Charlie Stross: November 2016 Archives

I'm distracted at present (sorting out the final edits to "The Delirium Brief", finishing the first draft of "Ghost Engine"), but I can't help thinking that it's about time we all re-read Umberto Eco's magisterial essay on Ur-Fascism, published in the New York Review of Books in 1995.

... The fascist game can be played in many forms, and the name of the game does not change. The notion of fascism is not unlike Wittgenstein's notion of a game. A game can be either competitive or not, it can require some special skill or none, it can or cannot involve money. Games are different activities that display only some "family resemblance," as Wittgenstein put it. ... Fascism became an all-purpose term because one can eliminate from a fascist regime one or more features, and it will still be recognizable as fascist. But in spite of this fuzziness, I think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.

It's a long-ish essay, but absolutely essential reading. Remember, Eco wasn't just speculating—he grew up under a fascist dictatorship. And if you look around the world today and can't see the relevance of this essay, I suggest that you look again. Not just Trump: look at the BJP in India, the recent coup attempt in Montenegro, the rise of Marine Le Pen in France, Vladimir Putin's Kremlin, and so on.

PS: See also Dr Lawrence Britt on the common core features of fascism.

Update: I am seeing a number of commenters qualify their denunciations of fascism by taking ritual strokes on the dead horse of communism (or "extreme leftism") at the same time. Stop it. We do not currently have a systemic problem with a communist international seizing the reins on power in numberous developed nations; you appear to be twitchily recapitulating the doctrine of false equivalence that the news media in the US have fed you, and it's a distraction and a snare.

So I've had a week now for the outcome of last Tuesday's US election to sink in, and I've been doing some thinking and some research, and my conclusion is that either I'm wearing a tinfoil hat or things are much, much worse than most people imagine.

Nearly four years ago I wrote about the Beige Dictatorship, and predicted:

Overall, the nature of the problem seems to be that our representative democratic institutions have been captured by meta-institutions that implement the iron law of oligarchy by systematically reducing the risk of change. They have done so by converging on a common set of policies that do not serve the public interest, but minimize the risk of the parties losing the corporate funding they require in order to achieve re-election. And in so doing, they have broken the "peaceful succession when enough people get pissed off" mechanism that prevents revolutions. If we're lucky, emergent radical parties will break the gridlock (here in the UK that would be the SNP in Scotland, possibly UKIP in England: in the USA it might be the new party that emerges if the rupture between the Republican realists like Karl Rove and the Tea Party radicals finally goes nuclear), but within a political generation (two election terms) it'll be back to oligarchy as usual.

Well, I was optimistic. The tea party radicals have gone nuclear, but I wasn't counting on a neo-Nazi running the White House, or on the Kremlin stepping in ...

(Writing in haste because I'm packing for a flight home.)

So: we wake up the morning after the US election to discover ... what?

Here's my short term prediction, followed by my long term prediction. (And if you are American, I'm very, very, sorry.)



About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries written by Charlie Stross in November 2016.

Charlie Stross: October 2016 is the previous archive.

Charlie Stross: December 2016 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog