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Fascism, Marxism, and the Question EJPT


of Modern Revolution European Journal of Political Theory
9(2) 183–201
© The Author(s), 2010
Reprints and permission: http://www.
David D. Roberts  University of Georgia, USA sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
[DOI: 10.1177/1474885109355889]
http://ejpt.sagepub.com

abstr a c t : Bitterly anti-Marxist though it was, fascism now appears to have been
in some sense revolutionary in its own right, but this raises new questions about the
meaning of modern revolution. In a recent essay Roger Griffin, a major authority
on fascism, challenges Marxists and non-Marxists to engage in a dialogue that would
deepen our understanding of the relationship between the Marxist-communist and
fascist revolutionary directions. Although he finds openings within the Marxist
tradition, Griffin insists that, if such dialogue is to be possible, the Marxists must
give up any a priori claim to the unique validity of the Marxist revolutionary project.
However, Griffin’s way of framing the issues proves too limited, first because his
understanding fascism as revolutionary is not rich enough, but also because he
too often forces his argument to make the fascist revolution seem the archetypal
20th-century revolution. The alternative starts with a deeper understanding of the
basis of the fascist claim to be spearheading, as Marxism could not, a revolutionary
departure appropriate to contemporary challenges and possibilities. In asking about
the commonality of the fascist and Marxist revolutions, Griffin convincingly accents
a certain mode of historical consciousness that seemed to warrant a totalitarian
direction. But the historical sense he draws from Walter Benjamin, and then attributes
to Marxism and Leninism, misconstrues the area of commonality. Through a different
way of conceiving fascism as revolutionary, and of understanding fascist-communist
convergence, we can challenge the Marxists more deeply – but also suggest the basis
for a more fruitful mode of dialogue around fascism, Marxism and modern revolution. 

key w o r d s : fascism, historicism, Marxism, modernity, palingenesis, revolution

The interplay between communism and fascism, as each emerged from the cru-
cible of the First World War, has been central to our understanding of European
history, the political spectrum, and even the ongoing possibilities and dangers
of modern politics. The outcome of the Soviet experiment, together with some
fresh thinking about fascism, raises new questions about the meaning of ‘revo-
lution’, specifically modern revolution that, in response to the liberal capitalist
mainstream, seeks an alternative modernity, a qualitatively superior realization of
human possibilities.
Contact address: David D. Roberts, Department of History, LeConte Hall, University of
Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602 USA.
Email: droberts@uga.edu 183

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European Journal of Political Theory 9(2)
Both Italian fascism and German Nazism were bitterly anti-Marxist, and fas-
cism was long taken as fundamentally reactionary, an effort to preserve bourgeois
capitalism against the threat of communist revolution. But over the last twenty
years or so a marked turn from the earlier reductive approaches has character-
ized fascist studies, so that we are now more prone to take fascism seriously as
revolutionary – ‘revolutionary in its own right’, to paraphrase Stanley Payne.1 This
is not to claim desirability or ultimate success but to contend that the fascists
genuinely aimed, for example, to create a ‘new man’, even though they did not
frontally assault the capitalist economic system. From this perspective, fascism was
intended to produce a modern alternative to the liberal mainstream, though also a
revolutionary alternative to communism. It matters considerably to our historical
self-understanding, and even to our ideas of modernity and revolution, if we take
fascism as a genuine, though failed, effort at such a revolutionary alternative.
In terms of the content of the fascist revolution, there remains disagreement,
but Roger Griffin’s influential definition, offered in the early 1990s, has seemed to
provide a workable start. According to Griffin, the revolutionary thrust of fascism
was bound up with a palingenetic myth of national regeneration. Fascism invoked
images from the past as the basis for future-oriented myths to serve the quest for a
new beginning.2 By 2002 Griffin was suggesting that a ‘new consensus’ had devel-
oped around this notion.3 In his recent Modernism and Fascism, he has expanded
his overall argument, arguing that even as modernist and revolutionary, fascism
– and to some extent communism as well – were responses to the disorienting,
anomic features of mainstream modernity, as exacerbated by sociopolitical crisis
in the wake of the First World War.4
The notion that fascism must be treated as ‘revolutionary in its own right’
obviously raises important questions about the relationship between the fascist
revolutions and what had come to seem the paradigmatic Marxist or communist
revolution. On one level, to be sure, much is not in dispute, and the key question
may seem to boil down to definition. The two fascist regimes surely constituted a
rupture on the political level, but whereas few today would portray them as merely
the tools of capitalist interests, they did not remotely attack the existing socioeco-
nomic system as Soviet communism did. However, the import of that difference is
the most basic question, pointing to the need to specify the criteria of revolution.
Insofar as we take fascism as revolutionary in its own right, moreover, sensitive
comparative questions arise.
Further complicating matters is the notion of totalitarianism, coined first
by anti-fascists in Italy, but promptly taken over by the fascists themselves to
characterize their fundamental aim. The category was then adopted by analysts
seeking to understand the novelty of the new interwar regimes – and especially
what seemed their common features. Because totalitarianism seemed above all
a system of rule, however, the category tended to deflect attention from ques-
tions about revolution, even to suggest a radically different axis than revolutionary
184 versus reactionary.
­

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Roberts: Fascism, Marxism, and the Question of Modern Revolution
In a recent essay Griffin challenges Marxist and non-Marxist students of fas-
cism to engage in a dialogue that would refine our concept of revolution and
deepen our understanding of the relationship between Marxism-communism and
fascism. Generally ‘liberal’ historians like Griffin himself would do well ‘to engage
more actively with the rich tradition of Marxist theory and historiography in the
field of fascism’, paying greater attention to class, the role of economic factors and
the import of business collusion in making fascism as successful as it was.5 But if
dialogue is to be possible, Griffin feels, the Marxists must be disabused of their
‘Pavlovian’ tendency to deny that there was anything authentic to the fascists’
claims to be creating a new order.6 And in at least some generally Marxist analyses,
Griffin finds openings for taking fascism seriously as an alternative revolution. To
suggest the possibilities, he considers four disparate, innovative Marxists – Antonio
Gramsci, Walter Benjamin, Ernesto Laclau, and Peter Osborne. He recognizes
that some might find this particular sample arbitrary or tendentious, but I find it
plausible, affording appropriate chronological and geographical variation.7 And
it makes sense to select those Marxists who seem most to offer an opening for
dialogue, as long as the opening angle does not obviously entail heresy.
I am not a Marxist, and the Marxists obviously can, and I hope will, speak
for themselves in response to Griffin’s overture. I intervene because, though his
a­ rticle offers a valuable starting point, I find his way of framing the issues too
limited, too bound up with his particular agenda, reflecting his way of conceiving
fascism as revolutionary. He clearly hopes that dialogue will yield an expanded
‘new consensus’, that all of us, Marxists and non-Marxists alike, will come to agree
that not just fascism, but all 20th-century revolution, revolved around something
like palingenetic myth. Because this proves his agenda, Griffin’s overture is not
likely to bear the fruit that dialogue might indeed produce, enabling us draw
deeper lessons from our recent historical experience. In the present article, I hope
to pinpoint the limits of Griffin’s approach and suggest how we might do better.
Griffin takes two tacks. On the one hand, he considers the reading of fascism by
his Marxist exemplars, drawing out those implications that seem to open the way
for Marxists, more generally, to accept his understanding of fascism as revolution-
ary. On the other hand, he seeks to show that in light of aspects of the Marxist
tradition itself, the Marxist-communist revolution could only have been closer
to the fascist revolution than has generally been recognized. Although this two-
pronged approach is surely appropriate, Griffin too often forces the argument on
both levels by featuring those aspects that suggest the particular convergence he
has in mind.
Marxism surely did not, and does not, require what became the conventionally
reductionist approach to fascism. And gradually the inadequacy of that approach
became widely recognized – even among the Marxists themselves. In many ways
it was Gramsci who opened the way, with his accent on the relative autonomy of
cultural-ideological factors, reflecting ‘the real terrain’ of each national context.
But, as Griffin notes, Gramsci still viewed fascism as a mere pseudo-revolution, 185

