hey what’s up everyone?
so today’s video is going to be answering one question and one question only and that is:
What is fascism?
(The text below – which comes in a long string of words without punctiation – is captured from a video presentation, which you can view here. I recommend taking the time for viewing it. The text is provided here for ease of copying citations from this thorough and well-made introduction – many thanks to Ryan Chapman, who made it.)
fascism has to be a strong contender for one of the most loosely understood words in the political lexicon and in my opinion that’s probably not going to be changing anytime soon but if you’re someone that wants to develop a tighter understanding of it this video is going to be targeted for you to date there have only ever been two governments that have even remotely uncontroversially been considered fascist and those are the governments of italy and germany established between world war one and world war ii calling germany fascist is slightly controversial but i’m not gonna get into that here in my opinion nazi germany was fascist and i think that will become clear as i talk about it in the video but either way it shouldn’t change my conclusions you should be able to theoretically drop germany from my analysis here and my conclusions should still hold up but i will talk about germany in this video so i’m going to mostly cover italy first and germany’s second but i will to some extent go back and forth between the two for the sake of comparison to the surprise of no one this video will get dark i’m not going to show anything very graphic but i’m also not going to intellectually shy away from the subject matter either and the subject matter will get dark especially when we cover germany so if you’re trying to i don’t know go on a picnic or something after this this might not be the video for you but for the rest of us we’re gonna cover italy first and germany second and then at the end we’re gonna circle out and see what we can say about fascism based on that and yeah that’s the plan [Music] so we’re going to go back to the time and the place where fascism was invented which was interwar italy after the march on rome in 1922 benito mussolini came into power and became the face of fascism known around the world mussolini had a background in academia and considered himself something of a philosopher we’re going to get into mussolini’s ideas but first i think we should get into some of his influences and a good place to start with that is gustav lebon whose book the crowd was of a special interest to mussolini by the end of the 1800s the nature of politics seemed to be changing and lesbonne believed that civilization was at a turning point as he wrote while all our ancient beliefs are tottering and disappearing while the old pillars of society are giving way one by one the power of the crowd is the only force that nothing menaces and of which the prestige is continually on the increase the age we’re about to enter will in truth be the era of crowds what libon is describing is the beginning of mass politics it was a time when politics were getting less elitist and more populistic so to gain political power in that context people would have to spend less time targeting educated people and elites and more time trying to win the support of everyday people who would then express their support in a crowd so he argued that that was making politics more simplistic and more homogeneous lebon believed that there was something like a psychological law of the mental unity of crowds which is this idea that when individuals identify with crowds they to some extent lose their ability to think for themselves and they instead think with the crowd so then you have a crowd of like-minded people which can then be directed and influenced so in this analysis crowd psychology acts as a hypnotizer and individuals in the crowd are hypnotized so if an individual becomes swept up in a crowd then all feelings and thoughts are bent in the direction determined by the hypnotizer le bon believed that to sway a crowd didn’t require telling the crowd the truth what it required was telling the crowd what they wanted to hear and appealing to the crowd’s emotions as he put it the masses have never thirsted after truth they turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste preferring to deify error if errors seduce them whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim so to gain power in the era of mass politics it was thought that you would have to simplify your political ideas and win over a crowd of like-minded people that would then express support for them the best way to do that wouldn’t be to be concerned with truth but rather to emotionally charge your ideas that can get the crowd excited to tell them illusions that they want to hear so this is already describing the core assumptions behind fascism mussolini believed that if the 19th century was the century of individualism then the 20th century would be the century of collectivism mussolini thought that anyone who wasn’t thinking in terms of collectivism and mass politics was going to be left behind in the 20th century so by that he mostly meant liberals who thought individualistically and conservatives who thought aristocratically so mussolini described that as dead energy one thinker he thought did get it right at least in that regard was karl marx which i know is a name that most of us were probably not expecting to hear in this video but there it is by the beginning of the 20th century both of the original founders of classical marxism had died and adaptations of marxism began to flourish one major path of adaptations went from marx to lenin to stalin and mao which is the path that we refer to as marxism leninism and the other major path went in a very different direction and that began with george sorrell sorel was a heterodox marxist who thought that it was too narrow to interpret the world through the lens of class and economics and he thought that we should also look at sociology so he thought that sociology would have an effect on the revolution so he specifically thought that in order to create the ideological unity needed for the revolution people would have to create mobilizing myths these myths are stories that are supposed to contain all the strongest inclinations of a people stories that people are inspired by and cherish and hold above criticism the myth that sorel chose was the myth