Understanding Fascism

I’ve recently finished reading Italian Fascisms:  From Pareto to Gentile, an anthology edited by Adrian Lyttelton that was recommended to me by Drieu a long time ago.  After a few half-hearted efforts to understand fascism as a distinctive ideology, things are finally starting to click for me.  The quality of the collections is uneven–as was the actual quality of fascist writers:  lots of vitalist idiots, but four contributors that were really first rate:  Vilfredo Pareto, Alfredo Rocco, Giovanni Gentile, and Benito Mussolini.  Pareto was a sociologist who emphasized the importance of elites; what are presented as revolutions of the masses are always just the replacement of one elite by the another (usually of the class immediately behind the ruling one).  The Marxists would agree, except that Pareto is more consistent, applying the rule to socialist takeovers as well.  Rocco does a good job of explaining fascist corporatism and presenting the fascist view of history from the fall of Rome to the present as the story of the State asserting itself against rival forces and, by subjugating them, putting an end to those awful Middle Ages.  Mostly, though, I would like to focus on Mussolini and Gentile, who try to directly present the key fascist doctrines.

First, it’s important to understand what the fascists mean when they call their doctrine “totalitarian” (and they do call it that).  It does mean that no power, no organization, no social force of any kind is to exist outside of the state.  Now, when we hear that, we imagine the State just doing the minimalist sorts of things a liberal state does, and everything else wiped out–a social wasteland.  The fascist would say that this is a complete misunderstanding.  None of the peoples’ collective activities–their arts, commerce, festivities, scholarship, and religion–is to be lost.  The state is to make itself the guardian of them all, only directing them to the common good.  “The Fascist State…takes over all the forms of the moral and intellectual life of man.”  The fascist state does this not by obliterating lower levels of organization (as it accuses the socialist of doing), but by incorporating them into itself, providing a context where they can truly come into their own.  For example, private ownership of factories is to continue, but they are to be subordinated to the state via corporations, governing bodies where both owners and workers are represented.  One might well ask what good private ownership is without private control.  The fascist would probably reply by pointing to the high degree of subsidiary control:  most decisions would be made at the lowest levels by the owner/manager/worker organizations.

The fascist understanding of the state is the key to their system.  As Mussolini put it

The State, as conceived by Fascism and as it acts, is a spiritual and moral fact because it makes concrete the political, juridicial, economic organization of the nation and such an organization is, in its origin and in its development, a manifestation of the spirit.  The State is the guarantor of internal and external security, but it is also the guardian and the transmitter of the spirit of the people as it has been elaborated through the centuries in language, custom, faith.  The State is not only present, it is also past, and above all future.  It is the State which, transcending the brief limit of individual lives, represents the immanent conscience of the nation.  The forms in which States express themselves change, but the necessity of the State remains.  It is the State which educates citizens for civic virtue, makes them conscience of their mission, calls them to unity; harmonizes their interest in justice; hands on the achievements of thought in the sciences, the arts, in law, in human solidarity; it carries men from the elementary life of the tribe to the highest human expression of power which is Empire; it entrusts to the ages the names of those who died for its integrity or in obedience to its laws; it puts forward as an example and recommends to the generations that are to come the leaders who increased its territory and the men of genius who gave it glory.  When the sense of the State declines and the disintegrating and centrifugal tendencies of individuals and groups prevail, national societies move to their decline.

Given the State’s charge to the people’s “spirit”, it is obvious how fascism will reject the liberalism for its individualism and socialism for its materialism.  What is more interesting is the fascist reason for rejecting conservatism in its religious, nationalist, and traditionalist forms.  This is because of fascism’s other key doctrine:  immanentism.  The State is prior to individuals and groups, but nothing is prior to the State.  It has no goal outside of itself; it can be judged by nothing outside itself.  How could it, since the State is supposed to already embody the people’s highest spiritual ideals?  The reactionaries, nationalists, and theocrats (as the fascists characterize them) disagree, seeing the state as ordered to some good–God, dynasty, nation, tradition, race–that is conceived as existing prior to the State.  Gentile is particularly clear on this.  Regarding the nationalists:

The nationalists’ “nation” is, in a word, something which exists not by virtue of the spirit but as a given fact of nature, either because the elements that give it being, such as the land or the race, depend on nature itself or else because they must be considered as human creations:  language, religion, history.  Because even these human elements contribute to the formation of the national entity, inasmuch as they are already in being and the individual finds himself face to face with them, since they pre-exist him, from the moment he begins to act as a moral being; they are therefore on the same plane as the land and the race…This naturalistic attitude is a weakness…This naturalism was particularly and obviously visible in the loyal support shown by the nationalists for the monarchy….

