“Nature,” wrote Hitler, “knows no political boundaries.”
September 5, 2015 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Hitler's World by Timothy Snyder [New York Review of Books]
In Hitler’s world, the law of the jungle was the only law. People were to suppress any inclination to be merciful and were to be as rapacious as they could. Hitler thus broke with the traditions of political thought that presented human beings as distinct from nature in their capacity to imagine and create new forms of association. Beginning from that assumption, political thinkers tried to describe not only the possible but the most just forms of society. For Hitler, however, nature was the singular, brutal, and overwhelming truth, and the whole history of attempting to think otherwise was an illusion. Carl Schmitt, a leading Nazi legal theorist, explained that politics arose not from history or concepts but from our sense of enmity. Our racial enemies were chosen by nature, and our task was to struggle and kill and die.
posted by Fizz (50 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
This expands on and explicates one of the signature concepts of fascism: the notion of life as struggle not to eliminate struggle, but to win the right to continue struggling. Unlike other ideologies, the fascist does not endorse struggle to win peace, to win dominance for his ideology (he regards his ideology as not even an ideology at all but simply the objective truth). A fascist's struggle is not a means to an end. War is the end. This is why there can never, ever be peace with fascists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:53 AM on September 5, 2015 [35 favorites]


"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."
  • a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions;
  • the primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether individual or universal, and the subordination of the individual to it;
  • the belief that one's group is a victim, a sentiment that justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against its enemies, both internal and external;
  • dread of the group's decline under the corrosive effects of individualistic liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences;
  • the need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary;
  • the need for authority by natural chiefs (always male), culminating in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating the group's historical destiny;
  • the superiority of the leader's instincts over abstract and universal reason;
  • the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group's success;
  • the right of the chosen people to dominate others without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group's prowess within a Darwinian struggle.
(via Robert Paxton, "The Anatomy of Fascism")
posted by theorique at 11:21 AM on September 5, 2015 [33 favorites]


Really liked this piece, nice post.
posted by grobstein at 11:21 AM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


At the extremes, the attitude that it's right and proper for the world to be a perpetual struggle among competing interests--that the goal should be to perpetuate that struggle--is distressingly common. One person's "survival of the fittest" becomes another's "perpetual revolution," and all the other political goals the person might nominally be committed to achieving become secondary to the idea that the struggle itself is the really beautiful, true thing. It's not a Left/Right thing, but an extremist psychology thing.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:50 AM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Unlike other ideologies, the fascist does not endorse struggle to win peace, to win dominance for his ideology (he regards his ideology as not even an ideology at all but simply the objective truth). A fascist's struggle is not a means to an end. War is the end. This is why there can never, ever be peace with fascists.

This is an excellent definition of what separates fascism from other ideologies, and what makes it uniquely intolerable. Antifa say "No platform for fascists! Smash fascism!" and support violence to stop fascism from gaining any power in the first place. It's hard to understand this if you think of fascism as some combination of authoritarianism, corporatism, nationalism, or even racism—those are all components of other ideologies, and their value can be debated like any other proposition without resorting to pre-emptive violence against people who advocate them. But by this definition, fascism versus other politics is like trolls versus other internet commenters. It would be illiberal to ban commenters from sincerely advocating political opinions that are radically different from a community norm, but trolls aren't there to advocate their beliefs, they're there to destroy the community, and everyone is okay with banning them.
posted by Rangi at 11:57 AM on September 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


Well, there's this paragraph:
Knowledge of the body was not the problem, as in Genesis, but the solution. The triumphant should copulate. After murder, Hitler thought, the next human duty was sex and reproduction. In his scheme, the original sin that led to the fall of man was of the mind and soul, not of the body. For Hitler, our unhappy weakness was that we can think, realize that others belonging to other races can do the same, and thereby recognize them as fellow human beings. Humans left Hitler’s bloody paradise not because of carnal knowledge. Humans left paradise because of the knowledge of good and evil.
I don't ... what ... how could he ... ?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:12 PM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


In Hitler’s world, the law of the jungle was the only law.

Gee, sounds a lot like Ayn Rand (and all her current American followers).

