Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Soft fascism

What is soft fascism? A Google search for “soft fascism” only yields about 8000 results, so it isn’t a mainstream term. Although the word “fascist” is often used as political abuse, a more nuanced term such as “soft fascism” could have its uses.

Most UK politicians overtly or covertly support government control over all aspects of daily life including the economy, while leaving business in nominally private hands. It's not fascism because the racism, extreme nationalism and militarism are absent.

However, the totalitarian control, intolerance of dissent, finger-pointing, official lies, political pressure on language, pressure to conform and the grotesque malice of activist supporters – these are not absent.

BRITAIN appears to be evolving into the first modern soft totalitarian state. As a sometime teacher of political science and international law, I do not use the term totalitarian loosely.

There are no concentration camps or gulags but there are thought police with unprecedented powers to dictate ways of thinking and sniff out heresy, and there can be harsh punishments for dissent.

Hal G P Colebatch - 2009

Maybe “soft fascism” serves well enough as a tag to label a bundle of malign social and political trends.

Soft but pervasive censorship.
Soft but pervasive policing.
Soft but pervasive propaganda.
Soft but pervasive behavioural controls.
Pervasive aggression toward internal enemies (*).
Pervasive promotion of useful idiots.

* It isn't all soft, as the Colebatch piece suggests.

For example, there is a pervasive undermining of scientific integrity wherever a situation arises where official policy demands scientific advocacy. Health advice, drug policies, energy and environmental policies are just four areas where soft fascism has a controlling influence.

In the UK, political party leaders David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg lead parties with a diffuse yet powerful allegiance to soft fascism. Politicians from the traditional left, right or centre now owe much more to soft fascism than their outdated party traditions.

However, soft fascism seems to have learned from the tragedies of totalitarian government in the twentieth century. Three key lessons appear to have changed authoritarian thinking such that even stable democracies such as the UK have been subverted.

Firstly, universal welfare is a prerequisite for undemocratic but stable government. Put crudely, a warm hut, full belly and big telly will do it.

Secondly, a key lesson of behavioural psychology is that reward is more effective and predictable than punishment when it comes to controlling behaviour. This lesson has been thoroughly learned.

Thirdly, prosperity is needed to fund the first two lessons. This requires a moderately successful, if heavily controlled business sector. Communism won’t do.

These three linked lessons are being used to build totalitarian but stable government in the erstwhile democracies of Europe and elsewhere. Even the USA is not likely to be immune.

Unlike communism, soft fascism acknowledges the essential role of business in creating the wealth required for universal welfare. However, the soft fascist version of free enterprise is not laissez faire capitalism. Government and corporate offices have many connecting doors.

This is perhaps the biggest weakness of soft fascism. Constant government interference in commercial activity is in the long run likely to be both ineffective and damaging enough for soft fascist businesses to be vulnerable to outside competition.

The response has been to try to get rid of outside competition via a complex web of international and global regulations and treaties, but the weakness still stands. At the moment soft fascism appears to work. Whether it continues to work as it tightens its grip on daily life remains to be seen.

Whatever your political allegiance, it will mould your behaviour.


Sam Vega said...

The Colebatch article is very telling; it's only when we see the evidence marshalled and summarised that the depth of the mire becomes apparent.

I am, though, not convinced that the government or any self-identifying elite are in control of this. I think it is much more diffuse. As individuals, and as members of different institutions, we seem to be much keener on policing and controlling one another than we used to be.

A K Haart said...

Sam - I agree, it is diffuse and difficult to nail down.

We seem to identify with a whole range of social policing functions. Maybe it's the opportunity to identify which is new.

Sackerson said...

2 works, not least because there are lots of ways to avoid punishment, as ACLB learned early.

1 is good or at least better than prewar misery, though some take the p.

3 is where it will all fail I fear, thanks to globalism and inadequately controlled migration.

The article you cited is horribly disturbing.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - I agree, although I'm not sure about prewar misery. My parents, aunts and uncles never mentioned it, but maybe they didn't see the worst of it or chose to leave it in the past.

I agree about the article too - shocking when listed out like that.

DBC Reed said...

The present system is quite overtly fascist,soft or what have you.
It consists of building up a privileged group,in our case homeowners, who are bribed with massive state supported house price increases to look down on the unprivileged even as they struggle to make money by working.It is no wonder that the Mail switched from going Hurrah for the Blackshirts to Hurrah for house price inflation!

A K Haart said...

DBC - and at the moment we are seeing a rapid increase in the proportion of rented property to take advantage of those struggles.

Mr Right Wing said...

I prefer the term "soft totalitarianism" as it is more politically neutral.

Although we don't have gulags we are seeing the beginnings of "re-education" centres, aimed at bringing dissenters into line.

A K Haart said...

MRW - "soft totalitarianism" is more politically neutral but to me sounds a little clunky.