27 December, 2010

Exile's Return

The call for "female equality" is, ultimately, simply a marketing device used to double the consumption of products such as cigarettes, red whiskey, and denim trousers.
— Malcolm Cowley

Review of "Der Untergang der islamischen Welt: Eine Prognose"

Der Untergang der islamischen Welt: Eine Prognose by Hamed Abdel-Samad
Reviewed by Wolfgang Günter Lerch, translated by JLH, and reprinted from the Gates of Vienna blog.

Where does the hate of the Islamic world for the West come from? Is it from the false policy of the Americans, the unfortunate Iraq war, the fighting in Afghanistan, or the unsolved Palestine problem?

The German political scientist Hamed Abdel-Samad, himself a Muslim and from Egypt, has an answer which will not make most Muslims happy: In Islam, he sees a declining culture which is, so to speak, striking out blindly before it dies.

But how can you say that? Is Islam not the only religion that is growing, and not just because of demographic developments? For instance, does it not attract many in Africa who do not (any longer) practice other religions? Isn’t it Islam that gives an impression of aggressive strength which makes many people afraid?

In his book The Decline of the Islamic World: A Prognosis, the author comes to a completely different conclusion. The title was a conscious choice. When he first came to Germany, Abdel-Samad read Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West. At first, the opinions he had brought from home about the “decadent” West were confirmed in this classic of cultural philosophy. Spengler’s elitist, alabaster-like language was hard to understand, so he put the book aside. When he picked it up again later — intellectually better prepared for it — it became clear to him that Spengler’s analysis applied perfectly to the condition of his own Islamic culture.

Abdel-Samad is following a line of criticism of radical Islam already marked out by the Pakistani dissident Ibn Warraq, now living in the West, and/or Abdelwahhab Meddeb, the Tunisian-French author. All in all, though, he is milder than his predecessors, advocates for an Islam without sharia and jihad.

He sees the Islamic world as an uncreative culture which today does not offer humanity a single innovation. In contrast to the first three centuries of its history, when it enthusiastically absorbed everything foreign and created a society that was intellectually creative, and developed a religious pluralism that accepted individualistic, even hedonistic life styles, Islam is now in a state of cultural regression. Invocation of the golden age of Islam — strengthened by the consciousness of superiority that is inculcated in every Muslim — contrasts with the permanent sense of being offended, and with the collective complexes resulting from being outstripped by the West — the European-American culture. One of the outré chapter titles in his book is “I am Muslim, so I am offended.” According to Abdel-Samad, the radicalization that is called Islam today is not a new phenomenon, but a reappearance of constantly recurring waves of religious-theological rigidity which find fertile ground in an unenlightened, authoritarian image of God and an authoritarian exercise of power in religion and politics. Obedience, not individual thought, is the first duty of the faithful. For men as for women — but far more for women — sacrifice is the entire Islamic culture — petrified in intellectual barrenness.

The miseries of the present are lamented, but blamed on conspiracies of the West. Modernization means buying what the West has created, but rejecting the scientific, secular way of thinking that made it possible. Egyptian schoolbooks evaluated by the author speak volumes about the reflexive search for a scapegoat in the outside world. In justification for this attitude and in complete ignorance of the intellectual processes that have taken place in Europe since the Renaissance is the claim that Muslims are just taking back what they had once given to Western culture. The author does not deny the negative effects of Western (to be sure also Ottoman) imperialism on the Arabs, but notes that they are only too prone to self-exoneration.

Abdel-Samad’s prognosis is grim. If the Islamic world does not reform, it threatens to disintegrate, to do away with itself. After petroleum, no one will be interested in it anymore unless it finds its own way out of its self-inflicted weakness: which is the cult centering on authority and obedience, and rooted ultimately in an untouchable divine law. It extends from the concept of God, through the patriarchal family and the restrictive but mostly hypocritical sexual morality, all the way to the state and its leadership.

Critics will accuse this author of one-sidedness and generalizing. He polarizes, and that is intentional. In fact , he says nothing about the Islam of the Sufis, who shaped this culture over centuries, and little about the rationalistic traditions and reform movements. Then, too, the world of Islamic states, between Morocco, Turkey and Malaysia, should be differentially evaluated in many respects. But a sore point has been touched. It pains many Muslims and will make some indignant. And the West is on friendly terms with countries in which this “Islamic system” is carried out almost to perfection.

11 December, 2010

The People vs. the Money Power

"The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks."
John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton,
1st Baron Acton

30 October, 2010

The best legal advice you will ever get.