And you can't call 'Godwin' when it is a clearly obvious and fully logical relationship.

what separates fascism from other ideologies

More like how fascism creeps into other ideologies. And how so many who are accusing, for example, Obama of fascism are just trying to cover up their own brownshirt leanings.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:26 PM on September 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hitler's ideology is not especially coherent or consistent in a number of regards; it is important to realize that this incoherence hardly made the ideology unpopular.
posted by kewb at 12:41 PM on September 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


That was lucid and terrifying. It's not unusual to hear people speculate that, if the Nazis had not diverted effort and materiel to the Holocaust, they perhaps could have won the war. That betrays a complete failure to understand that they drew absolutely no distinction between the goal of military victory and that of extermination of the Jews, both of which they saw as struggle for racial survival.
posted by thelonius at 12:50 PM on September 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


Really, let's not pretend Hitler of all people was a philosopher with a coherent point of view

Though Hitler strove to define a world without history

All I can say is, no he didn't. Surely Mein Kampf, when it isn't autobiography, is all about German history? Isn't it?

The Nazis didn't have a coherent philosophy and their eugenics were profoundly irrational and unscientific. Please don't award them respect they don't deserve.
posted by Segundus at 12:51 PM on September 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is why there can never, ever be peace with fascists.

In 1945, the victors made peace with the fascists rather than pursuing the war to extermination.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:55 PM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


they could perhaps have won the war

Victory at various levels was available to them at various stages if they had wanted to cash in their winnings, and they proved indifferent to it. Objectively, what they wanted was to maximise the sphere of destruction, and Germany itself was not exempted; in their last days they hung on to ensure that Germany too, was damaged as much as possible.

We tend to think everyone is signed up to the pursuit of human happiness; they were not: the pursuit of war as an end in itself gets closer.
posted by Segundus at 12:58 PM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The nature of the Christendom-derived Nazi metaphysics of anti-Semitism, where the actually existing Jewish human bodies are mere historically contingent embodied loci of an abstract, timeless idea of Jewish apartness, is also explored in The Invention of the Jewish Nose. Of course, before Christianity became the State-sponsored religious ideology of Rome, Christians themselves, understood as some sort of crypto-Jewish sect, nicely filled this niche for the Romans. We've always needed outsiders.
posted by meehawl at 1:15 PM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is why there can never, ever be peace with fascists.

In 1945, the victors made peace with the fascists rather than pursuing the war to extermination.


There was considerable variation among the interwar fascist groups - Italian fascism, for example, lacked the racial lens of Nazi ideology, while Iberian and Austrian brands of fascism were heavily tinged with corporatist Catholicism. French fascism was quite its own beast as well. I've often thought that early commentators who talked about "Hitlerism" rather than "Nazism" or "German fascism" were on to something - Hitler's vision was fairly unique to him and Nazism was very much driven by his personal vision.

Like communism, fascism wasn't one unitary movement with a single, inevitable set of tendencies, although after 1939 it became more useful to reduce fascism to Nazism in the same way that it became useful to reduce communism to Stalinism after 1945. It made the lines clearer and the necessity of struggle more urgent in the face of limited initial public commitment. Those fascist regimes which we supported or at any rate allowed to continue past that point (in Spain, Portugal, Greece for a while, eventually several in Latin America) were redefined or glossed over. The German variant was truncated, but other branches continued on, without initiating "unending wars of conquest" or "eternal struggle" or whatever.

The worst aspects of Nazism - especially genocide, concentration camps and modern slavery - were not unique to fascism. Colonial populations were targeted with considerably less technical and organizational skill during the period before the wars, and communist regimes in the Soviet Union used many of the same methods (as well as mass population transfer), to target ethnic Central Asians and Eastern European groups. Post-1989, it would be a stretch to call the Serbian regime of Milosevic or the Hutu population of Rwanda "fascist", yet they carried out similar programs. I forget who it was, exactly - I think it was Hobsbawm or Tony Judt, in one of their twentieth century histories - who noted that what was so terrifying to Europeans about the World Wars was the way in which their practices regarding "inferior" peoples elsewhere were imported back into Europe. They were being treated, suddenly, as though they were colonial peoples - subjugated ruthlessly, exploited as resources, annihilated en masse if deemed necessary to the war effort. A line had been shifted which had previously been taken for granted as natural and innate. Europeans were above - not committing, but suffering, such evils. That stopped being true in 1939.