of strikes so sorel tried to build up this mythology around the idea of strikes to get people to rally around the idea and to start the revolution italian fascists liked sorel’s ideas but they adapted them so to finish sketching out this path of adaptations you have marx then sorel then mussolini and hitler which is the path of fascism although unlike the path of marxism leninism by the time you get to mussolini and hitler their ideas don’t really resemble marxism at all and hitler was even violently anti-marxist which is to say this is a messy chain of influences and a lot of adaptation happened here so to finish up the marxist influence fascists thought that marxist movements correctly tapped into the spirit of mass politics they told the simple story of a binary struggle between good and evil where regular people were good and elites were evil in particular financial elites and within that good people were deserving especially deserving of political power hitler even tipped his hat to marxism in that regard saying no movement has operated with such a thorough knowledge of the characteristics of the masses as the marxist movement a point he elaborated on in mein kampf saying the strong attractive power of the social democracy yes of the whole marxist movement rested in large part on the homogeneity and hence one-sidedness of the public it addressed the more seemingly limited indeed the narrower its ideas were the more easily they were taken up and assimilated by a mass whose intellectual level corresponded to the material offered which in the context of mein kampf is actually kind of a backhanded compliment he was arguing that this is a necessary component for a successful populist movement but fascists thought that marxist movements were fatally flawed and therefore likely to fail to name a couple reasons why they were inherently divisive they turned one part of the population against the other working class against property owners and they also tended to be dogmatic they tended to rigidly adhere to marx’s ideas whether they worked in practice or not so fascists thought that thinking that that would work was wishful thinking and they thought that something new had to be thought up as mussolini said in his autobiography it was necessary to imagine a wholly new political conception adequate to the living reality of the 20th century overcoming at the same time the ideological worship of liberalism the limited horizons of various spent and exhausted democracies and finally the violently utopian spirit of bolshevism so they needed a galvanizing idea an idea that crowds could rally around something that excites people and binds them together something they thought wasn’t doing that was internationalism as mussolini put it i saw that internationalism was crumbling the unit of loyalty was too large so he thought that internationalism wasn’t an idea that people could feel passionate about and rally around and here he is on the next page following that to his conclusion facing this new situation every political man including myself began to examine his conscience the mere mention of this problem was sufficient to make clear and evident the hidden travail of national consciousness i was transformed in my thought so national consciousness replaced class consciousness and became fascism’s cerelian myth as mussolini said in a speech we have created our myth the myth is a faith a passion it is not necessary for it to be a reality it is a reality in the sense that it is a stimulus is hope is faith is courage our myth is the nation our myth is the greatness of the nation so what became the bottom of fascism
the mobilizing idea that became the bottom of fascist ideology was a passionate nationalism so mussolini collaborated with a circle of italian intellectuals notably around the magazine la voce and notably with the philosophy professor giovanni gentile and they worked to develop a language and theory of fascism around nationalism to turn nationalism into their mobilizing myth and they did it by encouraging people to have a kind of mystical attitude about it they said if you close your eyes and you feel deep inside you you can feel your nation down in your bones you can feel the spirit of your country inside you here’s giovanni gentile using that language history is not a past that is of interest only to the aerodyne it is present alive in the soul of us all those who are italians feel themselves a part of this italy they find themselves not only in the blue of its sky in its hills and its water nor only in the desolate or mountainous land that alternates with its fruitful planes and its smiling gardens we close our eyes let us make abstraction from the horizons of its landscapes so varied in beauty and light and italy remains in our soul in fact it enlarges and expands in the glory of that which it is so they created this myth around the nation and treated it not just as a territory but something spiritual and then they talked about the nation in as passionate language as they possibly could to give a shorter example look at mussolini describing his national identity here he doesn’t just call himself italian he says i am desperately italian i don’t know about you but i think that’s about as emotional as you can get when you’re talking about your country national identity is something that all citizens of a country technically share so what fascism tries to do is it tries to stir up the emotions of the public to get them to unite and rally behind the idea it tries to sway the crowd using the myth of the nation something that’s distinct about fascism something that separates it from other versions of nationalism is that for fascists their nationalism is an overriding principle it overrides all other traditional or moral or political concerns going back to this mussolini quote our myth is the nation our myth is the greatness of the nation and then look what he says next and to this myth this greatness which we want to translate into a total reality we subordinate everything else that’s actually an accurate description of fascism if the question is what does a fascist say or do and we’re talking about italian or german fascism here the answer is whatever brings about the greatness of the nation they say whatever they need to say and they do whatever they need to do in order to bring about the greatness of the nation at least in their minds here’s mussolini describing the common goal between german and