Fascism, Imperialism, and Trumpism

Fascism, of course, always had a lot more in common with classical liberalism than most people realise.  Fascism was built around the defence of private capitalism.  Far from being the ideologically ultra-statist economic nightmare of right-wing mythology, fascist economics was complex and opportunistic.  It sometimes used nationalisation as well as privatisation.  Indeed, as Germa Bel has shown, the Nazis did so extensively, to the point where one could call them forerunners of neoliberalism.  But there’s no denying that statism was a part of the Nazi economic strategy… but then so did liberalism always use the state as a way to protect and extend capitalist interests.  Indeed, fascism – being a product of twentieth century capitalist imperialism – is the product of an era when the interests of the state fuse, to a large extent, with the interests of blocs of domestic capital, thus making state-run imperialism essentially a form of public-financed ‘primitive accumulation’ on behalf of national capitalists.  Many big capitalists – generally from heavy industry, for material reasons, as Daniel Guerin pointed out – understood this and sympathised with and/or subsidised fascist movements.  But more generally, fascism emerges from the liberal capitalist epoch, and shows the family resemblances.

In this connection, a reader recently reminded me of the work of Ishay Landa.  I need to re-read, but I seem to recall that Landa makes a strong case, in The Apprentice’s Sorcerer (2012), that fascism emerges from the Western liberal – i.e. capitalist – tradition and is in continuity with it, at least as much as rupture. 

This is a good review of Landa’s book which brings out the main points.  As the reviewer says

Landa begins by identifying as a historical precondition for fascism “the inherent tension between the political dimension of the liberal order and its economic one” (21). That is, the European bourgeoisie of the eighteenth century demanded representative governments in order to free the markets from feudal protectionism, but they were followed later by the lower classes who, in turn, demanded access to the franchise themselves in order to protect their own interests, pitting the original economic liberalism against emerging political liberalism. Where John Locke defended democracy as shoring up capitalism, Vilfredo Pareto, whose works inspired Benito Mussolini, lashed out at democracy “entirely on the premises of economic liberalism,” such as “its restriction of the ‘free movement of capital,’ and its encroachment on private property via progressive taxation” (53).” Similar strains of thought were current among German thinkers of the interwar period, most notably Oswald Spengler, and Adolf Hitler’s animus against German democracy was based upon the belief that “the [Weimar] Republic signifie[d] the unlawful and pernicious political interference in the economy”…

An interesting irony that Locke, who provides the basis for Rothbard’s ethics and metaphysics of property, is in favour of democracy (broadly), instead of resolutely opposed to it like the Austrians.  And it’s also telling that Hitler’s fundamental objections to Weimar democracy were couched in terms that would be congenial to Hayek et al (via Carl Schmitt, etc).

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