Fascism: A set of Discussion Resources

Trumping Fascism

One of several Trumping Fascism Landing Pages

‘Trumping’ Democracy:
Right-Wing Populism, Fascism, and the Case for Action

by Chip Berlet

The candidacy of Donald Trump has prompted a vigorous public debate over whether or not Trump is flirting with fascism.

Some analysts suggest his political dance partner is leading him to the tune of right-wing populism. Other analysts say Trump’s marriage to fascism already has been consummated. Either way, Trump is stomping on the dance floor of democracy in a way that could collapse it into splinters.

It’s a “scary moment for those of us who seek to defend civil rights, civil liberties, and democracy itself,” warns political analyst Noam Chomsky….

>>> Read More of this Article Here


     Racist White Nationalist Nativism
+ Christian Right Assaults on LGBTQ & Women’s Rights
+ Neo-Liberal “Free Market” Economic Class Warfare
+ Militarism & International Aggression
+ Right-Wing Populist Demagoguery
===Can Lead to=============================
Devolution of Democracy into Neofascism

{{ Build Multi-issue Grassroots Coalitions Now ! }}

Figuring Out Fascism

 Well, let’s face it, there is a lot of hoopla over this issue.

Most Americans have misconceptions about fascism that overlook the last thirty years of social science by authors such as Roger Griffin, Emilio Gentile, Robert Paxton, and Umberto Eco.

On the Right the theories of Austrian School economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek have created a distorted impression that fascism is a form of socialism—the thesis of the distorted polemic by Jonah Goldberg: “Liberal Fascism.”

On the Left too many belief fascism is rule by large corporations. This, is largely based on a hoax quote falsely attributed to Mussolini equating Italian Fascist corporatist syndicalism with US business corporations. This gets repeated by liberal pundits such as Thom Hartmann.

Visit this specific link on Wikipedia to see a useful article on the different theories.

Mussolini on Fascism

The Doctrine of Fascism – 1932 – Enciclopdia Italiana

The Doctrine of Fascism – 1935 – Ardidta Publishers

More Resources

I am partial to Matthew N. Lyons, What is Fascism? Some general ideological features, November 1, 2000 http://www.politicalresearch.org/2000/11/01/what-is-fascism

For an excellent, nuanced, and detailed study of right-wing rhetoric and protofascism in the United States, see David Neiwert. 2003. Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis. Online at http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/Rush%20Newspeak%20%20Fascism.pdf.

I am in the process of compiling a more extensive bibliography that will be linked from this page.

An early effort by me is the introduction of a book by my colleague and friend Russ Bellant, 1988, Old Nazis, the New Right and the Reagan Administration: The Role of Domestic Fascist Networks in the Republican Party and their effect on U.S. Cold War Politics. Cambridge, MA: Political Research Associates. Bellant’s book holds up better than my introduction, but my effort still has value.

See also my study “Terminology: Use with Caution,”  a text that was later revised and published as  Chip Berlet, 2003. “Terminology: Use with Caution.” In Roger Griffin and Matthew Feldman, eds., Fascism, Vol. 5, Critical Concepts in Political Science. New York, NY: Routledge.

What is Fascism?
Some General Ideological Features
by Matthew N. Lyons

Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis
Part 6: Proto-Fascism in America
by David Neiwert

On Trump, Fascism, and Stale Social Science
by Matthew N. Lyons

Right-wing “populism” is a joke: Poor-bashing, immigrant-hating and a revolting agenda
From Sarah Palin to Pat Buchanan, here’s what it really means when they speak to “the American worker”
by Heather Digby Parton

And this nugget from a past election:

The Buchanan campaign incorporates themes of right Wing Populism, Scapegoating, Reactionary Politics and Fascism
By Chip Berlet, 24 February, 1996

The Buchanan campaign incorporates themes of right wing populism, scapegoating, reactionary politics, and Fascism.