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European Journal of Political Theory 9(2)
in light of the class reductionism in his thinking. So Griffin relies especially on
Laclau and Osborne, convincingly portraying both as pointing beyond Gramsci to
show how a Marxist might take fascism seriously as modern and ­revolutionary.8
Laclau starts with the conventional suggestion that in the crisis situations in
postwar Italy and Germany, the respective power blocs were no longer able to
dominate restive popular sectors through such traditional means as trasformismo.
Under the circumstances there was scope for genuine revolution, pitting not the
class-defined proletariat against the capitalist bourgeoisie but the heterogene-
ous, now-disaffected ‘people’ against the established elites. Laclau characterizes
‘the people’ variously, sometimes simply as the societal underdogs, but perhaps
best as the ‘jacobinized petty-bourgeoisie’, now feeling the contradictions in
their relations with established elites and institutions. The situation was open to
a popular-democratic revolution that would include the workers, for even as they
constituted a class, the workers remained, as Laclau puts it, ‘part of “the people”
– whose characteristics will depend on the social formation in question’, charac-
teristics that cannot be understood in terms of Marxism-Leninism alone. Even
having become class-conscious, then, the workers would respond to an appropri-
ate ‘popular-democratic interpellation’.9
As Laclau sees it, fascism was not merely reactionary but was ‘one of the pos-
sible ways of articulating the popular-democratic interpellations into political
discourse’.10 On the basis of Laclau’s notion, Griffin suggests that a Marxist can
agree that ‘inter-war fascism exerted a trans-class and genuinely “mass” appeal
(however embryonic and unsustained) and contained an autonomous radical ele-
ment independent of attempts by the forces of capitalist reaction and bourgeois
self-interest to use it as its “agent” in its struggle against socialism’.11 Griffin
concludes that, for Laclau, ‘fascism’s ultra-nationalism is to be considered a trans-
class mobilising myth rather than a reactionary middle class ideology, one which
can only be imposed on the masses through propaganda and brainwashing’.12
In other words, though that ultra-nationalism was a myth in some sense, it was
not merely manipulative; people really believed it, and the belief bound together
leaders and led.
Still, Laclau was saying only that the situation was revolutionary, not that fas-
cism itself proved revolutionary. Osborne provides a greater opening for that next
step beyond the old reductionism. Fascism, he suggests, must be understood as a
‘counter-revolution’, meaning not merely reaction but an alternative revolution,
intended to supplant the communist revolution.13 And in an especially effective
analysis, he shows how mythical images from the past in fascism reflected not some
past-oriented nostalgia, not some inability to adjust to modernity, but a ­genuine
quest for an alternative modernity.14 Extending Osborne, Griffin concludes that,
even for a Marxist, ‘fascism can be understood as a fully-fledged revolutionary
assault on the political, social, and cultural status quo which, where successful, had
a transformative impact on liberal capitalism as well, even if it did not set out to
186 replace the capitalist system as such’.15

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Roberts: Fascism, Marxism, and the Question of Modern Revolution
Griffin draws on Walter Benjamin’s understanding of revolution to show that
Marxism, like fascism, rested on a particular mode of historical consciousness; it
was especially on that basis that the two revolutionary departures had more in
common than we have recognized. Each envisioned ‘exploding the continuum
of history’, which proves bound up, first, with the futural use of seemingly past-
oriented myths, already at issue in our discussion of Osborne. But Benjamin cuts
deeper through his account of the opposition between ‘historicism’ and ‘historical
materialism’ in his now-famous ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ of 1940.
As the dominant contemporary mode of historical consciousness, historicism
takes time as homogeneous and history as continuous, which is to make the
status quo seem normal, inexorable. According to Benjamin, ‘the adherents of
historicism ... empathize ... with the victor. ... Empathy with the victor invariably
benefits the rulers.’16 Keeping us from grasping the scope for human agency,
historicism is itself the immediate obstacle to systematic change. The possibility
of a qualitative departure requires a different historical consciousness, in which
linear time is punctuated with the presence of the past in concrete images, break-
ing though the hegemonic historicism.17 As Benjamin puts it, ‘the awareness that
they are about to make the continuum of history explode is characteristic of the
revolutionary classes at the moment of their action’.18 A sense of starting a new
time was dramatically evident during the revolution of 1830, for example, but this
mode of historical consciousness, he lamented, had not been seen in Europe for
a hundred years.19
For Benjamin, ‘historical materialism’ serves as the antidote to ‘historicism’
partly because it grasps, as historicism does not, the contemporaneity of historical
understanding, and thus the scope for present human agency. From this per-
spective, even a fact that proved to have been a cause becomes ‘historical’ only
posthumously, when, in light of events that may be separated from it by 1000
years, some historian recognizes it as such. Thus one of Benjamin’s key formula-
tions:
A historian who takes this as his point of departure stops telling the sequence of events like
the beads of a rosary. Instead, he grasps the constellation which his own era has formed
with a definite earlier one. Thus he establishes a conception of the present as the ‘time of
the now’ which is shot through with chips of Messianic time.20

Through historical materialism, we are in control of our powers, able ‘to blast
open the continuum of history’.21
Following Benjamin, Griffin finds adumbrations of such ‘now time’ even in
Marx himself, who stressed that when revolutions invoke a mythologized past,
they do so within an entirely ‘futural’ imagined temporality. Although Marx
went on to claim that the socialist revolution would be different, would entail
no such mythic use of the past, Griffin sees Marx’s image of the utopia of primi-
tive communism as contradicting that claim.22 As Griffin puts it, ‘For Marx, too,
“remembrance” is treated as a precondition for socialism’s ability to transform
187

