Sunday, March 11, 2007

Is Fascism Boring?

Fascism, and its sister variant Nazism, dominated the middle years of the 20th. century. It was responsible for millions of deaths, often systematically carried out. It took over the leadership of two democratic European countries, and inspired and enthused millions of their citizens. It provided two of the most significant hate figures of history, was directly responsible for the cataclysmic watershed of the Second World War and still exists in neo-fascist and neo-nazi groups on the fringes of politics in several European countries today. So boring?

I only ask, because the study of fascism has reduced my U6th to torpor and disinterest. When one student, the DHB no less, initiates a class verdict on learning the subject with the phrase, "Does anyone else find this boring?", and gets a positive response - well, we're in trouble. Before I hang up my metaphorical gown and go and work in a bookshop somewhere, I thought I would make one last effort to point you to the enduring fascination of this extraordinary, if perplexing, ideology.

In the somewhat laclustre presentations we had in class, one group was asked to look at the internal coherence of nazism, and another at whether fascism even deserved to be called an ideology. Here is one contemporary European writer, Jose Ortega y Gasset, in 'Sobre el Fascismo' (1927), quoted by Kevin Passmore in his 'Very Short Introduction to Fascism' (OUP):

'Fascism has an enigmatic countenance because in it appears the most counterpoised contents. It asserts authoritarianism and organises rebellion. It fights against contemporary democracy and, on the other hand, does not believe in the restoration of any past rule. It seems to pose itself as the forge of a strong State, and uses means most conducive to its dissolution, as if it were a destructive faction or secret society. Whichever way we approach fascism we find that it is simultaneously one thing and the contrary....'

And fascism brought us the concept of totalitarianism, a word invented by the Italian fascists to encapsulate, as Passmore puts it, their drive to 'nationalise' the Italian masses.

An ideology that appealed to streetfighters and intellectuals, which glorified a mythic national past and yet was obsessed with the dynamism and technology of the future. The only ideological term to have made its way fully into modern vocabulary as a term of abuse. It is certainly many things, but boring? Please!

3 comments:

George said...

Lacklustre presentations? If the music worked on your tired-out computer, ours would have been very good!!

Lestaki said...

I'm pretty sure "anarchist" could also be called an ideological term of abuse. That said, fascism is slightly important, yes.

Anonymous said...

Fascism is not Nazism! National Socialism only lead to racial hate, while Fascism lead to strong leaders. Fascism is a great ideology and gives a great nation!

LONG LIVE FASCISM!!!

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