Antifascism in Harry Potter?

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Dec 26 2013 01:36
Antifascism in Harry Potter?

I suspect this has been done before, but I've been listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks recently and does anyone else see some pretty upfront political commentary to the series? Voldemort and the Death Eaters very much seem to resemble a fascist movement--totally dedicated to the the single strong leader exercising dictatorial powers with an extremely authoritarian and racist agenda that frame themselves in opposition to both the "mudblood" sympathizers (particularly Dumbledore) and the traditional establishment in the form of the Ministry of Magic. Despite their murderous and repressive nature, Voldemort's movement portrays itself as fighting for the salvation of pureblooded wizards and witches against the inferior Muggles and their supporters--in Deathly Hallows, Neville mentions how the Muggle Studies class has been turned into a platform to talk about how Muggles have persecuted wizards and witches throughout history. The Ministry itself is depicted as incompetent, extremely racist, and more interested in repressing and undermining the anti-Voldemort faction than in even acknowledging the reality of Voldemort and his quasi-fascists, which effectively allows Voldemort and his organization to become a serious force without much opposition. More so, the Ministry is very much under the influence of elements supportive of Voldemort (e.g. Lucius Malfoy). The Voldemort supporting purebloods themselves are essentially the aristocracy of the magical world, generally wealthy, snobbish, and racist (e..g the Malfoys and the Blacks).

Faced with the Voldemort threat and the unwillingness of the Ministry to take it seriously, the more progressive magical elements form the Order of the Phoenix (which includes elements viewed as unscrupulous by the Ministry such as Remus Lupin and Sirius Black) and Harry and his friends themselves form Dumbledore's Army, a militant student organization with the explicit purpose of engaging in armed self-defense against the Death Eaters and in blatant defiance of the Ministry, Ultimately, the more progressive wing of the anti-Voldemort movement forms a sort of antifascist alliance with the Ministry, fighting against Voldemort and his organization but allowing the restoration of the Ministry in the aftermath.

There are other parallels to real world events, such as Grindelwald being defeated in 1945. Grindelwald is shown as more of a paternalistic dictator that emphasizes "for the greater good" rather than a Hitler or Mussolini type, but I'm sure the dates are no coincidence. Also interesting is that, as we learn in Deathly Hallows, James and Lily Potter were killed in 1981. This implies that Voldemort's initial terror was carried out in the 1970s, coinciding with the height of the National Front in the UK.

I'm not really sure what JK Rowling's politics are (I think she may be a "critical" supporter of Labor?) and if there's any political message to the books than it's certainly not an anarchist one, but somewhat interesting nonetheless given their enormous popularity.

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Dec 26 2013 03:27

There is a Terry Pratchett book I read when really young, the events of which are almost entirely based on the paris commune, which made reading about the paris commune after I politicised seem strangely familiar.

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Dec 26 2013 13:27

http://libcom.org/forums/general/jk-rowling-13102012

^a thread on the same topic from a while back ago, don't know if you saw it. I was probably a bit harsh.

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Dec 26 2013 13:37
Quote:
^a thread on the same topic from a while back ago, don't know if you saw it. I was probably a bit harsh.

No, it wasn't harsh at all.

I for one, couldn't possibly get as far as political analysis with HP - the mind numbing obviousness and mediocrity of it sends me running for cover. Ugh, absolutely fucking ghastly.

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Dec 26 2013 15:11

I think with any clear goodie and baddy story it easy for radicals to wank out a political analysis and instantly link the baddies with fascism.

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Dec 26 2013 15:49

In terms of social commentary, I generally think it becomes a bit problematic when the story on hand is largely devoid of our world. That's not to say whats being imagined can't say anything about our current situation. It may require a serious interest in politics and the like. But in this case, I don't think Rowling was and the outcome was a bit of a mishmash.

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Dec 26 2013 15:49

dp

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Dec 26 2013 17:19
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
I think with any clear goodie and baddy story it easy for radicals to wank out a political analysis and instantly link the baddies with fascism.

This is an excellent point, also Harry Potter is clearly an entitled little shit.

I hit the big 2 0 in january, its about time I started being cynical.

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Dec 26 2013 17:39
Webby wrote:
I for one, couldn't possibly get as far as political analysis with HP - the mind numbing obviousness and mediocrity of it sends me running for cover. Ugh, absolutely fucking ghastly.

Aw geez Webby.

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Dec 26 2013 18:47
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Aw geez Webby

I take it you disagree?

I did check my post and asked myself the question 'am I being a contrary bastard or is Harry Potter shit?' My conclusion was that Harry Potter is shit.

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Dec 26 2013 18:15

It's a book for young kids, folks. It's about magic and wizards and stuff. Keep me in the loop if you want to do Narnia next.