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European Journal of Political Theory 9(2)
into a coherent revolutionary class the exploited and alienated working masses,
otherwise condemned to be trapped forever in the inexorable continuum of capi-
talism.’23 So Benjamin seems to open the way for Griffin to suggest that ‘primitive
communism’ functions for Marx as a kind of palingenetic myth, an image of the
past integral to the future-oriented process of breaking with historicist continuity.
In this sense it was comparable to such myths in fascism. And as Griffin sees it,
fascism, too, aimed to ‘dynamite “traditional” time and space for a new order out
of the continuum of history’.24
In the passage at issue, Marx links ‘invocations of the past’ to a ‘leap in the open
air’ out of a stifling past, seemingly recognizing the element of tension in the
two ways of experiencing the present’s relationship with the past. As Benjamin
notes, the ‘leap in the open air of history is the dialectical one, which is how Marx
understood the revolution’.25 But even if we can conceive this particular relation-
ship in dialectical terms, the historical consciousness in original Marxism is more
complex than it suggests, and the question of commonality in the Marxist and
fascist revolutions rests in important measure on what happened to that original
historical consciousness.
Griffin certainly recognizes that assessing revolutionary comparability requires
addressing not only original Marxism but the communist revolution that grew
from it. In Modernism and Fascism, he notes that the Bolshevik departure entailed
a crucial admixture, beyond the conventionally Marxist opposition to capitalist
exploitation. Hence, for example, the Nietzschean dimension in Bolshevism, the
importance of which we have at last begun to grasp thanks especially to the work
of Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal.26 And for Griffin we find the key commonality with
fascist revolution on the level of that admixture. It is a commonality in underlying
impulses and needs, not merely in practice or system of rule. He contends that
in the Soviet case, as in fascism, the quest for an alternative modernity stemmed
from archaic psychological forces in both the leadership and the most fervent
followers, who sought to ward off the terror of modern anomie as concentrated
in a particular crisis situation. Only thus, says Griffin, can we account for ‘the
enormous energy’ we find in the Soviet experiment.27
Griffin notes that Benjamin’s Marxian frame seems to have kept him from seeing
that the fascist revolutions might have been examples of the leap he had in mind.28
And by the end of his essay, Griffin recognizes that even Laclau and Osborne,
though they point beyond the long-standing reductionism, are not granting as
much as he, in his eagerness for an expanded consensus, initially seemed to sug-
gest. Even when they grant some measure of ‘autonomous revolutionary dynamic’
to fascism, Griffin charges, the Marxists still seek to preserve ‘the unique validity
of the Marxist revolutionary project’. Thus they treat fascism as less substantive,
less genuinely revolutionary, than the real thing. The ultimate question, which
Griffin articulates pointedly and convincingly, is whether we have the criteria to
distinguish between pseudo and genuine revolution – criteria that do not reduce
188 to mere personal value judgements about which is desirable.29

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Roberts: Fascism, Marxism, and the Question of Modern Revolution
Even as he raises this key question, Griffin does not challenge the Marxists as
deeply as he might, first because his way of understanding fascism as modern and
revolutionary is not rich enough. In finding commonality as he does, he glosses
over questions about the relationship between the fascist and communist revolu-
tions, most basically about the sense in which fascism might indeed be taken as,
in Osborne’s terms, a ‘counter’ revolution – a challenge, based on experience, to
Marxian hegemony in the quest for a systematic alternative to the modern main-
stream.
As it came to pre-eminence within the radical tradition, Marxism was based
on a particular idea of revolution, explicitly in opposition to such approaches as
Mazzinianism, Blanquism and anarchism. In rejecting such competitors, Marxism
claimed superiority on the basis of its Hegelian underpinnings, which afforded a
teleological historical framework, and its putatively scientific understanding of
capitalist economics. Although the place of human agency was always in ques-
tion, the combination of Hegelianism and science seemed to afford a measure of
developmentalist assurance. As it began to seem, by the 1890s, that capitalism was
defying Marx’s economic projections, that assurance eroded. The situation was
bound to stimulate renewed thinking about the determinants and criteria of revo-
lution. Hence the revisionist debates within Marxism by the turn of the ­century.
Griffin mentions them briefly, but the bases and implications of the ­ revision
require more systematic attention if his challenge is to bear fruit.30
The revisionist departures of Lenin and Sorel suggested ways of conceiving
revolutionary agency apart from the proletariat and its objective place within
industrial capitalism. The Leninist vanguard was defined by mentality, will and
values that were not traceable to class, although Lenin, clinging to orthodoxy,
insisted, first, that these attributes rested on a privileged grasp of Marxism itself
and, second, that the vanguard was necessarily the vanguard of the proletariat. Sorel
initially seemed more committed to proletarian autonomy, but his more radical
revision made clear the contingency of any revolutionary role for the proletariat.
Like his non-Marxist contemporary Vilfredo Pareto, he had thought the workers
to be developing, through trade-union activity, the virtues necessary to create a
superior order. But if, as seemed the case by 1910, the workers were not develop-
ing those virtues, they had no claim to a privileged role. Conversely, some other
group, defined by subjective values and not objective economic place, might claim
the mantle of revolutionary leadership. Moving beyond Lenin, Sorel and Pareto
were rethinking the purpose and meaning of modern revolution, what it was to
accomplish, why it was necessary. The point was not to replace the economic
system but to purge society of ‘decadence’, precisely as Griffin’s notion of fascist
revolution suggests. But we will need to ask whether Griffin’s understanding of
‘decadence’ gets to the basis of the post-Marxist diagnosis and prescription.
In 1919, as a new revolutionary understanding was coalescing, Sorel noted
the post-Marxist revolutionary potential of the Leninist revolution in Russia.
He was struck by the audacity of the enterprise upon which, as he saw it, Lenin 189

