The Early Days of a Better Nation

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gates of Oslo

Fascism is defined by its function, not its ideology. Its function is to attack and, in a severe enough crisis, to destroy the organised labour movement. Its ideology depends on time and place. Many ideas we traditionally associate with fascism have lost traction. The Third Reich and the Corporate State have as drawbacks their detractors, their admitted downsides, and above all their defeat. Nobody worth recruiting gives a toss about the Jewish conspiracy - except Islamists, and you don't want to go there, though some have tried. Ranting about Black people might get you a hearing in parts of the US, but the idea doesn't really travel. And yet, there's a niche for fascism, waiting for fresh ideas to fill it.

The Blind Watchmaker of the memes looks down, blindly, and tinkers ...

The confessed perpetrator of the Norway massacre has given us the thinking behind it. (Via.) Gramsci, 'Cultural Marxism', the Frankfurt School, feminism and political correctness as the root of the problem, the EU apparat as its enforcer, Muslim immigration and Islamist terrorism as its consequence or indeed as its weapon ... now we're getting somewhere.

An ideology for justifying violence against racial minorities, the Left and the labour movement has been developing in plain sight, rather than in the underworld of NSDAP re-enactors. It has now led to a massacre of the children of the one of the most moderate labour movements in the world.

Two things have to come out of this: first, the mainstream left and labour movements have to take seriously security and self-defence; second, the mainstream right must be made to pay a heavy political price for this atrocity.

As Gramsci wrote 90 years ago, in a world now lost: War is War.

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Agreed. Far to many people confuse the trappings and ideological justification/superstructure of fascism with its essence, the material circumstances that drive its re-emergence and development (hey, there's the explanatory power of dialectical materialism shining through). Way too many think that Fascism is wholly a matter of swastikas, phallic straight arm salutes and strutting around in black Hugo Boss uniforms. As you pointed out, it's the big owners and capitalists bankrolling members of the petty bourgeoisie and lumpenproletariat to be their strikebreakers, ultimately nothing more (Tea Party, anyone? Why is this so obvious to those outside that movement, and so invisible to those within?)
I like the comment about Neo-Nazi losers being pathetic  reenactors, they'd be joining the club with the Confederate Civil War reenactors. The Civil War happened because the feudal slave owning planter elite in the South, seeing a slow death to their wealth and power as a result of the increasing wealth and power of progressive industrial capitalism in the North, sought to destroy it by using the poor whites and small shopkeepers in the South as an army to destroy the Union, even developing a sociological justification of slavery (see a couple of books from that time by George Fitzhugh "Sociology for the South" and "Cannibals All!" (very subtle, Southern sociologists were). These books made a case that slavery shouldn't be limited to the blacks, but extended to the white working class in the North as well (since they are "wage-slaves" anyway). The aim of the planter aristocracy and their Copperhead allies in the North was to break up the North, detach the Midwest from the Union as well and incorporate it into the Confederacy. New England, with its radicalism and abolitionism, was to be severely excluded, and the Confederacy would have been free to expand into Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America. The result would have looked like Ward Moore's "Bring the Jubilee": a vast and strong slave power dominating the Americas, a planter elite dominating an enslaved working class of black slaves, white wage earners and Latin peons. Like SM Stirling's Draka, but far likelier to have happened.

It's interesting too that the Southern "subaltern intellectuals" had a pretty clear view of the modern, internationalist and socialist nature of their perceived enemy.
Here's the Confederate theologian R. L. Dabney, from his Life and Letters of Thomas Jackson (1866):
"History will some day place the position of these Confederate States, in this high argument, in the clearest light of her glory. The cause they undertook to defend was that of regulated constitutional liberty, and of fidelity to law and covenants, against the licentious violence of physical power. The assumptions they resisted were precisely those of that radical democracy, which deluged Europe with blood at the close of the eighteenth century, and which shook its thrones again in the convulsions of 1848; the agrarianism which, under the name of equality, would subject all the rights of individuals to the will of the many, and acknowledge no law nor ethics, save the lust of that mob which happens to be the larger.

This power, which the old States of Europe expended such rivers of treasure and blood to curb, at the beginning of the century, had transferred its immediate designs across the Atlantic, was consolidating itself anew in the Northern States of America, with a wealth, an organization, an audacity, an extent to which it never aspired in the lands of its birth, and was preparing to make the United States, after crushing all law there under its brute will, the fulcrum whence they should extend their lever to upheave every legitimate throne in the Old World.

Hither, by emigration, flowed the radicalism, discontent, crime, and poverty of Europe, until the people of the Northern States became, like the rabble of Imperial Rome, the colluvies gentium. The miseries and vices of their early homes had alike taught them to mistake license for liberty, and they were incapable of comprehending, much more of loving, the enlightened structure of English or Virginian freedom.

