What is Fascism?

Everyone knows that the term “fascist” is used as a slur just like Nazi. The word “fascist” is used to slime your opponent no matter what his beliefs are. What good ad hominem slug fest doesn’t end with someone being called a fascist? Don’t like a guy? Call him a damn “fascist”.

But what does the word really mean? What is fascism? Lew Rockwell wrote:

It is a real ideology, not just an epithet. It is characterized by belligerent nationalism, militarism, aggressive war, suppression of civil liberties, use of religion in the service of the state, exaltation of the executive, opposition to free markets domestically and internationally, corporatism, welfarism, domestic spying, torture, and detestation of the Other, in this case [modern day USA] Muslims and Arabs.

There have many books written about the subject and fascism is not all that hard to understand. I believe that if we were honest and understood Fascism that we would have to acknowledge that the USA is a fascist state and has been for generations. Here I use the term descriptively and not pejoratively.

Fascism is a system of government and does not really have any theoretical apparatus or underpinning. Fascism denies fundamental rights and liberties to individuals and exalts the State above all. Fascism makes the executive branch the unquestioned master of all and exalts the police state as the source of all order in society. Fascism plans the economy via central planning and makes use of large business cartels in the private sector. Fascism does not take ownership of the businesses but rather takes control. Producers are subsidized and hence don’t complain about the rules and regulations: government and Big Business become one.

To understand a thing, it is often useful to look at its history and lineage. For that we need to look back to Italy between WWI and WWII.
In 1944 the Old Right journalist John T. Flynn wrote:

The test of fascism is not one’s rage against the Italian and German war lords. The test is – how many of the essential principles of fascism do you accept and to what extent are you prepared to apply those fascist ideas to American social and economic life? When you can put your finger on the men or the groups that urge for America the debt-supported state, the autarchial corporative state, the state bent on the socialization of investment and the bureaucratic government of industry and society, the establishment of the institution of militarism as the great glamorous public-works project of the nation and the institution of imperialism under which it proposes to regulate and rule the world and, along with this, proposes to alter the forms of our government to approach as closely as possible the unrestrained, absolute government – then you will know you have located the authentic fascist.

But let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we are dealing by this means with the problem of fascism. Fascism will come at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans, as violently against Hitler and Mussolini as the next one, but who are convinced that the present economic system is washed up and that the present political system in America has outlived its usefulness and who wish to commit this country to the rule of the bureaucratic state; interfering in the affairs of the states and cities; taking part in the management of industry and finance and agriculture; assuming the role of great national banker and investor, borrowing millions every year and spending them on all sorts of projects through which such a government can paralyze opposition and command public support; marshaling great armies and navies at crushing costs to support the industry of war and preparation for war which will become our greatest industry; and adding to all this the most romantic adventures in global planning, regeneration, and domination all to be done under the authority of a powerfully centralized government in which the executive will hold in effect all the powers with Congress reduced to the role of a debating society. There is your fascist. And the sooner America realizes this dreadful fact the sooner it will arm itself to make an end of American fascism masquerading under the guise of the champion of democracy.

It should be equally clear that all this is in no sense communism…. [A] reason for the confusion is the character of the men who are authentic and honest New Dealers but who were not communists…. They began to flirt with the alluring pastime of reconstructing the capitalist system. They became the architects of a new capitalist system. And in the process of this new career they began to fashion doctrines that turned out to be the principles of fascism. Of course they do not call them fascism, although some of them frankly see the resemblance. But they are not disturbed, because they know that they will never burn books, they will never hound the Jews or the Negroes, they will never resort to assassination and suppression. What will turn up in their hands will be a very genteel and dainty and pleasant form of fascism which cannot be called fascism at all because it will be so virtuous and polite.”

The origins of Fascism are well known. It began in post-World War I Italian politics. Benito Mussolini won a democratic election in 1922 and established fascism as his political philosophy. Mussolini had been a member of the socialist party and editor of the main socialist magazine. His background as a socialist is indisputable. In addition, the most important players in the fascist movement were former socialists as well. Fascism was seen as the most appealing approach for the real-world application of the socialist ideals. For this reason the 20s saw socialists join the fascists movement in large numbers.

