If you venture to Oswald Mosley’s website, the initial impression might not scare you. Read what he has to say, and it won’t scare you either, until you start looking at the “corners” the dark edges and begin noticing. Isn’t that charming man striking a pose that resembles someone familiar from history books?

http://www.oswaldmosley.com/people/sorel.html

I went to his site looking for something on the writer/propagandist Georges Sorel. You see I’m reading about Fascism. You know, Mussolini, Hitler — Ah that is who Mosely resembles! Now I remember the fellow who was a vegetarian and loved children and animals. He only gassed people. What you don’t know probably are the thinkers behind these people. Thinkers? I thought these folks were only brutes. You know the kind: “Ve haf vays to make you Talk!” made famous by Indiana Jones and other great B movies. But yes, there were thinkers. And God I’m sorry I did not know just how subtle these thinkers are. Read Mosely and you might start thinking that he’s right and Churchill and Chamberlain were fools for not listening to him. Heck I’ve heard that kind of talk before, from the Op-Ed pages and the TV talking heads. The line of reasoning that goes the “Communists were our real enemies.” Hitler only wanted to rule his “territory in Europe” he was never a threat to the US or Britain. Have you heard these people. Now I’m scared. You see, you have to look at the edges.

Mosely claims to have nothing against the Jews, yet he promotes several books of revisionist history that attack Israel or make the case that the Holocaust was Zionist propaganda. Interesting. The edges you see. His website is classic fascism.

Now why does one have to look at the edges? What is it about these dictators, these monsters, that made them so seductive. For that you have to understand something else. And that is the conscious use of myth that is at the heart of Fascism. And for that you have to read about Georges Sorel.

“Georges Sorel stated his theory of “social myths” most clearly in a
letter to Daniel Halevy in 1907.”

He was a forrunner of the science of propaganda and that in turn was the father of the science of Marketing. Is it any wonder that the best practitioners of both arts can go from politics to selling soap and back again? Today’s post has an article about such a person; Ben Goddard. A man to admire for his business acumen. He could sell the Chamber of Commerce, or he could demogague “Harry and Louise” and marry Louise. Such people are disciples of Sorel. Sorel had an interesting and illuminating thesis:

“…..Men who are participating in a great social movement always
picture their coming action as a battle in which their cause is
certain to triumph. These constructions, knowledge of which is so
important for historians, I propose to call myths; the
syndicalist “general strike” and Marx’s catastrophic revolution are
such myths. As remarkable examples of such myths, I have given those
which were constructed by primitive Christianity, by the Reformation,
by the Revolution and by the followers of Mazzini. I now wish to show
that we should not attempt to analyze such groups of images in the
way that we analyze a thing into its elements, but that they must be
taken as a whole, as historical forces, and that we should be
especially careful not to make any comparison between accomplished
fact and the picture people had formed for themselves before action.”

So, here we come back to my beloved Lotus Sutra. Here is a man who understands “upaya”, skillfulness. But not in any moral enlightened manner, but more in the manner in which Devadatta understood “Upaya”. Because the skillfulness to tell stories, to create and manipulate myths, can be used for good or ill. In the case of fascists this power is used for ill. As a Buddhist said about Devadatta he mastered “upaya” before he mastered the eightfold chain of causation and the morality play that is life. And Fascism is built on the consciousness that much of religion is based on “myth” and that myths can be built just as easily of self serving lies as of visions of a better tomorrow. Sorel Went on:

“I could have given one more example which is perhaps still more
striking: Catholics have never been discouraged even in the hardest
trials, because they have always pictured the history of the Church
as a series of battles between Satan and the hierarchy supported by
Christ; every new difficulty which arises is only an episode in a war
which must finally end in the victory of Catholicism.”

Yet this example. The very fact that he chose it as his example, explains why Fascism has been such a pernicious influence. The setting of the world into “black and white;” “modeling it” as an eternal battle between Satan and Christ, in and of itself is “empty” — it could have been used and has been used as a model for self-control, self-improvement, and efforts to improve society. But as he indicates when he casts the battle as a battle involving the “hierarchy of Christ” it was often turned into the thinnest of rationalizations for wholesale butchery and torture. From medieval times to Torquemada. From the reformation to the Counter-reformation. And in it’s most recent times in the actions of the Iberian Fascists who created dictators that were wholly Catholic wholy devoted to this paradigm. And yet Sorel was one of their inspirations. They had to have read his words. They knew that on some level they were killing people for myths. The number of the beast is 666 and 666 is the shape of hierarchy.