So basically, fascists are as devoted to autonomy as liberals, but autonomy for the collective spirit known as the State rather than for individuals.  Note that racialism is incompatible with fascism.  Strictly speaking, Hitler was not a fascist.  Regarding the Church:

The Italian Fascist state, desirous…of forming one single unit with the mass of the Italians, must be either religious or else Catholic.  It cannot fail to be religious because the absolute nature which it attributes to its own value and authority cannot be conceived except in relation to a Divine Absolute.  there is only one religion based on and indeed rooted in the mass of the Italian people and meaningful for them, on which they can graft this religious feeling of the absolute nature of the will of the country…So the Fascist state must recognize the religious authority of the Church…

This, too, is a difficult problem since the transcendental conception on which the Catholic Church is based contradicts the immanent political conception of Fascism; and Fascism, I must reiterate, far from being a negation of liberalism and democracy, as people say–and as its leaders, for political reasons, are often justified in repeating–is, in fact, or strives to be, the most perfect form of liberalism and democracy, as defined by Mazzini, to whose doctrine it has reverted.

So, Fascism in its Italian incarnation must preserve the Catholic Church, because it gives the people an imaginative apparatus for experiencing awe for the State.  However, Catholicism has the drawback that it is ordered to something outside and above the State and the national community.  That is a dilemma, and Gentile doesn’t really point the way out.

The contradiction between fascism and conservatism is quite instructive.  Is the nation a completely immanent being, ordered to nothing outside itself, or is it the collective response of a particular people to the order of being around it?  The goal of fascism is to take the nation’s spiritual resources and give them an entirely immanent frame, but can that be done without doing violence to them?  What would it even mean to have a religion without a “transcendental conception”?  That’s practically the defining feature of a religion!  I would say the same thing about arts and sciences; they are essentially ordered to apprehending a cosmos that transcends us, and only accidentally express the genius of a people.  Perhaps if fascism had lasted longer, we would have seen how its best thinkers–represented in this book–would have dealt with this.

The despicable Christopher Hitchens

Welcome to Hell, “Hitch”.  No, I will not tolerate a single good word to be said about this monster in my presence.  An unrepentant communist, a worthy follower of the bloodthirsty fanatic Leon Trotsky, a man who built his career off of libeling Mother Teresa, then won the adulation of National Review by promoting two of America’s stupidest, most pointless wars, all because he relished the idea of murdering Muslims.  I can’t think of anyone alive who has been so consistent in the service of evil.

So much for his moral standing.  I’m also not interested in hearing how profound and erudite he supposedly was.  Bull.  The man was an intellectual simpleton; even when I was a neoconservative and read his stuff, it was hard to miss his utter lack of curiosity, his gullible faith in the progressive narrative, his habit of condemning those outside of it without bothering to understand them.  Here‘s David Bentley Hart reviewing Hitchens’ statement on the ultimate things:

To appreciate the true spirit of the New Atheism, however, and to take proper measure of its intellectual depth, one really has to turn to Christopher Hitchens. Admittedly, he is the most egregiously slapdash of the New Atheists, as well as (not coincidentally) the most entertaining, but I take this as proof that he is also the least self-deluding. His God Is Not Great shows no sign whatsoever that he ever intended anything other than a rollicking burlesque, without so much as a pretense of logical order or scholarly rigor. His sporadic forays into philosophical argument suggest not only that he has sailed into unfamiliar waters, but also that he is simply not very interested in any of it. His occasional observations on Hume and Kant make it obvious that he has not really read either very closely. He apparently believes that Nietzsche, in announcing the death of God, literally meant to suggest that the supreme being named God had somehow met his demise. The title of one of the chapters in God Is Not Great is “The Metaphysical Claims of Religion Are False,” but nowhere in that chapter does Hitchens actually say what those claims or their flaws are.

