Trend to fascism?
The letter from David Lee (April Socialist Standard) in calling for a socialist government shows a lack of understanding – that socialism means an end to government and governed – but you are too dismissive of his seeing the inherent trend of capitalism to fascism. The “ideal” of fascism is not necessarily the pre-war examples of Germany and Italy. The philosophy of fascism is the corporate state, the well-ordered state, where the most able, that is by their own definition, assume the positions of power in politics and industry etc. The majority accept that their position is due to their being less able and grateful to accept their position as decided by “natural abilities”.
Other ways of describing this attempt of natural selection of order in society are meritocracy and equality of opportunity. So this sorts out the order of society by “natural” rule and a “benign” ruler or ruling class makes the nation as one. Classes are dismissed because the order of society is as it should be. The division between capitalists and workers is again presented as the natural order so fascism can claim it is a classless society. This obfuscation between the owing class and the majority is the common good of the whole nation, that the interests of all as are of one. A phrase which appears regularly to plaster over this is “the third way” to mean a way which is neither capitalism nor socialism, but taking the best elements of each. Blair used it early on in his career, those in the social sector – or third sector of co-ops and the like, even Ted Heath in his attempt to square the circle in his conception of corporate capitalism – the human face of capitalism. But the earliest use of “the Third Way” was the NSDAP considering this before settling on “the Third Reich” (see Michael Burleigh’s A New History of Nazi Germany).
Bismarck’s Germany, sometimes called state capitalism by Lenin already exhibited all the signs of “benign” fascism and was probably as formative to Hitler as to Lenin/Stalin. That Lenin thought state capitalism was the route to socialism and acknowledged the greater power of state capitalist Germany had beaten Russia was enough to show two apparently diametrically-opposed dictatorships grow as fascism.
But probably most prescient was Marx in the Communist Manifesto what could be seen as the development of what was to be called fascism, the reactionary becoming radicalised in German or “True Socialism” which presaged the “eternal truths, the model nation”, opposing the “brutally destructive” tendency of Communism. And so on, I won’t repeat it all but summed up as the bombastic representative of the petty bourgeois Philistine. Which is as good a description of the true nature of fascism as any.
So, yes, the expressions of fascism of the pre-war variety are not visible, at least on the surface, but aside from this the tendency for fascist thought lingers in every cell of capitalism, from the infantile individuals you sometimes meet who always have a ready list of sexist, racist, anti-Semitic “jokes” to share with guilty pleasure often on their mobile phones to the more discreet smoothing over by politicians whose job, if it can be called that, is to confuse the majority that it’s in all our interests to do whatever are the problems of the moment. To blur over the divisions in society and represent the nation as symbolic as Unity, the problems of capitalism are all our problems, we are all in it together – the National interests (sic or sick).
The well-ordered nation state is the capitalists and politicians’ dream and aspiration, the corporate state of successful regulation of private and state undertakings, the self-defined meritocracy and the worker held in wage-slavery, happy to accept his or her lot in the best of all possible worlds.
This is fascism in “idealised” form but capitalism’s also on a tendency towards it . But even if this should appear attractive to the petty-bourgeois Philistines it always comes along with the horrors experienced in the 20th century.
Effectively, as for as real alternatives are concerned, this turns the country into a one-party state, the consciousness of the majority is formed by the prevailing accepted norms of society, education, the press, the whole structure of production. This is as effective for control as any secret police and more acceptable as being “democratic” than totalitarianism – you get to leave a mark every few years, that’s democracy, isn’t it?
STUART GIBSON, WIMBORNE, Dorset
Reply: We still think it’s an exaggeration (and misleading) to refer to present-day Britain as “fascist” – Editors.
As regards the article on Pete Seeger in the March Socialist Standard, isn’t it about time we looked at the positive rather than the negative aspects of the folk revival in the US?
To quote from the article: “The 1960s saw Seeger affiliating with the current ‘good causes’, plucking his banjo at Civil Rights rallies (an unfortunate instrument, given Negro memories of stereotypic minstrel shows) and supporting the Anti-Vietnam War movement”.
The banjo in American music was played by both blacks and whites and goes back to a time when music was more integrated, before the minstrel shows.
Civil Rights was more than just a good cause. It was a colossal task to say the least. When people like Seeger sang at freedom rallies in the southern states they were putting themselves on the line, and to be dismissive about the role they played is sectarian. Anybody that fails to see the importance of music in the Civil Rights/Anti-Vietnam War movement is not really looking at the role it actually played.
ROY BEAT, London SE27.