Saturday, April 16, 2011
A Plea to Nationalists: Read Louis Althusser
'I am a fascist intellectual', wrote Maurice Bardèche in his classic work, 'Qu'est-ce que le fascisme?' (1961), which sought to outline a theory of European neofascism. Bardèche's statement raises a number of questions, one of which is: what are the theoretical tasks of the neofascist intellectual?
One of them is directly related to Western nationalist and Far Right activism, and that is to recreate the successful fascist formula of the 1930s and 1940s (the fascism of Hitler, Mussolini, Codreanu, Primo de Rivera, Degrelle and others). The neofascist intellectual is a revivalist. He is like a chemist who has discovered a magnificent formula in a laboratory. But the laboratory is destroyed in a fire, and so are all his notes. So he spends his time trying to work out how to recreate that formula - a process of discovery that can take years.
So, at first sight, his activity may consist of answering a question: 'What were the components of fascism?'. But that is the wrong question to ask. For one thing, it is trivial - too easy enough to answer. By studying the history, the intellectual lineage, of fascism, one can give a list: the components of fascism were nationalism, corporatism, racialism, socialism, a theory of authoritarian politics, and a series of 'anti-s' (anti-liberal democracy, anti-Masonry, anti-Semitism, anti-communism...). The more interesting, profitable, question is: in what proportion was fascism corporatist, racialist, socialist, nationalist, etc.? That is, how much, or how little, was it (for example) socialist? If we get the proportions right, we have successfully recreated (what academics call) the 'fascist minimum', and have 'built' a fascism.
That fascism has a great deal of Marxist socialism in it is well-known, and even some on the Left admit this fact. As proof of it, we only have to look at Mein Kampf (which is inflected, heavily, with Marxist language: proletariat, bourgeois, capitalist, exploitation, struggle (in the very title itself); the class composition of the fascist movement (with many coming from a working-class, and/or Marxist background); the symbols, uniforms, organisation, discipline, etc., of fascism... Critics of the Right (e.g., the great neoliberal thinker, Hayek) allege that fascism was a brother of communism. The two are not related in the way that Maoism and Stalinism were, for example, or Castroism or Ho Chi Minh-ism; but they are related.
In Mein Kampf, we find many ideas which seem to come second-hand, or even third-hand, from Marx. For one of (many examples) there is the famous chapter, 'Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna', which has social analyses similar to those in Das Kapital. The musings on the proletarianisation of rural German youth, in that chapter, are almost pure Marx. This is despite the fact that, of course, Hitler's attitude towards Marxism, communism and the German Social Democratic Party is one of pure enmity; and that the left-wing, socialist and anti-capitalist elements of the book are mixed, bizarrely, with other things - e.g., racialism, or an admiration for the role of the German army in preserving the German state... The example of Mein Kampf is proof that ideas have a capacity to escape their inventors. Marx's ideas ran away Marx and ended up forming the hybrid of ideas, taken from various places, which make up German (and European) fascism.
Which is not to say, of course, that the state between the two is not one of enmity. It was, and ever shall be: communism and fascism have an undying enmity for the other. Which raises another question: what were the intellectual grounds for that enmity, today and in the past?
The first reason for the enmity involves race and immigration. The West is being overrun by non-white immigration, and in Britain, for example, white British in working-class towns such as Bradford and Leicester are becoming minorities. Possibly, in the coming decades, the white British will be reduced to a minority, in a country of immigrants from the Middle East, Africa and India. Is this, in the view of today's Left, a bad thing? Not at all: the Left only see classes and class struggle. The only thing of concern to them, in this future non-white Britain, is the class divide between capitalist, Muslims, Africans and Indians on the one hand and the Muslims, Africans and Indians (who don't own property) on the other. The main thing is to get the proletarian non-whites to revolt against their capitalist non-white masters, and then introduce a Soviet-style communist state. (The fact that many of the non-white British are Muslim is of concern, but only because Islamists are anti-communist, and will make short work of communists. Under Islamist rule (and Sharia law), communists won't have a hope).
