by Timothy Lane 1/20/15
There have been 3 main totalitarian ideologies of the past century: communism, fascism/Nazism, and Islamism. Naturally, they have many similarities to each other, and also to the totalitarian form of liberalism that has increasingly replaced a credo named for a belief in freedom that its adherents no longer share.
The primary difference is in the motivation and organizing principle of each ideological form. Fascism is based on nation/ethnicity (the Nazi variant was virulently racist even by comparison to the normal racism and anti-Semitism prevalent in that era). Communism is based on social class. Note that the fascists were concerned about class issues (after all, they were founded by a former Socialist, Benito Mussolini, whose father had named him after Mexican native leader Benito Juarez), and the communists readily used nationalism when it was convenient for the defense of the state.
Islamists, of course, are inspired by the virulent aspects of their religion, Islam, though the related phenomenon of Arab nationalism has certainly relied on nationalist socialism. Islamism. outside of Iran (whose Shiah Muslims are different from the Sunnis of the Muslim Brotherhood), has so far yielded no government lasting long enough to demonstrate their real attitudes on race, nation, or class. One might note that fascism and communism were both anti-religious (though the Nazis had a modest sympathy for Islam with its propensity for militarism and violence.)
Liberalism can be considered a mongrelized totalitarianism, taking whatever it likes from each form and adapting to circumstances. I suspect that most liberal ideologues would prefer the Marxist vision of government-owned businesses, but they will (at least when necessary) accept the fascist variant of corporatism, in which the State and business form a partnership, with the state regulating in great detail and taxing heavily to create a welfare state. (I have no idea how accurate it was, but a short piece in an od Time capsule I used to have said that Fascist Italy gave newlyweds free blankets — but fewer for those with twin beds.)
There is another significant difference between fascism and communism (and even that tends to disappear in practice). Fascism relies on the unchecked rule of a Leader who becomes the center of a personality cult. Communism prefers the collective leadership of the party hierarchy, and its rejection of fascism and reaction to Stalin caused it to react negatively to personality cults (even though each new Leader tended to establish one). Liberalism clearly prefers the Leader Cult. Each new great liberal hope is invested with a degree of faith and treated as sacroscanct. This approach has reach its highest expression in the cult of Obama, which cannot be distinguished from the cults of Mussolini and Hitler — or Big Brother. Islamism has no such leader cult at present, though to some extent Mohammed plays that role (and can reasonably be compared in that respect to Big Brother’s role as the embodiment of IngSoc).
In essence, all totalitarian regimes feature worship of the State. Islamists do this by uniting Islam and the State; fascism, communism, and liberalism simply turn the State and Leader into their gods. Of course, when the State is also the religion (one way or another), national unity on behalf of the State, and thus the Leader (and Party or Church) that embodies it is also mandatory Fascists and Nazis called for such unity; so did Stalin (as Jonathan Brent of Yale learned in researching the Soviet files while they were available) and modern liberals are constantly calling for unity and opposing heterodoxy (especially on sexual issues, interestingly). This also leads to the State as the only legitimate institution above the individual; charity should only happen through state-controlled or state-sponsored enterprises (the Nazis were very good at this), and the family is of no importance (hence their celebration of children turning in their parents, as Parsons’s daughter did to him in 1984).
Finally, and perhaps related, we might note that communism has been far more willing in practice to rely on pure force to control the public (though still using a plentiful supply of propaganda), whereas fascism tends to prefer persuading the public to go along (while still maintaining an active secret police force for those they couldn’t persuade.) Note that even Nazi Germany had occasional public protests (such as against the euthanasia program in 1940) that actually succeeded (at least to some extent).
The crucial aspect of all forms of totalitarianism is that opposition is always very risky (though sometimes a mild dissent is tolerated). The executive (whether a single dictator or a politburo) issues orders on its sole authority, ruling through a party (NSDAP, Fascist, CPSU, IngSoc, Baathist, Muslim Brotherhood, etc.) which supplies the bureaucratic apparatchiks. And the government controls every aspect of life in the name of the people. The fascist and jihadist versions of totalitarianism also relied heavily on street mobs and other violent militias as a means of control. In this respect, the Obamist version of liberalism has its own obamathugs of Occupiers, SEIU goons, and other such mobs.
