When does nationalism become fascism?

17 posts / 0 new
Last post
Lucky Black Cat's picture
Lucky Black Cat
Offline
Joined: 11-02-18
Nov 1 2018 01:19
When does nationalism become fascism?

I posted this in the thread about the fascist elected in Brazil, but decided maybe I better start a new thread since most people might not be following the other one.

If nationalism is the essence of fascism, at what point does nationalism become fascism?

Most people are nationalists, though it gets called patriotism, and from an extremely young age we are fed a steady-diet of seemingly "benign" nationalism, like standing for the national anthem everyday in school, big celebrations with fireworks for Independence Day or whatever equivalent national-celebration day a country might have, being taught to take pride in your country, and so on. Of course none of this is benign, and it's the foundation on which bigotry is built.

At what point is the line crossed from nationalism to fascism?

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Nov 1 2018 11:55

There are (at least) two sides to extreme nationalism, there is it being expressed externally as imperialism, for example British colonialism, vs. internally as ethno-nationalism. While these are two different things, they're also very strongly linked.

British colonialism was executed by liberal, conservative and social democratic governments. Obvious examples are Attlee's government presiding over the beginnings of the Malayan emergency, assisting French imperialism in Indonesia, and the massacre of striking Nigerian miners in Enogu as well as putting down mass strikes in Kenya. Churchill from 1951 continued the Malayan emergency and presided over the State of Emergency in Kenya which included concentration camps and mass torture.

However pointing out this isn't classical fascism doesn't mean it wasn't fascistic - the UK used race scientists in Kenya in the mid '50s to 'diagnose' anti-colonial movements and devise torture techniques. There's also Cesaire's conception of fascism as “colonialist procedures… applied to Europe” (i.e. the concentration camps in the Herero/Nama massacre by Germany, Britain doing similar in the Boer war, Belgium in the Congo, Jim Crow and the KKK in the US all preceded the rise of classical fascism and were inspirations for it).

And it's not as if fascist states weren't imperialist - Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in the '20s (and the USSR kept exporting oil to Italy during the war).

Then there is nationalism turned internally as ethno-nationalism - Yugoslavia, Nazi Germany etc.

One thing that's been bothering me for a while is that while anti-state communists are generally very consistent opposing nationalism, I don't feel like there's enough work done on analysing it (which can make attempts to oppose it ineffective and lack nuance).

Fanon's Wretched of the Earth has a chapter 'The pitfalls of national consciousness' which shows the transition from a 'progressive' nationalism to ethno-nationalism - in the context of the failure of anti-colonial movements to actually smash the colonial state and capitalism vs. changing its personnel. And how 'changing personnel' often led to ethno-nationalism turned against either inter-African immigrants or different ethnicities within the old colonial state.

https://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/fanon/pitfalls-national.htm

darren p's picture
darren p
Offline
Joined: 5-07-06
Nov 1 2018 16:56

Fascism isn’t *just* an extreme form of nationalism, it has more elements than that. Obviously firstly, the idea of “the true will of the people” being represented through the actions of a great leader. Secondly, another key element is corporatism, that is the incorporation of workers and employers representives into the state as a means of overcoming the class struggle. I don’t think any of these modern so-called fascists are putting forward a corporatist agenda? And if not they are not really fascist at all.

I don’t really understand the attraction of wanting to call everything “fascist”, seems a bit lazy to me. Far right extreme nationalism is not necessarily the same thing as fascism.

I haven’t read tonnes on Fascism but a useful book I have came across is Noel O’Sulivan’s “Fascism”

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Nov 1 2018 20:23

I agree that 'far right extreme nationalism' and 'fascism' aren't identical, but also I wish people would accept that different people (including professional scholars of fascism) have different definitions. There were massive differences between Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, Salazar.

Also if the thread had been entitled 'When/how does nationalism turn into far-right extremely nationalism' there'd be no reason to go on about definitions, but it'd be a useful question to ask.

Japan's regime in the '30s was an Axis power but is often not described as fascist (although it was authoritarian and far right, and worked with the Nazis). But it would probably also match your definition (extremely corporatist, emperor as the leader, ultra-nationalist).

Secondly, another key element is corporatism, that is the incorporation of workers and employers representives into the state as a means of overcoming the class struggle.