Mussolini was very popular in the USA press and stayed that way for at least 10 years after his rule of Italy began. Check out the New York Times newspaper from that era. In addition, scholars hailed Mussolini as the leader of the age and practically as the messiah bringing us the coming utopia.

The American Left of the time had a strong anti-corporatist impulse up through the 20s. They opposed war, prohibition, violations of civil liberties. The leftists were not capitalists but were not corporatists/fascists of the 30s style either. In 1933 and 1934, the American left had to decide if they would they accept fascism as the route to their idea of socialism or if they would hold to their long held ideals. They caved. The “New Deal” offered a planned economy and welfare state that socialists in the US had not been able to accomplish. The same thing went on in Italy 10 years before. The same rational drew socialists into the scheme in large numbers.

Lew Rockwell once wrote, “The left realized that their anti-capitalistic agenda could best be achieved within the framework of the authoritarian, planning State.” At the same time, the authoritarians were overjoyed to see all the new company. John Maynard Keynes said that national socialism (fascism) was far more hospitable to his ideas than a market economy.

The government was not to own all property and means of production in the nation; rather it would be content to exercise total control. A far better arrangement since the “owners” could always be blamed for any shortcomings or error.

I read  As We Go Marching by John T. Flynn many years ago along with several other book on the topic of fascism. Flynn was an expert writing at the time of the rise of the fascists. He also wrote with the style of the journalist that he was and his book is very readable. Flynn was a progressive journalist who wrote a number of best-selling books in the 1920s. After the “New Deal” he changed into what might be best described as “old right”. He fought FDR’s domestic plans and his plans to take America to war. John Flynn was a leader of the America First movement of that time that opposed the foreign policy of Roosevelt. Flynn told us where fascism always leads; to militarism and war as the stimulus-spending economic agenda demands.

Flynn wrote:

“One of the most baffling phenomena of fascism is the almost incredible collaboration between men of the extreme Right and the extreme Left in its creation. The explanation lies at this point. Both Right and Left joined in this urge for regulation. The motives, the arguments, and the forms of expression were different but all drove in the same direction. And this was that the economic system must be controlled in its essential functions and this control must be exercised by the producing groups.”

Flynn told us that “the right” and “the left” would never agree on who, exactly, the producer group is. No surprises there. The left says it is the laborers that are the producers while the right says it is the business owners. The political compromise was to cartelize both groups!  This government control of both groups came with the willing acceptance of both groups. Workers and businesses, under fascism, are to cooperate under government supervision to build a mighty nation. Under fascism, national greatness becomes a top priority. The government is to make “us” great as a collective, even as any individual becomes as expendable as a Borg. But, this program has achieved far better political success than old-fashioned socialism since fascism doesn’t nationalize private property as socialism does.  There is no push to equalize income levels and there is plenty of room left to give the illusion of personal freedom. (within limits, of course)

In the writings of many experts on Fascism, Flynn in particular, we can see that the following 8 points are descriptive of any Fascist State.

1. The government is totalitarian because it acknowledges no restraint upon its powers.

2. Government sustains economic life through spending and borrowing.

3. Militarism is a mainstay of government spending.

4. Military spending has imperialist aims.

5. Government is a de facto dictatorship based on the leadership principle.

6. Government administers a capitalist system with an immense bureaucracy.

7. Producers are organized into cartels in the way of syndicalism.

8. Economic planning is based on the principle of autarky.

The question becomes; does our present political/economic system meet these points? In his book, “The Three Faces of Fascism“, Ernst Nolte told us that fascism can take different forms even as the underlying reality of the system remains the same. Does the USA represent a fascist state?

One could take those eight points one at a time and make an air tight case for each. It is simple, the USA is a fascist nation. You will sometimes hear that the USA is a “corporatist” nation or that it is a “crony-capitalist” nation. These are just synonyms for “fascist”.

The West beat the Fascist States in WWII and Fascism won the war of ideas. Ironic, no?

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