Charles Crawford a brilliant and deeply knowledgeable former British diplomat I got to know on an NRO cruise (see! you should go on these things, particularly the lavish European ones!) has a new blog which looks to merit bookmarking. Anyway, he has a post on a topic of perennial interest to NRO readers and, no doubt, readers of this blog: Nazism v. Communism. In particular, he takes on an essay by Slavoj Zizek in the London Review of Books from a while back. I commented on the essay briefly — and far too incompletely — in the Corner back in 2005.
Crawford writes in part (after summarizing Zizek’s argument):
There is another choice which also happens to be the right one, namely to see Communism and Fascism/Nazism (not that the latter were the same thing) as two rival visions of a manic socialist collectivist approach to society and state coercive power, which in fact had far more in common in terms of ‘class struggle’ – and ultimately anti-semitism too – than the differences claimed by Zizek.
This thesis is admirably advanced with plenty of marvellous examples by Jonah Goldberg in his new book Liberal Fascism. Ignore the trite negative reviews, and buy it.
Both Communism and Nazism/Fascism took the utopian ends as justifying any means, above all a towering supremacy of the collectivist state over the individual. One was totalitarian international socialism. The other was totalitarian national socialism. Both murdered millions of people. Both were essentially and intrinsically destructive and violent. For these reasons and more, neither can seriously be claimed to be part of an Enlightenment tradition, unless that tradition is defined as Un-Enlightened..
Zizek and his sly arguments are at least correct on one point. There is a form of ‘European Identity based squarely on a profound Stalin-inspired ‘law of the excluded middle’ attempt to cast any objection to Communism as ‘essentially’ support for Fascism. This Vast Lie has been remarkably succesful down the decades, and still gives all sorts of cover to extremist collectivist viewpoints of different shapes and sizes.
Luckily for Europe many countries which laboured under Stalinism are now free; their representatives can speak out against this sort of thing in a way most politicians in Old Europe can not imagine doing.
It is no surprise that S Zizek as a leading supporter of an of-so-fashionable but banal Stalinist defence team comes from former non-aligned’ communist Yugoslavia: a country which wriggled out from the worst excesses of Stalinism, later collapsing not because there were serious intellectual forces opposing communism as such but rather because of often gangsterish political mobilisation based on ethnic exclusivism.
Zizek is a Marxist philosopher who dwells on the level of ideas. If he wants to study aspects of the allegedly Enlightenment tradition of Stalinism in a way both more dialectical and materialist simultaneously (and rather closer to home than the European Parliament), he need only walk down the road.