Posts Tagged ‘Noel O’Sullivan’

Proto-Fascism at Fiume and those Denied ‘Political Rights’

March 19, 2016

Noel O’Sullivan in his book on Fascism (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd 1983) has an appendix containing the constitution of Fiume. This was the proto-Fascist state founded by the Nationalist poet, playwright and adventurer, D’Annunzio, shortly after the First World War. The island had been granted to the new kingdom of Yugoslavia, although it had previously been part of Dalmatia, which had been a Venetian possession in the Middle Ages. The decision of the people of Fiume to join Yugoslavia was seen as a bitter insult to the notion of Italianita, Italian character and pride, and so, assisted by the Syndicalist sailors, D’Annunzio marched on the island, conquered it, and set up what has been described as ‘a comic-opera’ government that lasted a year before the Italian government succeeded in ousting it.

In power, D’Annunzio’s regime had all the hallmarks and practices that were adopted by Mussolini, including the corporative state and speeches from the balcony by the dictator. D’Annunzio and his collaborators published a constitution, formally setting out the basis of the new statelet’s government. Article 17, in the section ‘The Citizens’ lists the people, who would be denied their rights as citizens under the law. It stated

Those citizens shall be deprived of political rights by formal sentence, who are: condemned by law; defaulters with regard to military service for the defence of the territory; defaulters in the payment of taxes; incorrigible parasites on the community if they are not incapacitated from labour by age or sickness. (p. 196).

This criminalises conscientious objectors, those unable to pay tax, and malingering benefit scroungers. It’s so close to modern Tory ideology that I’m surprised Ian Duncan Smith didn’t have it framed and put up behind his desk, or that Peter Lilley didn’t read it out twenty years ago when he was goose-stepping up and down the Tory Party conference reading out his ‘little list’ of people he didn’t like. Naturally, this was all about welfare scroungers, including unmarried mothers. You know, the people Sir Keith Joseph thought were a menace to ‘our stock’, and so presumably ought to be culled for eugenic reasons.

But while the Tories hate people, who don’t pay their taxes if their poor and simply dodging them, they do seem just to love the rich, who decide that paying taxes is for the little people, and demand all kinds of tax loopholes and offshore schemes to avoid paying their whack. They can’t do enough for them. Which is why I think it might be a good idea to introduce a version of the law over here. Instead of denying the rights of citizenship to people on welfare and anti-militarists, it should instead just deny it to the wealthy, who can pay their taxes but seek to withhold them. I think that would be a good policy. After all, if they’re using offshore accounts as a basis for avoiding tax, then they can’t or shouldn’t complain if their right to vote, stand as a political candidate or serve on a jury is removed from them. I think a dose of that revision of the Fascist law could be very popular. Just not with the rich or the Tories.

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Facism as Left-Wing Movement: Proudhon claimed as Fascist Precursor

May 4, 2014

Proudhon pic

The great anarchist philosopher P.-J. Proudhon: absolute opponent of the state and everything Fascism stands for.

I’ve posted several pieces criticising the Tory and Libertarian assertion that Fascism is ‘Left-wing’ or a variety Socialism. The argument is that because the Fascists took part of their ideology from the Left and pursued a policy of state intervention, then they must, therefore, be left-wing, even when they claimed they were not, and attacked Left-wing, Socialist and working class organisations and parties. Perhaps the most extreme example of this, and its reduction ad absurdum, is the claim by Sir Oswald Mosley in his autobiography, My Life, of the great anarchist P.J. Proudhon, as one of Fascism’s precursors and formative influences. It’s in the chapter on ‘The Ideology of Fascism’.

This is bizarre, as if there’s one thing Proudhon did not stand for, it’s nationalism and a totalitarian, coercive state. It’s exactly what Proudhon campaigned against and spent his career trying to destroy. Yet Mosley claims Proudhon as one of the intellectual influences on Fascism. He is, as far as I know, the only person to do so.

There was a Syndicalist component in Italian Fascism. The Fascists were also strongly influenced by the French revolutionary Syndicalist Georges Sorel, particularly his advocacy of the morally uplifting and purifying power of violence in the service of the revolution, and the use of powerful myths, such as that of the General Strike, to inspire the working class to further direct action. The ex-Syndicalists Bottai, Pannunzio and Rossoni conceived and developed the Fascist corporate state as a ‘National Syndicalism’, in which the workers and employers in each industry were organised in corporations, which were then declared to manage the economy. In fact they didn’t. The workers’ organisations were effectively smashed, and placed under the control of the industrialists. At factory level, the workers’ organisations were kept well away from the workers on the shop floor. The corporations were only allowed to advise the government, and effectively acted only as a rubber stamp, to declare state approval for policies and decisions Mussolini had already made. Attempts to turn the corporations into genuine working class organisation with real power were rejected and denounced as ‘Bolshevism’.

As for the power of myth and violence, the Fascists certainly took those over. The object of the inspiring myth was changed from the general strike or revolution to the nation. As for violence, while Sorel was a strong influence, he was certainly not the only ideologue, who stressed its virtues in the service of revolution, social change or nationalism. Noel O’Sullivan in his book, Fascism, traces the idea of modern political violence all the way back to the French Revolution and its activist form of democratic politics. It’s a Conservative view of Fascism’s origin. Other political scientists and writers instead stress the peculiar historical conditions in Italy and Germany, which they feel better explain the emergence of Mussolini’s Fascism and National Socialism. Even tracing the ancestry of Fascism as far back as the French Revolution and Rousseau, O’Sullivan does not, however, include Proudhon as one of its intellectual ancestors.

The solution to this problem – how Fascism could possibly include Proudhon, who actively opposed nationalism and the state – lies in the existence of the Cercle Proudhon, set up in France in 1911. It was founded by Georges Valois, a former member of Charles Maurras extreme nationalist organisation, Action Francaise. Valois split from the organisation in order to try to recruit the working class to the nationalist cause. It was intended to be a study group which would ‘unite nationalists and left-wing anti-democrats’ against ‘Jewish capitalism’. Valois declared it aimed at the ‘triumph of heroic values over the ignoble bourgeois materialism in which Europe is now stifling … [and] … the awakening of Force and Blood over Gold’. Valois denunciation of materialism and exaltation of ‘force’ and ‘blood’ is classic Fascist rhetoric, preceding the foundation of Fascism itself in 1919. The Cercle, however, collapsed and was unable to recruit more than a few intellectuals and journalists.

It’s not hard to see why. While hostile to parliamentary democracy, Proudhon, like the rest of the Anarchists after him, was motivated by a desire to promote individual freedom and equality, which they believe are denied by the existence of the state. It’s in stark contrast to authoritarian nationalism, which demands the maintenance of order and hierarchy, and the abolition of personal freedom through subordination to the will of the dictator. It also shows the sheer absurdity of trying to claim for extreme nationalism, Left-wing organisations and ideologies that are directly opposed to it. The Cercle Proudhon failed because of this, and only person who was seriously taken in by its attempt to add Proudhon to the list of Fascism’s intellectual founders was Mosley. It’s another example of how absurd the claim the Fascism is itself somehow Left-wing actually is.

Tory MEP Hannan Describes French Front National as ‘Left-Wing’

March 31, 2014

Daniel Hannan

Tory MEP and supporter of NHS privatisation Daniel Hannan. In his view, the Front National are left-wing.

Following this morning’s post tracing the accusation that the National Front/ BNP are left-wing parties to the pamphlet by Stephen Ayres of the National Association For Freedom (NAFF), now the Freedom Association, The National Front are a Socialist Front, I received this comment from Buddyhell:

Hannan has today written a blog that describes le Front National as “far-left”. He will not be told. Even his stablemates attack him for the way he lazily draws lines between fascism and socialism. In essence, Hannan is smearing the Left with these assertions.
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100265536/france-has-given-up-on-its-politicians-with-good-reason/
.