Scapegoating and demagoguery are powerful tools for reactionary backlash movements, and have been used effectively to promote a form of right-wing populism, which channels legitimate anger over declining economic prospects or uncertain social status towards scapegoats that are easy to blame due to the existing currents of racism, sexism, homophobia, and antisemitism flowing through the US social system.

Many people presume that all populist movements are naturally progressive and want to move society to the left, but history teaches us otherwise. In his book “The Populist Persuasion,” Michael Kazin explains how populism is a style of organizing. Populism can move to the left or right. It can be tolerant or intolerant. In her book “Populism,” Margaret Canovan defined two main branches of populism: agrarian and political.

Agrarian populism worldwide has three categories: movements of commodity farmers, movements of subsistence peasants, and movements of intellectuals who wistfully romanticize the hard-working farmers and peasants. Political populism includes not only populist democracy, championed by progressives from the LaFollettes of Wisconsin to Jesse Jackson, but also politicians’ populism, reactionary populism, and populist dictatorship. The latter three antidemocratic forms of populism characterize the movements of Ross Perot, Pat Robertson, and Pat Buchanan, three straight White Christian men trying to ride the same horse.

Peter Fritzsche in “Rehearsals for Fascism: Populism and Political Mobilization in Wiemar Germany” shows that middle-class populists in Wiemar launched bitter attacks against both the government and big business. This populist surge was later harvested by the fascist Nazi movement which parasitized the forms and themes of the reactionary populists and moved their constituencies far to the right through demagoguery and scapegoating.


Matthew N. Lyons

Right-Wing Movements 101

What is Fascism?

Chip Berlet
September, 1992

This article is adapted from the author’s preface to Russ Bellant’s book Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party, co-published by South End Press and Political Research Associates.

“Fascism, which was not afraid to call itself reactionary… does not hesitate to call itself illiberal and anti-liberal.”
–Benito Mussolini

We have all heard of the Nazis–but our image is usually a caricature of a brutal goose-stepping soldier wearing a uniform emblazoned with a swastika. Most people in the U.S. are aware that the U.S. and its allies fought a war against the Nazis, but there is much more to know if one is to learn the important lessons of our recent history.

Technically, the word NAZI was the acronym for the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. It was a fascist movement that had its roots in the European nationalist and socialist movements, and that developed a grotesque biologically-determinant view of so-called “Aryan” supremacy. (Here we use “national socialism” to refer to the early Nazi movement before Hitler came to power, sometimes termed the “Brownshirt” phase, and the term “Nazi” to refer to the movement after it had consolidated around ideological fascism.)

The seeds of fascism, however, were planted in Italy. “Fascism is reaction,” said Mussolini, but reaction to what? The reactionary movement following World War I was based on a rejection of the social theories that formed the basis of the 1789 French Revolution, and whose early formulations in this country had a major influence on our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

It was Rousseau who is best known for crystallizing these modern social theories in The Social Contract.The progeny of these theories are sometimes called Modernism or Modernity because they challenged social theories generally accepted since the days of Machiavelli. The response to the French Revolution and Rousseau, by Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and others, poured into an intellectual stew which served up Marxism, socialism, national socialism, fascism, modern liberalism, modern conservatism, communism, and a variety of forms of capitalist participatory democracy.

Fascists particularly loathed the social theories of the French Revolution and its slogan: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”

  • Liberty from oppressive government intervention in the daily lives of its citizens, from illicit searches and seizures, from enforced religious values, from intimidation and arrest for dissenters; and liberty to cast a vote in a system in which the ; majority ruled but the minority retained certain inalienable rights.
  • Equality in the sense of civic equality, egalitarianism, the notion that while people differ, they all should stand equal in the eyes of the law.
  • Fraternity in the sense of the brotherhood of mankind. That all women and men, the old and the young, the infirm and the healthy, the rich and the poor, share a spark of humanity that must be cherished on a level above that of the law, and that binds us all together in a manner that continuously re-affirms and celebrates life.

