Morris Richards: Post-Mortem on Fascism
One thing is certain: the phenomenon represented by Hitler is not a mischance which, once overcome, will not return in some other form. It is a consequence of mistakes which humanity has made, and if they are made again there will come a new edition of Hitlerism or Fascism, involving the same perils and the same sufferings. Hence the urgency, as it seems to me, of the comprehensive study of this problem. – Serge Chakotin (The Rape of the Masses)
I. The Further Task
The military defeat of fascism is the end of a task. There are those who feel it is also the start of one. From many and diverse sources the view is expressed that a further endeavour – perhaps, in its way, equally vast – must be readily taken up if the sacrifices of millions are to be in any way vindicated.
That endeavour, stated simply, is to so enrich and extend democracy that it can cope effectively with the great problems of our age.
This feeling is, no doubt, given added strength by the fear that failure would expose us to a rebirth of fascism. Many think this possible – either externally, through those fascists who went “underground” following Allied occupation – or internally, among the victorious nations themselves.
One notes that those who hold such opinions often claim in justification that both men and nations of democracy – even those who were to play vital roles in the Allied victory – contributed, in varying degrees, to the establishment of the ideology which was to threaten their very being.
It seems generally agreed this is true, though each section of democratic society seeks, it seems, to shift responsibility on to some other section. Thus the left (through, for example, such media as the “Guilty Men” and “Your M.P.” series), declares right wing politicians helped fascism, and that fascism is the logical outcome of private enterprise; conversely, the right accuses the left of providing converts to fascism, and of having totalitarian aims. As George Orwell pointed out recently (Tribune 44), nearly every political sect in democracy has accused all the others of being fascist. In the international field, it is well known that both Russia and the Western Democracies have been termed fascist by their respective critics.
When so many people disagree so radically, wherein lies the truth? – to some degree, possibly, in each. There is evidence of both left and right having praised fascism, and having been the source of members for it. Mosley, we recall, was able to declare :
In all countries, Fascism has been led by men who came from the “Left,” and the rank and file has combined the Conservative and patriotic elements of the nation with ex-Socialists, ex-Communists and revolutionaries. (Greater Britain 15).
Professor Flugel writes in his Men, Morals and Society (297): “Fascist society in particular (as exemplified in modern Germany) though in the main it, is distinctly reactionary and conservative, nevertheless has some characteristics rather of the revolutionary ‘left ‘.”
It may, in truth, be said that our present form of democracy was to a marked extent responsible for fascism: responsible, moreover, not merely in the active sense of giving practical assistance, but also in the more passive sense of being itself so socially insufficient. In no small measure did fascism thrive on the faults of democratic society, representing them as inseparable from democracy as such: those who praised fascism might not have done this quite so readily had there been no radical short-comings in existing democracies.
Now this pamphlet derives, immediately, from the conviction that certain aspects of fascism, in its relation to democracy, are capable of an analysis more revealing than those, hitherto attempted, and that their study may in some degree clarify current ideas regarding human society. We are by no means alone in thinking this field important. C. H. Waddington, who in The Scientific Attitude emphasises the mutual clash of science and fascism, nevertheless comments, “There are many Nazi arguments, subsidiary to its main theory but still important enough, which are perfectly sensible and probably true, at least in their negative aspect ” (73), and Joseph Needham, in his pamphlet The Nazi Attack International Science – a condemnation of fascism – writes: “In so far as the Nazis are developing new forms of genuine social organisation, they are contributing, in spite of themselves, to this evolutionary trend.” (42)
Let us, then, proceed with our post mortem.
II. The Force of Fascism
Strong though our feelings may be regarding fascism and its social results, we must attempt none the less to study it in an objective and detached manner. The point has been well made by James Burnham:
When we have finished, expressing our emotions about Germany by calling its society “nihilism” or “barbarism” or whatever similar epithet we prefer, we are still left, with the scientific problem of describing just what kind of society it is. (The Managerial Revolution.)
