Wednesday, May 05, 2004


I mentioned last Sunday the latest book on Fascism (The Anatomy of Fascism by Robert. O. Paxton) but was too deterred by its obvious biases to do anything more than link to my own article on Hitler so that readers could see for themselves what Paxton had "overlooked".

Marxist "superstar" Terry Eagleton has however now reviewed the book and most of what he says is surprisingly fair. He does, for instance, make clear the antipathy between conservatism and Fascism and even hints at Fascism's Leftist origins and its affinities with modern-day Leftist "post-modernism". He also concludes, as I do, that Fascism seems in the long run to have won the day and that most of the world's political systems are now at least moving towards what would once have been called Fascism.

One of my readers bridled at Eagleton's statement: "The assumption that the free market and political democracy go naturally together was always pretty dubious" but I am afraid Eagleton is right. Up until recently the world's most free market society was Hong Kong, with no democracy at all, and intensely capitalist Singapore has pretty limited democracy too. As in most of his comments, however, Eagleton is overstating his case. Although there is no necessary association between democracy and capitalism, the two do seem to have some rough association.

I should mention, however, that the opening of Eagleton's review is deceptive. He says that Mussolini (the founder of Fascism) opposed Socialism. He omits to mention that what was called Socialism in Mussolini's day was what we would now call Communism. Mussolini, like the Mensheviks, considered Communism/Bolshevism to be a deviation from true Marxist doctrine. Mussolini was a non-Communist Leftist, in other words -- something that is still all around us today. The main difference between the Communists and the Fascists was that the Fascists detested the idea of class-warfare. They wanted the people of their countries to be united in one brotherly band rather than at war with one-another. But both the Communists and the Fascists wanted (and got) an all-powerful State that would allegedly "look after" its people -- not much different in the end from what modern-day Western Leftists clamour for.

And Eagleton's description of Fascists as "uncouth bruisers" is absurd. Eagleton admits that Britain's Sir Oswald Mosley was an "exception" to that but so was Mussolini. Like many modern-day Leftists, Mussolini was an intellectual. He read poetry and philosophy voraciously, including Socrates and Plato. He spoke several foreign languages, was always interested in discussing political and philosophical ideas with almost anyone, had considerable acceptance in his early days as a leading Marxist theoretician, wrote over 40 books, and was a tree-lover and environmentalist 50 years before Greenies were thought of!

I linked to a review of Eagleton's own recent book on 29th April. That reviewer noted Eagleton's superficial cleverness. A good example of it can be found in the last sentence of his review of the Paxton book.


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