Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Is the Left fascist? What does it mean to claim that the Left is in fact fascist? Let's find out something more than we might know now. Below we have excerpts from a book review, an interivew, and a magazine feature. Each discusses the Left as fascist. The authors range from a liberal to a socialist to a moderate/Right journalist.

We begin with a look at the Left's infatuation with philobarbarism and the infantalization of the lumpen-proletariat after the disappearence of a traditional industrial working-class. When "the workers' no longer form a coherent base for the socialist intelligensia to lead, where do the intellectuals go? To the mean streets in the West, looking for drug addicts and mental patients, and to the most wretched Third World states of decay they can find for barbarian fodder. We see an abandonment of Left principles of progressivism in favor of reaction, of doing good in favor now of doing nothing good and often of doing evil in the name of some imaginary utopian romance that leads to nothing more than violence, more poverty, more disease, more brutality against women, more of all the evils we have struggled throughout history to stop. Instead, the Left has embraced all the evils it once sought to defeat. The Age of Enlightenment, the true beginning of the greatness of the victories we have today, is abandoned by the Left in favor of self-serving fascism and fascist careerism. These stellar mediocrities use the people to gorge themselves on power, status, and money. The capitalist pigs, the robber barons, the rich banker fat cats, these are nothing today compared to the world-wide power of the dhimmi fascist Left. It is the Left that has control of the majority of the world's population, and it uses them to death. Until we see the nature of fascism at work we will not understand how the Left manages to play this game so successfully. We have to begin by knowing what fascism is, and then, seeing its roots and its history we can see the current lot of Leftists as they truly are.

We see over and again an attempted Leftist power-grab using the world's losers, the primitives, as their constituents as proxies and tools, the useful idiots of Leftism. The Left, being a reactionary force, must find and maintain a pool of surplus proles to feed into their devouring, unsustainable ideological machine. Few rational people would willingly put themselves under the control of officious mediocrities, so there must be in place a system of systems to generate the conditions of need that the Left requires to maintain its power base. Doing a task that can't succeed is a great way of remaining forever employed. Saving the poor by maintaining the poverty generating system is to determine forever ones employment.

The continuing success of the Enlightenment project is a direct threat to the power of the mediocrities, of, for example, the poverty pimps; therefore, to destroy the Enlightenment is to restore the conditions of poverty in which the pimps have ample room for recruitment of the masses to the streets.

The Counter Enlightenment, the origins of Post-Modernism, begins in earnest in the French Revolution of 1789. The Counter Enlightenment is the beginning of modern fascism, a modern revisoinist continuation of the past 5,000 years of the primitive Argricultural Revolution. Many of the thinkers below are Nazi collaborators, many of them respected and even highly prized thinkers of the modern Left. They live in disguise, but they are known and can can be seen for what they are: fascists. And once we know what they are we can know whether we agree with them as they are rather than what we think they are.

We begin our look at the history of the fascism of the modern Left with a book review:

25 October 2004
Are post modernists fascists?

George Crowder, Flinders University

Richard Wolin The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2004 (xxii + 375 pp). ISBN 0-691-11464-1 (hardback) RRP $55.95.

One of the marvels of social and political thought over the past twenty years has been the alliance between left-wing politics and postmodernist philosophy, or anti-philosophy. Thinkers like Foucault and Derrida have been enshrined as intellectual authorities in the cause of oppressed groups of many kinds: indigenous and colonised peoples, women, the gay community, refugees, and others. Yet little thought is required to raise serious doubts about how far progressive causes are really assisted by the kind of thinking that these writers have promoted.

Notoriously, Heidegger was a member of the Nazi Party and, as Rector of Freiburg University, an enthusiastic propagandist for the regime. After the War, he tried to play down his complicity, giving the impression that this was a temporary aberration. But in the 1980s it emerged that he had been far more deeply implicated in Nazi affairs than he claimed, remaining an active informant on friends and colleagues until the end of the War (Farias 1989).

Of course, it is one thing to say that certain postmodernists or proto-postmodernists were fascists in a previous life (Paul de Man was another), and something else again to argue that they were fascists because of their postmodernism. To infer that postmodernists must be fascists simply because some postmodernists have been fascists in the past would be as silly as concluding that all liberals must be in favour of slavery because Thomas Jefferson was a slave-owner. Wolin is, indeed, aware of the dangers of simply claiming 'guilt by association' (xiv). His task is to show not just that some forerunners of postmodernism were, as it happens, fascists or fascist sympathisers, but that their politics emerged directly out of, or at least fitted naturally with, their underlying philosophy.

