Monday, July 8, 2024

from The Mass Psychology of Fascism

 _The Mass Psychology of Fascism_ by Wilhelm Reich

NY:  Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 1970

(xiii)  Viewed with respect to man’s character, “fascism” is the basic emotional attitude of the suppressed man of our authoritarian machine civilization and its mechanistic-mystical conception of life.

It is the mechanistic-mystical character of modern man that produces fascist parties, and not vice versa.

(xiv)  In its pure form, fascism is the sum total of all the irrational reactions of the average human character. To the obtuse sociologists who lack the mettle to recognize the supreme role played by irrationality in the history of man, the fascist racial theory appears to be nothing more than an imperialistic interest, or, more broadly, speaking, a “prejudice.”

(xiv-xv)  The racial theory is not a product of fascism. On the contrary: it is fascism that is a product of racial hatred, and is its politically organized expression. It follows from this that there is a German, Italian, Spanish, Anglo-Saxon, Jewish, and Arabian fascism. _Race ideology is a pure biopathic expression of the character structure of the orgastically impotent man.

The statistically perverse character of race ideology is also betrayed in its attitude toward religion. Fascism is supposed to be a reversion to paganism and an archenemy of religion. Far from it – fascism is the supreme expression of religious mysticism. As such, it comes into being in a peculiar social form. Fascism countenances that religiosity that stems from sexual perversion, and it transforms the masochistic character of the old patriarchal religion of suffering into a sadistic religion. In short, it transposes religion from the “otherworldliness" of the philosophy of suffering to the "this worldliness" of sadistic murder.

Fascist mentality is the mentality of the "little man," who is enslaved and craves authority and is at the same time rebellious. It is no coincidence that all fascist dictators stem from the reactionary milieu of the little man.

(xxiv)  There are liberal capitalists and reactionary workers.  There are no class distinctions when it comes to character.

(18)  The basic traits of the character structures corresponding to a definite historical situation are formed in early childhood, and are far more conservative than the forces of technical production. It results from this that, as time goes on, _the psychic structures lag behind the rapid changes of the social conditions from which they derived, and later come into conflict with the new forms of life._ This is the basic trait of the nature of so-called tradition, i.e., of the contradiction between the old and the new social situation.

(19)  We begin to see, now, that the economic and ideologic situation of the masses need not necessarily coincide, and that, indeed, there can be a considerable cleavage between the two. The economic situation is not directly and immediately converted into political consciousness.  If this were the case, the social revolution would have been here long ago.

Social psychology sees the problem in an entirely different light: what has to be explained is not the fact that the man who is hungry steals, or the fact that the man who is exploited strikes, but why is the majority of those who are hungry _don't_ steal and why is the majority of those who are exploited _don't_ strike.

(20)  Narrow-minded economy has repeatedly failed to see that the most essential question does not relate to the workers' consciousness of social responsibility (this is self evident!) but to what it is that _inhibits the development of this consciousness of responsibility_.

(21)  A realistic appraisal would have had to point out that the average worker bears a contradiction in himself; that he, in other words, is neither a clear-cut, revolutionary nor a clear-cut conservative, but stands divided. His psychic structure derives on the one hand from the social situation (which prepares the ground for revolutionary attitudes) and on the other hand from the entire atmosphere of authoritarian society – the two being at odds with one another.

(25)  The Freudian conception comes considerably closer to the facts of the case [short-lived rebellions submitting to authority], for it recognizes such behavior as the effect of infantile guilt-feelings toward the father figure. 
NB:  short-lived rebellions are also without the structure to continue 

(26)  Freud's second great discovery was that even the small child develops a lively sexuality, which has nothing to do with procreation; that, in other words, _sexuality_ and _procreation_, and _sexual_ and _genital_, are not the same. The analytic dissection of psychic processes further proved that sexuality, or rather its energy, the libido, which is of the body, is the prime motor of psychic life.

(27)  The conflict that originally takes place between the child's desires, and the parent's suppression of these desires later, becomes the conflict between instinct and morality _within_ the person. In adults, the moral code, which itself is unconscious, operates against the comprehension of the laws of sexuality and of unconscious, psychic life; it supports sexual repression ("sexual resistance”) and accounts for the widespread resistance to the uncovering of childhood sexuality.

