“There is a specter haunting the West, the specter of fascism” could be the opening line to a manifesto from just about any group in the modern West. Three generations after fascism ceased to exist as a real political and intellectual movement, it hangs over the Western mind like a terrifying fog. Every issue in the political debate is there because it relates to fascism in some way. It either defines who is and who is not a fascist, or it is assumed to be a precursor to fascism.
In every political debate, the people we continue to call conservatives are defined by their fear of being called fascists or an equivalent label. Racism, for example, is nothing more than a crude synonym for fascism. The people we call the Left have a deep sack full of terms that essentially mean fascist. If they call you an extreme right-wing extremist, they really mean you are a fascist. Of course, fascist now simply means “outside the moral consensus” as defined by the Left.
It is not just a rhetorical game. Western liberalism is now just a reactionary, but still revolutionary, cause that has evolved around fear of fascism. All of the weird cultural fads are driven mostly by a desire to strike out at the people the culture warriors assume to be fascists. These are the white people who are trying to live normal lives in middle-class suburbs. Woke is not for anything. It is against fascism and all of its manifestations, which can be anything.
Eric Hoffer famously wrote that “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.” This is clear when you look at what has happened to Western liberalism. Long stripped of its Christian moral foundation, it staggers on in opposition to one devil after another. The devil can take many forms but strip away the covering and what lies beneath is always an Austrian painter in the imagination of the Western mind.
This is a purely negative identity. Western liberalism no longer has an internal, independent definition for itself. Those concepts still linger in the past, occasionally referenced by the people we continue to call conservatives, but only as a way of trying to slither out from under the boulder labeled “fascism” that has been hurled at them by the people we call the Left. Both sides agree that everything they do not like is Hitler and Hitler is their forever enemy.
You see it in the recent scandal in Canada where all the best people were seen cheering a guy who turned out to be a former Nazi. Yaroslav Hunka, who is 98, got a standing ovation after House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota called him a hero during a Friday visit by Zelensky. Rota called him a hero because he was told that Hunka fought the Soviets in the war. Since Western liberals now think Putin is Hitler, Russians are Nazis, so Hunka must be a hero.
The haunting of the Western mind by the specter of fascism is right there in that ridiculous performance. Because Putin is Hitler, it means Russia is the new Third Reich, which makes Ukraine the symbol of the West. Zelensky has been transformed into Churchill, but not the drunken degenerate version. He is the lion of the West version who rallied the forces of good against fascism. To the dullards who put the event together, Hunka connected the present to the past.
In reality, Hunka was and remains a Banderan, a follower of Stepan Bandera, who was a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist in the middle of the last century. Bandera collaborated with the Nazis because he hated Russians. Ukrainian nationalism is and remains, like Western liberalism, a negative identity. It is haunted by fascism because they see fascism as the great enemy of Russia, which they hate as much as the Western liberal thinks he hates fascism.
Of course, the question is how did this Ukrainian fascist end up in Canada after the war and remain undetected? He is wanted by Poland for war crimes. It turns out that the West welcomed a lot of these guys after the war. John Demjanjuk was a famous example from the 1980’s. He was the center of a moral panic, mostly over the prospect of running out of real Nazis due to the actuarial tables. All the best people turned up to point their bony fingers at Demjanjuk.
That gets to the reality of fascism and why it haunts the West. Fascism is impossible to define, in part, because it is the universal bogeyman. Both communists and liberals have spent generations heaping every sin imaginable on fascism. Those sins, of course, are the things these ideological camps fear most about themselves. With communism in the ash heap of history, fascism is now just the warted, gnarled face of Western liberalism’s worst fears about itself.
Another reason fascism is impossible to define is it was never really a standalone ideology, but a reaction to ideology. Fascism would never have existed if not for the apparent failure of liberalism and the very real threat of communism, especially the Bolshevik variety. Fascism was an ad hoc defense against cultural and spiritual genocide by people who saw both Western liberalism and communism in their raw form as they evolved in the 19th century.
This is why modern liberalism looks strikingly like fascism. We live in an age where the lines between the state and capitalism are impossible to see. Corporate America and the apparatus of the state are two heads of the same hydra. The media, the academy and entertainment are the other heads. The body that controls them is managerialism, which looks a lot like fascism. If James Burnham were alive today, he would easily make the connection between the two.
For a long time, people have wondered what would happen when the last real Nazi or alleged victim of the Nazis is no more. In the next decade that whole generation will be gone, leaving no more devils for liberalism to chase. Similarly, people have wondered what comes after liberalism reaches its end point. Both questions seem to have the same answer in that one cannot live without the other. When both are gone, the long nightmare of the West will finally come to an end.
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