I had a conversation with a friend. He said that he agrees with the principles that I am espousing in my two previous posts, but somehow he felt that he could not agree with me. He felt that my ideas are over the top. Comparing Fascists with Islamists is not quite right and does not fit. He had noticed that I do not say Islamists are equal to Fascists, but somehow he felt that it comes across that way. There is little wiggle room, the reader gets the impression that I am implying they are the same.
I agreed with him that it is quite easy to form a perception such as his about what I have written. I told him that I wrestled with it myself when I was developing these ideas. What I am saying about the Islamists is not the problem and that is why he agrees with the principles I have delineated. The problem is in our perception of Fascism. Fascism to most people is a discredited European phenomenon that was defeated militarily and we look at it from the end result of it and characterize it as "evil". How can one compare a living and struggling culture to fascism a dead and defeated phenomenon! That is the catch.
Fascists and Nazis were defeated and those ideologies were not equal to Italian and German cultures. What constituted the reactionary political movements of the early to mid 20th century were the ideologies that tried to extract something "glorious" from the history of Italian and German cultures as a guide or goal for the future and that is the essence of Fascism and Nazism. That is exactly what Islamism is. Looking at the past “glory” as the "model" for building the future. In the modern world this attempt, in all cases, is destructive and ends up being regressive and reactionary. Internally it will begin to dismantle the society and pushes toward military conflict as a means of social cohesiveness. BTW I have written on this subject previously, from a different angle. You can read it here and here.
All these movements like ISIS (ISIL) which is in a state of war in Syria and Iraq, like Muslim Brotherhood who tried to take control of Egypt through election or like Islamic Republic who has been in control of Iran and has a kind of electoral process. All have to maintain a consistent state of conflict with the west as the basis of their social cohesiveness. They all have the same basic characteristics as Fascism and Nazism. They look to the past as inspiration for the future. This is the similarity and it is the foundation of both Fascism and Islamism.
The difference is that Fascism has been defeated, stamped as rejected and overwhelmingly viewed as evil. For the most part people view the several decades of the formation, ascendancy and defeat of Fascism from its end point. But that end point does not define the whole process of Fascism and Nazism, their ascendency and defeat. Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, their appearance and national dominance was a process. They took advantage of elections in their push for their ascendency. To consolidate their dominance they suppressed all labor and social strife. Their economies that were in shambles began to stabilize, work days reestablished, streets got paved and the trains started running on time again. The stability created the illusion that as if they were doing something right. Governments began negotiating with them and formed treaties. Even in the early 1930s they attracted short sighted investors. In the meantime the Fascists and the Nazis were tearing their societies apart by pitting one segment against others, suppressing workers organizations and targeting particular ethnicities. The most well known among the targeted groups were the Jews. Preparations for the war boosted the sagging economies and by entering into the war they created a sense of national cohesion that counteracted the internal fissures.
In relation to the Islamists we are in the middle of a much broader and longer running process with the end result quite undetermined. In addition the twin sibling of Fascism, i.e. Communism, for years has been beating the drum of "national liberation" against "imperialism" for the weak and backward societies (I will have a separate post on this topic). The left and a broad spectrum of the people in the Western world have been bought out by this concept. This adds to the complexity of understanding and dealing with the Islamists.
The Sunni trend of Islamists best represented by the ISIS (ISIL) is trying to establish a national foothold for itself. Islamic Republic of Iran is a more developed Shiite version of Islamist. Both of them have the suppression of women as their banners. Both can maintain the sense of national cohesion only through military conflict. Following the arguments within the Islamic Republic circles it is very obvious that the nuclear agreement is very hard for them to swallow. Implementation of this agreement will undermine their anti west posturing and that is the minimum political requirement for the survival of the Islamic Republic.
Nazis had the shock troops to deploy both internally for the suppression of dissent and externally to grab territories with lightening speed. The external feature of the shock troops justified the internal clamp down. The Islamists need the external feature of their version of shock troops. The Sunni and the Shiite versions of the Islamists try very hard to achieve what Fascists and Nazis were able to accomplish. They constantly come short on that front and it tends to unravel their internal project of establishing and maintaining an Islamic state.
Islamic Republic in Iran could maintain its national cohesiveness during the Iran-Iraq war and keep the population silent while it was tearing the society apart. It was suppressing all religious minorities Sunni and Shiite sects while maintaining a façade that it was not touching Christians and Jews. They have been particularly suppressive of the Baha'is, basically excluding them from all benefits that society provides and imprison and kill them at will. Above all their prime project has been the suppression of the women's rights. Since the war has ended, or more correctly the end was forced on Khomeini, all these issues are coming to the surface. The Islamic regime in Iran needs to maintain the conflict with the West to counteract its ideological project which is tearing the society apart in the name of the Islamic purification.
There is another complication. If we understand the reactionary nature of the Islamists, yet acquiescing it is very hard. Particularly since this process has not come to a definite conclusion it is enticing to apologize for the Islamists and find positive things about their "anti-imperialism". My friend while critical of me has shed his "anti-imperialist" skin and is not carrying that burden anymore. But some who have escaped the dungeons of the Islamic Republic yet carry the mantra of "Hands off Iran". The generation of Germans who were cheering in the streets and giving salutes to Mussolini and Hitler or by being silent gave it credence and support, they could not admit their complicity for a long time. Some went to their graves refusing to admit their complicity. In the Western countries many leftist organizations actively organized against the U.S. entry to the WWII against Germany and to this day they theorize their miserable stand. They were complicit in longevity of Nazism and lengthening the war.
Many in our generation have been complicit in the ascendency of the Islamists. Only by admitting this plain truth we can open up our eyes to see the whole truth. I was complicit! It is hard to find any member of the Iranian intelligentsia of my generation who has not been.