“In employing the term myth I believed that I had made a happy choice, because I thus put myself in a position to refuse any discussion
whatever with the people who wish to submit the idea of a general
strike to a detailed criticism, and who accumulate objections against
its practical possibility. It appears, on the contrary, that I had
made a most unfortunate choice, for while some told me that myths
were only suitable to a primitive state of society, others imagined
that I thought the modern world might be moved by illusions analogous
in nature to those which Renan thought might usefully replace
religion. But there has been a worse misunderstanding than this even,
for it has been asserted that my theory of myths was only a kind of
lawyer’s plea, a falsification of the real opinions of the
revolutionaries, the sophistry of an intellectual.”

I suspect that he was attacked so adamantly by some because they saw the cynicism of his ideas, and by others because what he said resonated with them but was something they wanted to keep secret from their followers. What would it do to find out that the “great” preacher of religion is a disciple of “Sorel” who doesn’t believe his own words are literally true? He knows they are “not of this world.” Yet for him they are useful myths. It wouldn’t do to let people know that the man behind the curtain is not the “Great and Wonderful Oz.” That the great head of “Gold” presiding over the masses has feet of clay. “He speaks for God, not himself.”

“If this were true, I should not have been exactly fortunate, for I have always tried to escape the influence of that intellectual philosophy, which seems to me a great hindrance to the historian who allows himself to be dominated by it.”

What a devious thinker this rogue was! Don’t you have to admire his taking the word “historian” to look down on logic and “intellectual philosophy.” Yes, he sees the world as it “really is” — clay to be shaped into a throne for the clever to sit on. In his book he had described the “general strike” as a myth that could advance the cause of the working class by being a “myth” that the masses could readilly buy:

“In can understand the fear that this myth of the general strike
inspires in many worthy progressives, on account of its character of
infinity, the world of today is very much inclined to return to the
opinions of the ancients and to subordinate ethics to the smooth
working of public affairs, which results in a definition of virtue as
the golden mean; as long as socialism remains a doctrine expressed
only in words, it is very easy to deflect it towards this doctrine of
the golden mean; but this transformation is manifestly impossible
when the myth of the “general strike” is introduced, as this implies
an absolute revolution. You know as well as I do that all that is
best in the modern mind is derived from this “torment of the
infinite”; you are not one of those people who look upon the tricks
by means of which readers can be deceived by words, as happy
discoveries. That is why you will not condemn me for having attached
great worth to a myth which gives to socialism such high moral value
and such great sincerity. It is because the theory of myths tends to
produce such fine results that so many seek to refute it….”

We pay homage to George Sorel when our politicians put their finger to the wind and use “marketing studies” and “focus groups” to figure out how to vote and preach — and when Presidents are marketted like Pigs at an auction. He was the first one to identify the power of myth. Of what Nietsche called the “God sized hole” in the hearts of men. And his followers still think that somehow those myths are the ones who will get them to power — or have used his methods to divine new and more powerful myths; “Supply side,” “flat tax”, “Ownership economy:”

“As long as there are no myths accepted by the masses, one may go on
talking of revolts indefinitely, without ever provoking any
revolutionary movement; this is what gives such importance to the
general strike and renders it so odious to socialists who are afraid
of a revolution….”

How like our current leaders now. Who talk about improving things for the masses and who sit in the halls of power and only complain at election time. Fascists disdained such people and learned how to use them to get and maintain power. All the disciples of Sorel need are general myths that can be accepted by the people. Fascism and totalitarianism worked for his first generation disciples. Now we have our own versions. Islamo-fascism. Shiite flavor or Sunni? Catholic Fascism? “Born again” fascism. Neo Fascism. United states “uniqueness”.

“The revolutionary myths which exist at the present time are almost free from any such mixture; by means of them it is possible to
understand the activity, the feelings and the ideas of the masses
preparing themselves to enter on a decisive struggle: the myths are
not descriptions of things, but expressions of a determination to
act.”

But he grasped something that can be positive about myth too. The myth can be the “magic city” that drives people onward towards better things. For every myth of the “Aryan man” there is the myth of the “progressive man.” “New Freedoms,” “New Societies,” “Better days are coming.” Myth can feed on what is good inside us, not just the dark hatreds and boiling fears. It can be pan-nationalistic or nationalistic. Yes people love a fight. Groups bond in hatred, but we can abstract those feelings to. They can be a bridge to something better.

“A Utopia is…and intellectual product; it is the work of
theorists who, after observing and discussing the known facts, seek
to establish a model to which they can compare existing society in
order to estimate the amount of good and evil it contains. It is a
combination of imaginary institutions having sufficient analogies to
real institutions for the jurist to be able to reason about them; it
is a construction which can be taken to pieces, and certain parts of
it have been shaped in such a way that they can…be fitted into
approaching legislation. While contemporary myths lead men to prepare
themselves for a combat which will destroy the existing state of
things, the effect of Utopias has always been to direct men’s minds
towards reforms which can be brought about by patching up the
existing system; it is not surprising, then, that so many makers of
Utopias were able to develop into able statesmen when they had
acquired a greater experience of political life.”