The first step in their vast designs was to overwhelm the Conservative States of the South. This done, they boasted that they would proceed first to engross the whole of the American continent, and then to emancipate Ireland, to turn Great Britain into a democracy, to enthrone Red Republicanism in France, and to give the crowns of Germany to the Pantheistic humanitarians of that race who deify self as the supreme end and selfish desire as the authoritative expression of the Divine Will."

This vast conspiracy/combine seems to have more than a passing resemblance to the "internationalist decadent cosmopolite parliamentarian Jewish/Communist/Liberal conspiracy of the Nazis and Fascists, or the "transnationalist European Unionist United Nationist global governance politically correct Islamist secular liberal socialist communist black helicopter piloting" conspiracy of the Tea Partiers, fundamentalist Christians and nativist right of our day.

Ken. This is so clear, explanatory, and to the point, that I shall post the link on my FB page. I hope you don't mind,

Isn't 'cultural Marxism' just a rejacketing/updating of the Jewish conspiracy, though?

George - you're welcome.

Jimmy - very interesting. Dabney is still highly regarded among fairly mainstream evangelicals.

chjh - Yes. But it doesn't overtly present itself that way, and has an audience that wouldn't go for it if it did. (As far as I know.)

I confess to being a little confused by your definition of fascism--I think fascism has a greater vision than being a thorn in the side of the labor movement. I agree that the specific ideology is quite flexible, but the general thrust (as it were) of fascism is that the rapidly expanding capacity of the bureaucratic state to discipline and regulate its citizenry can and ought to be used to the utmost to create a rigidly hierarchal, homogenized and cohesive populace.

I'm also skeptical of the capacity of increased security and self-defense to prevent attacks like this. This isn't quite Stross' "lone psychopath builds pocket nuke" territory, but it seems equally if not more difficult to prevent. I feel the best defense is, as you say, to make the responsible ideology pay a heavy price for it. It also seems to me that, going off my summation of fascist goals above, increased policing and militarization would almost certainly move Norway in the direction Breivik wanted all along.

@Dylan. Here are two remarks, the second of which I don't know how to express as precisely as I would like. 1. The classical political definition of Fascism is twofold: the corporate state and its enforcement by force. Now it seems to me that, especially in the small Nordic countries (I live in one), the entanglement of government and corporate apparatus is so dense that one can speak of a corporate state, or perhaps an Oligarchy (e.g. the Netherlands). 2. Force comes in many forms, media, bullets, adverts, financial pressure. These too are dense and interact with governmental structures in many ways. In this sense, we seem in places to be close to fascism now, Breivik or no Breivik.

Ken: I didn't know that Dabney was still popular. I'm not that surprised though. Being descended from working class licentious rabble from Europe myself, I kinda wish the Civil war had actually turned into what he feared, a Second American Revolution spreading across the world. BTW I didn't know Stirner was that known and feared among those circles.
Dylan Brady: what you say makes sense; yet I don't think these two concepts of fascism are mutually exclusive. In order to secure their power base and profits, the ones at the top have to have a big enough tent to bring in the needed groups to get things done. The need for a strong "integral" bureaucratic state to adress their interests is what these groups have in common.
I keep thinking of Trotsky's essay "What is National Socialism" in this context:

"The petty bourgeois is hostile to the idea of development, for development goes immutably against him; progress has brought him nothing except irredeemable debts. National Socialism rejects not only Marxism but Darwinism. The Nazis curse materialism because the victories of technology over nature have signified the triumph of large capital over small. The leaders of the movement are liquidating “intellectualism” because they themselves possess second- and third-rate intellects, and above all because their historic role does not permit them to pursue a single thought to its conclusion. The petty bourgeois needs a higher authority, which stands above matter and above history, and which is safeguarded from competition, inflation, crisis, and the auction block. To evolution, materialist thought, and rationalism – of the twentieth, nineteenth, and eighteenth centuries – is counterposed in his mind national idealism as the source of heroic inspiration. Hitler’s nation is the mythological shadow of the petty bourgeoisie itself, a pathetic delirium of a thousand-year Reich."

Well, I'm a "petty bourgeois" myself (greetings to you from Finland, Ken :-), but also a chief shop steward at a Uni. (And I do know that most "bourgeois" people would not accept my stance, but then again, they do not know/understand the history of the concept.)

As much as I agree with the idea of these kind of people being losers (and indeed lunatics), IMAO it leaves me unsatisfied. It's just not that they are mad (clinically if not juridically), but they are dangerous. They might be quite intelligent, and there more even more dangerous, and still be quite, erm, mad.

Now I don't won't any more surveillance, but perhaps we should accept that there are "some" homegrown terrorists around. Not just the foreign related islamists etc.

Btw, the Fascists started as a socialist movement (but moved away from there really fast).

And as a memger of the bourgeois myself, I do prefer evolution over revolution.