This is also true of post-war social democracy/tri-partism though? And that corporatism once estabilished in a liberal democracy will survive both 'left' and 'right' wing governments (unless they take explicit steps to dismantle it).

And your definition would also include Stalinism (Russian nationalism, great leader, incorporation of workers and employers into state - although without the ethno-nationalism).

Trumka (the AFL-CIO president) has been relatively pro-Trump: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/08/01/afl-cio-leader-president-trump-moving-right-direction-trade/879845002/ Was on his business council until last year: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/opinion/richard-trumka-trump-business-council.html So does that make Trump corporatist?

And there are various syncretist ideologies like National-Bolshevism, which are definitely fash if deliberately obscurantist to avoid the label. Having such a strict definition of fascism and focusing everything on that, means that third-positionism can end up getting a bit of a free ride - let alone plenty of fascists being quite coy about their actual beliefs.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Nov 1 2018 21:05

Very interesting so far.

Mike Harman wrote:
And your definition would also include Stalinism (Russian nationalism, great leader, incorporation of workers and employers into state - although without the ethno-nationalism).

Surely there were elements of this? WWII was the Great Patriotic War, ethnic Russians were exported to change the demographics in Soviet Republics and large native populations were starved and deported.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Nov 1 2018 21:25
jef costello wrote:
Very interesting so far.
Mike Harman wrote:
And your definition would also include Stalinism (Russian nationalism, great leader, incorporation of workers and employers into state - although without the ethno-nationalism).

Surely there were elements of this? WWII was the Great Patriotic War, ethnic Russians were exported to change the demographics in Soviet Republics and large native populations were starved and deported.

Yes but I don't think that's darren p's intention. Similarly craftwork on the Brazil thread came up with a definition which excluded Nazi Germany.

The USSR also maintained close relations with Argentina after the 1976 far-right coup against Peron. And supported Mengistu's military dictatorship in Ethiopia which massacred Marxist-Leninist students.

However is it useful to have a definition of fascism which includes the USSR, but excludes Pinochet's Chile? Or apartheid South Africa? Or Enoch Powell? Let alone the ideology of people were members of the international CPs: Joe Jacobs? Harry Haywood? Goerge Padmore (for a while) ? W E Du Bois (for a while)? Murray Bookchin (as a teenager)? Angela Davis? Makhan Singh?

Or for that matter not long after coming to power post-war Labour deported thousands of Chinese seaman from Liverpool. Churchill and the 1943 Bengal famine then later the Malayan and Kenyan emergencies involves the deaths of millions, hundreds of thousands or millions in concentration camps, tortured of tens of thousands. Churchill's 1945 manifesto pledged massive state intervention in housing and other industries.

So it's not really possible to come up with a definition of fascism which reliably includes regimes and ideologies that really are fascist, but excludes ones that aren't - it will always be too narrow or too broad. Apart from the tautological one which says 'the regimes of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler'.

Lucky Black Cat's picture
Lucky Black Cat
Offline
Joined: 11-02-18
Nov 2 2018 02:33

These responses are making me less ignorant yet also more confused! LOL. Well, seems the jury is still out on how to define fascism. For those who insist on a strict definition of fascism, stop being such a language fascist! (Sorry, couldn't help myself. wink )

Mike Harman wrote:
Also if the thread had been entitled 'When/how does nationalism turn into far-right extremely nationalism' there'd be no reason to go on about definitions, but it'd be a useful question to ask.

Yes, perhaps this is a better question so we don't get distracted.

bastarx
Offline
Joined: 9-03-06
Nov 2 2018 02:57

For a long time I thought that what distinguished fascism from 'normal' capitalist authoritarianism was that it came to power by proving its worth to capital by mobilising armed men outside of the normal structures of the police/army to crush the working class. Recent events have left me less sure of that definition but I think it still has some value. Fascism in power is not necessarily that different from other capitalist dictatorships.

Tom Henry
Offline
Joined: 26-09-16
Nov 2 2018 13:33
Quote:
However is it useful to have a definition of fascism which includes the USSR, but excludes Pinochet's Chile? Or apartheid South Africa? Or Enoch Powell?

