The Mass Psychology of Fascism (Anglais) Broché – 31 décembre 1998
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Ann Nelson has new book, Red Orchestra that describes the Nazi takeover in Germany and throws an interesting side light on Reich's psychoanalytic description of the readiness of the German masses to install and follow a Fuhrer. Liberal minded artists, writers and performers in Berlin watched with horror as the Hitler movement captured the culture. Soon it was no longer safe to deny or oppose the dominant Nazi party program.
That is the background to Reich's Mass Psychology. This is a theoretical treatise born in a time of ultimate horror. Reich describes brown shirted thugs marching a young woman through the streets for public humiliation. Her head was shorn of its blond tresses and she was made to wear a sign around her neck saying "I offered myself to a Jew." The melded themes of racial purity, patriarchal sex repression and mystical religion that drove German youth into a frenzy, formed into fascism and produced the mechanized killing machine of Nazi Germany. This sickness came from the conservative right and was patently apparent in the political propaganda in the years leading up to the actual Nazi seizure of Parliament.
There is no question that in many places in the world, unhappy and impoverished peoples are ready to again embrace authoritarian leaders summoning them to defend national honor, racial and sexual purity and mystical gods. The toxic condition of the masses is a prelude to potential global conflict, and accurate insight into its mass psychology never more relevant.
This work is a product of the marriage of the revolutionary political spirit that erupted in Central Europe with the Bolshevik revolution and the series of near revolutions in the countries Reich lived in until the Hitler Victory in 1933--Hungary, Austria, and Germany--with the great discovery by the Freudians that pathology was a product of patriarchial society and its sexual repression.
In the 1920s and 1930s Reich took Freudianism a step further by pointing out that all the non-materialist, drives, complexes, and factors Freud invented to reconcile his discovery of sexual repression and family produced insanity with conservative views about "family values" were invalid ideologically driven pseudoscience. Reich pointed to the fact that Marxists and anthropologists from Morgan in the 19th Century to Malinowski in Reich's time had discovered a pre Patriarchal stage of development predating patriarchy and had also discovered in these socieities or remnants of them, little of the sexual repression Freud postulated was required to maintain society.
So Reich set out in his study of pyschology and in his intervention in the working class political movement of Central Europe to fight for sexual freedom, for women's rights, and for the ending of imperialist and capitalist society. As his struggle brushed up against the growing adoption of bourgeois antisexual morality in the Soviet Union under Stalin and against the ultraleft and opportunist policies of the Comintern infected with Stalinism, Reich's critique turned on the Stalintern and the degenerated Soviet Union as well. Though he built a Sexpol movement of thousands of youth, women, and workers fighting against Hitler in Germany, Reich was expelled from the German Communist party as a "Trotskyist" in 1933.
Sadly, with the victory of Hitler followed by the Moscow Trials, Reich withdrew from active working class politics, then despaired of revolution, and became obessed to the point of his insanity in the 1950s with the idea of "orgone energy" a basic natural universal energy released among other places in good sex. This bogus theory, observed by no other scientist, grew together with a raging paranoia. In the end it aided the witchhunting govenrment of the US put him in jail as a medical quack, and had all of his books including this great work burned and banned in the USA.
In this book, a product of Reich's active struggle against Hitler, Reich traces the links between sexual repression, patriarchal society, and conservative and right wing ideology. He explains how patriarchy attempts to create the neurotic mental health that dominates modern capitalist society to use it to reign over working people. He shows the etiology of religion as a pathological outgrowth of patriarchy, and how conservative "family values" are decisive to conservatism.
Reich, who built a real movement in Germany for sexual freedom and women's rights, is adamant about how fighters for human freedom and socialism cannot simply dismiss issues of women's rights and sexual freedom, but must embrace them if they are to have a chance to defeat fascists among women and youth. He explains that attempts to compete with fascists about who is the best defender of "family values" only strengthens conservatism among working men, working women, and farmers who could be won for the struggle. He cites the sad tactics of the German Communist and Social Democratic parties who tried to outdo Hitler in the fight for "family values' while shrinking away from campaigns for abortion rights, equal pay for equal work, and sexual freedom of the youth, that Reich used to win them away from the Nazis.
There is so much rich thought here about the nature of ideology, family life, and psychology in modern society, and how that can be defeated.
As Reich's orgone theory progressed in the 1940s and 1950s, this book was reedited to include allusions to organe theory and other ideas that were a sad fall from Reich's brilliant vision of the 1930s. I remember reading a bootleg edition of this book in the late 1960s--Reich's books were actually banned and burned by the US government after they framed him up for quackery in the 1950s!--without any of the orgone mumbo jumbo.
However, evenwith the addition of orgone theory, Reich's political and psychological vision is clear here.
No doubt, a prescient reader will dectect a kind of theoretical loop in even the original Reich who overplays the power of social pathology to build politically and social compliant mentalities in working people, but underplays the ability of great events in history, social struggles, and the efforts of vanguard fighters like the Reich of the early 1930s, to help millions to come to the kind of realizations that Reich had reached.
Yet, with this weakness, this a book matched by few others in its disection of capitalist ideology, social pathology, and the potential to struggle for a better world. You must read this book!