CORRESPONDENCE ON FASCISM AND ANTI-FASCISM
[an STO member] and Noel Ignatin
Urgent Tasks No. 14/Fascism in the U.S.?
Noel Ignatin's "Comments" regarding the Theses on Fascism in Urgent Tasks Number 13 were generally helpful. However, in my opinion, in his few brief remarks about anti-Semitism, his analysis is headed in the wrong direction. I believe he misplaces the role of anti-Semitism in Nazi ideology, and to the extent he makes an estimate of likely events in the United States he is also wrong.
Before I begin my argument, I would like to state an assumption that might otherwise go unstated. I assume that the fascists, and in particular the Nazis, have an ideology that is of major consequence to their organizing efforts. That is not to say that they don't argue amongst themselves about this or that political position, or that they don't on occasion make changes in their general "stance." In this regard they are not too different from Marxists. I do believe that the various descriptions of the fascist movement as a movement without an ideology, primarily by bourgeois commentators, are wrong. Therefore I assume that a discussion of fascist ideology is, or should be, of concern to Marxists and other anti-fascists.
It is more than coincidence that the Nazi variant of fascism has been adopted and adapted by the fascist movement in the U.S. Nazism, more than Italian, Spanish, or Bulgarian fascism, places race politics at its core. In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote, "The racial question gives the key not only to world history, but to all human culture. . . . " This theme was sounded again and again by the Nazis. In a speech before German lawyers, Helmut Nicolai, the man in charge of drafting Nazi legislation, said, "When we utter the word 'race' we are sounding the leitmotiv of National Socialism and of the National Socialist state." [Quoted in Davidowicz, The War Against the Jews.] The volkist state, lebensraum, etc. were all terms with definitions based on race. The Nazis understand history as a biological struggle and social problems as the result of unhygienic races. Our new Nazis even differentiate among white people on the basis of "racial health," and they have developed a theory of the "degenerate white." In The Turner Diaries, the widely distributed Nazi-Klan strategy novel, it is the whites who are hanged publicly as "race defilers" and "race betrayers." This is done as part of the process of "cleansing" the white race, as well as part of the process of political terror that is part of fascist politics. Remember that Zyklon B, the gas used as a mass killer by the Nazis, was perfected first in its use on Germans from mental institutions.
The anti-Semitism of the Nazis, both the old German ones in black shirts and the new American ones in white sheets, is a determining part of their overall racist world-view.
Noel says, "Conditions in Germany and elsewhere were such that fascism could only come to power in coalition with a sector of the bourgeoisie. In that fact lies the explanation for the vital role of anti-Semitism in the fascist ideology. . . . Anti-Semitism serves the same purpose here that it did in Germany. . . . To the extent that fascism establishes its independence from the bourgeoisie as a whole, to that extent it will diminish in importance . . . although since it has developed a life of its own, it may well continue. ..."
It wasn't finally decided that the Nazis needed a sector of the bourgeoisie until either right before or right after they came to power. While there may be some dispute about the exact date of their decision, there can be no dispute about the fact that anti-Semitism had played a central role in the movement from its earliest days. Anti-Semitism had a much lower NSDAP card number than Hitler's first industrialist recruit. Even that faction of the Nazis which was most "independent of the bourgeoisie as a whole," the Strasserites, understood and believed in the determinant character of anti-Semitism. This item is of more than just historical concern. The British National Front, one of the factions to emerge from the split among British fascists a few years back, is "Strasserite." In fact, other British fascists are busy attacking the NF for preaching "class war." The NF faction's "independence" has not made it any less anti-Semitic.
It is true, as Noel states, that anti-Semitism was a central ingredient in German nationalism, although my own understanding is that this had more to do with Napoleon and France emancipating European Jewry with their conquering armies, and less to do with the role of Jewish capital, as in Poland. This "mass" anti- Semitism was a fertile field for the Nazis. However, the Nazis translated this pillar of German nationalism into their own pillar of Aryan internationalism.
In the United States, anti-Semitism has played virtually no part in the formation of the nation, nationalism, and the nation-state. Racism towards people of color, on the other hand, has been central. However, our Nazis have married U.S. white racism to Aryan internationalism in something of the same fashion as the German Nazis. Indeed, the subtitle for Don Black's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan White Patriot paper is "World-Wide Voice of the Aryan People." The National Alliance, a significant neo-Nazi formation, believes the Soviet Union deserves favorable coverage based on Stalin making a transition from "Jewish-Bolshevism" to "Russian [read "white" — author] nationalism." It was on just such a racial basis that the National Alliance backed Gen. Jaruzelski in Poland against Solidarity and its "Jewish advisors." There are many other examples, each instructive of one aspect or another of the Klan-Nazi world-view. Nazi anti-Semitism, both now and historically, is the result of the Nazi racial-biological determinist ideology. Jews are regarded as destroyers and corrupters of the Aryan people. Jewish capital is regarded as one front of the Jewish attack, the other being Jewish Bolshevism. It is quite possible to find most or even all of the capitalists under attack by the Nazis ("the entire bourgeoisie") and still find the Nazis regarding their struggle as anti-Semitic. Capital and capitalism are simply regarded as Jewish creations and clearly non-Jewish capitalists are regarded as their pawns. It is not only possible but necessary — for the Nazis' anti-capitalism, like everything else, is a function of their racialism. In this case the racialism means anti-Semitism. My logical inference is that the Nazis' revolutionary anti-capitalism stems from their anti-Semitism. Noel argues that the reverse is true, that the greater the anti-capitalism the less the anti-Semitism.
