By Alfonso Casal
There is an unofficial logical fallacy, humorously named “Reductio ad Hitlerum.” Taking its place alongside other, more time-honored logical errors, Reductio ad Hitlerum, entails trying to win an argument by comparing the opposing view to the late Nazi Fuhrer and his regime. Another, and perhaps even more common example, is the making of very strained analogies to the events of World War II. We’ve seen factory farming compared to Auschwitz, and (in a particularly twisted way) anti-hate speech efforts denounced as “fascist.”
Recently, MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews compared Bernie Sanders’ victory in the Nevada Democratic primary to the fall of France in 1940. Matthews’ analogy was, of course, inept and false in a historical sense; and, deeply insensitive and degrading as it was directed at a Jewish social-democrat whose family suffered during the Nazi genocide. However, going beyond the obvious objections to Matthew’s immense faux pas, one can detect a deeper problem with the Reductio ad Hitlerum; a problem that speaks to the very way fascism is presented in the bourgeois media.
Fascism, is presented as an aberration. The consequence of evil men being allowed to spread their “hate.” Or of a nation “seduced” by a “twisted dream.” In spreading this narrative, the nature of fascism is hidden; and in hiding the nature of fascism, the ability to both comprehend and combat it is compromised. Fascism was not the result of mass insanity or the product of evil men and their hate. Fascism was, and is, part and parcel of capitalism in crisis. Fascism is the exceptional bourgeois state, the openly terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary elements of the capitalist class, called into being when the bourgeoisie can no longer maintain control and function in the old manner. Fascism is capitalism in desperate crisis.
The Italian and German industrialists who financed and supported Mussolini and Hitler were not madmen. Quite the opposite, they were shrewd and intelligent businessmen who knew exactly what their class interest was and how to protect and advance it. To analogize every present-day situation to Nazism and fascism is to trivialize it. To see fascism as a mental aberration or as a synonym for satanic evil is to cover-up its true nature, to render it incomprehensible, and thus, insurmountable.
Simply stated, Nazism/fascism is a direct product of capitalism. And, like the system that spawns it, it can and must be correctly understood in order that it may be defeated once and for all.