“Flirting with Fascism”

A friend just sent me this article (see link below) by John Laughland, on Michael Ledeen's enthusiasm for what he describes as the revolutionary Fascist "movement" in Italy, as distinct from Mussolini's authoritiarian "regime."

I found it fascinating. I had read and reviewed (for some obscure leftish academic journal edited by Alvin Gouldner) the interview of Renzo de Felice (mentioned in the article) when it came out. I think Ledeen is right about many things, especially the revolutionary character of the Italian Fascist movement in its early days. Quite similar to the romantic revolutionary ideas of the early Falange in Spain -- Primo de Rivera and his followers. There were also revolutionaries among the early Nazis (the Strasser brothers, notably).

"Revolution" here does not imply anything like equal justice and opportunity, which is what socialists usually have in mind. Fascist, Falangist and National Socialist revolutions were allied with romantic notions of nation and "race." Fascist, etc. "revolution" does share with Marx's, Lenin's and other "left" concepts of revolution a faith in creative destruction to be achieved by mobilization of the masses.

The fatal flaw in Ledeen's argument, I think, is the fantasy that "movement" can be separated from "regime" in actual practice. As soon as D'Annunzio actually had to govern Fiume, he had to stop mobilizing people -- because people in motion are likely to turn you out of power. And as soon as Franco or Mussolini or Hitler were able to consolidate power, each rapidly eliminated (or in the case of Franco, marginalized) the "revolutionaries" in his ranks.

And the fatal flaw in the revolutionary fascists' thinking and practice is the love of chaos for its own sake, which leads to such aberrations as the Falangist slogan "¡Viva la muerte!" There is no thought, or even tolerance, of a plan to mobilize the masses to create new institutions where their participation can become regularized. That is, they are not tearing down autocracy in order to build social democracy (which is what I think Hugo Chávez believes he is doing). Chaos is the antithesis of government, so whoever ends up as the strongest in the chaotic war of all against all will have to impose some kind of order. If routinized democracy is not permissible, then it has to be authoritarian and top-down from the boss. In Italy the slogan was "Credere, obedere, pugnare". In Germany, "das Führerprinzip".

Flirting with Fascism, by John Laughland

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