During the Middle Ages, anti-Semitism existed as a mix of theological pap and folk myths. I believe Hannah Arendt quite ably demonstrates the transition of religious anti-Semitism into political anti-Semitism at the end of the 19th century. The Nazis, as I have argued above, took this political anti-Semitism and made it, like every other political phenomenon, a racial anti-Semitism.
But doesn't my whole analysis collapse under the fact that European and European-descended Jews are white? Isn't it possible that in this country, where the central dynamic involves the conflict between white people and people of color, the fascists will drop their anti-Semitism? Some may argue that even if one accepts my analysis of the biological determinist character of Nazi ideology, anti-Semitism is not an inherently necessary part of that ideology. Some may argue that it is not necessary to defend Noel's thesis on the role of anti-Semitism in Germany in order to criticize my position: Simply put, Jews are white, and if we want to understand the Nazis, we have to look beyond what they are actually saying.
I have never argued that the Nazis are correct. I have only argued what they are likely to think and do, based on what they think and do.
By any strictly biological definition, the Jewish people do not constitute a race. There are light-skinned Jews and dark-skinned Jews. There are European and Asiatic, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. Even among the light-skinned Jews of Europe, their blood serology closely resembles that of their neighboring populations. A random sampling of Jews living in New York City at the turn of the century showed a great diversity in the cephalic index, the most common fable for Jewish identification. [Survey found in Abram, The Jewish Question.] In Race by John R. Baker, a book published by Oxford University Press and distributed by a number of the neo-Nazi and Klan organizations, the author concludes after a "scientific" consideration of Jewish taxonomy that Jews are not a race. Similarly, Wilmot Robertson, a leading fascist theoretician, begins his discussion of the Jewish people in The Dispossessed Majority by stating that by any strictly racial criteria, Jews are an unassimilable European minority.
Any correct identification of the Jewish people or individuals should be based on some social category, i.e., religious, ethnic, national, etc. But it is the hallmark of fascist ideology to translate social categories of modern capitalism into biological categories.
National Alliance member William Simpson, in his book Which Way Western Man?, after recognizing some of the arguments stated above, concludes quite the contrary: ". . . the Jews are not only a religious community but, even before Israel was launched in Palestine and when they possessed no homeland of their own, nevertheless did in fact constitute a nation and a race. To meet the recognized realities of genetics and of history, as well as for all practical purposes, there seems to be no other acceptable answer." In other words, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and smells like a duck, it must be a duck. This is the essence of the fascist position on race and the Jewish people. Scientific veracity is no clue to fascist reality. Henry Ford said more than 50 years ago that all the Jews had to do to prove that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a Czarist forgery was to stop acting as if they were true.
But the fact that the Nazis have transformed social and biological categories should surprise no one familiar with the pages of this magazine. In the U.S race is not a biological category but a social one. This is clearly seen in the case of the relationship between white people and Black people. (Anyone interested should read almost any of the myriad writings published by STO on white supremacy.)
As an aside, I believe it is this point of intersection between bourgeois and fascist ideology which provides the most explosive potential for the fascists. For example, it is but a short step from the bourgeois identity of crime with Black people to the fascist identification of crime with uneugenic races. The difference, of course, is that the fascists don't call for a social solution like prisons, they want a genetic solution — genocide. I believe that an investigation of the relationship between fascism and capitalism conducted along these lines will prove to be much more useful than the usual vulgar Marxist nonsense about "finance capital," etc.
Although there is not yet a mass anti-Semitic movement in the U.S., there is a large potential for one. Father Coughlin and the rest of the band of anti-Semites from the 1930s had millions of followers. The Nazis and Klans have already been able to add a special anti-Jewish twist to their understanding of Black people. All of the traditional Jewish conspiracy theories are busily being dusted off and tried on for size. In addition, new and innovative anti-Jewish politics are being developed. Christian patriotism and survivalism, which are fast approaching mass proportions, all contain anti-Semitic principles as part of their basic premises. A discussion of the outlines of this current anti-Semitic attack is beyond this letter. Suffice it to say that I believe the success of the anti-Semitic enterprise lies with the success of the fascist enterprise as a whole. I don't believe any of us would be devoting this much time and resources to a discussion of fascism and anti-fascism if the times did not demand it.
[The author of the above piece] demonstrates that anti-Semitism was and remains a crucial element of the Nazi world outlook and program. His point is indisputable: fortunately for my argument, it is not the point at issue between us, which is an estimate of the likely part to be played by anti-Semitism in the development of a fascist movement in the United States.
[The author’s] argument assumes the impossibility of the emergence among the fascists of a racialist ideology which does not lay great stress on anti-Semitism. What is the basis for this assumption? According to [the author], it is the historically determined ideology of Nazism, which gives a central place to anti-Semitism. The argument is circular.
The "Aryan" supremacy claims made by certain voices of fascism notwithstanding, fascists here will be forced to play down this element of their ideology if they hope to attract support among U.S. workers of Slavic and Mediterranean extraction. Can they similarly modify their attitude towards Jews — not necessarily dropping their anti-Semitism entirely, merely dropping it as an important mobilizing myth? In my article I cited one condition that would lead the fascists to do so: the achievement on their part of a relatively great deal of independence from the bourgeoisie as a whole, thereby eliminating the need for a mythical ruling class to substitute for the real one as a target for their attacks. Here I add a second condition: the diminution, among U.S. Jews, of the democratic and humanitarian sentiments that have traditionally distinguished them among the white population. Signs of this unfortunate assimilation of prevailing attitudes began to appear with the rise of the "crime in the streets" hysteria; its extent has recently been starkly revealed in the nearly unanimous support given by organized Jewry to Israel's latest atrocities in the Middle East.