Tuesday, January 17, 2012

THE SHAMEFUL PAST

“I feel very badly about it in retrospect.”

Liberal Fascism
One of the best deceptions the left has ever pulled off is to convince everyone that Nazis were right wing extremists. When someone tries to point out the truth, it sounds so outrageous and crazy that they tend to be laughed at as some sort of radical freak. Jonah Goldberg wrote the book "Liberal Fascism" about the left's history, and he got the title from a little-known fact about the past.

The truth is, in the early 20th century, the left was fascinated with practical applications of evolution and rejecting the old for new, untried forms of government and economics. The theory was that with Freud's theories replacing religious ethics and Darwin's theories replacing religious origins, all the old and failed in the past could be rejected and replaced with new, innovative, scientific systems.

One of those thinkers was H.G. Wells, whose brilliant early science fiction fascinated millions and often all too accurately predicted future technology and events. Wells made a speech in 1932 in which he stated how excited he was by the principles of fascism, and coined the term used by Goldberg for his book "liberal fascism." Wells liked both Communism and Fascism as concepts which would bring the utopia he conceived of through a powerful government forcing the changes upon an unwilling and slow public, but preferred Fascism ultimately.

Wells in his speech to young liberals in England told them that they had to become "young Nazis" and "liberal fascists," embracing the concepts of power and rejecting old morality to create a glorious future.

And before the horrors that communism and fascism wrought, it isn't hard to see why eager young leftists and academics could be so charmed. Both systems rejected the old, both systems called for a new, scientific approach, both systems were about bringing peace, prosperity, and comfort to the people by forcing the changes on them that old systems and the stubborn refused to allow.

Consider today's situation. Not a few occupy types have been calling for a glorious revolution, even violence. Why? Because they accurately perceive that the present systems have become so corroded by entrenched powers and cronyists that real change is nearly impossible to bring about through the system. The people in power use that power to maintain their position and enrich themselves. They're so thoroughly woven through the basic foundations of political power that they will not readily and willingly surrender it.

And, these modern leftists believe that the ones in power have managed to hypnotise or blind people to their situation, that anyone who supports small government and tax cuts for the wealthy do so either because they are rich or because they've been bamboozled by those in power and cannot think clearly. So revolution is needed, with the Right People© in power, so that the Right Policies© can be implemented, for the good of us all.

That was the same situation in the 1920s and 30s when communism and fascism both were in fashion on western campuses and among intellectuals. That's been washed out of history almost as well as the Ministry of Truth in 1984 managed, leaving the myth that only Communism was loved by the left, in their naivete (and, of course, the system is great, only its application has failed, as too many on the left argue).

Fascism in particular was appealing in its stark scientific theories and cutting edge ideas. Evolution is producing more evolved species, humans are evolving, hence we should encourage the evolution of some and discourage those humans who are evolutionary dead ends or of the old race. If we could only identify the new, more evolved man as he slowly develops and carefully manage that race while diminishing the old humans, we'd more rapidly achieve utopia, or so the theory went.

For the German Nazis, this meant the aryan race, but the principles were held nearly universally by the academic left and many scientists. Harvard published papers on how blacks were less evolved than whites. Eugenics became a popular concept, a trend by which you encouraged proper breeding and discouraged the less evolved man from breeding. Purity of the evolved man, the pure race, was seen as essential to the future.

Daniel Flynn at Front Page Magazine wrote recently about a current story that helps show how this played out:
North Carolina offered reparations on Tuesday to victims of its nearly-half-century sterilization campaign. Starting with Indiana in 1907, more than half of the states codified eugenics programs of varying degrees of fervor during the twentieth century. But North Carolina is thus far the only state to offer to compensate the victims.
...
The Tarheel State’s press has been instrumental in exposing decades-long legislative and bureaucratic malfeasance. The role of their journalistic forebears in propagandizing for eugenics hasn’t piqued their curiosity as much. The editorial page editor of the Durham Morning Herald, for instance, was a member of the Human Betterment League as late as the 1960s. The same Charlotte Observer, Winston Salem Journal, and Raleigh News and Observer that inveigh against the state’s eugenic past also played a role in creating that past.