It is right to be suspect of any definition of fascism that, for example, includes the USSR and doesn’t include Pinochet’s Chile.

The example of the USSR shows us that fascism can arise from left as well as right ideologies.

It is not useful to investigate how nationalism develops into fascism, as this misses the point.

It is only useful to investigate how ideologies which seek to cure the world of its ills develop into fascism.

Fascism emerges when the goal of the ideology becomes paramount - and possible - at the expense of any ‘reasonable’ dialogue, that is, when ‘tiresome’ dialogue can be done away with (as a side note: take for example, any difficult and/or failed personal interaction with any government department). In the last two hundred years it has been clearly demonstrated that it is perenially easier for hard-line right wing ideologies to generate fascism (become successful) than left ones - and this, of course, reflects the relationship between business and the right wing.

In this stage (of emergence) bourgeois notions such as ‘free speech’ are simultaneously employed to promote the particular ideology on the one hand, and, on the other, to close down the arguments or objections of others. We have seen this playing out with the Bolsheviks, the Nazis, etc, and can see it in embryonic form with the phenomena around Trump.

Therefore, the difficulty we have in defining fascism lies in the fact that fascism is not the final nightmare of nationalism, but the authoritarian and/or totalitarian end of a – weak(?) - social democracy taken over by hard-line ideologues. It would appear, then, alarmingly, that to resist the emergence of fascism from any ideology, including our own, is to defend the messiness of social democracy (although how that can be successfully done is another question) … because fascism hums like a motor in low gear at the core of all ideology and all belief – including our own, particularly if we have dynamic plans for saving the world.

Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
Offline
Joined: 18-12-12
Nov 2 2018 06:30

Tom Henry said

Quote:
Some really fascinating stuff.

Thanks.

link
Offline
Joined: 22-12-10
Nov 2 2018 11:34

Some interesting discussion on the nature of fascism and a good indication of the problem of definitions. I do agree that is emerging as right wing nationalism today is not the same as what appeared in Germany and Italy in the 30s nor in Spain/Portugal/Chile in-between times. Fascism has become one of those go-to words when attacking someone or some movement that is a authoritarian whether Conservative party or Neo-Nazis. I like the attachment Neo; it at least recognises there is a difference but anti-neo-fascism does make such a good soundbite.

What I would like to stress is the issue of nationalism in all this. The original poster somehow linked nationalism to the right wing of capitalism but I think that is wrong. The nation state is a product of capitalism, it didn't exist beforehand, and it developed to facilitate the expansion of capitalist relations and of course capitalist production. Nationalism is the idealogical movement of the ruling class to motivate the population to support that nation and really only first appeared in the early 19th century.

I would argue therefore that the main threat is nationalism; it is this that today maintains capitalism and is the most important danger both to the working class and to the possibility of socialism.

Nationalism is the core of the threat posed by both left and right wings of capitalism and the left wing is as big a threat as the right wing.

Auld-bod's picture
Auld-bod
Offline
Joined: 9-07-11
Nov 2 2018 12:28

There have been many good posts.

Link #11, is I think right that the modern nation state is a product of capitalism, however its roots run deep. Capitalism is not maintained by the nation state, it transcends it - capital is multinational and knows allegiance to no country. The drive for profit is its life blood and nothing else. The future danger is a world government, with a centre not dissimilar to ancient Rome and everything geared to maintain the ruling class and all the feuding that involves. It’s no accident Mussolini modelled his new party on the old model.

Tom Henry
Offline
Joined: 26-09-16
Nov 3 2018 04:02
Quote:
Capitalism is not maintained by the nation state, it transcends it - capital is multinational and knows allegiance to no country. The drive for profit is its life blood and nothing else. The future danger is a world government, with a centre not dissimilar to ancient Rome and everything geared to maintain the ruling class and all the feuding that involves. It’s no accident Mussolini modelled his new party on the old model.

Capitalism is, as Auld-bod writes, effectively, the human practice that transcends nationalism above all other practices or ideologies. But capitalism (forgive the personification of capitalism here) has use of nationalism as a strategic tool in trade and manufacturing, and as a way of solving crises.