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Dec 26 2013 18:46

C.S. Lewis? Grrr! Reactionary ruling class bloodsucker! Hang him from the highest wardrobe rail!!!

Coming next week - Moonface from the enchanted wood unmasks himself as a revolutionary and bludgeons Enid Blyton to death with a ginger beer bottle.

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Dec 26 2013 18:36
Webby wrote:
I did check my post and asked myself the question 'am being a contrary bastard or is Harry Potter shit?' My conclusion was that Harry Potter is shit.

Aw geez Webby.

On an unrelated but somewhat hilarious note, a former Bush speechwriter claimed that JK Rowling lost out on the presidential medal of freedom because the Harry Potter books "encouraged witchcraft."

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Dec 26 2013 21:30

The Narnia films were much boring compared to the Harry Potter series. Even the novels, all of which is collected in a single 700+ page volume I own. I didn't get far in it. So politically analyzing the Narnia series can be impossible due to its extremely boring nature.

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Dec 26 2013 21:44

Didn't CNN do a special examining the politics in Harry Potter and Star Wars?

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Dec 26 2013 22:00
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Kids books can't be complex and interesting? That's insulting.

They most certainly can be complex and interesting although being interesting doesn't require complexity, and complexity sure as hell doesn't guarantee interest, but often, like most adult books, they are dull, predictable and lazy.
Fortunately, amongst all the dross, there are countless great books as well and there is nothing in the whole world as enjoyable as reading a great book.

Agent - I read the Narnia books as a kid and loved them at the time but tried re-reading them as an adult a few years back. I was amazed at how reactionary they were but mostly I just thought they were old fashioned and boring. HP is obviously more current but I would still rather read Narnia, such is my distaste for the horrible steaming pile of horse manure that makes up the series of books and films. That's not saying much though as I would rather stick pins in my eyes than read either of them.

Anyway, that's enough from me about HP - my 15 year old son loves it all and thinks I'm full of shit!

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Dec 26 2013 22:27
Webby wrote:

Anyway, that's enough from me about HP - my 15 year old son loves it all and thinks I'm full of shit!

And so do I, the books are good. I don't care about the politics.

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Dec 26 2013 22:32

This is a truly brilliant kids book. Cracking storyline, great characters plus a basic course in philosophy.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie's_World

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Dec 26 2013 22:35

The Croydonian Anarchist wrote

Quote:
And so do I

Ouch!

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Dec 26 2013 22:52

Hey! I put the relevant on subject comment after as a disclaimer tongue

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Dec 26 2013 23:01

I'm going to leap in and defend Webby here, although I'm pretty sure he can quite capably defend himself.

Personally, I have been feeling Harry Potter fatigue since the thing first started. It's not the books, I don't really have much of an opinion on them, read the first 2 to my daughter, haven't bothered with the rest. They seem like the standard story of children let loose from hovering parents and have adventures and do battles with the bad guys, pretty standard premise for children's books. I have read some kids' books which have impressed me with their themes and complexities, Harry Potter not being one of them.
What has been annoying me for years is the sheer marketing machine around it which makes Star Wars seem amateur. From the get-go, JK Rowling swore she'd never do anything to exploit children, then HP took off and then the merchandising took off. The endless variety of overpriced plastic crap, wands, quidditch equipment, hats, replica school uniforms, shitty board games, candies, wallets, watches, and not forgetting the Harry Potter Magic Potion set, which actually contained toxic materials, so you could have magically poisoned your mates, if your parents didn't pick up on the recall soon enough. I also remember Rowling issuing writs threatening kids with being sued if they didn't take down their unofficial HP fan websites. I know this is how it all works, but it got a bit wearying being confronted with yet more plastic crap that you're supposed to buy for your children.
That said, it was such an enormous part of a generation of children's childhoods, it's unsurprising that it is inculcated into peoples' personal cultures. (As for me, I got to meet Billy Dee Williams a few years back and was skipping around for days because I got to chat with Lando Calrissian. What you were into as a kid pretty much stays with you forever.)
It's tempting to try and find radical themes in anything you like and sometimes you can find them when they're not really there. Iexist mentioned Jessica Mitford, and I know JK Rowling often mentions her as an influence and she's put the Mitford sisters in there - possibly a result of reading Hons and Rebels at an impressionable age.

Interesting kid's lit factoid (or at least I find it interesting) the kindly Russian gentleman in the Railway Children was largely based on E Nesbit's dear friend Peter Kropotkin.

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Dec 27 2013 05:16
Agent of the Fifth International wrote:
The Narnia films were much boring compared to the Harry Potter series. Even the novels, all of which is collected in a single 700+ page volume I own. I didn't get far in it. So politically analyzing the Narnia series can be impossible due to its extremely boring nature.

C.S. Lewis being a reactionary aside, we're gonna have to fight this one out. Loved these books as a child, got that imagination going.