italian fascism the objective which both wanted to achieve and have achieved is the same the unity and greatness of the people so this is a two-part objective part one is to unify the people using the myth of the nation and part two is to bring about the greatness of the people by bringing about the greatness of the nation so then i think it’s natural to ask what do they mean by making the country great and fascists tended to leave that answer pretty vague here’s mussolini saying the nation is great when it translates into reality the force of its spirit so this is a hegelian idea the idea that history is marked by stages and those stages are defined by the human spirit and going to hegel now spirit is the director of the events of the world’s history so spirit directs the world’s history and drives it forward so italian fascists aspired to use the force of the italian people to make an impact on the history of the world if they did that they would be translating into reality the force of the italian spirit which was supposed to make history which was supposed to make italy great and the italian people great to understand exactly how to do that again italian fascists looked to hegel who mussolini called the philosopher of the state hegel argued that in the history of the world the only people that get noticed are the people that form a state and that the state is the embodiment of the human spirit it’s the external manifestation of the will of people so therefore changes in the stages of world history are attached to the concept of the state and if you haven’t noticed i have to edit higgle a bit to make his writing clearer because red as is it’s not so anyway so hegel argued that you need a strong state in order to manifest the will of the people and embody the spirit of the nation and drive history forward so then you might ask what makes a state powerful and here’s hegel’s answer a state is well constituted and internally powerful when the private interest of its citizens is one with the common interest of the state so if the citizens and the state have identical interests that makes the state powerful which hegel calls a desired harmony he then says the epic when a state attains this harmonious condition marks the period of its bloom its virtue its vigor and its prosperity so according to this philosophy the goal is to create a unity of interests between individuals and the state so there’s no conflict between individuals and the state and if there is a conflict then the state wins as hegel put it this unified state as an ultimate end possesses the highest right in relation to individuals whose highest duty is to be members of the state so italian fascists were directly inspired by that philosophy they saw the state as a means to their end of making the nation great and thought that individuals should be subordinated to the needs of the state what those needs were were determined by fascists since it was a fascist state so here’s them saying that the foundation of fascism and by the way the capital left here means italian fascism is the conception of the state its character its duty and its aim fascism conceives of the state as an absolute in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative only to be conceived of in their relation to the state what we’re seeing here is a justification for totalitarianism having a powerful state with absolute right over the individual a powerful state that subordinates the individual to it so totalitarianism was a word that italian fascists openly used look at how mussolini talked about the rise of nazi germany in relation to italy here is another great country in the process of creating a unitary authoritarian totalitarian state i.e a fascist one okay so fascists wanted to unite the people using the myth of the nation and then once the fascist movement came into power they wanted to create a unitary totalitarian state a state with absolute power over its citizens with no political opposition and then from there they wanted to assert the spirit of their people on the world stage and therefore make history both italy and germany thought that process would create a new glorious civilization which italy referred to as the third rome and germany referred to as the third reich that being said italian fascism is often referred to as hollow italy had the language of fascism but the execution wasn’t really there as one italian historian put it fascist italy was something of a police state but of an idiosyncratic kind one where tyranny was tangled with compromise and then later saying for all its proclaimed totalitarianism fascist italy was soon shown to be unable to fully mobilize its civilians or its ordinary soldiers numbers of whom were unconvinced that their identities sprang from italian nationality okay so the italian people didn’t buy into fascism very heavily and mussolini was something of an impotent dictator but we still have some loose ends here namely what exactly do fascists do once they get into power what exactly are their policies and again in a nutshell the answer is whatever they thought would bring about the greatness of the nation one thing italian fascists were consistent about in both theory and in practice was their attitude about violence and war which again took inspiration from george sorell they saw violence as a legitimate political expression and extensively used violence on their way into power which is something they shared with german fascists they also glorified war they saw war as something that would bind a country together an attitude largely shaped by their experiences in world war one they were also expansionist they saw the expansion of the nation as an expression of vitality and strength which led them to go around conquering weaker countries notably ethiopia and libya much to the detriment of the people living there in terms of economic policy italy took a hybrid approach mussolini theorized about something that he called a corporate state which was supposed to create a synthesis between liberalism and socialism or in other words he wanted to create an alliance between capital and labor under fascist rule which italian fascists claimed abolished class conflict in italy although how exactly that worked was far from clear regardless it didn’t do the italian economy any favors and while mussolini was in power italy’s economic growth fell further behind the powerful countries of europe on that note there’s been something of an ongoing war of categorization when it comes to fascism in that regard people that are sympathetic to socialism try to push our understanding of fascism towards capitalism and vice versa people that are sympathetic to capitalism try to push fascism towards socialism i think neither side ends up being very convincing because both sides are only partially looking at the subject it’s true that fascists campaigned on socialist language and with socialist policies but it’s also true that fascism came out of capitalist economies
