Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Fascism as an Alternative

As the list of its founding figures (Lewis, Pound, Heidegger) suggests, Kulchural Studies is an approach to the study of culture that does not eschew fascism a priori. It does of course notice brutality and tyranny when it happens. I would like to quote three statements outright endorsing fascism to underscore the point:

[F]or anglo-saxon countries as they are constituted today some modified form of fascism would probably be best. ... All the humbug of a democratic suffrage, all the imbecility that is so wastefully manufactured, will henceforth be spared this happy people. (Wyndham Lewis, "Fascism as an Alternative", TAoBR, p. 320, 321, 1926)*

USURY is the cancer of the world, which only the surgeon's knife of Fascism can cut out of the life of nations. (Ezra Pound, "What Is Money For?", SP, p. 270, 1939)

In particular, what is peddled about nowadays as the philosophy of National Socialism, but which has not the least to do with the inner truth and greatness of this movement, namely, the encounter between global technology and modern humanity, is fishing in these troubles waters of "values" and "totalities". (Martin Heidegger, "The Restriction of Being", IM, p. 152, 1935)

Okay, that will strike most of us as pretty distasteful stuff. And Kulchural Studies is not naive enough to take any of it straight. (Lewis must have been partly ironic. Pound's line is probably not quite as "coded" we immediately think, and yet obviously ready to be taken as such. Heidegger was probably not straightforwardly speaking his mind.) And yet KS insists that in order to understand our culture, we must grant that fascism indeed offers an alternative. It is within the realm of the possible. It is not nonsense. Liberals (always a bit too sentimental for this sort thing at the outset) should keep in mind that KS rejects mainly the idea that fascism is, at any particular point in history, unthinkable. Its aim is to keep it thinkable, if only long enough to consider alternatives to it as well. How many evils have been visited upon the world simply because people were unable to think clearly about them as possibilities?

Norman Mailer, who took Gide's "do not understand me too quickly" as a motto (as we do here as well), put it like this in the Prisoner of Sex (an exemplary work of kulchural study, I should emphasize):

Well, he had come to the conclusion a long time ago that all thought must not cease with Adolf Hitler, that if, in the course of living with a thought, it might appear to run parallel for a time to arguments Nazis had also been near, one should not therefore slam the books, close the inquiry, and cease to think in such direction any further. That would be equivalent to letting the dead Hitler set up barriers on all the intellectual roads which could yet prove interesting and so would be a curious revenge for that Nazism which had been not only a monstrosity and a nightmare, but had also for a few years conquered Europe from within, conquered it before the war, conquered it psychologically. (p. 181-2)

So there, then, is the complexity. We must, for a time, "live with a thought" that considers fascism as one ideology among a range of alternatives. One of the proposals on the table. If only because if we reject it in advance we will be unable to understand what is really going on.

One of the benefits of fascism, said Lewis, moreover, would be to do away with "all the boring and wasteful sham-sciences that have sprung up in support of the great pretences of democracy" (p. 322). KS wants to be an alternative to them too—to the cancerous imbecilities that are peddled about these days as interpretations of culture. It does not, however, propose to "do away" with them. That would be totalitarian.

*I should note that this "this happy people" actually refers to the Italians under Mussolini.

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