To Fight Against This Age: On Fascism and Humanism. By Rob Riemen. W.W. Norton and Company. 2018
Just because a verbose twit decries ‘fascism’ doesn’t mean said scribbler is onto something. If, while pointing at a chair, someone screams ‘fascism!’ we would look askance and wonder about their mental state.
So it is with this pulp fiction.
The problem appears immediately, in the opening sentences. Having ‘courageously’ announced the return of fascism way back in 2010, Riemen, all too comfortable writing about himself, assumes the role of reluctant soothsayer, only to be dismissed by his fellow patrician academics.
He told you, but you refused to listen. ‘You’ are that most reasonable and cautious of thinkers, steeped in the eternal values of liberal democracy, perhaps a fellow at The Nexus Institute or the Templeton Foundation, which seems to mine similar philosophical terrain. A liberal, a conservative, a neo-this or neo-that, perhaps even a ‘progressive’.
Of course what Reimen considers to be fascism is so elastic and untethered from reality as to be an hallucination. If a brute of any political persuasion were to vomit in his precious ivory tower, staining the parchment rolls of wisdom poured over by so many serious thinkers, the sulphur pits could not be far behind. But he was ignored not because his colleagues failed to grasp the reemergence of fascism in the 21st century–an indisputable fact about which there is now little argument–but because they didn’t give a shit. Riemen’s account of fascism is so preposterous as to lend credence to their dismissal, which says a lot, I suppose.
This bit of nauseating self congratulation is quickly followed by laughable cautionary tales about why ‘civilizations’ self destruct. In short: Elites fall prey to their own hubris, their aggressive stupidity opening the door to the passions and naïveté of the masses, which is the real problem here, and far worse than ruling class shortsightedness.
Ruling elites get too greedy and self absorbed–go all Caligula–mindlessly following the pagan shock and awe of an amoral capitalism, and thereby undermine the natural order of things, which depends upon the endless interpretations of philosophers such as Reimen. Not change that order of things, mind you, but explain it. The problem is in the style of elite rule, rather than the rule itself. Here fascism is just another variant of anything that challenges the status quo, which is eternal.
Artists and philosophers are seen as repositories of the values that humanize capitalism, and are counterposed to technocrats and economists.
But capitalism cannot be humanized, only overthrown.
Besides, the fight against fascism proceeds not through the words and ideas of so many scholars and celebrities, but through the class struggle, the true motive force of history.
Elite rule, in today’s world, as that of old, involves brutal and unrelenting exploitation and domination. This is the hidden source of the reappearance of fascism as an exit strategy from the contradictions of capitalism. To ignore this means misunderstanding fascism and thereby being helpless to thwart it.
This is why the philosopher above, and many of his colleagues alike, will end up aiding it. Most of these sophisticates will find their way back to supporting this 21st century fascism (still in early development) precisely because they cannot see their own ideas and the institutions that sustain them as enablers of that same actually existing fascism–to use a turn of phrase. They are faux antifascists, their ideas, floating in a rarified atmosphere of abstract metaphysical absurdity, should be ridiculed, their institutions allowed to rot from within so we can immolate their edifices and warm ourselves by the embers. If your idea of a popular front is so anemic as to include such monstrous stupidities in its theoretical formulation, you have already surrendered.
What’s at stake here is, again, the definition of fascism, so important to the task of defeating it.
I haven’t included any direct quotes from To Fight Against…I don’t want to imply that there is something there with which one should engage. There isn’t.