Left or Right, Authoritarian or Totalitarian?
The Fascist movements were totalitarian movements. In office they were always authoritarian but not always totalitarian. The difference is a matter of degree not intent. Both totalitarian and authoritarian movements and governments are extreme and have certain common characteristics, left or right. The difference is in the word "total." My source here is "Origins of Totalitarianism" [Hannah Arendt], Altemeyer and other scholars.
- Total power to rule by a mob like party obedient to the movement and its leadership.
- Absolute power residing in the head of State
- Enforcement of ideological conformity via State and extralegal power.
- Total control of the military.
- Controlled Communication, enforced by police, party members & spies
- Arbitrary use of police power to enforce obedience
- Centralization of both economic and political power
There is overlap between totalitarian and Authoritarian Attributes. But the defining word here is "authoritarian".
- Authoritarian movements create mythical narratives of an idealized future, look back on an idealized past, offer easy solutions to current problems but for the behavior of some enemy.
- Authoritarian movements create heroes and expect people to worship and follow the leader.
- They find and setup Scapegoats, teach grievience & demonize "enemies."
- They require obedience, faith and respect for the authority of people and doctrines deemed "authorized."
- They expect obedience and outward expression of faith in that Dogma.
- Their Dogma is always conflictive towards heretics, non-movement members & scapegoats.
- Their followers put faith over reality and therefore engage in pretzel thinking to maintain their deification of their leaders. They depend on exaggerated cognitive dissonance, compartmentalization, fantasy. This creates a deep hypocrisy, & self blindness, in members of the movement.
Dichotomy between Attributes of Leaders and Followers
Authoritarian movements, in power, may or may not achieve totalitarian power. But the movements are almost always totalitarian whether or not they act that way in power. Authoritarian movements are based on fandom. They are cults, political or religious become political. The fearless leader (alive or from some past mythical figure) is like a God to the followers. His infallibility is often in inverse proportion to the actual capability, decency or wisdom of current leaders. The followers have one set of characteristics. The leaders range from Authoritarian follower attributes to similar Exploitive, Manipulative, Amoral and Dishonest [EMAD] traits of the top leadership.
I've been writing an extended review of the Falangists in connection to what started as highly personal reading about the playwrite Federico Garcia Lorca and his death at the hands of the Falangists. The fearless leader of the Falangists was initially Jose Antonio Primo De Rivera, who set the agenda but died before he got into power. General Francisco Franco took his place. Franco was more authoritarian in power than totalitarian. But it was still deadly to be a democratic republican or a critic of the Falangists once he was in power. I wanted to put a post out to explain the distinction between authoritarian power and totalitarian power. Authoritarian is Catholic and Orthodox but usually lawful. Totalitarian is radical.
Left or Right do not refer to Economics
The word "right wing" if it refers to economics, is misleading. In France in the 1790s when the term was first invented, the left was "on the side of the people" literally, and the "right" were the hierarchs of prelates, landlords/nobility and powerful interests of the ancient regime. Over time the terms came to be applied to economic dogmas. However, the right was authoritarian in France. It wanted to keep power and privilege over the people. Eventually the leaders of the revolution emerged as equally EMAD and their followers as continuing to be authoritarian followers.
Therefore in the case of talking about Authoritarian followers "right wing" refers to the original definition of the right as being that on the side of authority and hierarchy. Compared to the modern USA right wing, the Falange, Italian Fascistas and even the Nazis, seem economically "socialist" and "left wing" by comparison to the aspirations and totalitarian dreams of the far right in our country. This is a diversion. An example of Totalitarian propaganda is the use of deceptive gray propaganda, "white propaganda" which is at least somewhat accurate, and
Conserving Praxis while adapting propaganda to the Times
There are major similarities between the American Hard right and the 1930s Falangist Parties in Spain. There are also differences between the content of their propaganda and modern propaganda, but the same underlying method (praxis) is the same. The similarities and differences between the Falange 26 points, the Nazi agenda and the USA planks of our own Hard right reflect underlying common desires for power and accommodations to the conditions of the country they are using propaganda to try to win over. Fascist movements are ruthless and machiavellian their leaders have a defined agenda, but don't really care about facts in order to get their. They adopt and discard doctrines expediently. This reflects the EMAD traits of the leadership. The Falange were Catholic, their followers authoritarian Catholic. In Germany the country was evenly divided between Catholics and Protestants, so the Nazis modified their plank to accommodate both. Similar behavior is observed in fascist movements around the country. They all have the traits I describe. Most Fascist movements dream of empire of some kind. All three planks said similar things when it came to basic fascist traits. Similar traits go with left fascists. Both give lip service to freedom, improvement, etc... but their core goals are xenophobic, imperial, authoritarian and about controlling the people not giving them an independent voice.