"...any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances."
– Supreme Court Justice,
Robert H. Jackson

03 September, 2010

Separated at Birth?

Kelly cartoons in the Onion

Pauley the Patriot cartoons at Renew America

17 August, 2010

One More Reason to Close the Borders

"It’s just obvious you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state."

— Milton Friedman

13 August, 2010

Just As True Now As In 2004

Grandstanding leaders never deliver, their fury mounts and mounts, and nevertheless they turn out every two years to return their right-wing heroes to office for a second, a third, a twentieth try. The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated then ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.
— Thomas Frank
"What's the Matter With Kansas"

11 May, 2010

What is Fascism (part twelve)

"Fascism is best defined as a revolutionary form of nationalism, one that sets out to be a political, social and ethical revolution, welding the ‘people’ into a dynamic national community under new elites infused with heroic values. The core myth that inspires this project is that only a populist, trans-class movement of purifying, cathartic national rebirth (palingenesis) can stem the tide of decadence”

— Roger Griffin, Nature of Fascism, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991, p. xi

13 April, 2010

Class War?

Anytime someone mentions the unfairness of absolutely untrammeled capitalism, they are accused of class warfare. Well, these figures show that American wages are down about 10% since 1972, and the rest of the article shows that figures for net worth and family income are just as bad if not worse. So — if the working class has taken that bad a beating in the last third of a century, and worker productivity is up some 200% since 1980, then just who is fighting a class war?

31 March, 2010

What is Fascism? (part eleven)

In his book "The Faces of Contemporary Russian Nationalism" (Princeton University Press, 1984) Hoover Institute fellow, John B. Dunlop, argues that contemporary Russian National Bolshevism (of the Limonov / Dugin variety) is actually a variety of fascism. Here then are his "eight distinguishing marks of National Bolshevism" presented not as a definition of National Bolshevism, but rather as a check-list of how these particular strains of National Bolshevism have perhaps veered off into fascism.

To summarize, the distinguishing marks of the National Bolshevik variant of contemporary Russian nationalism may be described as:
  1. a neo-pagan, militaristic cult of strength and invincibility of the Russian people;
  2. a militant and aggressive stance toward Russia's perceived internal an external enemies;
  3. a strong anti-Western orientation, at times linked to a belief in a "Jewish-Masonic conspiracy";
  4. an awareness of the country's serious demographic and social problems but a lack of angst concerning the future, a "can do mentality;
  5. a tendency to advocate racial purity and to disapprove of marriages between Russians and representatives of other nationalities
  6. adherence to a "single stream" view of Russian history
  7. a non-religious but not anti-religious posture; and
  8. a cult of discipline and of heroic vitalism.

22 March, 2010

I Reccomend This Film!

Food Inc. clearly shows how government policies have turned our food supply over to a hand-full of agribusiness conglomerates, turned our yeoman farmers into serfs, destroyed the meat-packer's union, and made an un-healthy diet the norm.

This is one more example, of which there are many, of why this capitalist system has got to go!

20 March, 2010

What is Fascism? (part ten)

Jonah Goldberg, in his book Liberal Fascism, offers this definition:

“Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good.
It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the ‘problem’ and therefore defined as the enemy. I will argue that contemporary American liberalism embodies all of these aspects of fascism.”

17 March, 2010

What is Fascism? (part nine)

Leon Trotsky addressed the nature of fascism in a letter to an English comrade, November 15 1931, which was subsequently re-printed in The Militant, January 16, 1932:

What is fascism? The name originated in Italy. Were all the forms of counter-revolutionary dictatorship fascist or not (That is to say, prior to the advent of fascism in Italy)?

The former dictatorship in Spain of Primo de Rivera, 1923-30, is called a fascist dictatorship by the Comintern. Is this correct or not? We believe that it is incorrect.

The fascist movement in Italy was a spontaneous movement of large masses, with new leaders from the rank and file. It is a plebian movement in origin, directed and financed by big capitalist powers. It issued forth from the petty bourgeoisie, the slum proletariat, and even to a certain extent from the proletarian masses; Mussolini, a former socialist, is a "self-made" man arising from this movement.

Primo de Rivera was an aristocrat. He occupied a high military and bureaucratic post and was chief governor of Catalonia. he accomplished his overthrow with the aid of state and military forces. The dictatorships of Spain and Italy are two totally different forms of dictatorship. It is necessary to distinguish between them. Mussolini had difficulty in reconciling many old military institutions with the fascist militia. This problem did not exist for Primo de Rivera.

The movement in Germany is analogous mostly to the Italian. It is a mass movement, with its leaders employing a great deal of socialist demagogy. This is necessary for the creation of the mass movement.

