Time can repeat itself

Literature supplement: Fascism can repeat itself


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What is fascism In contrast to historians, who can no longer gain anything from the cheap commonplace concept, Robert O. Paxton endeavors to save it by defining a so-called "fascist minimum". The history professor emeritus at Columbia University in New York somewhat awkwardly defines fascism “as a form of political behavior characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with the decline, humiliation or victim role of a community and by compensatory cults of unity, strength and purity, whereby one mass-based party of determined, nationalist activists in uncomfortable but effective cooperation with traditional elites giving up democratic freedoms and pursuing goals of internal cleansing and external expansion by means of force that is transfigured as redeeming and without ethical or legal restrictions. "

On this basis, the various tyrannies that arose especially in the interwar period of the 20th century and which have adopted some manifestations of Italian fascism and German National Socialism can be clearly identified as what they were not at the core of things, namely fascist ones Regime. On the contrary: military or authoritarian dictatorships often succeeded, if one thinks of the rule of Antonescu in Romania, Franco in Spain and Salazar in Portugal, in liquidating or marginalizing fascist elements in their respective states. Even more: outside of Europe, for example, there was just as little room for fascist organizations in the “Estado Novo” of the Brazilian dictator Varga, just as Tennoist Japan managed to successfully overcome the corresponding efforts from below by partially adopting fascist methods. Where the conservative forces were strong enough to rule alone, they by no means shared power with those mass-manipulating movements, as has been the case in Italy and Germany. Here the Conservatives agreed to the alliance with the fascist or National Socialist forces in order to be able, all in all, to maintain that power that was then taken away from them, in Germany much more rigorously than in Italy. Mind you: Although the established ones made a decision in favor of complicity with the battalions of the street, they made the reprehensible compromise because they felt compelled to do so out of obvious weakness.

As accentuated and problematic as the author emphasizes the socially conservative function of fascism and National Socialism, according to which it was preferred to leave the existing property relations untouched, it seems questionable, in order to be able to stick to the transcendent term, to make the demand on no account "To see the essential element of fascism in a strong anti-Semitism".

Hitler's vision of world domination - the "fascist maximum"?

Given that Mussolini's ideas of the Roman Empire, from "Mare nostrum" and pursued the goals of imperialist politics that were more traditionally handed down from the African colonial empire, while Hitler's racial vision of world domination led to a qualitatively different practice of extermination, it is more than doubtful whether one can be equated terminologically with the other and whether the Nazi utopia, which has long been known on the way to reality can only be assessed as a radicalized "fascist maximum". It is precisely this specific difference that is decisive for answering the question of whether fascism can repeat itself today, a danger that the author in the sense of his definition of a "fascist minimum" does not exclude: It is precisely in this respect that what historical analysis appears and political determination of place, the conceptual contrast between dictatorship and democracy is always more revealing than that between democracy and fascism.

Robert O. Paxton has presented a presentation that summarizes much of the familiar in a stimulating way; which is sometimes awkward to read; which unfortunately, but also understandable in view of the big topic, carries one or two mistakes with it; and which in the book's bibliographic essay sometimes reveals a subjectivity in the formation of judgments that is more amusing than informing. In short: To Stanley G. Payne's magnum opus History of fascism, which also sticks to the controversial term, the new presentation is not enough.