I'm in general sympathy with this, but .. isn't the citation of Gramsci's War Is War a warning sign? The workers of Turin that he wrote about lost, after all.

"Security and self-defense" gets used by all of the wrong factions within society. At its worst, the bogeyman of leftist self-defense is used as another recruitment tactic by the fascists. It seems better to me to treat this crime as what it is, a crime, and have the self-defense be the usual self-defense of society as a whole against crimes.

@Dylan I omitted one point that muddied my waters. Although the "force" I mentioned exists in some forms in probably all societies, and has always existed there, I don't mean to say that, e.g. the USA of 1967 was a fascist country. I don't know if it was, because I've no idea how one measures such things. I should have said that there are several trends that are leading many States in a more authoritarian direction, often under the guise of neo-liberalism. I use "authoritarian" to avoid disputes over the use of "fascism." There is no contradiction between an atomised society and the use of various kinds of force to keep it that way. Examples abound.

Dylan - fascism has a greater vision, yes, always. It's not a passive tool, or even weapon. But when you've found an ideology to mobilise desperate people in extra-legal violent action against the labour movement, you've found fascism.

Pitbullsiili - good to hear from you. Oh, and if you're a shop steward you're a worker and not a petty bourgeois, sorry!

Rich - I don't think the Turin workers followed Gramsci's advice. And I'm not aware of instances of the fascists using leftist self-defence as a recruitment tactic. Maybe leftist macho posturing, yes.

One problem with 'the usual self-defence of society as a whole' (i.e. the police, which I'm not at all opposed to using, just to relying on) is that you trust someone in a police uniform, and ...

I was going to debate about the applicable ideological definition of fascism, but then I saw this photo:

The point made Webb/Mitchel[2003]is pretty irrefutable:

Saying fascist's function is to destroy the labour movement is about as convincing as saying the left's function is to destroy fascism. It is fairly blinkered.

I also don't see what the "mainstream right" have to do with things particularly, or why attacking them is a top priority you want to use the attacks for. There's certainly been plenty of left wing terrorists, many of them considerably more successful, in terms of body count and also achieving political ends, than Anders. Do you think the existence of left wing terrorism should be used to attack the "mainstream left"? Is that really the direction you think politics should go in? "Why this atrocity supports my politics"? Depressing.

By the way I don't think Anders described himself as a fascist at all. He would have denounced you as a fascist just as vehemently as you denounce him as one. This means the term "fascist" is completely useless - it has went the same way as "liberal", except instead of being the word an absurdly broad collection of people use to describe themselves, it is the word they use to describe people they don't like.

I know I will be in a minority, possibly of one. I am not a socialist but, I am firmly on the left of center. And, have been for over 50 years.

That being said, to blame this psychotic's politics for his actions makes no more sense than it would be to blame an atheist's lack of belief in deities for his blowing up a cathedral (or mosque, or synagogue).

This monster (and all those who preceded him and will follow him) is simply clinically insane.

Yes, I know that these people are enabled by fascist rhetoric. But Mao and Pol Pot's atrocities were enabled by left wing rhetoric.

Defense against a gunman willing to die? (It's too bad he wasn't a suicide bomber; he probably would have killed fewer people.) I can't easily imagine any such defense that doesn't sound a lot like macho posturing. What should the mainstream left and labor movements do? Start having their own armed security people carrying guns around? Their own SWAT teams?

More fundamentally, I think that this is running into a problem of false solidarity. If you define fascism as that which wants to destroy the labor movement, then there must be a labor movement. But of course most right-wingers are workers. They are propagandized by the elite, yes, but they are eager to adopt such propaganda. Historically the Marxist left insisted that what really mattered was class status, and that anything else was false consciousness -- that the individual beliefs of workers didn't really matter. That turned out to be a lie, falsified by the real-world failure of socialism.

I'm not advocating unthinking trust of police -- I'm an anarchist, after all. But I suspect that any attempt to "organize for self defense" is quickly going to run into the problem of who, really, are we defending if we aren't defending society as a whole. And I suspect that the connections there are going to be mostly illusory.

Great post Ken; sense in a time of madness. Have you read Michael Mann's 'Fascists' by any chance? It's a very rigorous and insightful analysis which goes beyond focusing on fascist ideology by detailing the organisational aspects of fascist movements and how they fitted into the political milieu of the 1930s.

@RFYork. We don't know that Breivik is a psychotic, in any of the several clinical senses of that term. First, an assessment must be made. @Nick. I was about to say something similar. There are several kinds of groups we usually call fascist. The Black Hundreds, the Iron Cross, the Arrow Cross, Mussolini, and probably more. Perhaps the word has outlived its usefulness. The standard definition I gave above describes Mussolini's Italy in its first use. The others were religious nationalists.


The shooter plagiarized the hell out of the Unambomber and William Lind.