I’ve blogged before about the way Fascism included left-wing elements amongst a number of competing and contradictory ideologies and groups. Mussolini had started off as a radical Socialist, but broke with the party over his support for Italy joining the First World War. Jess has also commented on this morning’s post about the nature of Fascism, pointing to a report in the Guardian for the 13th October 2009 that Mussolini was being paid £100 a week by MI5 in 1917 for his continued vocal support for the Italian war effort. See http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/13/benito-mussolini-recruited-mi5-italy. ‘The name’s Mussolini. Benito Mussolini’, she remarks drily. Unfortunately, Mussolini was never that suave. According to Denis Mack Smith’s biography, he got thrown out of at least one school for spending all his time in the local cemetery drinking, using foul language and seducing the local girls. He also raped one young woman, who had the misfortune to catch his eye. He did like sharp suits, however. After haranguing the crowd dressed in the rough clothes of a worker, he used to go home and put on a smart suit and patent leather shoes. So, with the promiscuity and the suits, a bit like Bond, but only a really nasty, thuggish one.

Mussolini and the Corporate State

Mussolini seized power by promising to defend the middle classes and private property from the threat of Socialism and organised labour. The Fascist squadristi pursued a campaign of violence and terror against the Socialist and Communist parties and their supporters. In power, Mussolini created the corporate state, which presented Fascism as a radical alternative to laissez-faire capitalism. The corporations were industrial bodies consisting of the trade union and employers’ organisation for a particular industry or sector of the economy. Parliament was replaced by a Council of Corporations. Each corporation sent three delegates – one from the union, one from the employer’s organisation and one from the Fascist party to represent ‘the people’. It was partly based on Syndicalism, a form of Anarchism that seeks to replace the capitalist state by a system in which industry is owned and managed by the workers themselves through their trade unions. Mussolini called his system, ‘National Syndicalism’. Several of the architects of the corporative state were former syndicalists, like Pannunzio and Michele Bianchi.

A similar system had also already been advocated by Alfredo Rocco and the Italian Nationalist Association, representing the interests of the extreme Right-wing industrialists. Their programme included state-organised cartels, and single, state-controlled union, and the destruction of the political role of Socialist party. Under the Fascist regime, strikes were forbidden and a special system of Labour Courts was set up to settle industrial disputes. Although the Fascists claimed to have solved the conflict between capital and labour, the reality was that the unions were under the strict control of the state, which favoured the industrialists and employers. Pannunzio did argue for a more radical corporate system, in which the corporations would take over the direct running of the economy, which would lead to the erosion of the differences between capital and labour and transcend private industry. His plan was, however, attacked by the industrialists and the Fascist party as ‘Bolshevism’. Noel O’Sullivan, in his book, Fascism, suggests that the corporate state was never more than half-hearted, and had been set up by Mussolini to suggest that his regime was based on more than brute force.

Radical Anti-Capitalism and the Salo Republic

After he was ousted from power, Mussolini established a Fascist rump state, the Italian Social Republic, under German control around Salo in the north of Italy. In his constitution for the new state, il Duce declared that he was going to smash capitalist plutocracy, and make labour the ‘indestructible basis’ of the state. There were to be workers’ councils, profit-sharing, social housing and land reform. He also nationalised some of the larger industries. It’s questionable how serious these anti-capitalist measures were, as the Salo republic and its leader were nothing more than German puppets.

Fascism and the Right to Private Property

After the War, the British Fascist leader, Oswald Mosley, initially supported a pan-European corporate state. However, in his 1968 autobiography, My Life, he rejects the corporate state as too cumbersome. He advocated instead a form of the prices and incomes policy, while promising to protect and support private industry. Trade unions would still be permitted, but would be confined to managing the welfare system.

Despite advocating a strong and economically powerful state, Fascism has generally aimed to protect private industry and property, within certain limits. Article 8 of the Constitution of Fiume, the proto-Fascist state established by the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, guaranteed ‘the enjoyment of property legitimately obtained’, as well as other features of liberal democracies, such as sickness and infirmity benefits, as well as assistance for the involuntarily unemployed. Mosley, in his answer to Question 42: Do you believe in Private Enterprise? in his book Mosley: Right or Wrong? (London: Lion Books 1961) made it very clearly that it had his full support:

Yes, certainly. Private enterprise must always be the main motive of the economy. Most men work for themselves and their families, and want to do so in freedom … All men and women should have freedom to live and work as they like, and to enjoy the fruits of their labour in freedom and peace without interference or robbery by the state or vested interest. We must reduce taxation in order to prevent the present interference and robbery by the state. But we must also have strong government to protect the individual against interference and robbery by vested interest, monopoly, etc. (pp. 58-9).

