Sep 21, 2015

Ur-Fascism: The Concept and its Meaning

via Ur-Fascist Analytics

Author's Note: The following is a reworking of an essay I first published in December 2012. It is based on Umberto Eco's piece, "Ur-Fascism."

Ur-fascism is both a unity and a multiplicity, just as we find within life as a phenomenon, itself: Unity in its embodiment of a single phenomenon and multiplicity because of the diversity and disparity of form within that phenomenon. 'Ur' means primal or primordial: For example, in the form of Heidegger’s ur-grund ("primal ground") or ur-volk ("primeval people") as well as Goethe’s "ur-phenomenon" ("archetypal pattern" or "primordial pattern").

'Fascism' comes from the Latin, fasces, meaning "bundle": in political connotation: unity in a community. Ur-fascism is the primordial wellspring of every fascist aspiration or movement. This has many roots: Nation, race, ethnicity, heritage, lineage, culture, tradition, language, history, ideals, aims, and values. When a group has emerged, organically and historically, with its own identity, fate, and interests, a community has come into existence.[1]

A community integrated genealogically, linguistically, and institutionally at its apex forms a people; a people and its land forms a nation. When different peoples are united under one ruler, they may form an empire. Similar peoples that are historically coalescent may form civilizations; the core of a civilization is a race, just as the core of a people is a race, around which language, tradition, and culture coalesce. Every man and woman is, in a sense, "dual bound": He or she is bound first to service in the interest of his or her nation, and second to the interests of his or her race and civilization. At lower levels, a community could comprise many different unities: some that are spatial in extent, such as institutions, firms, or academies, and some that are genealogical in extent, such as families.

It is left to theoretical biology, ecology, zoology, sociology, and anthropology to inform our conception of how hierarchies emerge, why they emerge, and the scale of their durability; but there are many different sorts of "communities": In different scales and scopes.

Ur-fascism is the primordial foundation of all fascist movements, historically or potentially, that have the potential to unify communities at distinct levels. A nation is the metaphysical apex of community. 'People' is the modern English folk or the German Volk. The former comes from the Old English 'folc,' meaning "common people." 'Folk' was diffused through the introduction of the compound word, 'folklore,' by the antiquarian and demographer, William Thoms. Peoples are distinct and diverse biological entities, and the history of fascism reflects this diversity. Ur-fascism is the primordial source from which archetypal fascistic patterns emerge, and this is rooted in organic tendencies ingrained in living things: The inclination toward hierarchy, the fact of inequality, and suppression of autonomy. 

In human communities, including peoples and the nations that house them, such tendencies may give rise to myriad political systems. Of all such systems, fascism is the most natural, as it identifies and manifests tendencies that predate and structure humans.

Ur-fascism metaphysically elevates the group over the individual, the community over the member, the nation over the citizen. While Marxism stresses the conflict of interests between classes, ur-fascism builds on the unity of class interests in a group.

The founder and leader of the Romanian Iron Guard, Corneliu Codreanu, said: "A people becomes aware of its existence when it becomes aware of its entirety, not only of its component parts and their individual interests." [2] Ur-fascism is the primal root of the reality of the interests of a community in relation to the member. It transcends both revolutionary socialism and reactionary conservatism; it seeks neither to elevate workers over employers nor entrench unjustified privileges in outmoded castes. Instead, ur-fascism builds on the interests of a community in its entirety. That is, it is both revolutionary and conservative: Revolutionary in its willingness to overturn structures toxic to a community, but conservative in its insistence on preserving what is vital or essential to the life of a community.

In his contribution to the "Doctrine of Fascism," Giovanni Gentile said the state "interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people." [3] A nation, as an organic community, is much like a social organism that is directed by the vital social organ of the state. Under fascism, the community as a whole is sovereign. How that community is defined, and what its components are, is a function of its historical development and integral patterns that emerge within it. A community that forms a people, and the fusion of a people and its land that is the nation, has a natural composition, and this grows out of distinct historical, racial, ethnic, geographic, and genealogical patterns; the NSDAP defined national communities in racially homogeneous terms, while the Italian Fascist Party defined it broadly.

