In parts 1 and 2, evidence was presented to demonstrate that the Fascist political form of authoritarianism, offered capitalist and pro-capitalist elites the means to merge economic authoritarianism with the state political form and add a third crucial determining element. The latter was to enroll shock troops for dealing with critics.
Ideologically, die hard Aryan Fascists considered themselves a superior nation and people, whilst other nations and people were morally and intellectually below them. However, with over six million unemployed, most Germans in 1932 were not necessarily attracted to National Socialism by its antiquated racist ideology. It was the promise of jobs and social benefits which interested most of them. Support was;
“.not because they were swamped by Nazi propaganda….(workers)…having seen what democracy had delivered, felt that it was time…for another system.” (’The Nazis: A warning from history.’ L Rees. Chapter 1.)
By ignoring such understanding, it has often been assumed that in countries where Fascism gained power, people were qualitatively different from those in countries which rejected it. In some cases a ‘banality of evil’ was extended to practically all who were seduced or pressured to support the Nazis. Yet many on the side which defeated Fascism, demonstrated a similar authoritarian-based prejudice.
Pans calling kettles black.
Those among the Allied allies, adopting such prejudiced views about German working people in general merely mirrored the intolerant and prejudiced superior attitude German Fascists adopted toward their Jewish, Communist and Slavic victims. I still consider it a bizarre contradiction that men claiming to be anti-Fascist could at the same time be extremely authoritarian, deeply prejudiced against ‘others’.
In those cases, a crucial level of self-criticism was being left out. Research into ‘The Authoritarian Personality’ (T.Adorno et al) and ‘The Authoritarian State’ or ‘State Capitalism’ (Neumann/Pollock) showed that the phenomenon was also present in western ‘Democratic’ countries. This uncomfortable fact needs to enlighten contemporary discussions on authoritarian attitudes. Authoritarian superior and intolerant assumptions within left and right sectarian groups also need to be recognised as part of the problem facing humanity, not part of a solution.
For, it is an indisputable fact that authoritarian practices and ideas of superior and inferior human beings reside in every culture. Indeed, superiority and authoritarianism are deeply rooted in the patriarchal religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These ideologies are founded upon an assumption of male superiority, domination and discrimination of ‘other’ human beings.
For example, within patriarchal authoritarian ideologies and practices, women and children as well as other communities, nations, religions, skin colours are designated – in some way or other – as inferior to those pursuing or administering forms of authoritarian control. Consequently, the whole of bourgeois ideology and practice is replete with historical as well as contemporary forms of prejudiced discrimination and intolerance.
Metaphorically speaking, Patriarchy is not just the ideological father of male-centric monotheistic religions, but also the parent of Democracy, Fascism and Sectarianism – the three secular sibling sons, so to speak. Stalwarts of one or other of these three secular ideologies in the 20th century, controlled the capitalist mode of production in most countries around the globe.
Moreover, intolerance and prejudice are still widespread. What is rarely admitted – but understood by many women – is that most men (elite men in particular) have thinly disguised authoritarian tendencies. [NB; if in doubt, check out feminism and the ‘me too’ movement archives.]
Interestingly, many men can readily identify authoritarianism in other males but rarely in themselves.
Authoritarians de-humanise the ‘other’.
Extreme authoritarian political mindsets, such as those displayed by Fascist and other sectarian organisations, often go as far as fictionally demonising the ‘other’. Not only were all Jews discriminated against and fictionally demonised (as rats), but Slavs and members of rival political parties, were also de-humanised.
Practically everyone who did not wholeheartedly support the German Fascists were targeted, not only as enemies of the Nazi Party, but as subhuman (untermenschen) enemies of Germany. This phenomena was manifest internally as well as externally. In a notable example, left-leaning socialist members of the SA (Sturmabteilung) section of the Nazi Party, were even assassinated by their party colleagues in 1934 and the organisation disbanded.
Secular versions of authoritarianism gave rise to the attitude expressed as; ‘your either with us or against us’. Consequently, the ‘other’ must not only be labelled wrong and inferior, but possibly devilishly evil, twisted or insane and thus be unworthy of human rights, cultural standing, being granted any dignity or even being entitled to life itself.
