The Mass Psychology of Fascism
New York: Farrar, Straus and Company, 1946
What makes Fascists tick? Wilhelm Reich said he had the answer in his groundbreaking book The Mass Psychology of Fascism. The original German version was published in 1933 — back in the good old days. Since then, he’d developed some interesting new angles for the third edition, on which the translation was based.
Its main focus is advocating sexual libertinism. Another angle is exploring why the German public chose Fascism rather than Communism. This dual purpose makes it a very odd book. Of course, the synthesis is about promoting libertinism to counteract Fascism.
What makes Wilhelm Reich tick?
The author’s father Leon was a wealthy farmer who apparently had some baronial pretensions. (The geopolitically rough neighborhood of Bukovina later fell into Romania’s orbit, and Captain Codreanu had plenty to say about the likes of him.) Young Wilhelm wasn’t allowed to play with the peasant children. One of the few times he interacted with them, he got a fairly minor injury but didn’t regard it as a big deal. However, after his father found out, the other child’s father got a severe beating. This wasn’t the only time that Leon dished out violence with impunity to his “inferiors.”
What’s surprising is how unfavorably this contrasts with conditions in the antebellum South. The children of masters and slaves played together routinely, and nobody objected. If a white boy lost a fight with a black boy, that was his tough luck; pulling rank was not an option even if he wanted. Surely plantation owners considered themselves to be of a higher station than their slaves, but Leon Reich lorded it over the Ukrainian commoners even more. It’s a wonder that his son had any redeeming characteristics after an upbringing like that.
According to the highly TMI confessions in Passion of Youth, young Wilhelm was sexually precocious, to put things very mildly. The extent is hard to fathom, remaining taboo even in the present degenerate age after the Sexual Revolution which Reich himself helped inaugurate. His activities included diddling the hired help since he was a preschooler, some activities with horses odder than the usual rural stereotypes, and the most disastrous Oedipus complex since Oedipus Rex himself, among other moral turpitude described ad nauseam. The psychological effects probably were more damaging than the typical Neverland Ranch / Jesus Juice / rubba-rubba experience.
One needn’t be a tremendous cynic to guess what happened next. Wilhelm Reich built a career as an authority on sexuality. (That’s rather like if Bernie Madoff had touted himself as an authority on business ethics, but yanno. . .) His major riff was that society is too repressed. Big surprise, right? After hanging his sexologist shingle aloft, instructing the public on what a healthy love life is all about, he rubbed elbows with several interesting people. One of his buddies was Comrade Willi Münzenberg, creator of countless front groups, who at a 1922 conference in Moscow’s Marx-Engels Institute proclaimed what was essentially the Clown World Prime Directive:
We must organize the intellectuals and use them to make Western civilization stink. Only then, after they have corrupted all its values and made life impossible, can we impose the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
The eminent intellectual Wilhelm Reich’s sexology racket began in young adulthood. During the First World War, after getting tired of dodging bullets in a foxhole, he managed to get a long furlough to attend college in Vienna during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He remained following the Armistice and demobilization. There, he got to know Sigmund Freud. He’d finally met the guy who could understand him and his off-the-charts Oedipus complex, well exceeding the fictional Portnoy.
Rather than curing him, his new friend Sigmund recruited him to be an apostle of the psychoanalysis fad. (There may be something to the stereotype of psychiatrists choosing their career path to figure out what went so terribly wrong in their own lives. Still, this instance is taking it a bit far.) He quickly became one of those disreputable shrinks who bang their patients. Even after marrying his fourth client, he still kept up his bad habit of shtupping the analysands. Of his several children, three were lucky enough not to get aborted.
He also became an apostle of the Communism fad, although his beliefs better matched the Social Democrats. His activities included a 1929 lecture tour in the USSR, during which he probably saw some Potemkin villages. Later, The Mass Psychology of Fascism caused a falling out with orthodox pinkos. He believed the Soviet Union was a free country under Lenin, but was disenchanted with how things went later in the workers’ paradise. He thought that Communists are freedom fighters; reality turned out to be a disappointment. Even so, he remained a cultural Marxist. Much like the Frankfurt School, Comrade Reich’s efforts combined Marxism and Freudianism. Unsurprisingly, his efforts were similar to Herbert Marcuse and his polymorphous perversity concept. Still, Wilhelm Reich — despite all of his considerable personal peculiarities — was a more relatable and likable figure than that goblin.
Promoting “anything goes” libertinism in Austria was loosely analogous to what Comrades Magnus Hirschfeld and Arthur Kronfeld were doing in Weimar-era Germany. In Central Europe during the 1930s, types like that became unwelcome. Unfortunately, they catastrophically ruined the reputation of their brethren too. (They should stop doing that.) Therefore, Reich was one of many who took his act to the USA, which wasn’t wise to these characters. He continued instructing society on the importance of shedding bourgeois morality — by now, a very tired cliché. Still, in his defense, there are far worse culture distorters these days. Stop doing that too.
He pursued some other strange but less cringe-worthy pursuits. UFOlogy was one of them. (Cool deal; I’ve approached that too as science fiction, and had a lot of fun writing about it.) He also developed an idea concerning vital energy, called orgone. That seems rather New Age, though similar concepts occur quite frequently in spirituality and the arts: prana, qi, vril, the Odic Force, The Force in Star Wars, etc. He got in hot water from touting his orgone boxes as a cancer cure. Normally there’s no penalty for being eccentric. However, overly bold claims about alternative medicine invite trouble. He died during a two-year prison sentence, effectively becoming a martyr figure according to some.