In other words, the worst elements of Nazism were not "fascist" in origin or necessary outgrowths of it. I think Snyder is looking more more unity and consistency than he is likely to find in the source material, although its still an interesting article.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:36 PM on September 5, 2015 [27 favorites]


Hitler's ideology is not especially coherent or consistent in a number of regards; it is important to realize that this incoherence hardly made the ideology unpopular.

Really, let's not pretend Hitler of all people was a philosopher with a coherent point of view

One of the big weaknesses of fascism is that it is an anti-intellectual movement which spurns complicated, consistent philosophy as weak and womanlike. They wouldn't regard this as a weakness, however- the proper way to win somebody over, to the fascist, is to dominate or exterminate them, not to persuade them.


The Nazis didn't have a coherent philosophy and their eugenics were profoundly irrational and unscientific. Please don't award them respect they don't deserve.

Also, Mussolini never made the trains run on time and fascists, as a result of their disdain of theory and thought and prizing of personal strength and struggle, are historically really bad at efficiency and getting things done. You've played those Star Wars games where we see inside the Sith empire and it's a horrifying inefficient mess, a nest of backstabbery and scheming against each other that undermines the war effort against the Republic/Jedi/whatever? That's actually shockingly similar to how fascist regimes operate on the inside. They are tremendously awful at actually accomplishing things in the long term.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:39 PM on September 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also, Mussolini never made the trains run on time and fascists, as a result of their disdain of theory and thought and prizing of personal strength and struggle, are historically really bad at efficiency and getting things done.

There was a consistent tendency to overestimate the efficiency of totalitarian governments throughout the interwar period - part of that was the fact that fascists were pretty good at public relations, partly because they seemed to be powering through the Depression more effectively than the Western democracies were. And then, of course, once first WWII and then the Cold War broke out, it because useful for the Grand Alliance and then the NATO governments to portray the enemy as unique efficient as well as ruthless and evil, as a threat which require the subordination of all national energies to the goal of defeating them. It's harder to justify necessary tactics like wartime rationing, the draft, and massive military spending to defeat a gang of frauds, fools and incompetents.

The idea of the super-efficient fascist (or later, communist) regime was one which, ironically, was to the benefit of both allies and enemies to encourage.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:51 PM on September 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


the victors made peace with the fascists rather than pursuing the war to extermination

Not all Germans and Japanese were fascists. My take on the immediate postwar was that the fascists still among them had written checks their ideology couldn't cash, which generally discredited the instigators among the general population who were bearing the wartime and postwar suffering after the fascist dreams were smashed.

Like the US in early 2003, in the 1930s maybe 1/3 of these enemy populations was gung-ho for war, 1/3 muddled middle, 1/3 definitely opposed to the nationalistic aims of the totalitarians who had taken over.

Once the totalitarians were largely removed from the direct levers of power in Germany and Japan, they would have a tough road of return, since the muddled middle had been made to take their tuition the hard way.

Japan was I guess a more conservative country than what was W Germany, and I suppose the US 'Establishment' preferred the center-right in Japan over any nascent far left, so the postwar purging of Japan was left rather incomplete, e.g. the national apolitical bureaucratic power centers were left as-is in the postwar.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 1:56 PM on September 5, 2015


Unlike other ideologies, the fascist does not endorse struggle to win peace, to win dominance for his ideology (he regards his ideology as not even an ideology at all but simply the objective truth). A fascist's struggle is not a means to an end. War is the end.

