Fascist temptation

Hitler paid tribute to the German workers in 1934. Concern about workers’ rights is part of the initial appeal of fascist leaders

This is the era of “strongman politics”: the ruling party believes that it is elected to reflect the national will, and any force that blocks them, whether it is political opposition, judicial institutions, mass media, or individuals, will be eliminated.

Although some “freedom guards” are often demonized, disregarded, scorned, and even slaughtered, it is refugees, immigrants, minorities, poor people and other vulnerable groups that are the biggest victims of strongman politics.

Some commentators believe that this is similar to the scene of the rise of fascism in the 1930s, while others believe that democracy is under new threat. Perhaps, we must face new possible challenges, and at the same time be wary of the recurrence of nightmares.

Focus on workers’ rights
The liberal democratic system generally adopted in Western countries can only exist when people believe it. When beliefs disappear, society will undergo radical changes. People should be wary of political leaders who advocate nationalism; be wary of democracy being drowned in the vague concept of “the will of the people.”

Some people may ask, now that it is the second decade of the 21st century, why worry about fascism? Although the time has passed for almost 100 years, the current situation in Western countries is closer to what Hannah Arendt observed in 1951: people seem to be divided into two types of people, those who believe in the omnipotence of humans… and those who are ” The feeling of powerlessness is the one who controls life.

A sense of powerlessness can lead to apathy, but it can also lead to fanatical support for anyone who agrees with yourself, which was what happened in the 1930s. To think about whether history will repeat itself, you can refer to the book “What Hitler Wants” by Irish journalist Emily Lorimer.

The writing was written in October 1938, one month before the “Crystal Night” incident after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. Lorimer found that the English translation of “My Struggle” (1925) was severely reviewed. For example, it deleted Hitler’s detailed plan to invade the United Kingdom. Since few British people can read German, Lorimer made excerpts and summarized the key content of the book in English.

She believes that three key factors drive Hitler’s initial plan: attention to workers’ rights, desire to establish a pure German nation-state, and strong opposition to social democracy.

Concerns about workers’ rights are popular among groups who feel that they are not being treated fairly or neglected: low-income workers, veterans, and deprived persons. As the historian Samuel Moin wrote in Not Enough (2018): “The Italian statistician Corrado Gini, who invented the social inequality indicator’Gini coefficient, is A fascist, this is not accidental.”

Gini was not only a fascist, but also the author of the paper “The Scientific Basis of Fascism” (1927). However, isn’t social inequality more concerned about the left? So, what is the difference between fascism and left-wing thinking?

According to Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Fascist Union (1932-1940): The British Labor Party pursues an “international socialist” policy, and the goal of fascism is “national state socialism.”

“Hitler’s Intent”

Mosley’s view of fascism as a form of socialism is not accurate, but his view of the origin of fascism is correct. Early Italian fascism was on the stand of nationalism and began to part ways with socialism. Italian dictator Mussolini proposed to give women the right to vote, reduce the voting age to 18 years, implement an 8-hour work system, workers participate in industrial management, levy heavy progressive capital taxes, and confiscate part of the war profits.

Mussolini reminded us that paying attention to workers’ rights does not in itself exempt authoritarianism. In Britain today, it is believed that it is the Labor Party’s failure to accept nationalist policies that led to its fiasco in the 2019 elections, because nationalism has a better recognition among traditional voters. At the same time, other political activists believe that as long as they continue to support trade unions and retain their poverty alleviation policies, their left-wing qualifications will not be changed, even if they believe in extreme nationalism.

However, the facts cannot make such a simple division.

Pure nation-state
In practice, the initial fascist advocacy for workers’ rights was hardly implemented. However, fascists, especially the German Nazis, relentlessly pursued their second goal-to establish a racially pure country.

The Nazis said that this country is being eroded by traitors and parasites, and its purity must be restored by any necessary means; the “traitors” among them are communists and the “parasites” are Jews.

The need to restore the purity of the nation-state is the common view of all fascisms, as Robert Paxton, an American political scientist and historian, wrote in The Anatomy of Fascism (2004): ” Fascism, in every national culture, strives to find the most inspiring themes that can mobilize large-scale mass movements shouting for revival, unity, and national purity, while opposing liberal individualism and constitutionalism. “Leftist class struggle.” This allows a person to obtain the kind of “psychological satisfaction brought about by drowning individuals in a collective common emotion.”

British philosopher Brian Barry said in the 1980s that British and American academics and liberal intellectuals have had a difficult time discussing nationalism. They believe that nationalism “contravenes the value of civilization”, which happens to be Leaving a gap to be used by opportunists-as the 2016 “Brexit” referendum demonstrated.

The “Brexit” movement has almost monopolized the mainstream values ​​of Britain, and some activists have publicly stated their racist stance. Even members of Congress and some mass media have shown hostility towards immigrants and foreign residents. In response, many left-wing individuals have adopted pro-immigrant positions; while other left- and middle-right politicians have attempted to use popular nationalist sentiments without involving racist rhetoric, attitudes, or policies.