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European Journal of Political Theory 9(2)
had embarked in seeking to build a socialist economy in backward Russia. The
leaders had won the moral authority to get the masses to make sacrifices and to
accept factory discipline. Sorel particularly liked Lenin’s notion that the workers
would come freely to serve the state not just while labouring in the factories but
essentially all the time; they would thus, as Sorel saw it, be on the lookout for
incompetents or exploiters.31 In short, the myth of ‘creating socialism’ galvanized
the virtues and made possible the new sort of collective will necessary for ongoing
action to shape history.
With the revision of Marxism on the table, we can better pinpoint the questions
that Griffin’s exemplars leave us with, questions that they do not fully articulate
and that Griffin does not draw out. Laclau says that, ‘even if there is no doubt
that fascism was never a revolutionary movement, phenomena such as the mass
­mobilization that it achieved and the presence in its ideology of elements belong-
ing to the revolutionary tradition have never been convincingly explained’.32 This
is to note that we were long too quick to gloss over much about fascism that
­transcended mere reaction, yet Laclau’s premise was still that, though it emerged
from a genuinely revolutionary situation, ‘fascism was never a revolutionary
­movement’. So why was fascism unable to provide a revolutionary alternative,
despite the mass mobilization it achieved and its ties to earlier radical traditions?
For Laclau, fascism resulted from a dual crisis, and whereas Griffin conveys the
bases of the first – the crisis of the established system, affording the scope for a
revolutionary populist response – he glides over the implications of the second.
This entailed, as Laclau puts it, ‘a crisis of the working class, which was unable
to hegemonize popular struggles and fuse popular-democratic ideology and its
revolutionary class objectives into a coherent political and ideological practice’.33
It was fundamental to Laclau that the relationship between ‘the people’ and this
or that class is not given in advance; rather some particular identification comes to
be, as the result of struggle. The resolution of any political crisis under capitalism
depends on the outcome of that struggle.34
In both Italy and Germany, Laclau went on, there remained an underground
tradition of political radicalism, as with the Mazzinian-Garibaldian current
in Italy, and any credibly radical challenge had to appeal to those traditions.35
Popular radicalization under these conditions presented the workers with a new
opportunity: ‘A hegemonic will on the part of the working class would have had a
great impact on the jacobinized petty-bourgeoisie and would have enabled their
protest to be oriented in a socialist direction.’ In Italy, where the situation was
clearer than in Germany, the working class had to present itself as the historical
realizer of the uncompleted tasks of the Risorgimento.36 However, the workers
failed in both countries. Fascism became possible, says Laclau ‘because the work-
ing class, both in its reformist and its revolutionary sectors, had abandoned the
arena of popular-democratic struggle’.37
Because of its immaturity, Laclau went on, the working class had developed
190 only a narrow class perspective, which yielded reductionism and thus a lack of

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Roberts: Fascism, Marxism, and the Question of Modern Revolution
hegemonic will in relation to the exploited ‘people’. Because they took the class
criterion as decisive, the workers could recognize no possible autonomy in demo-
cratic movements; in neither country did they even try to embrace the popular
struggle. For Laclau, then, the failure of the working class was not a failure to make
the proletarian revolution but a failure to present itself to the dominated ‘people’
as offering the most persuasive popular alternative to the existing order.38
If the situation was revolutionary, and if the working class proved incapable of
grasping the opportunity, what scope was there for a revolutionary alternative?
Laclau seems to provide an opening in insisting, first, that ideological elements
are not in themselves reducible to class and, second, that the outcome in the strug-
gle for hegemony is not given a priori but is determined by the struggle itself, the
actual history. However, that opening proves restricted, for though the outcome
is not given beforehand, that struggle is still to be understood in class terms.39 So
in the case at hand, the question of how well the working class, led by the social-
ists, would do at appealing to indigenous radical popular-democratic traditions is
not merely one question but essentially the only question. Without working class
hegemony, the ‘full revolutionary potential’ of ‘popular radical discourse’ could
not have been realized.40
The failure of the working class made it possible for the wider radicalism to be
absorbed and neutralized by fascism. Given the terms of its crisis, monopoly capi-
talism required a new system based on a mass movement, which had to be radical
to be credible. Still, for Laclau fascist radicalism in both countries was not ­merely
bogus. As genuine leftists within their respective fascisms, Roberto Farinacci
and Gregor Strasser, for example, resisted accommodation with the capitalist
bourgeoisie.41 But such anti-capitalists were not calling the shots in either case.
Although fascism had to be radical up to a point, the radicalism had to be kept in
bounds, and thus the popular and socialist dimensions had to be kept from coming
together. Fascism achieved this in Germany through racism and in Italy through
corporativism, which recognized class differentiation but denied class struggle. In
each case, the working class, demoralized by its failure, itself proved susceptible
to mobilization by fascism.42 So despite the openings he allows, Laclau ends up
reducing fascism to a particular mode of anti-socialist reaction.
We must first ask whether, in light of the revolutionary situation, the pro­cess –
and the struggle – could be conceived as still more open-ended, with the relevance
of class itself at issue. Perhaps, in light of a combination of practical experience
and theoretical questioning, it was at least plausible to have concluded that some
other group besides the workers, some group not defined by class, could spear-
head the appropriate national-popular revolution, especially if, in Laclau’s own
terms, the working class had essentially abdicated.
In both Italy and Germany, the workers did not merely fail to exercise hegem-
ony but threatened what seemed, to others among the disaffected, the wrong
revolution, based on inappropriate class categories and a particular reading of
the Bolshevik example. Even for Laclau this revolution, as ‘ultra-leftist’, was the 191

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European Journal of Political Theory 9(2)
wrong one, but he does not draw out the implications of that fact in assessing
the revolutionary nature of the situation. In immediate postwar Italy, the revo-
lutionary socialist challenge was especially acute, and conflict between socialists
and ‘popular-democratic’ sectors over the significance of the Italian war experi-
ence greatly complicated matters. The socialist-led workers could have taken a
populist-democratic tack by reaching out to discontented war veterans, but they
disparaged the war effort and the claims of its national-popular significance.43
And during the biennio rosso of 1919–1920, they claimed that a Bolshevik-style
revolution was in the offing in Italy. The ‘ultra-leftist’ and antiwar orientation
of much of Italian socialism reinforced the sense among wider disaffected sectors
that Marxism-communism was part of the problem, not the key to solution.
Under the circumstances in both countries, the disaffected were not likely to
wait around for the working class to mature. If the situation was revolutionary, the
challenge was to specify the terms of a different revolution, not only non-Marxist
but anti-Marxist, for if the socialists and the workers were barking up the wrong
tree, revolutionary reaction against the existing state of affairs had to be partly
against the actual working class and its socialist organizations.
Competing with Marxist socialism for hegemony in the revolutionary situation,
the fascists were implicitly claiming that the terms of the appropriate modern
revolution had to be fundamentally recast, in light of experience since Marxism
had crystallized. A 19th-century product, reflecting experience to that point with
industrial capitalism and liberal democracy, but also reflecting a particular read-
ing of human needs and possibilities, Marxism had come to seem outmoded, an
impediment to appropriate, modern revolutionary change. Perhaps the fascist
alternative conception was implausible; perhaps it was merely a myth; perhaps it
reflected sociological or psychological vulnerability or maladjustment. We cannot
make any such assessment unless we consider, more fully than either Laclau or
Griffin does, what the situation might have allowed, or invited.
From the fascist perspective, the essential opposition did not revolve around
class, with the workers spearheading anti-capitalism, but the people, or the nation,
in opposition to, first, liberal democratic practices and institutions. Laclau notes,
though only in a footnote, that the aim of the popular-democratic revolution was
not necessarily to enhance parliamentary democracy or to pursue conventional
liberal values, and certainly the creators of fascism intended nothing of the sort.44
Even as populists they had given up on liberal democracy; experience seemed
to have shown its inherent limitations. Assessment thus requires considering, as
Laclau and Griffin do not, the actual experience with the modern liberal dispensa-
tion, including the performance of parliamentary government, especially in the
two countries at issue. Only on that basis can we gauge the plausibility of the
fascist alternatives as modern and revolutionary.
In treating the Italian case, Laclau rightly features the Mazzinian radical tradi­
tion as an unfulfilled legacy from the Risorgimento. Mazzini seemed to have been
192 marginalized by the hegemony of socialism, then buried by Marx. But leading fas-