All told, he did seem a bit weird. Still, surely he was a real Brainiac. Let’s see what the esteemed Wilhelm Reich has to teach us about politics.
The tripartite mind and its speculated political implications
The third edition preface of The Mass Psychology of Fascism defines some key concepts; a brief introduction to his psychological model. Reich postulates three layers to the mind:
- The conscious mind, including the civilized exterior we present socially;
- The unconscious mind, which Freudian psychology considers to be the monster in the basement, developed further by Jung’s “shadow self” concept; and
- An underlying “deep biologic core of one’s selfhood.”
The biologic core is basically good, but can’t interact directly with the conscious mind. Instead, it must express itself through the turbulent unconscious which he calls anti-social. He regards this, more or less, as causing flawed human nature.
Then the following invokes the tabula rasa concept on a large scale. The idea is to change social conditions to change human nature to change the political climate. Of course, all that heavy-handed manipulation is so Leftist that it hurts:
It is not difficult to see that the various political and ideological groupings of human society correspond to the various layers of the structure of the human character. We, however, decline to accept the error of idealistic philosophy, namely that this human structure is immutable to all eternity. After social conditions and changes have transmuted man’s original biologic demands and made them a part of his character structure, the latter reproduces the social structure of society in the form of ideologies.
Reich states that liberalism puts the conscious mind solidly in first place. However, it mistakenly overlooks the biologic core, since the conscious mind is too rational and proper. (I’ll differ here; that sort of focus would indicate a mind-body dichotomy rather than a political stance.) Then the following:
The case of fascism, in contrast to liberalism and genuine revolution, is quite different. Its essence embodies neither the surface nor the depth, but by and large the second, intermediate character layer of secondary drives.
Again, to Freudians, the unconscious mind is the monster in the basement. Without bothering to explain, he declares this the essence of Fascism. Cool deal; so this means I go about my life on autopilot, letting the brutish aspect of my soul call the shots, and never having a rational thought, right? Anyway, that’s pretty much what leftists would believe. Cute.
Reich states that he no longer regards Fascism as a political movement, but as a personal characteristic which everyone has to one degree or another. (This prefigures the Current Year notion that there’s a little Hitler in everyone, who could emerge any time.) Other than that, Fascism “represents an amalgam between rebellious emotions and reactionary social ideas.” However, this rebelliousness can’t be truly revolutionary, because it’s not “rational rebellion against intolerable conditions in human society, the rational will ‘to get to the root of all things’ . . . and to improve them. . .” Well now, that’s mighty smug. So is this:
In its pure form fascism is the sum total of all the irrational of the average human character.
Don’t hold back, Comrade Reich; tell us what you really think! Much follows about Fascist racial theory; disapprovingly, of course. (That isn’t such a stinging rebuke, since half a century of policy centered on Leftist racial theory has brought civilization near the brink of collapse.) Then, diagnosing the love lives of untold multitudes of people he’d never met:
Race ideology is a pure biopathic expression of the character structure of the orgastically impotent man.
By far, most people still had sensible views about race back then. (Quite ironically, Normandy on D-Day was invaded by boatloads of “Nazis” — if these Allied soldiers were judged by Current Year “woke” standards.) Therefore, his gratuitous insult applied to everyone who wasn’t a radicalinski like him, or at least an extreme liberal airhead like Eleanor Roosevelt. Some even more ignorant and patronizing remarks follow that, and straw man tactics. What fierce criticism from such an upstanding gentleman!
The rest of the third edition preface describes his falling out with Marxism-Leninism. In short, he considered orthodox Communism to be good but outmoded. He presents the case for the superiority of cultural Marxism. He rolled his own, so it’s somewhat different from the Frankfurt School variety that eventually mutated into political correctness, intersectionality, critical race theory, and all that wonderfulness. There is discussion of work-democracy (a social system which is to be “the answer to fascism”) and sex-economy (which basically means sexual politics).
What happened to Marx’s promised worldwide revolution?
In the beginning, he describes a conundrum that was on the minds of his comrades at the time of writing:
In the months following National Socialism’s seizure of power in Germany, even those individuals whose revolutionary firmness and readiness to be of service had been proven again and again, expressed doubts about the correctness of Marx’s basic conception of social processes. These doubts were generated by a fact that, though irrefutable, was at first incomprehensible: Fascism, the most extreme representative of political and economic reaction in both its goals and its nature, had become an international reality and in many countries had visibly and undeniably outstripped the socialist revolutionary movement. That this reality found its strongest expression in the highly industrialized countries only heightened the problem. The rise of nationalism in all parts of the world offset the failure of the workers’ movement in a phase of modern history in which, as the Marxists contended, “the capitalist mode of production had become economically ripe for explosion.” Added to this was the deeply ingrained remembrance of the failure of the Workers’ International at the outbreak of the First World War and of the crushing of the revolutionary uprisings outside of Russia between 1918 and 1923,
For the historical record, it’s helpful that someone of Reich’s prominence noted what the thoughts were among his comrades at that moment. Communists tend to be big believers in the idea of progress over time; Whig history, in essence. They also regard Marx rather like a prophet. As the author noted, they were expecting to take power, and it was a severe blow to their confidence when the reactionary NSDAP did so instead.
