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U.C. Berkeley Class Paper
METHODS HOW TO UNDERSTAND REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTS
undergraduate at University of California, Berkeley
Leon Trotsky, in his book The Revolution Betrayed (1937), wrote “Stalinism and Fascism, in spite of a deep difference in social foundations, are symmetrical phenomena. In many of their features they show a deadly similarity.” Without knowing the context of the statement, if the foundations are to relate to the social thought as the “deep” foundation between Stalinism and Fascism, then the Soviet Union’s promulgation of the Marxist ideology differed from the Fascist rejection of Marxist ideology. However, Trotsky makes a specific use of the phrase “in spite.” What Trotsky may imply was that Stalinism and Fascism were similar political systems despite the promulgation of different social foundational ideologies.
If the social foundational differences between Stalinism and Fascism differ by the Soviet Union’s acceptance of Marxism, then “laws restricting the ownership of private property, for example, in the Soviet Union are warranted by appeals to doctrinal notion about the nature of capitalism, property ownership, and class antagonisms.” Professor A. James Gregor has pointed out the only real difference in these two political systems were in these “ideological systems” of their “legislation,” in regards to the market and private ownership.
As “symmetrical phenomenon,” Trotsky described an observed process of a mass-mobilizing developmental dictatorship. Invariably, these processes exemplify observed similarities to the rise of Fascist Italy. Professor Gregor has stressed over the course of the semester that the origins of these processes lay in the peculiarity of the twentieth century. A need to quickly industrialize, as a potential or real fear of a state being economically or physically dominated by advanced industrial states, created such “phenomenon.” The United States of America or Britain took over a century in their industrialization period. Whereas, in the twentieth century, under developed nation-states sought to industrialize within decades. At such a pace, the observable phenomena of what is generally and minimally described as characteristic of totalitarianism were the result of this quick pace to industrialize. It is under these observations, as suggested, that Trotsky had eluded too in his quote; the similarities between Fascism and Stalinism resulted in the phenomena.
What appear to be similar between Stalinism and Fascism were the distinctive characteristics of a nation-state wanting to industrialize. If these were these cases, does this affect the social foundations of people’s lives? “Fascism arises in an environment in an under developed system.” This is described by Gregor in his paradigmatic Fascism’s argument. In societies of this period that sought to industrialize, there is a need for sacrifice, a type of forced social effort usually addressed as an ideology of volunteerism of the individual to the state. There is typically a reactive nationalism, which assumes symbolic or real masculine protests, a sense of national mission, be it archaism, or as with Stalin’s main confession, that the capitalist west were about to invade Russia. As reactive nationalism, “‘Soviet patriotism’ provided the focus for collective sacrifice and obedience […].” In Stalinism the goal to industrialize affected all aspects of society, even the social foundations if we speak of the social foundations in a sense of people’s lives.
Gregor had argued that “one cannot make socialism in less advance capitalist countries.” Gregor had discussed in lecture that Stalinist Russia was a “Quasi-Fascist state.” By 1924, Gregor intends, we could begin to make comparative distinctions between Fascism and Stalinism. In 1924, Stalin had abandoned the emphasis of the Bolshevik’s party platform for international revolution and changed this policy to "Socialism in One Country," which in all conceptions can be described as centralizing of political power in order to industrialize, and in a nationalistic sense – and as opposed to Trotsky’s conception of permanent revolution. “As early as 1924, Otto Bauer recognized that in the Soviet Union Lenin’s Bolshevism had become a ‘dictatorship of a governing caste set above all classes in society, just like [Italian] Fascism.’” As original concept, the Bolsheviks relied on an ideology of a classless and decentralized society. When Stalin took control, “the country went in a totally different revolutionary direction; they went to a type of fascism, a binding of community, sacrifice, volunteerism.”
Gregor had stressed over the course of the semester, in lecture, that in order for a country to modernize (industrialize), a country needed to create capital. In order to understand how this was achieved, a country either needed to have foreigners invest capital or use cheap labor or free labor to create capital. This ultimately changes the role of the social foundation in any nation-state. As "Socialism in One Country," Stalin had used the majority of citizens to create capital, by forcing them to work for cheap or for free. The state would provide only “subsistence,” such as basic housing, foodstuff, and basic amenities to sustain them during the process. As concept, there was no free-market economy allowed. Life was hard when a nation-state is in the process of industrializing and it affected the social foundation of people’s lives.
Another similarity would be the role of a single leader who takes control of all aspects of the nation-state, ultimately affecting the social foundation of people’s lives. Stalin reformed the social foundations by collectivization of agriculture. Under Stalinism, one could live on a property, and call it their property, but they did not own the property. If they engaged in illegal free market activities, they could lose their right to live on a property. This could help explain the statistic that “Stalin controlled ninety-five percent of the economy.” This statistic could also explain the social foundations were directly tied to the economic and political policies of Soviet Russia -- which relied on the people’s commitment to the state. Yet this commitment is comparable to Fascism. As Gregor intends, “other than nationalization of certain industries, private property was allowed, but property rights and private initiative were contingent upon service to the state.” “By 1926 Mussolini […] was prepared to extend his controls over the entire economy.” As second phase of Mussolini’s economic plan, an “autarchic economic system” sought to develop “key industries of the peninsula […]” which this policy was “conjoined with a modernization of the agriculture sectors." This became a long strategy for “international political independence.” If social foundations were contingent upon the service of an individual to the state, the comparables Trotsky claimed are not convincing. This could explain why the single imperative idea of “social organization” to which “all else is subordinated,” Mussolini maintained, was the maximization of the interests of the nation. We may envision Stalin claiming the same imperative.
