Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to Deconstruction

By Norman F. Cantor | Go to book overview
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5
Traditions on the Right

The American Right Today

A major threat to the visibility and durability of Western Marxism was the Stalinist terror that threatened the moral credibility of the left wing spectrum from the mid-thirties to the late fifties. Yet Western Marxism survived triumphantly the threat of ethical and emotional association with the discredited Stalinist legacy, achieved a popular revival in the sixties, and in the late seventies and eighties attained an unprecedented penetration of the more respectable academic circles.

The destiny of the right in the twentieth century Western world contrasts sharply with this beneficent course of Marxist development. The right suffered a devastating and near-mortal blow in the forties due to the militarist and genocidal conduct of the German Nazi dictatorship and similar terrorist behavior by other Fascist countries. The Holocaust of the Jews placed an irrevocable human stigma and divine damnation on the Fascist movements of the thirties and forties and dispatched into social and cultural oblivion a large part of the rightist program of the twenties and thirties.

The millions that died or suffered terribly at the hands of the Stalinist regime presented only momentarily an uncomfortable issue for Western Marxism-- these devastations were after all, it was claimed and widely accepted, the product of an Eastern aberration for which Western Marxists were in no way responsible. On the other hand, the fifty million people, about half of them civilians, who died in the Second World War, were universally seen as the victims of Fascism, whose seedbed was held to be the rightist ideology of the early twentieth century. Hitler in reference to the right was seen by many people not as an aberration like Stalin on the left but as a polar extrapolation for whom rightist culture was responsible.

Hence a large part of the rightist program of the first four decades of the twentieth century was condemned to death with Hitler in the ashes of his bunker in devastated Berlin of April 1945. The expiation and penance that rightist culture had to undertake in the three following decades in consequence of association with and responsibilty for Fascist terror and holocaust obliterated several cardinal tenets of right-wing doctrine and fundamentally modified others. These were: racism and biological hierarchy among peoples, expiated by unprecedented social and political egalitarianism and negation of white and Western superiority; the end of Western colonialism and the independence of the Third World; a major diminution of anti-Semitism, the social and

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