COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
This page begun on September 22, 2002
The End of History?
It began with a letter and a reply:
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
"In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: Who does not work does not eat, has been replaced by a new one: Who does not obey shall not eat." -Leon Trotsky
This applies equally to Fascism as it does to Communism. Both grant the State total control over the means of production and the output. The only real difference is that under Fascism, the paper title to property is privately held (for what it's worth), whereas under Communism all property is owned by the State. Not much of a difference, really...
-- "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -- Theodore Roosevelt
It is fashionable to emphasize the similarities between Communism and Fascism, and I have indulged in it myself. There was even a period when anti-communists used rhetoric like "Black flag fascism and red flag fascism," largely because the leftist "popular front" movements against fascism had made fascism so unpopular that calling communism "red fascism" was useful. (And of course the Communists used to call the Social Democrats "social fascists" for much the same reason.)
In fact, though, there are considerable differences in the ideologies. Both have their roots in Marxism and the concept of class warfare. Both consider class warfare inevitable: both think the natural progression of society is for the rich to get richer while the poor get, if not poorer, then at least not richer at the same rate, so that the society eventually ends up with most of the wealth in the hands of a comparatively small number of people; and this generates class warfare which will destroy the society.
The Marxist solution to this problem is a classless society, and that will be achieved through the elimination of the upper class. When that is accomplished, the State, which was no more than the protection racket mechanism by which the wealthy kept their gains, will wither away. Note that I didn't say "ill gotten" gains: formal Marxism doesn't make value judgments of that sort. The rich got richer because that's the way societies evolve. Now true enough the Communist Party may employ all kinds of value laden charges against the ruling classes, but this is a political tactic, using bourgeois values against the bourgeois; no real Communist believes in bourgeois morality in the first place. One is on the side of history or one is against it, and only the Communist Party, imperfect as it is, has a scientific view of history and can make use of correct historical science. (And yes, we all now see the inherent contradiction here that takes ones morality from historical inevitability yet tries to influence history: but oddly enough, a large generation of Western intellectuals did not see that, and many who don't see it remain in universities particularly in American English departments.)
Fascism accepts that analysis of the problem but rejects the solution of eliminating the classes. The classes are inevitable (perhaps Pareto influenced Mussolini in that regard although Pareto certainly was no Fascist.) Fascism thus accepts the State as necessary. It won't wither away, and indeed, is the fountain of political order. Without it we would all be lost in endless class warfare.
The solution to the problem is to force the classes to cooperate, and to that end we do not need or want Lenin's Dictatorship of the Proletariat, but a legitimate State, one with glory, laud, and honor which all obey joyfully, led by a Leader who communes with history and embodies the virtues of the perfect State, and who is advised by councils and institutions drawn from all classes and all of the natural elements of the State: labor unions, Church, Army and Navy, the tireless and efficient civil service, peasants in the field and workers in the factories, owners and managers alike, all working together like the fingers of the hand (phalanges) to form a unified state: a bundle of sticks, each breakable separately, but when bound together are strong enough to endure: and into which has been bound an axe to show that the State has the final authority.
You may see this symbol in the US House of Representatives: the President is flanked by fasces when he presents the State of the Union address, although the Framers wisely did not have lictors bearing fasces as symbolic bodyguards to the President. (Some Framers wanted such things, as some wanted the President to be addressed through grand titles rather than as 'Mr. President'; but John Adams would have none of that, and his stern New England views prevailed.)
Rather than abolish the various institutions of the classes, Fascism seeks their cooperation: each will be represented in the Grand Council of the State. Army and Church and Unions and managers and great land owners and small holders and peasants and day laborers will all have their views represented in a Council that presents recommendations to The Leader, who will choose the proper advice and act for the good of all; and if he does not, he can be replaced by that Council (as in fact Mussolini was: he was deposed by his own Council, and the King sent a Colonel of Carabinieri to inform him that he was no longer Il Duce, but a private citizen, and Italy would surrender to the Allies.)
Fascism, in other words, is a form of "socialism" that seeks to end class warfare by requiring the classes to work together, the rich to help the poor (preferably voluntarily) while all are bound by loyalty to the State, which needs to earn that loyalty by providing glory and honor and grand buildings and great institutions, great celebrations and victories in war.
Now of course I have taken their own words and presented their theories in as favorable a light as I can; but the fact remains that Fascism is a far different animal from Communism. Huey Long knew that, as he knew that many of Roosevelt's ideas and institutions were straight out of the Fascist playbook: The NRA Blue Eagle; the various AAA agricultural councils with their allocations and orders (some of them exist and are enforced to this day) drawn up not by legislatures but by the orange growing, and pig raising, etc., associations; the CCC; etc., all Fascist, and Huey Long said so. It infuriated Roosevelt, largely because it was true.
