Progress Pilgrims and the Fascist Pit

“It is time to shout . . . that the freedom of all the earth’s people to move across borders must be at the center of any response to the climate crisis.  Unless we do, racism and fear . . . will give way to fascism and war before the tides get a chance to drown us.”

Ben Erenreich, “Open Borders Must be Part of any Response to the Climate Crisis,” The Nation (June 6, 2019)

There was a time when a Man of God would terrorize his congregation with a vivid prospect of Hell and damnation. Today our men of god are for the most part godless, but they are no less give to terrorizing their listeners with lively descriptions of the punishment that awaits men who do not repent and amend their ways. This punishment is not eternal torment in a Lake of Fire, but a future in which the sin of “racism and fear” has received its just wage of “fascism and war.”

I think we can fairly define a Nazi as the Progressive devil, and fascism as the Progressive hell. Give me what I demand, says the Man of Progress, or the Nazi devil will come in the night and drag you down into the Fascist Pit. Do exactly as I say, or prepare for a future in which the fire of fascism “will not be quenched,” in which the “unprofitable servants” of Progress will “weep and gnash their teeth.”

When a Man of God threatened fire and brimstone, he laid considerable stress on what he called “backsliding.” Any Christian who relaxed his zeal and discipline would, he warned, begin to slide back towards the Mouth of the Pit and the Jaws of Hell.  This backsliding began the moment a Christian’s faith grew “lukewarm.”

Although he does not use the word, the Man of Progress is haunted by a similar fear of backsliding and growing lukewarm.  He is, after all, a Pilgrim on the way to his Celestial City.  He is a “stranger in a strange land,” that strange land being this world.

Where Christians had their Pilgrims Progress, the Man of Progress marches in a hegira of Progress Pilgrims.

I say Progress Pilgrims because, unlike Bunyan’s Pilgrim, a Man of Progress cannot make it to the Celestial City by himself.  You must join his pilgrimage.  You must become a  Progress Pilgrim, too.  For in the mind of a Man of Progress, mankind is like a party of roped mountaineers climbing an icy slope.  If one grows lukewarm and begins to slide backwards, the others must either stop him or all will be dragged, screaming and helpless, into the smoking Fascist Pit.

39 thoughts on “Progress Pilgrims and the Fascist Pit

    • I’m not talking about politics in the 1930s. I’m talking about politics today, where “fascism” is a meaningless hex word and “anti-fascism” is an excuse for intolerance, violence and repression. As for your evidence, this is evidence for the behavior of fascism under attack from most of the world. We simply do not know how it would have behaved under more favorable circumstances. But let’s not get bogged down in counterfactual history. Wild talk makes for bad political discourse, and nowadays the left is giving us most of the wild talk. Calling a man or a movement fascist is as historically meaningless as calling him a Guelf or a Ghibelline, and serves only to exclude him from the public square. The only reason to exclude a man or movement from the public square is that they explicitly intend to dynamite that square.

      • The Left makes use of what I would call a function-vocabulary. The function-vocabulary consists of words that have no real meaning, but only serve a function. There is the Sign of Inclusion and then again there is the Sign of Exclusion. These signs define the totality of the Left’s (much restricted) consciousness — and that totality is utterly totalitarian.

      • While it is true that the term fascism gets thrown around rather freely, it is hardly a “meaningless hex word” when used by actual historians of fascism, many of whom think it quite applicable today, such as Timothy Snyder or Christopher Browning.

        As for your evidence, this is evidence for the behavior of fascism under attack from most of the world. We simply do not know how it would have behaved under more favorable circumstances.

        So you are an actual Nazi apologist then? OK, well, then there isn՚t much point in dialog. And it kind of gives the game away; you don’t really object to “fascist” being meaningless, you object because it points uncomfortably close to yourself.

        I՚m entirely comfortable with excluding fascists, Nazis, and their supporters from the public square. They՚d do that and worse to me. Given the explicit reactionary ideology of this blog, I assumed that people here would be ashamed to invoke liberal pieties like freedom of speech.

      • Zippy made this move as well. By turning fascists and nazis into liberals, the right can then wash their hands of the fascist and nazi sins and scapegoat them onto liberals.

      • I see that my longer answer to a.morphous was somehow lost, so I’ll try to adumbrate it here. I think we should all beware of slippery slope arguments, and I know there are those on the Right who are too quick to see crypto-communists in welfare state social democrats. I think this comes of a mistaken assumption that politics is logic and that all political principles must therefore be pursued to their logical conclusion. My conservatism eschews this rationalism and views all political opinion as an expression of temperament. A man who presently feels that society is a little too fragmented is not secretly hungering for a society that has no diversity whatsoever. Social order could easily become too restrictive for me, and I would then complain that everyone should loosen up. If I complain that the room is too warm, it does not mean I will not stop complaining until the temperature is below zero.