The other main difference is regarding (what Yockey calls) the economic method. Communists want to abolish property 100%: everything must be nationalised, and farmers won't even be able to sell produce at a stall by the side of the road. What is more, all economic production must be planned, all prices regulated, and so forth. This, to the communists, is the only 'pure' socialism, and a communist would rather spend seventy years in a communist Albania, for example, than one day in a capitalist Albania. One is qualitively better than the other. Cuba and North Korea are better than Australia, because there is no property, no 'exploitation of man by man', etc.
So the main communist criticism of Hitler, Mussolini and the other fascists was that they didn't go far enough: that is, they did not abolish property, they took what was a genuinely working-class mass movement and then 'sold out' to German and Italian capitalists. This criticism (from the communists) is identical to that of the 'Left' National Socialists, the Strasserites. (One could then ask: why did the Strasserites then, go the whole hog and embrace East German-style communism?).
So these are two main points of difference: why nationalists object to communists (they object to the communist position on the race question) and why communists object to fascists (they differ when it comes to economic method).
Having said that, the communist economic method does not define what communism truly is. Communism, historically, has always been willing to back down when it comes to method. As we know from Soviet history, the USSR experimented with a number of economic methods - it went from 'war communism' to Lenin's 'New Economic Policy' (which was a class collaboration with the Russian capitalist class) to Stalinist collectivisation... At each turn, there were tortuous intellectual justifications for each change in policy. Likewise, China went through a number of permutations in its treatment of the economy, and now has abandoned, more or less, communism altogether. (Cuba, likewise, is "reforming" - that is, moving away from state ownership of the modes of production).
Which raises the thorny question: what is communism? What is true Marxism? This is no trivial thing. Interpreting Marx the "wrong" way could, in Stalin and Mao's time, lead to you being expelled from the communist party, arrested, tortured, and executed... Many Marxist intellectuals have attempted to answer this question, and it will not concern us here. For a working definition (for the purposes of this essay), we will say, Marxism is Marx's Das Kapital - Marx's definitive work.
Now, we stated previously, that fascism had a Marxist/socialist content. Assuming that this is true: is the case that today's Far Right, Western nationalism has a Marxist/socialist content, and, if so, does it have that content in the same proportions as the fascism of the 1930s and 1940s?
The answer is yes and no.
In terms of class composition, the nationalist skinheads are working-class, and blue-collar, almost to a man; so are the 'soccer hooligans' of Europe (affiliated with the Far Right, and making up the ranks of the English Defence League). Electorally, the Front National enjoys large support from the French working-class (and is stealing working-class voters away from the venerable French Communist Party); the same goes for the populist Swedish Democrats.
A political movement which has a large working-class membership, and electoral following, is not necessarily 'Marxist': look at (a hundred years ago) the Australian Labor Party or the British Labour Party. But that class composition is a necessity for a party that wants to be 'socialist', and, further, 'Marxist-socialist'. On that point, it is well known, many of the social democrat (or liberal-socialist) parties of the West have moved away from their working-class base. The British Labour Party, for instance, regarded (behind closed doors) its white, British working-class constituents as "racist", and recognised that, in order to carry its program of mass, non-white immigration into Britain, it would have to overcome white, British working-class opposition. (This is according to the British Labour party consultant Andrew Neather). We can safely assume that the Swedish Social Democrats, who are maniacally pro-immigrant (and pro-Muslim), take the same dim view of the "racism" of the Swedish working class.
So, in that regard - immigration and the racial question - the nationalist parties are more 'in tune' with the values, mores, needs of the working-classes of their respective Western countries than the mainstream social democrat, center-left parties. As for certain of the the non-party, 'extraparliamentary' nationalist organisations and groupings - the skinhead groups, the soccer hooligans, the EDL - they are white working-class.
But are today's nationalists armed with theories and concepts which are anti-capitalist, socialist, and quasi-Marxist - theories and concepts which are close cousins to those in both Mein Kampf and Das Kapital? Or, to put it more succinctly, are they as "Marxist" as Hitler and Mussolini were?
There have been attempts, by certain nationalist groupings, to steer nationalism back to its socialist and anti-capitalist roots - e.g., there are the Freie Nationalisten of Germany (who have imitators in Sweden, Greece and other European countries), nationalist anticapitalist sites such as the Norwegian http://www.antikap.nu website which is down at the time of writing), and others. Much of this, in my view, has been a shallow appropriation of left-wing tactics: getting at the surface, but not the essence.
What are these left-wing tactics? The Left, as we know, was completely confused and demoralised by the collapse of the former Soviet Union (and the abandonment of Maoism in China). Attempts have been made, by left-wing intellectuals, to salvage Marxist, Leninist and communist theory: many books have appeared with the hopeful (and pathetic) titles along the lines of 'How Marx is still relevant in the 21st century' and which, of course, detect a Marxist 'crisis of capitalism' in the recent financial crisis. (Strangely, no 'crisis of communism' was ever detected in the economic downturns in the USSR, China, Cambodia and North Korea - which lead to famines claiming millions of lives...). One left-wing response to the post-1991 'crisis of Marxism' has been the revival of zany Situationist pranks (e.g., 'culture-jamming'), which are held up to be 'resistance to capitalism'. Often, however, such things end up being a strange and ironic commentary on capitalism and consumerism. This zaniness and irony is very much part of the contemporary Hipster subculture.
I do not mean to dismiss such things out of hand: it may be that this kind of 'Neo-Situationism' has a great deal of value in it. (Certainly, it is more constructive than smashing cars and shop windows, and assaulting police, which is what the "anti-globalist" anarchists of today do). But - in the Hipsters and anarchists of today - there is a genuineness, and a theoretical basis, which does not exist in the 'anti-cap' tendency. (A few intellectuals have linked Hipsterism to the ideas of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu; which isn't to say that the Hipsters have read Bourdieu, only that this is another instance of ideas running away from their creators). That is, those in the 'anti-cap' tendency have not given sufficient evidence that they have taken socialism and quasi-Marxist ideas to heart, in the way that Hitler, Mussolini, Degrelle, did. Their tactics are just that - tactics - designed to 'confuse the Left' and scare them.
And, indeed, the Left is always very nervous, and was, initially, frightened that the Freie Nationalisten and 'anti-cap' types would lure left-leaning youth into their fold. They needn't have worried, however. The 'anti-cap' types have only done what Rockwell did with German National Socialism: they have put on a uniform (in this case, the Black Bloc uniform) but not assimilated, refined and adapted the actual Hitlerian and National Socialist ideas. (The same goes for the Trotskyite communists: take away the red flags, banners and Lenin busts, how much of contemporary Trotskyism is communist and Marxist? Is support for gay marriage, for instance, truly Marxist?). Were communists prepared to sit down, talk and exchange views with a few 'anti-cap' types of my acquaintance, they would have seen through them straight away. The 'anti-capitalism' would be revealed for what it is, just hot air, confusion, or worse, a deceptive tactic.
In summary, the 'anti-cap' tendency of the last decade needed theoretical credentials. They needed intellectuals, theorists, and theorists who - if they were to develop a true understanding of capitalism, and to develop a left-wing, socialist opposition to it, and to develop the beginnings of a strategy for resisting it - were influenced by Marxism. What is more, they needed modern Marxist intellectuals - not intellectuals from the time of Trotsky and Mao in their heyday, but intellectuals from the time of the New Left and after... In short, they needed someone like a Pierre Bourdieu. That would have put their ideas on a contemporary theoretical, and truly socialist and anti-capitalist, basis.
At this point, nationalists may object: 'Marxism preaches class war and class struggle; nationalism, on the other hand, believes in racial and national unity...'. Yockey and Evola outlined this idea of 'horizontal' and 'vertical' differences in a nation. The 'vertical' differences were those inside a nation - the hierarchical differences between, say, German capitalist and German worker, or French king and French serf. The 'horizontal' differences, on the other hand, were differences expressed on the national, or racial level: white and non-white, French and German, Jew and non-Jew... Yockey protested that Marxism, and the socialisms that were variants on Marxism, divided up the nation (or the Culture) vertically, encouraging class-war and individualism (that is, individualism in the sense of one's not having any concern for one's nation or Culture).
