A HAUNTING FAMILIARITY:

PODCAST: The Birth of British Fascism (The Rest Is History)

The cultural roots of fascism swirled around Britain at the turn of the 20th century, as medieval nostalgia, an obsession with hygiene, anti-semitism, and concern for the environment grew in the wake of modern development. In the 1920s, Britain faced similarly tough conditions to the European countries where fascism did take hold; major economic difficulties, unpopular governments, and intense fears of Bolshevism. But did fascism ever really find an audience in Britain? Listen to the first episode of our series on British fascism, as Tom and Dominic discuss fascism in Britain before the emergence of Oswald Mosley

Pretty remarkable how little you’d need to change for this to be about MAGA.

THE rIGHT IS THE lEFT:

How a 1950s new left manifesto explains the 2020s new right (Jason Willick, September 5, 2022, Washington Post)

There are clear parallels between today’s populist right and the new left movement that exploded in the 1960s and 1970s.

C. Wright Mills, a sociologist at Columbia University, was that movement’s intellectual godfather. Consider a passage from his 1956 bestseller, “The Power Elite,” a polemical attack on the structure of America’s institutions that would inspire a generation of new left activists:


“[The power elite] are in command of the major hierarchies and organizations of modern society. They rule the big corporations. They run the machinery of the state and claim its prerogatives. They direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure, in which are now centered the effective means of the power and the wealth and the celebrity which they enjoy.”

Today, that passage could easily appear in a populist-right publication such as the Claremont Institute’s the American Mind, which denounces the liberal “regime.” If uttered on Fox News or Newsmax, it might be condemned as an example of conspiracism or misinformation that sows discord and undermines confidence in institutions.

Mills, who died in 1962, didn’t use the term “deep state,” but an unaccountable bureaucracy was a major concern of the new left philosopher. “It is in the executive chambers, and in the agencies and authorities and commissions and departments that stretch out beneath them” where much policy is made, he argued, “rather than in the open arena of politics.”

Those making decisions were not chosen by ordinary voters: “Once, most of the men who reached the political top got there because people elected them up the hierarchy of offices,” Mills observed. “But of late, in a more administrative age, men become big politically because small groups of men, themselves elected, appoint them.”

When the rest of society rejects your politics it’s always convenient to have a conspiracy to latch on to.

NO ONE HAS IT HARDER THAN THEIR FATHER DID:

The weird thing happening to Republicans in D.C. should scare Americans everywhere (Stephen Moore, Nov. 13th, 2023, Fox News)

A weird thing is happening politically in Washington. This new wing of the GOP is adopting the declinist rhetoric of Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying that middle-class America has fallen behind over the last 40 years, and that all the economic gains have gone to the richest Americans and big corporations.

Except this argument about the last 40 years — the greatest period of wealth creation and technological advance in world history — is flat-out false. Actually, it may be hard to appreciate given the last three depressing years of COVID, lockdowns and then Bidenomics, but the last 40 years have been a golden age of prosperity for virtually every income group — including the middle class. Median family income reached $78,000 in 2020, which is $20,000 a year higher than it was in 1983. That’s about a 35% after-inflation increase over the period.

Those income measures don’t include the much wider availability of more non-cash benefits — such as health care coverage, more vacation, and 401k and other retirement benefits — that make middle-class families almost 50% better off than in the late 1970s. They don’t take into account the cleaner air and water, the vast improvements in combating diseases such as cancer and heart disease, the superiority of the quality of products we buy today, and the fact that virtually all Americans now have a device in their pockets that puts the whole world and the entire Library of Congress at their fingertips — with access that is virtually free.

THE CULTURE WARS ARE A ROUT:

Liturgical Conservatism and the Modern Novel: The greatest Catholic writers of the 20th century drew on the deep riches of the liturgy to speak to the secular age. (Roy Peachey, October 29, 2023, European Conservative)

The conservatism of some of the greatest Catholic writers of the 20th century has often baffled, and sometimes enraged, their literary critics, with Evelyn Waugh and J. R. R. Tolkien in particular coming under sustained attack. Writing in The Guardian, for example, Damien Walter complained that “Tolkien’s myths are profoundly conservative” and so aren’t to be trusted. Maybe Sauron wasn’t evil at all: “Isn’t it more likely that the orcs, who live in dire poverty, actually support Sauron because he represents the liberal forces of science and industrialisation, in the face of a brutally oppressive conservative social order?” As for the dragons, “a balanced telling might well have shown Smaug to be much more of a reforming force in the valley of Dale.” Evelyn Waugh has been similarly chastised. One critic protested his “excessive conservatism” and another, clearly irritated by The Sword of Honour’s critical success, argued that it was a triumph only “for pessimism and conservatism.” Writing in the New Statesman recently, Will Lloyd could not hide his exasperation: “Why the passing decades cannot diminish him ought to trouble our creaking, secular, liberal age.” Well, quite.

Timelessness provides longevity: shocking, eh?