On matters of simple historical and textual fact, moreover, Hitchens’ book is so extraordinarily crowded with errors that one soon gives up counting them. Just to skim a few off the surface: He speaks of the ethos of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as “an admirable but nebulous humanism,” which is roughly on a par with saying that Gandhi was an apostle of the ruthless conquest and spoliation of weaker peoples. He conflates the histories of the first and fourth crusades. He repeats as fact the long discredited myth that Christians destroyed the works of Aristotle and Lucretius, or systematically burned the books of pagan antiquity, which is the very opposite of what did happen. He speaks of the traditional hostility of “religion” (whatever that may be) to medicine, despite the monastic origins of the modern hospital and the involvement of Christian missions in medical research and medical care from the fourth century to the present. He tells us that countless lives were lost in the early centuries of the Church over disputes regarding which gospels were legitimate (the actual number of lives lost is zero). He asserts that Myles Coverdale and John Wycliffe were burned alive at the stake, although both men died of natural causes. He knows that the last twelve verses of Mark 16 are a late addition to the text, but he imagines this means that the entire account of the Resurrection is as well. He informs us that it is well known that Augustine was fond of the myth of the Wandering Jew, though Augustine died eight centuries before the legend was invented. And so on and so on (and so on).

In the end, though, all of this might be tolerated if Hitchens’ book exhibited some rough semblance of a rational argument. After all, there really is a great deal to despise in the history of religion, even if Hitchens gets almost all the particular details extravagantly wrong. To be perfectly honest, however, I cannot tell what Hitchens’ central argument is. It is not even clear what he understands religion to be. For instance, he denounces female circumcision, commendably enough, but what—pray tell—has that got to do with religion? Clitoridectomy is a widespread cultural tradition of sub-Saharan Africa, but it belongs to no particular creed. Even more oddly, he takes indignant note of the plight of young Indian brides brutalized and occasionally murdered on account of insufficient dowries. We all, no doubt, share his horror, but what the hell is his point?

As best I can tell, Hitchens’ case against faith consists mostly in a series of anecdotal enthymemes—that is to say, syllogisms of which one premise has been suppressed. Unfortunately, in each case it turns out to be the major premise that is missing, so it is hard to guess what links the minor premise to the conclusion. One need only attempt to write out some of his arguments in traditional syllogistic style to see the difficulty:

Major Premise: [omitted]
Minor Premise: Evelyn Waugh was always something of a bastard, and his Catholic chauvinism often made him even worse.
Conclusion: “Religion” is evil.


Major Premise: [omitted]
Minor Premise: There are many bad men who are Buddhists.
Conclusion: All religious claims are false.

As a final send-off, I recommend you all check out Tom Piatik’s profile of this loathsome man who he calls “the purest neocon“.  Excerpts:

Hitchens has never apologized for his Trotskyism. As he told British writer Johann Hari in October 2004, “I don’t regret anything. … [The socialist movement’s] achievements were real, and I’m glad I was a part of it.” And in the July/August 2004 issue of The Atlantic, Hitchens wrote a hagiographic essay about a figure whom he claimed “always was … a prophetic moralist.” Hitchens was not writing about Mother Teresa or John Paul II, but about Leon Trotsky—a man who was an active participant in and apologist for Lenin’s Red Terror, the inventor of the “blocking units” that would gun down Russian troops foolish enough to defy the commissars by retreating, and the author of such witty aphorisms as “We must rid ourselves once and for all of the Quaker-Papist babble about the sanctity of human life.”…

A straightforward description of all Hitchens’s anti-Catholic outbursts would fill every page in this magazine—he recently argued, in essence, that Judge Roberts should not be confirmed to the Supreme Court because he is Catholic—but his most disgusting, and revealing, anti-Catholic spasm was his reaction to the death of John Paul II, a man he dismissed as “an elderly and querulous celibate, who came too late and who stayed too long.”

Speaking ill of the dead is a Hitchens trademark, with Mother Teresa, Bob Hope, and Ronald Reagan—whom Hitchens described as “dumb as a stump” and a “cruel and stupid lizard”—each rating a bilious sendoff….

So where does this lover of Trotsky and hater of God, this despiser of religion and tradition and devotee of “permanent revolution,” this anti-Catholic bigot and reviler of Reagan and John Paul, now find an ideological home? Among the neoconservatives, naturally. As Hitchens told Johann Hari in the same interview where he said “I don’t regret anything,” he admires Paul Wolfowitz, whom he described as a “real bleeding heart.”…Barry Didcock came to a similar conclusion in the June 5, 2005 Sunday Herald after interviewing Hitchens: “The way Hitchens tells it, he began to realize, as the 1990s wore on, that US force could and should be used to fight what he saw as the forces of fascism.” Hitchens still wants world revolution; the only difference is that now he sees us Americans as perfectly placed to do the fighting and the dying needed to achieve his Trotskyist dream.