The genuine basis (for fascism) is the petty bourgeoisie. In italy, it has a very large base -- the petty bourgeoisie of the towns and cities, and the peasantry. In Germany, likewise, there is a large base for fascism....

It may be said, and this is true to a certain extent, that the new middle class, the functionaries of the state, the private administrators, etc., can constitute such a base. But this is a new question that must be analyzed....

In order to be capable of foreseeing anything with regard to fascism, it is necessary to have a definition of that idea. What is fascism? What are its base, its form, and its characteristics? How will its development take place? It is necessary to proceed in a scientific and Marxian manner.

11 March, 2010

What is Fascism? (part eight)

John Thomas Flynn (1882–1964) was an outspoken critic of the Roosevelt administration's domestic and foreign policy decisions, opposing both the New Deal and the Second World War. The Ludwig von Mises Institute posted his definition of Fascism (taken from his book "As We Go Marching") on their web site. These are its chief points:

As we survey the whole scene in Italy, therefore, we may now name all the essential ingredients of fascism. It is a form of social organization

  1. In which the government acknowledges no restraint upon its powers — totalitarianism
  2. In which this unrestrained government is managed by a dictator — the leadership principle
  3. In which the government is organized to operate the capitalist system and enable it to function — under an immense bureaucracy
  4. In which the economic society is organized on the syndicalist model, that is by producing groups formed into craft and professional categories under supervision of the state
  5. In which the government and the syndicalist organizations operate the capitalist society on the planned, autarchical principle
  6. In which the government holds itself responsible to provide the nation with adequate purchasing power by public spending and borrowing
  7. In which militarism is used as a conscious mechanism of government spending, and
  8. In which imperialism is included as a policy inevitably flowing from militarism as well as other elements of fascism.

Wherever you find a nation using all of these devices you will know that this is a fascist nation. In proportion as any nation uses most of them you may assume it is tending in the direction of fascism.

10 March, 2010

What is Fascism? (part seven)

Ernst Nolte, in his seminal "Fascism In Its Epoch" (English version, "Three Faces of Fascism," Holt Rinehart and Winston, NY, 1965) opens with a "First Definition" of Fascism that he then spends the rest of the book refining and elaborating.

First Definition

Superficial though it may be, this survey of the phenomenon and its interpretations to date enables us to arrive at a preliminary definition which will serve as a guide and at the same time be subjected to study and demonstration within the analysis.

Neither anti-parliamentarianism nor anti-Semitism is a suitable criterion for the concept of fascism. It would be equally imprecise to define fascism as anti-communism, but it would be obviously misleading to use a definition which did not adequately stress, or even entirely omitted, this basic criterion. Nevertheless, the identifying conception must also be taken into account. Hence the following suggests itself:

Fascism is anti-Marxism which seeks to destroy the enemy by the evolvement of a radically opposed and yet related ideology and by the use of almost identical and yet typically modified methods, always, however, within the unyielding framework of national self-assertion and autonomy

[Footnote: In its isolated form the definition lays no claim to originality. The basic paradox is already contained in the term "conservative revolution." Gustav Adolf Rein, in Bonapartismus und Faschismus (Göttingen, 1960), describes fascism as counter-revolution on the soil of revolution. The definition comes to life only within the framework of the study as a whole.]

This definition implies that without Marxism there is no fascism, that fascism is at the same time closer to and further from communism than is liberal anti-communism, that it necessarily shows at least an inclination toward a radical ideology, that fascism should never be said to exist in the absence of at least the rudiments of an organization and propaganda compatible to those of Marxism. It enables us to understand the extent to which there can be stages of fascism: according to the evolution of the ideology and the predominance of one of its two chief components, the pseudo-socialist or the elite — that is, race — element; according to the degree of determination in, and the more or less universal nature of, the will to destruction; and according to the energy of execution. The decisive factors, however, are starting point and direction, for this concept is a "teleological" one, and even the most marked differentiation of stages does not do away with the unity of its essential nature.

Finally, this definition enables us to make concrete distinctions and identifications: neither the Pan-Germans nor Stoecker's Christian Socialists come under it; on the other hand, there is no reason to maintain that every opponent of Hitler in his party or in the other groups of the extreme Right was a non-fascist.