His sources, while disparate, draw mostly from Americanist paranoia, despite his clarion call to save Holy White Europe.

In the current American variety, fascism is very clear-eyed in exploiting and exacerbating various emotional imbalances.
The particular lone loony in question seems idiosyncratically eclectic (Unabomber, Knights Templar, . . . ), so based on the information of the moment he seems an outlier.
I still find myself regularly recommending The Mass Psychology of Fascism, since many American "leftists" or "progressives" haven't clearly realized the how fundamental sexual hysteria is to the Right's program.

I have no idea what sort of insanity defense Norwegian law has, but this case could stay interesting for a long time.

@George Berger: I think that what sets fascism (or authoritarianism, I'm not limiting my scope to modern Italy) apart from state corporatism isn't the application of force but that state power isn't means to an end for fascists, but the end in and of itself. The point of the state is to be the state encompassing and controlling everything it is possible to encompass and control. That's the impetus behind destroying organized labor movements, I think: they represent a rival power, a cleft within the unity of the nation.

(I recognize this might be a somewhat idiosyncratic definition of fascism.)

@Ken: Are you arguing that an anarcho-libertarian attack on labor would be fascist, or that such a thing wouldn't/is incredibly unlikely to happen?

@RFYork: It's funny how few atheists spend their time blowing up churches, but if they did it would certainly be worth figuring out how they ended up thinking that that was a good idea. Ideology is just another way of saying how you think the world works, and a sufficiently disordered ideology is not easily distinguished from mental illness--indeed, it is a sort of rhetorically-induced insanity. Maybe Breivik was crazy in a completely unrelated way, or maybe not. It's certainly worth figuring it out.

Pol Pot did indeed do his work in the name of left-wing ideology, and you'd be a pretty foolish left-winger if you hadn't given a fair bit of thought as to how he started from premises that seem sound to you and ended up in a place so alien.

I think what CopPorn and others are missing is that being anti-labour is only one of several elements that, together, identify fascism.

The Second Spanish Republic was dominated by organised labour. There was a strong anarcho-syndicalist movement in Spain. By the time the Spanish Civil War ended, the Communists had taken control of the Republic, and had been trying to kill off the Anarchists, just as Franco's rebellion and subsequent government tried to do.

Anti-labour is not exclusively fascist. It's an element of authoritarianism, destroying potential rivals. So you can look at anti-labour policies in other places, and point to Thatcher or Reagan, but it's not enough evidence.

And there's quite a bit of complexity in the details. In the end, this guy might not be a fascist, but it's looking to be the way to bet.

@Dylan I am no expert on this subject, but I'm trying to be clear as an outsider can be. Let's distinguish force, as I used it, from state power, as you used it. I was trying to say that the application of force solidifies and integrates state power into a single system (some use "organic," a phrase I wish to avoid). For example, some expressions of media exert a type of psychological force that aids patriotism. I'm thinking of too many upbeat Broadway musicals, which instil a sense of patriotism, I am told. That feeling is one expression and reinforcer of state power. Probably the best example though, is Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph des Willens, which elicits a mesmerising feeling of belonging, one that is central to all authoritarianisms and communitarianisms. See this: .

Sorry, folks - in that post I put things a bit too elliptically.

Breivik's manifesto begins with long extracts from a website called 'Gates of Vienna' and other sources which have been arguing for some years now that the major threat to the West comes from Muslim immigration and Islamist terrorism, that together these constitute a new Muslim conquest of Europe, and that (crucially) the Left (very broadly defined) has enabled and/or seized on this, whether to further its own supposed goals of undermining Western/bourgeois civilization or as a consequence of its own cultural weakness and tolerance in the face of an intolerant and militant Islam.

These views are very familiar tropes of a number of commentators who are accepted and legitimised by mainstream right-of-centre conservatism.

Breivik justified his mass murders as part of long-term plan for stopping and reversing the above mentioned conquest/jihad, by attacking in the first instance some soft targets on the Left - i.e. massacring social-democratic youth.

Some of the people and sites Breivik cited are now having something of a meltdown over this.

It seems to me that they should not be at all surprised - given the gravity of the threat they've depicted and elaborated on at such great length - that someone who took their picture of reality seriously should take violent action of some kind. What the fuck did they think they were doing? I always assumed they were aiming at violent mass action, ethnic cleansing and the like, but then maybe I'm nasty and/or they're naive.

And a hell of a lot more people believe their tale than believe the tales about Jewish bolshevik bankers!

My point about fascism is simply this: IF (as many historians and analysts, not all Marxist) would argue, a central feature of fascist movements is extra-legal assaults on organised labour (usually on the grounds that socialism or communism is betraying the race or nation), THEN this whole 'Gates of Vienna' fantasmagoria that the Muslim hordes are poised to sweep all before them and that the (mainstream and far) Left is guilty of appeasement or treason is pre-adapted for that purpose.