The source of that philosophy was Counter-Enlightenment opposition to the liberal and republican ideals of the French revolution. For thinkers like Joseph de Maistre, the upheavals of the revolution demonstrated the evils of the Enlightenment faith in humanism, universal reason, and the possibility of social and political improvement based on the values of liberalism and democracy. The fundamental message of the Counter-Enlightenment was the very opposite of all this: reason and universality should be rejected as social guides, and the claims of instinct and local tradition reasserted. Human nature is flawed and unreliable, needing to be constrained by received institutions exemplified by the unquestioned, mystical authority of the king, the priest and the executioner

Carl Jung, the darling of New Agers, flourished under the Third Reich.

It may seem a long way from here to the freewheeling relativism of the postmodernists, but Wolin deftly sketches some of the main links. The central point is the rejection of reason, and nowhere was this more enthusiastically embraced than in nineteenth-century Germany. As Wolin puts it, the doctrine of the Counter-Enlightenment became, essentially, 'the German Ideology'. Its most spectacular practitioner was Nietzsche, whose reception by the French and later American postmodernists is the subject of a chapter appropriately entitled 'Zarathustra Goes to Hollywood'. What Foucault, Derrida and others take from Nietzsche is his 'perspectivism', his claim to have unmasked 'reason' and 'morality' as mere vehicles of the will to power. What they conveniently ignore is Nietzsche's reassertion, on this basis, of the aristocratic values of heroic society, and consequently of a 'Great Politics' in which the mass of humanity is a mere instrument for an elite. Reducing Nietzsche to his relativism, cleansed of his substantial moral and political message, postmodernist Nietzscheanism makes possible 'a stance of uncompromising philosophical radicalism while avoiding all questions of direct moral or political commitment' (p. 34).

Subsequent chapters tell a similar story about two more German gurus, whose post-War domestication conceals a less than savoury intellectual background. Carl Jung, the darling of New Agers, flourished under the Third Reich, having created a form of psychoanalysis that, unlike Freud's Enlightenment-oriented view, meshed comfortably with Nazi ideology. For Jung, the key to mental health was liberation from the rational ego and access to the mythic archetypes of the collective unconscious—a process that he believed was easier for Aryans than for Jews. Hans-Georg Gadamer is today celebrated by sensitive communitarians like Charles Taylor as the father of 'hermeneutics', a view that emphasises the local, situated character of all interpretation. But Wolin points out the strong affinity between Gadamer's hermeneutics and that staple of the Counter-Enlightenment, the uncritical acceptance of tradition—in his own words the celebration of 'prejudice'. In the 1930s the tradition Gadamer valued most was that of German cultural superiority. The acceptability of his views enabled him to advance his career at the expense of Jewish colleagues, and during the war he made himself useful to the regime by lecturing on the propaganda circuit. After the war he quietly dropped the theme of German superiority in favour of an apparently more neutral cultural relativism. But his use of relativism to defend the Soviet Union exhibited, as Wolin aptly puts it, 'a failure to learn' (pp. 120-21).

Georges Bataille and Maurice Blanchot sang the praises of fascism in the 1930s.

The Counter-Enlightenment celebrated a different set of values that seemed to have been lost in modern times but might yet be recovered: vitality and manliness, ritual rather than reflection, the mythic or mystical dimension of experience in contrast with the scientific, self-assertion through violent conflict, and above all the rejection of reason in favour of action and instinct. These were the themes of Nietzsche—and they became the themes of fascism. These values attracted Heidegger, appealing to his philosophical emphasis on the authenticity of 'being' in contrast with reason and the pursuit of truth.

Among those French intellectuals who took the same path, Wolin singles out two as especially significant. Georges Bataille and Maurice Blanchot sang the praises of fascism in the 1930s, retreating into 'inner emigration' during the War only when it became clear what fascism looked like at close quarters. Their significance, for Wolin, lies in their influence on Foucault, Derrida and their supporters. From Bataille the postmodernists take their condemnation of reason as 'homogenising' and suppressive of 'difference', without acknowledging that the difference Bataille is principally concerned to reassert includes anti-democratic authoritarianism and gratuitous ('transgressive') violence. From Blanchot the postmodernists inherit a suspicion of language as an insuperable barrier between thought and reality, ignoring the origins of this view as a rationalisation of Blanchot's prudent wartime 'silence'.