09 March, 2010

What is Fascism? (part six)

R.L. Carsten, in his "The Rise of Fascism" (University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971) ends his book with a discussion of what constituted Fascism. He writes:

The Fascist movements which arose in Europe during the 1920's and 1930's were very different in character, and they mirrored the entirely different national backgrounds of the countries in which they developed. Some were more conservative, and others more radical in their demands and their actions. Some were violently anti-Semitic, and others were not. Some took revolutionary action and staged armed revolts against the government, while others insisted on the legal way as the only possibility of attaining power. Some acquired a strong following among the lower classes, while others remained almost entirely middle and lower middle class. With so much variety, it might be asked what hey had in common, and with what justification we can speak of Fascism in the singular. The following pages are an attempt to discuss those common traits — the factors which distinguish Fascism from other contemporary movements, whether right-wing or left-wing.

The Fascist movements, as has been emphasized by other writers, had much in common in their ideology — so much that they were able to borrow from each other.

He then goes on to enumerate several points of commonality among the various Fascist movements:

  • Strongly nationalist
  • Violently anti-communist / anti-Marxist
  • Hatred of Liberalism, democracy, political parties
  • Favored an authoritarian / corporative state
  • Party élitism
  • Para-military character of party
  • Myth of nation / race
  • Program of territorial expansion
  • Glorification of nation's historical (or pseudo-historical) past
  • Myth of the "Leader"
  • Cult of violence and "action"
  • Myth of the "devilish propensities of the Jewish race"

He then makes the following observations:

  • Unlike most other parties, which are to some extent class based, Fascist parties usually appealed to all groups in society, though especially to the lower middle classes that feel most threatened by economic change.
  • Fascist movements could develop in countries with a very strong left-wing movement (e.g. Italy or Spain) but equally in countries where the opposite was the case (e.g. pre-industrial Romania, or in Germany where the working class movement was suppressed).
  • Fascist movements thrive during economic crisis
  • Fascist movements rarely come to power unless some element of the existing power structure (the monarch, the army, the big capitalists) support the movement.

What is Fascism? (Il Duce's version)

In 1932 Mussolini wrote (with the help of Giovanni Gentile) and entry for the Italian Encyclopedia on the definition of fascism:

Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of Pacifism -- born of a renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice in the face of sacrifice. War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have courage to meet it. All other trials are substitutes, which never really put men into the position where they have to make the great decision -- the alternative of life or death....

...The Fascist accepts life and loves it, knowing nothing of and despising suicide: he rather conceives of life as duty and struggle and conquest, but above all for others -- those who are at hand and those who are far distant, contemporaries, and those who will come after...

...Fascism [is] the complete opposite of…Marxian Socialism, the materialist conception of history of human civilization can be explained simply through the conflict of interests among the various social groups and by the change and development in the means and instruments of production.... Fascism, now and always, believes in holiness and in heroism; that is to say, in actions influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect. And if the economic conception of history be denied, according to which theory men are no more than puppets, carried to and fro by the waves of chance, while the real directing forces are quite out of their control, it follows that the existence of an unchangeable and unchanging class-war is also denied - the natural progeny of the economic conception of history. And above all Fascism denies that class-war can be the preponderant force in the transformation of society....

After Socialism, Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic ideology, and repudiates it, whether in its theoretical premises or in its practical application. Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society; it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical consultation, and it affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful inequality of mankind, which can never be permanently leveled through the mere operation of a mechanical process such as universal suffrage....

...Fascism denies, in democracy, the absurd conventional untruth of political equality dressed out in the garb of collective irresponsibility, and the myth of "happiness" and indefinite progress....

...given that the nineteenth century was the century of Socialism, of Liberalism, and of Democracy, it does not necessarily follow that the twentieth century must also be a century of Socialism, Liberalism and Democracy: political doctrines pass, but humanity remains, and it may rather be expected that this will be a century of authority...a century of Fascism. For if the nineteenth century was a century of individualism it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism and hence the century of the State....

The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State. The conception of the Liberal State is not that of a directing force, guiding the play and development, both material and spiritual, of a collective body, but merely a force limited to the function of recording results: on the other hand, the Fascist State is itself conscious and has itself a will and a personality -- thus it may be called the "ethic" State....

...The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone....

...For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence. Peoples which are rising, or rising again after a period of decadence, are always imperialist; and renunciation is a sign of decay and of death. Fascism is the doctrine best adapted to represent the tendencies and the aspirations of a people, like the people of Italy, who are rising again after many centuries of abasement and foreign servitude. But empire demands discipline, the coordination of all forces and a deeply felt sense of duty and sacrifice: this fact explains many aspects of the practical working of the regime, the character of many forces in the State, and the necessarily severe measures which must be taken against those who would oppose this spontaneous and inevitable movement of Italy in the twentieth century, and would oppose it by recalling the outworn ideology of the nineteenth century - repudiated wheresoever there has been the courage to undertake great experiments of social and political transformation; for never before has the nation stood more in need of authority, of direction and order. If every age has its own characteristic doctrine, there are a thousand signs which point to Fascism as the characteristic doctrine of our time. For if a doctrine must be a living thing, this is proved by the fact that Fascism has created a living faith; and that this faith is very powerful in the minds of men is demonstrated by those who have suffered and died for it.