Moreover, the First World War hadn’t gone as planned. Marx predicted that a cataclysm like that would lead to an international proletarian uprising. Instead, the workers of the world backed their own countries, rather than uniting under the Red banner. (Obviously, socially binding forces — patriotism, ethnic solidarity, admiration for one’s own culture, etc. — remained impediments, and would need to be undermined to pursue future Marxist revolutionary aspirations.) Moreover, Communist revolution only succeeded enduringly in Russia, where they least expected it to begin. I’ll add that the shock from the unfulfilled prophesies spurred the effort to create cultural Marxism. Surely a transcript of the Erste Marxistische Arbeitswoche conference would be delicious reading.
Following that, the author discusses the necessity to understand how the new ideology of Fascism originated, as well as what he believes caused it. This is where it starts dragging endlessly. Much of the usual long-winded and nebulous Marxist theory follows. For example:
The contradiction between social production and private appropriation of the products by capital can only be cleared up by the balancing of the modes of production with the level of the forces of production.
The sentences following that vague phrase clarifies that this means overthrowing the rich and stealing their stuff; you know, their usual shtick.
About the Weimar Republic, he noted that their massive economic depression should have raised class consciousness:
Rationally considered, one would expect economically wretched masses of workers to develop a keen consciousness of their social situation; one would further expect this consciousness to harden into a determination to rid themselves of their social misery. In short, one would expect the socially wretched working man to revolt against the abuses to which he is subjected and to say: “After all, I perform responsible social work. It is upon me and those like me that the weal and ill of society rests. I myself assume the responsibility for the work that must be done.”
The author really was onto something with that, but got sidetracked down the wrong trail. The “rationally considered” analysis relies on an economic focus, which of course is the defining characteristic of dialectical materialism. Elsewhere he contrasts economite “vulgar Marxism” with his own type of cultural Marxism. Still, even with a less limited viewpoint, he doesn’t make the right connection. At this point, it remains mysterious why the German public turned to Fascism rather than Communism.
“And then one day, for no reason at all, the people voted Hitler into power.”
Actually, the productive German masses did indeed notice some things during the Weimar Republic: who thrived after the economy was crashed, who was fomenting Marxist revolution, and who was wrecking their culture. (Did I mention that they should’ve stopped doing that?) The Communists hoped that these conditions would turn the German public against the bourgeoisie, but the bourgeoisie was never the problem. Wilhelm Reich couldn’t see the forest for the trees, and in fact was part of the problem himself.
I’d prefer not to bring up the topic, but without confronting the matter, the error in the analysis can’t be clarified. In the interest of fairness, I should note that although he came from a demographic with a high trouble-per-capita ratio, this wasn’t inevitable. He could’ve made other choices, but willfully became a subversive. Again, stop doing that.
Since dialectical materialism didn’t explain where Fascism came from, the author emphasizes the importance of mass psychology to understand it. That briefly summarizes page after page of boring theorizing like this:
We begin to see now that the economic and ideological situations of the masses need not necessarily coincide, and that, indeed, there can be a considerable cleavage between the two. The economic situation is not directly and immediately converted into political consciousness. If this were the case, the social revolution would have been here long ago. In keeping with this dichotomy of social condition and social consciousness, the investigation of society must proceed along two different lines. Notwithstanding the fact that the psychic structure derives from the economic existence, the economic situation has to be comprehended with methods other than those used to comprehend the character structure: the former has to be comprehended socio-economically, the latter biopsychologically.
Great googly moogly! Why can’t pinkos write concisely? My eyes burned and the words started blurring. I took a nap to recover from the boredom, but then the dreary theory haunted my dreams.
Finally, here’s something interesting:
It is only seldom that brute force is resorted to in the domination of the oppressed classes by the owners of the social means of production; its main weapon is its ideological power over the oppressed, for it is this ideology that is the mainstay of the state apparatus.
Inadvertently, that’s a pretty good summary of The System’s method of soft despotism. However, he’s a bit too optimistic; a régime’s carrot-to-stick ratio can change rapidly, leaving it much like a banana republic. Already, the present Powers-That-Be are pushing as much as they can to tighten their grip on the public, short of risking an uprising.
The Freudian explanation for Fascism
You knew it was coming. Approaching the substance of the argument, there’s much discussion about Freud’s ideas concerning childhood sexuality and the allegedly harmful effects of stifling it. That much sounds quite “Mister Tinkertrain,” but Freudian theory rolls that way sometimes. Essentially, having moral standards causes repression which causes “various pathological disturbances of the mind.” So did the author believe that his life would’ve been better if only he’d been even more debauched?
Through their very existence, each one of these discoveries [. . .] constitutes a severe blow to reactionary moral philosophy and especially to religious metaphysics, both of which uphold eternal moral values, conceive of the world as being under the rulership of an objective “power,” and deny childhood sexuality, in addition to confining sexuality to the function of procreation.
Such ideas continued to have a following. For example, Jerry Rubin’s Do It! put it fairly bluntly in Chapter 20 (“Fuck God”):
POLITICO-SEXUAL REALITY: The naked human body is immoral under Christianity and illegal under Amerikan law. Nudity is called “indecent exposure.” Fuck is a dirty word because you have to be naked to do it. Also it’s fun.
When we start playing with our “private parts,” our parents say “Don’t do that.” The mother commits a crime against her child when she says “Don’t do that.”