This is what fascism as an ideology was reacting against–and its support came primarily from desperate people anxious and angry over their perception that their social and economic position was sinking and frustrated with the constant risk of chaos, uncertainty and inefficiency implicit in a modern democracy based on these principles. Fascism is the antithesis of democracy. We fought a war against it not half a century ago; millions perished as victims of fascism and champions of liberty.

“One of the great lies of this century is that in the 1930’s Generalissimo Franco in Spain was primarily a nationalist engaged in stopping the Reds. Franco was, of course, a fascist who was aided by Mussolini and Hitler.””The history of this period is a press forgery. Falsified news manipulates public opinion. Democracy needs facts.
–George Seldes
Hartland Four Corners, Vermont,
March 5, 1988

Fascism was forged in the crucible of post-World War I nationalism in Europe. The national aspirations of many European peoples–nations without states, peoples arbitrarily assigned to political entities with little regard for custom or culture–had been crushed after World War I. The humiliation imposed by the victors in the Great War, coupled with the hardship of the economic Depression, created bitterness and anger. That anger frequently found its outlet in an ideology that asserted not just the importance of the nation, but its unquestionable primacy and central predestined role in history.

In identifying “goodness” and “superiority” with “us,” there was a tendency to identify “evil” with “them.” This process involves scapegoating and dehumanization. It was then an easy step to blame all societal problems on “them,” and presuppose a conspiracy of these evildoers which had emasculated and humiliated the idealized core group of the nation. To solve society’s problems one need only unmask the conspirators and eliminate them.

In Europe, Jews were the handy group to scapegoat as “them.” Anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and discrimination against Jews were not a new phenomenon, but most academic studies of the period note an increased anti-Jewish fervor in Europe, especially in the late 1800’s. In France this anti-Jewish bias was most publicly expressed in the case of Alfred Dreyfus, a French military officer of Jewish background, who in 1894 was falsely accused of treason, convicted (through the use of forged papers as evidence) and imprisoned on Devil’s Island. Zola led a noble struggle which freed Dreyfus and exposed the role of anti-Jewish bigotry in shaping French society and betraying the principles on which France was building its democracy.

Not all European nationalist movements were necessarily fascist, although many were. In some countries much of the Catholic hierarchy embraced fascist nationalism as a way to counter the encroachment of secular influences on societies where previously the church had sole control over societal values and mores. This was especially true in Slovakia and Croatia, where the Clerical Fascist movements were strong, and to a lesser extent in Poland and Hungary. Yet even in these countries individual Catholic leaders and laity spoke out against bigotry as the shadow of fascism crept across Europe. And in every country of Europe there were ordinary citizens who took extraordinary risks to shelter the victims of the Holocaust. So religion and nationality cannot be valid indicators of fascist sentiment. And the Nazis not only came for the Jews, as the famous quote reminds us, but for the communists and the trade union leaders, and indeed the Gypsies, the dissidents and the homosexuals. Nazism and fascism are more complex than popular belief. What, then, is the nature of fascism?

Italy was the birthplace of fascist ideology. Mussolini, a former socialist journalist, organized the first fascist movement in 1919 at Milan. In 1922 Mussolini led a march on Rome, was given a government post by the king, and began transforming the Italian political system into a fascist state. In 1938 he forced the last vestige of democracy, the Council of Deputies, to vote themselves out of existence, leaving Mussolini dictator of fascist Italy.

Yet there were Italian fascists who resisted scapegoating and dehumanization even during World War II. Not far from the area where Austrian Prime Minister Kurt Waldheim is accused of assisting in the transport of Jews to the death camps, one Italian General, Mario Roatta, who had pledged equality of treatment to civilians, refused to obey the German military order to round up Jews. Roatta said such an activity was “incompatible with the honor of the Italian Army.”