As both the Hari and Didcock interviews make clear, Hitchens was able to overcome his past squeamishness about American military force not because America is threatened, but because the threat now comes from men who believe in Allah rather than Marx. Didcock notes, “the origins of [Hitchens’s] position lie in his long-held distaste for religion,” and Hitchens told Hari, “The United States was attacked by theocratic fascists who represent all the most reactionary elements on earth. … However bad the American Empire has been, it is not as bad as this.” Hitchens also wrote—in the same column in which he extolled the priest-killing potency of the French and Russian Revolutions—that “George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he—and the US armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled.” Hitchens’s entire politics is motivated by his hatred of religion and tradition; he’d be just as happy bombing St. Peter’s as the Taliban.

Breivik’s manifesto: what kind of a Rightist is he?

The whole thing sounded too “perfect” to be true, i.e. too in line with all the stereotypes of the Leftist Jewish media, right down to the blonde hair and blue eyes.  (Isn’t it bizarre, by the way, how much hostility they have toward blonde hair and blue eyes?  Where the hell does that come from?)  My first guess was that the guy was an intellectually isolated nut who just decided to call himself a “conservative” and a “fundamentalist” for the shock value, because those are the demon-figures in Norway’s popular culture.  (After all, orthodox/traditionalist/conservative Christians rarely call themselves “fundamentalists” anymore, that word having been successfully made toxic by the media.)  It would be rather like how the “neo-Nazis” in American prisons have no historical or intellectual connection to German National Socialism.  They’re whites who’ve banded together to form a rival gang against the black and hispanic gangs, and they’ve been told that whites banding together in an explicitly racial sense is a Nazi thing to do; hence the superficial existence of American Naziism.

It turns out that’s not what’s going on with Breivik.  Now that we have his manifesto, we know that he has put some serious thought into the relevant political and cultural questions.  What’s more, he seems to have a real intellectual connection to the anti-Muslim European Right, at least in the sense that he read some of the prominent blogs.  We see this not only by the references he drops, but even more by his concentrating on the same set of issues and talking points.  For example, most people didn’t think much when a Blair speech-writer admitted that Labour had deliberately set out to destroy Britain’s homogeneous culture by swamping it with immigrants, but for us conservatives it was a striking vindication of our worldview, and we talk about it a lot.  Sure enough, Breivik brings attention to it as well.

Kevin MacDonald has done excellent work going through the manifesto and highlighting the key parts.  Of multiculturalism, he says

Ideology of multiculturalism (cultural Marxism) is an anti-European hatideologi whose purpose is to destroy European culture, identity and Christianity in general. I equate making multiculturalism with the other hatideologiene: Nazism (anti-Jewish), communism (anti-individualism) and Islam (anti-Kafr).

This characterization of multiculturalism could have come from me (although I would quibble with his characterizations of Nazism, communism, and Islam).  His suggested strategy:

1. Have in place a cultural conservative newspaper with national distribution (which will be the only newspaper that will support the Progress Party in 4 years). For believe me, the Progress Party is going to be sabotaged and torpedoed.  Their voter base of 35% will be “scared” down to 20%.

2. Develop an alternative to the violent extreme Norwegian Marxist organizations Blitz / SOS Racism / Red Youth. This can for example be done by supporting the development of SIOE. Conservatives dare not currently air their views on the street when they know that extreme Marxists will club them down. We can not accept that Labour subsidize these violent “Stoltenberg Art” that systematically terrorize political conservatives.

3. Working to gain control of 10-15 NGOs (kulturmarxists controls currently 10-15 while we only have 2-3).

4. Initiate a partnership with the conservative forces within the Norwegian Church. I know that the liberal forces within the European anti-Jihad movement (Bruce Bawer, among others, and some other liberals) will have a problem with this but the conservative forces within the church are actually one of our best allies. Our main opponents are not the Jihadists but the facilitators—namely multiculturalists.

Excellent strategy, a lot better than the one he actually ended up going with.  I believe the last sentence has the key to why he targetted fellow Norwegians rather than Muslims.  To him, Labour Party youth activists are not “Norwegian children”; they’re more like members of the Janissary Corps in training.  The Janissary’s in the Ottoman Empire, you’ll recall, were Christian children taken from their parents, trained and indoctrinated to be the Sultan’s elite force, a key caste in the system that oppressed their parents.  Today’s European Marxist parties, as Paul Gottfried has shown, have little to do with classical socialist/Marxist concerns about economic nationalization or workers’ advocacy.  Their core concern is mass third-world immigration, something that must be continued at all costs until the host cultures are eradicated.  Epidemics of immigrant-driven violent crime don’t bother them, because to them the white natives are legitimate prey.  Breivik was probably right to think that the teenagers he was gunning down were fanatical enemies of our civilization.  Of course, this shouldn’t detract from our sympathy for them.  They were invincibly ignorant.  They were only following what all their elders had told them was the virtuous path.