        Observing that a political party might have performed better under better circumstances is hardly an apology for the way it actually did perform. It is basic sociology to say that a group or individual is conditioned by its environment. As I said in my first attempt at an answer, if the “mistakes were made” defense works for the far left, something similar must be allowed to the far right. In any case, I do not propose that we run that experiment a second time.

      • winstonscrooge,

        Zippy regarded Nazism as a species of liberalism, true, but he did not claim the same for fascism. Mickvet below is correct that fascism and Nazism are not the same thing. And whether or not Zippy is correct that Nazism is a species of liberalism, he was undoubtedly correct that it was in a different genus from the sort of traditionalist Christianity he advocated.

        JMSmith,

        As for your evidence, this is evidence for the behavior of fascism under attack from most of the world. We simply do not know how it would have behaved under more favorable circumstances.

        I think there is a good chance that if Mussolini hadn’t sided with the Axis powers and associated with Hitler, he’d have been considered a reasonably good leader. The Italian fascists didn’t have the noxious racial ideology that the Nazis did, and Mussolini had no plans to liquidate millions of people, after all.

        However, I think it is inevitable that in the long run, fascism would have degraded into something wicked and anti-human, because it did not recognize anything transcendent outside of the state. This is the problem with all modernist ideologies: they make some finite, subordinate good into the ultimate good.

      • If “the left” or “liberalism” can envelope such a varied group of people (i.e., Nazis and the people who fought against them because they were ideologically opposed to them), is the label even meaningful anymore?

      • winstonscrooge and a.morphous,

        Zippy regarded Nazism as a species of liberalism because the Nazis were committed to freedom and equality as political goals.

        I myself would be more inclined to say that Nazism is something different from liberalism, since it made race rather than freedom and equality ultimate, though with some liberal commitments.

        Regardless, I would say that liberalism and Nazism (and fascism) are species of modernism.

        The fact that Nazis and liberals fought each other doesn’t tell us much about whether or not they reside within the same genus. Catholics and Protestants have fought against each other because of ideological opposition: that doesn’t mean they aren’t both Christian.

      • I never read much of Zippy’s writing, but right-wing critics of the Nazism often complained that it was demotic. You can find this in Evola or Kuehnelt-Leddihn. This may be what Ian/Zippy mean by its egalitarianism. Volkish egalitarianism is not liberal egalitarianism, but it is egalitarian. I’d guess that “freedom” likewise meant freedom for the German Volk, and that it meant absolute national sovereignty and freedom from “international” control. You can find this in Ernst Junger. I’m not making these arguments here, only pointing to the serious political philosophy that stands behind Ian/Zippy.

        When we say that Liberalism is a doctrine of freedom and equality, we mean that liberalism advances a certain understanding of what those words mean. Communism is also a doctrine of freedom and equality, but it gives these words a very different meaning than one finds in liberalism. I think Zippy/Ian are wrong to see Nazism as a species of liberalism, but that it is perfectly reasonable to say that Nazis were committed to a freedom (for the German volk) and equality (of members of the German volk). And one can say this while dissenting from those definitions.

      • Zippy regarded Nazism as a species of liberalism because the Nazis were committed to freedom and equality as political goals.

        Yeah if there’s one thing you can say about Nazis its that they were dedicated to freedom and equality.

        As I said, this person sounds like an idiot, although perhaps that is insulting to idiots, who are usually harmless.

      • See my answer to Winstonscrooge. Political philosophy is very largely an argument over the meaning of words like “freedom” and “equality,” and every political doctrine claims that it is committed to freedom and equality “properly understood.”

      • This goes back to the point that if everyone has a different definition of liberalism (or freedom and equal rights) then how can we know if we are talking about the same thing when these terms are debated?

      • I think you and I could agree that liberalism defines freedom as individual freedom and equality as universal equality. These are reasonable definitions, but individual freedom constrains group freedom and universal equality constraints other forms of peerage. The point of this post is that we should not defame a doctrine by pinning the flaws of other doctrines on it, so I would try to be fair to liberals.

      • winstonscrooge,

        I agree basically with what JMSmith wrote. The Nazis wanted freedom and equality for the Volk and wanted to erase traditional class distinctions within the Volk (Zippy provided numerous quotations from Mein Kampf in an attempt to demonstrate this).

        The Nazis ran a police state that discriminated based on race. Please explain how this reflects a policy of freedom and equal rights.

        Modern liberalism also discriminates based on race. Every state must discriminate, and a liberal regime will discriminate against groups that are regarded as obstacles to equal freedom. On the conceit that Nazis were liberals, the idea would be that the Jew was an obstacle to securing equal freedom for the Volk. Modern liberalism discriminates against those not yet born because they are obstacles to equal freedom for women, and increasingly against whites because they are regarded as obstacles to the equal freedom of underachieving minorities. Communists discriminated against capitalists and kulaks because they were regarded as obstacles to the equal freedom of the proletariat.