What is the most general distinguishing characteristic of fascism? Definitions have differed so remarkably, according to their source, that one feels a certain sympathy with the dry remark of Tom Driberg: “Fascism consists of those ideas with which I happen to disagree.” There is, however, a description of it both boasted of by the fascists themselves, and – at the other extreme – pointed out by scientists, which would not, the writer feels, bring very great disagreement from any political viewpoint: it is, briefly, that fascism extols practical action and emotion, and violently rejects that which is theoretical and rational. In other words, acceptance of the fascist ideology involves a strong psychological identification with violence and emotionalism.
Waddington and Needham, in the works already mentioned, declare. respectively: “Fascism can claim to base itself on any set of emotions… there is only one basis absolutely denied to it; reason” (73) and, “when a regime has ends not susceptible of rational formulation it must needs have recourse to the intuitional the emotional and the anti-intellectual ” (10). “Fascism,” writes Melvin Rader, in No Compromise (34) “is essentially activist and irrational.” He heads a chapter “The Flight from Reason,” just as Mowrer heads one “Against All Reason” in his Germany Puts the Clock Back. Nora Waln, the American Quaker, refers to the Nazi “black list” of books in her Reaching for the Stars, and observes that “a person wishing to read for culture might use this in purchasing a library.”
The fascists, far from denying this, boldly proclaimed it on countless occasions. Goebbels, for example, affirmed: “A man of good character without necessarily great insight into things is always better than an intelligent man without much character” (My Part in Germany’s Fight 11), and Mowrer (op. cit. 216) quotes him as saying, “If I had founded the Party, I should not have put out any programme at all.” As two further examples we have one attributed to Hitler by Konrad Heiden, and the second from Giuseppe Prezzolini:
For all programmes are vain; the decisive thing is the human will, sound vision, manly courage, sincerity of faith, the inner will – these are the decisive things (uproarious applause). (Der Fuehrer 433).
The watchword of Fascism was action, not thought (82). Publishers and libraries can testify to the fact that the Fascists do not trouble themselves about books and study. In fact their leaders… have on more than one occasion upheld ignorance. (Fascism 97).
A specimen from the British school is perhaps even more explicit; it is from Drennan’s Oswald Mosley and British Fascism (211-2).
Fascism arose, then, out of the din of unrecorded street lights and the mess of factory brawls and the quick butchery of country-side ambushes, and emerged as a direct, and violent will-to-power… Fascism has no long pedigree of theory, like Socialism, Liberalism and Communism and other products of the intellectual laboratory.
The extreme expression of this creed of violence is the glorification of war as an end in itself. Thus Mussolini: “Fascism believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace… War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the’ stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it” (Encyclopaedia Italiana).
lt is interesting to reproduce some examples of fascist propaganda, showing the almost complete abandonment of logic in favour of pure emotion. We give one each from German, Italian and British sources:
A man of the people, Adolf Hitler arose and took German destiny into this clean strong hands and as the herald of German freedom and justice passed through all Germany, appealing, stirring up the people and inflaming their hearts like the incarnation of the German conscience itself. And then for all ardent, expectant Germans it seemed as if the beacon of the hidden Germany had lit up the starless night of hopeless despair. The German heart was found again, and with magic power it drew into itself the noblest blood and poured it out again into the people in countless streams of will and strength. (Goering Germany Reborn 51).
The Fascist legions are of every age and of every condition. Many died when the victory was as yet uncertain, but the God of just men will direct for all the fallen, eternal light, and will reward the soul who lived nobly and wrote in blood the goodness and ardour of their faith. (Mussolini My Autobiography 110).
We still hold the same purpose, we still proclaim the same vow. Before we leave the mortal scene we will do something to lift the burdens of those who suffer. Before we go we will do something great for England. Through and beyond the failures of men and parties, we of the war generation are marching on, and we shall march on till our end is achieved and our sacrifice atoned. Today we march with a calm but mighty confidence, for marching beside us in irresistible power is the soul of England. (Mosley, quoted by Drennan, op. cit. 12).
Intelligent people, encountering such propaganda as this, have often remarked that it is almost devoid of logical meaning. This, of course, was precisely what was intended. As students of fascism have repeatedly pointed out, the criterion was not that of scientific truth or logical coherence, but public effect.
