Eyepatch on the Left?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about ‘Inferno’ (interesting to me anyway) is the way that the fascist world of the Brigade Leader is distinguished by only a very few differences – mainly in terms of attitude and levels of state violence – from the ‘democratic’ capitalist world of the Brigadier and 70s Britain. There are more similarities than differences. There’s very little to distinguish a state-funded project in a ‘democratic’ world and one in a fascist world; very little distance between the basic jobs of a Brigade Leader and a Brigadier. The people behave differently but the essential structure of society is the same, albeit with very different levels of official repression. This reflects – probably accidentally, if we’re honest – the fact that fascism is not a fundamentally different form of economic system but a different way of running a capitalist state.

Actually, I’ve been calling them “fascists”… but the casual reference to the execution of the royal family, the fact that the Brigade Leader is a member of something called the “Republican Security Force” (the Nazis planned to reinstall Edward VIII as their puppet monarch when they took over Britain, not set up a ‘republic’), the Orwellian poster and the fact that a government official can happily go by the name of Sir Keith Gold, all tends to suggest that this might be a ‘communist’ tyranny rather than a ‘Nazi’ one. (By the way, I don’t mean to suggest that Jews always had a lovely time of it in Stalinist dictatorships, merely that anti-Semitism wasn’t a central part of ‘communist’ doctrine the way it was with the Nazis.)

There are indications that work for either a fascist or ‘communist’ world… and that was probably the idea: the notion that both are essentially the same, or very similar. Okay, so does that work? Well, the idea that Nazism and ‘communism’ (and other similar systems, like Baathism in Iraq) are all akin to each other and best described as ‘totalitarian’ is still a very common and popular one. The concept of ‘totalitarianism’ is certainly useful to an extent, as it expresses a fundamental difference between a repressive state that attempts to simply force obedience and one that also attempts to impose orthodoxy in all aspects of life. Ultimately, however, it’s probably a bit of a millstone. It allows people like the ‘anti-totalitarian’ left and the French ‘New Philosophers’ to argue for imperialist wars waged by America, the UK and NATO, on the grounds that their opponents are ‘totalitarian’ and are therefore akin to the powerful states that created the Gulag and the death camps. It’s arguable how many societies have really that closely resembled the totalitarian model as represented by Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (which, in popular consciousness, is a bit like the Platonic ‘form’ of totalitarianism). We should never forget that Orwell’s book is a satire, and as such contains a great deal of exaggeration… and that the representative of Oceanian ideology in the book specifically states that the world of Big Brother has gone further than the Nazis or communists did.…

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