April 22, 2003 | Op-ed
The Two Faces of Fascism
By Stephen Schwartz
What is the difference between Dennis “Justin” Raimondo, who publicly encouraged U.S. service personnel to desert, not long before the Iraq operation began, and his ally, Kevin “Keith Sorel” Keating, who carried a banner in the streets calling on the same troops to “shoot their officers?
In practical terms, nothing. In political and psychological terms, they represent identical specimens of a single type: the frustrated, alienated, and isolated extremist, without a profession, without a place in society, without normal associations or aspirations; above all, without hope.
In a sense, both are children of the Internet; Dennis possesses a fraudulently-titled website, antiwar.com, while Kevin flourishes on “independent” e-media. Neither can be imagined publishing anything in a legitimate media venue, even an ultraradical one, and had they to depend on serious polemics or organizing work to gain attention, they would have remained unknown.
Like those perverts who disguise themselves as young girls to engage in sexual byplay by computer, these two seek to reinvent themselves. Dennis became “Justin” in search of glamour and mystery; Keating called himself “Sorel” (after a late 19th century apostle of radical violence) to make himself sound powerful and dangerous. Both attempts failed, for these individuals are no more than maladjusted, unhappy males unable to escape adolescence.
Both believe words are more important than reality; and they live firmly in a past built on words. Dennis believes that by reviving the rhetoric and obscure political figures associated with the pro-Axis “America First” movement of the late 1930s, he can bring that historical period back to life. Keating thinks that by employing the slogans of the antiwar extremists of an even-older generation, that of the first world war, he can similarly preside over the return of a lost era.
Neither of these nullities possesses the philosophical energy or insight of Nietzsche, the most famous adherent of the theory of eternal recurrence. Cycles have their place in historical analysis. But Raimondo and Keating fantasize in a different direction; they believe that history will rescue them from the void of their existence, lifting them up and making them figures of global impact.
Because of their impotence, both are addicted to provocation. Raimondo could not restrain himself from writing, in a despicable text titled “Hiroshima Mon Amour: Why Americans Are Barbarians,” in the Russian journal Pravda only a month before September 11, “the idea that America is, in any sense, a civilized country is easily dispelled.” The motive of his rage was transparent: admiration for Japanese militarism in World War II, and resentment that America won that conflict. As shocking as this must seem to the rest of us, Dennis Raimondo minced no words: he believes “the wrong side won the war in the Pacific.” (For a thorough discussion of this revealing article, see my article “What Raimondo Really Meant.”)
Keating, for his part, launched a campaign of terrorism in San Francisco against unknowing bystanders and innocuous businesses.
Both have misappropriated the term “libertarian.” But both also fail to understand that history has rendered their interpretation of “libertarianism” meaningless.
Raimondo, and his peers at lewrockwell.com and other sites, repeat as a mantra the claim that war will bring about a vast overgrowth of oppressive governmental authority. They do not grasp that the free-market critique that emerged during the domination of the Rooseveltian welfare state and its successive iterations triumphed with Reagan – and its more aggravated, fringe form then became irrelevant. Pressed to come up with an example of the expanding war state, the intellectually-bereft Raimondo might cite the Department of Homeland Security, which barely exists.
Instead, he and his cohort have turned their struggle against the mirage of “empire,” which, of course, brings them closer to the ragtag leftists, even though neither group can explain coherently what the term would mean at this time. America was accused of imperialism in the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam, in 1898; in Hawaii at about the same time; in the first and second world wars; in Central America for decades; in Cold War Europe as well as in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in the 1950s; in Vietnam and the third world in general from the ‘60s on. The “empire” never materialized. There is no reason to believe it will today, and the illiterate argument advanced by Raimondo and others that, rather than in Manila Bay a century ago, America is now becoming imperialist, simply demonstrates their intellectual incapacity. It was not real imperialism then, and it certainly is not at present, and will not be in the future – and the republic, rather than being endangered, has been strengthened.