Fascism doesn't even have to be of the political extreme right. By this token, Stalin was more fascist than Franco (who was content to rule an outwardly peaceful authoritarian dictatorship for 40 years, after having filled mass graves with those who would oppose him), and Mao Zedong, with his theory of continual revolution (i.e., perpetual struggle and bloodshed) was even more so.
posted by acb at 3:48 PM on September 5, 2015


Stalinist totalitarianism is a different animal with a different set of philosophical underpinnings. Just killing a whole bunch of people doesn't necessarily make it fascist (although fascists really like killing whole bunches of people).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:31 PM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I assume the connection with Stalinism is not just killing lots of people but also all the stuff about history as a predetermined inevitable struggle and the worldview that comes with that, at least as Snyder describes it. I think Arendt also comes close to saying that what the Nazis and Stalinists shared was this idea of inevitable historical destinies, with Nazis focusing on race struggle and Stalin focusing on (his own conception of) class struggle: both assume a natural order of struggle and extermination, in which individual persons just don't matter except as bearers of their group identity and thus in terms of their role in the mythic narrative.
posted by Aravis76 at 4:40 PM on September 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is an excellent definition of what separates fascism from other ideologies, and what makes it uniquely intolerable. Antifa say "No platform for fascists! Smash fascism!" and support violence to stop fascism from gaining any power in the first place.

While I am as happy to shoot both rabbits and fascists as the next person, this "uniquely intolerable" approach worries me. Even if we accept that fascism is uniquely intolerable, I think that stopping people from espousing it would still be more dangerous to liberty than otherwise. Once suppression is allowed in the case of one ideology, there is always a risk of McCarthyism. I recognise that defending the liberty of monsters to say monstrous things is a very high price for free speech, but I do think it is worth paying, even with its attendant risks.
posted by howfar at 5:13 PM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would argue that Nazism is relatively ahistorical compared to extreme statist Marxist-Leninism. Where one sees history as a set of inevitable stages through which humanity must pass (although deviating from more traditional Marxism in the sense that the transitions between stages can be provoked and even accelerated by actors at a given moment), the other sees history, particularly as it relates to the state, as a condition of perpetual and undifferentiated struggle. In the statist Marxist-Leninist example, the model of history (and with it, the state) reaches a point of crisis almost immediately, when facts on the ground fail to conform to the progression dictated by the historical dialectic. This crisis is usually played out upon whole populations within the Marxist-Leninist state.

In the case of fascism, and Nazism in particular, the state is a body that exists under constant attack. Similarly, individual bodies within the state are also in a constant state of struggle against all others. Those bodies within the state either align their own struggle with that of the state itself, or that struggle is enacted upon them. In this model, moments in history are only deployed as a set of exemplars of this struggle (The Teutonic Knights, Frederick the Great, The Franco-Prussian War, etc.)- there is no understanding of a pattern in history beyond perpetual struggle (and even this credits fascist ideologies with more coherence than they usually display).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:23 PM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even if we accept that fascism is uniquely intolerable, I think that stopping people from espousing it would still be more dangerous to liberty than otherwise.

I completely agree! But that's why I like the definition of fascism as struggle for its own sake, or as 1984 put it, "Power is not a means; it is an end... The object of power is power." Someone who's just making blog posts about how "survival of the fittest is good, the superior race/class/sex/etc should dominate" is reprehensible, but they aren't actually acting fascist. If you see someone trying to actually gain power, no matter what the means and with the only end being to gain even more power, that's fascist behavior that needs to be stopped.
posted by Rangi at 5:41 PM on September 5, 2015


someone trying to actually gain power, no matter what the means and with the only end being to gain even more power, that's fascist behavior that needs to be stopped.

I can see what you're getting at, but the worrying number of people who, for example, think that a fairly limited attempt to improve access to healthcare in the US, is part of a fascistic grab for power, makes me wonder about the usefulness of the concept of fascism here. What do we gain by identifying the fascists as fascists, as distinct from anyone else whose behaviour we need to stop?

On a philosophical level, I'm enough of a Nietzschean to think that will to power is a pretty useful explanatory tool for all kinds of human behaviours and ideologies, including ones that I perceive as actively benign. So I suppose I am fairly invested in resisting the notion that fascism is uniquely motivated by a fundamental desire for power.

At this point I'm not seeing the practical benefits of the "uniquely intolerable" classification. Are there avenues of action it opens up that I am missing?
posted by howfar at 6:10 PM on September 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


At this point I'm not seeing the practical benefits of the "uniquely intolerable" classification. Are there avenues of action it opens up that I am missing?