but the idea that fascism can only come out of capitalism i think comes from a partisan mindset moreover once fascists came into office they pursued hybrid economic policies they weren’t cleanly capitalistic and they weren’t cleanly socialistic they had elements of both so for example they might nationalize certain industries and implement a certain amount of welfare but then also cozy up to big businesses and allow them a high degree of autonomy so i think this aspect of fascism is sort of a conceptual cul-de-sac i don’t think it’s an illuminating way to be able to categorize fascism if anything i think they were categorized by pragmatism so they weren’t dogmatic once they came into office they pursued the policies they thought they needed to pursue to make the economy work i think in particular that was true for germany so on that note i think it’s time to turn our attention away from italy and towards germany the major contribution of nazi germany to the subject of fascism i believe is that they showed the world what fascism looks like when it quote unquote works unlike mussolini hitler was largely able to bridge the gap between fascist rhetoric and reality he was able to make fascism come alive in germany before hitler came into power germany was suffering from hyperinflation and was being economically and militarily constrained by the treaty of versailles hitler believed that the german people needed confidence and their ability to break out of these constraints and rise up again and he believed that the only way to achieve that was through mass politics as he wrote what will raise the german people up again is confidence in the possibility of regaining its freedom and this conviction can only be the final product of the same feeling in millions of individuals german fascists had their own set of influences like nietzsche’s idea of will to power and francis galton’s social darwinism so that was a source of difference between the two fascisms another source of difference i believe can be understood through this quote in mein kampf the psyche of the great masses is not receptive to anything that is half-hearted and weak the nazis ended up actually embodying that they embodied a full commitment to their ideology and they meticulously crafted an image of maximal strength but we’re getting ahead of ourselves like mussolini hitler was an avid nationalist so he fashioned a nazi doctrine around populism and nationalism as he wrote for me and all true national socialists who are nazis there is but one doctrine people and fatherland so hitler explicitly set out to nationalize the masses and this wasn’t a weak nationalism this was a strong nationalism with a fighting spirit and this was all for the purpose of changing the quote-unquote destiny of germany to lift germany out of its troubles and to make it great again to bring on the new glorious third reich so like italian fascists hitler’s plan was to nationalize the masses and also like italian fascists hitler framed his nationalism as something mystical something you can feel deep inside you the way hitler put it was that nationality isn’t just a language but rather it’s something that lays in your blood so the nazis described this quote-unquote german blood as a kind of living thing that thinks a certain way and behaves a certain way and within that it was the role of germans to get in touch with it and conform to it as a high-ranking nazi explained individuals are to be subordinated to the greater idea of the people so when nazis are referring to the people they’re not referring to just everyone living within the territory of the reich but rather only those who within this mass professed loyalty to their german blood and to a duty to their germanness which means that the people in the eyes of nazis were those who had subordinated and professed their loyalty to the idea of thinking with their german blood so they wanted to create a community of psychically homogenous creatures as hitler put it that again like italian fascists would be directed by a state and again like italian fascists for the nazis nationalism was an overriding principle whatever they thought would make the nation great for them was the correct course of action here’s hitler essentially saying that so this is right after saying for the nazis there’s one doctrine people and fatherland what we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood the freedom and independence of the fatherland so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe every thought and every idea every doctrine and all knowledge must serve this purpose and everything must be examined from this point of view and used or rejected according to its utility so hitler does plug his catholicism here but in practice for hitler nationalism was his overriding principle if his catholic principles conflicted with his nationalist principles the nationalist principles won which gave hitler a complicated and often strained relationship with catholics of his time also like italian fascists this led german fascists to glorify and advocate for violence war and expansionism but in the german vocabulary they argued that the german people were superior and therefore deserved more quote-unquote living space so that was largely their justification for trying to conquer europe they argued that the german people were superior and therefore deserved more living space now the major quote-unquote modification that nazis made to this theory was they said not all those living within the german borders share the german blood and of course primarily by that they targeted jewish people hitler stereotyped jewish people as marxist internationalists and believed that they were hurting germany which sent him violently in the opposite direction which led him to declare that jews despite living in germany do not share the german blood since they believed that whatever made the nation stronger was the