Meanwhile, Keating, who is similarly incapable of dealing with historical contexts, seems to really think that bicycle messengers and temp workers have the same social weight as the miners, lumberjacks, and factory workers that made up the famous Industrial Workers of the World, or “Wobblies,” and the massive anarchosyndicalist movements in France and Spain, a century ago.
Together, these orphans of history march alongside Arab extremists and unrepentant Stalinists, pursuing their antiglobalist and Jew-hating delusions. Some of us describe that love affair as a “red-brown alliance,” borrowing a term from politics in the post-Communist Orthodox Christian dominions of Russia, Serbia, Romania, and Belarus. There former Communists developed permanent alignments with Jew-baiters and other fascists whose views were previously considered, at least publicly, anathema to the Marxists. But this phenomenon had been in gestation in Soviet Russia for a long time, and had become visible in Serbia and Romania even before the onset of change in those countries.
Strangely enough, both of these vagabonds, while residing in San Francisco and pursuing parasitic lives of no distinction, have extensive involvement with the actual “red-brown” centers in Orthodox Europe. Although he labels his website “antiwar,” Raimondo acclaimed the possibility of war by the Slavic Macedonian state against its Albanian minority; at the same time, Keating went to Greece to commune with anarchist terrorists subsidized by the Greek government, which also backed the Macedonian extremists. Had either of them summoned up the courage to put their rhetoric into action, they might have accumulated notable careers massacring Albanian infants. But such was not to be. Raimondo advertised for contributions to send him to Serbia as a mercenary, but chickened out of actually traveling there; Keating came back to the U.S. after a brief stint in terror tourism.
Nor should it be presumed that “red-brown” financing, originating in the Orthodox countries, is limited to travel opportunities. Taki Theodoracopoulos, the coprolalic heir to a Greek shipping fortune, convicted cocaine smuggler, public voluptuary, and outspoken adherent of Slobodan Milosevic, has come up with the money to pay for The American Conservative, the print forum for Raimondo as well as for the magazine's dark star, Patrick J. Buchanan. Recently, mainstream conservatives disturbed by the rise of this phenomenon have questioned the American patriotism and authenticity as conservatives of its adherents. However, it was left to the eminent sociologist Irving Louis Horowitz to openly call it “left fascism,” in an article (“The American Conservative”) in the terminal issue of Partisan Review.
I.L. Horowitz pointed out, in passing, the irony that such a magazine would be paid for by Taki, who is neither American, nor much of a conservative, at least in his personal morals. But such types have always flocked to fascist movements. Horst Wessel, for whom the Nazi anthem was named, was a pimp. Raimondo recently denounced some leading neoconservatives as “un-American” immigrants, but failed to mention Taki's immigrant status. This may doubtless be explained by Raimondo's adoption of Taki's snide, wise-guy style of commentary, and his desire to surpass the foulmouthed Greek as a purveyor of ethnic insults.
Keating, as an ultraleftist, would doubtless try to deny any common aim with fascists. In this, he resembles Van der Lubbe, the Dutch extremist who set fire to the Reichstag in 1933, facilitating Hitler's assumption of dictatorial powers. Historians have proven that Van der Lubbe was not a Nazi agent; but his provocation nonetheless directly enabled the Nazis to launch their terror.
I am somewhat doubtful about the utility of classifying this style of politics as “left fascism,” especially since the term “red-brown alliance,” although it may be incomprehensible to most Americans, indicates the greater autonomy of the two forces. Still, alliances between fascism and radical leftism have numerous precedents. The French anarchist movement to which Keating tries to hark back had a strong anti-Jewish component. Many syndicalists flocked to Mussolini's party. Hitler would never have gained power without the tacit support of the German Communist party. Soviet Russia sold oil to fascist Italy during the latter's assault on Ethiopia in 1935, defying worldwide liberal opinion. We now know that in 1936, when the Spanish civil war broke out, the Moscow-directed Communist International had ordered the Italian Communists to launch a profascist campaign. The Yugoslav Communists collaborated with the Croatian Ustasha until 1938. And of course, the second world war began under the joint patronage of Hitler and Stalin, who had agreed to the division of Poland, the Russian absorption of the Baltic states, and the annexation of today's Moldova.