These themes—the 'impossibility' of language, and the homogeneity of reason and democracy—come together in the work of Derrida in particular. For Derrida, language can never generate the stable meaning presupposed by notions of objective truth, and the generality of legal rules necessarily impedes 'justice', which is always peculiar to concrete cases. In short, the notion of objective truth is incoherent, and the rule of law unjust. As Wolin points out, the first of these conclusions is itself incoherent, since it presupposes the objectivity it purports to deny. The second is typical of the postmodernist penchant for ludicrous overstatement and for striking radical postures that have no sane implications for political action. Justice, obviously enough, calls for both particularity and generality: attention to the particularity of cases, and general rules to prevent bias and special pleading. The silliness of Derrida's pronouncements on the injustice of law is nicely brought out by Wolin though the story of the philosopher's arrest in Czechoslovakia in 1981. Suddenly subject to a genuinely arbitrary decision process, Derrida found himself impelled towards the thought that humanist norms like the rule of law might have some value after all. Undaunted and with 'great lucidity', however, he rationalised this odd experience by positing a new philosophical category in which contradictory thoughts confront each other without 'intersecting': 'the intellectual baroque'.

Postmodernism does not entail a thoroughgoing dedication to fascism.

Where does the defining postmodernist hostility towards truth come from? Hatred of the Enlightenment and the modern world is its remote source....

Both extreme right and extreme left looked forward to utopias that either did not materialise or did not last. After that, where is there to go (for the unapologetic) but inward, into a position of extreme cynicism in which all norms are equally spent and all politics equally suspect?

George Crowder is Senior Lecturer in the School of Political and International Studies, Flinders University, Adelaide. He is the author of Classical Anarchism (1991), Liberalism and Value Pluralism (2002), and Isaiah Berlin: Liberty and Pluralism (forthcoming 2004).

ISSN 1832-1526
Australian Review of Public Affairs
© 2000–2005 School of Economics and Political Science, The University of Sydney

Below we have an abreviated version of an interview with S.E Bronner speaking on the Enlightenment. Bronner begins his talk about the Enlightenment and the assaults on it by post-modernist reaction; and we conclude with his discussion of Adorno on the concentration of Modernity into death camps:

Enlightenment Now: Stephen Eric Bronner
in conversation with Gregory Zucker
January 2005

Stephen Eric Bronner, senior editor of Logos, an interdisciplinary Internet journal, is Professor of Political Science and a member of the Graduate Faculties of Comparative Literature and German Studies at Rutgers University. His latest book, Reclaiming the Enlightenment: Toward a Politics of Radical Engagement, was published this fall by Columbia University Press. The Rail's Gregory Zucker recently sat down with Bronner.

Gregory Zucker (Rail): What is the "Enlightenment"?

Stephen Eric Bronner: [M]aking sense of reality is impossible without history. So let me put it this way: the Enlightenment refers to an international intellectual trend that emerged during the 17th to 18th centuries, whose most important representatives were committed to cosmopolitanism, secularism, scientific experimentation, civil liberties, social reform, and—above all—the constriction of arbitrary power. The Enlightenment can be seen simply as the justification for an emerging capitalist class contemptuous of feudalism, or what was known as l'ancien regime, but I think of it more as the ideological reflection of an age marked by the democratic revolutions in England, the United States, France, and elsewhere. Its great representatives like Isaac Newton, David Hume, and John Locke in England, Spinoza in Holland, Voltaire and Rousseau in France, or Kant and Lessing in Germany, crystallize probably what's best about modernity. Together they constituted what was called a "republic of letters." They read each others' works, supported each other, debated with one another, and created a new international context of discourse. Too many of us, in spite of the Internet, are remarkably provincial in cultural matters. The Enlightenment provided the basis for an international civil society and a new form of cosmopolitan opinion that becomes particularly relevant when talking about the worst aspects of globalization.

Rail: But hasn't the Enlightenment been invalidated, or at least badly tainted, by "Euro-centrism"?

Bronner: The Enlightenment was a European phenomenon. But reformers and radicals in other cultures anticipated its concern with tolerance, scientific experimentation, social reform, cosmopolitanism, and what today we call human rights. It is absurd to suggest that only the West, or western thinkers, dealt with such issues. If Enlightenment figures like Voltaire and Montesquieu and others romanticized China, or Persia, or Native Americans, their naivete was born of good faith. The impact of the European Enlightenment also extended to the great slave rebellion in Haiti led by Toussaint L'Ouverture, as well as to Latin America and figures like Simon Bolivar, the great liberator and democrat. With respect to the present, in fact, the Enlightenment has relevance for all cultures because they are increasingly being faced with similar issues. Today we talk about a "Clash of Civilizations" between the "West and the rest," but that's the wrong way to think about things. Progressives in both western and non-western nations are increasingly being confronted with cultural and political questions concerning the intolerance of fundamentalists, the unthinking acceptance of tradition, the arbitrary power exercised by privileged elites and undemocratic institutions, infringements on human rights, and the fear of scientific progress. We are—right now and right here in the United States—witnessing the emergence of a new counter-enlightenment in the form of neo-conservatism: its unabashed provincialism, its rejection of social reform, its acceptance of privilege, its fear of science, its contempt for international law, and cultural experimentation. These all played a role in the last election.