And there is a medium beyond words for the emotional appeal; the symbol. As Heiden remarks of fascist supporters, “Seldom could any of them say what they really wanted; but they wanted it with a determination which was expressed in their symbols” (Der Fuehrer 119). Through this, the most simple form of expression – and the most primitive – fascism methodically and persistently put forward the most simple idea: unity.”
Here, ideologically, lay its great force. Making next to no demands for logical understanding, but aiming instead at instinct and emotion, it was able to gain allegiance from that vast section of people who take little or no systematic and rational interest in politics: the “politically unconscious.” It was the supreme assertion of the lowest – the most numerous – ideological level: the mass.
In contrast to the popular idea that fascism was mainly the imposition of a minority upon the majority, most writers who have studied the subject agree it was essentially the expression of the multitude. Heiden is especially emphatic:
(Hitler) was a pure fragment of the modern mass soul. His speeches are day-dreams of this mass soul… often they can be refuted by reason, but they follow the far mightier logic of the subconscious, which no refutation can touch… Hitler has given speech to the speechless terror of the modern mass, and to the nameless fear he has given a name. That makes him the greatest mass orator of the mass age (op. cit. 90-1).
Again, Dr. Jung is reported as stating (H. R. Knickerbocker, Is Tomorrow Hitler’s? 45-6):
Hitler is the mirror of every German’s unconscious… He is the loud-speaker which magnifies the inaudible whispers of the German soul until they can be heard by the German’s conscious ear. He is the first man to tell every German what he has been thinking and feeling all along in his unconscious about German fate… His Voice is nothing other than his own unconscious, into which the German people have projected their own selves; that is, the unconscious of seventy-eight million Germans.
But to this lowest, and largest, ideological layer fascist propaganda was largely confined. The unity it proclaimed was by no means complete. The higher levels in the ideological scale – Conservatives, Liberals, Socialists, Communists and Anarchists – requiring increasing degrees of logical conviction, were to that extent proof against the mere emotion of fascism.
Failure to influence these thinking people in the realm of ideas left but one course for fascism: physical influence. This it did not hesitate to use. When the force of propaganda failed, the force of action was employed. Some bowed to it; others were ruthlessly suppressed; but in many cases intellectuals found refuge in other countries, and the elements fascism had sought to suppress internally, established themselves externally.
Further, its very opposition to all democratic elements – at home and abroad – was, in the end, the unification of them all. Faced with a common threat, many parties in democratic communities found a working unity. Similarly the Western democracies and Soviet Russia, each containing one-sided and complementary democratic forms (political and economic forms respectively) and therefore each a partial expression of democracy, were forced – one is almost tempted to say “against their will” – into alliance against fascism: against that which is a total denial of all democratic forms.
Whether or not fascism can again establish itself through the force we have described depends greatly on whether this rough-cast democratic unity can be matured into something more lasting, more integral; it is a question of no small consequence.
III. Democracy’s Strength – and Weakness
The strength of democracy is both spiritual and practical; On the one hand it accords with the beliefs of a great number of people, who – even though many of them could produce little logical justification of their attitude – none the less are in principle attached to the idea that men shall be free to express their opinions, no matter how much they may diverge from the majority. Though this may, according to some critics, be an attitude of little practical value, the fact that many people firmly hold it has more than once been a very practical barrier to those who sought to abolish it, knowledge of most kinds requires the free exchange of ideas, and, as F. A. Ridley remarked in his Fascism: What Is It?:
From the standpoint of human culture Fascism spells decay, infallibly ending in ruin. To prove this, it only needs to repeat this equation: creative instincts constitute the life-blood of culture; freedom is absolutely essential to the rise and to the free-play of creativeness in all its manifold forms (30).
The more directly practical necessity of democracy is in the field of science. Besides the Works already cited, such reports on fascism as Professor Brady’s Spirit and Structure give abundant evidence of the distortion of science, and its main reservation for military ,ends under that ideology. Waddington observes:
Under the impact of recent events there is at very remarkable agreement among scientists, throughout the world that a system of thought such as Nazism is incompatible with the scientific temper and is, for that reason among others, to be ethically condemned (op. cit. 26). Even if there is no particular scientific reason to support them, scientists are bound to be very sympathetic to such an ideal (of liberty), because within their own technical field freedom to differ from the majority is one of the essential conditions of their work. (The Scientific Attitude 112).
