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Nigel Harris


(Winter 1965)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.23, Winter 1965, p.31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Three Faces of Fascism
Ernst Nolte
Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 70s.

This is an important and useful book, and one of the first attempts to place fascism in a comprehensive and sophisticated theoretical framework: as such, it deserves close reading and understanding by all socialists.

Professor Nolte seeks to place fascism in its historical era, outline its essence, integrate it with general cultural history, and then identify it as both general phenomenon and unique configuration in three countries and three organisations: Action Française, the Fascisti and the Nazis. Each of these main case studies examines the relationship between the organisation concerned and its contemporary fascist organisations in other countries, the reasons for its rise and intellectual background, its history, practice and doctrine. Finally, Nolte seeks to define fascism in relationship to three conceptual views of bourgeois society, those of Marx, Nietzsche and Weber. The methodology provides fruitful insights, and the philosophic framework gives a depth to the analysis which is notably lacking in both ordinary bourgeois accounts and the crudely mechanical Stalinist explanation of fascism, as well as encompassing the valid insights in both. More could certainly have been said on the intellectual traditions, not necessarily related to particular thinkers, and on the crucial transmutation of late Liberalism – from the individual to the Individual to the Fuhrer, from market competition to the struggle for power. But Nolte is particularly good in mapping out the tradition of racialism and integrating it as a crucial aspect of fascism as he defines it. His book is of primarily theoretical interest, so his sociological insights are no more than is already known – much detailed work is still needed on the generation of fascist consciousness. However, Professor Nolte quite rightly takes fascism very seriously as a phenomenon of consciousness, and, as such, has presented an extremely fruitful framework for examining it as well as providing much useful analysis within that framework. It is to be hoped that the publishers will shortly produce a paperback edition so that this work can reach a far wider audience than its present price permits.

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Last updated: 14 April 2010