MacDonald is probably right to characterize the manifesto as coming from a Geert Wilder’s type conservative, which would make him a “pseudoconservative” by our classification scheme.  In particular, it’s been pointed out that

  1. He’s not a racialist.  He rejects white solidarity and believes anti-jihadism should operate solely at the level of culture and ideology.
  2. He’s not an antisemite.  In fact, he seems strongly Zionist.
  3. He’s not a philosophically traditionalist conservative.  Mark Richardson has pointed out that his theoretical influences are classical or modern liberals (Hobbes, Mill, Kant, Rorty).
  4. He’s not a patriarchist conservative if the following from Arthur at Oz Conservative is accurate:

“The remark by ABB that the mass media won’t mention to you: “we have to ensure
that we influence other culturally [sic] conservatives to take our anti-racist
pro-homosexual, pro-Israeli line of thought.” He also condemned the VB (Belgium)
and the English Defence League for “extremism”.

Not, of course, that any of these distinctions are going to help us at all.  Metternich is right; this is a catastrophe for the European Right; it’s going to trigger (or, rather, be an excuse for) a massive persecution.  As one commenter at Alternative Right put it

Champagne/whores/orgies tonight at SPLC/ADL headquarters!

It’s not fair, you say?  What about Muslim and Leftist violence, you say?  I say, the only thing that matters in a democracy is who controls the media.  Given that the enemy controls it, all they have to do is wait for useable events and then publicize them.  And it’s inevitable that useable events will occur.  No movement can screen its members perfectly.  (Or, rather, we’ll be able to screen perfectly when there are only a half dozen of us left.)  To me, what’s most frightening is that one is now tarred as a dangerous extremist if someone who’s once made a comment on your blog goes out and commits a terrorist act.  (So behave, you all.)  So, yes, we’re completely screwed now.  But we were screwed last week too, because we were in a situation where sooner or later something would happen to give the enemy an excuse to round us up.

The universal hunger for Whiggery

The odious Michael Novak seems to have gotten it into his head that, having been a major player in the wrecking of Catholicism, he should now turn his demolition energies to Islam.  Islam, he says, is ready for a “development of doctrine”, by which he means what liberal Catholics always mean by that phrase–a capitulation to liberalism.

Here’s how this cretin thinks (my remarks in black):

I was very early at the center of the American Catholic argument on religious liberty. Reporting from Rome during the Second Vatican Council, I recorded the first passionate stirrings of the discussion of religious liberty at the Council, and followed the backstage private debates at individual episcopal conferences. That is where I first heard the name Karol Wojtyla, the new and youngest ever cardinal of Krakow, and his fresh insistence that the episcopal conferences of Central and Eastern Europe must have a declaration of religious liberty from the Council. Some say his cool intellectual passion did more than anything else to sway Paul VI to throw his weight in favor of bringing that issue to a vote, even though powerful forces (especially but not only) in the Latin world feared greatly that it would lead to relativism and religious indifferentism.  [And how’d that work out for us, Mike?  Didn’t it lead straight to relativism and indifferentism?  Weren’t the Latins completely vindicated?  Staggering that after seeing the Catholic Church follow his advice for half a century and experience nothing but unmitigated catastrophe, he still never thinks to reconsider.]

In a word, I saw firsthand how the Catholic Church needed a “development of doctrine”—and quickly—on religious liberty. As an American, I was acutely aware of how late it was in coming. [Note the Whig/Marxist invocation of the infallibility of “progress”.  If I may paraphrase:  “The Catholic Church needed to GET WITH IT.  We were so far behind those wonderful, brilliant deists and freemasons.  This was especially clear to Americans, who have a constitution written by God Almighty.  We’re so much better than those dirty Italians!  We have LIBERTY running through our veins!”  Am I right Mike?  You fucking twit.]  I could not help rejoicing, later, at the powerful similarities between key passages of the Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty and central lines of argument in James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.    [What could be more gratifying than to have stopped thinking like Thomas Aquinas and Piux IX and started thinking like a bunch of deist, freemason, Jacobin traitors?]

Catholicism now a heap of rubble, Novak is turning his attention to the live prey of Islam.