We’re taught that our shit stinks. We’re taught to be ashamed of how we came into the world-fucking. We’re taught that if we dig balling, we should feel guilty.
More tea, Vicar? Anyway, back to Reich. He then sets his target on “patriarchal society” and “the authoritarian family.” At the time, that was cutting-edge cultural Marxism. Although that’s been done to death since the 1960s, it’s still anyone’s guess when it will end.
We have found the social institution in which the sexual and the economic interests of the authoritarian system converge. Now we have to ask how this convergence takes place and how it operates. . . The moral inhibition of the child’s natural sexuality, the last stage of which is the severe impairment of the child’s genital sexuality, makes the child afraid, shy, fearful of authority, obedient, “good,” and “docile” in the authoritarian sense of the words.
One needn’t be a Brainiac psychiatrist to see where this line goes; putting any limits whatsoever on Little Johnny’s sexual experimentation will make him a young Blackshirt.
Thus, the family is the authoritarian state in miniature, to which the child must learn to adapt himself as a preparation for the general social adjustment required of him later. Man’s authoritarian structure — this must be clearly established — is basically produced by the embedding of sexual inhibitions and fear in the living substance of sexual impulses.
This sort of anti-family Narrative really took off during the “kill your parents” 1960s.
When sexuality is prevented from attaining natural gratification, owing to the process of sexual repression, what happens is that it seeks various kinds of substitute gratifications. Thus, for instance, natural aggression is distorted into brutal sadism, which constitutes an essential part of the mass-psychological basis of those imperialistic wars that are instigated by a few.
That, of course, explains the well-known reputation of monks as bloodthirsty marauders, and why nuns are always going postal. Next up is a discussion of the Führerprinzip. Later it speaks of Hitler’s early life, though missing key details. Then this whopper:
Hitler speaks of his mother with great sentimentality. He assures us that he cried only once in his life, namely when his mother died. His rejection of sex and his neurotic idolization of motherhood are clearly evident in his theory on race and syphilis. . .
Neurotic idolization, is it? Well, look who’s talking. Remember that Wilhelm Reich wanted to shtup his own mother, and she ended up the same way as Jocasta. Therefore, he’s not in a great position to play Freudian “yo mama” games. I could declare that his embrace of Marxism was adolescent rebellion because his father was a rich shmuck, but that too would be a cheap shot.
Hitler saw himself confronted with the following questions: How is the National Socialist idea to be carried to victory? How is Marxism to be combatted effectively? How is one to get to the masses?
These questions in mind, Hitler appeals to the nationalistic feelings of the masses, decides, however, to develop his own technique of propaganda and to employ it consistently, thus organizing on a mass basis, as Marxism had done.
That’s to be expected; nationalism is in opposition to Communism and other forms of globalism.
It was man’s authoritarian freedom-fearing structure that enabled his propaganda to take root.
Coming from a pinko, this was at least a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Maybe the public simply didn’t care for the ineffectual Weimar government, financial devastation, the Red Terror, and toxic degeneracy. Those who want to prevent Fascism should take care that society doesn’t get pozzed like that, so that the citizens don’t have to search for strong medicine.
Family values are fash
Then it identifies Fascism as a lower-middle-class phenomenon, later describing it as a middle-class rebellion. There’s much further discussion of class dynamics. Unlike pinkos typically pouring bile on the bourgeoisie, the author actually has some empathy and tries to understand their situation.
The rapid development of capitalist economy in the nineteenth century, the continuous and rapid mechanization of the amalgamation of the various branches of production in monopolistic syndicates and trusts, form the basis of the progressive pauperization of the lower-middle-class merchants and tradesmen.
Yeah, they’re still up to the same tricks.
He observes that the middle class politically sides with the ruling class, even though the plutocrats don’t have their best interests at heart. Then blame falls anew upon the family. This leads into a discussion of rural conditions, and how repressive patriarchal sexual morality causes “the typical peasant way of looking at things” among the small farmers. The passage after that describes how these people are the backbone of the country and need to be preserved. I was about to give the author credit for turning around and having a remarkably sensible moment, until I realized that he was quoting Mein Kampf.
Then he quotes some NS-era Blut und Boden laws declaring farmland to be owned by the family in allodium, among other measures “to protect the farmsteads against heavy indebtedness and harmful fragmentation in the process of inheritance, and to preserve it as the permanent inheritance of the families of free farmers.” (Those evil Nazis!) Reich remarks disapprovingly:
What is important here is the preservation of the ideologic atmosphere of the small and medium property owners, that atmosphere, namely, that exists in small enterprises operated by a family unit. It is this atmosphere that is known to produce the best nationalistic fighters and to imbue the women with nationalistic fervour. And this explains why political reaction is always prattling about the “morality-preserving influence of the peasantry.”
Oh, those stupid Right-wing rednecks just don’t know what’s good for them! More seriously, Wilhelm Reich certainly wasn’t the last Leftist to sneer at the people who grow his food. Pinkos say they’re the champions of the workers and the farmers, until they actually meet some.
Then it describes how Fascist policy comes from “interlacing of individualistic modes of production and authoritarian family,” small business competition, individualism, and patriarchal heterosexuality. It is true that the nation is an extended family writ large, and nationalism is as natural as loving one’s own kin, but the author puts a bad spin on things. Sexual moralism is regressive too. (It’s not difficult to see where all this is going.) Some sneering follows about duty and honor. Then traditional fathers are basically equated to dictators in miniature. Sweet!
