THE MASS PSYCHOLOGY OF FASCISM

Review :

With the recent rise of the New Right (viz the Tea Bag and Patriot movement), Wilhelm Reich proves himself as much of a prophet of Marx. Writing in 1933, during the rise of Hitler, he predicts the failure of the Left to engage the working class - without a total transformation in their organizing strategy. He also predicts the steady creep of western democracy towards greater and greater authoritarianism - accompanied by a steady increase in the passive, non-voting majority of the population.

He offers the first convincing sociological analysis I've seen of the allure of fascism and reactionary politics for low income workers - which he bases in the authoritarian family structures they grow up in. In Reich's view, the way in which western society raises their children totally undermines their confidence (as they reach adulthood) in their ability to manage their own feelings and lives. Reich's definition of "freedom" is the ability and esponsibility for each individual to shape his own personal, occupational and social existence in a rational way. He also asserts that there is nothing more terrifying to the average person than the responsibility entailed in this level of freedom.

As Reich outlines, the reactionary right knows exactly how to appeal to these unconscious fears and anxieties - by creating even more rigid and authoritarian structures that provide immediate, but only temporary relief, from these inner anxieties.

He is also extremely critical of leftists and progressives for wasting their time trying to engage the working poor about political and economic injustice without first addressing their innate fear of freedom and social responsibility. Given the current disarray in the progressive movement, I think we should have heeded Reich's advice decades ago.

By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, author of THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE


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