correct course of action it was soon arrived at that eugenics and genocide would make the nation stronger and therefore should be done which in their language was quote unquote purifying the german blood so this brought an incredible mean-spiritedness to nazi ideology that went beyond just targeting jewish people so to illustrate that i’m going to read one passage so this is a memo from a high-ranking nazi official that details ideas on how to make the stock of the nation stronger i’m going to read it but i should warn you that the next minute or so is going to be disturbing all right here we go all germans are unequal that is the starting point the first logical conclusion to be drawn from inequality is the inequality of value some germans are more valuable than others a logical consequence of this inequality must be the principle of unequal treatment that is unequal share of state power property culture all these must be distributed to people on the basis of how valuable they are and then he gives criteria to determine value and then says no pity is to be shown to those who occupy the lower categories of the inferior groups cripples epileptics the blind the insane deaf and dumb children born in santoria for alcoholics or in care orphans criminals the sexually disturbed etc everything done for them not only means taking resources away from more deserving causes but counteracts the breeding selection process nor should we mourn the dumb the weak the spineless the apathetic those with hereditary diseases the pathological because they go under innocently this bottom category means destruction and death weighed and found wanting trees which do not bear fruit should be cut down and thrown into the fire which i suppose was a means of illustrating what can happen when your overriding principle is to do whatever makes the quote-unquote nation great if that’s your mindset and then someone approaches you with that type of program it might actually seem like a good idea of course in reality that mindset brought defeat humiliation and even catastrophe to germany because of course in reality there’s more to morality and there’s more to life than this simple making the nation great equation that germany got stuck in okay moving on so in order to make their movement work the nazis needed broad support among the german public and they didn’t have it early on but by the late 30s they did have it and they largely won it by turning around the economy and by conquering and annexing countries like austria and czechoslovakia without going into war but they also notably want it through heavy-handed use of propaganda hitler discusses propaganda at length in mein kampf but his basic philosophy is that propaganda exists in order to convert people to your cause that are not already the true believers and the way to do it is to project simple strong messages and to relentlessly repeat them over and over so that’s what he did he bombarded the german public relentlessly with propaganda to get a sense of what that looked like let’s look at william shirer’s account who was a journalist that lived in nazi germany until 1940 and who wrote the rise and fall of the third reich here was his experience i myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state it was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities i had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from nazi sources a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it no one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences
of regimes calculated an incessant propaganda often in a german home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant a beer hall a cafe i would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons it was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense that they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers sometimes one was tempted to say as much but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity such a shock of silence as if one had blasphemed the almighty that one realized how useless it was to even try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what hitler and goebbels with their cynical disregard for the truth said they were so unlike fascist italy much of the german public ended up buying into nazi ideology and many of them took it up ravenously particularly young people a demographic hitler specifically targeted given our time constraints i think the best thing i can do here is to just give you a snapshot of what that looked like and i think the best way to do that is to show you another passage so this is a passage from another history of nazi germany on student activity and book burning on april 12 1933 the nazi german students association’s office for press and propaganda announced a nationwide action against the un-german spirit which was to climax in a literary purge a cleansing by fire the students presented their action as a response to a worldwide jewish smear campaign against germany and an affirmation of traditional german values they published a blacklist of un-german authors then the authors are listed and then he talks about how the students were influenced by martin luther burning the papal bull and then it continues for the students the tradition of book burning was associated not with reactionary impulses but with defiance against authority and with strong nationalist sentiments placards publicized the 12 theses which attacked jewish intellectualism asserted the need to purify german language and literature and demanded that universities be centers of german nationalism germany’s most dangerous adversary is the jew the document read if a jew writes in german he is lying the german who writes in german but thinks in an ungerman way is a traitor we want to eliminate the lie we want to brand the treason we demand from the german student the will and ability to overcome jewish intellectualism and all the liberal manifestations of decay associated with it students and professors should be selected on the basis of their thinking in the german spirit so this is the type of thinking that hitler and the nazi party were able to spread in germany so to recap in italy you had the creation of the theory and in germany you had a modification of the theory and you had the theory work in practice you had the theory coming alive the last thing i want to cover is what would have happened if nazi germany hadn’t been defeated what was their vision for the world