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Roberts: Fascism, Marxism, and the Question of Modern Revolution
cists from Sergio Panunzio to Giovanni Gentile claimed that his modern relevance
had become clear in light of subsequent experience. So what, more specifically
than an unfulfilled populism, did Mazzini stand for in his opposition to both lib-
eralism and socialism, and why might his thinking have seemed especially relevant
in light of experience with both since his earlier prominence before 1850?
In noting that the popular-democratic revolution was not necessarily to enhance
conventional democracy, Laclau offers a promising indication of the alternative
in referring to ‘identity’ through populist confrontation with the power bloc.45
As he leaves it, however, the fuel too easily reduces to underdog resentments; he
provides no sense of how matters of collective identity, such as ‘the people’ or
‘the nation’, might have interfaced with the fascist reading of Italian possibilities
in light of the wider modern experience. In rejecting the liberal accent on rights
and the socialist accent on class and economic interests, Mazzini suggested the
scope to nurture and focus individual ethical capacities to forge ‘the people’, to
make individuals worthy of collective participation. He even seemed to suggest,
in a proto-totalitarian way, that more constant and direct participation, beyond
conventional liberal democratic practices, could overcome individualistic atomi-
zation and class differentiation to make ‘the people’ the collective historical agent
as never before.
In considering the content of fascism and Nazism, Laclau plausibly features
corporativism and racism respectively, but he explains each in terms of the puta-
tively anti-socialist thrust of fascism. This is to turn from any effort to understand
such content precisely in terms of the populist radicalism he recognizes as present‚
and revolutionary in potential. Unless we consider more deeply what the popular-
democratic struggle was for, in light of the modern challenges in each country,
we cannot say whether corporativism and even racism could have served that
popular-democratic struggle. The questions concerning Nazism are of course
especially sensitive, and aspects of the Nazi revolution seem to elude Laclau’s
framework altogether – partly, no doubt, because he was writing before we had
come to grasp why even Nazism might be understood as a quest for an alternative
modernity. We now see better that Nazi racism was embodied in a wider project
of ‘race hygiene’, encompassing eugenics. The sense that they were acting, more
radically than anyone else, to implement ‘race hygienic’ principles was central to
the Nazi sense of assuming the modern revolutionary forefront.
The question of Italian fascist corporativism is more straightforward. Although
the fascist revolution had to be partly against present working class formations,
the fascists could plausibly claim not to be anti-worker for the longer term. The
place of labour under liberalism had been genuinely problematic, requiring a
radical solution, but the socialists had misdiagnosed the problem – and thus had
misconstrued the prescription as well. Fascism would integrate the working class
into ‘the people’ in a way that socialism, with its ultra-leftist tendencies, seemed
to preclude. Insofar as there was scope for a post-liberal way of integrating the
workers, it is not obvious that corporativism could only have been a tool to serve 193

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European Journal of Political Theory 9(2)
capitalist interests. Even if we conclude that it ended up such a tool, it matters
greatly if we portray corporativism as a genuinely revolutionary experiment, the
outcome of which would be determined by the struggle itself, and not, as for
Laclau, an expedient to keep the populist and socialist dimensions apart.
I noted that Osborne goes beyond Laclau to take not merely the situation but
fascism itself as revolutionary. In referring to ‘counter-revolution’, he was rec-
ognizing that though the two fascist revolutions developed in opposition to the
communist revolution, their raison d’être was not simply to save the present system
from communism. But is Osborne admitting the scope for genuine competition,
in light of the revolutionary situation and the manifest uncertainties within the
Marxist tradition at the time? Is he recognizing the scope for a genuine alternative
with wider purposes, based on a claim, in some sense plausible, better to grasp the
historically specific challenge and opportunity?
Although Laclau and Osborne seem to offer openings for dialogue, some
aspects of their conceptions seem to preclude it – but also to invite challenge.
Griffin, however, because of his limited conception of fascist revolutionary con-
tent, does not adequately draw out his two exemplars. He seems to be on the
right track in saying, as he nears his conclusion, that fascism as revolutionary
was about purging decadence as opposed to, say, overcoming class conflict.46 But
there is too much either/or in this formulation. We must ask what scope there
was, or might plausibly seem to have been, for a superior alternative to the liberal
and the Marxist ways of dealing with class relations in modern industrial society.
Considering Griffin’s formulation from the other side, he is surely right that fas-
cism was about purging decadence, but given his accent on abiding psychological
needs and modern anomie, he uses ‘decadence’ to reduce discontents to the same
level. To suggest, as many of the creators of Italian fascism did, that Italy’s capi-
talist bourgeoisie was not robust but ‘decadent’, or that the parliamentary system
fed on and bred such ‘decadence’, cannot be understood as a response to modern
anomie. Because Griffin’s framework is too limited to enable him to consider
what else might have been at work, he cannot draw out Laclau and Osborne or
convincingly specify what was revolutionary about Italian fascism.
Griffin’s insistence on the ambiguous term ‘myth’, in light of his earlier defi-
nition of fascism, also proves a limitation. In referring to ‘trans-class mobilizing
myth’ to characterize the potentially revolutionary dimension that Laclau finds
in fascism, Griffin turns from challenging Laclau on the possibly irreducible
and revolutionary nature of the fascist content.47 Indeed, despite his intentions,
Griffin’s use of myth could easily seem to buttress Laclau’s overall account of
fascism, confirming the objectively reactionary function of such strands as ­racism
and corporativism. Was there, or could there plausibly have seemed, genuine
scope for an alternative order, more deeply ‘populist national’ than the liberal
order, but not led by the working class? Or was the image of such an order only
a myth that kept the discontented ‘people’ from the real, socialist revolution?
194 Griffin cannot tell us.

