Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Debate Over 'Fascism'

It's Jennifer Szalai, at NYT (FWIW), "CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK The Debate Over the Word ‘Fascism’ Takes a New Turn":

But the critique of fascism analogies runs deeper than whatever it is Trump says or does. Moyn suggests that crying fascism obscures the extent to which Trump is a thoroughly American creature while also exonerating the establishment rot that allowed him to flourish in the first place. Corey Robin, in an updated edition of his book “The Reactionary Mind,” has argued something similar. Both Robin and Moyn seem animated by a similar suspicion — that fascist analogies ultimately serve centrists trying to gin up fear among the left, pushing progressives to settle for expedient political choices by overstating the strength of a floundering right.

Robin cites a modern classic by the historian Robert O. Paxton, “The Anatomy of Fascism,” to attest that what made the fascism of Mussolini and Hitler so potent was its youth and its novelty, an advantage forsaken by a lumbering and nostalgic Trump. But one of the most striking aspects of Paxton’s book, which was published in 2004, is how much attention he shines on the circumstances that allowed for fascism’s emergence in the early 20th century and its subsequent rise.

Paxton wasn’t laboring under the same conditions as current writers, who get drawn into endless debates over whether Trump is or is not a fascist. Historically, fascist movements hardened into fascist regimes when given the opportunity by enfeebled conservative elites trying to cling to power, who resort to bringing in an outsider to rile up the base. It was only after the Nazis started losing electoral support that Hitler cut a back-room deal to be appointed chancellor. Like a vampire, Hitler had to be invited into the house...

The best way to respond to leftist books on fascism is to read them and rip them. Shred them to oblivion with your hardest-hitting critiques. As I always say, "Know your enemies."

Now's a particularly good time. The Harris administration is going to test our founding principles in ways that'll make the last four years look like a long and relaxing vacation.