What is Fascism? (Official Comintern definition)

In 1935, Georgi Dimitroff, the Bulgarian Communist, presented to the seventh World Congress of the Comintern, "The United Front Against Fascism", a report that became the official Communist approach to fascism. Dimitroff characterized fascism as having two major features: it employed a demagogic ideology which mobilized the petit bourgeoisie, peasants, and the unemployed; and it utilized terror. However, the fascist movement only became dangerous at the point when the capitalists, who in fear of their own expropriation turned to the fascists to destroy parliament and the independent institutions of the working class. In short, Dimitroff asserted that fascism was anti-Communism.

The official Comintern definition of "Fascism," as adopted by the 13h Plenary Session of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (December 1933) is as follows:

Fascism is the undisguised terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialistic elements of finance capital.

What is Fascism? (part three)

Eternal Fascism:
Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt
By Umberto Eco
Writing in New York Review of Books, 22 June 1995, pp.12-15.

In spite of some fuzziness regarding the difference between various historical forms of fascism, 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.

* * *

1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition. Traditionalism is of course much older than fascism. Not only was it typical of counterrevolutionary Catholic thought after the French revolution, but is was born in the late Hellenistic era, as a reaction to classical Greek rationalism. In the Mediterranean basin, people of different religions (most of the faiths indulgently accepted by the Roman pantheon) started dreaming of a revelation received at the dawn of human history. This revelation, according to the traditionalist mystique, had remained for a long time concealed under the veil of forgotten languages -- in Egyptian hieroglyphs, in the Celtic runes, in the scrolls of the little-known religions of Asia.

This new culture had to be syncretistic. Syncretism is not only, as the dictionary says, "the combination of different forms of belief or practice;" such a combination must tolerate contradictions. Each of the original messages contains a sliver of wisdom, and although they seem to say different or incompatible things, they all are nevertheless alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth.

As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth already has been spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.

If you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores, are labeled New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine, who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge -- that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.

2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. Both Fascists and Nazis worshipped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon blood and earth (Blut und Boden). The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life. The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.

3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action's sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Hermann Goering's fondness for a phrase from a Hanns Johst play ("When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my gun") to the frequent use of such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals," "eggheads," "effete snobs," and "universities are nests of reds." The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.

4. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.

5. Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity. Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.

6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration. That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old "proletarians" are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.

7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. In the United States, a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be found in Pat Robertson's The New World Order, but, as we have recently seen, there are many others.

8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies. When I was a boy I was taught to think of Englishmen as the five-meal people. They ate more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers of Ur-Fascism must also be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.

9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such "final solutions" implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.

10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people in the world, the members or the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler.

11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero. In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death. It is not by chance that a motto of the Spanish Falangists was Viva la Muerte ("Long Live Death!"). In nonfascist societies, the lay public is told that death is unpleasant but must be faced with dignity; believers are told that it is the painful way to reach a supernatural happiness. By contrast, the Ur-Fascist hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for a heroic life. The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.

12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons -- doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.

13. Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view -- one follows the decisions of the majority. For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.

Because of its qualitative populism, Ur-Fascism must be against "rotten" parliamentary governments. Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.

14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the official language of what he called Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.

* * *

Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, "I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares." Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt's words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: "If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land." Freedom and liberation are an unending task.

08 March, 2010

What is Fascism? (part two)

Fascism Anyone?
by Laurence W. Britt

The following article is from
Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2.

Free Inquiry readers may pause to read the “Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles” on the inside cover of the magazine. To a secular humanist, these principles seem so logical, so right, so crucial. Yet, there is one archetypal political philosophy that is anathema to almost all of these principles. It is fascism. And fascism’s principles are wafting in the air today, surreptitiously masquerading as something else, challenging everything we stand for. The cliché that people and nations learn from history is not only overused, but also overestimated; often we fail to learn from history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is the norm.

We are two-and-a-half generations removed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, although constant reminders jog the consciousness. German and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated by protofascist1 regimes at various times in the twentieth century. Both the original German and Italian models and the later protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics. Although many scholars question any direct connection among these regimes, few can dispute their visual similarities.

