Thursday, August 14, 2008

Resisting Fascism


You seem to disparage an interest in a war Paxton (in The Anatomy of Fascism) implies was in some way formative for Argentina – and perhaps inuring against Fascism . . . although I don’t think I understand Paxton on this point. Perhaps he is saying that because Europe had no disillusioning wars like the U.S. and the four nations of the Triple Alliance had, it was more open to an idealized Fascism, but was not Argentina open to the neo-Fascism of Peron?

There have been historians and sociologists who argue that one must understand our Civil War to understand us. Winston Churchill referred to the common belief before WWII that the U.S. would not be up to helping and said something like “but I studied your Civil War and knew that you were.”

And then there is a sense in which our national myths and legends influence our present behavior as nations. Are, for example, Germany and Japan as pacifistic as they advertise themselves to be? Or is their pacifism only skin deep? Their warlike histories and traditions cause their neighbors to doubt the sincerity of their pacifism – just as Churchill doubted our seeming military ineptitude prior to WWII.

During the Cold War I read a lot of Russian history, novels & poetry which convinced me the Russians loved their country and would do nothing to risk getting it bombed. Perhaps Trotskyites could be disengaged from a particular nation, but not the ordinary Russians or the Communists of the Stalinist era.

I believe we are influenced by our myths and traditions, but I haven’t been able to get a satisfactory handle on them. And we have so many. Walter Russell Mead in Special Providence, American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World, describes four major traditions that influence modern American foreign policy: Hamiltonianism, Wilsonianism, Jeffersonianism and Jacksonianism. But while these traditions undoubtedly exist and are still exerting influence it is hard to place oneself in just one tradition. Perhaps the Hamiltonians are the cynical industrialists who are pulling as many strings as they can for their corporations and for the success of the American economy, but their numbers have never been large. The Jacksonians are the red-necked fighters, but they need to be talked into a war – perhaps by the Hamiltonians who have financial interests needing protected, and during the present period, perhaps, by the Neocon Wilsonians wanting to spread the glories of democracy. The Jeffersonians are the legalists concerned about laws and rights. They are bent on slowing the Wilsonians and Hamiltonians down.

I’ve been interested in the Vichy period and the aftermath in France. They weren’t quite Fascistic during the Vichy period, but there were plenty of people in France who would have liked to ally themselves to the sure-to-be-victorious Germans. There have been jokes made about all the French who after WWII claimed to be in the resistance. The actual number was infinitesimal and their damage to the Germans inconsequential. How has the guilt of the Vichy period influenced modern France? This was no Civil War that they survived and were made stronger by. This was a period many lie about or feel shame about. They have only recently begun writing about it with frankness. Many still don’t want to talk about that period any more than Germans want to talk about their devotion to their Fuhrer or the Japanese want to talk about their militaristic Bushido. None of us are what we seem. We are all to a very large extent what we were.

Lawrence Helm

No comments: