Liberal Fascism

Bracher, Neo-Nazis & More

I thought this was a great email. Lots of stuff to chew on: 

  Dear Jonah –

I finished Liberal Fascism about a week ago, and wanted to thank you for

writing such an excellent book.  Congratulations on reaching the top of the

Times’ Best-Seller list.  Your success is well-deserved, and I hope for a

long and culturally influential stay at the top of the charts.

LF has led me to crack open a few books that have lingered on my shelf since

college.  One of these is The German Dictatorship by K. D. Bracher (I

scanned the notes and index to see if you referenced this work by chance,

but didn’t see it listed).  Early on, Bracher delineates the two basic

historiographical camps regarding Nazism – the “it’s in Germany’s blood”

camp, and the “it was in the European air” camp, the former finding the

sources of National Socialism in Prussian militarism and imperialism, the

latter locating the sources in the forces unleashed by the French

Revolution.  I found three paragraphs devoted to the European background to

be of great interest, and wanted to see if you had any thoughts on them

(apologies for the length, and for any misspellings):

“According to this view, the totalitarian movements are the children of the

age of democracy, having grown out of and being part of the problems and

distortions of popular democracy; in this way, they differ from the

prerevolutionary and predemocratic autocracy of absolutism.  The political

awakening of the populace is the decisive factor in this development.  Since

then, the face of dictatorship has also changed.  It employs different

methods and enhances its chances of winning universal, total control by

utilizing, manipulating, and distorting the dynamic ideas of freedom and

brotherhood of the democratic movement; it lays claim to the will and the

sovereignty of the people as the basis for political rule; it proclaims

itself the executor of history, of historical necessity; it stresses the

higher legitimacy of its rule and clothes its seizure of power iin

pseudo-legal garb; it hides and intensifies dictatorial rule behind the

screen of pseudo-democratically, pseudo-plebiscitarian-controlled elections

and mass meetings, of acclamation and propaganda; it poses as the true,

total democracy which will, if necessary, force happiness on its citizens. 

The absolutism of Rousseau’s general will apparently furnishes the

justification for democracy and dictatorship alike.

“To be sure, modern dictatorship differs from absolutism insofar as it calls

for the extinction of the individual.  It forces him into mass organizations

and commits him to a political creed which becomes a “political religion,” a

binding religious surrogate.  This exaltation of the political rests on the

absoluteness of a political myth: in the case of Fascism, the myth is of an

imperial past; in the case of Communism, of a socialist-utopian future; and

in the case of National Socialism, of racial superiority.  Yet, despite the

validity of this analysis, it is nonetheless inconclusive.  National

Socialism and its precursors essentially saw themselves as the great

historical countermovements to the French Revolution and all it brought in

its wake, as movements against liberalism and libertarian democracy, against

individual and human rights, against Western civilization and international

socialism.  Its affinity for reactionary conservatism shaped both the aims

and ideas of its adherents and, ultimately, helped it come to victory.  The

eradication of liberalism and individualism was the primary self-appointed

goal of the National Socialist revolution.  Thus, Goebbels, speaking in

1933, stated emphatically: ‘The year 1789 is hereby eradicated from

history.’   The intellectual forerunners on whom National Socialism drew in

the development of its Weltanschauung were primarily ideologists fervently

opposed to the ideas of democratic revolution, human rights, freedom, and

equality.

“This ideological ‘anti’ front was forged by a combination of four

tendencies: a new, essentially imperialistic nationalism; a

conservative-authoritarian glorification of the all-powerful state; a

nationalist-statist aberration of socialism seeking to combine social

romanticism and state socialsm; and, finally, a volkisch community ideology

based on race, which, beginning as simple xenophobia, turned into a radical,

biological anti-Semitism which ultimately became the major tenet of National

Socialism.”

As I read this, I thought that first paragraph and half of the second could

have been penned by you.  And yet, at the end of the day, Bracher places

National Socialism on the right – claiming that it is animated by those

right-wing boogeymen imperialism, nationalism, social romanticism and state

socialism (!), and racism.  You said that it became impossible to call FDR a

fascist after the Holocaust, and that the Left in America linked the

repressive features of fascism to McCarthy and successfully rebranded

fascism as a right wing phenomenon.  But what accounts for this same skewed

frame of reference from a German historian and committed democrat like

Bracher?  How did the Germans come to believe that National Socialism, in

spite of their own experience, was the work of capitalists, monarchists and

authoritarians, and right-wing extremists?

Also, what do you make of his reference to Goebbels, or of his contention

that National Socialists saw themselves as counterrevolutionaries to the

events of 1789?  Was Goebbels thinking of 1789 as the fountainhead of

international socialism?

Finally, since reading LF I’ve been Googling many famous Nazis and, while

following a few links, ended up at the Vanguard News Network website (some

neo-Nazi movement here in the US).  I didn’t stick around long enough to

learn many particulars, but I did notice that one poster was very upset

about “sneaky Jews” who were trying to convince conservatives that fascism

was a leftist movement, when – as everyone knows – it is the purest

expression of conservatism and the only hope for America’s future. 

Alongside this post, there was a link to a collection of photographs of

“nude Aryan women” from the Third Reich, posing as Diana the huntress or

exercising outdoors, glorying in “Mother Earth”.  Ahh – the “right-wing”

virtues of getting naked and running through the trees.

I guess any book that infuriates the Left and the Nazis in our midst has to

have a lot going for it.

Many thanks and best regards,

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