Fascism Fantasies

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 29, 2005 | Go to article overview

Fascism Fantasies


Byline: Arnold Beichman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The eminent arrival of fascism is a favorite theme of American political scientists. Some even believe It Has Already Happened Here.

I don't know what will happen Sept. 3 at the American Political Science Association Panel 3 under the theme "Is It Time to Call It Fascism?" But I would like to help Professor Dvora Yanow of California State University, Hayward, the panel chairman answer the panel's question: "Is there a theoretical-definitional grounding to make a claim for the present U.S. administration as fascist, and is it useful, critically, to use that language at this point in time?"

First, fascism had its academic theoreticians but in fact fascism, as a concept, has no intellectual basis nor did its founders even pretend to have any. Adolf Hitler's ravings in "Mein Kampf," Giovanni Gentile's hortatory article in the Italian Encyclopedia, Benito Mussolini's boastful balcony speeches, all can be described, in the words of Roger Scruton, as "an amalgam of disparate conceptions." It is about this "amalgam" that Professor Henry Ashby Turner Jr. has written:

"Anyone who reads many studies of fascism as a multinational problem cannot but be struck by the frequency with which writers who begin by assuming they are dealing with a unitary phenomenon end up with several more or less discrete subcategories. Regardless of what criteria are applied, it seems very difficult to keep fascism from fragmenting.

"In spite of this, there has been a general reluctance to consider what must be regarded as a definite possibility: namely, that fascism as a generic concept has no validity and is without value for serious analytical purposes. ... The generic term fascism is in origin neither analytical nor descriptive."

The Russian extremist politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky (whatever became of to him?) was called a "fascist." But as Professor James Gregor wrote: "In what sense Zhirinovsky is a fascist is difficult to say with any intellectual conviction."

Yet "fascism" still has meaning in democratic societies as seen in the fracas a few years ago over Austria's Joerg Haidar.

Labeling someone you dislike a "fascist" is still a popular polemical sport: Call someone a communist and proof is demanded. …

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