Beyond the visual, even a cursory study of these fascist and protofascist regimes reveals the absolutely striking convergence of their modus operandi. This, of course, is not a revelation to the informed political observer, but it is sometimes useful in the interests of perspective to restate obvious facts and in so doing shed needed light on current circumstances.

For the purpose of this perspective, I will consider the following regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia. To be sure, they constitute a mixed bag of national identities, cultures, developmental levels, and history. But they all followed the fascist or protofascist model in obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. Further, all these regimes have been overthrown, so a more or less complete picture of their basic characteristics and abuses is possible.

Analysis of these seven regimes reveals fourteen common threads that link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power. These basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in some regimes than in others, but they all share at least some level of similarity.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.

6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.

7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.

14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.

Does any of this ring alarm bells? Of course not. After all, this is America, officially a democracy with the rule of law, a constitution, a free press, honest elections, and a well-informed public constantly being put on guard against evils. Historical comparisons like these are just exercises in verbal gymnastics. Maybe, maybe not.

What is Fascism?

What is Fascism?
by George Orwell (1944)

Of all the unanswered questions of our time, perhaps the most important is: ‘What is Fascism?’

One of the social survey organizations in America recently asked this question of a hundred different people, and got answers ranging from ‘pure democracy’ to ‘pure diabolism’. In this country if you ask the average thinking person to define Fascism, he usually answers by pointing to the German and Italian régimes. But this is very unsatisfactory, because even the major Fascist states differ from one another a good deal in structure and ideology.

It is not easy, for instance, to fit Germany and Japan into the same framework, and it is even harder with some of the small states which are describable as Fascist. It is usually assumed, for instance, that Fascism is inherently warlike, that it thrives in an atmosphere of war hysteria and can only solve its economic problems by means of war preparation or foreign conquests. But clearly this is not true of, say, Portugal or the various South American dictatorships. Or again, antisemitism is supposed to be one of the distinguishing marks of Fascism; but some Fascist movements are not antisemitic. Learned controversies, reverberating for years on end in American magazines, have not even been able to determine whether or not Fascism is a form of capitalism. But still, when we apply the term ‘Fascism’ to Germany or Japan or Mussolini's Italy, we know broadly what we mean. It is in internal politics that this word has lost the last vestige of meaning. For if you examine the press you will find that there is almost no set of people — certainly no political party or organized body of any kind — which has not been denounced as Fascist during the past ten years. Here I am not speaking of the verbal use of the term ‘Fascist’. I am speaking of what I have seen in print. I have seen the words ‘Fascist in sympathy’, or ‘of Fascist tendency’, or just plain ‘Fascist’, applied in all seriousness to the following bodies of people:

Conservatives: All Conservatives, appeasers or anti-appeasers, are held to be subjectively pro-Fascist. British rule in India and the Colonies is held to be indistinguishable from Nazism. Organizations of what one might call a patriotic and traditional type are labelled crypto-Fascist or ‘Fascist-minded’. Examples are the Boy Scouts, the Metropolitan Police, M.I.5, the British Legion. Key phrase: ‘The public schools are breeding-grounds of Fascism’.

Socialists: Defenders of old-style capitalism (example, Sir Ernest Benn) maintain that Socialism and Fascism are the same thing. Some Catholic journalists maintain that Socialists have been the principal collaborators in the Nazi-occupied countries. The same accusation is made from a different angle by the Communist party during its ultra-Left phases. In the period 1930-35 the Daily Worker habitually referred to the Labour Party as the Labour Fascists. This is echoed by other Left extremists such as Anarchists. Some Indian Nationalists consider the British trade unions to be Fascist organizations.

Communists: A considerable school of thought (examples, Rauschning, Peter Drucker, James Burnham, F. A. Voigt) refuses to recognize a difference between the Nazi and Soviet régimes, and holds that all Fascists and Communists are aiming at approximately the same thing and are even to some extent the same people. Leaders in The Times (pre-war) have referred to the U.S.S.R. as a ‘Fascist country’. Again from a different angle this is echoed by Anarchists and Trotskyists.

Trotskyists: Communists charge the Trotskyists proper, i.e. Trotsky's own organization, with being a crypto-Fascist organization in Nazi pay. This was widely believed on the Left during the Popular Front period. In their ultra-Right phases the Communists tend to apply the same accusation to all factions to the Left of themselves, e.g. Common Wealth or the I.L.P.