Ken, the idiots at the Irish Times have a story that during his years in the Progress Party, this wanker switched between 'far-right and far-left politics'.

Is there anything at all in his rantings which could be interpreted as 'far left'?

Also, I take it your argument is not that those who espouse far-right ideology are mere pawns of capitalism, but rather that given certain initial conditions, their politics will tend to converge on the points you identify (crushing the labour movement, etc)?

I am slightly entertained by someone like this affiliating himself with the Knights Templar, who were, in their day, the epitome of secretive, deracinated international capitalism...

@Everybody. Our Host's last comment hits the mark. Between 1972 and 2009 I lived in Amsterdam, from 87 till 08 in a poor, ethnically mixed, area called Amsterdam Oost (East). I saw and felt that pre-adaptation take shape, starting well before the assasinations of Fortuyn and van Gogh. I was scared for years. I've seen the Left and multiculturalism used as tools targetted at immigrants. Several weeks ago the far-right Geert Wilders (arguably the most dangerous rightest in the EU) and his followers publically announced the death of multiculturalism and explicitely associated that movement-to which I adhere-with the Left: not the unions, they are submissive, but the cultural and journalustic people whom these bastards consider to be left. That means anyone who does not follow their authoritarian, Islamophobic, agenda.

Saying that fascism's actual purpose is to destroy organisaed labour may be focusing too narrowly. It always seems to want to do this, yes, but I think that's because it provides a different narrative of collective strength and action, and admits no competitors. Plus, of course, the kind of rich people who finance it always object to their workers being more than machines in their service.

@John I beg to differ. Organised labour is a force that, when adequately mobilised and equipped, can make a good attempt to oppose the desires of bankers, industry, and their puppets in politics, These desires, as far as I can see, are profit-maximisation and a need to resort to acts of desperation to save themselves (not you & me) from the Credit Crunch. These acts include busting labour, but also reducing many to poverty (say, marginalising the elderly) and suppressing critical thought, e,g. by cutting the humanities throughout the EU. As a legal resident of 3 countries, one being the US, I guarantee you that this is happening, whether one calls it fascism or not, and should be resisted. I think that's what Ken means.

Hi Uncle Ken,

Just a quickie - while I would agree that a coherent ultra-right pan-European political platform has - and is - developing in plain sight, I have to take issue with your statement that Fascism is defined by an anti-labour stance. That's actually not strictly the case; Fascism and Fascist thought is anti-capitalist, pro-state, and pro-labour union... so long as that labour union is the State's union; and so long as that union is integrated within the Corporate State and its economic requirements. True Fascists are much closer to Communists than most people think; fascism as it is popularly used is, or rather has become, a catchall phrase used to tar people as being unacceptably right-wing. I don't see Anders as a fascist OR a Fascist, rather he is a Pan-European ultra-nationalist Christian fundamentalist. I posit that he'd have more in common with Quisling and McVeigh than with, say, Primo de Rivera, Mussolini or Mosley.

Oh - shameless plug - you may be interested in my own little SF blog, which is just getting off the ground and that can be found at

"My point about fascism is simply this: IF (as many historians and analysts, not all Marxist) would argue, a central feature of fascist movements is extra-legal assaults on organised labour (usually on the grounds that socialism or communism is betraying the race or nation), THEN this whole 'Gates of Vienna' fantasmagoria that the Muslim hordes are poised to sweep all before them and that the (mainstream and far) Left is guilty of appeasement or treason is pre-adapted for that purpose."

First off, I agree that this fantasmagoria is dangerous, both because it's racist/ethnically driven and because it's false. It's fascist agitprop in its themes of reproductive surrender, out-breeding, sexual weakness, etc. all tied to race.

But is this an attack on organized labor?

I'll quote George Berger from upthread:
"Several weeks ago the far-right Geert Wilders (arguably the most dangerous rightest in the EU) and his followers publically announced the death of multiculturalism and explicitely associated that movement-to which I adhere-with the Left: not the unions, they are submissive, but the cultural and journalustic people whom these bastards consider to be left."

Whenever you characterize this as an attack on organized labor, you're conflating things that are perhaps better not conflated. The multiculturalist left is mostly middle-class, as far as I can tell. "Organized labor" in the way that you're using it seems to come down to very few actual workers in the classic sense. If this is fascism, it seems to me to be in the classic mode of an alliance between a subset of the workers and the elite.

@Rich I was talking about what in the Netherlands passes for a labour union central organisation. That is submissive, and willingly so at the top. They consider it no more than a stepping-stone to a cushy job in politics or industry. They are opportunists. Wilders doesn't have to target such spineless people. Since I lived there for nearly 37 years, it didn't occur to me to make that explicit. I should have. Let's just say that such civil cowardness is one reason I left the union and the country.