Moreover, capitalism is, if you like, a pluralistic practice: it can weather the necessity of monopoly or political dictatorship, indeed, in such times it is able to regroup – but these dictatorships are never long lasting because after a while political dictatorship stifles capitalist growth. This is the main reason dictatorships eventually collapse (in the USSR, for example, individual bureaucratic Party ‘entrepreneurs’ were able to gradually become free of the Party in such a way that they were then able to dictate new terms to the Party, although the process quickly became corrupted in Russia). Once business (entrepreneurs etc) begin to side with ‘the people’ in order to remove restrictions on their ability to make profit then the dictatorship is doomed. Right wing fascism as we know it often serves as a useful strategy for big business (eg Chile), but this is only part of a process of re-alignment with profit and economic expansion (at the cost of workers and the left middle class).

A world government could only work for capitalism if it was like some kind of ramped-up social democratic U.N., whereby capitalist ‘pluralism’ and competition is protected – like it is in a functioning single democratic state. But the benefits of being able to ruthlessly exploit vulnerable workers in regions outside of capitalist centres would be lost, and so a world government would have to operate on a social democratic, welfare-net model. Therefore, the idea of a world government would not be a right-wing fascist proposal, it could only be a left/liberal proposal (see the peace studies academic, Douglas Fry’s ‘Beyond War,’ for example). The left would logically support it. Big business, and recently ‘decolonized’ peoples, would have issues with it.

However, with ecological Armageddon on the not very distant horizon (is hydrogen fusion ‘our’ only hope?) it may be that the superpowers join forces for a while to build bunkers against the rest of the world.

spartakus25's picture
spartakus25
Offline
Joined: 14-05-18
Nov 4 2018 00:09
Tom Henry wrote:
Quote:
However is it useful to have a definition of fascism which includes the USSR, but excludes Pinochet's Chile? Or apartheid South Africa? Or Enoch Powell?

The example of the USSR shows us that fascism can arise from left as well as right ideologies.

I disagree with that. USSR was a extreme dictatorship and a disgraceful social regime, but that is not fascism because the political violence in USSR had a different political and historical meaning than fascism. In nutshell, while in USSR the violence was a way to destroy the old pre-capitalist social bonds in the countryside by '' Primitive socialist accumulation '' in order to conceive the 'modernization', fascism was a reaction against tendencies that could bring down the modern capitalist social relations. USSR aimed to create that relations; fascism aimed to maintain them. Both authoritarian in historical different way.

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Nov 4 2018 14:54

A contribution to the point raised by the post of Auld-bod above on the question of the contradiction for capitalism on the transcendence of the nation state. I don't think that there's any possibility of a world government which could attenuate these contradictions in any way.

http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201809/16576/trade-wars-obsolescence-nation-state

link
Offline
Joined: 22-12-10
Nov 4 2018 21:40

I think when looking at what capitalism can become we have to be cautious in thinking too far ahead and precise at looking at todays tendencies and counter tendencies to view even short term changes.

I think its wrong to say that cap has gone beyond nation state.

I absolutely agree that capital has gone global - economically. The nation state is too small and too limited for its business and economic requirements - and therefore we see international trade, global firms, trading blocks of various types eg EU, NAFTA, ASEAN etc, international joint manufacturing partnerships and so on and so forth. That is just one tendency however, certainly an important one. Today we seem to be seeing how nations are trying to defend or strengthen themselves by resorting to greater nationalism to maintain control of the population and indeed the nation states/government themselves ie there is a political and social counter tendency that is based in the nation state and uses nationalism. Brexit, USA, Brazil, Italy, and the anti austerity movements in Greece, Spain are just a few examples of where this counter tendency has taken a significant form.

So despite the overall trends, national ruling classes can and will continue to use nationalism to control and mobilise their own populations. In terms of the UK, its influence and impact has been strengthened considerably in the UK since the 70s and I would suggest that is an impact reason why the working class is so docile at present.

Lucky Black Cat's picture
Lucky Black Cat
Offline
Joined: 11-02-18
Nov 6 2018 09:26
link wrote:
So despite the overall trends, national ruling classes can and will continue to use nationalism to control and mobilise their own populations. In terms of the UK, its influence and impact has been strengthened considerably in the UK since the 70s and I would suggest that is an impact reason why the working class is so docile at present.

I've no idea if you're right about this, but it's a very interesting theory.