C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Conservatism and Fascism

The following has been taken from Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism:

Italian and German conservatives had not created Mussolini and Hitler, of course, though they had too often let their law breaking go unpunished. After the Fascists and the Nazis made themselves too important to ignore, by the somewhat different mixtures of electoral appeal and violent intimidation...the conservatives had to decide what to do with them.

In particular, conservative leaders had to decide whether to try to coopt fascism or force it back to the margins. One crucial decision was whether the police and the courts would compel the fascists to obey the law. German chancellor Brüning attempted to curb Nazi violence in 1931-32. He banned uniformed actions by the SA (Sturmabteilung, i.e. brownshirts - THR) on April 14, 1932. When Franz von Papen succeeded Brüning as chancellor in July 1932, however, he lifted the ban...and the Nazis, excited by the vindication, set off the most violent period in the whole 1930-1932 constitutional crisis. In Italy, although a few prefects tried to restrain Fascist lawlessness, the national leaders preferred, at crucial moments, as we already know, to try to "transform" Mussolini rather than to discipline him. Conservative national leaders in both countries decided that what the fascists had to offer outweighed the disadvantages of allowing these ruffians to capture public space from the Left by violence. The nationalist press and conservative leaders in both countries consistently applied a double standard to judging fascist and left-wing violence.


Conservative complicites in the fascism's arrival in power were of several types. First of all, there was complicity in fascist violence against the Left...Mussolini's squadristi would have been powerless with the closed eyes and even the outright aid of the Italian police and army. Another form of complicity was the gift of respectability...Alfred Hugenberg, Krupp executive of the party that competed with Hitler most directly, the German National Party (DNVP), alternately attacked the Nazi upstart and appeared at political rallies with him...But while Hugenberg helped make Hitler look more acceptable, his DNVP membership drained away to the more exciting Nazis.

We saw...that the Nazis received less direct financial help from business than many have assumed. Before the final deal that put Hitler in power, German big business greatly preferred a solid reassuring conservative...to the unknown Hitler with his crackpot economic advisors...[B]usiness contributions did not become a major resource for Hitler until after he attained power. Then, of course, the game changed. Businessmen contributed hugely to the new Nazi authorities and set about accommodating themselves to a regime that would reward many of them richly with armaments contracts, and all of them by breaking the back of organized labour in Germany. (pp. 99-100).

On the 'socialist' misnomer:

Fascists had also found a magic formula for weaning workers away from Marxism. Long after Marx asserted that the working class had no homeland, conservatives had been unable to find any way to refute him. None of their nineteenth-century nostrums - deference, religion, schooling - had worked. On the eve of WWI, the Action Française had enjoyed some success recruiting a few industrial workers to nationalism, and the unexpectedly wide acceptance by workers of their patriotic duty to fight for their homelands when WWI began foretold that in the twentieth century Nation was going to be stronger than Class.

Fascists everywhere have built on that revelation...As for the Nazi Party, its very name proclaimed that it was a workers' party...Mussolini expected to recruit his old socialist colleagues. Their results were not overwhelmingly successful. Every analysis of the social composition of the early fascist parties agrees: although some workers were attracted, their share of party membership was always well below their share in the general population. (p. 103).

Also, Wikipedia has some reasonable information about the Nazi's attempt to position themselves as a workers party that aimed to include the middle class, and which utterly rejected Marxism.

And whilst I haven't quoted the relevant passages at length, the final power grabs of both Hitler and Mussolini came courtesy of conservatives attempting to form coalitions. We can conclude that whilst conservative and fascism are not the same thing, neither has anything remotely to do with leftism, and leftism is not implicated in the rise to power of fascists in Italy and Germany.