Fascism as Neither Socialism Nor Capitalism

Although they ally with the Right, Fascist regimes have also presented themselves as being a ‘Third World Alternative’ between Socialism and capitalism, in which private industry is retained but made to act socially in the interests of the state. One Fascist slogan was ‘neither left nor right, but forwards!’ In the 1980s there was a scandal in Germany when it was found that the German Liberal party, the Freie Demokraten, had been infiltrated by Neo-Nazis.

Origins of Fascism in Pre-WW I Conservative Elites

Despite this, historians such as Richard Thurlough in his Fascism in Britain, 1918-86, have seen the origin of Fascism in the radicalisation of agrarian elites against modernity and the threat of a radical working class. British Fascism had its roots in pre-First World War Die-Hard Conservatism, which wished to emulate some of the welfare successes of Bismarck’s Germany as part of an efficiency campaign to strengthen the British Empire, a policy which necessarily also included military expansion.

Thus, while Fascism does indeed contain genuinely revolutionary elements, it is not Socialist and in practice sides with the Right and traditional Conservatives against the Left.

Daniel Hannan and the ‘Left-Wing’ Front National

Daniel Hannan, however, sees the Fascism as a form of Socialism. In his column in today’s Telegraph covering the electoral gains made by Marine le Pen’s Front National, he describes the party as moving in a left-ward direction. He writes

It is important to understand that Marine Le Pen positioned herself to the Left of the UMP and, at least on economics, arguably to the Left of the Socialists. She railed against capitalism and globalisation, called for higher expenditure, and supported state-run energy, healthcare, education, transport and financial services. Where her father used to complain about welfare scroungers, she wants a more generous range of entitlements. Where he used to describe his party as being of the Right, she recently told Le Monde that it was “neither Right nor Left, but founded on the opposition of the current political class, on the defence of the nation, on the rejection of ultra-capitalism and of Europe”.

Front National Programme Fascist Anti-Capitalist, but not Left-Wing

While this approach certainly looks left-wing, and is almost certainly designed to win voters from the Socialists and the Left, it does not mean that the Front National are now a Left-wing party. Le Pen fille is merely stressing the anti-capitalist element of the Fascist tradition. In fact her statement that the Front is neither Right nor Left, but founded on the opposition of the current political class, on the defence of the nation, on the rejection of ultra-capitalism’ could be taken as a general statement of Fascist ideology, with the possible exception of opposition to Europe. And it’s important to note here that she rejects ‘ultra-capitalism’, not capitalism itself.

How serious the Front National actually is about this ostensibly left-wing programme is moot. Mussolini’s original Fascist programme was little different from that of the radical Socialists and Syndicalists, but he soon rejected it in order to gain Conservative support. Hitler also made little effort to implement the Socialist parts of the 1926 Fascist programme for the same tactical and ideological reasons. And the Tricolour Flame of Berlusconi’s former coalition, led by Gianfranco Fini, is a ‘post-Fascist’, centre Right party.

Front National Voters also Rejecting Neoliberalism, Not Just French Political Class

Apart from characterising the Front National as now rather left-wing, Hannan’s view of the victory is also flawed. He sees it as a rejection by the French people of the traditional political class due to the country’s economic problems – three million unemployed, high taxation and crippling strikes. But this doesn’t seem borne out by the Front’s tactics. If they were genuinely seeking to reject Socialism, rather than the Socialist party, then Le Pen would have no need to advance a Socialistic political programme. It instead looks like Le Pen is trying to win working class voters alienated by the political class’ support for the EU and its international, Neoliberal economic and social policies, as well as hostility to immigration. And if the French electorate were rejecting Socialism, then they could simply vote for the UMP, or simply give up voting and turn inwards into apathy and cynicism, as in Britain. The UMP have made some gains, but it looks like many of them are responding to Le Pen’s attack on the EU, its open borders and Neoliberalism.

Hannan is, however, a man of the Tory extreme Right. He’s also an opponent of the EU, but strongly supports Neoliberalism, including loudly calling for the privatisation of the NHS. He thus doesn’t want to admit that the Front’s gains may show a positive rejection of laissez-faire international capitalism, as well as the political class advocating it.