A wall of Freudo-Marxist text follows, including:
The compulsion to control one’s sexuality, to maintain sexual repression, leads to the development of pathologic, emotionally tinged notions of honour and duty, bravery and self-control.
Somehow that conjures up an image of two hippies reeking of pot smoke and patchouli discussing their Counterculture notions about the importance of self-discipline.
Authoritarian society’s fight against the sexuality of children and adolescents, and the consequent struggle in one’s own ego, takes place within the framework of the authoritarian family, which has thus far proven to be the best institution to carry out this fight successfully.
Pass the brain bleach.
But it was overlooked that, ideologically, fascism was the resistance of a sexually as well as economically deadly sick society to the painful but resolute revolutionary tendencies towards sexual as well as economic freedom, a freedom the very thought of which instills the reactionary man with mortal terror.
That statement was about an 8 on the Chutzpah Meter. Who was sexually sick again? Moreover, he was pozzing their culture, he sided with subversives, and he got awfully indignant that there was a backlash against degeneracy and Marxism.
The more extensively and deeply the reactionary structure has taken hold of the toiling masses, the more decisive is the importance of the sex-economic work of educating the masses of the people to assume social responsibility.
Haven’t they made enough of a mess of things? The “anything goes” crowd eventually did get their sexual revolution, but is society better for it?
Is this guy a one-trick pony, or what?
That section rounds out discussing social democratic societies, but nothing too remarkable. Then the following chapter discusses NS race theory. Naturally, the author disagrees with it. For example:
We are especially interested in the fact that Hitler speaks of “incest” when an Aryan interbreeds with a non-Aryan, whereas it is usually sexual intercourse among those who are related by blood that is designated as incest. How are such stupidities to be explained in a “theory” that presumed to be the basis of a new world, a “third Reich”?
Calling out the former German chancellor for overstretching a context sounds rather like nit-picking, but nonetheless, we should defer to Wilhelm Reich’s considerable personal expertise about incest.
The next act is trying to explain Fascist race theory in terms of dialectical materialism. After all the previous discussion about thinking outside of the economite box, this comes as a disappointment. Ethnic solidarity is part of the group self-preservation instinct, not “the imperialistic aims of a ruling class that is attempting to solve difficulties of an economic nature.” However, one needn’t be disappointed for long, since he switches back to Freud when discussing the concept of blood purity:
Basically, it is a symptom of the sexual repression and sexual shyness brought about by a patriarchal authoritarian society.
This eventually delves into Freudo-Marxist analysis of ancient society, presenting wild speculations about matriarchy as settled fact. (Relations between the sexes may well have been somewhat different before people figured out where babies come from, but we don’t have a time machine to say for certain.) It’s easier to understand his rhetoric if you remember that whenever he writes “normal sexuality” it means abnormal sexuality to the rest of us.
It’s true that there are a few aspects of old-school NS race doctrine that could use some revision, like the cherry-picked selections from Alfred Rosenberg. (Still, warts and all, it’s more plausible than the bucket of contradictions accompanying Leftist absolute egalitarianism.) However, Wilhelm Reich’s counterarguments haven’t aged well either. Indeed, it was once popular among certain circles to claim that women ruled the world six thousand years ago, until the Aryans — boo, hiss — ruined the peaceful gynocentric paradise. Lately, even academia considers this feminist legend to be overrated.
Some analysis follows about NS style, essentially that it uses Leftist methods to pursue Rightist goals. One example is rebranding revolutionary songs with reactionary lyrics. Then things really went off the rails discussing the swastika. Did you think it was a sun sign, an emblem of ancient Aryan culture, a vortex symbol, or a Hindu good luck charm? The author informs us otherwise with an extensive argument, including that it’s “two interlocked human figures” engaged “in a sexual act.”
Earlier he wrote page after tedious page declaring that Fascism is associated with tyrannical moral standards imposed on the lower middle class. Now he expects us to believe that the symbol they put on their flag is actually a pornographic stick figure. Then again, Wilhelm Reich was the sort of coomer who might look at a bowl of breakfast cereal and think that the pile of flakes symbolizes an orgy.
Soon after this whopper, it was back to page after tedious page declaring that Fascism is associated with tyrannical moral standards. Much of that was indistinguishable from second-wave feminism.
God is fash
Next up is the subject of religion, continuing in the ironically titled chapter “The fight against ‘cultural bolshevism.'” In particular, Wilhelm Reich found it objectionable that Christian youth groups had a much higher membership than secular Leftist ones. How awful! He also found it objectionable that they found obscenity objectionable.
It was not enough to point out that the authoritarian state was in control of and could exploit the parental home, the church and the school as a means of binding the youth to its system and its world of ideas. The state used its entire power apparatus to keep these institutions intact. Hence, nothing short of a social revolution would have been capable of abolishing them. And yet, an undermining of their reactionary influence was one of the most essential preconditions of the social revolution and therefore the presupposition of their abolition. Many Communists considered this the main task of the “Red cultural front.”
You heard it from the horse’s mouth; cultural Marxism has been going on for about a century. Anyway, I’d like to say that whatever one feels about Christianity, sometimes attacks on it are proxy attacks on Western civilization. A long digression follows about Japanese national mythology; basically the Oriental version of Alfred Rosenberg.