Now all political schemes are capable of corruption, and Fascism is very much one of those: it has too few checks and balances, and relies too much on a Leader who really is just and wise and ought to have Four Terms or even be President for Life. In Germany it was never tried: German National Socialism wasn't Fascist to begin with, and Mussolini famously and often said so. He thought Hitler a boor and a clown, and the Nazi Party a gang of thugs without political theory who made a mockery of fascism, and did reduce the various institutions in the nation to mere nothings, ownership to paper formalities, and so forth. But Mussolini chose the wrong side in the war, and soon found that for all his political theory his political life was dependent on his German allies. Italian arms could not prevail, and while individual units fought bravely, many couldn't surrender fast enough. My libertarian friend Emil Franzi says he is related to a former general "who surrendered two acres of soldiers to a backfiring Jeep."
Meanwhile the various "anti-fascist" leagues put together by the Communists, their allies, sympathizers, and "useful idiots" made the very word anathema. I don't mean here that all anti-Fascists were part of that coalition; but many were, so that the United States found itself in the 30's divided intellectually between those who were pretty well led around by the nose by the Communists through their front groups, and that odd coalition that variously called itself "America First" and "For America", which soon found itself influenced by a coalition of not only Fascists, but Nazis with their racial theories. The right was afraid the US would be drawn into yet another war in Europe, which would cause us to raise taxes, centralize our government, turn the District of Columbia from a sleepy Southern town into an Imperial Capital and These United States into The United States.
And whereas Mussolini began as a leftist labor leader, and thus built his Fascist state with considerable attention to how it would play to the masses, in the United States the America First and For America organizations (quite different those two although I haven't time to go into that) were country club Republicans for the most part. Huey Long was a Fascist leader on the Mussolini model, and what might have happened had he not been assassinated is an interesting speculation.
And I probably have gone on long enough: time to get to the point.
We believe, as Francis Fukuyama said, that The End of History has arrived. We think that Liberal Democracy is the endpoint of history, and that the class war will end through assimilation of all who matter into the middle class. Aristotle would have approved of the liberal democratic state: having studied some 200 city states around the Mediterranean ( an early sociologist with actual data) he concluded that the best states were those ruled by their middle class, and he defined middle class as "those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation."
We all like that, and we wish it would happen. We want to install liberal democratic regimes everywhere: we did so at the point of a bayonet in Germany and Japan, and we are pleased with our work.
The problem is that liberal democracy works in places with enough unity and stability that the loser of an election is willing to lose and submit. Losing an election doesn't mean losing your life, or your way of life. It isn't ruin. We trust our neighbors not to use their political power to destroy their opposition, and the dirty tricks of democracy are themselves kept within bounds -- vote fraud, fund raising tricks, lies about the opponents -- and don't extend to breaking up the other guy's meetings with bully boys and castor oil, or sending his leaders to concentration camps.
And those conditions don't prevail everywhere. They didn't in Spain: Franco may well have been the best thing the Spanish could have got at the time. If you doubt me, read George Orwell who fought against Franco and think on his observations and conclusions; and anyway, my point is that Spain was too deeply divided in 1937 to be a single country, and even today there are serious Basque elements who don't submit to the results of fair elections. Northern Ireland is another such land: and those are here in the West. Turn now to Former Yugoslavia. And that too is in Europe. Go now to Afghanistan, which was never a nation, and which has elements in it that will never submit to a unitary state that obeys the will of a majority. And examine Iraq: what will we put in there?
Go to any state that faces the prospects of Islamic Law if the popular majority gets its way. Look at Algeria.
The fact is that history has not ended, not everywhere, and liberal democracy is not the solution to everyone's problems.
And given the way we have decided to emphasize the differences among our peoples while simultaneously destroying the federal union in favor of a unitary national state, it may not forever be the solution to ours. Marx was wrong about many things, but he drew from many others, and his prediction that the rich would get richer much faster than the general population would get richer, and that would generate class warfare, isn't his alone. David McCord Wright has concluded that without the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and its enforcement in the late 19th and most of the 20th Centuries, the United States would have gone that route as well; and contemporary newspapers confirm that the discrepancy between rich and middle class is large and getting larger.
Class warfare coupled with cultural differences that are being emphasized and made more, rather than less, important may yet move us toward the most traditional solution to the problem of a national State divided by deep divisions: Empire and worship of the Emperor as symbol of the State. It was that, oddly enough, that the more intellectual of the Fascists sought to avoid. They ended with Mussolini, a comic opera Duce. Another group ended with Hitler and his gang of thugs. Compared to those, Caesar Augustus looks pretty good.