That aside, liking reactionary things is probably fine. Entertainment tends to reproduce one part of ruling class ideology or another for a variety of reasons, probably the important one here in these children's stories being that sections of ruling class ideology are honestly "nice," in that de-classed humanitarian sort of way. Makes for a nice story when people of all stripes can get together against the "real" bad guy, you know?

An even further aside, I've got my own pet theory that J.K. Rowling is a secret Nazi. Hear me out! Her world solidifies various sort of racial and class caste systems by having a small minority of people who are actually, qualitatively better than the rest of us muggle schmucks because they have magic. Sentient magical creatures exist, but with varying levels of agency. For example, house-elves (also, "house-elves"? Really, Rowling? Really?) are forever enslaved to their masters until those masters, out of the kindness of their hearts or deceit by a third party, free the elves themselves. The house-elves are not just unwilling to seek their own liberation, they are incapable of doing so, and in fact enjoy their status as slaves. Talk about Uncle Tom, we've got Uncle Dobbies! In this word, class and race stratification is as natural as breathing air, and all without the accompanying counter-dialectic of struggle!

I'm only somewhat kidding.

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Dec 27 2013 05:24

The house-elves are definitely dealt with very oddly. On the one hand, villainous characters like the Malfoys and Barty Crouch (not a villain, but an enormous prick) are shown as being very cruel to their house-elves, and the murderous racism of the Death Eaters is cast in a very negative light. On the other hand, Dobby clearly enjoys freedom, but he's a very unusual case and Hermione is treated as a bit of a misguided do-gooder for creating the humanitarian Society for the Protection of House-Elves. I think the most unambiguous endorsement of the "proper" treatment of house-elves is in the form of of Dumbledore's attitude toward them, a sort of benevolent master. Obviously this is no good as any sort of political message. Perhaps an indicator of Rowling's old school Labor views?--the real problem is not the existing order, but just its relatively crueler and more inhumane manifestations.

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Dec 27 2013 10:49

Really, if you're that bothered you could read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Harry_Potter.

...or you could get a life.

But just for the crack

Quote:
EVAN: You used to work for Amnesty International. Two years.

J.K. ROWLING: I did, yeah. Research assistant. Human rights abuses in Francophone Africa. It made me very fascinating at dinner parties. I knew everything about the political situation in Togo and Burkina Faso.

E: And you still do.

JK: No I don't. Not anymore.

E: But here's where it shows up: Hermione and the rights of elves. Civil rights becomes a theme in Goblet of Fire.

JK: Oh yeah. Yeah.

E: This is a real issue.

JK: Yeah, that was fairly autobiographical. My sister and I both, we were that kind of teenager. (Dripping with drama) We were that kind of, 'I'm the only one who really feels these injustices. No one else understands the way I feel.' I think a lot of teenagers go through that.

E: In Britain they call it 'Right On' or something.

JK: Exactly. Well, she's fun to write because Hermione, with the best of intentions, becomes quite self-righteous. My heart is entirely with her as she goes through this. She develops her political conscience. My heart is completely with her. But my brain tells me, which is a growing-up thing, that in fact she blunders towards the very people she's trying to help. She offends them. She's not very sensitive to their…

E: She's somewhat condescending to the elves who don't have rights.

JK: She thinks it's so easy. It's part of what I was saying before about the growing process, of realizing you don't have quite as much power as you think you might have and having to accept that. Then you learn that it's hard work to change things and that it doesn't happen overnight. Hermione thinks she's going to lead them to glorious rebellion in one afternoon and then finds out the reality is very different, but that was fun to write.

E: And you're working in these issues that, for you as a person, are obviously crucial to your life. I mean, these issues about race relations and civil rights.

JK: You know, children are interested in those things. They are. It's not just me. I think they are.

also

Quote:
Rowling said of her adolescence, "Hermione is loosely based on me. She's a caricature of me when I was eleven, which I'm not particularly proud of."

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Dec 29 2013 22:22

In quidditch they win by catching "the snitch", make u think

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Dec 30 2013 02:00

sirius black imprisoned for crime he didn't do (dementors as cointelpro?)

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Dec 30 2013 03:02

Note that the man falsely imprisoned is named Sirius BLACK. Some racial commentary, perhaps? And the prison guards are literally inhuman monsters.

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Dec 30 2013 10:05

Yes quite. And Potter.. potters make pots, and we use pots.

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Dec 30 2013 10:20

Could be a pro-marijuana legalization message hidden in the name of the protagonist as well.

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Dec 31 2013 17:51

Best thread of 2013.

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Dec 31 2013 19:09

On page 473 of The German Ideology, Marx mentions the 'philosopher's stone'. It could mean there is a connection between Marx and Rowling (or Harry Potter himself).