After that is a general discussion of religion. Some of it is fairly on point as a Leftist critique. On the other hand, he believes that religion is about one thing only, aside from some exotic pagan stuff:
The basic religious idea of all patriarchal religions is the negation of sexual need. There are no exceptions, if we disregard the sexually affirmative primordial religions, in which the religious and the sexual experience were still a unity.
This idea isn’t so different from the childish rebellion of more recent whim-worshiping hedonists. “What? Your religion says I can’t stick my wiener anywhere I want? Who does God think He is, anyway?”
A discussion follows about the tortured mentality of the devout. He could be onto something in the case of some (though I wouldn’t say all) celibate clergy. He states that religious ecstasy is a substitute for sexual release, and basically works the same way neurologically. Anyway, it seems that he didn’t know too many happily married believers:
In reality, the religious man has become completely helpless. As a result of the suppression of his sexual energy, he has lost his capacity for happiness as well as the aggressiveness necessary to deal with life’s difficulties.
That much seems a better description for a coomer.
Children do not believe in God. It is when they have to learn to suppress the sexual excitation that goes hand in hand with masturbation that the belief in God generally becomes embedded in them.
Wilhelm Reich riffs on all this and launches into a case study about it. Then he starts deconstructing morally uplifting religious pamphlets. Not only is his take on that tedious and blasphemous, it’s pure poison from a major culture distorter. I found it royally irritating, even though I’m certainly none too pious. That part wraps up with this bon mot:
My medical experience has taught me that adolescents who are sexually sick have an unhealthy appreciation of the legend of Jesus.
Given the author’s personal history, this seems more like a case of Freudian projection. What a dreary slog all this was! Having been a teenage atheist, I could come up with far better critiques of religion than the “they want to take away our cummies” line.
The Coomerist Manifesto
Then there’s a mercifully brief discussion of the “is/ought” distinction in philosophy, leading to this:
We recognize a restriction here, the purpose of which is to enable the academician to devote himself to research, without obligating himself to draw the consequences that are inherent in every serious scientific insight. Such consequences are always progressive, very often revolutionary.
Oh yeah? My, how times have changed. Entire branches of academia had to be politicized to keep The Narrative going, and disagreement drives them berserk. It helps, of course, to have legions of activists posing as researchers in the soft sciences.
Then it describes the struggle against mysticism. This includes the anti-religion efforts his Soviet buddies were carrying out in Russia, which became rather infamous. The author being who he is, we eventually get to this:
Notwithstanding all this, I was told in Moscow in 1929 that the only organized and firmly rooted counter-revolutionary groups were the religious sects. The relationship of the religious sects to the sexual life of the sect members, as well as to the sexual structure of the society as a whole, was grievously neglected in the Soviet Union, both theoretically and practically.
The author laments that when the Soviet sexual revolution fizzled out by 1934, people started returning to the church.
Other than that, he considers hedonism and psychotherapy to be antidotes to religion and mysticism. Indeed, that pretty much follows from his previous arguments. Then he makes a case for the place of libertinism in Leftist politics, beginning with this:
The sex-economic fight is a part of the total fight of those who are exploited and suppressed against those who exploit and suppress. At present, to decide just how important this fight is and what place it assumes within the workers’ movement would be to engage in scholastic hair-splitting.
That was to become the consensus viewpoint in Leftist circles. By the 1960s, the GLBTs and the feminists had been rolled into the cultural Marxism burrito. In fact, the workers’ movement he spoke of is hardly even a thing anymore. Now that globalism has gutted organized labor, the Left must instead rely on supporting the identity politics of everyone except people like me. In another fine bit of irony, only the Dissident Right cares about the proletariat lately.
What is needed, therefore, is to master the sexual question on a social scale, to transform the shadowy side of personal life into social mental hygiene, to make the sexual question a part of the total campaign, instead of confining oneself to the question of population politics.
Yes, he admitted his culture distortion agenda. Much dry text follows, though including some specifics. Particular attention is paid to youth, such as this:
It may sound strange — to some incomprehensible — but the fact remains: In the main, revolutionary work with children can only be sex-economic work. Overcome your astonishment and listen patiently. Why is it that children in the pre-pubertal stage can be directed by sexual education in the best and easiest way?
That seems reminiscent of what Comrade Gyorgy Lukács was up to with his cultural terrorism initiative during the Hungarian Soviet Republic. (Their successors are pushing the envelope still with Drag Queen Story Time.) There’s much discussion of the benefits of indoctrinating the youth, such as taking advantage of their curiosity about sexuality.
If we could once succeed in engaging the sexual interests of children and adolescents on a mass scale, then reactionary contamination would be faced with a tremendous counterforce — and political reaction would be powerless.
That’ll show those evil Nazis!
By affirming their sexual interests and gratifying their thirst for knowledge, children must be educated to take an interest in social matters. They have to become firmly convinced that this is something political reaction cannot give them. And they will be won over in large numbers, be immunized against reactionary influence in all countries and — what is most important -they will be firmly bound to the revolutionary freedom movement.
I have to wonder how many educational bureaucrats read this stuff and became convinced this was a splendid way to “fight Fascism,” shoehorn their political agendas into the curricula, and delegitimize Rightist perspectives before the kiddos are old enough to make up their own minds.