Notably, this authoritarian and dualistic mode of thinking had previously infused the minds of Colonial and Imperialist era male elites and clearly existed on all sides during the Second World War. It was later re-enacted in Vietnam and later articulated by Bush when launching the ‘war on terror’.
Given the global domination of patriarchal ideology in its varied forms, it is not surprising that the same authoritarian mentality of ‘you are either with us or against us’ also became a hall mark of the ‘revolutionary’ (sic) left in the fledgling Soviet Union. It was eloquently articulated, by Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and many Communist leaders – all of whom were authoritarian-inclined men who thought themselves vastly superior to everyone else. Russian, Anarchists, Socialists and Social Democrats and even critics within the Russian Communist Party itself, were consequently not thought worthy of being treating fairly or with dignity and many were expelled, outlawed, tortured or shot.
In the Soviet Union, as in Fascist Germany, disagreement with, and exposure of wrong-doing (whistle-bowing) by individuals was frequently classified as an act against the state. Trotsky was expelled and eventually assassinated after he had repeatedly spoken out. But is that sort of treatment not also the case in most democratic capitalist countries? Are critics not assassinated by democratic regimes and regimes friendly to democratic nations? [Jamal Khashoggy as a recent example.]
If we have the courage to be honest about our male gender, then we have to admit that damaging levels of authoritarianism, intolerance and prejudice are displayed daily by men everywhere.
The 21st century inhumane treatment of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, etc., suggests they were considered by intolerant and prejudiced democratic elites not as flawed truth tellers, but as devious and degenerate enemies of the democratic capitalist state.
Of course, it is still commonly accepted that the authoritarian and intolerant way Fascists and Stalinists dealt with ‘enemies’ and ‘dissidents’ in Concentration camps, Gulags, Gestapo (or KGB) headquarters, was worse than the way the Democratic regimes headed by Bush and Blair dealt with them by extraordinary rendition, or in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. But apart from mass gassing – I suggest – not worse by a large margin.
Authoritarians need to ‘Divide to Rule’.
In addition to the failure of 20th century Democracy to protect working people’s livelihoods, there is another important point to consider in relation to the initial pre-war success of Fascism. Fascist authoritarians in Germany, Italy and Spain were assisted in gaining state power by the fact that the working classes in those countries allowed themselves to be divided against each other. By heeding their ‘leaders’ demonised descriptions of other workers, they subsequently fought each other mercilessly.
In Germany authoritarian Communist leaders also described ordinary Social Democratic workers as Social Fascists and vica versa. In Spain, Communist workers and POUM workers were urged by ‘leaders’ to fight each other – as well as Franco – as enemies. In Italy, Catholic affiliated Workers and Communist affiliated workers were persuaded to lay their hands on each other rather than on capitalism.
Clearly, a united front of working people against all forms of capitalist authoritarianism was needed in the socio-economic crisis of the 1920’s and 1030’s, but the barriers erected by left and right authoritarians; false labeling, de-humanisation, difference, assumed superiority/inferiority etc., became too entrenched to be surmounted.
Instead of listening to each other, many working people listened to political leaders and turned deaf ears and blind eyes on those with different views; instead of discussing, many followed advice to fight; instead of focusing on what they had in common, many were persuaded to focus on manipulated political differences.
True, the Second World War between two squabbling forms of authoritarian capitalism was won by the democratic form, but not before over six million people had been killed. In defense of their democratic authoritarian version of capitalism, the Allied elites conscripted their citizens and among other things used them to fire-bomb Dresden and atomise the non-military residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the end were the Democrat elites really that much better than the blitzkrieging undemocratic Fascist elites who conscripted their citizens for similar inhuman purposes?
In 2021 and beyond, as the ecological basis of all life is steadily being destroyed by capitalist raw material extraction processes, and widespread production for profit is collapsing fast, all capitalist elites around the globe are requiring even more authoritarianism for their system to survive, not less. In face of this new systemic crisis of capitalism, bearing down upon working people, will different ethnic, religious, national, gender, age, sexual preference sections of the working classes still exhibit prejudice and intolerance against each other?
The 20th century tragically demonstrated what happens when the answer to these questions was yes.
It is to be hoped that the new millennial generations will have sufficient knowledge and humanity to avoid letting that 20th century ‘dark age’ experience be repeated again in the 21st.
Roy Ratcliffe (February 2021)