Shklar till Arnstad: ”Get your dates right!”

I sin bok och andra artiklar har Arnstad kritiserat begreppet totalitarianism. Jag tycker begreppet är värt att diskutera. Men Arnstad kritiserar det inte bara på intellektuella grunder, utan hela hans presentation av det präglas av att idén skapades och lanserades i propagandasyften (Arnstad 2013: 27–30). Det konkreta ursprunget till begreppet anger Arnstad är amerikansk underrättelseforskning under 40-talet. Det var denna forskning som sedan blev ett effektivt slagträ under kalla kriget. I en artikel skriver han:

Efter 1945 hade Sovjetunionen ett försprång i propagandan och nådde framgång med budskapet att fascism saknade egen ideologisk identitet; fascism var enbart en våldsam yttring hos kapitalismen. Men under 1950-talet gick väst till motoffensiv genom att i princip använda samma metod, att jämställa fiendens ideologi med fascism. Teoretikernas tanke var att spänna ett gemensamt ideologiskt paraply över kommunism och fascism. Arbetet utfördes av intellektuella som Carl J. Friedrich and Zbigniew K. Brzezinski, liksom den av Kramár nämnda Hannah Arendt (Arnstad 2014).

Att begreppet var kontroversiellt och utgjorde en analys som ledde i anti-kommunistisk riktning är otvetydigt. Men det gäller att skilja frågor om ett begrepps giltighet från frågan om vilka som tar det i bruk och med vilka syften. Det är dock uppenbart att Arnstad så gärna vill avfärda begreppet totalitarianism att han inte drar sig för att göra en historieskrivning som bara fokuserar på dess roll under kalla krigets propagandakrig och helt felaktigt beskriver dess ursprung. Han förtjänar därför en liten uppläxning av Judith Shklar:

It is important in the history of political ideas to understand the circumstances under which specific conceptions were developed. It is often said that totalitarian government, as an ideal type that embraced the practices of both Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, was the creature of the Cold War. It was, it is charged, a crude effort to transfer the hatred aroused by Nazism to the new enemy, Soviet Communism, and that this was done simply by amalgamating two quite different regimes. As for the uniqueness of their practices, that was just mystique, an ideological plot to integrate the intellectuals into the capitalist order.

There is much to be said for getting one’s dates right. The fact is that the idea of totalitarian rule as a unique and new phenomenon arose among social democrats, who realized that Marxism had nothing to contribute to their understanding of Nazi Germany especially, as well as Soviet Russia, and they did so long before the Cold War, by 1940 to be exact. It was not Djilas, but Rudolf Hilferding who discovered “the new class” just before he was killed in 1941. He then wrote two essays about what he called “state capitalism” and the new buraucratic class that ran it for its own benefit in both the USSR and Nazi Germany.

Socialists found this idea hard to accept. In his Behemoth in 1941, Franz Neumann, still orthodox, rejected Hilferding and insisted that Nazi Germany was a capitalist state and that there was no hope, the regime was omnipotent, and inner resistance futile. In this he was just like Orwell. However, he also asked the crucial question: Was the Third Reich a state at all or was it something else and quite new? After all, it did not have a legal system or rules of legitimization. Clearly the ideal type that Weber had proposed was out of date, and a new and unique formation was recognizable. This was not the old despotism either, as Orwell saw just as clearly. Eventually, Neumann came to accept the primacy of politics and his cry was that of an entire generation of social democrats: “Machiavelli’s theory now becomes really true for the first time”. That was a thought he had long resisted and it came to him entirely out of his growing understanding of the Nazi episode.

Orwell was there before him because he had chosen to speak the truth about Spain, long before the Cold War. Corrupt and inefficient as it was, Hitler’s new order had closed the space between government and civil society. Behemoth had replaced Leviathan. It was obviously so in Soviet Russia as well. […] Orwell helps us recreate the intellectual groans of democratic socialism in its darkest hours when it was compelled to recognize totalitarianism.

Referenser:

  • Arnstad, Henrik, 2013. Älskade fascism. De svartbruna rörelsernas ideologi och historia. Stockholm: Norstedts
  • Arnstad, Henrik, 2014. “Fascismens föränderlighet 1919–2014. De svartbruna rörelserna i ett kontextuellt perspektiv”, Historisk tidskrift, 134(2), s 259–266.
  • Shklar, Judith N., 1998b. “Nineteen Eighty-Four: Should Political Theory Care?”, s 339–352 i Hoffman, Stanley (red), Political Theory and Political Thinkers, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.