Would Trotsky have observed that Mussolini had decided to take control of the Italian economy severely affecting the social foundations? “Over a span of a decade, Stalinism created institutions to govern “Marxist” Russia that bore impressive similarities to those fashioned by Fascism to govern Italy.” It could even be argued that intellectual arguments for the social foundations that move away from Classical Marxism had begun before Stalin assent to power. Lenin had tweaked Marxism to a revolutionary dictatorship, because it was made on the back of peasants. As recognition, “Both Leon Trotsky and Evgeni Preobrazhenski recognized that peasants and proletarians alike would have to submit to state authority as part of the program of “primitive socialist accumulation. The state would extract “surpluses” from both peasants and workers in order to fuel capital expansion and industrialization.” Clearly this thought of “submit” implies some type of force, and can be directly tied to the later observable symmetrical (political) phenomena. All these concepts had their consequences.
If one did not socially conform to Stalinism, they could be forced into labor camps or be punished a variety of ways. If one did not conform in Fascist Italy, one could be incarcerated. It would be hard to argue that living in either Stalinism or Fascism would be preferable to living under contemporary social foundations of some liberal democracies. Trotsky’s assessment of the deep difference in social foundations remains unconvincing. While non-ownership of property, non-ownership of the modes of production and the absent of a free market can be differentiated, only relatively, the social foundations of citizen’s role to the state under Stalinism appear similar to Fascism. Both political programs affected all aspect of people’s lives, in social, economic and political categories. Both appeared as antidemocratic, contingent upon ones service to the state, with an emphasis on sacrifice to nationalistic goals. To Trotsky, both contained the deadly similarity. The symmetrical phenomena appear similar to antidemocratic mass-mobilizing developmental dictatorships that made the twentieth century unique in revolutionary movements.
Gregor intends, “Fascism was the first, and remains perhaps the only, fully matured ideological rational for the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century.” As concept, we can suggest a classification of properties of the term “totalitarianism” as a “genus” if we chose to classify a set of “political phenomena unique to the twentieth century” by using a taxonomy. “Those properties include charismatic leadership, unitary parties, anti-democratic formal ideologies, messianic goals, orchestrated participation, as well as disciplined control of the economy and of pubic information.” As taxonomic suggestion, these minimal complex-traits can been classified as a “genus” to a political phenomena that we can then classify under “species” – such as Italian Fascism, National Socialism, Mao’s China, and Stalinism; all of which share traits of exhibiting a “crisis,” “modernizing,” or as “developmental regimes” to totalitarianism. These “species” all differentiate in some form. As example, Hitler’s Germany differed in its unique theory of biological determinism, predicated upon an ideology of Nordic superiority.
If we are going to employ generic fascism responsibly, we must use paradigmatic Fascism and treat it as critical criteria. As generic fascism, we can suggest a classification of properties of the term as a paradigmatic reactive and national rehabilitation, through a revolutionary movement that “conceives themselves as being oppressed by international ‘plutocracy,’ or ‘imperialism,’ and are prepared to embark on a program of forced economic growth and industrialization in the effort to find collective ‘fulfillment.’” It has characteristics of nondemocratic, mass-mobilizing developmental program, usually in a form of an articulated ideology, autarchic, archaistic, militant, irredentist, all with an emphasis to restore “national dignity.”
In Gregor’s book, The Search for NeoFascism: The Use and Abuse of Social Science (2006), the professor stresses the amount of abuse associated with the term neofascism. Neofascism has been defined with violence, mass-murder, sexism, racism, irrationally, and aggressiveness. As abuse, neofascism has been the preferred term to degenerate individuals, groups and institutions. Two examples of the many Gregor brings to discussion in his book are Jihadism, labeled as Islamofascism, and Hindutva labeled as neofascism.
Is it correct to use the term IslamoFascism? Gregor narrates a brief history of the rise of Jihadist, salafist Muslim movements, concluding that “Jihadism” does not share enough critical criteria to associate it with generic fascism. While some common traits do appear, major differences distinguish these movements from paradigmatic Fascism. One difference is that there does not seem to be articulated texts for a modernizing effort the Middle East. Unlike paradigmatic fascism, there is no formal ideology or doctrine of industrialization. Yet, as a general similarity, “for fundamentalist Islam, there is one God, one truth, one leader one ummab, one party, and one purpose,” which implies a fundamental antidemocratic and some totalitarian characteristics. However, as fundamental, Gregor differentiates the anti-Semitism to Jihadism from that of Fascism and Stalinists by arguing it “served tactical purposes” in Fascism and Stalinism, anti-Semitism was not “essential to doctrine.”
