Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Original Axis of Evil

Working Definition of Fascism:
A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults or unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion. The Anatomy of Fascism by Robert O. Paxton. 321 pp. New York; Alfred A. Knoptf.

Fine-tuning definitions, however, is less important for the future than identifying and neutralizing fascist threats. This recognition will come, Paxton believes, "not by checking the color of shirts" but "by understanding how past fascisms worked. We should :not look for exact replicas, in which fascist veterans dust off their swastikas he writes: nor should we look for hate crimes and extreme nationalist propaganda. Rather, we should address the conditions and the enablers - political deadlocks in times of crises, and conservatives who want tougher allies and elicit support through nationalist and racist demagogy.