Franco’s fascist movement in Spain claimed state power in 1936, although it took three years, the assistance of the Italian fascists and help from the secretly reconstituted German Air Force finally to crush those who fought for democracy. Picasso’s famous painting depicts the carnage wrought in a Spanish village by the bombs dropped by the forerunner of the Luftwaffe which all too soon would be working on an even larger canvas. Yet Franco’s fascist Spain never adopted the obsession with race and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories that were hallmarks of Hitler’s Nazi movement in Germany.

Other fascist movements in Europe were more explicitly racialist, promoting the slogan still used today by some neo-Nazi movements: “Nation is Race.” The Nazi racialist version of fascism was developed by Adolph Hitler who with six others formed the Nazi party during 1919 and 1920. Imprisoned after the unsuccessful 1923 Beer Hall putsch in Munich, Hitler dictated his opus, Mein Kampf to his secretary, Rudolph Hess. ;

Mein Kampf (My Battle) sets out a plan for creating in Germany through national socialism a racially pure Volkish state. To succeed, said Hitler, “Aryan” Germany had to resist two forces: the external threat posed by the French with their bloodlines “negrified” through “contamination by Negro blood,” and the internal threat posed by “the Marxist shock troops of international Jewish stock exchange capital.” Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany by Hindenburg in January 1933 and by year’s end had consolidated his power as a fascist dictator and begun a campaign for racialist nationalism that eventually led to the Holocaust.

This obsession with a racialism not only afflicted the German Nazis, but also several eastern European nationalist and fascist movements including those in Croatia, Slovakia, Serbia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine. Anti-Jewish bigotry was rampant in all of these racialist movements, as was the idea of a link between Jewish financiers and Marxists. Even today the tiny Anti-communist Confederation of Polish Freedom Fighters in the U.S.A. uses the slogan “Communism is Jewish.”

“Reactionary concepts plus revolutionary emotion result in Fascist mentality.”
–Wilhelm Reich

One element shared by all fascist movements, racialist or not, is the apparent lack of consistent political principle behind the ideology–political opportunism in the most basic sense. One virtually unique aspect of fascism is its ruthless drive to attain and hold state power. On that road to power, fascists are willing to abandon any principle to adopt an issue more in vogue and more likely to gain converts.

Hitler, for his part, committed his act of abandonment bloodily and dramatically. When the industrialist power brokers offered control of Germany to Hitler, they knew he was supported by national socialist ideologues who held views incompatible with their idea of profitable enterprise. Hitler solved the problem in the “Night of the Long Knives,” during which he had the leadership of the national socialist wing of his constituency murdered in their sleep.

What distinguishes Nazism from generic fascism is its obsession with racial theories of superiority, and some would say, its roots in the socialist theory of proletarian revolution.

Fascism and Nazism as ideologies involve, to varying degrees, some of the following hallmarks:

  • Nationalism and super-patriotism with a sense of historic mission.
  • Aggressive militarism even to the extent of glorifying war as good for the national or individual spirit.
  • Use of violence or threats of violence to impose views on others (fascism and Nazism both employed street violence and state violence at different moments in their development).
  • Authoritarian reliance on a leader or elite not constitutionally responsible to an electorate.
  • Cult of personality around a charismatic leader.
  • Reaction against the values of Modernism, usually with emotional attacks against both liberalism and communism.
  • Exhortations for the homogeneous masses of common folk (Volkish in German, Populist in the U.S.) to join voluntarily in a heroic mission–often metaphysical and romanticized in character.
  • Dehumanization and scapegoating of the enemy–seeing the enemy as an inferior or subhuman force, perhaps involved in a conspiracy that justifies eradicating them.
  • The self image of being a superior form of social organization beyond socialism, capitalism and democracy.
  • Elements of national socialist ideological roots, for example, ostensible support for the industrial working class or farmers; but ultimately, the forging of an alliance with an elite sector of society.
  • Abandonment of any consistent ideology in a drive for state power.

It is vitally important to understand that fascism and Nazism are not biologically or culturally determinant. Fascism does not attach to the gene structure of any specific group or nationality. Nazism was not the ultimate expression of the German people. Fascism did not end with World War II.

After Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies, the geopolitical landscape of Europe was once again drastically altered. In a few short months, some of our former fascist enemies became our allies in the fight to stop the spread of communism. The record of this transformation has been laid out in a series of books. U.S. recruitment of the Nazi spy apparatus has been chronicled in books ranging from The General was a Spy by Hohne & Zolling, to the recent Blowback by Simpson. The laundering of Nazi scientists into our space program is chronicled in The Paperclip Conspiracy by Bowers. The global activities of, and ongoing fascist role within, the World Anti-Communist League were described in Inside the League by Anderson and Anderson. Bellant’s bibliography cites many other examples of detailed and accurate reporting of these disturbing realities.

But if so much is already known of this period, why does journalist and historian George Seldes call the history of Europe between roughly 1920 and 1950 a “press forgery”? Because most people are completely unfamiliar with this material, and because so much of the popular historical record either ignores or contradicts the facts of European nationalism, Nazi collaborationism, and our government’s reliance on these enemies of democracy to further our Cold War foreign policy objectives.

This widely-accepted, albeit misleading, historical record has been shaped by filtered media reports and self-serving academic revisionism rooted in an ideological preference for those European nationalist forces which opposed socialism and communism. Since sectors of those nationalist anti-communist forces allied themselves with political fascism, but later became our allies against communism, apologiafor collaborationists became the rule, not the exception.

Soon, as war memories dimmed and newspaper accounts of collaboration faded, the fascists and their allies re-emerged cloaked in a new mantle of respectability. Portrayed as anti-communist freedom fighters, their backgrounds blurred by time and artful circumlocution, they stepped forward to continue their political organizing with goals unchanged and slogans slightly repackaged to suit domestic sensibilities.

To fight communism after World War II, our government forged a tactical alliance with what was perceived to be the lesser of two evils–and as with many such bargains, there has been a high price to pay.

“The great masses of people. . .will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.”
–Adolph Hitler



 

Fascism, Populism, and the Middle Class

Middle Class Right-Wing Populism as Core Element of Fascism

Fascism is a complex political current that parasitizes other ideologies, includes many internal tensions and contradictions, and has chameleon-like adaptations based on the specific historic symbols, icons, slogans, traditions, myths, and heroes of the society it wishes to mobilize. In addition, fascism as a social movement often acts dramatically different from fascism once it holds state power. When holding state power, fascism tends to be rigidly hierarchical, authoritarian, and elitist. As a social movement fascism employs populist appeals against the current regime and promises a dramatic and quick transformation of the status quo.In interwar Europe there were three distinct forms of fascism, Italian economic corporatist fascism (the original fascism), German racial nationalist Nazism, and clerical fascism exemplified by religious/nationalist movements in Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and the Ukraine, among others.

Right-wing populism can act as both a precursor and a building block of fascism, with anti-elitist conspiracism and ethnocentric scapegoating as shared elements. The dynamic of right-wing populism interacting with and facilitating fascism in interwar Germany was chronicled by Peter Fritzsche in Rehearsals for Fascism: Populism and Political Mobilization in Weimar Germany. Fritzsche showed that distressed middle-class populists in Weimar launched bitter attacks against both the government and big business. This populist surge was later exploited by the Nazis which parasitized the forms and themes of the populists and moved their constituencies far to the right through ideological appeals involving demagoguery, scapegoating, and conspiracism.

===”The Nazis expressed the populist yearnings of middle-class constituents and at the same time advocated a strong and resolutely anti-Marxist mobilization….Against “unnaturally” divisive parties and querulous organized interest groups, National Socialists cast themselves as representatives of the commonweal, of an allegedly betrayed and neglected German public….[b]reaking social barriers of status and caste, and celebrating at least rhetorically the populist ideal of the people’s community…”

This populist rhetoric of the Nazis, focused the pre-existing “resentments of ordinary middle-class Germans against the bourgeois ‘establishment’ and against economic and political privilege, and by promising the resolution of these resentments in a forward-looking, technologically capable volkisch ‘utopia,'” according to Fritzsche.