To make myself more clear, I think that Gramsci was wrong, and I think that Ken is wrong insofar as he believes that Gramsci could have been right. The workers of Turin were, in large part, fascists, and it was only Gramsci's fantasy that they were based on the category of shopkeepers. Instead he mythologized them into a class called "the workers of Turin" who were anti-fascist by definition, even as the real fascists recruited from that class. And who were the first enemies of the fascists? Gramsci mentions that their first threatened targets were rumored to include a socialist student and a bookstore.

I think that the social-democratic parties are essentially middle class, that the concern for multiculturalism is basically a concern of the intelligentsia, and I'm not looking forward to another few decades where everyone on the left pretends to be a worker again.

@Rich Let me inject a bit of precision. First, I know next to nothing about Gramsci. Second, and more important, In the three EU countries I am quite familiar with, Holland, Sweden (where I live) and the UK, it is the right, indeed mainly the far right, which has a concern for multiculturalism. Some on the left in these nations desire a neatly integrated nation, where ethnic divisions of any kind simply don't count. My city, Uppsala, approaches this ideal. People on the Left have written a lot about multiculturalism, but it's the Right that condemns it and uses the *word* as a tool to bash the Left. This use is *independent* of the class statuses of the Leftists. Many on the right in these countries have at best a foggy idea of what multiculturalism is, as I'd use the term.

'The workers of Turin were, in large part, fascists'

I got a couple of interesting books about fascism a year or two ago. The definitions within them are perhaps a little old fashioned, but nevertheless are relevant.
From Dwight MAcdonald's introduction to "Fascism and big business" by Daniel Guerin, we have:

In the fascist synthesis there are three elements: 1) the subsidies of big business, 2) the intolerable economic situatin of large sections of the middle class, 3) a political mysticism by which skilled demagogues can persuade the middle classes, ruined and demoralized, to support the policies of tehir chief opperssors, the big bourgeoisie. The dual nature of fascism,w hich is at once a conscious plot by big business and a spontaneous mass movement, makes it a political phenomenon which is peculiarly difficult to interpret.

Reading this passage, I was reminded of the tea party - all it is missing is a messianic leader who has the luck and skills to weld the disparate elements of the tea party and the right wing in the USA into one party, rather than the holier than thou spread of factions which it seems to be just now.

Turn to page 4 of chapter 1:
When the economic crisis becomes acute, when the rate of profit sinks towards zero, the bourgeoisie can see only one way to restore its profits: it empties the pockets of the people down to the last centime. It resorts to what M. Caillaux, once finance minister for France, expressively calls "The great penance": brutal slashing of wages and social expenditures, raising of tariff duties at the expense of the consumer, etc. The state, furtehrmore, rescues business enterprises on the brink of bankruptcy, forcing the masses to foot the bill. Such enterprises are kept alive with subsidies, tax exemptions, orders for public works and armaments. In short, the state thrusts itself into the breach left by the vanishing private customers.

Of course these days there is record profitability in business's, but somehow the profits don't trickle down the way they are supposed to.

Robert A Brady defines the NAzi fascism as:
"The Nazi system represents, in short, nothing more than an extension to the nation at large of the rules, the behavioural patterns, and the points of view of the ordinary autocratically governed business enterprise."
(Page 34-35 of "The spirit and structure of German fascism".

It's true that fascism is pro-labour-union-so-long-as-it's-the-State's-union, but I take that to be an anti-labour, not a pro-labour, feature of fascism.

Well, that depends; genuine theoretical Fascism is pretty vehemently anti-capitalist, indeed fairly nihilistic in many ways. I certainly agree that all successful incarnations of Fascism are anti-labour, primarily because they gain or require the support of captains of industry to sieze power; however Fascist movements - and there is a distinction between the movement and government - tend very often to be anti-cap and anti-business (in many cases because IT'S A JEWISH PLOT foam foam rant).

Please don't misunderstand me; this is not support for fascism, rather an attempt at clarification. There are many different forms of Fascism and fascism, but 'classical' or 'theoretical' Fascism along the lines of, say, the FE/JONS or the Rexists is pretty pro-worker and anti-capitalist purely because it sees the worker as the true inheritor of the nation's greatness, whilst the capitalist is a parasite sucking the life from the nation and its people.

So to say that fascism in all its forms is inherently anti-labour is incorrect, in my view. Indeed, as was pointed out earlier, Fascism grows from, and borrows heavily from, Communism.

Roderick - nicely put! I was hoping you were reading this, because when I wander around your part of the libertarian labyrinth I find people I hope to meet some day, and of a generally sunny and hopeful disposition. Whereas the British libertarian/conservative blogosphere has increasingly become at best curmudgeonly and at worst in the grip of the same 'Gramsci-Fabian-internationalist-PC-cultural-Marxism' memeplex as we've been discussing. It's also, not surprisingly, pretty depressed (and depressing).