Again, Sir Richard Gregory, in his preamble to the Draft Charter of the Scientific Fellowship, affirms:
In the democracy of science, no external authority can be endured which would place racial, geographical or national limitations upon its fellowship or spheres of activity (50). These guiding principles of science are among the basic principles of democracy… they are essential factors in the establishment of a worthy and righteous form of society (52 quoted in Our New Order or Hitler’s?).
Now it may be noted that liberty of thought, though essential to both the scientific and political fields, has a somewhat different standing in each. Scientists have divergences of opinion, but these do not prevent highly effective co-operation among them. Political controversy, however, is frequently the subject of considerable misgiving and scepticism on the grounds that it seriously interferes with, and exists at the expense of, a unified handling of urgent social problems. Statements that the politicians are so busy arguing they never get on with the job” are not uncommon, and not completely without truth. We know how fascism seized on this idea, and developed it to the point where the problem was “solved” by suppressing all controversy.
Has democracy a better way? The writer maintains that it has, potentially. A synthesis is possible between the extremes of controversy and suppression: that is to say, by the organisation of free, unfettered controversy to take the place of present disorganised bickering. The position, briefly, is that there is considerable scientific evidence to support Walsby’s contention that the main political viewpoints are moving – as they are forced to move, in times of stress – towards the realisation in practice of a unity already demonstrable in theory – a unity which includes and underlies essential and necessary differences.
This must undoubtedly be explained much further. Why is it that one democratic ideology will not ultimately prevail over all the others? What of economic issues which divide parties? Will this not involve reconstruction of our parliamentary system? These are relevant questions, and will be taken up elsewhere in the Social Science Series.
lf, however, the problem of democratic division be solved, there still remains the problem of the mass. Bitter though political controversy may be, the vast number of people seem to take little consistent interest in it. In pre-war elections, for example, many of them didn’t vote, and those that did were attracted – or, at least, successfully solicited – by slogans and campaigning devices rather than by systematic analysis of the issues involved. The experience of by elections during the war, and of trying to interest the armed forces in the vote, does not suggest any marked change. It may well be that much of the energy used in the political quarrels of the intellectuals is available as a consequence of frustration in approaching the people.
Why is it, then, that the mass will on occasions rise to the call of democracy, and yet has little actual use for it? We suggest this is in large measure because democracy is not on these occasions given a positive value of its own, expounded coherently, but becomes represented rather as being an essential part of national tradition and continuity. It is possible, for example, that public support of the war against fascism was aroused not so much by a reasoned estimate of democracy’s superiority to fascism as a political system, but by the emotional urge of patriotism-to defend one’s country. One recalls Churchill’s statement that the war was growing “less ideological,” and it is noticeable that his speeches were couched in highly emotional,- nationalistic terms, and troubled little about logical justification and detailed exposition of democracy. Notice, for example, how he stressed the threat to national continuity in his famous speech of June 18, 1940: “The Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire.”
Moreover, those more progressive people who did have some clearer idea of democracy’s implications admitted that the mass derived little ,inspiration from it, though they attributed this to imperfections in existing democratic society, rather than to any inherent ideological limitations of the mass.
To sum up, then, fascism caters for the lowest ideological level, but fails to convince those having some coherent political outlook. Democracy caters for the higher ideological levels, but fails to reconcile them completely with the lowest.
IV. Are The Masses Democratic?
Democracy, in the political sense, has been defined as the freedom to express one’s viewpoint. What, though, of the millions who have no positive views to express, and seem little interested in acquiring any?
The practice in democratic countries, as we know, is for those parties having some definite programme to seek the support of these “politically unconscious” men and women. But it has been long recognised, through hard experience, that this can be effected only by using non-political methods. These include, generally, whist drives, social clubs, outings, dances, jumble sales, garden parties and so on. At election times such devices as parades, canvassing, pageantry, transport to booths, sensational promises, and (among our American friends) massed bands and chorus girls, are brought into operation.
