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Fascism as the aestheticisation of politics.

If one reflects on the hideousness of trench warfare in the 1914-18 war there are sone interesting disquisition on courage and duty.

Why did men simply offer themselves to the slaughter? One answer might be that they’d be shot if they didn’t.

But it can also be said that they strove to uphold traditional standards in a Dada context. And the war, as surely as Dada, was abolishing the past of culture and morality, making of the soldier a member of an avant-garde which had little contact or sympathy with the civilian safe at home, listening to the clergy bellowing for blood.

The Benjaminite  (Walter Benjamin) theme of Fascism as the aestheticisation of politics lies behind all this,  i.e crowds gathering in the Unter der Linden in 1914 and listening to Wagner, it has been said tha ‘Nazism was a popular variant of the impulses of the avant-garde'.

There was the idea common on both sides of the combat, that war was a cleanser of the decadence imported from barbaric neighbours.

For instance,  the French turned violently against most foreign influences, even calling Cubism German and spelling it with a K.  After all, Culture was French, and the French, contaminated by foreigners, had for a time forgotten that they were the principal heirs of Antiquity and tradition. They would now change all that. So Wagner, adored by the Symbolistes, was especially corrupting. Stravinsky was Russian, therefore suspect. The métèque Picasso found it difficult to venture out of doors; Cocteau, French but non-combatant, felt compelled to wear fake uniforms.

Although the received view that the war (1914-18) was the great corrupter of intellect, taste and talent, one is left wondering how why so much good art could have been produced under such conditions.

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