I think there could be. My gut reaction is to tolerate as much as possible, and let people believe and express whatever they want so long as they're not silencing/oppressing/killing each other over it. But in practice I only have to apply this principle to life in a diverse but safe first-world city, and anonymous internet discussions; whereas the original anti-fascism "no tolerance of intolerance" movement developed out of war with actual Nazis. So I feel obliged to not just dismiss it immediately. I don't like no-platforming and baseless accusations either, but assuming they developed for a good reason, I want to know why.

(So I agree with you that the will to power is potentially benign and useful; but if someone wanted power, not for any particular cause, but just for the sake of power—and were willing to lie, cheat, persuade, kill, do anything to get that power—would you agree that they could be stopped without worrying about slippery slope arguments?)

The notion of fascism as power-mongering for its own sake, dressed in whichever ideology is convenient for its aim, sounds like a good attempt at defining this thing (more a kind of behavior than an ideology) that it really isn't healthy to tolerate. A liberal society, or just an internet community, can handle individuals who range from monarchist to anarchist, Objectivist to communist, devout to atheist, Nietzschean to Catholic. But if any of those groups got the idea that they are inherently superior and should wipe out the rest in accordance with natural law, that ought to be stopped before it turns into a(nother) full-blown war.

Intolerance of this thing-that-"fascism"-is-labeling has the obvious failure mode, where one benign group accuses another of being fascist and therefore fair targets. And ironically, being able to get away with that is a very useful tactic for actual fascists, who get to pretend they're in the right. ("The Jews backstabbed us! They're destroying Germany! It's only self-defense to get rid of them!") I don't know of a solution to this. Any suggestions?
posted by Rangi at 6:33 PM on September 5, 2015


Communism sees history as a struggle between classes driven by material conditions, but it does not see this as a good thing. Communism sees class struggle as something to be fight, win, and ended, left in the past with all of its horrors.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:37 PM on September 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is the big lie. That violence and destruction are somehow natural. That humans have a genetic predisposition to kill each other. It’s absurd that people ever believe it when the facts of nature and mankind are right before their eyes. Without cooperation, nature extinguishes mankind nearly immediately. People know this.
Fta: “Hitler’s worldview dismissed religious and secular traditions, and yet relied upon both.”
And yet, people cling to hypocrites. It’s not just wrong it’s an egregious and obvious error. As though someone told you the sun was cold (or 2 + 2 = 4 to go Orwell. Or Voltaire – those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities)
The natural order is in interpersonal relationships which naturally rely on cooperation to get anything done (good luck hunting on your own with a sharp stick before you starve). Social structures reflect and augment those: economics, politics, government, education, etc. and when they go awry, say when some guy who gets horny for war after being beaten every day of his childhood gets elected, the first thing they do is go after those relationships. Tell people they’re different because of some typically arbitrary thing, skin color or language or the flavor of man in the sky or whatever.
Usually they go right for the balls (ovaries are rounded too) and give all kinds of reasons you can’t have sex with ‘those’ people. Orwell reflected this e.g. sexcrime.
And it fails of course. Unless the macro systems (society) reflect and support its members basic human need to care for other human beings, how to do it, and why to do it, and the often unconscious motivations why, that society fails.
Evil regimes suck then die. Usually based on how evil they are. How much they subvert thinking. How much they, as the author alludes to, fail to separate politics from science.
The thing I object to (sort of intimated here) is continually making Hitler the symbol of this package of ideas and set of perspectives. As though Hitler Studies (not go delve into more fiction “White Noise” in this case) was the study of the entire body of prejudices. “For Hitler”, “Hitler saw”, “Hitler’s views” etc.
And the passive voice thing “When Hitler was young, an interpretation of Darwin…”
Wha? Who’s interpretation of Darwin? Hitler sprang fully formed out of Wotan’s skull like the Nazi Athena? Let’s not forget, many – or at least enough – people held the same views. Granted they may not have liked the method or a lot of the details but people tend to fall hook line and sinker for the “Strong dominate the weak” b.s. as long as you intimate they’re the strong.