The relations between members of a community or citizens of a nation are political, social, economic and racial-ethnic. Inevitably, economic relations become integral to defining the objective interests of members, which must become a vital matter of the state.

However, the state, as conceived in most fascist systems, is not an instrument for the elimination of inequality; some social castes or classes might justly be overturned, but not the very idea of class or hierarchy itself. Ur-fascism forms and builds the conditions by which a community benefits from hierarchy and classes within it. It stands in opposition to the Marxist aspiration to end inequality, in and of itself, and dissolve hierarchy: This goal is as futile and destructive as the elevation of the interests of every cell in an organism's body to a plane of equality. Equality among the parts of a complex organism would mean death for the organism, just as a community, people, or nation cannot have a wholesome, healthy life without inequality. Ur-fascism utilizes inequality to benefit a whole community.

As such, the destruction of inequality is not an end in itself, even if the continued existence of certain classes is undesirable. A fascist United States would end speculation and abolish financial parasitism, but not because fascism opposes profit and gain. Ur-fascism taps into the primal impulse for gain and profit while ensconcing it within the context of the interests of a community as a whole. Ur-fascism is rooted in the primeval impulse of living things toward acquisition and the context that such aspiration manifests in with respect to communities and their interests that form an integral part of biological existence. As such, ur-fascism seizes on hierarchy and inequality to build communities, rewarding hard work and penalizing laxity. It opposes aristocratic entrenchment and revolutionary egalitarianism.

Ur-fascism is the primeval basis of all fascistic political patterns, rooted in a will to life that is as much a part of the fabric of communities as it is individuals. If it is authentic in embryonic and developmental stages, it will grow and enable a whole community to persist.

Fascistic movements or governments arise out of ur-fascistic wellsprings. These first begin a) in embryo, as nascent political organisms, whether as movements or as governments, and once they b) reach mature development, embellish explicit aims and policies.