That is why the dreamer, Reagan could so easily triumph over men who thought they were superior in intellect and reason. One good dream with a positive image is far more powerful to convey a truth than a thousand words and position papers. But Sorel wanted “combat” and combat is what most of his disciples want. Because destroying the “existing state of things” is such an act of violence that it never results in building something better. The dream is one to which the dreamer wakes up with salt in his mouth and ashes on this tongue. It is better to dream dreams that are thought out a bit. That are rooted not just in a cynical judgement of humanity, but also in a vision of something better. Not to play that game of divide and rule, but the game of uniting everyone in broader and broader circles.

“A myth cannot be refuted, since it is, at bottom, identical with the
conviction of a group, being the expression of these convictions in
the language of movement; and it is, in consequence, unanalyzable
into parts which could be placed on the plane of historical
descriptions. A Utopia, on the other hand, can be discussed like any
other social constitution; the spontaneous movements it presupposes
can be compared with the movements actually observed in the course of
history, and we can in this way evaluate its verisimilitude; it is
possible to refute Utopias by showing that the economic system on
which they have been made to rest is incompatible with the necessary
conditions of modern production.”

A myth cannot be refuted, but it can be addressed and channeled. The war between “Christ” and “Satan” can either be seen in unrealistic and negative terms as a war between “them” and “us” or it can be seen for what it is, as a figurative image of the eternal war between our evil and good inclinations. Utopias may be impossible, but myths can be made real inside our hearts and guide us in the real world.

“For a long time Socialism was scarcely anything but a Utopia; the
Marxists were right in claiming for their master the honor of
bringing about a change in this state of things; Socialism has now
become the preparation of the masses employed in great industries for
the suppression of the State and property; and it is no longer
necessary, therefore, to discuss how men must organize themselves in
order to enjoy future happiness; everything is reduced to the
revolutionary apprenticeship of the proletariat. Unfortunately Marx
was not acquainted with facts which have now become familiar to us;
we know better than he did what strikes are, because we have been
able to observe economic conflict of considerable extent and
duration; the myth of the “general strike” has become popular, and is
now firmly established in the minds of the workers; we possess ideas
about violence that it would have been difficult for him to have
formed; we can then complete his doctrine, instead of making
commentaries on his text, as his unfortunate disciples have done for
so long.”

Marxism developed powers, because it harnessed new “myths” that spoke to people’s hearts. In so doing it antagonized the bearers of older myths. And those new myths in the end proved no more satisfying than those older myths.

And if the Utopia never arrives:

“In this way Utopias tend to disappear completely from Socialism;
Socialism has no longer any need to concern itself with the
organization of industry since capitalism does that….”

Myth may be power, but it is the power of illusion. Unless the “palaces” described actually become reality at some point, myth can only disillusion it’s believers. If Jesus never comes, if Satan always wins, then only death can restart the match. And people grow tired of living in illusions. It’s hard to dream on an empty stomach.

“People who are living in this world of “myths,” are secure from all
refutation; this has led many to assert that Socialism is a kind of
religion. For a long time people have been struck by the fact that
religious convictions are unaffected by criticism, and from that they
have concluded that everything which claims to be beyond science must
be a religion. It has been observed also that Christianity tends at
the present day to be less a system of dogmas than a Christian life,
i.e., moral reform penetrating to the roots of one’s being;
consequently, new analogy has been discovered between religion and
the revolutionary Socialism which aims at the apprenticeship,
preparation, and even reconstruction of the individual — a gigantic
task….”

The first phase of waking up is to recognize the myths for what they are

“…by the side of Utopias there have always been myths capable of
urging on the workers to revolt. For a long time these myths were
founded on the legends of the Revolution, and they preserved all
their value as long as these legends remained unshaken. Today the
confidence of the Socialists is greater than ever since the myth of
the general strike dominates all the truly working-class movement. No
failure proves anything against Socialism since the latter has become
a work of preparation (for revolution); if they are checked, it
merely proves that the apprenticeship has been insufficient; they
must set to work again with more courage, persistence, and confidence
than before; their experience of labor has taught workmen that it is
by means of patient apprenticeship that a man may become a true
comrade, and it is also the only way of becoming a true
revolutionary. (July 15, 1907)”

Unless we understand that they are myths and that their preachers don’t believe their myths any more than the opponants of those preachers do. Those “myths” threaten our lives.

http://www.oswaldmosley.com/people/sorel.html

Chris