Joseph L. Morrison, a longtime professor in the University of North Carolina’s journalism department, defended the state’s eugenics laws as late as 1965. “If compulsory sterilization of unwed mothers could be seriously debated in two successive General Assemblies of North Carolina, reputedly the most progressive southern state, it is well to study the forces underlying such punitive proposals,” he wrote in the Social Service Review. “What could have induced the legislators to think of altering their state’s enlightened Eugenic Sterilization Law to subserve a vengeful purpose?”
EugenicsThis enlightened law, required sterilization of certain peoples and groups to prevent their breeding and polluting the gene pool. Most of the people so mutilated were the mentally handicapped and the insane, but epileptics were also included. Even worse, the law permitted sterilization on those the state deemed likely to become handicapped if they were to become parents.

Although the law was primarily targeted at people institutionalized, it permitted the work being done on those who were not. The principle seemed scientific and forward looking at the time: it was preventing these people from perpetuating their illness, which is a drain on society and its coffers, thus detrimental to the economy and the people of the state.

This concept came not from the right wing conservatives or some white supremacist group, but from the "progressive" left, the academic thinkers. It seemed so enlightened and scientific, and for the good of the many, at the time. Like so many well-meaning ideas from academic intellectuals, the idea seems reasonable in theory when discussed with like-thinking people, detached from the people it affects, yet wrought great horrors.

Race also played a part. Because so many minorities were dependent on state welfare programs - another drain on the people and economy - sterilization of blacks in particular became thinkable in the 1950s, particularly. Some states threatened to remove benefits if the recipients would not permit sterilization. Heads of welfare programs saw this as a valuable way to reduce the number of dependents. North Carolina's law was expanded to include the general public, on the urging of social workers, eager to reduce dependency and purify the race. By the end of the policy, the majority of people sterilized were not institutionalized and were under the age of 19.

Again these policies seemed reasonable to the "progressive" even after the evils of World War II were revealed. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was a big advocate of eugenics, to the point of wanting to sterilize blacks, or if they would not, encourage it strongly - in particular by using black entertainment and the local black churches. Sanger was also a big fan of fascism, because of its principles of racial purity and use of strength to apply what she perceived as strong, scientific, progressive principles. And it involved a blind allegiance to science and state.

Yet if you bring this up in any conversation, nine times out of ten, the response is to mock or simply one of shock that anyone could possibly think such an absurd thing. Yet the truth is, Nazism and Communism both were very much in vogue in the early 20th century among the left. It is only the almost unspeakable horrors that resulted from the Nazi regime that have put such a nearly irreversible stain on the concepts of Fascism. Communism's even more numerous evils have been significantly less publicized. After all, no one has made a Schindler's List about the USSR.

So the effort to sanitize the left's involvement and fascination with fascism was undertaken, and the horrors it resulted in blamed on the exact opposite of the movement that created and endorsed it. Which is about as baffling to me as any modern event.

2 comments:

McSquish said...

the Nazis were "left-wing" in an extremely limited sense, and one that only applies if it's simply defined as statism vs. anti-statism. they were for all-powerful government obviously, and merging corporate power with the state, but this was secondary to their narrow racialist ideology of Germanic superiority and enslavement (or extermination) of everyone else. this is why Communism is classified as far-left rather than Nazism/fascism, because like much of the modern Left they worship the God of Egalitarianism, whereas to any extent the Nazis were egalitarian or working-class socialist (the latter SA support of which faded out after the early years) it applied only to those designated Aryans. that's why they're classified on the Right, and the Right today is obviously much more concerned about the culture and the potential negative impact of unassimilated immigrants on the country's national identity -- in a healthy way, not to a genocidal Nazi extreme.

of course it's true that initially some Progressive figures were enamored with fascism's potential and others were into eugenics, but that's not something you see on the Left today, or the Right for that matter.

there's a tendency on both sides to try and rewrite history so that all the bad guys fit neatly on the other side. it's usually silly cuz things aren't that simple and everyone should be able to acknowledge the dangerous extremes of their respective ideologies.

McSquish said...

all that being said i entirely agree that both Nazism and Communism were essentially godless in nature, although obviously historical traditional Catholic/religious anti-Semitism could've made certain Germans more sympathetic toward exterminationist Nazi Darwinian anti-Semitism. the pseudo-scientific, modern rationale for both ideologies is always worth pointing out to New Atheist types who blame religion for all of society's ills.