Though these measures may seem mild compared with the sensational display of fascist propaganda, they nevertheless have the common property of being almost entirely non-political. It seems, one notices, that to the degree such tactics are a modification of fascist propaganda, to a very similar degree do they result in a modification of the mass enthusiasm fascism aroused.
Thus every party is composed of a minority of convinced adherents (those having insight into its particular ideology) and of those attached to it for largely emotional reasons. It would seem possible, in fact, that Walsby’s law of the inverse, ratio of quantity and quality, besides applying to the respective ideological layers, applies in general to the inner structure of parties, in that – within a given political body – those with a comprehensive and detailed grasp of its case are – to the extent that their grasp is comprehensive and detailed – in a minority.
Yet we find the higher a party is in the ideological scale, i.e. the more logical its analysis is, the fewer are the numbers of “politically unconscious” people likely to support it. This is reciprocal: the parties become more and more concerned (according to their ideological level) about the knowledge, views and insight of their members; the masses, on the other hand, find less emotional attraction, and more and more logical barriers, and show a correspondingly smaller inclination to become members.
It is not, consequently, very surprising that even democratic government today is largely the expression of the lower ideological layers. Control of society is mainly decided by those whose interest in, and understanding of, social matters is either merely superficial, or else quite lacking.
And all the time those intellectuals who make a consistent and logical study of economic society, remain largely ignored by the very masses whose interests they claim to represent. It certainly seems that the mass, for the above reasons, is undemocratic. The point is, though, is it necessarily, in principle, anti-democratic? We suggest not: for the mass is not ideologically bound to anything in principle. It is capable of supporting a fully democratic movement, provided that the more advanced democratic elements do not address it – as they so far have done – in terms of ideological assumptions and identifications which lie beyond it. “People,” writes Waddington, “can have an unreasonable belief in reason” (The Scientific Attitude). “Crowd psychology,” writes R. I. S. McDowall, “is, however, not always harmful. It may acclaim the hero or public benefactor and its enthusiasms may not be without benefit to the community” (Sane Psychology 119).
We note, moreover, that Serge Chakotin, writing both as a psychologist and as a political propagandist with practical experience of opposing fascist ideas, has declared:
There is only one effective method to meet them with violent propaganda, to counteract their tendency to psychical rape by equivalent action on the psychism of the masses, but without recourse to lying. It is possible to carry on violent propaganda without violating the moral principles which are the basis of human society! (The Rape of the Masses – our italics).
What, then, are we to do?
V. The Necessary Synthesis
As has been urged already in the Social Science Series, an essential part of our solution lies in the study of the mass mind. There is already some awareness of this. To take two examples from the sphere of psychology:
Social problems can be solved only by discovering the real psychology of human beings; speculations about economic conditions alone will never reach the goal. (Ferenczi Contributions to Psycho-analysis 277).
It seems to me not an absurd suggestion – it is one made by Edward Glover in his book entitled War, Sadism and Pacifism – that the leaders of a nation should know deep psychology, and be aware of the mental forces at work below the surface. (William Brown Psychology and Psychotherapy 152).
For a more direct and specialised treatment of the field broadly indicated by the above statements, it is necessary to turn to Harold Walsby’s recent research-work in the domain of ideologies, which deals with the psychological states, mechanisms and processes underlying the growth of political and philosophical outlooks, and shows their importance for the solution of social problems.
The left wing, which seems in general to leave this field unexplored, pays little heed, or attaches slight significance to the underlying ideological and psychological causes of fascism. Its interpretation is mainly an economic one: fascism, basically, is “the final’ stage of capitalism,” “the last refuge of big business,” and so on.
Now the fascist ideology is economically, determined just as it is determined mechanically, physically, chemically and biologically, but the ultimate, and – for our solution – the most significant account of it is in terms of the laws of the domain of ideologies itself. It does seem well established that fascism severely curtailed many traditional practices of capitalism, and forcibly abolished a great number of its orthodox privileges those who objected were compelled to flee the country – as did Thyssen and other industrialists – or to share the fate of the intellectuals in the concentration camps. Lieutenant Christopher Burney, relating his experiences in Buchenwald (Evening Standard 18-5-45), declared:
Anybody who savored of a capitalist or an intellectual was promptly marked down as a victim. Michelin, the French tyre manufacturer, was sent on a transport to help build an underground factory for V.1s. Like everybody else who was sent on this job, he died.