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Roberts: Fascism, Marxism, and the Question of Modern Revolution
If original Marxism was more Benjaminian than we had realized, we find the
scope for dialogue within a certain frame, reflecting Griffin’s sense of what modern
revolution entails. However, this side of Griffin’s argument is based on a prob-
lematic reading of both original Marxism and the wider historical consciousness at
issue. In this context, especially, he simply forces elements to make the orthodox
Marxist and the fascist revolutions converge around his notion of ­palingenesis.
Although he is surely right that ‘a scarcely concealed theology of redemp-
tion drives “historical materialism”’, Griffin is too eager to link this well-known
dimension to messianic time and especially to mythic remembrance, as Benjamin
brings those two dimensions together.48 Not only is there no question of a mere
return to an earlier condition for Marx, but it is forced to suggest that primitive
communism functions as a utopian myth in Marxism, and thus is comparable to
fascist myth. In fastening, via Benjamin, on messianic time and mythic remem-
brance, Griffin neglects the combination of Hegelianism and putatively scientific
economics in Marx, dimensions that cannot be sidestepped if we are to probe the
revolutionary psychology at issue. Insofar as the proto-developmentalism rested
on Marx’s reading of the dynamics of capitalism, it may have been ‘scientistic’ and
not, as Marx claimed, ‘scientific’, but for Marx capitalism itself was anything but
an inexorable continuum, and in light of the Hegelian frame, the whole ­history
would matter – indeed, would be all-important to the telos. There was to be an
emancipatory moment, to be sure, but it was to rest on the particular experi-
ence of the working class within historical time, in light of the logic of industrial
­capitalism.
Although Marx left much open concerning the psychology of the revolution-
ary moment, the movement of history for Marxism was not a matter of cutting
in and out, punctuating continuity with messianic time and palingenetic revolu-
tion. Following Benjamin, who valorizes even Blanqui, Griffin makes Marxism
too close to the modes of revolutionary activism, even the mere ‘catastrophism’,
that Marx believed his own thinking had marginalized.49 Indeed, Griffin’s reading
suggests precisely the anarchism that Marx opposed for years on the practical level
and repudiated, he thought definitively, on the theoretical level.
Though it is forced with respect to classical Marxism, Griffin’s use of Benjamin
is more appropriate in light of the revision, which led to the Bolshevik Revolution
and contributed to the emergence of fascism in Italy. One possibility, in light
of the revisionist rethinking of agency and mentality, was Sorelian myth, woven
around images of the future. Although Benjamin emphasized the futural use of the
past, the key for both thinkers was to break ‘normal’ continuity in order to produce
something radically new. The energy, commitment and confidence for revolution
could develop only on that basis. At issue is a new sense of history and, in light of
that sense, a new conception of the scope and the requirements for human agency.
Precisely as Griffin suggests, it is on this level that we might grasp, as Benjamin
did not, the commonality of the fascist and Marxist revolutions. However, the
commonality at issue concerns less original Marxism than the actual communist 195

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European Journal of Political Theory 9(2)
revolution, reflecting in some measure the revision of Marxism. And the formula-
tion that Griffin derives from Benjamin – ‘dynamite the time and space for a new
order out of the continuum of history’ – is misleading on the historical conscious-
ness at issue for both fascism and Leninist communism. It thus misconstrues the
area of commonality.
As I have noted, Griffin recognizes that the Soviet experiment entailed an
admixture, beyond the conventionally Marxist reaction against capitalist exploita-
tion, and he is right to suggest that the crucial commonality with fascist revolution
lies on the level of that additional dimension. But for Griffin the modern problem,
distinguishable from capitalist exploitation, could only have been the syndrome
around anomie and ‘decadence’. The admixture grew from an effort to respond on
that level.50 But thus Griffin glosses over the role of problems ‘between’ capitalist
exploitation and generic anomie in engendering a sense of the need and the scope
for radical change.
Griffin seems on the right track, pointing beyond common palingenesis and
myth, in the following passage, which puts ‘totalitarianism’ as the common ele-
ment squarely on the table. He recognizes that Marxists might resist his proposed
syncretic approach because ‘it implies a far closer and more uncomfortable affinity
between fascism and Soviet or Maoist communism in practice than most Marxists
would like to acknowledge’. He then goes on to specify something like the content
of the common totalitarianism:
As forms of political modernism, both offered totalizing solutions to the problem posed by
the decadence of liberal society, which were outstanding specimens of the application to
socio-political engineering of the ‘historical predictions’ that Karl Popper identified with
his concept of ‘historicism’ ... and with the mainspring of totalitarianism. In both cases, the
utopia of a new society was formulated by blending scientific and technological discourse
with mythic thinking, thereby producing that characteristic ideological product of
modernity, ‘scientism’. Both, when implemented, spawned an elaborate ‘political religion’
and, in their Nazi and Stalinist versions, provided the rationale for mass murder on an
industrial scale.51

But though ‘totalism’ and historical consciousness are indeed crucial, even taken
in combination Griffin’s way of adducing these elements proves inadequate.
Although Popper’s use of ‘historicism’ was idiosyncratic, it is clear what he
intended – and opposed – and Griffin clearly believes that Popper has pinpoint-
ed one of the essential bases of the totalitarian departure. Totalitarianism was
wound around an assumption of historical predictability based on a privileged
grasp of the movement of history. Even as he invokes it, however, Griffin notes
that Popper’s notion of historicism entails a ‘curious reversal of the connotations
given the term by Benjamin’.52 Indeed, their disparate usages point to a tension,
but one that Griffin fails to probe as he simply leaves it at that – as a ‘curious
reversal’. How could revolution based on palingenetic now-time, exploding the
continuum of history, yield regimes putatively relying on assumptions of histori-
196 cal predictability?

