Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at jhu.edu
Mon Jun 15 10:08:21 PDT 1998

At 11:42 AM 6/13/98 +0100, Jim heartfield wrote:

>>Fascim is not about repression. It is about the state using repression
>>selectively as the means of social control.
>To my mind this is a bit too broad to be useful. We already have a word
>for repression ('repression'), so nothing is gained, but undue
>dramatisation by saying that America (or Britain) is 'Fascist'.

I reply (WS):

Surely, there is emotive connotation in the word "fascim" and it is primarily that connotation that is responsible for the overuse of the term.

However, I think fasicm reprsents a specific use of repression that singles it out from other uses of that means of social control.

Repression or genocide of minorities are not new, and it was effectively used in the colonisation of North America, or venting popular rage in Europe (pogroms). However, what distinguishes pogroms form fascism is how the state apparatus was involved in it.

Both European pogroms and ethnic cleansing of the North American land were accomplished mainly through mob-style violence. The state apparatus might have instigated that violence and look the other way when it was taking place -but the acts of violence itself was not carried out by the agents of the state as a part of their line of duty. For example, Custer might have been an Army officer, thus nominally an agent of the state, but his campaigns against the Natives were more or less his private war, tacitly supported by Washington politicos, but not openly endorsed by the fedral government. Ditto for the pogroms in Europe or the US South. Raids on Jewish or Indian settlements, lynchings, etc. were organized and carried out by private citizens, encouraged by the state to be sure, but without state agents officially participating in them.

By sharp contrast, fascist repression was carried by agents of the state in their line of duty, as a matter of official policy toward minorities. From that standpoint, Kristallnacht was NOT a representative example of fascist repression - it was 'ordinary' mob violence that was antithetical to the organiosed use of repression by the state apparatus. That point is explicitly made by Richard Rubenstein in _The Cunning of History_. I also think that this is explicit in the term "Staat Pogrom Nacht" that some german lefties prefer to use instead of Kristallnacht.

That definition, BTW, makes the policies of Israeli government fall into the definition of fascism, since the repression of the Palestinian minority is careried out by the agents of the Israeli state and is the matter of government policy rather than mob violence merely instigated by the government. Ditto for South Africa under apartheid.

>The exhibit in the holocaust museum is (by virtue of its one-sidedness)
>a lie. This is a lie that has been perpetrated in almost all
>representations of the holocaust and the lie goes like this:
>A cultivated and educated minority, the Jews, were victimised by
>proletarian thugs in uniform.
>The film-makers two favourite episodes of the Fascist rise to power are
>Kristallnacht and book-burning. Both stand as emblems of the persecution
>of a cultured, middle class minority by lumpen thugs.

I reply (WS):

I think Jim has the point that the victims of the Holocaust were defined mainly by their ethno-religious affiliation rather than their social class - and the Holcaust Museum in DC is essentially silent (to my recollection) on the social class of the victims.

On the other hand, I was somewhat surprised by numerous references to socialist movements and organizations in the Museum. To my recollection, several texts identify these movements and organizations as the majot force of opposition to the Holocaust.

I would also disagree that the portrayals of the Holocaust are uniform in their view of elite Jews being victimised by proletarian thugs. For example, Rubenstein (quoted above) goes as far as saying that Judenrat became a tool in the nazi extermination machine precisely because of the misguided notion of the Judenrat officers - mainly upper class conservative Jews - that they could save Jewish elite by demonstrating their usefulness to the Nazi war effort and, at the same time, identifying and selecting the 'less worthy' Jews to be fed to the furnances of Treblinka.

Based on that observation, Rubestein forms the central claim of his argument that the modern state has the capacity to organize a people for its own destruction. That capacity is uniqe of the modern state, Rubenstein claims, no other organizational form possess it. Therefore fascism is a unique form of repression.



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