May 6, 2007

Two Ways of Looking at Fascism

This essay is a work in progress. It is an attempt to synthesize two different theoretical approaches that have significantly influenced my thinking about fascism. 

Excerpt from Introduction: 

...Unlike most leftist discussions, this essay offers a concept of fascism that speaks to its double-edged reality -- bolstering oppression and tyranny but also tapping into real popular grievances and overturning old conventions and forms of rule. To do this, I bring together two distinct but complementary approaches. First, I draw on a minority current within Marxist thought that emphasizes fascism's contradictory relationship with the capitalist class. As a movement or a regime, fascism attacks the left and defends class exploitation but also pursues an agenda that clashes with capitalist interests in important ways. Since the 1920s, several independent Marxists have analyzed fascism along these lines, notably August Thalheimer, Tim Mason, Mihaly Vajda, Don Hamerquist, and J. Sakai. 

These writers are strong in analyzing fascism's class politics -- its relationship with capital and other class forces, its roots in capitalist crisis, and its impact on the socioeconomic order. They are weaker in discussing fascist ideology, which is important for positioning fascism within the political right and for understanding why people -- sometimes millions of people -- are attracted to fascist movements. To address these issues, I draw on the work of Roger Griffin, a non-leftist scholar who has done pathbreaking work on fascist ideology over the past two decades. Griffin treats fascism as a form of revolutionary nationalism that attacks both the left and liberal capitalist values, an approach that resonates strongly with some of the most promising leftist discussions of fascism. Griffin's focus on ideology neglects fascism's structural dimensions but offers a helpful complement to a class-centered analysis. 

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