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Roberts: Fascism, Marxism, and the Question of Modern Revolution
In following Popper on predictability, Griffin seems unaware of the challenges
to any such notion by such major scholars as Alfred G. Meyer and Moshe Lewin,
who feature the deeper doubt of the communist leaders about the direction of
history and their own place in it.53 At work was the breakdown of the sort of cer-
tainty that Marxism had seemed to offer and the transition to a new sense of the
human place in history. Indeed, the mainspring of totalitarianism was not a belief
in historical determinism but something closer to the opposite, a giddy but also
unnerving sense of open-endedness in light of the waning of developmentalism
and thus the scope for predictability. Yet neither is the core to be understood
in terms of rupture or ‘chips of Messianic time’. There seemed scope for a cer-
tain mode of mastery through collective human agency, requiring collective will.
And whereas myth would prove important to the fascist, Nazi and communist
experiments, its role was more subtle and differentiated than Griffin’s formula-
tions suggest.
In portraying fascism as revolutionary, Griffin offers a few indications of the
historical sense at issue when he refers, in Modernism and Fascism, to a new deter-
mination actually to make history, as opposed to merely watching it unfold.54
But he leaves this dimension undeveloped there, and he does not feature it in his
overture to the Marxists. In fact, it mixes uneasily with his accent on Benjaminian
‘now-time’, so this dimension, too, demands a better understanding of the histori-
cal sense at issue.
Adjustment to the openness of history seemed possible, but it required new
thinking about how history happens, or could be made to happen through a new
mode of collective human agency. In that light, we do indeed find, in the revolu-
tionary departures at issue, a certain hubris, but it stemmed not from a claim to a
privileged grasp of the direction of history but from a sense of having discerned,
as the mainstream liberals and orthodox Marxists had not, the requirements for
the new, history-making mode of action itself. Still, the uncertainty inevitably
shadowed the confidence. So mixed characteristically with hubris was a certain
shrillness, reflecting the lack of any suprahistorical assurance, the feeling that it
was all up to them, acting within an unforeseeable history.
A better grasp of the historical consciousness at issue enables us to rethink
Griffin’s way of combining science and myth in the passage quoted.55 At issue,
it is true, was not only modern science but also a novel framework for science,
an extra-scientific framework that was itself one of the defining characteristics of
totalitarianism. But merely to refer, as Griffin does, to mythic thinking to char-
acterize that other dimension does not get at what was new – and revolutionary.
Surely some such combination of myth and science is characteristic of any conceiv-
able modern variant, so to grasp the revolutionary nature of the departure, we need
more on that totalizing content vis-à-vis the liberal mainstream. We need to under-
stand why and in what sense the alternative seemed to have to be ­totalizing.
In light of that totalizing thrust, the category we need to make sense of the revo-
lutionary commonality is not palingenesis but precisely totalitarianism, understood 197

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European Journal of Political Theory 9(2)
not in a reified way, as some ‘system’ of domination, but as a set of assumptions,
aspirations and practices coming into the world for the first time.56 Although it
was obviously heir to the longer term critique of the modern mainstream, totali-
tarianism had its own sources, responding to experience since the crystallization
of Marxism, including, of course, the revision of Marxism itself. In practice, each
of the three totalitarian revolutions entailed a characteristic dynamic with certain
features in common, from narrowing into truncated modes of participation to a
tendency towards a partly out-of-control radicalization, which could include mass
killing. These outcomes followed not, as for Griffin, from palingenetic myth but
from the novel totalitarian mode of response to mainstream modernity.
Concluding his essay, Griffin makes explicit what has been implicit all along,
that his purpose in seeking dialogue is to enable us better to understand what
these earlier revolutionary experiments tell us about the ongoing dangers and pos-
sibilities of modern politics. Partly at issue is the continuing relevance of Marxism
itself. Because he is so determined to show that all modern revolution revolves
around palingenetic myth, and is thus negative and doomed, Griffin is quick to
conclude that the alternative to the revolutionary quest for ‘palingenesis’ can only
be ‘metamorphosis’ in the Kantian sense.57 However, that bifurcation glosses over
other ways of drawing out the implications of our experience with modern revo-
lution. We need a more differentiated sense of what is to be learned, what is to
be jettisoned, what is to be reconsidered and what still might remain, even in
the wake of that experience, from the tradition of systematic opposition to the
m­ odern mainstream.
What is it that the Marxists must give up if dialogue is to be possible? We
must ask, first, whether it could have been specified in advance, on the basis of
suprahistorical criteria, whether the fascist or the communist departure was the
more genuinely revolutionary. The alternative is to take this to have been an
open question, to be settled by human response, so that we, coming along later,
can answer it only by studying the actual history. Pareto provided us one bit of
evidence that, by the eve of the fascist and communist revolutions, the criteria of
revolution were themselves in question; the Marxist claim to privilege was being
challenged. Without embracing his particular alternative, we can recognize that
dialogue is possible only insofar as we agree precisely that the criteria of revolu-
tion were – and are – themselves subject to contest.
The scope for contest over criteria does not preclude the possibility that, in
the wake of the actual experience, Marxism might provide particular insight into
­fascism and the wider revolutionary era. Even a Marxist willing, in principle, to
grant the scope for an alternative revolution might argue from its mode of failure
that the fascist revolution was doomed from the start, in light of its compromises
with the bourgeoisie, its turn from any frontal assault on the socioeconomic sys-
tem. The question is whether such a Marxist account would be essentially a priori,
based on a claim to a privileged grasp of revolutionary dynamics, or empirical,
198 based on an ex-post assessment of the history, or, in Laclau’s terms, the struggle

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Roberts: Fascism, Marxism, and the Question of Modern Revolution
itself. Such an assessment would have to have been sufficiently open to admit, first,
the scope for changing revolutionary aspirations in light of changing circum­stances
and, second, the possibility of other reasons for failure in the case at hand.
What proved the implications of the fact that, under the circumstances, Italian
fascism could only have emerged in opposition to Marxist socialism and thus was
likely to alienate much of the working class? The fascists certainly sought to win
over the workers, but even insofar as the effort was successful, they did so on what
might be judged a superficial basis, not fully congruent with the original revolu-
tionary aspiration. Hence in part, for example, the limits of corporativism as it
played out in fact. It is still arguable, however, that the scope for winning over
deeper working class support could have been determined only by the struggle
itself. Yet Laclau does not consider that aspect of the fascist struggle. Although he
does far better than most in pinpointing the abiding left–right difference within
Italian fascism, it is superficial to feature Roberto Farinacci as the archetypal leftist
or revolutionary fascist.58 Farinacci was radical in one way, but his aims, compared
to those of other generally leftist fascists like the corporativist Giuseppe Bottai,
were somewhat limited. To understand the revolutionary potential in fascism, but
also its failure to realize that potential, we need a more differentiated sense of the
contending forces within fascism itself.
Griffin gives us another possibility in suggesting that any modern revolution,
necessarily bound up with palingenetic myth, would degenerate in characteris-
tic ways and eventually fail.59 But this notion makes it clear that Griffin tends
to a reductionism of his own. Although modernity, as he sees it, allowed for a
non-Marxist and even anti-Marxist revolutionary alternative, he suggests that the
outcome was still given in advance. Even the deleterious role of myth, however,
cannot be assessed without a wider sense of the possible reasons for the failure of
fascism, including what proved the logic of totalitarianism itself. Precisely because
totalitarianism was radically new, nobody could be sure where it would lead. If we
are to have dialogue, we must take the actual history to be more open-ended and
uncertain than either Griffin or Marxists like Laclau have tended to do.
Even insofar as we take fascism as modern and revolutionary, qualitative differ-
entiation between the fascist and communist revolutions surely remains plausible.
Griffin challenges the Marxists to specify the criteria, but even insofar as they
cannot be specified a priori, the criteria for such qualitative differentiation may
emerge from comparison itself, obviously to include how each revolutionary
experiment played out in practice. From within an open-ended, dialogical frame-
work, we can not only ask about commonality but also seek to determine what
factors most differentiate the Marxist and fascist revolutions, and how significant
those factors were.
From within such a framework, the Marxist approach offers not only categories
for interpreting history but also a still potentially fruitful way of questioning the
present. As we ponder what is left of the revolutionary tradition, we may eschew
palingenetic revolution yet still discuss with Marxists the scope for a systematic 199

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European Journal of Political Theory 9(2)
alternative to the modern mainstream. Because he is so wedded to his particu-
lar conception of fascism and revolution, Griffin seems, even to a non-Marxist
like me, to force the argument and restrict the discussion prejudicially. Thus the
Marxists can too easily reject his overture. Through a different way of conceiving
fascism as revolutionary, and of understanding fascist-communist commonality,
we can challenge the Marxists more deeply – but also suggest the basis for a more
fruitful mode of dialogue.