If I had a nickel for every douchebag reiterating that pseudo-Darwinian fight and struggle idiocy that I didn’t physically greatly outclass (look, *I* don’t believe I’m better than the next guy because I’m bigger and stronger, but for some reason most of these guys seemed to have lost the keys to the gym while ranting about physical superiority). Hitler too was in the rear with the gear for all the talk of courage. Again, typical. Desk jockeys love the war glamour. 'And hey, we're all pretty tough right? If we'd been there I mean, right fellows?'
The American Protective League in the U.S. around WW1 f'rinstance, pretty much a diet or lite version of the SS (Schutzstaffel).

So yeah, most people aren’t as “narcissistic, pitilessly consistent, and exuberantly nihilistic” as Hitler.
But it seems so damned easy to push them over into it. Paricularly in big groups.

Well….except for this guy.
Especially for the ‘piss off’ look on his face. Bad ass.

posted by Smedleyman at 6:44 PM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Stalinism isn't exactly communism, though. The nicer communist thesis, as I understand it, treats material equality as a value just as such; being right isn't merely being "on the winning side of history" but actually acting in such a way as to promote material equality and a society of from each according to his capacities, to each according to his needs. (What trade-offs exactly are permissible in achieving this end, and whether it's possible, are separate areas of controversy.) The Stalinist picture, on the other hand, is that of an essentially eternal class struggle where being right = being on the winning side of history, ie always defeating your inevitable enemies. Equality, or any other outcome (like the Nazis' racially pure Reich), is never actually going to be permanently achieved: there's always going to be an enemy within (counter-revolutionaries, petty bourgeoise etc) to be purged, that's the natural state of politics, and the successful state is one that continuously identifies and destroys these enemies.
posted by Aravis76 at 3:35 AM on September 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well….except for this guy.
Especially for the ‘piss off’ look on his face. Bad ass.


Sidenote: That man is August Landmesser [wiki]
August Landmesser known for his appearance in a photograph refusing to perform the Nazi salute at the launch of the naval training vessel Horst Wessel on 13 June 1936. He had run afoul of the Nazi Party over his unlawful relationship with Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman. He was later imprisoned and eventually drafted into military service, where he was killed in action; Eckler was sent to a concentration camp where she was presumably killed.
posted by Fizz at 4:50 AM on September 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


Even if it's fictional, it's still weird to think of MacLeod's "True Knowledge" springing from the same soil as Hitlerism. Well, maybe it does explain some of Ellen's, shall we say, sterner urges.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:19 AM on September 6, 2015


While I am as happy to shoot both rabbits and fascists as the next person, this "uniquely intolerable" approach worries me. Even if we accept that fascism is uniquely intolerable, I think that stopping people from espousing it would still be more dangerous to liberty than otherwise. Once suppression is allowed in the case of one ideology, there is always a risk of McCarthyism.

The only way to completely suppress fascism would itself be a manifestation of fascism.

The funny thing about McCarthy is that while his name is often invoked as an overreach of government paranoia, many of the people targeted by HUAC were actual communists and engaged in subversive activity on behalf of the USSR.
posted by theorique at 6:13 AM on September 6, 2015


Yep we just decided at the time that the cost of becoming our enemies by using their toolkit was too high to justify conducting ourselves like tyrannical jackasses. Unfortunately we've been given another opportunity to take the higher ground with a different outcome.
posted by aydeejones at 6:28 AM on September 6, 2015


The only way to completely suppress fascism would itself be a manifestation of fascism.

The idea that authoritarianism, tyranny, killing somebody for their beliefs, violent racism, etc are "fascism" or "manifestations of fascism", rather than something which virtually every political ideology in history has engaged in is messed up. It removes fascism from its historical context, wipes it clean of its specificities, and makes it something other than it historically is in order to pretend that fascism = Bad Thing rather than actually defining and examining it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:31 AM on September 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hitler simply took the theory of evolution seriously.
posted by No Robots at 8:34 AM on September 6, 2015


Even if it's fictional, it's still weird to think of MacLeod's "True Knowledge" springing from the same soil as Hitlerism

Really? I took that to be the whole point of the True Knowledge.
posted by PMdixon at 9:17 AM on September 6, 2015


The only way to completely suppress fascism would itself be a manifestation of fascism.

The funny thing about McCarthy is that while his name is often invoked as an overreach of government paranoia, many of the people targeted by HUAC were actual communists and engaged in subversive activity on behalf of the USSR.