Catholics: Outside its own ranks, the Catholic Church is almost universally regarded as pro-Fascist, both objectively and subjectively;

War resisters: Pacifists and others who are anti-war are frequently accused not only of making things easier for the Axis, but of becoming tinged with pro-Fascist feeling.

Supporters of the war: War resisters usually base their case on the claim that British imperialism is worse than Nazism, and tend to apply the term ‘Fascist’ to anyone who wishes for a military victory. The supporters of the People's Convention came near to claiming that willingness to resist a Nazi invasion was a sign of Fascist sympathies. The Home Guard was denounced as a Fascist organization as soon as it appeared. In addition, the whole of the Left tends to equate militarism with Fascism. Politically conscious private soldiers nearly always refer to their officers as ‘Fascist-minded’ or ‘natural Fascists’. Battle-schools, spit and polish, saluting of officers are all considered conducive to Fascism. Before the war, joining the Territorials was regarded as a sign of Fascist tendencies. Conscription and a professional army are both denounced as Fascist phenomena.

Nationalists: Nationalism is universally regarded as inherently Fascist, but this is held only to apply to such national movements as the speaker happens to disapprove of. Arab nationalism, Polish nationalism, Finnish nationalism, the Indian Congress Party, the Muslim League, Zionism, and the I.R.A. are all described as Fascist but not by the same people.

It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.

Yet underneath all this mess there does lie a kind of buried meaning. To begin with, it is clear that there are very great differences, some of them easy to point out and not easy to explain away, between the régimes called Fascist and those called democratic. Secondly, if ‘Fascist’ means ‘in sympathy with Hitler’, some of the accusations I have listed above are obviously very much more justified than others. Thirdly, even the people who recklessly fling the word ‘Fascist’ in every direction attach at any rate an emotional significance to it. By ‘Fascism’ they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class. Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.

But Fascism is also a political and economic system. Why, then, cannot we have a clear and generally accepted definition of it? Alas! we shall not get one — not yet, anyway. To say why would take too long, but basically it is because it is impossible to define Fascism satisfactorily without making admissions which neither the Fascists themselves, nor the Conservatives, nor Socialists of any colour, are willing to make. All one can do for the moment is to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword.

26 February, 2010

The Meaning of the Hiss Case

The conspicuous trait uniting Hiss's dogged ex-post-facto bloodhounds with his die-hard defenders is the need to be 100% right in order to vindicate not only their verdict on American history but the governmental policies they espouse today.

The right-wing line goes something like this: liberals were wrong about Stalinism in the thirties; wrong about the influence of domestic communists; wrong about the Vietnam War; and wrong, wrong, wrong about the strength of the Soviet threat. And so it stands to reason that liberals must be wrong today in their opposition to the war in Irak and the erosion of civil liberties associated with the war on terror. Once a naïve liberal, always a naïve liberal.

On the left, the reluctance to let go of the Hiss case also has a pedigree extending from the 1930's: the right was wrong about the threat of Nazism and dismissive of the role played by Soviet Russia in holing off the Germans until America entered the war; wrong about the righteousness of the hunt for domestic Communists in the late forties and fifties; wrong about Vietnam; wrong about Gorbachev's sincere desire for reform; and wrong about the staying power of both communist ideology and the Soviet empire. Finally, of course, liberals believe that the right is wrong about the Irak war and wrong in its willingness to sacrifice some of our own cherished civil liberties in order to fight terrorism.

For both groups, the guilt or innocence of Alger Hiss remains today what it was in the fifties — a symbolic and real indicator of which side you were, and are, on.

04 February, 2010

National Communist Party of Sweden

An interesting statement of principles. One sees clearly that while they are loath to give up Marxist-Leninism, they are intuitively reacting against the cultureless secularism and internationalism of Marx. They realize that Liberalism is the enemy, yet they are not prepared to radicalize the conservative elements in society.

England is a Cesspit

Nigerian Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, responds to the United States' listing of Nigeria on terrorism list by proposing that the United Kingdom be placed on the list instead:

That was an irrational, knee-jerk reaction by the Americans. The man did not get radicalized in Nigeria. It happened in England, where he went to university.

England is a cesspit. England is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence. And yet England allows it.

This is part of the character of Great Britain. Colonialism bred an innate arrogance, but when you undertake that sort of imperial adventure, that arrogance gives way to a feeling of accommodativeness. You take pride in your openness.

This demonstrates, I believe, the ontological impossibility of declaring "war" on terrorism.

29 January, 2010

Why "Free Trade" is so Popular.

"A misconception that has become conventional wisdom is never corrected. Opinions are transmitted hereditarily, ending up as accepted history."

