the purchase of fascism on fractals and the beautiful power seen in the microfascisms of issue-based social aggregators or the missing beauty in the socially indifferent generational products of the Crisis of Value

[Timothy Snyder:] … I wonder if fascism doesn’t depend … on a certain level of technological development, where people can be moved easily but information less so? …

[Tony Judt:] We’re at exactly the point [the 1930s] when societies of Europe are entering the age of the masses. People can read newspapers. They work in very large agglomerations and are exposed to shared experiences – in school, in the military, traveling by train. So you have self-conscious communities on a grand scale, but for the most part nothing resembling genuinely democratic societies. Accordingly, countries like Italy or Romania were peculiarly vulnerable to movements and organizations that combined non-democratic form with popular content.

I think that this is one of the reasons why so few people understood them; certainly, their critics did not. Marxists could not find any “class logic” in fascist parites: therefore, they dismissed them as mere superstructural representatives of the old ruling class, invented and instumentalized for the purpose of mobilizing support against the threat from the Left – a necessary but far from sufficient account of the appeal and function of Fascism.

It therefore makes sense that in the aftermath of World War II, with the establishment of stable democracies in much of Western and parts of Central Europe, fascism lost its purchase. In later decades, with the coming of television (and a fortiori the internet), the masses disaggregate into ever-smaller units. Consequently, for all its demagogic and populist appeal, traditional fascism has been handicapped: the one thing that fascists do supremely well – transforming angry minorities into large groups, and large groups into crowds – is now extraordinarily difficult to accomplish.

[Timothy Snyder:] Perhaps the fascists were the last to believe that power was beautiful.

[Tony Judt:] Communists of course believed to the end that power is good … I wonder whether you are correct for the non-European world. Think of China, after all, the most obvious case in point.

[Timothy Snyder:] I fear that China is an excellent case in point.

– Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder, Thinking the Twentieth Century, Vintage Books, London, 2013, pp. 165-167