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  • Richard Farr

Fascism for beginners

Adolf_Hitler_and_Benito_Mussolini - Edited

“Oh what fun it all is! Look at the joy on their little faces!”

There’s so much being written about threats to democracy that it’s hard to keep up. On the 1936 v 2018 question, the most recent New York Review of Books has a thoughtful, nuanced piece by historian Christopher R. Browning, The Suffocation of Democracy. And there’s an earlier piece by Browning, reviewing Volker Ullrich’s book on Hitler, here.

Meanwhile The Guardian has a review of philosopher Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works, which itself contains references to Daniel Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die, Cass Sunstein’s edited collection of essays Can It Happen Here?, and others.

Speaking of Sunstein, see his review of two more books on the rise of the Nazis here.

As I’ve said before, there are no two better (worse?) reads on the theme than historian Timothy Snyder’s pamphlet On Tyranny, or the first 70 pages of Joachim Fest’s memoir Not I: Memories of a German Childhood.

Hard to keep up. And hard not to wonder if keeping up matters: incipient Nazis, of whom we are re-discovering there are so many, are interested in power – not even their own power, necessarily, but just the spectacle of the exercise of power; they consider an interest in arguments, and facts, as merely a sign of weakness. I’m reminded of Bernard Williams: “What will the professors arguments do, when they knock down the door, smash his glasses, take him away?”

It is possible to look on the bright side, sort of. On the international league tables of freedom and corruption, the US is not Russia. Or China or Vietnam or Laos or Cambodia. Certainly no Saudi Arabia, or North Korea. Not even Poland, or Hungary, or Italy. So much falling still to do! But why should Scandinavia and New Zealand have to be the world’s last Bantustans of governmental transparency and decency?

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