At first sight, this is true. But matters are more complex than that. In Degrelle's hagiographic writings on Hitler, we see that Degrelle regards the Weimar Era German state (at the time when the aristocratic von Papen was chancellor) as being anti-democratic and based on pure brute force and rule by decree (that is, overriding of the German parliament, in order to get laws passed). What is more, the class composition of that government was aristocratic and traditional German ruling-class. On the other hand, the NSDAP was working-class, socialist, and Hitler had a popular mandate (and therefore, was the true democrat). In Degrelle, we have, in this instance, the Marxist view of the liberal democratic state as being a 'separation' from class struggle. That is, the Papen government, by recourse to authoritarianism and calls for 'national unity', kept out - tried to separate the state from - a genuine socialist German worker's movement. And the Hitler dictatorship represented a true dictatorship of the German working-class - a 'dictatorship of the proletariat'...
Communists will scream, of course, 'You have no right to use these words and phrases to describe a fascist regimé! Those words and phrases are ours...'; but no-one has a monopoly on ideas. The main thing is that political realities are complex. One can view fascism through the prism of Evola's Traditionalism; or Yockey and Spengler's 'Morphology of Civilisations'; or through Marxism... For the intellectual, it is never a case of only one thinker, and one school of thought, being right, and all the others wrong. Marxism, as a 'science' (or what Germans call Wissenschaft) is a way of making an incision into reality, of cutting into reality. It is one way of analysing the particular phenomenon of fascism - and one can do this without regurgitating the clichés of two of fascism's bitterest opponents, Stalin and Trotsky. But, aside from the analysis of history, it is a way of looking at contemporary political realities. The trouble in the 21st century is that, because Marxism, as a tool (and a basis for political action), has been so abused by contemporary communist activists (as a justification for gay marriage, or illegal immigration, or student rights, or whatever), Marxist theory has to blown up and reassembled. In other words, we nationalist intellectuals have to rediscover socialism - what it means to be socialist - and see how we can use it.
One cannot simply pick up a book, however, and read it: one needs to be disciplined in philology, the science of interpreting texts (Nietzsche, as we know, was a philologist, and took a philological approach to philosophy). Philology is, to Nietzsche, the 'fine art of reading'. In Marxism, the best interpreter (to me, at the present time) is the New Left French philosopher, Louis Althusser. He took a revisionist approach to Marxism, blowing it up and reassembling it again, through a precise analysis of the real meaning of Marx's work, and the demolishing of the myths and erroneous ideas built up around it by Marxists themselves.
I myself find Althusser exciting, but some on the Left decry Althusser's Marxism as a drab, dry, cold philosophy. I can understand such views, but obviously, those Leftist critics have never really read Marx - Kapital is not a scintillating read. Unfortunately, too, much of the writing in the social sciences is 'cold and drab'. There is none of the colour and excitement one finds in, for example, a Carl Schmitt or Oswald Spengler. But Althusser is good for orienting readers, for assisting them in navigating the terrain of the German philosophy (in particular, Hegel and Feuerbach) and 19th century German history which influenced Marx (and today's European Left, and, incidentally, today's German nationalism). Just as important is the fact that Althusser looks at Marx through 'modern ideas', through Nietzsche and Heidegger... Marxism is still Marxism, of course, but Althusser's Marxism is more modern than that of the tired old Trotskyist, Stalinist and Maoist variety.
Politically, Althusser was the standard, garden-variety French Communist Party member - an admirer of Lenin and Mao, a critic of Stalin, a supporter of the communist North in the Vietnam War, and obviously, there is nothing of interest to nationalists there. Nationalist readers of Althusser have to 'divide through' this and (strange as it sounds) just ignore Althusser's actual politics.
To sum up: now is a good time for nationalists to challenge the Left when it comes to anti-capitalism and socialism. The Left is disorganised, demoralised, confused (I am often surprised by how many left-wing Internet sites, purportedly representing 'hard-boiled', radical communist groups, have not been updated for months, even years... Which suggests to me that there is not a lot of real, serious activism and theoretical activity going on). It abandoned the white working-classes and diverted its energies into side-issues which have nothing to do with socialism (gay rights, immigrant rights, environmentalism, gay student rights, and so on). The Left has left a gap, a void, which is there for nationalists to fill.