— Remy de Gourmont

27 January, 2010

The Flitcraft Parable

Sam Spade tells Brigid O'Shaughnessy about one of his cases:
A man named Flitcraft had left his real-estate-office, in Tacoma, to go to luncheon one day and had never returned. He did not keep an engagement to play golf after four that afternoon, though he had taken the initiative in making the engagement less than half an hour before he went out to luncheon. His wife and children never saw him again. His wife and he were supposed to be on the best of terms. He had two children, boys, one five and the other three. He owned his house in a Tacoma suburb, a new Packard, and the rest of the appurtenances of successful American living.

Flitcraft had inherited seventy thousand dollars from his father, and, with his success in real estate, was worth something in the neighborhood of two hundred thousand dollars at the time he vanished. His affairs were in order, though there were enough loose ends to indicate that he had not been setting them in order preparatory to vanishing. A deal that would have brought him an attractive profit, for instance, was to have been concluded the day after the one on which he disappeared. There was nothing to suggest that he had more than fifty or sixty dollars in his immediate possession at the time of his going. His habits for months past could be accounted for too thoroughly to justify any suspicion of secret vices, or even of another woman in his life, though either was barely possible.

"He went like that," Spade said, "like a fist when you open your hand ... Well, that was in 1922. In 1927 I was with one of the big detective agencies in Seattle. Mrs. Flitcraft came in and told us somebody had seen a man in Spokane who looked a lot like her husband. I went over there. It was Flitcraft, all right. He had been living in Spokane for a couple of years as Charles — that was his first name — Pierce. He had an automobile-business that was netting him twenty or twenty-five thousand a year, a wife, a baby son, owned his home in a Spokane suburb, and usually got away to play golf after four in the afternoon during the season."

Spade had not been told very definitely what to do when he found Flitcraft. They talked in Spade's room at the Davenport. Flitcraft had no feeling of guilt. He had left his first family well provided for, and what he had done seemed to him perfectly reasonable. The only thing that bothered him was a doubt that he could make that reasonableness clear to Spade. He had never told anybody his story before, and thus had not had to attempt to make its reasonableness explicit. He tried now.

"I got it all right," Spade told Brigid O'Shaughnessy, "but Mrs. Flitcraft never did. She thought it was silly. Maybe it was. Anyway, it came out all right. She didn't want any scandal, and, after the trick he had played on her--the way she looked at it--she didn't want him. So they were divorced on the quiet and everything was swell all around.

"Here's what had happened to him. Going to lunch he passed an office-building that was being put up--just the skeleton. A beam or something fell eight or ten stories down and smacked the sidewalk alongside him. It brushed pretty close to him, but didn't touch him, though a piece of the sidewalk was chipped off and flew up and hit his cheek. It only took a piece of skin off, but he still had time scar when I saw him. He rubbed it with his finger — well, affectionately — when he told me about it. He was scared stiff of course, he said, but he was more shocked than really frightened He felt like somebody had taken the lid off life and let him look at the works."

Flitcraft had been a good citizen and a good husband and father, not by any outer compulsion, but simply because he was a man who was most comfortable in step with his surroundings. He had been raised that way. The people he knew were like that. The life he knew was a clean orderly sane responsible affair. Now a falling beam had shown him that life was fundamentally none of these things. He, the good citizen-husband-father, could be wiped out between office and restaurant by the accident of a falling beam. He knew then that men died at haphazard like that, and lived only while blind chance spared them.

It was not, primarily, the injustice of it that disturbed him: he accepted that after the first shock. What disturbed him was the discovery that in sensibly ordering his affairs he had got out of step, and not into step, with life. He said he knew before he had gone twenty feet from the fallen beam that he would never know peace again until he had adjusted himself to this new glimpse of life. By the time he had eaten his luncheon he had found his means of adjustment. Life could be ended for him at random by a falling beam: he would change his life at random by simply going away. He loved his family, he said, as much as he supposed was usual, but he knew he was leaving them adequately provided for, and his love for them was not of the sort that would make absence painful.

"He went to Seattle that afternoon," Spade said, "and from there by boat to San Francisco. For a couple of years he wandered around and then drifted back to the Northwest, and settled in Spokane and got married. His second wife didn't look like the first, but they were more alike than they were different. You know, the kind of women that play fair games of golf and bridge and like new salad-recipes. He wasn't sorry for what he had done. It seemed reasonable enough to him. I don't think he even knew he had settled back naturally into the same groove he had jumped out of in Tacoma. But that's the part of it I always liked. He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling."

— Dashiell Hammett, "The Maltese Falcon" (1929)