(28)  Sex-economic sociology goes further and asks: _For what sociological reasons is sexuality, suppressed by the society and repressed by the individual?_ The church says it is for the sake of salvation beyond the grave; mystical moral philosophy says that it is a direct result of man's eternal ethical and moral nature; the Freudian philosophy of civilization contends, that this takes place in the interest of “culture."

(29)  If one studies the history of sexual suppression and the etiology of sexual repression, one finds that it cannot be traced back to the beginnings of cultural development; suppression and repression, in other words, are not the presuppositions of cultural development. It was not until relatively late, with the establishment of an authoritarian patriarchy and the beginning of the division of the classes, that suppression of sexuality begins to make its appearance.

(30)  In short, morality's aim is to produce acquiescent subjects who, despite distress and humiliation, are adjusted to the authoritarian order. Thus, the family is the authoritarian state in miniature, to which the child must learn to adapt himself as a preparation for the general social adjustment required of him later. _Man's authoritarian structure_ – this must be clearly established – _is basically produced by the embedding of sexual inhibitions and fear in the living substance of sexual impulses._

(31)  Indeed, the inhibition of rebellion itself is unconscious. In the consciousness of the average non-political man, there is not even a trace of it.

(32)  … sexual inhibition changes the structure of economically suppressed man in such a way that he acts, feels, and thinks contrary to his own material interests.

(34)  In fact, National Socialist propaganda was built upon this “führer ideology.”

...In keeping with this peculiarity the rally speeches of the National Socialists were very conspicuous for their skillfulness in operating upon the _emotions_ of the individuals in the masses, and of _avoiding relevant arguments as much as possible._   In various passages in his book, Mein Kampf Hitler stresses the true mass psychological tactics dispense with argumentation and keep the masses' attention fixed on the "great final goal" at all times.

(37)  This ambivalent attitude toward authority - _rebellion against it, coupled with acceptance and submission_ – is a basic feature of every middle-class structure from the age of puberty to full adulthood and is especially pronounced in individuals stemming from materially restricted circumstances.

(40)  Hence, what is important about Hitler sociologically does not issue from his personality but from the importance attached to him _by the masses._ And what makes the problem all the more complex is the fact that Hitler held the masses, with whose help he wanted to carry out his imperialism, in complete contempt. Instead of giving many examples and substantiation of this, let _one_ candid confession suffice:  "… The mood of the people was always a mere discharge of what was funneled into public opinion from above.”

(62)  From the standpoint of the masses, the nationalistic führer is the personification of the nation. Only insofar as this führer actually personifies the nation in conformity with the national sentiments of the masses does a personal tie to him develop. Insofar as he knows how to arouse emotional family ties in the individuals of the masses, he is also an authoritarian father figure.

(63)  Even more essential, however, is the identification of the individuals of the masses with the “führer." The more helpless, the “mass-individual” has become, owing to his upbringing, the more pronounced is his identification with the führer, and the more of the childish need for protection is discussed in the form of a feeling at one with the führer. This inclination to identify is the psychological basis of the national narcissism, i.e., of the self-confidence that individual man derives from the "greatness of the nation.”  The reactionary, lower middle-class man perceives himself in the führer, in the authoritarian state. On the basis of this identification, he feels himself to be a defender of the "national heritage,"of this "nation,” which does not prevent him, likewise, on the basis of this identification, from simultaneously despising "the masses” and confronting them as an individual. The righteousness of his material and sexual situation is so overshadowed by the exulting idea of belonging to a master race, and having a brilliant führer that, as time goes on, he ceases to realize how completely he has sunk to a position of insignificant, blind allegiance.

(70)  Fascism promises the abolition of the classes, that is to say, the abolition of proletarian status, and in this way, it plays upon the social inferiority felt by the manual laborer.

(73)  _Disappointment in Social Democracy, accompanied by the contradiction between wretchedness and conservative thinking, must lead to fascism if there are no revolutionary organizations._

(80)  The structure of fascism it characterized by metaphysical thinking, unorthodox faith, obsession with abstract ethical ideals, and belief in the divine predestination of the führer.  These basic features are linked with a deeper layer, which is characterized by a strong authoritarian tie to the führer-ideal or the nation.