Would you, as an Austro-anarcho-Athenian academic, happen to know of any intellectual resources that could help these poor chaps?

Worker - good to hear from you! Yes, I'm sure you and I and your father could spend many a fascinating hour discussing the ins and outs of fascist ideology and obscure fascist movements, and I by no means discount the idealistic and radical elements of the subjective side of it.

But what is rather pre-occupying my mind at the moment is the remarkable fact of a person motivated by a new combination of ideas and resentments, carrying out an atrocity consciously directed at damaging the political prospects of a mass social-democratic party.

Rich - you say 'The workers of Turin were, in large part, fascists'

And I say: citation needed.

@Rich P - "But is this an attack on organized labor?"

Well, the labour party HQ was bombed and the labour party youth meeting was massacred so who knows?

When Ken puts it like that, I am reminded of the short SF story, I cannot recall who wrote it, where the cold war is carried on by assassination. Except that the hero finds out that the USSR is cunningly switching tactics to assassinating promising future leaders, rather than the current ones, with the obvious aim of having to deal with weak mediocrities in the future rather than strong effective leaders.

Eddie, I hope that you can see that the labor party serves more than one role here. The criminal who attacked them claimed that he did so because of a melange of reasons involving multiculturalism, Islam, and so on. As far as I know, he didn't say anything about capitalism or workers. Nor does the source of the propaganda that Ken is alluded to, the "Gates of Vienna", really have an anti-worker component in the classical sense (as far as I know).

So if this person has been animated by fascist resentment and encouraged to commit mass murder, he's done so because of what amounts to a different kind of hatred. Race hatred, certainly, masquerading as religious, sexual hysteria, but also hatred of intellectuals and of a world order inspired to some extent by left intellectuals. Because, yes, the people who came up with the ideas classed as multiculturalism were left intellectuals. The fact that the right uses the word as a bogeyman word doesn't invalidate that work. Whether you agree or disagree, or think that there should be some kind of "let's ignore culture" polity, that's the solution that the Labor Parties have more or less adopted.

That seems to me to be the primary focus of the attack, if we're going to consider it on as an ideologically inspired attack rather than simply as a crime. Do we really have to start assuring ourselves that we're all workers in order to be in solidarity with other people on the left? Or paper over the uncomfortable fact that a lot of the people who are eager to embrace fascism are workers?

Ken, if you want a citation, how about Gramsci? Here's a quote from The Old Order in Turin:

"[...] the old order has triumphed in Turin. It is certain that even the 22,323 socialist votes cannot be considered as an affirmation of revolutionary will. The Turin socialists have moved so far to the right, they have shown such a frenzied desire to ruin the proletarian organization, that they have permanently secured the sympathies and the political support of the petty bourgeois - and the latter certainly do not want the proletariat to instal a new order. The 22,323 socialist votes can be added in with the 10,150 votes for the Popular Party, not with the 12,509 communist votes. And the significance of the Turin elections clearly emerges: a majority asserted by the middle parties (32,473 votes) against fascist capitalism (31,555 votes for the bloc), to protest against the uncivilized "excesses" of those who burned the Chamber of Labour and, by means of the civilized weapon of the ballot, to proclaim the possibility for the magnificent and progressive destiny of the working people to be realized within the framework of bourgeois legality and the old capitalist order."

Who were those 31,555 voters for fascist capitalism? Gramci, as usual, goes on about "the feelings of sharecroppers, sacristans, shop-keepers, foremen, clerks and a percentage (around 20 per cent of more skilled workers), who want to blackleg while still claiming to be socialists." Sacristans, shop-keepers, foremen, and clerks do not add up to a third of the vote. It seems plain to me that a good number of these are right-wing workers, although not part of "the labour movement" as defined by socialists as that subset of workers who agree with them.

I don't know if the Turin workers supported the fascists, but the Norwegian workers didn't. Breivik is certainly not a worker. He grew up and lived in the expensive West End of Oslo, and in the early 2000s he was earning lots of money from a company he was owning. Then he got involved in, and lost money on, financial speculation. The petty bourgeoisie have always be the core constituency of fascism.

Moreover, AUF members aren't all white middle class. For instance, there are many trade union activists as well. And some of the victims, and the survivors, were not white.

If this means Breivik is not a fascist, fine. Then he can be a conservative terrorist instead. It's not the left's problem if he's got more in common with David Cameron than with Nick Griffin.

@Ken: Okay, I understand your point now. Apologies over the nitpicking.

@multiple: Need I remind people that white-collar labor is still working class? Let's do away with this outdated assumption that "real labor" is manual labor, and only manual laborers are working class. Are you selling your labor for wages? Then you are working class. In our NA and European post-industrial, service-n-knowledge economies, the middle class isn't just part of the working class, it's the bulk of it.