and the best answer i could find is again with william shirer who based his answer on a captured trove of nazi documents so i’m going to read what he found no comprehensive blueprint for the new order was ever drawn up but it is clear from the captured documents and from what took place that hitler knew very well what he wanted it to be a nazi ruled europe whose resources would be exploited for the prophet of germany whose people would be made the slaves of the german master race and whose undesirable elements above all the jews but also many slavs in the east especially the intelligence among them would be exterminated the jews and the slavic people were the under-mentioned subhumans to hitler they had no right to live except as some of them among the slavs might be needed to toil in the fields and the mines as slaves of their german masters not only were the great cities of the east moscow leningrad and warsaw to be permanently erased but the culture of the russians and poles and other slavs was to be stamped out and formal education denied them their thriving industries were to be dismantled and shipped to germany and the people themselves confined to the pursuits of agriculture so that they could grow food for germans being allowed to keep for themselves just enough to subsist on europe itself as the nazi leaders put it must be made jew free he goes on to summarize the planned and actual devastation done to civilians and prisoners of war who were considered to be of the wrong blood or to have thought the wrong way and who had the misfortune of living within the grasp of the nazis it includes details from the concentration camps and medical experiments done by nazi doctors the result i think is the most harrowing 57 pages i’ve ever personally read but if you need any more reason to be glad that the access powers lost world war ii shire’s chapter on germany’s new order might be worth reading and on that note i think that’s enough said about hitler’s germany
okay now we’re finally at the question what is fascism to me
this entire video has been answering that question so far
it’s been answering what fascism looks like in theory and it’s been giving glimpses into what it looks like in practice, but now we’re looking for something shorter, we’re looking for something that resembles a definition.
the most popular approach i see tries to define fascism by going into the details of fascist movements so they might talk about a say a charismatic leader or a democracy being in trouble or maybe something about late stage capitalism, things like that.
and at the risk of being rude to me that’s obviously the wrong approach.
we don’t define any of the other major isms that way
we don’t define liberalism based on say details of liberal movements
or socialism by details of socialist movements.
so to me we should obviously define it based on its core idea and not the details of the movements, and for me the gold standard here is karl marx’s definition of communism in the communist manifesto, where he says the theory of the communists may be summed up in the single sentence.
abolition of private property
Which then makes me ask is there an idea or a set of words where if you heard them you would recognize them as distinctly fascist, since the 20th century those words cannot be anything other than fascism, because if that’s the case then i think that’s a good starting point.
and in my opinion those words do exist and those are the words
blood and soil
if we accept that blood and soil is fascist and cannot be anything other than fascist, then we can test out the idea that fascism is the ideology of blood and soil, it’s the idea that people are bound together by blood and bound to the soil of the nation.
in my opinion that does a pretty good job of covering the essentials, but then at this point you might respond well yeah but we associate blood and soil with fascism because it was a nazi slogan.
but i would argue that you’re looking at it the wrong way around.
yes it was a nazi slogan but it was a nazi slogan because it captured the essence of fascism so well.
i think calling fascism the ideology of blood and soil is serviceable but it requires a lot of unpacking to understand which made me wonder if i could find something better and i do think i found something but before i say it i think i should show you the academic trail i followed to get there.
there’s a famous definition by roger griffin who said fascism is a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a paleogenic form of populist ultranationalism
paleogenic means rebirth like the rebirth of the nation.
to me this is a good definition but it’s also complicated
i don’t think it’s a definition that people can really walk away with and remember
also i think there’s some components here that could be dropped and i would still consider it fascism namely the palagenic part
so we’re gonna try to get something closer to what karl marx did i specifically want phrasing that’s less clinical. i want phrasing that captures the mass enthusiasm and the demonic energy of fascism as robert paxton put it
something closer to what jonathan heights said when he described fascism as hive psychology scaled up to grotesque heights
and the phrasing that did do it for me was karl popper’s phrasing in the open society and its enemies when he used the phrases we think with our blood and we think with our national heritage
to me if you roughly combine those two ideas together you have a good essence of fascism and that would look something like
we think with the blood of our nation the blood of our nation runs through our veins and it is through that blood that we think
it’s when you have a hive of people imagine themselves bound together by the blood of their nation and surrendering their critical thinking skills and instead dutifully thinking whatever they’re told the nation thinks
in my opinion that’s fascism
which means if you don’t have that then you don’t have fascism
it could be something that resembles fascism but then there’s other words out there that can describe it
it could be authoritarianism
it could be a military dictatorship
it could be demagoguery
there’s plenty of other words out there
like i said in the beginning fascism being used loosely probably isn’t going away anytime soon but among those of us who care those of us who want to be able to identify it correctly in my opinion this is fascism
the ideology that we think with the blood of our nation