As Umberto Eco explains, however, the populist rhetoric of fascism is selective and illusive:

===”individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is a theatrical fiction….There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People….Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell…Fascism.”

Fritzsche observed that “German fascism would have been inconceivable without the profound transformation” of mainstream electoral politics in the 1920’s “which saw the dissolution of traditional party allegiances.” He also argued that the Nazis, while an electorally-focused movement, had more in common rhetorically and stylistically with middle class reform movements than backwards looking reactionary movements. So the Nazis as a movement appeared to provide for radical social change while actually moving its constituency to the right.

The success of fascist movements in attracting members from reformist populist constituencies is due to many complex overlapping factors, but key factors are certainly the depth of the economic and social crisis and transformation of, and the degree of anger and frustration of those who see their demands not being met. Desperate people turn to desperate solutions.

A Collection of Links in no apparent order

 

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_revenge_of_the_lower_classes_and_the_rise_of_american_fascism_20160302

 

http://democracyjournal.org/arguments/who-are-trumps-supporters/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/15/what-donald-trump-and-dying-white-people-have-in-common-2/

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/who-are-donald-trumps-supporters-really/471714/

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/09/09/who_are_trumps_supporters.html

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/5-myths-about-trump-supporters-220158

http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/09/politics/new-hampshire-primary-exit-entrance-polls/

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/09/the-american-middle-class-is-losing-ground/

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/09/are-you-in-the-american-middle-class/

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/03/secret-donald-trump-voters-speak-out

http://prospect.org/article/what-super-tuesday-means-establishment-politics

 

 

https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=2090

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/12/donald-trump-fascism-islamophobia-nativism/

http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/donald-trump-and-the-ghost-of-totalitarianism

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/how-one-most-extreme-groups-within-religious-right-remaking-gop-race-presidency

http://fair.org/home/heidi-beirich-on-white-supremacy/

 

 

Special treat:

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/04/bernie-sanders-burlington-vermont-activist-1970s

 

Fascism: A Theoretical Conversation

One of several Trumping Fascism Landing Pages

‘Trumping’ Democracy:
Right-Wing Populism, Fascism, and the Case for Action

by Chip Berlet

The candidacy of Donald Trump has prompted a vigorous public debate over whether or not Trump is flirting with fascism.

Some analysts suggest his political dance partner is leading him to the tune of right-wing populism. Other analysts say Trump’s marriage to fascism already has been consummated. Either way, Trump is stomping on the dance floor of democracy in a way that could collapse it into splinters.

It’s a “scary moment for those of us who seek to defend civil rights, civil liberties, and democracy itself,” warns political analyst Noam Chomsky….

>>> Read More of this Article Here


 

The “main contradiction” — to coin a phrase — is to recognize the debate over Trump (and Pence and Cruz–and the others) is fascinating; but no matter the position either way, the demand of integrity is to take concrete action to defend those under attack. That is the main philosophical contribution of Arendt, and the heroic response of the White Rose Society in Germany in the face of the fascist genocide. If these references seem oblique, I beg all of you to do some Internet searches. Time is short. Our tasks are clear. Stand up. Speak out. History will record if we succeed–but history judges us as to whether or not we tried to stop the juggernaut of bigoted violence–no matter what the definition. -cb

Professor Paul Bookbinder–Facing History and Ourselves
The Wiemar Period in Germany: The Fragility of Democracy


Alexander Reid Ross–Trumpism, Pt. 1: Trump the Populist

Alexander Reid Ross–Trumpism, Pt. 2: The Making of an American Fascist

Matthew N. Lyons–Trump’s impact: a fascist upsurge is just one of the dangers

Alexander Reid Ross–Trumpism, Pt. 3: Propaganda of the Deal

Alexander Reid Ross–Trumpism, Pt. 4: Conservative Revolution, or Missing the Tree for the Forest

Matthew N. Lyons–Fascist revolution doesn’t turn back the clock: a reply to Alexander Reid Ross on Trump



Research for Progress is the website where Chip Berlet and his colleagues and friends stash resources for basic social and economic justice in defense of democracy and diversity.