@Norwegian Guy. You got that exactly right (from an American-Dutch-Swedish rootless cosmopolitan:)

Rich - these figures don't show at all that 'The workers of Turin were, in large part, fascists'. That's nonsense. The election took place *after* the defeat of a massive movement of factory occupations and general strikes, a defeat brought about not by masses of workers supporting fascism but by the passivity of the Socialist Party (of which Gramsci was at that time a member).

The fascists went into action after the 'Two Red Years' had ended. And they didn't start by winning votes, or picking on socialst students and bookshops. Here's what they did:

"From November 1920 fascism went on the offensive, initially targeting the agricultural labourers’ unions of north east and central Italy. During local elections held a month earlier, Socialists won majorities in 2,162 out of 8,059 communes, and in 25 of 69 provinces. They broke the control exercised by the landowners in central Italy, who, in their rage, switched in ever greater numbers to the fascists. The fascist offensive began in Bologna where they attacked the Socialist council, beginning a series of such attacks on Socialist local authorities. The lack of any coordinated resistance encouraged them. By the close of 1921 the strength of the fascist squads approached 300,000. In the preceding 12 months they had destroyed 59 case del popolo Socialist centres, 119 camere del lavoro union halls, 107 cooperatives, 83 peasant trade unions and 141 social centres. They had left over 100 dead and thousands wounded, forcing councillors out of office and leftists and trade unionists to flee for safety. The attacks were not just on the left, but even on the most moderate Socialists and on rural cooperatives run by Catholics. Any independent organisations which threatened the dominance of the landowning elite were legitimate targets."

The article from which this is taken gives a useful basic survey of Gramsci's life and times.

Ken, that same article says that "By the close of 1921 the strength of the fascist squads approached 300,000." Who were those people? All shopkeepers? All outside agitators, brought in from somewhere?

I'm familiar with the history of the period at this general level. Left descriptions of the events treat leftists as workers, even when they aren't, and never call fascists workers, even when they are. The whole left project of the time fell apart if socialism wasn't considered to be the historical destiny of the working class, and Gramsci spent much of his life in prison afterwards developing theories about how the workers had been fooled into adopting a middle-class worldview via cultural hegemony. There would have been no need to do this if the working class hadn't, in fact, been split between the workers organized into left institutions -- all of those Socialist centers, union halls, and cooperative destroyed by fascist terroristic violence -- and between workers for whom nationalistic fervor, religion, and the other core parts of fascism were more important than class status.

The reason I'm dwelling on this Gramsci bit that you cited originally is because it's an example of a mythology that I think is harmful if we're going to interpret contemporary events. For instance, Dylan Brady, above, brings up the theory that if you're selling your work for wages, you're a worker, even if all of your other markers are middle-class. All right, then a large majority of people in right-wing movements are workers. Are we going to tell them about false consciousness one more time?

Ken: "Would you, as an Austro-anarcho-Athenian academic, happen to know of any intellectual resources that could help these poor chaps?"

I'd say Kevin Carson, but British right-libertarians tend to go into even more batshit mouth-foaming against Kevin than American right-libertarians do. Not sure why that is.

Worker: "So to say that fascism in all its forms is inherently anti-labour is incorrect, in my view. Indeed, as was pointed out earlier, Fascism grows from, and borrows heavily from, Communism."

Certainly many forms of fascism are *rhetorically* pro-worker. That's different from being pro-worker in practice. Ditto for Communism, if by Communism we're talking about the forms of Communism that tend to get implemented in political reality: rhetorically pro-worker but in practice anti-worker.

(Communist regimes manage to seem pro-worker, I suspect, only because most forms of anti-Communism are likewise anti-worker.)

Rich - while I'm hardly the one to talk about caricatural generalisations, I think you're making several: about left historical accounts of the rise of fascism, about 'the left project of the time', and indeed about what Gramsci argued in the Prison Notebooks. However, I think they're best left to argue over in another context. On the point that many fascists, historical and contemporary, were and are workers, and that a majority of people in right-wing movements are workers, this is not news.

However, there is no way the fascist squads were made up of workers who differed only from the workers organised in the unions, co-ops and parties in that they just happened not to be left-wing in their political opinions.

All right, agreed.

I happened to be in Oslo about 24 hours before the bomb went off, now back in Tasmania catching up with my RSS aggregator some of my more usual readings. While wandering around Oslo thinking 'it's such a quiet looking place, does anything ever happen here, look at all these statues everywhere..." I though no one would choose it for such things, but then in Tasmania we had 'Martin Bryant who shot 3 score because he didn't like tourists. The Oslo maniac was a 'thinking man's Martin Bryant' and basically the world's first South Park Republican inspired terrorist, because, as our australian version of Sarah Palin, Pauline Hanson said, "I just don't like it."

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