A characteristic of Jihadism is archaism. It has a peculiar form. Hasan al-Banna (1906-49) who founded the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (March 1928) spoke about restoring the “glory of Islam,” a direct result of feelings of “status or dignity,” felt by members as a reaction to “humiliation and restriction” at the hands of foreigners who had controlled the economy within traditional Muslim lands. In common with generic fascism, its members were to commit to sacrifice, obedience – but in the Muslim Brotherhood’s sense “in the service of Islam,” and be “prepared to respond to the call for Jihad” to establish an Islamic state While Fascists employed political violence, the commonalities are not unique to any particular revolutionary movement, in history. Most revolutionary movements in history have employed some “level” of violence. Furthermore, Al-Banna also sought to reestablish “a truly Islamic state, restore the caliphate, redeem the Muslim ummah, and reanimate the community of believers.” Similarly, Abd al-Wahhab sought to restore Islam to its “original purity of faith” and argued that Muslims were experiencing their problems because they had abandoned the “true” faith. He had “advocated a puritanical, militant, and uncompromising faith.”
While some commonalities appear to be shared between the “genus,” the “generic fascism,” and Jihadism, a unique distinction should be noted. The call for Jihadims does not appear to be region or state specific. It applies almost universally, to all regions of the world. While paradigmatic Fascism applies specifically to the borders of Italy, the ideas of nationalism are not employed by the Jihadis. While irredentism could be argued in some format, there appears no way to gauge the geography spoken about in Jihadims. There are no defined boarders and the world seems to be the ultimate goal in mind.
While Sayyid Abdul A’al Mawdudi (1903-79) advocated the vast mobilization of Muslims in South Asia, by developing “the salafist core of Islam,” the Iranian Islamist Revolution resulted in an effort to return Shi’a Islam back to the “original political vision of the Prophet.” In this sense, the comparables between the mass mobilizing developmental dictatorship did not fit into the generic fascism’s critical criteria. While some qualified criteria appear similarly in Jihadism, main criteria do not exist. It is not correct to use the word Islamofascism, it is an abusive term.
Hindutva, “the rational for the rebirth of India,” can it be associated with the term “neofascism?” The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, National People’s Party), created in 1980, shares commonalties and distinctions with paradigmatic Fascism. The commonalities in which generic fascism appear are its “reaction” to the plutocrat domination of British Rule within the first decades of the twentieth century, which began a “long ideological tradition.” As reactionary nationalism, the BJP expresses “extreme sensitivity to any perceived affront to personal and collective honor,” a result of foreign occupation, and memories of centuries of foreign invasions, collective humiliation led to “a formal ideology.” Three intellectual figures, Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966), Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940), and Madhav Sadishiv Golwalker (1906-73) articulated nationalistic programs, expressed through texts and writings as an ideology adopted by the BJP. Common traits between BJP and the and generic fascism are the mass-mobilizing developmental programs, such as militarization, and as industrialization; and as one of BJP affiliates the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in which the BJP originally emerged, The BJP has a large labor organization, and it argues for unity for its members, discipline in a work ethic context, and is an arm for a comprehensive educational system. “There is a repeated injunction that the community systematically pursues strength, manhood, virility, courage and accomplishments.” Finally, another trait shared with generic fascism is “corporatism.”
Opponents have tried to link the RSS and the BJP to contain similarly traits of NAZI biological racism, its “violent predispositions,” and spoke of it as generic fascism. Because of Mussolini’s devolution into Anti-Semitism with his partnership with Hitler, Anti-Semitism made Fascist Italy complicit with National Socialist doctrinal racism. In the founding BJP literature, the discussions on racism were not conditional to nationalism, such as forms of distinguishing inferiority identification to the many different racial groups in India or discussion of biological racism. Some critiques of Hindu Nationalism label the Hindutva movement with similarities “to the Nazi idea of pure race.” Literature and speeches, particularly Savarkar’s 1937 presidential address, appears to speak on tolerance to all different races, “to be treated with perfect equality […] and equal rights of free citizens” within the country. All racial groups have invitations to join the BJP and be a part of equal representation to BJP’s values as long as they do not “undermine the integrity of the nation […].” While Gregor argues that some nationalist’s beliefs can be racist, “nationalists are not necessarily racist.”  Another distinction apart from generic fascism is if revolutionary violence. As Gregor intends, “Nowhere in Hindu Nationalist literature” do they advocate revolutionary violence.  Along with the BJP’s underlying national agenda of military strength, irredentism does not appear to be part of the program.
Opponents have tried to levy a charge that the BJP is fascism because of its antidemocratic program. However, The Party advocates establishing a democratic government. The BJP remains commitment to “India’s constitutional prescriptions.” “All things considered,” Gregor argues, “the general arguments invoked to sustain the identification of the BJP as “fascist” are not particularly persuasive.” There are not enough critical criteria to associate Hindu nationalism with generic fascism. Therefore the label of neofascism is an abuse of a term.
written December 14, 2007.
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