Robert Paxton notes in his book Anatomy of Fascism that the definition of fascism “is the open, terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”
Sound familiar? No, I am not suggesting that the Republican Party are fascists. I am merely using this as an illustration by likening the Republican Party to National Socialists (in WWII Germany) and the Democrats to the German Democratic Party (GDR) post-WWII Germany.
My intention is not to place labels on the Republicans or the Democrats, but to examine the methods of communication of both the GDR and National Socialist Party to see how they relate to contemporary politics in the United States.
The National Socialist Party in WWII Germany began with just seven men, and in seven years succeeded at rising to power. They accomplished this not through a philosophically grounded campaign, but through a set of what Paxton calls “mobilizing passions” that informed their propaganda.
These mobilizing passions were not rooted in anything propositional, but stood on their own, without defense. Paxton suggests that the mobilizing passions of the National Socialist Party were:
- a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions;
- the primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether individual or universal, and the subordination of the individual to it;
- the belief that one’s group is a victim, a sentiment that justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against its enemies, both internal and external;
- dread of the group’s decline under the corrosive effects of individualistic liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences;
- the need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary;
- the need for authority by natural leaders (always male), culminating in a national chief who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s destiny;
- the superiority of the leader’s instincts over abstract and universal reason;
- the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success;
- the right of the chosen people to dominate others without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group’s prowess within a Darwinian struggle.
Omitting violence (though one does wonder about the NRA), it doesn’t take a trained historian or contemporary political scientist to see just how closely these mirror the present-day Republican Party. It is this in which Republican policy exists.
These mobilizing passions make excellent talking points because they are so easy to remember and so easily applied to contemporary politics. Watch FOX News for an hour or so and count how many of these you can tick off the list. I did it in six minutes.
The Democrats are much more philosophical, much more thoughtful in the political arena. Their policies are generally grounded in an underlying propositional logic, making policy thoughtful and easy to defend, which brings us to the GDR.
The GDR was much more careful about who qualified as a propagandist when it was showtime. It produced volume after volume on politics and propaganda, which were essentially the textbooks of the budding GDR apologist. This enabled the propagandist to do her job in an informed way, grounded in the ideology of the GDR.
If the GDR was a party of ideology, the National Socialists were a party of propaganda.
By now you will be beginning to see how these two parties relate to contemporary politics and government. Cruz’s grandstanding 21-hour talk-a-thon focused mostly on that which the National Socialists did in WWII Germany. It was also a cynical bid for a presidential run – but that is a subject for another essay.
My point out of all of this is, if I’m right about the Republican Party, and if I’m right about the Democrats, then which party has spent the most time considering policy? I’ll give you a guess: it’s one of the two.
The Republican as National Socialist is a party shouting out at the top of their lungs mobilizing passions that keep them on TV and in the money. This sort of starts to come together when you look at their main outlet from which they confess their absolute outrage at everything not Republican, doesn’t it?
Fox News. It’s interesting, given all that we’ve just seen, that Fox News and the Republican Party are the two most likely American players to call the Democrats Nazis. It’s interesting because when we look at the comparisons made earlier, it’s the Republican Party who are overwhelmingly similar to the National Socialist Party of WWII Germany.
You can’t invoke Godwin’s Rule here, because I’m obviously not calling the Republican Party a bunch of Nazis. The fact is that they aren’t. They do, however, down to the flashy Fox News pictures, engage in an almost identical system of propaganda centered around the mobilizing passions that we looked at earlier. Incidentally, the National Socialist Party was also known as the Nazi Party.
So, which is the more worthy Party? Well, I suppose it depends on what is most agreeable to you. The Party that shouts things at cameras and throws the toys of the pram when they don’t get their way, or the Party that has thought through their policies, the implementation of which is defensible.
In the end, it’s up to you.