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.