     Racist White Nationalist Nativism
+ Christian Right Assaults on LGBTQ & Women’s Rights
+ Neo-Liberal “Free Market” Economic Class Warfare
+ Militarism & International Aggression
+ Right-Wing Populist Demagoguery
===Can Lead to=============================
Devolution of Democracy into Neofascism

{{ Build Multi-issue Grassroots Coalitions Now ! }}

Trump’s Demagoguery Threatens Democracy Itself

Now is the time for blunt talk. Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue generating “scripted violence.” Trumpism threatens not just the First Amendment but democracy itself. I call him a right-wing populist using fascistic rhetoric to target scapegoated groups. Other journalists and scholars have dubbed him a fascist or a totalitarian. But we all smell the stench of the burning bodies.

So let us have our terminological debates, but setting aside all intellectual disagreements, as citizens of an increasingly unfree society, we must stand up and speak out.The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, and that includes the right to call religion ridiculous. It protects devout Roman Catholics and those in the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster–even those who sometimes wear colanders as hats. At Talk to Action, where this essay was first posted, we are nonpartisan, welcome respectful contributions discussing human, civil, and constitutional rights, and find debates between theists and atheists annoying (no trolls blasting either are allowed). Democracy is what we cherish…and it is in trouble.

Some early studies of prejudice, demonization, and scapegoating treated the processes as marginal to “mainstream” society and an indication of an individual pathological psychological disturbance. More recent social science demonstrates that demonization is a habit found across various sectors of society among people who are no more prone to mental illness than the rest of society.Philosopher Hannah Arendt taught us that ordinary people can become willing–even eager–participants in brutality and mass murder justified by demonization of scapegoated groups in a society

Lawrence L. Langer raises this as a troubling issue regarding the Nazi genocide:

“The widespread absence of remorse among the accused in postwar trials indicates that we may need…to accept the possibility of a regimen of behavior that simply dismisses conscience as an operative moral factor. The notion of the power to kill, or to authorize killing of others, as a personally fulfilling activity is not appealing to our civilized sensibilities; even more threatening is the idea that this is not necessarily a pathological condition, but an expression of impulses as native to ourselves as love and compassion.”

A troubling concept–that some of us who helped jumpstart this website have discussed for decades–is that when most people in a society realize that a fascist movement might actually seize state power, it is too late to stop it. So let us act now: as Republicans, Democrats, Independents and the folks who think voting just encourages a corrupt system. As people of faith, the spiritual, the agnostic, and those who think that God is Dead because she doesn’t exist. We are all in the same lifeboat here. Grab an oar.

Facing History and Ourselves reminds us of the “Fragility of Democracy” in a series of essays by Professor Paul Bookbinder, an international expert on the Weimar Republic in Germany in the period just before that nation collapsed into the inferno of Nazi rule and genocide. No, we do not face a crisis like that faced by the German people in the 1920s and 1930s. Yet as Bookbinder observes, there were moments when Hitler’s thugs could have been stopped.

In her small yet powerful book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt concluded that evil was banal, and that if there was one clear universal truth, it is that ordinary people have a moral obligation to not look away from individual or institutional acts of cruelty or oppression. We recognize the processes that lead from words to violence, they are well-studied, and the theories and proofs are readily available. Silence is consent. Denial is complicity with evil.

Fascism: Umberto Eco Slam Dunks Lawrence Britt

Frequently cited in defense of suggesting the US is on the road to Fascism is the essay “Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism” by Lawrence Britt. It was originally titled “Fascism Anyone?

