Are All Followers Of Fascism Madmen?
In 1950, Joseph McCarthy was sitting in a Washington restaurant with three of his fellow Roman Catholic friends. McCarthy had been looking for a headline-grabbing idea to under gird his political standing in Washington. The idea that catapulted him into the headlines of American politics was presented to him in the same fateful dinner. While he gave the axe to the propositions of his two other friends, nevertheless, his Jesuit friend — a prominent anti-communist himself — said to him, ‘What about Communism and threat to national security? How’s that for an issue? Just right.’ That was McCarthy’s moment of ‘Eureka’. That moment of epiphany started the dark night of McCarthyism in American politics where prominent individuals were persecuted and denounced for being communists or communist sympathisers mostly over flimsy, if any, evidence.
Just like that, a fascist system has to invent enemies. Enemies from left and right and from the vanguard and rearguard. Stalingrad always had NEP men and anti-revolutionaries to demonise, the Nazis had the Jews to lambaste, and the fascists of Italy rollicked the left. When a system like that runs out of the more ‘natural looking’ enemies, then it rummages its own ranks to make up for the scarcity. Stalin and Hitler — when needed new enemies — purged their most intimate comrades during the Moscow Trials and the Night of Long Knives respectively. Fascism thrives on fear. It has to pander to the most visceral human instincts like fear and victim hood. The leader shall protect the citizenry from the enemies outside but there is a quid pro quo the citizenry must also denounce the enemies within so in essence life in a fascist polity becomes a cyclical pattern of repression and denunciations.
The activists and the press have to be browbeaten so that they toe the line that the party wants them to. A demagogue is prone to indulging into whataboutery so to avoid taking the responsibility for the shortcomings of their enforced self-enriching system. For instance, Putin has a score of adversaries in the members of Pussy Riots, the Gay community, and the Hiliary Clintons; Erdogan can come for the journalists and Gullenists; Orban’s and Duda’s enemies are uncouth women, LGBTQ+ people, and the people sitting in the Brussels. Hugo Chavez had his enemies in the state department. Ironically, the same state department which had buoyed up his regime once when the country was struck by a hurricane. Fascists equate their enemies with the enemies of the country and in doing so they kill two birds with one stone as the dissenters are reviled and discredited on one hand and on the other hand the regime also gets a punching bag for itself. In Putinist Russia, if anything goes wrong it’s likely that the members of Pussy Riots are working in cahoots with the state department to bring down the state of Russia. A system of random persecutions is contrived so that fascism marches forwards unfettered.
In the 1972 film Cabaret, there is an exciting moment during which a Nazi springs up to his feet singing a rather beautiful kumbaya to the bemusement of those present in the beer garden with him:
The branch of linden is leafy and green,
The rhine gives it gold to sea,
But soon says a whisper, “Arise, Arise, tomorrow belongs to me.”
Oh fatherland, fatherland, show us the sign,
Your children have waited to see.
Fascism doesn’t come alone, it always brings with itself some grand stories and lullabies. People who are a part of fascist movements believe they are predestined to be the guarantors and protectors of a marvelous future that the fascism promises. This pattern creates a positive feedback mechanism where a vituperative fascist rhapsodies the masses catering to their base instincts and siring their spirits for a grand future and the masses in return metamorphose into bands of lawless groups attacking anyone that they deem opposes the dear leader — much like present day trolls. However, not all the followers of fascism are madmen with proclivity for violence. Some of them lack a purpose in life much like the post World War 1 German soldiers who finding no job and purpose in the Weimar Republic recruited en masse in the Nazi paramilitaries SS and SA. A communist utopia or an Aryan Empire were dreams that were very much realised by those who believed in the Central Party and the Fuhrër. The stories and the dreams too can be sometimes adjusted to suit the reality.
When Leonid Brezhnev came to power, he didn’t speak about a classless utopia that will be. In fact, the premier supplanted that story with “really existing socialism”. A new story was hastily hatched and hardwired into the brains of the people where fascism that had been defeated during the Great Fatherland War was brought back in which everything and everyone that existed on the other side of the Iron Curtain was a fascist. The space left by the Utopia was thus filled. In spirit with the Brezhnev era, the courtiers of Putin will paint Ukraine as a fascist country just because it is fighting against a Russian backed insurgency inside its own borders. Of course, time is but a stubborn illusion. The Brezhnev era and the Putin era have merged albeit the eras are several decades apart.
In the Pakistan’s case the ‘enemies’ have been explicitly called out by the official Twitter handle of the ruling party. The real opposition to the junta stems from the press. So the trolls are unleashed to assail what remains of a free and undaunted press. Naya Daur has recently been under relentless attack from the troll brigade of the hybrid regime. The class that bought into the myths of Naya Pakistan and the state of Medina (or sometimes it is the gold ol’ 60s that our Premier sells) will have you believe that journalists are the paid lobbies of the opposition, and the demagogue while giving interviews to the good (and neutral) journalists will prevaricate and instead appeal to demagogism. The journalists who dare speak truth to power will be laid off or abducted, and yet the fascist will tell you that the country has the freest of the press. The cognitive dissonance is not as conspicuous as it seems once you buy into the myths that the demagogue and his trolls are selling.
So how does one defeat fascism? The protesters of Ukraine who stood against a Putin installed corrupt authoritarian even when they were grisly beaten, and the teenage Hong Kongers fighting the CCP offer contemporary lessons in how one shall stand their grounds against the juggernaut of fascism. In a nutshell, by not entertaining the naiveté that everything is fine. Daron Acemoglu in his book, The Narrow Corridor, argues that the state and citizenry have to run in tandem because once that the citizenry stop holding the state (by state he means all its organs) accountable .i.e lags behind the state in the racecourse — the next thing we know is that the state has engendered into an all-powerful leviathan.