This position will be called “progressive patriotism” and “liberal nationalism.” There are many ways to explain the difference between “bad” and “good” nationalism. In the words of Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, bad nationalism is “blind loyalty to a particular country in which one lives”; good nationalism or patriotism is affirmation of a country Brilliant achievements and fine traditions. Moreover, this is not only because they are “we”, but also because they are themselves brilliant achievements and fine traditions.

In the name of the will of the people
Humanity cannot eliminate nationalist sentiment, it is the foundation of many daily political and cultural lives. People are proud of the traditional food, wine, sports, art, music, and literature of the nation; people belong to specific bordered areas and are united with a common historical memory.

After the Second World War, intellectuals in different countries often cut the definition of nationalism adequately. Israeli political scientist and former politician Yar Tamir stated in “Why Nationalism” (2019) that without liberalism and democracy as a balance, nationalism can easily become destructive.

According to Lorimer, the third key point of the Nazi plan was to oppose social democracy. Fascism can skillfully antagonize democracy with itself. Democracy was used as a stepping stone to power, replaced by authoritarian rule. Leadership, parades, celebrations and rallies replaced formal political activities, and a series of political institutions and security mechanisms that restricted the rulers were destroyed.

This process generally involves two stages, both of which involve philosophical debates about democracy.

The first step involves the basic question of “what is democracy”. Naturally, we will associate democracy with “majority rule”. Most people’s decisions seem to avoid elite oligarchy. However, the 19th-century English philosopher John Stuart Mill had long warned of the risk of “majority rule”; democracy would expose us to a new type of tyranny: the tyranny of the majority.

The core of democracy is the tension between “majority rule” and “protection of minority rights.” Protecting the rights of minorities means that in practice, liberal democracy is required to restrict majority rule. Many countries have a written constitution that deals with important issues that cannot be left to daily political solutions.

The simple majority should not be enough to overturn the constitution or human rights. However, fascism does not think so. Mosley wrote: “The will of the people is greater than the rights of a few people.” The ruling party “can” enforce the will of the people, irrespective of the consequences this has for specific individuals.

Anti-democratic vote
In a free and democratic country, a large system of institutions can intervene in power in different ways and protect the rights of minority groups. The most obvious are those formal mechanisms that restrict power or authority, including courts, parliaments, and decentralization.

Refugees, immigrants, minorities, poor people and other vulnerable groups are the biggest victims under strongman politics

Healthy politics also needs to have a “loyal opposition”-these people oppose the ruling regime, but support the political system itself. The basis for judging whether the ruling party understands this idea is whether they regard the opposition as “treason.”

In addition, there are advocacy and debate policies and other institutions affected by the first two, including free media, independent think tanks, and universities. Museums and archives remind us of the glory and mistakes we have made; trade unions can organize the power of the people; a dynamic and free cultural world, including art, movies, novels, dramas, and poetry, is a powerful source of criticism and resistance. Authoritarian governments hate these activities because they are not controlled.

If the first step of fascism to destroy democracy is to consider only the will of the majority and disregard the rights of the minority, then the second step is to question how the will of the majority is reflected. Is it a majority vote? Hitler said in a speech to the Dusseldorf industrialist in 1932: “No!”

He believes that democratic voting “is not the rule of the people, but the stupid, mediocre, half-hearted, cowardly, weak and flawed rule in reality. Therefore, in practice, democracy will lead to the collapse of a nation’s values.”

Questioning voters is as old as democracy itself. Now, new worries have emerged. Social media is being manipulated by political parties, and news dissemination is based on business value rather than the truth itself. People’s crusade against the imaginary powerhouse often shows a stronger passion. Social media violates the original intention of the Internet and is creating a large number of deceived and misleading public.

Focusing on workers’ rights, establishing a pure nation-state, and opposing social democracy, the three combine to form a nationalism that pleases the majority. In this nationalism, the will of the people is paramount, and anything that obstructs it can be ruthlessly destroyed.

Today, we can see two threats. One is the rise of right-wing authoritarianism, which is more obvious. However, we also need to worry about the growing left-wing forces. In order to gain the support of the majority, they sometimes have to adopt nationalist policies, and this is playing with fire.

Some social activists who focus on the labor movement may think that as long as political parties support trade unions and poverty alleviation policies, they are on the side of justice and they are politically correct. Don’t forget, we have seen such mixed views, they are the starting point of Mussolini and Mosley, and may even be the starting point of Hitler.

Acceptable nationalism must be suppressed by liberalism and constrained by democracy that safeguards minority rights. We must not destroy healthy political institutions and social intermediaries in the name of “the will of the people.” On the contrary, they must be supported and strengthened. Only in this way can those incredible things stop happening.

We hope that we will never see this extreme form of fascism again. However, defeating the fascists does not mean destroying its seeds, they may really resurrect.