The Fascism that Won

Calling somebody a fascist tends to be a great way to end a conversation. First on the Left, and more recently on the Right, the abuse value of this term has been eagerly seized upon. Insofar as such usage merits the attribution of a ‘logic’ it is that of reductio ad absurdum — an argument or position that can be identified as fascist by implication is thereby immediately dismissed. Fascism is analyzed only as far as required to stick the label on the other guy.

Among the reasons to regret this situation is the veil it casts over the triumph of fascism as the decisive historical fact of the 20th century. While the defeat of the core ‘fascist’ axis in the Second World War left the ideology bereft of confident defenders, reducing it to its merely abusive meaning, it also fostered the illusion that the victorious powers were essentially ‘anti-fascist’ — to the point of extreme military exertion. The historical reality, in contrast, is described far more accurately by dramatic convergence upon fascist ideas, from both Left and Right, as exemplified by the ascendency of pragmatic nationalism over radical collectivism in the communist world, and by social-democratic state-managerialism over laissez-faire ‘classical liberalism’ in the West. With calm discussion of this ‘third-position’ formation rendered next to impossible, the crucial attempt to understand its socio-historical specificity is diverted into sterile polemics.

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