Friday, March 28, 2003

Meaningless Words - I

Whenever I see the following word in any news article, essay or opinion piece, I know to move on immediately, rather than waste my time.

Fascism

The term "fascism" has much less meaning than it might at first appear to possess. There was so little in common between Hitler and Mussolini's system of government - beyond the themes of strongman rule, aggressive expansionism, outlaw status and a sense of aggrievance - that to throw around the term "fascist" or "fascism" is simply to substitute sloganeering for reasoning.

To include Franco's Spain in such a grouping is to reduce the term to utter meaninglessness - Hitler aided Finland's war efforts as well as Nationalist Spain's, so receiving military assistance from Nazi Germany cannot suffice to call a system of government "fascist." Hitler loathed Catholicism and the Vatican, while Franco gave the Catholic Church a privileged place in national life. Hilter despised Jews, while Franco actually offered them refuge while non-"fascist" states like Switzerland refused to do so. In fact, the one thing that comes across in "Hitler's Table Talk" is that he loathed Franco's regime intensely, even going so far as to say that a communist victory in Spain well might have been better!

One nation that did share a great deal in common with Nazi Germany was the Soviet Union: it shared all the brutal characteristics held in common by Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy, even sharing in the paranoid anti-semitism that Italy never truly went in for. What is more, the Soviet Union was much more a police state than Nazi Germany ever was, countenancing nowhere near the minimal dissent tolerated by the Gestapo, and yet nobody has ever referred to it as a "fascist" state. Why should this be so?

The answer resides within the question itself, and explains the strange popularity of a term so nebulous as to be more an obstacle to understanding than an aid to it. The use of the term "fascist" is a dead giveaway that one is dealing with a member of the hard-left - whether the preferred rubric under which said individual resides be "socialist", "progressive", "marxist", "anarchist" or something else along such lines. People of this sort are as a rule immune, no, averse, to reason, and prefer to let hackneyed slogans stand in for rational thought wherever possible; for them, "fascism" denotes any school of thought or system of government they happen to dislike, just as "judeo-bolshevism" represented the universal bogeyman for another group of ideological extremists. Where the extreme left has an advantage of the xenophobic right is that Stalin was both an "ally" (in the loosest sense of the word) and a victor in World War 2, which gave his followers and their vocabulary a spurious legitimacy that was denied the Nazis by defeat.