Ever since 1991, a large number of shrewd Arab observers have noted that the progress of one partially successful election after another, and the quick and successful removal of Saddam Hussein, the megalomaniac and sadistic tyrant of Iraq, stimulated the publication of far more books and articles published in the Arab world on freedom, human rights, and democracy than during the preceding five hundred years. [Ready for freedom = has a weaker military than the United States]  It is as if millions, watching these events unfold on television, suddenly asked themselves, why can’t we govern ourselves by our own consent? [Right, I’m sure that’s just what they’re thinking.  “Those lucky Iraqis.  If only America would invade and conquer us!”]  Why can’t we reach our own constitutional accommodation between Islam and the state, each one preventing the other from totally dominating our societies?  [Dipshit.  “Islam” doesn’t mean what Christians mean by “the Church”.  It means “submission to God”.  Any believing Muslim will tell you that submission to God (Islam) should govern every aspect of our lives.]

Next Novak lists principles in Islamic theology that he thinks lead naturally to liberal democracy.  You really should read the whole thing just to see how bad reasoning can be, how utterly intellectually bankrupt is Whiggery.  Some highlights:

On the first characteristic: Allah is so great, so beyond measure, so beyond compare, that his greatness is a warning to any mere mortal spokesman about hisown shortsightedness and inadequacy in the face of Allah. The greatness of Allah relativizes all human pretensions. No matter how wealthy or powerful a human being is, in comparison with Allah, this is as nothing. “Allahu Akbar!” opens the mind to the possibility that only Allah knows all the paths that lead to him, and that women and men would do well to respect the freedom of religious conscience of all persons.  [And what if Allah tells us to conquer the infidels and set up an Islamic state?  How does epistemic humility excuse the believer from following plain divine commands?]

Islam speaks constantly of rewards and punishments not only after death but also in this life. Such assertions make no sense at all if Muslim theology does not assume personal choice, on which such rewards and punishments are meted out. The doctrine of personal liberty and responsibility may remain largely implicit, not nearly often enough explicit, in Muslim tradition and catechesis. But without it as a foundation, the central preaching of Islam about reward versus punishment makes no sense whatever.  [“Humans have free will; therefore, the state should let them do anything they want.”  I keep coming across this same moronic piece of pseudo-reasoning.  Why is it so popular?]

Bernard Lewis, for example, points to five features of the Muslim culture. First: “Islamic tradition strongly disapproves of arbitrary rule.” [As did the Romans, the scholastics, and the royal absolutists.  There’s nothing distinctly Whiggish or liberal about that.]  Lewis adds that in Islamic tradition, the exercise of political power is conceived of “as a contract, creating bonds of mutual obligation between the ruler and the ruled.” Other writers emphasize at this point the great efforts that Muslim rulers are expected to go through to achieve consensus among all branches of society.  [This is true to the extent that Islamic states since the end of the caliphate have had weak legitimacy in the eyes of their subjects–they’re nothing but contracts until the caliphate or the hidden Imam returns.  The tribe has real authority, because it rests on a more solid foundation.  Also, the Islamic state is weaker because its only job, for a pious Muslim, is to administer rather than to legislate.  The law is already given by God, and it would be sheer impiety to replace Sharia with man-made law.]

The second resource Lewis notes is the need for continuing consent: “The contract can be dissolved if the ruler fails to fulfill or ceases to be capable of fulfilling his obligations.”

The third is the Islamic notion of civil disobedience, namely, that “if the sovereign commands something that is sinful, the duty of obedience lapses.” One Hadith says, “Do not obey a creature against his Creator.” Another adds, “There is no duty to obedience in sin.”

The second resource Lewis notes is the need for continuing consent: “The contract can be dissolved if the ruler fails to fulfill or ceases to be capable of fulfilling his obligations.”

The third is the Islamic notion of civil disobedience, namely, that “if the sovereign commands something that is sinful, the duty of obedience lapses.” One Hadith says, “Do not obey a creature against his Creator.” Another adds, “There is no duty to obedience in sin.”  [Again, something people have always believed.  There’s nothing incipiently liberal about this.]

Here in the States, we’re teaching Muslim immigrant students to think like Michael Novak.  Consider this statement, quoted by Novak, from Dr.(!) Khaled Abou El Fadl of the UCLA School of Law:

My argument for democracy draws on six basic ideas: 1) Human beings are God’s vicegerents on earth; 2) this vicegerency is the basis of individual responsibility; 3) individual responsibility and vicegerency provide the basis for human rights and equality; 4) human beings in general, and Muslims specifically, have a fundamental obligation to foster justice (and more generally to command right and forbid wrong), and to preserve and promote God’s law; 5) divine law must be distinguished from fallible human interpretations; and 6) the state should not pretend to embody divine sovereignty and majesty.

I think this paragraph should be placed on Wikipedia, under the article “Non sequitur”.

Just in case anybody thought the Republicans were conservatives

We have people like Newt Gingrich to remind everyone that they believe in hard-core antiauthoritarian, antisocial individualism.  See Auster’s summary:

Newly declared presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s speech to a Republican gathering in Georgia, broadcast on C-SPAN on Sunday, was impressive. He spoke about the American belief in the God-given sovereignty of the individual, which is then delegated in a limited fashion to representatives, as contrasted with the left’s belief in unlimited state power, and about how Obama’s presidency threatens to turn America into a European-style statist system.

What (and who) drives Religious Right?

At the American Conservative, Michael Dougherty argues that the well-known division of the Republican coalition into social/religious, fiscal, and national security “conservatives” is deceptive.  In fact, the evangelical Protestants who we tend to think of as comprising the “religious right” are the most enthusiastic on each issue:  more committed to Zionism and democracy exporting than the neoconservatives, more passionate about lowering taxes than the libertarians.  Based on the stated beliefs of its members, the Tea Party is not a libertarian compeditor to the religious right, but rather the religious right itself in a new guise.  Assuming this is true, I w0nder if it is meaningful to speak of the religious right per se, as opposed to calling them the Republican party “base” or “grassroots”.  Indeed, Paul Gottfried in his response to Dougherty’s article claims that, in his experience, members of the religious right care more about promoting the Republican Party at home and democracy abroad than they do about abortion or other social issues.  Gottfried attributes this to intellectual laziness.

I think both Dougherty and Gottfried are too hard on their subjects.  They are vexed that Evangelicals would stick by G. W. Bush despite what they see as his manifest incompetance, but this becomes easier to understand when one looks at that the Democrats were offering as the alternative.  As long as the Democrats maintain their fanaticism for abortion, sodomy, feminism, and secularism, it’s hard to see how evangelical protestants have any choice.

As someone who, I suppose, belongs to the religious right–but who despises democracy and capitalism–it is certainly vexing to see these issues not only embraced, but effectively eclipsing the issues I do care about.  If only there were a way to capture and reorient the debate.  What we need is an intellectual leader and spokesman.  A while back, I was reading that Robert George had more or less assumed this role.  George, you’ll recall is a law professor at Princeton and a proponent of “new natural law” Thomism.  To his great credit, he certainly brings focus back onto social issues:  abortion, in-vitro fertilization, homosexuality, pornography, euthanasia.  Against the libertarians, he has affirmed that the state has a duty to foster a healthy “moral ecology” for the community, so he has made a refreshing break with individualism.  My main objection to George’s writings is his strong endorsement of propositional nation nonsense.  He will often start arguments with something like the following:  “Unlike other nations, America is based on an idea:  human equality.  Now let’s go outlaw abortion!”  Perhaps it’s just for show–George wants people to think his inspiration is the Founding Fathers, not Thomas Aquinas–but he’s brought out this line too many times for this to be likely.

One of the disadvantages of not controling the discourse is that a hostile media gets to decide for you who your spokesperson is.  The New York Times has decided that this buffoon is our idea man.  David Barton is described generously by the Times as a “self-taught historian”.  He is also an ordained minister, but his true religion seems to be Founderolatry.  In his mind, the Founders were not deist freemason traitors history records, but infallible gods whose wisdom (distilled in quotations removed from any context) can resolve all of America’s contemporary debates, in the Republicans’ favor.  Did you know that James Madison (peace be upon him) opposes the stimulus plan?

I would love to say that Barton is really an atheist-Jewish NYT conspiracy to make American Christians look dumb, but the fact is that he has gotten approval by a number of prominent Republican politicians.  We’re making ourselves look stupid; we religious rightists have no one to blame but ourselves.  What really handicaps the religious right, and Founderolatry is just one particularly silly manifestation of this, is an absurdly inflated idea of the virtue of the United States of America.  Our own code of ethics would logically lead us to label America as an especially wicked nation.  Instead, we always hear that America is especially, even uniquely, virtuous among nations both contemporary and historical.  We’ve just fallen from our own high ideals in a few isolated areas, like abortion.  These are no doubt a blot on our nation, but they don’t touch its virtuous and glorious essence.  This is implausible, and it seems hard to believe that someone who really believes what a pro-lifer believes would go around saying that America is the greatest nation on earth.  It’s like saying that a certain man you know is the kindest person on earth, except that he’s a serial killer, but, oh, you should just see how nice he is when he’s not killing people.  No, abortion is not just a blot on the surface.  A basically good people doesn’t murder a million of its children each year to promote sexual promiscuity and female selfishness.  The rot goes to the core; the sickness goes to the soul.  One would expect that Christians would be the first to recognize the depravity of unredeemed man (and one might think a Protestant people would be especially sensitive to this point).  Instead, we act like America is holier than God Himself.  The leader we need is someone like Augustine or Calvin.

Is there such a thing as fascism?

I am interested in the subject of fascism, and I have made some effort to educate myself about it, reading, in addition to some standard histories, a couple of political philosophy books on the phenomenon (see my reviews here and here), and a few essays by fascists like Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile in which they try to define their own movement.  I have come away still uncertain that there really is an ideology called “fascism”.  But how can this be, when we know there have been fascists and fascist parties?  However, just because one has a party doesn’t mean it has a coherent ideology behind it.  Consider Latin American parties organized around loyalty to a particular caudillo.  No one would imagine, for example, that “Chavismo” has a coherent theory of the good life.  It just means supporting Hugo Chavez.  Contrast this with Marxism, a fully-developed body of thought that would continue to exist even if it turned out that Karl Marx was a myth.  It makes perfect sense to ask about the Marxist conception of the good life, the Marxist interpretation of the Middle Ages, etc.  What about fascism, though?  How do we know that fascism isn’t just “Mussolinismo” and “Hitlerismo”?

The only way would be to identify a distinctly fascist political philosophy.  Ordinarily, this would be the job of fascists themselves, but they were exterminated too quickly.  What I have read of them identifies fascism generally with a rejection of individualism and materialism.  This fails to distinguish fascism from conservatism.  According to liberals, this is because there is no difference, but that seems implausible.  Fascists and reactionaries seemed to disagree on many things.  One was not a more moderate version of the other; they were both quite extreme, and obviously extremes of different things.  The Marxists try to explain fascism by identifying the class interests it served:  the bourgeoisie and capitalism, supposedly.  This would succeed in distinguishing fascists from reactionaries (the “feudal” party of the aristocracy and clergy) and socialists, but it would make it hard to distinguish fascism from liberalism.  Again, it is implausible that fascism and liberalism are not essentially distinct.

Nolte identifies fascism with a denial of transcendence, both of the conservative’s belief in God and of the liberal’s ethical universalism.  This definition has the undeniable virtue of making fascism conceptually distinct from the other major ideologies.  Interrogate a man about his beliefs, and you will be able to unambiguously identify him as a conservative, liberal, Marxist socialist, or fascist, even if he himself doesn’t realize that he belongs to this category.  Nolte’s definition is similar to the one offered by Michael Paterson-Seymour , who defines fascism as the conception of the state as absolute and not ordered to anything outside of it.  If I were forced to give a definition of fascism, I would probably choose something like Nolte and Paterson-Seymour’s schemes.  I would say that, for the liberal, nothing transcends the individual; for the fascist, the state transcends the individual, while nothing transcends the state; for the conservative there is Something that transcends both.  I would, however, feel a lot more comfortable with definitions of this sort if they came from an actual fascist, rather than an unsympathetic historian (as all modern historians would be–not that that’s a bad thing, except for this purpose) or from me (a blogger representing a competing ideology).  Michael PS has dug up some quotes confirming that Mussolini believed something like these propositions, although it is hard for us to know whether he understood them (and their centrality) as we do.

I fear that there’s a lot of projection in our definitions of fascism.  We have our beliefs, and then we define the fascists, our scapegoat figures, with the negation of these beliefs, rather than letting them define themselves in their own terms.  It’s a classic case of “othering”, that great sin the liberals are always accusing us reactionaries of.  Certainly, this was the case with the New Left and Frankfurt School definitions of fascism, which identified it with hierarchy and ingroup-outgroup consciousness, leading them to conclude (naturally) that everyone but them–including, it would seem, all past humanity–were fascists.  We conservatives have engaged in this sort of rhetoric ourselves, such as when Eric Von Keuhnelt-Leddihin identified fascism as an instance of Leftism, Leftism being defined more or less as anything he didn’t like.

None of this reassures me that fascism is a real, unambiguous ideology.  I would like to hear from my readers, though.  I know Reggie has spent a lot of time researching European illiberalism, and Justin has recently offered a sort of definition of Naziism in a comment.  What do you say?  What is the essence of fascism, or does it not have one?  What distinguishes it from other non-liberal creeds?