Monday, March 06, 2017

Gregor on Marxist/Fascist Morality

I thought I would pull a few quotes from Gregor's book just to show how important morality and metaphysics were for the early Marxist theoreticians.  Left Marxists and Right Marxists may have differed on many questions but in the end they were all socialists.

It will he surprising to some—though certainly not everyone—that among the first issues engaged by the revolutionary thinkers at the turn of the twentieth century were those having to do with choice and determinism, with morality and ethics, with nationalism, with leadership, with the mobilization of masses, and how revolution was to be understood in the broad expanse of history. They are questions that continue to shape the revolutionary thought of our time.
Morals and ethics lie at the core of revolutionary commitment. As such, moral and immoral behavior, sustained or abjured by appropriate ethical assessment, becomes critical to any revolutionary enterprise. That enterprise is inextricably associated with the advocacy of, or resistance to, violence. At some stage in the process it becomes necessary to systematically address ethical and moral questions. At the very least, the proponents of revolution must justify to themselves or others their endorsement of real or potential violence. As early as his first efforts at revolutionary analysis, Karl Marx extended what could only be characterized as a slack interpretation of morals and ethics—as well as a singular account of human conceptual life in general. In The Communist Manifesto  of 1848, he simply dismissed the notion that there were "eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc.;" or that any such ideas should independently influence the course of human conduct. He argued, instead, that such ideas, other than eternal, were relative, a function of the time, place, and circumstances in which they find expression—and whatever influence they exercise, as we shall see, was to be understood to be the derivative result of objective factors that, taken together, he identified as time-specific "modes of production?'
Those were the convictions that shaped Marx's view that it would soon be the case that the "mass" of contemporary revolutionaries, the proletariat, would no longer entertain archaic notions about religion and the whole attendant "learned" nonsense about a transcendent morality emanating from the "realm of God", Marx informed the revolutionaries of his time that the morality of the proletariat would represent the "interests" of the emerging productive forces—the productive forces of the future—and as such would represent the only defensible morality for rational actors.
For all the efforts made to distinguish Marxism from fascism in any of its real or fancied forms, there is a lingering suspicion that the two ideological systems arc somehow related. The similarities were noted even before Italian Fascism had reached political maturity. Many Marxists were there at the birth of Fascism. However strenuously resisted by some, the relationship was recognized in totalitarianism. During the tenure of the regime, it was acknowledged by some of Fascism's major theoreticians. And after the passing of Leninist communism, its relationship to fascism, in general, was acknowledged by many of its erstwhile practitioners.

The difficulty that many have had with all that is the consequence of political science folk wisdom that has made fascism the unqualified opposite of any term of Marxism. So fixed has that notion become in the study of comparative politics that the suggestion of any affinities between the two is generally dismissed. And yet, some contemporary comparativists recognize that there was an unmistakable "essential ideological kindredncss" shared by fascism and Leninism. It was equally clear that at "certain pivotal ideational junctures, les extremes se touchent. (extremes come together)". It is important to try to understand how that could be possible. In answering that, one has a foothold on how one might explain the concept "totalitarianism”—that has fascism and the variants of Marxism as its referents. Attempting to begin to explain the relationship is part of the story of revolutionary thought at the turn of the twentieth century.
Italian Fascism was not Hitler's National Socialism, and it was not Lenin's Bolshevism—but all three shared some sort of affinity, however minimal. For the purpose of the present exposition, the relationship between Mussolini's Fascism and Lenin's Bolshevism is of central concern. It speaks to the ideological relationship shared by Italian Fascism and one or another variant of Marxism, and helps us understand why relevant similarities regularly resurface in any study dealing with modern revolutionary political systems. It is a story that covers almost half a century of European radical thought—and involves some of the major intellectuals of the first quarter of the twentieth century.

While it is only a thread in the complex tapestry of revolution in our time, it is an important and interesting concern. It deals with revolutionary morality and the ethical system that sustains it. It addresses the issue of how the revolutionary theorists at the beginning of our time attempted to understand human choice and political decisions. It deals with revolution and its motives, and violence and its uses.

In the course of time; all these concerns were addressed by self-selected Marxist revolutionaries at the end of the nineteenth century; some of whom were to become the leaders of revolutionary movements in the twentieth. History was to subsequently identify some as "Marxists" and others as "fascists." Those with whom we shall concern ourselves were all Marxists of one or another persuasion. The most interesting, for our purposes, were to ultimately be identified as "Mussoliniani;' intellectual leaders of Italian Fascism.

The reactor core of any political movement are the ideas that motivate it, but these ideas are themselves supported by a metaphysical structure which in turn shapes their nature. Old Europe starts dying when it rejects its Christian heritage and embraces the materialism of the Positivists. Those of the Alt-Right who are positivists/materialists are simply the Left dressed in right wing garb.