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Fascism and the family

from KBOO's PressWatch, here is an analysis of Bush' Fascism and suggestions for destroying it.
Most of this text was broadcast this morning (3/17/05) on KBOO 90.7FM Portland. In response to requests, I am publishing it here. I did not read the text 'as is,' but rather substituted "Bush" for "Hitler," "Democrats" for "socialists," 2000 for 1930, et cetera, in order to elucidate the parallels.

These excerpts are from Wilhelm Reich's 1938 essay "Irrationalism in Politics and Society," published as translated by Philip Schmitz with the title "People in Trouble/Volume Two of The Emotional Plague of Mankind." It was published in 1976 by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York.

"Much that sounds commonplace today—1938—was new territory and difficult to comprehend in 1930.... The average politician could not understand the Fuhrer's power over his followers. The deep cleavage separating the hopes of Germany's people from the reality of Hitler's barbarism confused people's thinking. The collapse of bourgeois democracy shattered liberalistic ideas. .... They did not comprehend the welding of these measures with an equally intentional, predatory, imperialistic expansion...."

"Hitler's reactionary and imperialistic aims were unequivocally set forth in Mein Kampf and still each new election brought him the support of additional millions." ....

"None of the "leaders of the workers" I knew had seriously studied Hitler's Mein Kampf and other writings for the masses. None had asked themselves who this arch-reactionary hoax perpetrated by a group of bandits could seize and poison millions of warm, honest German hearts. The race theory, they said, was "nonsense," merely "imperialistic chatter" and "nothing new" in principle. .... But no one seemed able to ask himself the simple question of why millions of individuals allowed themselves to be so influenced by nonsense and idle chatter. They even flew into a rage when such questions were posed.
In order to defeat a strong opponent, one must his methods and motives most carefully. Recognizing them as facts is a far cry from agreeing with them. However, it was considered preposterous to take Hitler's mass-psychological adeptness seriously. Members of the socialist party in Germany took it as a personal affront if one contended that essential, unrecognized processes in the masses had to exist in order for Hitler to be successful."

"Prior to 1933, there could be no mention of coping seriously with the problem of Fascism. Even the most basic inquiries were pointedly rejected and, consequently, no answer to the questions could be found. As was later demonstrated, these answers were so horrifying, far-reaching, and, in a sense, revolutionary that at first they only increased one's powerlessness in the face of onrushing events. Fear of this sensation of helplessness accounts for part of the adherence to empty phrases which still gives the workers' movement the illusion of security today. It is simpler to place one's faith in the healing powers of a useless medication than to admit that one is caring for a dying patient who is beyond help, even though one is beginning to grasp the reasons for his death."

"The main statements of Fascism's opponents were correct in principle. Fascism threatened "democratic freedom of speech," but millions endorsed this threat to free expression of their opinions. Fascism spoke candidly of war, even clothing wholesale murder in portentous words such as "duty," "sacrifice," and "obedience," yet millions rallied to duty, obedience, and sacrifice with life and limb. .... Fascism promised capitalists it would secure their control of industry and promised the workers they would share this control—both accepted. Complete military mobilization of the people was announced, and the people affirmed it. In short, every political attitude in Fascism should have cause flaming rebellion, but had the opposite effect."


Reich had written at length (he died in 1957) on the causes of Fascism, particularly psychosexual manipulation. I find his writings very relevant today, though of course the circumstances are quite different in many ways. Americans understand intuitively that something is wrong with the family, and they want—they yearn—to fix it. The real problem is that we alienate ourselves from each other with excessive work hours, silent and alienating TV/video consumption, brutal child-rearing practices, and a complete absence of vital familial and village social skills. But this dynamic is invisible, and the Left shies from addressing it head-on, as if talking about family dynamics were somehow taboo. It is taboo, as far as I can tell, perhaps because Left families are as alienated and broken as anyone else's, and Leftists would prefer to indulge in freedom from confronting their own upsetting and inadequate social histories. But ignorance is not strength, except for the Right.

The Right does address family problems head-on, albeit with snake venom. Their solutions are immediate and comprehensible—and conveniently devastating to social understanding. They appeal to greed for power by affirming patriarchy, i.e. by spending billions to promote marriage as a social solution, and by attacking gays as immoral and evil. All who claim to be "straight" can then hold their heads up high as morally superior. They insist that children be beaten ("spanked"); thus women can also participate in a sick transference of aggression, a little dollop of power. Protesters are easily demonized—they are violating unspoken rules of passivity and appeasement, and it is satisfying to most Americans to see them beaten. Americans are uneducated and unused to political participation, and they want to be free of it altogether—so when the Right offers these easy, degenerate goodies, Americans snap it up.

It is in this manner that Bush gains his incredible control over mass psychology. He is viewed as a sort of uber-father, and he offers a soothing vision of purity, in which the family is restored to order. He demands unquestioning obedience, and shows irritation when challenged. Men can feel that they will regain control of their lives through him; they share voyeuristically in Bush's sadistic treatment of enemies foreign and domestic. Women who fear their teenagers' rebellion can look forward with relief to militaristic control--absent substantial change, I can predict that the draft will be accepted without much challenge, even if women are included.

The Left must analyze and confront the family. We have powerful tools at our disposal—the humanities and the Internet, street postering, teach-ins, church confrontations, kiss-ins.... By embracing the family, we will heal the division between progressive politics and American desire.


erratum 17.Mar.2005 11:51

Theresa Mitchell

"...one must (study) his methods and motives...."