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Subject: Starship Troopers - Neofascist or not?
mike_golf    1/18/2004 9:24:18 PM
Okay, I've read two different pieces that categorized the political scenario in Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" as fascist or neofascist. I've just got to hope they are saying this because they saw the movie, but didn't read the book. While I don't necessarily agree with the concept of earning your citizenship by military service (although I don't fully disagree either) that doesn't make it fascist. In fact, it is made quite clear throughout the book that those who are not citizens hold the military in contempt for the most part and don't value the franchise to vote highly at all. This is quite the opposite of the fascist paradigm, so full of military and para-military propaganda, pomp and spectacle. In a fascist country everyone can vote, but the person they will vote for is pre-determined. Often it is their only choice. I think that Heinlein used the government as a tool to point out some of the flaws in our current government in the US. Heinlein was heavily influenced by Ayn Rand and by precepts of Libertarianism (Originally called Liberalism before Liberal came to be synonymous with social democracy) and was extremely unlikely to ever advocate anything as authoritarian as a fascist government. So, if you think that the government in "Starship Troopers" is fascist because you saw the movie, read the book. It will dramatically open your eyes to what Heinlein was really getting at. If you think it's fascist and you have read the book, well I just don't understand what you consider fascist.
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Sherwood    mike_golf   1/19/2004 12:36:31 PM
You've been making me rethink the book (dammit I thought I'd laid this one to rest twenty years ago). The book, not the film, gives the impression of fascism since it is extremely militaristic. Military action is a major tool of diplomacy in the book. However, the characters are soldiers in a major war so perhaps this isn't surprising. Where isn't it fascist? As you said, the civilians were unafraid of and also disdainful of the military. So, obviously, they weren't living in a police state. My personal feeling of fascism is that the leaders have a deep distrust of the general population. I guess the political system was just different to those we know. Moreover, Heinlein's protagonists never advocated the system. It was repeatedly stated that the system was workable nothing more. Heinlein posited various political systems for his characters. If you can find his non-fiction you get a very different idea of RAH. I won't say more other than to recommend reading all of his books. There is an even more misunderstood book which leads to accusations of racism for Mr. Heinlein. The book is called Farnham's Freehold and is an excellent story on many levels. Saying more would spoil it, so I won't. Regards to all and I'm sorry for the hurried nature of this post. There is another Heinlein book that is frequently used
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mike_golf    RE:mike_golf   1/19/2004 11:15:35 PM
Sherwood: "You've been making me rethink the book (dammit I thought I'd laid this one to rest twenty years ago)." Cool, glad I could make you rethink it. I personally believe that Heinlein had two objectives in writing "Starship Troopers". The first was to try to get people to rethink the US military strategy of the time, which was reliance on a mediocre conscript "cannon fodder" tripwire and response with strategic nuclear weapons. The second objective was to get people thinking about political systems and whether the US system was the best one. Some additional evidence that the government was more Spartan democracy than fascist. It was made clear at several points that the military itself had no political power. It was also made clear that civilians paid very low taxes and were not subject to particularly stringent or restrictive laws. Joining the military was absolutely voluntary, no one could be coerced to serve in the military. Every high school student was required to take a "militaristic" class, History & Moral Philosophy, but was not required to receive a passing grade in the class, and other than that there was no evidence in the book of propaganda or indoctrination of children a la the Hitler Youth or the Soviet Komsomol, nor even any other government indoctrination in school aside from the H & MP class they had to take. Starship Troopers is one of my top choices in the Military Sci Fi genre and not just because of the combat, tactics and equipment. For one thing, every MI trooper was clearly special ops capable. MI basic training was really not what most armies today consider "basic" training. It really resembles a combination of various special forces selection and qualification courses, including US Ranger school and British SAS training. The value of the individual soldier, highly trained, intelligent and motivated, provided with the best equipment possible is celebrated above all else, something that I firmly believe in. I would have to say that "Starship Troopers" was one of the things that heavily influenced my decision to choose the military as a career, along with Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium stories and Gordon Dickson's "Dorsai" stories. There were other things obviously, but these three author's stories were very inspirational for me.
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   RE:Starship Troopers - Neofascist or not?   1/20/2004 1:38:04 AM
Absolutely the book presents a "fascistic" slant on politics. Heinlein believes that citizenship is a privilege, rather than a right, granted to a select few who have a unique understanding of the "price of freedom." Of course the system works on a voluntary priniciple; one must choose to earn his or her citizenship, or else the purpose becomes self defeating! Anyone who has ever taken even the most elementary political science course can understand how this attitude puts Heinlein swuarely on teh conservative, and hence fascistic, end of the political spectrum. Please note that fascism itself is not inherently "bad." Do not confuse the ideology with Nazi Germany. This is no more fair than confusing the ideology of Communism with Marxist Russia, or Maos China.