The left wing may declare or imply that the success of fascist propaganda, like that of “big business,” is mainly brought about by its large sscale imposition on the mass by the capitalist class, but the people certainly seem a very willing partner in the game (for instance, 60-70 per cent of them go weekly to see films of the type we shall presently describe, and F. A. Ridley – a leading left wing theorist-recently wrote of The News of the World, read by millions, whilst any serious organ of intellectual or political opinions is lucky if it circulates in thousands – New Leader 14-4-45.
More important, though, is the consideration that the deep-rooted emotional urges of the mass are objective, permanent, and largely independent of any attempt to alter or suppress them, whether it be made by capitalists or left wing propagandists. Much as we may dislike this, greatly though it may disappoint our feelings, we have to consider whetheror not it is true.
“Hitler listens and obeys,” Jung told Knickerbocker. “The true leader is always led.” Heiden (Der Fuehrer) makes the same point very emphatically. Intellectuals who profess “faith” in the logical and rational potential of the masses may care to consider his statements:
One need scarcely ask with what arts he (Hitler) conquered the masses; he did not conquer them, he portrayed and represented them (90). Those who do not understand propaganda… regard propaganda as the art of instilling an opinion in the masses. Actually it is the art of receiving an opinion from the masses… The true aim of political propaganda is not to influence, but to study the masses (117). Rather than a means of directing the mass mind, propaganda is a technique for riding with the masses (118).
Now a study of the mass shows that its members do not identify themselves with the mass as a whole, but rather with narrow individualism and personal power: with wealth, commercial standing, authority, etc. To use a phrase of the left, they are not “class-conscious.” In other words, the masses, being mostly poor, identify themselves with the rich. In childhood we read fairy tales set in a perspective of unlimited wealth and power: kings and queens, princes and princesses,
castles, fairy godmothers, hidden treasure and power wielded by means of magic wands, lamps and carpets. The successful novel or play, as the left often points out (ref. Upton Sinclair, for example), usually has the hero and heroine actually enjoying, or else attaining, a state of wealthy affluence. Similarly, advertising frequently depicts its commodities as receiving distinguished patronage in luxurious surroundings.
Films certainly maintain the tradition. In common with such national institutions as theatres, music halls, public houses, dance halls and pin table saloons, cinemas usually boast names suggesting aristocracy and riches: the Regal, the Royal, the Majestic, the King’s, the Queen’s, the Prince’s, the Court, the Coronet, the Grand, the Luxor, the Imperial, the Ritz, the Trocadero, the Empress, the Carlton, the Fortune and many others. In his Film, Roger Manvell cites the themes “implicit in most pictures.” Here are the first seven:
(a) Wealth in the abstract is a good thing.
(b) Luxury, especially associated with women, is normal.
(c) The full-time pursuit of women by unoccupied business men and rich young rulers is normal.
(d) The desks of high-power executives are always clear.
(e) Fathers spoil their daughters with money gifts.
(f) Men are the source of money for women.
(g) The desirability of the night club with cabaret life.
In the same book, Sidney Bernstein is quoted thus:
As a social institution, the local cinema represents to a section of the population the peak of glamour. Warmth and colour are to be had there; there are pleasurable distractions; there are comfort, richness, variety. The cinema is so often the poor man’s sole contact with luxury, the only place where he is made to feel a sense of self-importance. With his ninepence in his hand he is able to command something approximating to the attention and service which is part of the pattern of the rich man’s daily life… Not only the film programme, but the deep carpets, the bright lights, the attention “fit for a king,” are the weekly delights of the majority of picture goers (Footnotes to the Film, 230).
“Big business,” realising the need – in advertising and market research – for a technique of discovering the interests and desires of the public, has long ago acquired a working knowledge of this and other aspects of mass psychology. This has been not so much by deliberate scientific method, but through everyday experience (much as, say, a carpenter learns to distinguish the properties of different kinds of wood, without understanding their fundamental chemico-physical properties and constituents).