McCarthy was a senator. He was never a part of the House Un-American Activities Committee. In any case, the House Un-American Activities Committee is also a good instance of government paranoia and overreach. It was a model for the Southern states' "little HUACs," just as the illiberal FBI of J. Edgar Hoover was a model for their "little FBIs." These organizations targeted liberal anti-segregationists like those of the NAACP, an organization which purged itself of its far leftists early on in the Southern Red Scare. Like the big HUAC, the little HUACs did occasionally find genuine communists to hunt, but they routinely exaggerated Soviet influence over mere liberals and even leftists.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:55 AM on September 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


in 1980s Britain when i was at school, 'social darwinism' was still considered scientific fact (it originates before Hitler was born)
posted by maiamaia at 3:19 PM on September 6, 2015


Even if it's fictional, it's still weird to think of MacLeod's "True Knowledge" springing from the same soil as Hitlerism

Really? I took that to be the whole point of the True Knowledge.


There just aren't that many different wellsprings for modern Western political thought, right? Go up the family tree a little and everything converges. Marxism and 19th-century liberalism are siblings or cousins. The True Knowledge apparently comes from those sources, their ancestors (17th- and 18th-century liberalism), and some Darwin and Nietzsche.

I rambled about this a bit in the MacLeod thread.
posted by grobstein at 7:17 PM on September 7, 2015


Even if it's fictional, it's still weird to think of MacLeod's "True Knowledge" springing from the same soil as Hitlerism

The True Knowledge is brought in as a justification for genocide, too.*

The "Fast Folk" in Cassini Division actually somewhat resemble Hitler's conception of the Jews. Hitler's argument is insane and delusional, while Ellen May's appears sensible. But they are somewhat similar in form.

-----
* I say "justification," but both the True Knowledge and Hitler's ideology suggest that justification is sort of an illusion. There is only success, survival -- or elimination.
posted by grobstein at 12:50 AM on September 8, 2015


A note to explain my previous comment, given that no one else has followed-on to its point: the Fall of Man story in Genesis is exactly what Snyder says it isn't and isn't what he says it is. I was boggled at this error because it's not as if this is some obscure bit of judeo-christian belief, and his discussion of it wasn't merely an aside. I can't at all see how he's not egregiously wrong, but I wrote my comment in such a way that I was hoping that someone might explain to me that he's not wrong. Failing that, I can't help but assume that he built that little argument from a pop version of the Fall of Man (with primarily the fig leaves in mind, perhaps) and that not only as an educated person he didn't know better, but also that he couldn't be bothered (and his editor couldn't be bothered) to get it right.

I found the essay interesting and persuasive, and I'm inclined to trust him as a historian of Hitler and related, but nevertheless this sort of error is the kind that causes me to seriously question someone's credibility.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:30 AM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Huh, I was all ready to come in and defend the piece, but I now realize I don't even get what he's saying. If in Hitler's vision, the (for him, spurious) knowledge of good and evil leads to the fall, isn't that also the straightforward biblical reading? I thought this was a beautiful passage when I first read it but it doesn't seem to make sense.

Maybe what Snyder means is that, for Hitler, the "knowledge" of good and evil is the condition of the fall -- not what precipitates the fall, but what it means to be fallen, to be in a fallen state. In the received version, the fall is precipitated by the knowledge of good and evil -- but the condition of the fall is the loss of immortality and being forced to reproduce like animals. On the received view, our fallen state is our mortal predicament. On the Hitler view, our fallen state is the illusion of ethics.

Does that make more sense?
posted by grobstein at 10:17 AM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


In his scheme, the original sin that led to the fall of man was of the mind and soul, not of the body.

