The following is the first part of an article exposing the incroachment of fascist tendencies in the United States. Further additions will be added.
"If fascism comes to America it would be on a program of Americanism." Senator Huey P. Long
"Fascism is the iron hoop around the collapsing barrel of capitalism." Karl Radek
Many bandy this term about without knowing exactly what it is. The modern use of this term must be ascribed to Mussolini.
Mussolini went from an editor of a socialist publication "Avanti" to repudiating socialism and becoming a leader of the fascist movement. In 1932 Mussolini defined fascism in an encyclopedia article:
"Fascism . . .believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of Pacifism . . . War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have courage to meet it. All other trials are substitutes. . . . Fascism [is] the complete opposite of . . . . Marxian Socialism, the materialist conception of history of human civilization can be explained simply through the conflict of interests among the various social groups and by the change and development in the means and instruments of production . . . . Fascism, now and always, believes in holiness and in heroism; that is to say, in actions influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect. And if the economic conception of history be denied, according to which theory men are no more than puppets, carried to and fro by the waves of chance, while the real directing forces are quite out of their control, it follows that the existence of an unchangeable and unchanging class-war is also denied-- the natural progeny of the economic conception of history. And above all Fascism denies that class-war can be the preponderant force in the transformation of society. . . . Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society; it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical consultation, and it affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful inequality of mankind. . . . . The foundation of fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State. . . . The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone. . . . .For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence. . . . But empire demands discipline, the coordination of all forces and a deeply felt sense of duty and sacrifice: this fact explains many aspects of the practical working of the regime, the character of many forces in the State, and the necessarily severe measures which must be taken against those who would oppose this spontaneous and inevitable movement of Italy in the twentieth century, and would oppose it by recalling the outworn ideology of the nineteenth century - repudiated wheresoever there has been the courage to undertake great experiments of social and political transformation; for never before has the nation stood more in need of authority, of direction and order. If every age has its own characteristic doctrine, there are a thousand signs which point to fascism as the characteristic doctrine of our time. For if a doctrine must be a living thing, this is proved by the fact that fascism has created a living faith."
Seventy-one years later Dr. Laurence W. Britt in the July, 2003 , issue of Free Inquiry, wrote an article entitled “Fascism Anyone?” In it he earmarked 14 characteristics of fascism he garnered from Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia. Each one of these regimes tailored their fascism to fit their respective countries, but Britt notes the common characteristics:
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.Britt’s list can be thought of as a modern application of Mussolini’s definition of fascism.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.
5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.
6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.
7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.
9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.
14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.
The present Bush regime has many parallels with Mussolini’s vision, excepting that the Bush neo-conservatives have little knowledge of the materialist conception of history. Mussolini repudiated the materialist view in his 1932, statement.
In addition to disputing the materialist conception history Mussolini included calls for perpetual war, destruction of the democratic principle, denial of the class struggle, the supremacy of the state, curtailment of civil rights, empire building, repression for those in disagreement with his vision, and fascism as a "living faith."
In the next several parts of this piece we will deal with these, and related subjects as reflective of the present state of capitalism in the U.S. Unlike many analyses of fascism, we will concentrate on fascism as an historical development of degenerative capitalism.
We must precede our analysis of the movement toward fascism in our country by a synopsis of Marx and Engels’ materialist conception of history. It was no accident that Mussolini attacked the principle head on. He instinctively felt that this principle was most damaging to dissecting fascism.
This Marxian concept recognizes five stages of human economic development—savagery (before the inception of tribes), barbarism (tribal society), ancient slavery (as in the Roman Empire), feudalism (prevalent in the Dark Ages) and capitalism (our present economic system of commodity production where items are produced for sale with a view to profit). Marx theorized that the history of man since the inception of class-divided society—after barbarism—was a history of struggles between the different classes in society.
Marx and Engels recognized, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles….The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. . . . Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — bourgeoisie and proletariat.” This, in essence, is the Materialist Conception of History, and plays a major role in the changes seen in contemporary capitalism. Society, of course has long passed the “splitting up” phase. This split was fully accomplished during our Civil War.
An intimate detail of the MCOH is that technological change is the greatest force within society that drives changing social and economic relationships, leading to new economic systems. As Frederick Engels observed:
The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in men's better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch. The change from feudalism to capitalism is the most striking example.It should be emphasized that goods in feudalism were produced mainly for local consumption; whereas in capitalism goods are produced by wage labor for a market with a view to selling them for profit outside the location of their production. When the reason for production changed so did notions of private productive property. Rosa Luxemburg unearths these differences reflecting on feudalism of the Middle Ages and modern capitalism: “class domination does not rest on ‘acquired rights’ but on real economic relations—the fact that wage labor is not a juridical relation, but purely an economic relation. In our juridical system [capitalism] there is not a single legal formula for the class domination of today.”
The constraints of change within an economic system is circumscribed by the revolution that created it. As Luxemburg observed, “In the history of classes, revolution is the act of political creation, while legislation is the act of political expression of the life of society that has already come into being. . . .During every historic period, work for reforms is carried on only in the direction given to it by the impetus of the last revolution, and continues as long as the impulsion of the last revolution continues to make itself felt.”
So what are the limiting economic circumstances that present-day capitalism faces that push it toward fascism? Luxemberg notes:
In the ‘unhindered’ advance of capitalist production lurks a threat to capitalism that is much greater than crises [in reference to capitalism’s constant depressions]. It is the threat of the constant fall of the rate of profit [explained by Marx in Volume III of Capital], resulting not from the contradiction between production and exchange, but from the growth of the productivity of labor itself. The fall in the rate of profit has the extremely dangerous tendency of rendering impossible any enterprise for small and middle-sized capitals. It thus limits the new formation and therefore the extension of placements of capital.
Recent quarterly investments by venture capitalists reflect her observations:
If one asks capitalism’s apologists I am sure we would hear all of the excuses that the system has to offer, e.g., we have been in a recession, the war in Iraq has caused the problems, etc. While these observations may be true they are only reflective of the usual operation of the capitalist system. As of this writing—February, 2005—we even hear a cacophony of capitalism’s apologists that the present recession is “over.” Over for whom?
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