Modern Fascist/Authoritarians Are extremist
The reason modern propagandists and ideologues, like Dinesh D'Souza, can claim that they aren't doing the same thing as other 1930s hyper-nationalist movements is that in the 1930s the nationalists had to give at least lip service to labor. Since World War II incipient fascist movements, fearing labor, actual liberty and actual democracy, spent time demonizing the basic ideas of the labor movement so that modern fascists wouldn't have to pay lip service to them. They succeeded so well that many workers no longer even realize they've been stripped of rights and freedoms. The original red necks wore red kerchiefs and supported the labor movement. If Franco had had a 80 year base of proto-fascist propaganda to build on he would have done pretty much the same as he did do, except with no pretense that his top down Syndicates were for the sake of labor.
More Extremist than the extremes of the 30s
For at least 40 years, since the major protoganists of World War II started fading into the winds, the fascist strategy has been to try to hide their more racist and violent tropes behind abstraction and dog whistles and to focus on recruiting people using narratives that prey on fear, anxiety, and the very fact that labor has been stripped of power and a future.
Therefore the Falange 26 point program, Hitlers Nazi Program, of course, have even more points of similarity than modern fascists. People like Dinesh D'Souza can misrepresent such planks, because they express the exigencies of politicians and their followers, and so some elements sound superficially like the programs that any party might make. But they are very different documents from the kinds of planks a traditional party like the Democrats, or the pre-Trump Republicans, might have put forth.
As discussed in the post, Right Wing Imperialism and Myth, the Right Wing uses the tools of interpretation and narrative to build images of how the universe is, should be, and could be, and then manipulates that myth to indoctrinate people with fear, anger and the idea that they are entitled to redress grievances. It is hard to fight myths, except with other myths that are more fundamentally true. Myths boil down complex realities to easy to understand slogans, concepts, tied to images of bravery and heroes. It is no accident that Mussolini, Trump, Hitler and other dictators throughout history, strike similar poses. Napoleon with his hand in his jacket is trying to pose as brave, mighty, heroic. If Trump sometimes looks like Mussolini with a hair piece, it's not an accident.
For Sorel, concepts like "General Strike", "syndicalism" were supposed to be positive myths, that he wanted to use to counter the propaganda used by authoritarian and business opponents to labor aspirations. Unfortunately myths are powerful, and once people are entranced by a powerful myth coupled with fear and anger, they can be mobilized to war, to genocide to overthrow systems that actually were benefiting them. Myths that were originally designed to move people to fight for the general good become a tool for the ambition of EMAD leaders and their flying monkey EMAD senior followers.
The falangists in Spain hijacked the concept of syndicalism, which had originally been associated with democratic principles and "leftist" economic thinking, and harnesed it to a movement that was anti-democratic, violent and right wing. They used sophisticated arguments to advocate for an authoritarian state. The Website that carries the Falange platform quotes Thierry Maulnier:
“Democracy and Capitalism are one and the same evil: they can only be overthrown together. A regenerated nation, a better future a flourishing peace can only spring up on their ruins.” RW Page: [blackshirts page]
The Party Program is at this webpage:
Seeking Power Keeping power
EMAD maps to the attributes of Narcissism. The leaders all exhibit the "Dark Triad" of Narcissist, Sociopathic and machiavelian leaders and authoritarian followers. In power they seek totalitarian control, not only to realize their dark utopian dreams, but to force people to believe in their leaders and act like they are realizing them. While seeking power they often spell out goals that are at odds with their more inward goals, or that state them in language that obfuscates their true intent. This is the case with the 26 Point Program, less to a certain extent than other Fascist movements.
Authoritarian is ultimately Royalist
The Falange Party used the myth of royal and imperial Spain to build up the myth of Royal Spain as the end state of Fascist Spain. The Falange party merged with the Royalist "Carlists" in 1937 after Franco took over generalship of the movement because Fascism is ultimately about a return to the past. It goes beyond conservatism to reifying a glorious past, that usually never was. Franco would name the single party state the "Traditionalist Spanish Phalanx and of the Councils of the National Syndicalist Offensive" and make it the sole legal party of the Francoist State in Spain. Franco also purged any remaining "leftist" [code for pro-worker] factions of the Falange movement.
Militarism is part of Selling the Myths
Sorel had written:
““…..Men who are participating in a great social movement always picture their coming action as a battle in which their cause is certain to triumph. These constructions, knowledge of which is so important for historians,”
The myth of a grandiose mythic utopias of a glorious, now threatened past, a mythic future, is designed to get people dreaming. Amway style salesmen read "the power of positive thinking." It is all about constructing a potential future in ones' mind and then finding a way to make it reality. One can architect from the same bricks a cathedral or a prison. Unfortunately, those who build on faulty myths tend to create their own prisons. Sorel had seen the reality at the beginning of the 20th century:
“I propose to call myths; the syndicalist “general strike” and Marx’s catastrophic revolution are such myths. As remarkable examples of such myths, I have given those which were constructed by primitive Christianity, by the Reformation, by the Revolution and by the followers of Mazzini.”
Learning from Sorel
Sorel had put a psychological, sociological, pretty much scientific take on the architecturing of society and the myths that feed it. To Sorel these were historical forces:
“that we should not attempt to analyze such groups of images in the way that we analyze a thing into its elements, but that they must be taken as a whole, as historical forces, and that we should be especially careful not to make any comparison between accomplished fact and the picture people had formed for themselves before action.“
Myths motivate people whether they are achieved or not. There is a saying that we are "the wolf we feed." When the magicians who spin myths spin ugly myths, the results are ugly. When the results of a movement never quite measure up to the vision, scapegoats are found, lies are told, people are forced to continue believing "or else." That leads to Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism: STATE –INDIVIDUAL –LIBERTY
The Falanists were openly totalitarian. The Sixth Plank of their platform established them openly as a Totalitarian movement. They were:
- openly revolutionary,
- Openly Violently Militant, (Hence Falang (falange), Phalanx, which was an ancient Greek Military formation of armed men.
- The State they sought as “a totalitarian instrument to defend the integrity of the fatherland.”
Royalism and Totalitarianism
Later, under Franco, they would merge the Carlist (royalist) factions with their own, and purge any elements that took their more "leftist" promises seriously. That too is a feature of totalitarian movements. They rest their politics on the power of propaganda and self interest. Hannah Arendt (Pg 347 of Origins of Totalitarianism), they rest their ruthless "positivism" on the notion that:
“on the evaluation that [self] interest as an all-pervasive force in history”
Totalitarian movements assume, similarly to normal ideologies, that “objective laws of power can be discovered” and that such [self] “interest makes governments live or die“. This “pragmatic” view that Ironically fascist followers often identify their own interest with the rulers, and this means that once in power fascist movements are rarely pragmatic or utilitarian in practice. Most other political ideologies assume that self interest identifies with common interest. They expect movements and governments to be pragmatic and utilitarian, and to look out for the common good. Fascists on the contrary, as Hannah Arendt notes:
“It is precisely because the utilitarian core of [normal] ideologies was taken for granted, that the anti-utilitarian behavior of Totalitarian governments, their complete indifferance to mass interest has been a shock.” [Arendt]
The Falangist party believed that they could use propaganda, indoctrination, repetition and the practice of the "big lie" to change people's perception of self interest. To provide them with "alternative facts" [current events] To the authoritarian mindset, there is no need for “political parties,” and of “a Parliament of the type that is all too well known.” [platform #6]
To be Free, One has to be Not Free
All of the Fascist movements, not just the Falange, see strength and hierarchy as more important than personal freedom. When in an Army of a mob on the street, the fascist felt free because he was totally giving himself over to the movement and supporting his fearless leader. Plank item 7 states a fundamental tenant of all fascist movements:
“7. Human dignity, integrity, and freedom are eternal, intangible values. But one is not really free unless he is a part of a strong and free nation.”
They could hang a sign saying "work makes you free" over the gates of a work-camp because the unity, destiny and "fate" of the fatherland was paramount and the fascist was to give him or herself over to it. This was anti the professed notions of anarchists and libertarians, that self-interest was paramount. But for authoritarians, self interest is what authority tells them it is. Anarchists and troubled youths found a comradeship and family identity coupled with the oceanic feeling of putting one's own ego into the ocean of a mob. Thus it is that people professing notions of individualism or "liberty" get sucked in. Those who don't get involved in fascist movements for the same reason a pick pocket works the crowd. Their own self interest meant inventing the lies that sustain the movement, manipulating the people who form the rank and file. Even the true believer leaders among them had no qualms about profiteering, privateering and outright bribery and theft, because lying about it was in their self interest.
If the Will Doesn't Triumph, Raw Power will
Indeed much of the ruthlessness of fascism, lay in the need to try to convince people that what they were doing, would result one day, in a paradise to the benefit of all true believers, ruthless leaders and fathers. They also believed in Nietzche's "Triumph of the Will." They thought that if they fought hard enough, they could change the facts. At the very least they could force people into a severe delusion where they'd say what the party or its leader told them; "2+2=5". If they couldn't make 5 soldiers out of 2+2 they'd draft 6 people and kill one.
This is enough for this post.
Sources and Further reading
- The conscious misuse of Myth, Georges Sorel and Fascism
- Georges Sorel, the Power of Myth (Review)
- The conscious misuse of Myth, Georges Sorel and Fascism
- Georges Sorel, the Power of Myth (Review)
- http://holtesthoughts.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-life-of-garcia-lorca-and-fascist.html quotes taken in August 2018. I also have them in several of my books and from other webpages.
- Quote taken from book;
- "National Identities and Socio-Political Changes in Latin America" By Antonio Gomez-Moriana, Mercedes Duran-Cogan page 112