I’m excited to be presenting in the online April 30 conference, “Erich Fromm’s Critical Psychology and Left Strategy Today.” The conference is free and open the public. More information is available on the conference website: https://fromm2022.wpcomstaging.com/.
I’ll be on the panel addressing Fromm’s critique of right-wing authoritarianism. Here’s my working title and abstract for my presentation:
“Erich Fromm and Antifascist Strategy”
In Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm wrote, that, “If we want to fight fascism, we must understand it” and that this requires understanding both “economic and social conditions” and a “human problem” concerning the “character structure” of human beings in the modern capitalist world. From this early work to his much later Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Fromm’s work on fascism consistently operates at three levels that must be understood to properly understand the resurgence of fascist and far-right movements today. These three levels, or “dimensions,” are: (1) structural-political forces (including, I would say, white supremacy and capitalism alongside other forces), (2) individual and social psychology, and (3) subjective personal agency. Only by understanding and reckoning with these intersecting dimensions, which Erich Fromm helps us reconcile, can we effectively fight fascism. Too often approaches ignore one dimension or focus exclusively on a single one, such as seeing fascism as a political force that can be defeated merely by confrontation in the streets with superior numbers or merely electorally, for example, or seeing fascism as a product solely of individual life traumas and seeing fascism as primarily a problem to be solved by counselors and social workers doing interventions with those “at risk” of recruitment. In fact, fascism is a social movement seeking power, always already connected to sources of power (media, think tanks, political parties, and so on). And simultaneously, fascism’s appeal for those who join it is structured upon individual psychological appeals and tendencies, as well as the ways that fascist recruitment plays upon certain human needs. Finally, fascists are making a choice for which they can and should be held morally and in some cases legally responsible, and they are not the passive playthings of economic and political forces, nor of personal trauma. I will address how Erich Fromm helps us to understand the relationship between these three dimensions. I will also discuss the implications of these three dimensions for antifascist practice.