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mike_golf    RE:Starship Troopers - Neofascist or not?   1/20/2004 10:55:06 AM
"Absolutely the book presents a "fascistic" slant on politics. Heinlein believes that citizenship is a privilege, rather than a right, granted to a select few who have a unique understanding of the "price of freedom." Okay, let's start out with a few things. By my definition, and the definition of Heinlein as well btw, Fascism is bad. You miss the main point of Fascism if you believe that it is all about citizenship must be earned and that it is a privilege. Fascism is an authoritarian system that is based on "the leadership principle" to quote Adolf Hitler. Mussolini also made this quite clear. Taking out the rascism of the Nazi's and just looking at the Fascist principles we see clearly that the core principles include: 1. Authoritarian government 2. Domination of the political process by a few, or one, very strong people. 3. Liberty, civil rights and personal freedoms are removed in favor of making the state supreme. I have taken both high school and university political science courses (I started my university education as a political science major) and I can tell you definitively that if you read what Heinlein proposed it does not meet the test of being fascist. Libertarian-Right, yes. Conservative, yes. Fascist/Authoritarian, no. For the reasons I cited. Personal freedoms are present, service to the state is voluntary (it is not voluntary in a Fascist state where personal choice is subjugate to the needs of the state), taxes are low, personal liberties are high, indoctrination is nearly non-existent as is propaganda. Conservative does not automatically equal fascist, contrary to the opinions of most liberals, anymore than liberal automatically equals communist. In reality the political spectrum looks like this: Authoritarian .. "Social Democracy" .. Libertarian Authoritarian = fascism, communism, etc. Social Democracy = most western democracies, including the US, UK, Germany, etc. Balancing personal liberty with societal needs. Libertarian = the needs of the individual always come before the needs of the state From the libertarian perspective there is no significant difference between Fascism, Nazi's, Communists, Marxists or anyone else who advocates the state's needs taking priority over the individuals.
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Sherwood    RE:Starship Troopers - Neofascist or not?   1/21/2004 3:26:04 AM
mike_golf Thanks for the summary. One point, since this is a board with contributions from several countries lets be clear about our uses of the term conservative and liberal. For example the word conservative has a different interpretation in the UK and the States. UK usage of Conservative ( not Thatcherism, a whole different kettle of fish); authoritarian and often confused with fascism due to similar rhetoric. Some beliefs: Large amounts of state funds for the army and the police as the main instruments of social control. Dictating people's private lives and morality. The population should be obedient to the wishes of the authorities, these authorities include the Anglican clergy. The only purpose in a person's life is to work or spend money. Remember the hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful" The full version includes the last verse: The rich man in his castle The poor man at his gate God made them high and lowly And ordered their estate Maybe Americans of British descent can see why their ancestors fled the UK. Regards
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Heorot    RE:Starship Troopers - Neofascist or not?   1/21/2004 6:44:01 AM
To insert a UK centric point to this thread. Sherwoods biased comments on conservatism clearly label him as having a socialist, if not Old Labour viewpoint.
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mike_golf    RE:Starship Troopers - Neofascist or not?   1/21/2004 11:10:52 AM
Okay, in the US conservative means you want lower taxes, smaller government, stronger military. In any case, Heinlein never was a fascist nor did he ever advocate fascism. Earning your citizenship and citizenship as a privilege has been a principle of many democracies throughout history, starting with the Greeks. It has only been since WWII that it has come to be commonly accepted that every adult person should have full citizenship rights automatically granted to them by virtue of coming of age. Just because we don't agree with the idea doesn't make it Fascist, although that is the favorite whipping boy of socialists and social democrats whenever someone proposes something they don't like.
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Sherwood    RE:Starship Troopers - Neofascist or not?   1/22/2004 8:37:18 AM
mike_golf: Very pertinent last sentence. I agree with you; the word fascist is frequently misused to criticise right-wing policy etc. Heorot: UK centric-- Agreed; I was explaining how many people see the concept conservative in the UK (note small c in conservative) Anti-Tory-- Guilty. I have, to my shame, great distaste for the Tory party based on many bad experiences with members and a hatred of snobbery and cronyism. Remember, I was talking about the traditional tories not the Thatcher or post Thatcher era. Thatcherism, for me was radical not conservative, and I left the UK before the post- Thatcher era so I can't really comment. Interestingly enough Lady Thatcher had a similar distaste for labourites for similar reasons. Since we were both raised in the same part of the UK, go figure. Old Labour- My dad would wish. I'm usually labelled a Thatcherite by fellow Brits, which wind me up something rotten. So it goes. Well, lets get back to the topic of Starship Troopers. Cheers
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Heorot    RE:Starship Troopers - Neofascist or not?   1/22/2004 9:27:14 AM
I don't think that just because a vote has to be earned (in this case by military service), it indicates a fascist system. This idea is not unique to Heinlein. Have a look at Nevil Shutes book In the Wet set in Australia. He advocates an even more extreme view where voting is concerned and he definitely can't be described as Fascist. For thos who haven't read it, here is his system of multiple votes. There is a universal vote that everyone receives, but subsequent votes have to be earned -- by education, by earning a living outside Australia, by having a successful marriage and family life, by attaining a specified level of income, or by being a member of the clergy. The Seventh Vote, of course, is reserved for the Queen to bestow, as recognition of a particular, unusual achievement.
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mike_golf    RE:Starship Troopers - in general   1/22/2004 2:10:32 PM
Okey dokey, so we seem to be getting agreement that ST is not, in fact, fascist. And even from some of the folks who said it was in the first place! Awesome. So, given that Heinlein was pretty good at predicting future trends, maybe we can sum up the theme of the book in terms of military trends and then decide how accurate he is? Themes: 1. Technology is a massive force multiplier, but it will not allow you to do away with your force. 2. There is no substitute for boots on the ground. 3. Push button war cannot selectively apply force, which is the function of a military. 4. All combat arms soldiers of the future will have to be as intelligent, well trained and motivated as special ops is today to take full advantage of the force multiplier value of technology. Thoughts?
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