In much the same “rule of thumb” manner fascism developed a rough working knowledge of the mass mind. It was composed of the mass, and addressed the mass in its own ideological language. Mussolini, for instance, boasted: “I am near to the heart of the masses and listen to its beats. I read its aspirations and interests” (My Autobiography 251).
It is interesting to note that Chakotin, in his Rape of the Masses, shows this connecting link between fascism and “big business” – i.e., that they are both determined by the mass-ideology: “Publicity has attained its maximum development in North America, where it assumes extraordinary dimensions. Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda, manager, when trying to impress the world in the spring of 1932 and to startle the public into submission, declared that in his propaganda for Hitler’s campaign in the presidential election he would use American methods on an American scale.”
In so far as they both embrace the ideology of the mass, “big business” has ideologically much in common with fascism. And it is in this respect they both stand in marked contrast to the intellectual. Thus, the Walsbian theory of ideological layers explains what, upon a mere economic interpretation, must appear contradictory: (a) the tendency of “big business” to enter into alliance with fascism and (b), the persecution of many individual capitalists and industrialists who do not conform to the mass-layer.
For while the mass, “big business” and fascism identify themselves with individualism, the intellectual identifies himself with the mass, with the “workers.” Just as popular reading matter deals in the main with the milieu of the rich, so that of the intellectuals is largely preoccupied with the condition of the poor. As an explicit example of this identification, we give part of the well-intentioned, but almost completely ineffective message of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (since its beginning, in 1904, a tiny group of left-wing intellectuals):
The men and women, then, who address you through these pages are in the same position as you are. They work side by side with you in the office, workshop or factory; they face death and disablement with you in the mine; they fight shoulder to shoulder with you in the strike; they know what it is to walk the streets day after day in vain search for employment. The experience of poverty and humiliation which has seared your minds has burnt also in theirs… being of the same “class,” suffering the same ills that you suffer, we know that only with your deliverance can we be delivered.
Thus, as Walsby has shown, the more enlightened people of our times, the scientists and the political theorists, who have developed scientific ideas about nature and about the economic growth and structure of society, tend, in the process to have developed unscientific ideas about human nature, and about the ideological growth and structure of society. Public attention is largely attracted and held by the “mass big business” ideology: yet, since the people in control (unlike the political intellectual) have little or no scientific grasp of the basic economic problem, society remains in chaos. Those intellectuals who have attained a scientific grasp of the economic situation are as yet powerless to do much more than solve the economic problem in theory. Inhibited by their emotional identification with the mass, assuming the mass to be capable of objective reasoning and unemotional detachment, and addressing collectivist propaganda to a mass, which essentially identifies itself with individualism, they are denied – or rather deny themselves – public support.
It is only when the science of ideology is understood, and the mechanisms and processes of the mass mind revealed, that the democratic and practical achievement of scientific, economic reorganisation becomes possible. Through this science it becomes a practical matter to propagate the solution in a manner compatible with the natural laws of ideological development, and to bring it within the ideological scope of the mass.
We have called this essay a post mortem; but, more precisely, from the ideological standpoint, the second world War has certainly not “wiped fascism from the iiace of the earth.” Fascism is not dead; it is repressed and latent.
The fascist ideology is a manifestation of a permanent ideological layer – the mass-layer. So long as the necessary existence of this layer is ignored, and there is no scientific technique for controlling and utilising it in the service of progress, then so long will it remain a potential weapon for reaction, and a constant threat to civilisation. Scientifically understood, however, and brought into close alliance with the higher ideological layers, it can become the mightiest and most decisive weapon in the battle for progress and social evolution.
- PSI Circular Number Two (February 1979)
- PSI Circular Number One (January 1979)
- Joshua Feldman: Reconceptualising (systematic) Ideology in the Wake of Political Psychology
- George Walford and Ike Benjamin: The Sad Case of the SPGB
- Linda Sloane: Systematic Ideology and Identity / The Triangle of Society, Ideology and the Individual
- Their “Operation Utopia”
- George Orwell Letters to George Walford
- George Walford: The New Magic
- George Walford: Exploring Ideology
- George Walford: Sciences