(106)  The notion that sexuality is moral only in the service of procreation, that what lies outside the pale of procreation is immoral, is the most important feature of reactionary sexual politics.  

(115)  As we have already pointed out, when political reaction is successful with a certain ideological propaganda, this cannot be ascribed solely to befogging. It is our contention that a problem of mass psychology must lie at the root of each instance of its success. Something that we still haven't grasped is going on in the masses, and it is that "something" that enables them to think, and to act against their own vital interests. The question is decisive, for without this attitude on the part of the masses, political reaction would be wholly powerless. It is the willingness of the masses to absorb the these ideas – that we call a dictator's _“soil of mass psychology”_ – that constitutes fascism's strength. Thus, it is imperative to seek a complete understanding of this.

(116)  Since mystical contagion is the most important psychological precondition for the assimilation of fascist ideology by the masses, an understanding of the psychological effect of mysticism in general is an indispensible part of an investigation of fascist ideology.

(137)  ...De Coster’s Till Eulenspiegel, a masterpiece, which, as far as I am concerned, has remained without peer in its liberal humanity.

(141)  All reactionary types condemn sexual pleasure (not without impunity, however) because it attracts and repulses them at one and the same time.  They cannot resolve the contradiction between sexual demands and moralistic inhibitions in themselves.

(185)  Insofar as the abortion law causes distress, death, and grief, it is a question of general social politics. Not until, and only when, it is clearly and explicitly understood that people violate the law because they have to _have intercourse even if they don't want to have children_ will the question of abortion become a sex-political question. This has passed unnoticed until now, despite the fact that it is emotionally the _most important_ point of the question. If a reactionary, social politician should take it upon himself to tell the people: “You complain that the abortion law demands so many sacrifices in health and human life! You don't have to _have_ sexual intercourse," then there would be an end to the approach that is concerned solely with population politics.  _The question is meaningful only if one clearly, and openly speaks up for the necessity of a satisfactory sex life._

(200-201)  Hitler not only established his power from the very beginning with masses of people who were until then, essentially non-political; he also accomplished his last step to victory in March of 1933 in a "legal" manner, by mobilizing, no less than five million non-voters, that is to say, non-political people.  The Left parties had made every effort to win over the indifferent masses, without posing the question as to what it means "to be indifferent or non-political."

(201)  To be non-political is not, as one might suppose, evidence of a passive psychic condition, but of a highly active attitude, a _defense_ against the awareness of social responsibility.

(205-206)  It would not be farfetched to say that it is in the nature of a politician that he does not learn anything from experience.

(210)  It is in the nature of a political party that it does not orient itself in terms of truth, but in terms of illusions, which usually correspond to the irrational structure of the masses.

(214)  The word fascism is not a word of abuse any more than the word capitalism is. It is a concept denoting a very definite kind of mass leadership and mass influence: authoritarian, one-party system, hence totalitarian, a system in which power takes priority over objective interests, and facts are distorted for political purposes.

(215)  _Sexual suppression serves, as we know, to mechanize and enslave the masses._ Thus, wherever we encounter authoritarian and moralistic suppression of childhood and adolescence sexuality, a suppression backed up by the law, we can infer with certainty that there are strong, authoritarian-dictatorial tendencies in the social development, regardless of which slogans the ruling politicians use.

(225)  The fear of social responsibility on the part of the masses of people brought the socialist movement into the _political_ sphere. However, in the scientific sociology of Karl Marx, who worked out the economic conditions of social independence, we find no mention of the _state_ as the goal of socialist freedom. The "socialist" _state_ is an invention of party bureaucrats. And now, _it,_"the state," was supposed to introduce freedom: _not the masses of the people,_ you see, _but the state._ It will be my object in what follows to show that the socialist idea of the state not only has nothing to do with the theory of the early socialist, but, on the contrary, represented a distortion of the socialist movement.  However unconsciously it may have been brought about, this distortion is to be imputed to the structural helplessness of the masses of people, who were nonetheless imbued with an intense desire for freedom. An intense desire for freedom on the one hand, coupled with a structural fear of the responsibility of self-government, on the other hand, produced in the Soviet Union a form of state that was less and less in accord with the original program of the Communists, and eventually assumed an authoritarian, totaliatory, and dictatorial form.