Did Hitler and Stalin represent no more than two faces of fascism? Sociological arguments focusing on the modern state and the structural similarities between fascism and Stalinism, and, even the New Deal, may in the end be superficial, especially as they relate to the latter. In reality, there was nothing fascist about the New Deal. Although at various stages it borrowed from the totalitarian idiom, it was not totalitarian and did not become so. Franklin Roosevelt was elected four times because of his popularity, not by interfering with the vote. Raimondo, by the way, now promotes the foul lie, recognized as such by every genuinely patriotic American, and embraced only by the morally deficient, that Roosevelt “tricked” the U.S. into entering the second world war. But such is to be expected from an enthusiast of Japanese militarism.
Fascism and degenerate leftism have such claims of “moral equivalence” in common. According to the America Firsters, as well as the Communist Party during the Hitler-Stalin pact, British rule in India was as bad as Nazi brutality. But while both the Communist and fascist doctrines of moral equivalence are intended to weaken the democracies, fascist moral equivalence is driven more by the desire to immediately increase panic and the cracked forms of protest that emerge from it. The Communists, recognizing the widespread repulsion toward fascism in the democracies, indignantly (if disingenuously) rejected parallels between the variant forms of modern statism. But fascists use the argument that the New Deal, fascism, and Stalinism were similar to legitimize the crimes of Hitler and Mussolini.
This form of political costuming and posturing is one of the essential elements of all fascist movements. When fascists claim to be enemies of fascism, it is not simply a matter of adaptation to an environment, which is especially common among leftists but is visible to some extent in all political endeavors. Rather, it is a matter of the deliberate manipulation of false images to encourage fear and entrap the susceptible. Hitler called his system of gangs a “workers' party”; Hitler and Mussolini both assailed “imperialism” as represented by London, Paris, and Washington. Hitler, like Buchanan, Taki, and Raimondo, also made endless, tearful speeches for “peace.”
Dennis Raimondo and those like him are not fascists in the popular sense, meaning defenders of a dictatorial state power – at least, not in their current rhetoric. Are they even nationalists? Of course, Raimondo, the fan of Japanese imperialism in the Pacific, can hardly be considered such. Others among them prefer to be considered the greatest of American patriots even while some of their supporters, the Southern nostalgics, acclaim a treasonous insurrection that, had it succeeded, could have brought about the complete disintegration of the republic and its very real descent into decadence and ignominy. For them, the importation of kidnapped Africans as slaves was a noble act, but legal immigration by qualified professionals from Bangladesh is an atrocity. But Buchanan, Taki, and Raimondo do love the American worker. They love the American worker so much they want to preserve forever his or her right to a low-minimum-wage job in a right-to-work state. In the past, nothing exercised them so much as the belief that immigrants would rob the “white” American's God-given freedom to pick lettuce, pluck chickens, wash dishes in restaurants, clean hotel rooms, and assemble high-tech components in a cloud of toxic chemicals.
Debate over sociological categories is less important, for now, than the impact of the Raimondo-Keating style on public discourse. Fascism is not a program or philosophy, but a method of gaining power. These individuals are fascists in their contempt for civility, even more than the lust for influence and habitual incitement of the mob visible in Buchanan, Taki, and Raimondo.
Shockingly, many who would not back Raimondo in calling for American service personnel to desert would, nonetheless, support his claim that in Iraq, American soldiers and marines were compelled to die “for Ariel Sharon.” And Keating's call to “shoot officers” had its macabre echo in the action of U.S. Army Sgt. Asan Akbar, who murdered Captain Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, and injured 15 other soldiers, one fatally, in the early hours of March 23, 2003 at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait. Akbar may well be an al-Qaida “sleeper agent;” i.e. a real terrorist of the kind Keating plays at emulating.
In the present situation, the neofascists, which I consider the correct title for Buchanan, Taki, and Raimondo, must be granted no quarter, just as Saddam, the Serbs, and the Wahhabi Islamofascists in Saudi Arabia deserve no quarter.