(a) Umberto Eco's view of fascism is limited to the first stage, offering a conception of how fascism originates. In embryonic form, fascist movements and governments originate as phenomena that arise from within a community. This emergence may take the form of one, two, or several of the properties listed below, each originating separately or together, and either one after another or all at once. Eventually, these properties, however many happen to manifest, coagulate together. Imagine how a complex organism originates: It can start with only one cell or as a handful of cells: "It is enough that one of them be present so as to allow fascism to coagulate around it." Whether at the local or national level, and whether as a new movement or tendency in an existing government, fascism can be signaled by:
  1. Syncretic revival of tradition: a reawakening of identity by an integration of distinct traditions, symbols, icons, and ideals within and across cultures.
  2. Rejection of modernism: a reaffirmation of primordial ideals and values and rejection of the universalism and egalitarianism central to the Enlightenment.
  3. Necessity of action: a sudden realization of the limitations of the parliamentary process and a rejection of its emphasis on discussion and prolonged debate.
  4. Necessity of unity: awareness of the need for agreement on primeval values and aims, and rejection of endless discussion and dissent conceived as rights.
  5. Rejection of difference: seizing on the reality of national, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic identity, and opposition to alien values and mass immigration.
  6. Appeal to class interests: rejection of class conflict and dissent in a community, and an affirmation of the authentic interests of distinct groups and classes.
  7. Reality of internal and external threats: attention to actual or perceived threats to the community, and its ethnic, social, cultural or global character.
  8. Inconstancy in the enemy: conflicting images of enemies and changing perceptions; for ex., Jews presented as victims in film while seen as financially powerful. Often, the contradictory character of enemies is a key to threats they pose.
  9. Reality of life as struggle: rejection of perpetual pacifism that threatens the durability of a community, accepting the reality of perpetual struggle and vigilance.
  10. Populist elitism: realizing that it is a privilege to be a member of a community, raising higher over lower elements, the desirability of authoritarianism.
  11. A regard for death: grasping the agency of death, placing individual life in service to a community, and the intimacy of heroism and stoic embrace of death.
  12. Reaffirmation of traditional life: elevation of traditional families and social roles.
  13. The primacy of community: awareness that it is the community that has "rights" over the individual, and a leader, or leaders, who embody and manifest this.
  14. The mobilization of language: the desirability or necessity to reshape language to mobilize a community, and novel uses of terms, words, and phrases.
(b) Though Eco's analysis is limited to embryonic conditions in which fascism grows out of traits, ideals, and instincts within a movement or government, fascism also involves forming of explicit aims, goals, and policies. For example, a fascist movement may emerge from the reality of internal and external threats and a reaffirmation of traditional life, above, from these roots this novel fascist movement will develop particular policies that it would pursue if it attained power. Historically, there were many fascist movements and governments and these developed very diverse political aims, goals, and policies. This concern is separate from whether they are successful. While the particular goals, aims, and policies can and do vary, in many cases, both past and present, they often involve and include:
  1. Agrarianism and a preservation of rural life, usually related to ethnic identity partly rooted in a unique place; the NSDAP policy of Blut und Boden ("blood and soil"), for example, which was also linked to policies of demographic growth.
  2. Anti-capitalist policies that reject economic materialism and oppose the view that profit should be the primary aspiration of those involved in the economy.
  3. Anti-communist policy that opposes class conflict. Anti-capitalist and anti-Marxist fascist policies reject economic reductionism, which is the view that human life and social realities are in fact driven primarily by economic aspirations.
  4. An anti-liberal domestic policy opposing individualism, permissiveness, fragmentation, and a view of the state as an economic steward of atomized persons.
  5. Autarky, or autonomy, at all levels: aspiring to self-sufficiency in material, natural, and economic resources at the individual, local, state, and national levels; this includes to individuals, families, local communities, states, and entire nations.
  6. Class collaboration, class reconciliation, and harmonizing of class interests, combining worker rights and interests with the protection of private property.
  7. Economic policies based on corporatist, syndicalist, and "Third Position" views, as were advanced in Fascist Italy, Germany, Falangist Spain, and elsewhere.
  8. Environmentalist policies and advocacy of animal welfare, often aligned with agrarian policies, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and ecological policy; modern "Green" politics owes itself and its discourse to fascist environmentalism.
  9. Familial policies advocating protection of the interests of families, but also promoting the legitimate gender interests of men and women in social contexts.
  10. Fecundist policies and pro-natalist aspirations, particularly in contexts of demographic decline, but sometimes linked to irredentist and imperialist policies.
  11. Irredentist policies and the extension of "living space," such as the NSDAP's policy of Lebensraum; relatedly, some fascist regimes adopted explicitly imperialist policies, such as the policy of spazio vitale, or "vital space," of the Italian Fascist party.
  12. Mass mobilization and the creation of institutions that harmonize the interests of society and its members; for ex., the NSDAP policy of Gleichschaltung.
  13. Policies supporting creation of youth movements, and support for the young; fascism embraces the young as a vital part of the nation and the basis of its future.
  14. Public aesthetics, and the aestheticizing of social, national, and community life, often with social symbols, mass spectacles, rallies, and public ceremonies; sometimes, this is linked to syncretic traditionalism and the revival of archaic traditions.
The relationship between the embryonic and developmental stages of a fascist movement or nascent government is organic. Eco's analysis emphasizes the first stage, but implicitly leaves open the realities of the second. The first list above is a rewording of Eco's list of fourteen properties, with an attempt to summarize the essential nature of each. Eco's own approach forms a sort of preventative diagnosis: He is concerned to detail properties that allow others to identify a fascist movement or government before it matures. That is why he leaves out the later, mature developmental stages; he is less concerned with those. His analysis is intended to identify a fascistic political organism in infancy. My analysis expands on his by including an account of both embryonic and developmental phases.
 The two phases are not always temporally separated. A fascist movement can emerge in embryo with its policies fully formed. The NSDAP began with a party program. But there is a clear distinction between how a movement starts and what it aims to achieve.
 Furthermore, fascism is not always strictly national in character. Fascism is a system that can manifest at any level of community organization. Because it originates in the human heart, and spans human relations, it can arise at any level or type of community.