Liberalism lacks the militaristic nationalism that characterizes fascism, though it oddly does match their fondness for autarky (national self-sufficiency) due to the continuing (albeit declining) influence of private-industry unions. But it does share the fascist emphasis on the importance of race/ethnicity even as it also shares the communist emphasis on class. It thus can be considered a combination of both forms of totalitarian government. The economic structure resembles that of Fascism/Nazism, with a mixture of public ownership and private ownership dominated by large corporations in partnership with the government. Like both forms, liberalism is oriented toward the central government, maximizing its power relative to lower levels of government as well as non-government institutions.
The main links between liberalism and Islamism are emotional. They share a hostility toward Western civilization, especially Israel (its most hated source) and the United States (its greatest exemplar) as well as the values (freedom and Judeo-Christian morality/ethics) that formed its basis. Additionally, the liberal emphasis on reflexive support for those they consider underdogs in America (regardless of their situation elsewhere) causes them to support Islamism (particularly since they consider Muslims a racial minority group). It’s worthy of note that as long as ISIS was slaughtering Christians (and for that matter enslaving or killing non-supportive Muslims) few liberals cared what was happening. Only when they trapped and threatened to exterminate a small religious group (the Yazidis) did they become concerned.
One similarity they have with all these groups is a hostility to humor (especially satire) directed at them, and especially their Leader and their political views. Thus, in the past couple of years a number of people who mocked Obama have been punished, though at least they haven’t (yet) been murdered or forced into hiding, as has happened to those who mock Mohammed. Similarly, on the rare occasions when Saturday Night Live has tellingly parodied the Obama Gang, news organs such as CNN and the Washington Post have fact-checked them in a way they never bothered to do when Tina Fey satirized Sarah Palin as saying she could see Russia from her house (which many liberals even today think she really said). Readers of Isaac Asimov’s memoirs might similarly recall how angry he became at Al Capp when the cartoonist started mocking Phony Joanie and the Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything (SWINE) instead of General Bullmoose. One might note, interestingly, that Asimov would have had no problem with bring personally mocked; it’s interesting to observe cartoons mocking jihadists. Could it be that, like Asimov, they have no objection to being personally mocked as long as neither the Cause nor the Leader is attacked or mocked?
It’s also important to remember that the essence of totalitarian is total state/political control of all aspects of life. We see this today with the obsessive nanny state beloved of modern liberals. Again, much of this was foreshadowed by the Nazis and Fascists, and we see similar behavior (albeit for different reasons) by Islamists.
The classic fictional descriptions of totalitarianism are Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. One can see in liberalism many similarities to the former, especially the emphasis on casual sex from an early age (neither has any use for sexual innocence — sex without consequence and without emotional connections. Orwell’s dystopia was more hostile to sex — but it may be that IngSoc’s opposition was to the personal connections, not the sex per se. Winston Smith describes in his diary an encounter he once had with a prostitute. Would O’Brien have objected? We have no way of knowing.
Huxley envisioned a world of mass consumer goods, which clearly is not the liberal vision. The Orwellian world of scarcity (with the Inner Party faring much better than the Outer Party, who presumably fare better than the Proles — note the insulting term for the proletariat in whose behalf the Party claims to rule, an attitude that will be familiar to observers of modern liberalism). Orwell’s villains used perpetual war as a means of using up the resources that would otherwise go to mass consumer goods; modern liberals use environmentalism as an excuse for their jihad against consumerism.
And whether liberal goals more resemble the Huxley or Orwell variant, their methods clearly are extremely Orwellian. 1984 seems to be their guide — the pervasive security state, the use of doublethink (such as claiming that jihadis aren’t really Muslims — but if someone suggests treating them accordingly and wrapping them in pig carcasses before dumping them . . .) and other forms of Orwellian dishonesty (I’ve been citing examples of this for years in FOSFAX). Those who transgress on certain issues (such as homosexual “rights”) also feel the pain of the Thought Police, as do those accused of “hate crimes”, though so far without the brutal physical tortures — as far as we know.
Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine.
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