I think this makes more sense as "In his scheme, the original sin that led to the resulting from fall of man was of the mind and soul, not of the body." After the fall, Adam and Eve were immediately ashamed of their nakedness (bodies). In Hitler's interpretation the sin is sympathy/empathy towards others? Something like that?
posted by mazola at 3:40 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Understanding Hitler’s Anti-Semitism
In Black Earth, Hitler’s quest for lebensraum is placed in a global context. Snyder, for example, asserts that Hitler was inspired in part by the wide-open spaces of the American West, quoting the German leader as complaining, “Neither the current living space nor that achieved through the restoration of the borders of 1914 permits us to lead a life comparable to that of the American people.” The book focuses on the integral role that the state and its institutions played in determining the effectiveness of Hitler’s genocide. Where states were destroyed, Jews were murdered; where the state remained intact, Jews could find some protection in bureaucracies and passports. It was in the stateless regions of Eastern Europe where the Nazis were able to experiment with and calibrate the Final Solution, which they then tried to export back west.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:52 AM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


"If in Hitler's vision, the (for him, spurious) knowledge of good and evil leads to the fall, isn't that also the straightforward biblical reading? I thought this was a beautiful passage when I first read it but it doesn't seem to make sense. "

The difference is that in the traditional reading, sex and procreation is only necessary (and shameful) after the fall, because a knowledge of good and evil precludes eternal life. In Hitler's view, sex and procreation were the natural state before the fall, and a knowledge of good and evil induced shame that restricts them. Hitler's Eden is Hobbes' state of nature and abstract, Jewish notions of good and evil are what preclude a return to it.
posted by klangklangston at 11:49 AM on September 14, 2015


The command to "go forth and multiply" comes immediately after the creation of man and woman.
posted by No Robots at 1:11 PM on September 14, 2015


The continuity of Genesis is dubious — All of the animals are created before Adam, then created after Adam so that he can name them as they come into existence.
posted by klangklangston at 1:14 PM on September 14, 2015


If you're interested in a pro-sex interpretation of Genesis, I would suggest looking at this website, which presents Harry Waton's lecture "Adam, Eve, Serpent: Evil, Sin, Salvation." (Unfortunately, the linked document is missing one crucial page, which I am endeavoring to obtain from the National Library of Israel, the sole repository that I have found for this lecture series, other than the fellow who runs this website, who is proving somewhat difficult to deal with.)
posted by No Robots at 1:35 PM on September 14, 2015


In the Western Christian tradition, the idea that sex itself was introduced only after the fall is a pretty niche reading of Genesis. Even Augustine, who is very gloomy about the whole thing, thinks only that sex before the fall was for the sake of procreation, unmotivated by lust, and purely a response to the reason and the will: he doesn't think there was no sex at all. Similarly, Aquinas is pretty solidly in favour of interpreting "go forth and multiply" as a commandment to have sex but he also, like Augustine, thinks that prelapsarian sex involved the body being purely obedient to the will. Milton in Paradise Lost obviously thought that not only sex but also desire was a feature of Adam and Eve's marriage before the Fall. The view of Augustine and Aquinas seems to be the more orthodox view in the West, although there are a few stray church fathers who seem to have thought differently. I believe the Eastern Orthodox take a different view, but I'm not sure about that.
posted by Aravis76 at 12:25 AM on September 15, 2015


I also don't know that there is a strong connection between sex and Hitler's idea of an Edenic world: surely the more important aspect of the state of nature, for Hitler, is the Hobbesian amoral struggle for survival not whether procreation happens through sex or by divine intervention.
posted by Aravis76 at 12:29 AM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


New Snyder article, from a deleted MeFi post about it, in which he suggests climate change and its associated stresses may take us back towards extremes like the Nazis.

My thoughts from the same deleted thread, copied and pasted:

I must say that I have a lot of fears in common with Snyder. It's why I have been so concerned about the rightward drift in rhetoric in Europe, as well as the erosion of post-war governance structures and public goods. It really doesn't take that long (in human lifetime terms) for lessons to be forgotten, and we're wrong to think that as a species we've somehow become incapable of mass murder and brutality in the span of 75 years. I mean, right now there's several active wars where immense cruelty and suffering happens every day, although we're thankfully not killing and brutalising each other on the immense scale we did last century.

But it's a fragile system, founded on a welter of underlying assumptions about energy, water, food supplies, weather patterns and a myriad of other factors that have allowed us to more than double the planet's population since the guns fell silent in 1945. Those assumptions could crack and break in future. And the one thing we can be sure there won't be a short supply of will be charismatic autocrats who promise that they will build a better future, atop a pile of other people's skulls if needs be.

posted by Happy Dave at 3:01 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


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