Notes
  1. Stanley G. Payne (1995) A History of Fascism, 1914–1945, p. 494. Madison, WI: University
of Wisconsin Press.
  2. Roger Griffin (1993) The Nature of Fascism. London: Routledge.
  3. Roger Griffin (2002) ‘The Primacy of Culture: The Current Growth (or Manufacture) of
Consensus within Fascist Studies’, Journal of Contemporary History, 37 (Jan.): 21–43.
  4. Roger Griffin (2007) Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and
Hitler. Houndmills, Macmillan. I treat this book in my review essay (2009) ‘Fascism,
Modernism, and the Quest for an Alternative Modernity’, Patterns of Prejudice, 43(1)
(Feb.): 91–5.
  5. Roger Griffin (2008) ‘Exploding the Continuum of History: A Non-Marxist’s
Marxist Model of Fascism’s Revolutionary Dynamics’, in A Fascist Century, pp. 53, 67.
Houndmills: Macmillan. I am grateful to Professor Griffin for his courtesy in making the
proofs of this essay available to me prior to its publication.
  6. Ibid. p. 67.
  7. Those who could be considered are of course legion. Nicos Poulantzas, Alex Callinicos,
Tim Mason, and Geoff Eley are among those whom I myself have found it helpful to
engage over the years. Eley has used my own work on Italian fascism as I would not
have, but in a way that I found stimulating – and that suggests the scope for dialogue.
See Geoff Eley (1986) From Unification to Nazism: Reinterpreting the German Past, ch. 10.
Boston, MA: Allen & Unwin.
  8. See Griffin (n. 5), pp. 56, 61–2, on Gramsci’s limits and on the sense in which first
Laclau, then Osborne, go beyond.
  9. Ernesto Laclau (1977) Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism – Fascism
– Populism, p. 109. London: NLB.
10. Ibid. p. 111.
11. Griffin (n. 5), p. 55. See pp. 55–8 for Griffin’s account of Laclau.
12. Ibid. p. 57.
13. Peter Osborne (1995) The Politics of Time: Modernity and the Avant-Garde, p. 164.
London: Verso.
14. Ibid. pp. 163–4, 166. Griffin especially appreciates Osborne’s way of featuring the futural
use of past; see Griffin (n. 5), pp. 60–2.
15. Griffin (n. 5), p. 62.
16. Walter Benjamin (1969) ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, in his Illuminations, ed.
Hannah Arendt, VII, p. 256. New York: Schocken. See also XVII (p. 262) and XVIII (p.
264). See also Griffin (n. 5), pp. 58-59.
17. Benjamin (n. 16), XIV (p. 261).
18. Ibid. XV (p. 261).
19. Ibid. XV (pp. 261–2).
200 20. Ibid. XVIII (p. 263).

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Roberts: Fascism, Marxism, and the Question of Modern Revolution
21. Ibid. XVI (p. 262).
22. Griffin (n. 5), pp. 63–5.
23. Ibid. p. 65.
24. Ibid. p. 66.
25. Benjamin (n. 16), XIV (p. 261).
26. See especially Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal (2002) New Myth, New World: From Nietzsche to
Stalinism. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.
27. Griffin (n. 4), pp. 169–71. See also pp. 172–5.
28. Griffin (n. 5), p. 59.
29. Ibid. p. 68.
30. Ibid. pp. 227–8, n. 19; see also Griffin (n. 4), p. 174.
31. ‘In Defense of Lenin’ (1919 appendix), in Georges Sorel (1961) Reflections on Violence,
pp. 277–86. London: Humanities Press. See also Georges Sorel (1973) ‘Chiaramenti su
Lenin’, in Georges Sorel, ‘Da Proudhon a Lenin’ e ‘L’Europa sotto la tormenta’, ed. Gabriele
de Rosa, pp. 124–5. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.
32. Laclau (n. 9), p. 82.
33. Ibid. p. 115.
34. Ibid. pp. 114–15.
35. Ibid. p. 117.
36. Ibid. pp. 129, 132.
37. Ibid. p. 124. In ‘Exploding the Continuum’, pp. 56–7, Griffin quotes this passage but
does not fasten upon the opening it offers to challenge Laclau.
38. Laclau (n. 9), pp. 126–9, 132. The quotation is from p. 129.
39. Ibid. p. 110.
40. Ibid. p. 142.
41. Ibid. pp. 122–4.
42. Ibid., pp. 118–22, 128.
43. The retrospective analysis by the Socialist leader Pietro Nenni remains fundamental. See
his (1962) Il diciannovismo (1919–1922). Milan: Edizioni Avanti!
44. Laclau (n. 9), p. 107, n. 36.
45. Ibid.
46. Griffin, (n. 5), p. 66.
47. Ibid. p. 57 (passage quoted above).
48. Ibid. p. 65.
49. Benjamin (n. 16), XII (p. 260).
50. Griffin (n. 4), pp. 172–5.
51. Griffin (n. 5), p. 63.
52. Ibid.
53. Alfred G. Meyer (1962) Leninism, pp. 276–7, 279, 288, 290–2. New York: Frederick A.
Praeger. Moshe Lewin (1985) The Making of the Soviet System: Essays in the Social History
of Interwar Russia, pp. 202, 205, 258–9, 291–2. New York: Pantheon.
54. Griffin (n. 4), pp. 4, 48–52.
55. Griffin (n. 5), p. 63. See also Griffin (n. 4), p. 318.
56. This is the argument of my book (2006) The Totalitarian Experiment in Twentieth-Century
Europe: Understanding the Poverty of Great Politics. London: Routledge.
57. Griffin (n. 5), p. 68. See also Griffin (n. 4), p. 369.
58. Laclau (n. 9), pp. 122–4.
59. Griffin (n. 4), pp. 227, 246–8, 254.

201

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