Turning to the subject of sex-economic work with women, the author regrets the increasing trend of stay-at-home wives:
This work can be accomplished only by imbuing the concept of woman’s freedom with the contents of sexual freedom. It must be pointed out that it is not her material dependency on the man in the family that is a nuisance to a woman. Essentially, it is the sexual restriction that goes with this dependency that is a burden.
Is he proposing to encourage marital infidelity, or am I reading too much into this? Then he cites “political fertilization” as the desired outcome of convincing housewives that they’re unhappy. Much more blatantly manipulative stuff follows too, though it would be the second-wave feminists who put ideas like that into practice.
Then Reich discusses the politically uninvolved. I hoped his perspective would shed some clarity on the matter, since it’s certainly a problem now, but it wasn’t meant to be. He concluded that most of the apolitical folks shirk social responsibility because of “personal conflicts and anxieties, of which the sexual anxiety is the predominant one.” (What a one-track mind!) So there you have it straight from the Brainiac psychologist — for apolitical friends who can’t be convinced to join the struggle, just loosen them up with some pornos. More seriously:
Upon simple calculation we see that one and only one approach is possible: the comprehension of his sexual life from a social point of view.
The idea, essentially, is that sex-economic organizing can be the gateway drug to Leftist politics. Indeed, Comrade Harry Hay and the other Mattachine Society founders were on board with that one.
The Evil Empire is overrated
A long digression follows concerning Soviet politics of the time, lamenting the authoritarian direction things had taken. He equates recent conditions to Fascism. (I don’t care for lack of clarity or for horseshoe theory. Surely his commentary irritated the orthodox pinkos who had many additional gripes.) The author got fairly misty-eyed for the USSR’s early days, praising the true democratic practices of the workers’ paradise. He remarks disapprovingly about the rollback of their sexual revolution; the implication is that this was a causative factor in the authoritarian trend.
In a digression, he really gets cynical; for example:
In reality, however, everything that had taken place in the sphere of international politics since the Russian Revolution of 1917 confirmed the correctness of the assertion that the masses were incapable of freedom.
By incapability of freedom, he means unwillingness to support liberals, Social Democrats, and Communists (the fairy tale kind, not the real thing). The early 1930s nearly had him Black Pilled, but then he concluded that “the mechanism that makes masses of people incapable of freedom is the social suppression of genital sexuality in small children, adolescents and adults.” (So the repression had nothing to do with gulags and the NKVD, certainly. . .) Trying to eliminate “social suppression of natural sexuality in the masses” is the answer, by that logic.
An interminably long ramble follows about Sovietology, lamenting current events. Marxist theory said that the state will wither away as Communism develops, but that’s clearly not happening in the USSR. During the lecture, he argues for internationalism, which he considers a package deal with socialism, and against nationalism. In light of that, the following seems a bit odd:
The powerful capitalists who emerged from the bourgeois revolution in Europe had a great deal of social power in their hands. They had the influence to determine who should govern. Basically, they acted in a short-sighted and self-damaging way. With the help of their power and their means, they could have spurred human society to unprecedented social achievements. [. . .] They proved themselves to be completely unworthy of the role society had relegated them to. They abused their role, instead of using it to guide and educate the masses of people. They were not even capable of checking the dangers that threatened their own cultural system. As a social class, they deteriorated more and more.
Now, why does that seem so familiar? Since that’s how globalists behaved — and still do — it’s strange that he was so enthusiastic about globaloney.
Much dry theory follows concerning the evolution of governments. Then it describes the new (at the time) concept of state capitalism; essentially a Leftist perspective on the “socialism in reverse” problem. Labor practices are discussed, including the necessity for workers to have good love lives.
Other subjects follow, sort of trailing into a John Galt Speech. I suspect that most of it, and perhaps all, was added after the first edition. Throughout, he does have some interesting points here and there. Still, much of the last quarter of the book doesn’t match the main themes very well, and could’ve been spun off into standalone essays. A long digression, essentially about the mind-body dichotomy, starts bringing the discussion back on topic.
Then he gets Frankfurt School with this one:
General formulations such as “freedom of the press, assembly and expression,” etc., are obvious, but they are not enough by a long shot. Under these laws the irrational man has the same rights as the free man. Since weeds always proliferate and grow more rapidly than a sturdy tree, the Hitlerite would have to win out in the long run. It will be a question of realizing that ‘Hitlerism’ is not confined to those who bear the overt insignia of fascism, a question of seeking it out and fighting it in everyday life in a scientific and human way. Only in this process of weeding out fascism in everyday life will the appropriate laws against it be formulated as a matter of course.
This came out even before Herbert Marcuse’s Repressive Tolerance. Already we have the kernel of the “destroy freedom to save freedom” idea, the “no platform for hate speech (and we define hate speech)” line, and leaving no stone unturned to hunt for bits of political incorrectness. Wilhelm Reich didn’t learn a thing from his Marxist misadventures, but surely would’ve loved Clown World. Today’s Leftist Pod People — fanatics pulling down statues of Abraham Lincoln, politicized academia canceling Bronze Age epics, and all the rest of the lunatics working themselves into a lather to purge every last scintilla of “Fascism” from our society — get their inspiration from sentiments similar to the paragraph above.
First: Every physician, educator and social worker etc., who is to deal with children and adolescents will have to prove that he himself or she herself is healthy from a sex-economic point of view and that he or she has acquired exact knowledge on human sexuality between the ages of one and about eighteen. In other words, the education of the educators in sex-economy must be made mandatory. The formation of sexual views must not be subject to the hazard, arbitrariness and influence of neurotic compulsive morality. Second: The child’s and adolescent’s natural love of life must be protected by clearly defined laws.
