From Fascism to Populism in History, by Federico Finchelstein, University of California, RRP£24.95, 332 pages
To Fight against This Age: On Fascism and Humanism, by Rob Riemen, Norton, RRP£14.99, 176 pages
The Civic Foundations of Fascism in Europe: Italy, Spain, and Romania, 1870-1945, by Dylan Riley, Verso, RRP£16.99, 288 pages
The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power, by Benjamin Carter Hett, William Heineman, RRP£20, 304 pages
Fascism: A Warning, by Madeleine Albright, William Collins, RRP£16.99, 304 pages
Of this long, but not long enough review of theses books, The New York Review of Books, in its long gone salad days, would have acquitted itself in a multipart extended review, that these books deserve, in fact demand!
This reader was struck by this paraphrase of Riemen’s thesis , that reeks of a not too carefully laundered political romanticism:
As Riemen sees it, its roots lie in the conditions of modern life, in a society that stifles nobility of spirit, that defines its goal as the satisfaction of base material desires, and trusts to science and technology to find the solutions. Credulous masses of voters create the conditions in which charismatic demagogues arise. They do so in an age which — he says — is marked by the politics of the “mass man” and “organised stupidity”.
The inclusion of War Criminal Madeleine Albright’s book demonstrates a complete lack of moral/intellectual standards at this newspaper.
In fact if there is one good thing to come out of the current political uncertainty, it is that complacency about American democracy will be harder to sustain in future. Let us not worry overly about how to define a fascist: there are plenty of other nasty kinds of authoritarian regimes. It is the crisis of democracy that should concern us more. We know by now what can happen when the institutions of representative government become bitterly polarised, when large swathes of the electorate lose the capacity to compromise, when power and wealth pile up in the hands of elites and when those in charge of the state give up the challenge of responding to widespread economic hardship. History is not a one-way street and democracy has turned authoritarian before. Can it happen again? Why not?
Let us not worry overly about how to define a fascist: there are plenty of other nasty kinds of authoritarian regimes. Are definitional frames of any importance ? Or is this just an abdication of Political /Moral responsibility, in service to ideological convenience ? With this caveat should the reader of this newspaper take a critical look at this newspaper’s Macron Triumphalism and his Jupertarian Politics : Authoritarianism, defined by an impasto of apologetic propaganda al la Edward Bernays?
Thank you both for your thought provoking comments!
‘Let us not worry overly about how to define a fascist: there are plenty of other nasty kinds of authoritarian regimes.’
Mr. Mazower can’t even provide a definition of what Fascism is! Without that definition Mazower can extemporize on his misbegotten notions of Syriza! An operational definition of Fascism might be: an alliance between a xenophobic, even racist reactionary political party, awash in a radical nostalgia for a past, or even a halcyon future. Allied to a Capitalism that seeks profit at any cost. Both Hitler, and Pinochet and his economic hirelings The Chicago Boys, or just call them Friedman’s Neo-Liberal Army, meet this capacious definitional frame.
What I’ve offered is far from definitive, or even an expression of adequacy , but Mazower, like the careful political conformist and editorial hireling, leaves one of the primary components of Fascism unaddressed. The critical reader of this collection of intellectual snap shots, might even call him a Neo-Stalinist: meaning that the historical erasure takes place before the fact of his polemic. If that isn’t too intellectually perverse?
Toquam is really the shade of that all purpose reactionary Alan Bloom, and his anti-student screeching hysterics. Bloom was hurt that a generation of students ignored him, and his warmed-over Neo-Platonic riffs. Allied to his Neo-Conservative politics.
Bloom’s central delusion was that he was a central thinker, in sum, that he was the incarnation of ‘The Guardians’ as imagined by Plato, as interpreted through Bloom’s reactionary sensibility, via the mendacious Leo Strauss.
Bloom was incensed that students didn’t look to him, in favor of other thinkers of the time: his vengeance for being ignored was his ‘Closing of The American Mind’ and one of its central claims that ‘Rock and Roll’ was addling the minds of a ‘Generation’ A central claim of the representatives of that American institution ‘Old Time Religion’.
Andrew Sullivan, at New York Magazine, is Bloom’s hysterical legatee.