Caught from the corner of one's eye: decorative mosaic, Conjunto Nacional, 1958: Banco Itaú office block and shopping mall, Avenida Paulista at R. Consolação, São Paulo, Brazil.
The fascist solution was not brokered compromise but forcibly knocking heads together. Italian fascists formed a paramilitary, not a political, party. The Nazis did have a separate party, but alongside two paramilitaries, the SA and the SS, whose first mission was to attack and, if necessary, to kill socialists, communists and liberals. In reality, the fascists knocked labor’s head, not capital’s. –Michael Mann, Washington Post op-ed, Jan. 31, 2008
I was puzzled recently to read a review by Diogo Schulp of Michael Mann’s Fascists in Veja magazine. See
Schulp appears to misrepresent the essential argument of the book. Indeed, he appears to have reviewed the book without reading any more than the package he received from the book’s publicist — and with not very close attention, at that.
From the dust-jacket copy:
Fascists argued that an “organic nation” and a strong state that was prepared to use violence to “knock heads together” could transcend the conflicts, especially the class conflicts, rending modern society. We also see the fascist core constituencies: social locations that were at the heart of the nation or closely connected to the state, and people who were accustomed to use violence as a means of solving social conflicts and who came from those sections of all social classes that were working outside the front lines of class conflict. The book suggests that fascism was essentially a product of post–World War I conditions in Europe and is unlikely to reappear in its classic garb in the future. Nonetheless, elements of its ideology remain relevant to modern conditions.
Schulp seizes on this nuanced conclusion to repeat a common neoconservative talking point: Fascism was the product of a specific historical moment, and it makes no sense to speak of “fascists” or “fascists” any longer — as Venezuela’s Chávez often does, notes Schulp, irrelevantly but with undisguised disgust.
Because some of those conditions do seem present in contemporary Brazil, making it a very handy book to have translated into Portuguese.
(Indeed, Veja magazine appears to reflect one of those conditions: the willingness to infect social communications with black propaganda and disinformation, despite the democratic prescriptions of Dr. Habermas. See also Brazil: Media and Militias.)
The discussion of Italian paramilitarism, and the social negotiations that legitimated paramilitary violence, out of a mistaken belief that it could be domesticated, for example, could easily be applied in useful ways to Colombian “parapolitics” and to the cancer of “militias” in Rio de Janeiro (and elsewhere in Brazil, where such groups are known by different names.)
The central thesis also seems to apply to contemporary Brazil: fascism as a solution to the contradictions of the “dual” or “semi-authoritarian” state. With their strong presidentialism, and the disposition of the latifundiário class to assume such powers at any cost and by any means necessary — Mexico’s President Calderón received about one-third of the votes cast, for example, amid mind-blowing irregularities in the voting and vote-counting, but nevertheless governs in the “strong presidentialist” style — many Latin American countries present similar scenarios today.
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