A New Look At Fascism

Probably more so than anyone else, American liberals believe that we should be ever vigilant against the threat of fascism.  However; they make one fatal mistake, they believe that fascism can only come from the far right.  I agree that we should be vigilant, but not that fascism always comes from the right, in-fact I would argue that it rarely does.  We need to be vigilant because Fascism can and does succeed in democratic countries because it convinces people that it is the wave of the future.  It’s progressive, it’s usually young, hip, and exciting.  Fascists promise to fix what’s broken in our former republic, to heal our wounds, to deliver us to a promised land.  So I would say to my liberal friends, if you wish to believe that Fascism comes from the far right, that’s fine, but be aware that it will not come in a stuffy suit and tie and appeal to the WWII generation and those of like mind.  Fascism has always appealed to youth activists.  Indeed, the Nazis and Fascists were in major respects youth movements.  In 1931, 60% of all German undergraduates supported the Nazi Student Organization.  The historian John Toland wrote that “their goal was to establish a youth culture for fighting the bourgeois trinity of school, home and church.” 

Meanwhile, lower middle and lower class Germans were attracted to the economic and cultural populism of Nazism.  The Nazi party began as the German Workers Party.  The Nazis economic rhetoric was similar to John Edwards “Two Americas” speech.  The Nazis promised to clamp down on Big Business – particularly department stores, the Wal-Marts of their day – and to end the class struggle.  Sociologist Theodore Abel gives us insight into why working class Germans were attracted to Nazism.  In 1934, Abel took out an ad in the Nazi Party Journal asking “old fighters” to submit essays explaining why they had joined.  He restricted his request to “old fighters” because so many opportunists had joined the party after Hitler’s rise.  The essays were combined in the very interesting book “Why Hitler Came Into Power.”  One essayist, a coal miner, explained, “Though I was interested in the betterment of the workingman’s plight, I rejected Marxism unconditionally.  I often asked myself why socialism had to be tied up with internationalism – why it could not work as well or better in conjunction with nationalism.”  A railroad worker concurred, “I shuddered at the thought of Germany in the grip of Bolshevism.  The slogan ‘Workers of the World Unite!’ made no sense to me.  At the same time, however, National Socialism, with its promise of a community… barring all class struggle, attracted me profoundly.”  A third worker wrote that he embraced the Nazis because of their “uncompromising will to stamp out the class struggle, snobberies of caste and party hatreds.  The movement bore the true message of socialism to the German workingman.” 

Nazism’s appeal to the professional classes was just as strong.  Raymond Dominick, a historian specializing in the history of German environmentalism, found that by 1939, 59% of conservationists leaders had joined the Nazi party, while only 10% of adult males had.  45% of medical doctors had joined and roughly ¼ of teachers and lawyers had.  The two groups of professionals with the highest rates of participation in the Nazi Party were veterinarians and foresters.  Dominick found a “unique nexus between National Socialism and nature conservation.” 

The Nazis and Italian Fascists won over big business, cultural elites, the youth and the lower classes because they portrayed themselves as heroically on the side of progress, protecting the environment and the poor.  Fascists preached unity, togetherness and an end to division.

Where do we hear this rhetoric coming from the most today? 

That’s an honest question. 

I’m not saying that merely being pro-environment, or poor, or that national unity makes one a fascist.  But what I am saying is that if you’re concerned about spotting fascism on the horizon, you can’t just look at people you don’t like, or disagree with and claim they are fascists. 

Huey Long once said that if Fascism comes to America, it will be called “anti-Fascism.”  So Liberals can still make an argument that fascism comes from the right wing, but we all should understand that it never comes in a form that will alienate the best and the brightest, and if we are unaware of our history, we won’t be equipped to spot it. 

The most common modern definition of fascism is “when business runs the government.”  Historically this is basically nonsense.  But that hasn’t stopped people from saying it over and over again.  But lets say we went by the definition, conservatives in the U.S. would hardly fit into the category of fascists.  The principled conservative position is that the free market should rule the day.  Businesses are never too big to fail, and corporate welfare is folly.  In all honesty, we must admit that many conservatives fail to live up to those principles; but what are liberal principles?  I see them as this: corporations should be “progressive.”  Government should regulate corporations heavily as a means of using big business as another branch of the state.  Sec. of State Hillary Clinton pushed heavily for “public-private partnerships.”  She believes that businesses must collude with government in providing universal healthcare to the point where its impossible to tell where the government begins and the business ends.  Obama’s healthcare plan is really no different, only the terms and language used are different.  Barak Obama also has spoken incessantly about how government must police the “patriotism” of corporations.

We’ve actually seen this before.  Woodrow Wilson implemented a form of “war socialism” during WWI.  Big Business and government worked seamlessly together under the auspices of the War Industry Board.  Industry rigged the system for its own benefit, with the approval of government.  When the war ended, the America people rejected Wilson’s war socialism, but progressive intellectuals did not.

They finally got their chance under the New Deal where FDR, a veteran of the Wilson Administration – tried to recreate what the progressives had wrought during the war.  When Hugh Johnson, the head of the National Recovery Administration, the centerpiece of FDR’s New Deal, took office in 1932, one of the first things he did was hang a portrait of  Mussolini on his wall and started handing out pro-fascist literature to FDR’s cabinet.

We’ve been told that the New Deal rescued the little guy, the less fortunate and the “forgotten man.”  But in reality it prolonged the Great Depression and served as a boon to big business. 

In virtually all the codes established to reign in large corporations, in industry after industry, the larger units, sometimes through the agency of a trade association, sometimes by other means, have for their own advantage written the codes, and then – in effect and for their own advantage, assumed the administration of the code they framed.  We may want to believe that FDR fashioned the New Deal out of concern for the little guy; but as one historian put it, “The principle seemed to be: to him that hath it shall be given.”

The fundamental mistake that most liberals make is that they assume “clamping down” on corporations will lessen the role of big business in politics.  The reality is exactly the opposite.

I’ll give you an example of how that is the case.  Microsoft had nearly no lobbyists in Washington DC until the politicians decided to go after Microsoft.  Now Microsoft has an enormous lobbying operation.  Wal-Mart is the same story.  Once big business discovers that its profit margins are determined in Washington, big business focuses on Washington.  The really big corporations end up liking regulations if you’re Coca-Cola you can pass your costs onto the consumer.  But smaller business are not only hurt by regulations, they are also prevented from competing with the big boys because those regulations serve as a “barrier to entry.”

The great fascist bargain with big business goes something like this:  The government promises corporations market share, a lack of competition and reliable profits in exchange for compliance with its political and ideological agenda.  Today big corporations hold up their end of the deal.  They buy into global warming (often at a profit – see GE), they agree to all the tenets of diversity-mongering and affirmative action.  They cast themselves as “Progressive” corporate citizens and in exchange we get economic policies that punish entrepreneurs and inhibit free markets.

This is as it should be according to the progressives, the New Dealers and many of today’s liberals.  And whether you want to call it fascism or not is u to you, but it fits what liberals have said about fascism to a “T.”

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