Fascism is part of human nature. It is in all of us to fear, to hate, and to reject ‘the Other’. That’s the message from former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in her new book Fascism: A Warning.
Albright cautions that the conditions that led to fascism are not necessarily unique to the 1920s and ’30s, and warns that if we are too complacent we could see democracy falter and stumble once more. She writes:
In hindsight, it is tempting to dismiss every Fascist of [the 1920s and 1930s] as a thoroughly bad guy or a lunatic, but that is too easy, and by inducing complacency, also dangerous. Fascism is not an exception to humanity, but part of it…
Debating Europe is excited to announce that we will be interviewing Madeleine Albright about her book as part of our book club – a chance to put your questions and comments to authors from across the globe!
Each month, we will pick a different book and interview its author, and put questions and comments to them from our readers on the topic of the book. Our book of the month for September will be Madeleine Albright’s Fascism: A Warning.
One of the symbols of fascism is a bundle of sticks. Hit a person over the head with a single stick, and the stick may break. Hit a person over the head with a bundle of sticks, and the person’s head is likely to come out worse. That’s one of the defining characteristics of fascism: collective violence against individuals, minorities, and outsiders (anyone not part of the bundle of sticks).
Fascism: A Warning begins with a discussion on the origins and definition of fascism. Albright takes us through the turbulent years immediately after the First World War, charting the rise to power of Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and Francisco Franco. However, this history only occupies the first few chapters of the book. She then draws parallels between the fascism of the past and many of the “strong man” regimes of the present (while admitting that few of them, with the possible exception of North Korea, qualify as outright fascist states).
Drawing on her experience as Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, she talks about the rise of right-wing ultra-nationalism and xenophobia in countries such as Russia, Serbia, and Turkey. She also has some choice words on President Donald Trump, who she has called the “the most undemocratic president in modern American history” (though, again, she stops short of outright declaring him a fascist).
Ultimately, however, Albright sees fascism as part of human nature, but also a perversion of it. She argues that the stronger part of being human is to love and remain open-minded. However, in order to reject the hatred and anger of fascism, we first need to understand its history and legacy.
Is fascism coming back? Or was it consigned to the ideological dustbin of history after World War Two? Is the modern world too complacent about the dangers of fascism? Now is your chance to put your comments and questions to Madeleine Albright about her book – so let us know in the comments below what you would like to ask her!