June 24, 2007

Cameron Diaz, communists and Fascists

Cameron Diaz offended lots of people recently by wearing a Maoist slogan on her bag whilst in Peru. What's interesting is the way that this reflects a preoccupation amongst western liberals with the idea that in some way the Communists were fine- they were ok- that rumours of camps where women were starved so far that their uterus's fell out are nothing, that making an omelette involves as one leftwinger once told me breaking eggs.

Well the move deserves condemnation- I've tried to work out some of the reasons why many people within the West find communism less objectionable than Fascism here- most of it I think is down to historical experience and the difference between fighting a cold and a hot war and the difference that that makes in terms of popular and intellectual attitudes to a creed. Its noteworthy that for many of the most clearsighted during the forties like the socialist George Orwell Communism was always seen as as evil as Fascism and to their credit it was many on the moderate left- characters like Orwell, Ernie Bevin, Denis Healey, Dean Acheson, Harry Truman et al who stood up to Communism, just as many of the figures on the right stood up to Fascism- Winston Churchill would be a classic example.

I do think though that one of the interesting facets of this that my article doesn't dwell on is the way that totalitarianism breeds on itself. The presence of Communism made Fascism a more palatable option to the far right in thirties Germany. Later it was the presence of Communism that allowed such siren voices of illiberalism in the United States as James Burnham, McCarthy and others to flourish. McCarthy and his scions made many liberals into communists- dividing the world into those with and against us often does that. What Orwell realised is that there is a moral choice but the moral choice to be taken is against totalitarianism of any form- one of the more difficult things to persuade people of today is that often (though not always) repressive laws actually rebound- they create as much unrest as they attempt to solve and they give the state an appetite for being repressive. Such an effect leaves society like a drunken man on a horse lurching from totalitarianism to totalitarianism.

Liberal societies down the years have shown themselves strong enough to combat this tendency- the United States in particular showed its vigour in the 1950s by the fact that McCarthy had only a limited and temporary impact- but the example of Weimer Germany is terrible to contemplate. If only one wonders the German left had voted for the SPD and the German right the liberals- if only they had not for fear of each other abandoned the centre to the extremes- if only....


Graeme said...

I'll have to read the piece over at Bits of News later, but I'm equivocal with regard to equating fascism and communism. I won't apologise for the many crimes of communism as it was and is actually practiced, but I think that many of the core theoretical beliefs of communism (historical materialism, a class-based analysis, and so on) are valid. I'd choose to enact them in a democratic socialist way, however. Is there anything that can be salvaged from fascism? Not that I can think of. This said, an anti-totalitarian stance is worth defending.

How do we explain the recent popularity of politics as kitsch? I think you're absolutely right and that a lot of it has to do with historical experience, but I don't think that fashion (for this is really what we're talking about here) really gives much consideration to actual historical/political/ethical concerns.

Then again, you could read Cameron Diaz's handbag as a triumph of capitalism--it turns a Maoist slogan into a meaningless bauble that will go out of fashion in three months.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Interesting as always, Gracchi. You are right - when we abandon the centre we are in great danger. what I find so frightening about both extreme movements is that they both began in countries where beauty and the arts were valued. You'd have thought that would mitigate, but it did not.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

I think the point is though, that whatever the atrocities committed in the name of Communism, we can relate to it's ideals in a way we can't with the Far right.

It is the ideals that are being supported, not the history of the career of those ideas.

Wolfie said...

I think Fascism has got itself a bad reputation that it doesn't deserve simply because the Germans over-egged their pudding.

It worked reasonably well in Spain and there are plenty of people who miss Franco today - he wouldn't have let the Costa's turn into a concrete wasteland and ETA would be mincemeat.

Gracchi said...

Wolfie plenty of unpleasant things happened in Spain under Franco- just go and look for instance at his record in the Civil War- Anthony Beevor's latest book would help there. Franco was no Hitler but neither was he a pleasant guy.

Wolfie said...

Beevor's book like most are reluctant to delve into atrocities committed by the Communists. If the Communists had won I suspect Spain would have had the same fate as Russia did under Stalin.

Civil war is no tea-party.

I never said he was a "nice guy", but can you say that about any Communist leader who ever lived without looking like a complete fool?

Communism and Socialism has killed more people than any disease or ideology that has ever existed.

Some things are worth a little "unpleasantness".

Gracchi said...

Wolfie no I wouldn't say communists were nice either- that was the whole point of the article that this links to that we should be shocked by the Gulag too as well as the Holocaust.

But its rather too convenient to excuse the crimes of Franco by pointing to Stalin. The opposition to Franco was not all communist- there were anarchists and others as well- the point of my article on this blog is that the choice between Stalin and Hitler, Franco and Lenin is a false dichotomy- its a choice of barbarisms. I prefer not to take either because I think there are always better options- and the best way to produce the victory either of Fascists or Communists is to imagine that the centre can't hold and desert it to right or left.

Wolfie said...

In that case you have missed one fundamental issue in your analysis.

Why is Fascism held in contempt by the media/elite while Communism is given an easier ride? Why?

Fascism encompassed nationalism and nationalism is the only bulwark left which can challenge the spread of the new enslavement under globalism and corporatism.

By continuing the association of any kind of nationalism with fascism the progress of the new totalitarianism can continue unchallenged.

Gracchi said...

Wolfie- I wrote an article about that on Bits- about the difference partly because of the different nature of our conflict with Fascism and Communism.

As to nationalism- doesn't that depend on the nature of the nationalism- it can be about bashing people who aren't x or it can be a positive force. I think what nationalism is is actually very maleable- it can encourage cohesion in a society leading say to the kind of nationalism that promoted the welfare state in the UK because nobody ought to be left out- or movements to support fighting for freedom like in the second world war. Or it can be very negative. It depends entirely on whether the context- nationalism when it becomes an agent to support the BNP is a totally harmful force supporting a party that is stupid and petty in its approach to politics- but nationalism say when it supports say making the government live up to British values by upholding jury trial- the nationalism of Dominic Greive- is a good thing. It depends on the context in which the emotion is expressed.

Cleanthes said...


"I think the point is though, that whatever the atrocities committed in the name of Communism, we can relate to it's ideals in a way we can't with the Far right.

It is the ideals that are being supported, not the history of the career of those ideas."

Which is why we must fight communism all the harder. It purports to have nice fluffy ideals but it ALWAYS ends in failure, starvation, disaster and human catastrophe on a scale simply unobtainable by any other mechanism yet discovered by man.

Its failure is fundamental to its nature - it cannot ever work because its assumptions about human nature are just flatly wrong.

It is precisely because its ideals appear to be so lofty that its siren voice must be countered at every turn. It is because it inevitably leads to disaster that these sorts of stupid fashion statements should be shown up for what they are. Cameron Diaz would not have worn a bag with a Nazi slogan on it: she needs to be castigated as if she had.