The historical diversity of fascism is profound. Franco's Spain eschewed expansion, but the pursuit of living space, or space within which a biological community can pursue prospects, was a central facet of German fascist policy. Italian fascism differed in its stress on vital space, which as a policy is principally cultural and spiritual. Mosley's British Union advocated preservation of the Empire and its closure within protectionist and isolationist policies. Hitler, Mosley, and Mussolini all sought autarky. But while racial policy was central to German fascism, it was not a central facet of Portuguese, Spanish, British or Italian fascism. PerĂ³n’s postwar Argentina developed a pluralistic fascism, and while Catholicism was central to Falangism, Quisling's National Gathering looked back to its pagan roots.
 Ur-fascism is the common wellspring of all of these, and other, historical fascist movements and governments. It is a family of living worldviews, including both concrete movements in the past and all possible future movements, each springing from a similar impulse to identify and actualize the essence of a community. The essence of fascism is not the marches, parades, and public spectacles by which it is commonly conceived, but the transformational character by which it seeks to revitalize a particular community and extend its life and the synergy that results when that community's members converged at a common juncture, in terms of their perception of themselves, individually, and that of their community. Historical manifestations of fascism in almost every instance bear out this conception.
 Eco's analysis, though intended to identify and expunge fascism before it reaches political maturity, affords us an instrument by which to view and to use fascism to inculcate genuine nationalistic responses to actual and possible sources of decline. Because ur-fascism is a family of worldviews, there is a sense in which the different properties and features at both the embryonic and developmental stages form a causally related clustering of elements. To promote any one element in the embryonic phase encourages, stimulates, and excites the other elements; for example, to encourage the syncretic resuscitation of tradition also tends to encourage the rejection of modernism, a traditionalist view of families, and a fascistic mobilization of language. These elements are causally bound up with each other.

Viewing ur-fascism in this way also avails us of a resource by which to articulate efforts to ensure the continued decline of our nations and of Western Civilization. When our enemies attack one nationalistic aspiration, they are also encouraging the denigration of another. To assail a traditionalist view of families tends, implicitly, to tear down any overt opposition to modernism or the constructive, nationalistic use of language to mobilize traditionalist ideas and sentiment. "Antifa," unreformed Marxists, and others who count themselves our enemies are aware of this, and that is partly why even the most subtle expression of positive ethnic, racial, or nationalistic sentiment arouses their vitriol. The deconstruction of the West proceeds precisely by branding itself "anti-fascist" and attacking fascistic values.

Seventy years of incessant deconstruction of the West has largely been based on attacks on the very elements that Eco lists as integral to embryonic fascism. It follows that authentic efforts to salvage our nations requires rehabilitating and resuscitating these values.

It again follows that to an actual revival of our nations requires a fascistic response, an open and vital, explicit and unapologetic, reliance on fascistic aims, ideals, and methods. Without it, we are principally engaged with avoiding the vile indictments of our real enemies.

Ur-fascism is a unified family of distinct fascistic worldviews, which in their authentic growth and expression are, in every case, native in character. All are rooted in primeval biological tendencies that have historical roots in evolutionary history. As an authentic prescription of political mobility, they are rooted in primordial organic permutations that drove the history of life and the diversification of biological communities over time, unfolding in a variety of distinct lineages. Novel biological communities emerge in the history of life, and exhibit themselves in distinct ways, arising from underlying mechanisms that work to ensure their preservation and persistence: The primacy of community over individual, the necessity of hierarchy, and an authoritarian character are vital elements in the persistence of life.

Viewed in this way, we can grasp Eco's claim that ur-fascism is "primitive": fascism, as a political system, is deeply rooted in primordial patterns that had been exhibited throughout the history of life, leading to the diversification and preservation of communities.

Understood as such, Eco's characterization of ur-fascism as "eternal fascism" now comes into focus: While fascism always manifests in certain times and places, it can always come back again in unexpected forms and guises, and can never truly be eradicated.
Notes:
1. Wiktionary defines “ur” as proto-, primitive, original. There have been several other explicit uses; Goethe employs “ur-sprung” (“origin”) in his Ueber den Ursprung der Sprache.
2. Stephen Fischer-Galati, Man, State, and Society in East European History (Pall Mall, 1971), quoted on p. 329.
3. Giovanni Gentile and Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism.

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