The author’s idea of the protection of children is radically different from the normal consensus, of course. Mercifully, he changes subjects soon, toward orgone and work-democracy.
Then he discusses freedom of speech. Of course, he says it’s a great thing, but. . . (There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?) He lengthily distinguishes constructive dialogue from what we’d call trolling. Then he lays out some rules on who is qualified to speak. Still, there’s no provision for those who aren’t trolling but instead offer serious discussion from radically different premises. All this opens the door for the “everyone is allowed to express an opinion, so long as it doesn’t disagree with ours” line so popular with today’s leftists, especially the limp-noodled Tech Tyrants. Wilhelm Reich should’ve known better; his own views about politics, sexuality, and paranormal subjects were generally regarded as eccentric; by his own rules, he shouldn’t have been allowed to write this book.
After a few more twists and turns, the John Galt speech concludes. Whew! So then, what are we to make of all this?
Coomers of the world, unite!
All told, the book relies too much on Marxist theory and Freudian theory. It’s harder to overlook some other things, like unsupported assertions which he doesn’t bother to argue for or explain, leading into long flights of tortured rhetoric floating precariously atop dodgy premises. Worse, The Mass Psychology of Fascism comes across as essentially scare tactics that society had better abandon moral standards and self-control, or a Panzergrenadier division will roll down Main Street. Sure, prudery is stifling, but the answer isn’t “anything goes.” Instead, a reasonably tasteful “middle course” approach aligns better with Western culture. Sex certainly does have a place; it’s just that it’s better for private things to be private.
Since the book effectively medicalized political opposition, alleging that Fascists are all irrational, then it’s hardly unfair to question the author’s motives. Promoting libertinism wasn’t merely about culture distortion; it conveniently attempted to normalize his highly deviant sexual behavior. It’s rather telling that even the ordinary pinkos got sick of his brand of cultural Marxism.
The book’s best notability is as an early exploration of political psychology. It’s generally more lucid than the Frankfurt School’s typically turgid texts. Still, the analysis missed the mark and self-servingly used the imprimatur of scholarship to throw rotten tomatoes at the NSDAP and the PNF. It’s understandably difficult to write about political psychology without partisan biases influencing the analysis, but this didn’t even attempt to understand Fascism on its own terms. The better-known hit piece The Authoritarian Personality wasn’t an improvement.
The explanations for morality were pretty dodgy, though it’s an indication of the author’s legacy that they still remain popular with hedonistic leftists. Despite all the long-winded nonsense in the book, the point isn’t about suppressing this or that social class, or strengthening certain political systems. For that matter, it’s not about sadistically keeping people from having fun. Instead, it’s about encouraging the behaviors that lead to stable families and reproductive success, and discouraging the ones that do not. Moral teachings aren’t anti-sex; they merely say that it should be put to proper uses.
Those who reject tradition might learn the hard way that it exists for a reason. After the vast social experiment called the sexual revolution, the incidence of broken homes increased tremendously, and many other social problems followed this trend. Moreover, the native population in our societies eventually began to decline, and is being replaced by the millions through immigration. Did some of those who promoted the sexual revolution want to create social chaos and cause our numbers to diminish — or is that too cynical?
There was an earlier precedent for the sexual revolution during the USSR’s Lenin administration. He regrets its end, remarking that this coincided with increasing authoritarianism. (The analysis has it backward; a less authoritarian country would’ve had great difficulty getting the “free love” genie back in the bottle.) The real reason the Soviet government pulled the plug on it, along with much other Year Zero nonsense, was because libertinism was a train wreck. It’s debatable whether this social experiment began for funsies, to stick a thumb in the public’s eye by flouting bourgeois morality, or both. Either way, the obvious lesson for perceptive Communists is that libertinism is far too dysfunctional to promote in their own countries, but it’s a fine idea to promote in societies they’re trying to subvert — or is that too cynical?
In any event, the Politburo was clever enough to figure out that it’s a bad idea to run constant subversion strategies on a country solidly in their control. (It’s too bad that today’s globalists don’t get a clue and quit wrecking everything.) Did Wilhelm Reich himself think he was liberating mankind, or was he trying to kick society in the nuts? That one comes down to the age-old question, “Do they really believe their own nonsense?” My take is that he was an honest kook. However, I doubt the sincerity of the many other Pied Pipers pushing similar messages — or is that too cynical?
The Mass Psychology of Fascism had its moments occasionally, but it seems the author wasn’t on his best game. All told, here was a groundbreaking work by a psychologist and Marxist theoretician with a brain the size of a planet. I was expecting something more profound than this. I understood what he was trying to say, and saw where he repeatedly was getting things wrong. This is even though I’m merely a dumb blond from Flyover Country, hardly the type to hold a candle to the scintillating brilliance of Wilhelm Reich’s intellect.
* * *
Counter-Currents has extended special privileges to those who donate $120 or more per year.
- First, donor comments will appear immediately instead of waiting in a moderation queue. (People who abuse this privilege will lose it.)
- Second, donors will have immediate access to all Counter-Currents posts. Non-donors will find that one post a day, five posts a week will be behind a “paywall” and will be available to the general public after 30 days.
To get full access to all content behind the paywall, sign up here: