Friday, September 15, 2006

More on Islamic Fascism

In response to last night's post on Islamic fascism, lefty blogger David Neiwert thought I done him wrong. You could read it in the comments section, but I'll reproduce it for you right here:

I only happen to cite the bulk of the serious scholarship of fascism of the past half-century, including Oxford scholar Roger Griffin, considered one of the world's leading experts on the subject, and Robert O. Paxton, whose Anatomy of Fascism was published in 2004.

Perhaps if you can demonstrate some actual, serious scholarship of the subject yourself -- beyond, of course, political hacks like Jonah Goldberg, who is only a scholar of mendacity -- you might be taken seriously.

Otherwise, your discussion here is about as lightweight as the megabytes required to post this nonsense.

I'll forgive him the left-netroots "I'm smarter than you are" snarkiness. You can't really deny a man his lifeblood and, in fairness, it may be I attributed a view to him that he does not hold.

Lots of fascism scholarship (and, no, I haven't written any) used to hold that fascism was a late-stage of capitalism; sort of a rearguard action against encroaching socialism. In that sense, it was a thought to be a very specific social phenomenon; part of the Hegelian arc of history. It was thought to be a creature of the right, even though it is, essentially, socialist in that it recognizes no property rights against the state. With the fall of communism, this view sort of lost its lustre.

Maybe Neiwert doesn't think that. His posts on fascism largely consist of bloc quotes from other people and are themselves a bit imprecise. He does have a longer essay that he links to that makes that point, but it looks like he wrote it in 2003. Perhaps he's reconsidered.

He cites, as authoritative, historian Robert Paxton. Professor Paxton is an accomplished scholar, although I hardly think he has settled the issue. But let's take Paxton's self-described "tentative" definition and see if we can fit it to the Whatever It Is That Keeps Blowing Stuff Up:

''A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood (check) and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity (check), in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants (check), working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites (check), abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.''(check),(check),(check) and (check).

The only one seems questionable is the "uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites" but its not clear to me that this would necessarily be a permanent characteristic of fascism as opposed to a tactic by which it assumes power. In 1920, Hitler did not have alot of traditional elites in his corner. What he did have was a myth that he would ultimately spin (with a lot of muscle) into a sufficiently powerful social force that he could pull those elites along. Eventually, "traditional elites" in Nazi Germany came to realize that they had been used. They thought that they were in control, only to learn that they were not.

But whether tactic or enduring characteristic, the Terrorists Whose Name We Dare Not Speak (they are quite clear on who they are) are generally state sponsored and, in Iran, have certainly co-opted the institutions of that society. They certainly cooperate "uneasily but effectively" with the Saudi royal family.

I suppose that you could say that you can't abandon democratic liberties until you have them, but that seems to get us back into the March of History Mess and would seem unimportant to those who are the fascist's victims. In ay event, places in which Islamic fascism has taken a foothold have generally repudiated whatever liberal notions existed, see, e.g., Iran and wherever sharia law has taken hold.

Of course, there are going to be differences between European fascism and the Islamic variety. I agree that using the term "fascism" only gets you so far. But it hardly seems beyond the pale or, as some would have it, clearly and ridiculously wrong. In fact, it seems, for the most part, quite accurate and may be an effective shorthand to convey the nature of this particular enemy.

Update: In the original version of this post, I mispelled Mr. Neiwert's name. My apologies.


Dad29 said...

The Left is incapable of believing that a religious-based fascism can exist.

...which tells you a lot about the influence of religion on the Left...

B-16's remarks identifying the split between "reason" and "natural law" (or more precisely, faith) are pertinent here.

The Left has swallowed this split whole (as have elements of the Right); thus the auto-response of "impossible" to the assertion that faith HAS influence, indeed.

David Neiwert said...

Ahem. Y'know, it tends to help your credibility a little if you actually spell my name correctly.

But that's niggling. You mention Paxton, but as I mentioned, I cite all kinds of current scholars of fascism, including Roger Griffin, Walter Laqueur, Umberto Eco and Stanley Payne. I'm not saying "I'm smarter than you" -- I'm just saying you haven't done your homework. Citing Jonah Goldberg is, well, just pathetic.

As for this:

The Left is incapable of believing that a religious-based fascism can exist.

... is absolute balderdash. In fact, Paxton specifically writes:

...[E]ach national variant of fascism draws its legitimacy ... not from some universal scripture but from what it considers the most authentic elements of its own community identity. Religion, for example, would certainly play a much larger role in an authentic fascism in the United States than in the first European fascisms, which were pagan for contingent historical reasons.

In fact, American fascists of the past -- particularly William Dudley Pelley and Gerald Winrod -- were pronouncedly religious, proclaiming themselves in the vanguard of "Christian patriots." In a more recent context, the fascists at the Aryan Nations compound in northern Idaho -- which is where I began writing about and studying the phenomenon -- took as their official name the "Church of Jesus Christ Christian" and held their weekly gatherings at a church they built on the compound.

What I think you all have difficulty dealing with is the reality that fascism is, and always has been, specifically a right wing phenomenon -- and now you're eager to try to cast it as a form of left-wing socialism. There are simply no serious scholars who swallow this kind of nonsense. Though obviously, Jonah Goldberg does.

Rick Esenberg said...

You're right. It is niggling and no more reflects on my credibility than would your inadvertent mispelling of my name. But a person ought to have his or her name spelled correctly, so I've corrected it.

I don't think I am necessarity trying to "cast [fascism]as a form of left-wing socialism", although I am not sure it makes any sense to characterize socialism as a right-wing phenomenom as the right is understood in the U.S and I do not think it is correct to say that no serious scholar has remarked upon the similarities and shared etiology of fascism and communism.

What I did do is remark upon the similarity of You Don't Know What to Call It and fascism. I know that you and others on the left can't stand that, but you haven't made a persuasive case that use of the term fascism to describe Those Guys is wrong.

Peter said...

You are correct. The left nutroots are snarky, arrogant and smarmy as all get out. They really do think they are smarter than you. And me. And anyone else who dares disagree with them.

Dad29 said...

Well, David, I'm using the definition(s) of "fascism" supplied by eminentoes such as 'Folkbum' Jay Bullock and 'The Other Side of My Mouth,' right here in Milwaukee.

NEITHER of them provided a definition which included religion.

As to your quotation of Paxton--good. But you haven't refuted MY statement--that '...the Left is incabable of believing...'

Unless you demonstrate that Sen. Kennedy, Rep Pelosi, the NYT editorial page (etc., ad nauseam) believe and understand the religious-based fascism (IslamoFascism) exists.

THEY prefer to exculpt 'religion' and talk about "nations."

your ball.