Don’t hesitate to say the F-word

No, not the one you think. Another, longer word, deriving from the Etruscan symbol of a magistrate’s power. That symbol, a bundle of wooden rods, was called fasces.

Later the word passed on, via ancient Rome, to 20th century Italy, where its derivative described a socialist heresy. When this movement reached Germany, it acquired a more descriptive name: national socialism.

Terminological precision matters, if only to prevent a word from acquiring such a broad meaning that it stops meaning anything much. So Italian fascism and Nazism aren’t identical.

The most salient difference is racism, which was fundamental to the latter but not to the former. There are other differences as well, but for the moment let’s concentrate on the commonalities. What the two regimes had in common could be described as fascism in a supra-Italian sense.

Persons of the leftish persuasion often describe anyone to their right as fascist. This reinforces my conviction born out of lifelong observation that left-wingers aren’t just misguided, strident and ignorant but also stupid.

One defining characteristic of intellect is the ability to discriminate among various concepts, which heavily relies on taxonomic precision. Hence using the same term to describe Benito Mussolini and, say, Margaret Thatcher is a clinically valid symptom of idiocy. The two have nothing in common, other than the fact that lefties dislike them both.

Yet it’s possible, with all appropriate disclaimers and qualifications, to use the term ‘fascist’ in a broad sense. This presupposes some core characteristics, and indeed they exist.

Fascism combines nationalism (with or without a racist dimension) in philosophy with populist demagoguery in rhetoric, corporatist socialism in economics and statism in politics. Violence is extraneous to this definition for being derivative. Violence in se isn’t the goal; it’s only a means, which may or may not be required.

If required, fascist governments won’t hesitate to use it to the most gruesome extreme, as they did in Germany. If not, they’ll use it with relative moderation, as they did in Italy, pre-Anschluss Austria or pre-war Poland.

This longish definition means that calling, say, Margaret Thatcher or Donald Trump fascists says nothing at all about them, while saying a lot about the caller. He’s a stupid leftie, and I’m sorry about sounding so tautological.

Neither Thatcher nor Trump is a nationalist though both are patriots (a valid distinction). Both can be described as populist (Trump more, Thatcher less) in that they appeal to the masses directly, over the head of the political establishment. Trump uses demagoguery more than Thatcher did, but not nearly as much as Hitler or Mussolini. Neither statism nor corporatist socialism has much to do with either Thatcher or Trump.

In short, if you accept my definition of fascism, neither Thatcher nor Trump qualifies. But Marine Le Pen does.

Nationalist – yes. Populist – yes. Demagogue – yes. Statist – yes. Socialist – yes. Marine ticks all the boxes.

Now there’s one feature of fascism that puts it side by side with communism and, in modern politics, nothing else. It’s evil.

Under duress I could accept that a socialist, especially a young one, may be misguided. After all, not many people are capable of delving into politics as deeply as the subject requires, and most are guided by their feelings rather than thoughts.

It’s even possible to imagine that a socialist, while unwittingly working to an evil end, may be driven by good motives. Impressionable simpletons often are, and God save us from them.

But no such assumption can be made about either communism or fascism. Both are unequivocally evil. Both presuppose tyranny as the starting point, not, as conceivably could be the case with socialism, an unintended if assured consequence.

This, regardless of whether or not we like some policies fascists advocate. For example, I share Le Pen’s opposition to the EU. But the destruction of that wicked contrivance should be brought about by a revolt proceeding from noble motives. If it’s defeated by fascism, we may discover that the cure is worse than the disease.

Fascism only ever succeeds in a climate of collective psychosis. That condition, albeit so far in a relatively mild form, exists in France.

Political conservatism can’t exist there even in theory, what with modern France at its founding being a revolutionary republic. What can French conservatives possibly wish to conserve? The heinous, mutually exclusive fallacies of liberté, egalité, fraternité?

Add to this the unhealed trauma of having been conquered by Germany 77 years ago, and you’ll understand why the French are collectively ready for the analyst’s couch.

They sense that the established order is letting them down badly, and the brighter ones among them realise that their affection for a German-dominated EU is a form of the Stockholm syndrome. But what’s the alternative?

Real conservatism is impossible (monarchists are regarded as harmless oddballs in France, sort of like flat-earthers). Communism is out of fashion. The Word of God could stop fascism in its tracks, but it’s muted by laïcité.

In today’s globalised world no land is an island, not even Britain. So, if in the next election Le Pen proves to be mightier than the Word, we’ll all feel the shock waves.

3 thoughts on “Don’t hesitate to say the F-word”

  1. OH!! I thought she was the hero France needed to stand firm like the Gates of Vienna. Is not her call one that strongly promotes the traditional Front National themes: national sovereignty, law and order and anti-immigration, unlike the current leader who embraces the Islamic overthrow?

  2. Exactly my point. Take “the traditional Front National themes: national sovereignty, law and order and anti-immigration”, add to them economics to the left of Hollande’s, populist demagoguery, an underlayer of general nastiness – and what you end up with is fascism, whose whole scale will only become known if Le Pen ascends to power. That is unlikely but possible – precisely because France’s political establishment, including “the current leader”, is so awful. If fascism is the answer, we should think hard about the question.

  3. Of similar etymology is the presumably now banned English word ‘faggot’ for a bundle of firewood which by regulation had to be a certain length and diameter. Of almost similar antiquity was the satirical (fake) news item in Private Eye on then topical subject of police education. According to the ‘Eye’ a student activist had proclaimed that the police were ‘murdering fascist swine’, whereas in Parliament the Home Secretary (R.A. Butler) beamed and stated at Question Time that ‘our policemen are wonderful’. Note that in those days it was just not done for a reporter to ask a minister a question without a private appointment. Margaret Thatcher eventually put a stop to that by by zooming in on any television crew in the vicinity to give an opinion without waiting for a question.

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