Life outside the wall

Byline: | Category: Above the Fold, Culture | Posted at: Monday, 12 November 2018

Wall2Twenty-nine years ago this weekend the Berlin Wall fell.  Officially, East Germany called it the antifascistenschutzwall, the “anti-fascist wall,” and its purported purpose was to protect the Communist East from the “fascist” West.

Communists long have called themselves: “anti-fascists.”  They have had to do so since June 1941 when fascist Germany invaded the communist Soviet Union.  However, communists conveniently leave out of their timeline the two years preceding the German invasion when the fascists and the Soviets had an alliance and a treaty that divided Poland between them.  Of course, there was a feeling of betrayal after the German attack on the Soviets.  They understandably felt cheated by their socialist brethren.

Yes, I said Socialist.  Both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were socialist states.  It is right there in their names.  The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was the full meaning of the USSR acronym that was shorthand for the Soviet Union.  (In Russian, it is the Союз Советских Социалистических Республик, or the CCCP.)  In Germany, Nazi was a portmanteau of two German words:  National and Sozialististische, that was the beginning of the official party name:  Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or the National Socialist German Worker’s Party.

When German socialists betrayed Russian socialists it created a conundrum for socialists across the globe.  There had to be something that distinguished “bad” socialists, the Nazis, from good socialists, everyone else.  And so, for nearly eight decades the world has fixated on the fiction that nationalism was the problem.  It is socialism that is the problem.

Symbol of the Italian National Fascist Party

Symbol of the Italian National Fascist Party

Fascism is just one of its socialism’s many manifestations, but all of them share a common trait with fascism that is represented in the name itself.  It comes from the Roman fasces, a bundle of rods surrounding an axe.  Each rod was weak by itself, but bound together, the bundle was strong and it protected the axe, the symbol of magisterial power.  The fasces was a popular symbol and fascism was a popular sentiment in the early part of the 20th Century when socialist ideologies were in vogue, even among some in America.

U.S. Mercury Dime (obverse), 1916-45

U.S. Mercury Dime (obverse), 1916-45

It appears on the back of the Mercury dime, minted from 1916 to 1945.  The design was approved by William McAdoo, who was President Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of the Treasury, as well as his son-in-law.  McAdoo was most famous for presiding over the creation of the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank.  Centralism is, in fact, a critical tenet of socialism, and you can see it in the symbol of the fasces.  The rods are strong only when bound together and directed in unison.  Fascism, and in fact, all socialisms, require centralized control of individuals so as to achieve a common effect.

On its face, people coming together for a common purpose has a nice feel to it.  However, when enforced either by law or by social stigma, it is an ideal that is antithetical to the concept of individual liberty.  Socialists mean for the fasces to convey an ideal of uniformity of thought and action.  In the view of the central authority, anything outside of the bundle is a resource wasted, or worse, a threat to the bundle.

However, it is outside the bundle where society advances.  Inventors, artists, scientists, explorers, entrepreneurs, and philosophers advance the world by going where none have gone before.  By treading untrod ground they see the world in ways before unimagined.  But bound to the state, they pursue only what is sanctioned, and as “scientists” or “artists,” they are not worthy of the name.

Trofim Lysenko was a Russian agronomist who imagined socialist and anti-bourgeois principles in his “science.”  He advocated that crops be planted closer together because, according to his “law of the life of species,” plants of the same “class” never compete with each other.  He attempted to “reeducate” plants by freezing the seeds of warm weather plants so they would “remember” the cold after germination and thus gain immunity to freezing weather. His theories, while demonstrably wrong, were supported by Stalin, even to the point that in 1948, scientific dissent with them was outlawed.  Lysenko’s scientific philosophy supported Stalin’s political philosophy.  He was a rod in the fasces.  Thus he and his pseudo-science were unassailable.

Leni Riefenstahl was a German filmmaker.  In 1935 she directed Triumph des Willens, the “Triumph of Will.”  She visually glorified Hitler and his Nuremburg speeches where he declared, “All loyal Germans will become National Socialists.”  It was a powerful cinematic image that nested with the reality at Dachau, where for the previous two years the concentration camp was not a death camp for Jews, gypsies, or homosexuals, but was a “reeducation camp” for those politically opposed to National Socialism.  In fact, in Riefenstahl’s entire film, there is not one anti-semitic word spoken.  It was not until six months after the film’s release that Germany passed the Nuremberg Laws that formally instituted racist and anti-semitic laws and then expanded the country’s concentration camp system to receive them.  And it wasn’t for another year, after the 1936 Berlin Olympics, that Germany began to enforce the new laws.  For the first three years under National Socialist rule, Germany used its concentration camps to imprison those who refused to become rods in the fasces.  Dachau and the other Konzentrationslager enforced Socialism first.  Only later, after all the objectors were gone or scared into submission, did the socialists enforce nationalism.

At the heart of Lysenko’s agricultural theories, Riefenstahl’s cinematography, and in fact, at the heart of socialism itself, is a constructivist belief that a centralized state can forcibly reshape the environment in order to modify people and society into a new image.  It is a belief that opposes individualism and diversity.  It stands in opposition to experimentation and progress, since neither can occur unless they are in accordance with where the centralized society wants them to go.  As Riefenstahl’s film demonstrates and in the words of Hitler himself, “It makes no difference if one is a street cleaner or a professor, as long he works for the whole and does his duty.”  The socialist state—no matter the nation—does not allow dissent.  It does not allow rods to be free from the fasces.

That scientists, artists, and other supposed groundbreakers would willingly engage in groupthink to advance a preferred narrative rather than to explore the outer limits of knowledge and thought, is an insult to their fields.  For every Riefenstahl heralded by a centralized society, there is a talented Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, or a Degenerate Artist sentenced to ignominy or worse.  Science and art are where resistance to the status quo must reside.  When a field has come to the point where everyone agrees and there is no dissent, the real revolutionary idealist must ask himself:  Is there no dissent, or is there no dissent allowed?  If it is the former, then the freedom to dissent still is important.  But if the latter, dissent is an imperative.  Otherwise, you live inside the wall.

RELATED:  Socialists and Fascists have always been Kissing Cousins

Share this post:

Comments are closed.