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									The Mass Psychology of Fascism
June 29, 2010

By Stuart Bramhall

Last weekend I picked up Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism for the first time in thirty
years. I’m not exactly sure why I have been thinking and blogging a lot about the 2010 elections. I’m
not very happy about the fact that the Republicans have already declared victory – nor that the
major corporate donors who supported Obama’s election have already switched sides. Perhaps I
was hoping for some flash of insight about two nagging questions that have been rattling around in
my head

1) What, if anything, can about the 60-70 percent of voting age Americans that aren’t going to vote
in November?

2) How is it that working Americans are so easily persuaded to vote for conservative candidates (like
Bush, for example) who go on to enact policies that are very harmful to their own economic

I was extremely surprised to rediscover that Reich himself posed these questions – and provided
some pretty compelling answers – when he wrote the first edition of the Mass Psychology of Fascism
in 1933.

A Controversial Figure

As a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Reich was part of the original circle working with Freud (in
Austria and Germany) in developing theories of the unconscious and developing the technique of
psychoanalysis. Reich’s unique contribution was to divert the direction of psychoanalytic theory away
from a narrow focus on neurotic symptoms to a broader understanding of personality and character
development. As a card carrying Communist in the 1920s, he also sought to integrate Marxism and
psychoanalysis. His work in this area formed the theoretical basis for what is now known as social

There is also good evidence that he developed a bipolar disorder in his later life and was most likely
insane when he died (in a Pennsylvania jail) in 1957. However this in no way negates the immense
importance of his early work, as he (like Lincoln, Churchill and scores of other historic figures who
were manic depressive) had many long lucid periods in the early part of his life.

The Mass Psychology of Fascism

Reich’s primary premise is that immense success of fascism – in Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan
(he is also concerned about Islamic fundamentalism and mentions “Arab” societies) – is based in a
perverse tendency of working people to support and vote for conservative and reactionary
candidates with political agendas that run contrary to their economic interests. He describes this
tendency as universal to all industrialized societies because it relates to specific psychological and
social characteristics of large populations. He asserts, with detailed anthropological, psychological,
economic and political data, that it operates totally independently of national, cultural or ideological
factors – or the personal characteristics of right wing leaders who seek to take advantage of this
universal tendency  .
According to Reich, the strong allure of reactionary politics – and overt fascism – is based in
mankind’s 6,000 year history of rigid patriarchal, authoritarian and hierarchal social organization,
particularly in its effect on childrearing practices. He believes the end result is a population of adults
with a strong inner conflict between a biologically innate desire for freedom and the responsibility
that goes along with that freedom. In addition to providing a detailed analysis of the social factors at
the basis of this conflict, he also demonstrates (in my view very convincingly) how social change
advocates can incorporate this understanding to work more effectively for true democratic change.

T be continued

From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives
URL: http://www.zcommunications.org/the-mass-psychology-of-fascism-by-stuart-bramhall

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