Rail: Now what about Horkheimer and Adorno?

Bronner: All right: their classic work basically identified the Enlightenment with scientific or, better, mathematical methods of thinking about reality. Their argument is actually very simple. Where scientific rationality was initially used to attack religious, superstitious, and mythical dogma in the name of free inquiry, tolerance, and open society, soon enough—or so Horkheimer and Adorno argued—scientific rationality was unleashed against those ethical values that had inspired its use in the first place. What is seen as resulting from the Enlightenment is therefore a person without a conscience, a bean counter, or a bureaucrat, who fits perfectly into a capitalist system whose production process is based purely on profit and loss. As subjectivity is ever less prized, even while unconscious rage at its loss becomes open to greater manipulation by the "culture industry," society becomes increasingly reduced to what can be mathematically understood and rage is taken out on the other. Not liberation but the concentration camp, whose inmates are defined by the numbers tattooed on their arms, thus becomes the logical extension of the Enlightenment.

Above we see some of the origins of the post-modernist fascist claim that the Enlightenment is evil, as it were. If Modernity leads to death camps, then obviously it is wrong, for most of us, to continue with the Modernist project. If, a posteriori, the future is mistaken, then we can only return to the past to correct that mistake. The errors of Modernity have to be corrected by a return to pre-modernity, a reactionary fascism that few on the Left seem willing to express openly, though it is to us obvious.

Below we see a further examination of Modernity and its detractors. It is critical and crucial that we understand the nature of Modernity, of the Enlightenment, of our position vis a vis reaction, so-called post-modernism. Many of our most basic and innocuous assumptions, ranging from enviornmentalism and tarot card readings to baby-sitting our inner children to looking for ufo.s come from fascist assumptions and fascist ideologies. Those assumptions (of innocence of the postions) of ours do not make us fascists per se. But to know what those positions are, where they come from, what they mean, that is the point from which we can assess our future options in terms of what we must do to either reclaim our Modernist project or fight for its reversal.

Crimes of reason

The Economist, March 16, 1996, pp. 85-87

The ideas that shaped western thought on science, morality and politics sprang from the Enlightenment, a philosophical movement which flourished in Europe in the 18th century. Are these ideas mankind's finest intellectual achievement - or, as it is once again fashionable to argue, a catastrophic error?

...Their goal was not mainly to gain a greater understanding of the physical world, but to bring reason to bear on man's place within it - that is, among other things, to bring morality and politics wholly within the scope of rational inquiry. On the face of it, these ambitions were realised. The ideas of the Enlightenment changed the world. Their legacy is western modernity.

On this last point, scholars today appear to agree. Where they disagree is on whether the legacy was for good or evil. The debate between these contending views is of more than academic interest. The West's inheritance from the intellectual battles of the 18th century was liberalism and capitalism. These have made the West, for good or ill, what it is. So modern critics of the Enlightenment are not merely picking a fight with Kant about the rational basis of morality, or with Adam Smith about the spontaneous order of the marketplace. Implicitly and explicitly, they are challenging rights (such as equality before the law) and assumptions (such as progress through technology) that have come to be taken for granted throughout the developed world.

Despite their being taken for granted, disaffection with liberal capitalism is all around.

Rather, the power of Newton's great work was that it demonstrated (or appeared to demonstrate) the staggering power of science and the susceptibility of the physical world to human understanding. In that way, Newton inspired later thinkers to demand ever more of reason. If the intellect could comprehend the universe, in its seemingly limitless complexity, then surely it could also comprehend justice, authority, right and wrong. It was in the face of these new demands, rather than in response to Newton's discoveries in their own right, that faith retreated.

The prevailing mode of Enlightenment thinking was scepticism. All ideas must face scrutiny. Only in this way could man be liberated from superstition and irrational fear. Scrutiny in turn required dissent: bad ideas must not be sheltered by intellectual tyranny, or by tyranny of any kind.

