; in practice, fascists are willing to co-opt and use big capitalists rather than immediately killing them.

Fascism mythologizes the professional military, but never trusts it. (And rightly so; consider the Von Stauffenberg plot…) One of the signatures of the fascist state is the formation of elite units (the SA and SS in Germany, the Guardia Civil in Spain, the Republican Guard and Fedayeen in Iraq) loyal to the fascist party and outside the military chain of command.

Fascism is not (as the example of Franco’s Spain shows) necessarily aggressive or expansionist per se. In all but one case, fascist wars were triggered not by ideologically-motivated aggression but by revanchist nationalism (that is, the nation’s claims on areas lost to the victors of previous wars, or inhabited by members of the nationality agitating for annexation). No, the one exception was not Nazi Germany; it was Japan (the rape of Manchuria). The Nazi wars of aggression and Hussein’s grab at Kuwait were both revanchist in origin.

Fascism is generally born by revolution out of the collapse of monarchism. Fascism’s theory of power is organized around the ‘Fuehrerprinzip‘, the absolute leader regarded as the incarnation of the national will.

But…and this is a big but…there were important difference between revolutionary Fascism (the Italo/German/Baathist variety) and the more reactionary sort native to Spain and Japan.

Eric S. Raymond, “Fascism is not dead”, Armed and Dangerous, 2003-04-22.

July 5, 2016

From Socialist to Fascist – Benito Mussolini in World War 1 I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 4 Jul 2016

Benito Mussolini was a well known Socialist before World War 1. But the lead up to Italy’s entry into the conflict caused a split between the Socialists and the pro-interventionist Fasci. During the war, Mussolini was sent to the Isonzo Front where he became even more popular. After being sent home, he continued his agitation with great financial support from France, Britain and Italian industrialists.

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