… According to the sociology of its founders, “socialism" was conceivable only on an international scale. A national, or even nationalistic socialism (National Socialism = fascism) is sociological nonsense. In the strictest sense of the word, it is mass deception.

(235)  Lenin’s communism is always conscious of its task:  The “dictatorship of the proletariat is that social form that leads from an authoritarian society to a nonauthoritarian, self-regulatory social order requiring neither police force nor compulsive morality.

(236)  According to Lenin’s conception the social revolution had the task not only of eliminating the surface formality and actual conditions of servitude, but also, and essentially, _of making men and women incapable of being exploited_.

(252)  … the fact that slave mentality is deeply rooted in the body itself, has become a second nature, as it were, so that _the masses of people pass on their suppression from generation to generation.

(258)  We must never lose sight of the fact that Hitler always built upon the justified hate of masses of people against sham democracy and the parliamentary system - and with great success!

(264)  Outbreaks of sentimental pathos always point to fear on the part of those who are responsible.  We want to have nothing to do with it.

(266)  The tendency to see everything in terms of economy is catastrophic.  Every effort must be made to correct this tendency.

(293)  When a man takes pleasure in his work, we call his relationship to it "libidinous.” [They love their work.] Since _work_ and _sexuality_ (in both the strict and broad senses of the word ) are intimately interwoven, man's relationship to work is also a question of the sex-economy of masses of people. The hygiene of the work process is dependent upon the way masses of people use and gratify their biologic, energy.  _Work and sexuality derive from the same biologic energy._

(295)  _Ungratified sexuality is readily transformed into rage._

… _The more gratifying one’s sexual life is, the more fulfilling and pleasurable is one’s work._

(300)  Illusions always prevent that which they pretend to be from _really_ materializing.

(312)  Natural love, vitally necessary work, and natural science are _rational_ functions of life. By their very nature, they cannot be anything but rational. Hence, they are arch enemies of any form of irrationalism. Political irrationalism, which plagues, disfigures, and destroys our life, is, in the true psychiatric sense of the word, a perversion of social life, a perversion brought about by the failure to recognize the natural functions of life, and by the exclusion of these functions from the regulation and determination of social life.

(317)  Peace can be hammered out only at a time of war, then and only then.

(354)  Though freedom is not capable of being organized, since any organization is contrary to freedom, the _conditions_ that are to clear the way to the free unfolding of the life forces can, indeed, must, be organized. 

(354-355)  It is ridiculous to argue with a murderer about his right to murder, but this ridiculous mistake is made again and again, in dealing with fascists.

(355)  Freedom does not have to be achieved – it is spontaneously present in every life function.  _It is the elimination of all obstacles to freedom that has to be achieved._

(368)  Those who are engaged in practical work, are not _against_ one thing or another. It is only the politician who, having no practical tasks, is always _against_ and never _for_ something. Politics in general is characterized by this "being against" one thing or another.  That which is productive in a practical way is not accomplished by politicians, but by working men and women, whether it is in accord with the politicians' ideologies or not. Years of experience have clearly demonstrated that the men and women who perform practical work always come into conflict with a politician. Thus, those who work for a living functioning are and operate against politics, whether they want to or not. The educator is _for_ the objective upbringing of small children; the farmer is _for_ the machines necessary in agriculture; the researcher is _for_ proofs for scientific findings. One can easily satisfy oneself that whenever a working man or woman is _against_ this or that achievement, he, or she is not speaking up as a worker, but under the pressure of political or other irrational influences.

(377)  If human society were rationally organized, the priority of love, work, and knowledge would be unquestioned;  they, and not unnecessary institutions, would have the right to determine social existence.

(391)  The nature of public opinion is essentially _political_, and it has a low estimation of the everyday life of love, work, and knowledge. And this is in keeping with the feeling of social insignificance experienced by those who love, work, and have knowledge.

However, a rational reassessment of the social conditions is out of the question as long as political rationalism contributes 99 per cent, and the basic functions of social life contribute only 1per cent, toward the formation of public opinion, and, therefore, toward the formation of the human structure.

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