A second animating spirit was regard for the individual. Like scepticism and tolerance, individualism followed from the enthroning of reason - for reason is a faculty exercised by the individual mind. Lastly, Enlightenment thought was optimistic: though it might take centuries, the "Enlightenment project" would succeed. Through reason, man would master nature and himself; through reason, men everywhere, regardless of culture or tradition, would discover the universal rules by which they should live their lives.

[F]rom the beginning, [Enlightnment ideas] came under attack.

Broadly speaking, the assaults were (as they continue to be) of two main kinds. One group of critics argued that scientific inquiry (especially when applied to questions of human conduct) was doomed to miss the point.

Knowledge or virtue?

It was a mistake, in Herder's view, to think of human history as an advance to ever higher forms of moral thinking, to suppose that intellectual harmony would one day be achieved without regard to local differences in culture and custom. He regarded such differences as both ineradicable and desirable. Because of them, human nature expressed itself in widely differing systems of values. Herder saw a great danger in Enlightenment thinking: that, in order to hasten "progress" towards the universal system, men would consider it their duty to eradicate supposedly inferior specimens.

Modern counter-Enlightenment thinking has added little to the substance, and has subtracted much from the clarity, of these earlier arguments. Its chief contribution has been to marry the two formerly separate lines of attack.

In "Dialectic of the Enlightenment", published shortly after the second world war, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer asked why mankind, far from advancing to an ever closer harmony, had sunk into an abyss of hitherto unimaginable barbarism; why science, far from serving its Enlightenment purpose of enlarging human understanding, had only served the cause of human cruelty. Their answer was that the Enlightenment had been doomed all along to serve totalitarian goals.

By rejecting all authority but reason, the Enlightenment left wickedness unchecked. By seeking to justify morality exclusively in terms of reason, man divorced ethics from knowledge, and subordinated the one to the other. He worshipped not God but technology, and sacrificed his fellow man to it. Industrial dehumanisation, concentration camps, atomic bombs: these were the fruits of knowledge without morals.

In the name of reason, man sets himself not only against other men, but also against the natural world. In the 18th century, Rousseau and others had contrasted the "noble savage", living free and in harmony with nature, with "civilised" man - shackled by industry and commerce; dependent on technology, which expands wants faster than it can meet them. Again, the argument echoes down the years, this time much amplified: such ideas plainly anticipate modern environmentalism. Many of today's counter-Enlightenment thinkers are distinctly green, just as many greens, knowingly or otherwise, have joined the battle with Voltaire, Hume, Smith and the others that has raged for the past 250 years.

On the rocks

[T]wo arguments put forward by earlier critics remain to be addressed: first (after Herder), that different cultures can support different systems of values; second (after Hegel), that "rationality" (and its offspring, liberal capitalism) militates against human flourishing. From the first it follows that liberal values have no superior claim to legitimacy over the "non-Occidental" ideologies in which Mr Gray sees the possibility of salvation; from the second it follows that the West should urgently seek just such an alternative.

Liberation philosophy

In their responses to these arguments, the Enlightenment's followers divide into many different camps. Most followers of Kant, for instance, would insist that reason does point to a universal moral code. They might further argue that differences among the world's moral systems are more apparent than real; that convergence among systems is, in fact, happening; that, even if differences persist, there is at least a universal minimum morality recognised wherever reason prevails; that the foundations (and perhaps not just the foundations) of liberalism lie inside that minimum; and that societies which deny this are objectively wrong.

[M]odern students of the Enlightenment can be divided with no significant exceptions into admirers and detractors, according to whether they regard western modernity as a marvel (despite its failings) or a disaster (despite its superficial attractions).

But it [Modernity] does not come close to justifying the unwaveringly apocalyptic tone of nearly all anti-liberal writers.

It ought to be obvious but evidently it needs saying: to the everyday lives of hundreds of millions of people, western liberalism has brought standards of material and emotional well-being unimagined in earlier times. The daily portion of all but the rich was once ignorance, injustice, fear, pain and want. On every dimension - health, education, physical security, economic opportunity - conditions of life have been utterly transformed, and for the better. As catastrophic failures go, the Enlightenment has served mankind quite well. At a minimum, the burden of proof lies with anti-liberals to propose a better alternative - something they have conspicuously failed to do.

In recent years Isaiah Berlin has done more than anybody else to test the ideas of the great liberal thinkers against the criticisms of their most creative 18th- and 19th-century opponents. Always careful to give those critics their due, he nonetheless offered this as his verdict on the champions of the Enlightenment:

The intellectual power, honesty, lucidity, courage and disinterested love of the most gifted thinkers of the 18th century remain to this day without parallel. Their age is one of the best and most hopeful episodes in the life of mankind.

That seems about right.

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