        This goes back to the point that if everyone has a different definition of liberalism (or freedom and equal rights) then how can we know if we are talking about the same thing when these terms are debated?

        What is common to different species of liberalism is that each attempts to define freedom and equality with respect to the individual and with no reference to a theory of the good: liberalism tries to prescind from such questions, so as to allow each man to pursue his own vision of the good. Such a thing is impossible, and this is why different sorts of liberals will have different conceptions of freedom. And this is why I would not classify Nazism as a species of liberalism: the individual was not ultimate to them, but rather the Aryan race. Freedom and equality were subordinated to the Aryan race.

        By the way, I don’t know that Zippy would have denied that Nazis were on the right (if I recall, he didn’t regard the right-left distinction as all that useful). There are right-liberals and left-liberals, after all, just as there are right-Hegelians and left-Hegelians.

      • Thanks Ian. That’s a concise explanation. I understand the problem of using freedom as an orienting position for a government rather than the good. It took me a while to get that btw. However, I do think it is possible to have a state that is more free and good than another. I like to compare the US (for all its flaws) and North Korea. So, although I understand the argument you make against liberalism I don’t see a viable alternative that will work in the modern world. I recognize that you would probably claim to be an anti-modernist as well but I don’t see any way around the modern world.

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    • I don’t have a precise definition. I suppose I mean the left that that has treated me unjustly. I understand that I am less likely to receive injustice from the bullies on the right.

  3. A.morphous above deploys the typical progressivist sleight of hand of conflating fascism with Nazism. Then he applies the label to another with not a single reason to support the application. Can progressivists not be truthful, even for a moment?

    Actions speak louder than words, according to the old saying, and it is those masked ones who claim to be ‘anti-fascists’ who wear the black shirts and intimidate with street violence.

    • A.morphous above deploys the typical progressivist sleight of hand of conflating fascism with Nazism.

      What a sneaky devil I am, conflating two movements that are so entirely different, as if they were connected along some sort of Axis.

      • Nazism is the other side of the coin of Bolshevism. It far less resembles Fascism. In fact, this can be measured empirically, by counting the bodies.

  4. How is the so-called “climate crisis” to be improved by having low-energy consumers in underdeveloped countries move to developed countries and become high-energy consumers?

    It’s obvious that the Ehrenreichs of the world have little concern about climate and are using the issue as a cover for their diversity mania.

    • I once worked this out after an argument with a sanctimoniously childless couple. In the first generation it’s a wash, since per capita consumption of small families is higher and their net consumption is equal to that of a large family with the same income. After a few generations there will be a spread because the total income of the more numerous descendants of the fecund couple will probably be greater than the total income of the more exiguous descendants of the less fertile. But it does take a few generations since the single child can be boosted to high earnings by heavy parental investment.

    • You’re making the argument that the climate crisis is controlled (at least partially) by population control. But if that were true, why increase our population through immigration at all? At any rate, France has the highest fertility rate in Europe – and those aren’t “French” people having those babies.

      And wouldn’t a more efficient response be for Westerners to emigrate to third-world countries and become low energy consumers while maintaining their low fertility rates? After you, Mr. Ehrenreich.

      • The global population will decline in the coming years. It’s also aging. In fifty years countries will be competing for immigrants for their labor. But the overall population decline will certainly ease the strain on the climate in terms of carbon production.

      • Winston @ Population decline will be too slow to have much effect on the climate models, and will in any case be negated by the growing affluence of third-world populations. Global totals don’t begin to drop until the end of this century, and by that time the world will be a very different place. But the biggest thing is that there are about four billion humans who hope for nothing so much as to increase their carbon footprint, and people like you and I cannot cut our consumption enough to yield no net increase. If there is a solution, it must be technological. The numbers for demographic and lifestyle solutions don’t add up.

        Technology is working against your prediction of competition for immigrant labor. Right now the short-term cost of imported human labor undercuts robotics in many areas, but this likely will not last.

      • Agreed that a solution for climate will likely be technological. It’s unclear whether robotics and automation will eliminate the need for human labor sufficient
        overcome the coming human labor shortage.

      • There are several ways to address a labor shortage. Raising wages is one. Reducing opportunities for life without laboring is another. Many unemployed people are unemployable, but many of these are unemployable because America presently treats bums pretty well. There is a lot of labor wasting its time in high school and college, and a serious labor shortage would move these bums into the workforce. And there is a lot of retired labor that would not be so tired if retirement benefits were cut. There is also a great deal of labor just sitting on the couch while the immigrants mow the lawn.

      • I don’t disagree with any of that. One the labor shortage kicks in wages will by necessity rise. Property values will decrease as there will be less demand interestingly.

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