Britt’s list is not an accurate definition of fascism. For that, see Umberto Ecco’s essay popularly known as “Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt.”

Though earnest, Britt’s list fails the test of logic that states that things similar in many elements are not necessarily identical. Britt’s entire essay is without any value in terms of defining fascism. Here is why:

Salt is white
Chalk is white
Salt tastes good on a baked potato
Therefore chalk tastes good on a baked potato <Fallacy of Logic!

If you doubt the above, please try it at home.

Britt’s credentials have been misrepresented without Britt’s permission. Britt does not have a PhD and is not a professor. Britt never made these claims.

Lawrence Britt, 2003. “Fascism Anyone?” Free Inquiry. 23: 20-22. Britt’s essay originally appeared in, a respectable publication.

Britt did not name his piece to be similar to the earlier essay by Umberto Eco mentioned in the next endnote. Britt’s work is online without permission of the publisher or Mr. Britt at http://www.rense.com/general37/char.htm Note that this page is from a Google search which pops up the Rense URL as the top ranking page for the Britt essay. This is the website of crackpot bigot Jeff Rense who is among the royalty of conspiracy cranks online. Mr. Britt has no control over this.

The original Umberto Eco essay is “Ur Fascism,” also known as “Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt,” New York Review of Books, June 22, 1995. A shortened and edited version adapted from Utne Reader and reformatted by me is online at http://www.buildinghumanrights.us/task/umberto-eco-on-fascism/. For the full original essay, consult a print copy of  New York Review of Books, purchase the full article online; or purchase Eco’s collection of essays: Five Moral Pieces.

 

The Doctrine of Fascism – 1932

Benito Mussolini (1883-1945)
The leader (Il Duce) of Fascist Italy from 1922 to 1945

Excerpts from the entry “The Doctrine of Fascism” which appeared in the Italian Encyclopedia (Enciclopedia Italiana) of 1932 as written by Benito Mussolini, but was written with the assistance of fascist philosopher Giovanni Gentile.


There is no concept of the State which is not fundamentally a concept of life: philosophy or intuition, a system of ideas which develops logically or is gathered up into a vision or into a faith, but which is always, at least virtually, an organic conception of the world.

Thus fascism could not be understood in many of its practical manifestations as a party organization, as a system of education, as a discipline, if it were not always looked at in the light of its whole way of conceiving life, a spiritualized way. The world seen through Fascism is not this material world which appears on the surface, in which man is an individual separated from all others and standing by himself, and in which he is governed by a natural law that makes him instinctively live a life of selfish and momentary pleasure. The man of Fascism is an individual who is nation and fatherland, which is a moral law, binding together individuals and the generations into a tradition and a mission, suppressing the instinct for a life enclosed within the brief round of pleasure in order to restore within duty a higher life free from the limits of time and space: a life in which the individual, through the denial of himself, through the sacrifice of his own private interests, through death itself, realizes that completely spiritual existence in which his value as a man lies.

Therefore it is a spiritualized conception, itself the result of the general reaction of modem times against the flabby materialistic positivism of the nineteenth century. Anti-positivistic, but positive: not skeptical, nor agnostic, nor pessimistic, nor passively optimistic, as arc, in general, the doctrines (all negative) that put the centric of life outside man, who with his free will can and must create his own world. Fascism desires an active man, one engaged in activity with all his energies: it desires a man virilely conscious of the difficulties that exist in action and ready to face them. It conceives of life as a struggle, considering that it behooves man to conquer for himself that life truly worthy of him, creating first of all in himself the instrument (physical, moral, intellectual) in order to construct it. Thus for the single individual, thus for the nation, thus for humanity. Hence the high value of culture in all its forms (art, religion, science), and the enormous importance of education. Hence also the essential value of work, with which man conquers nature and creates the human world (economic, political, moral, intellectual).

This positive conception of life is clearly an ethical conception. It covers the whole of reality, not merely the human activity which controls it. No action can be divorced from moral judgment; there is nothing in the world which can be deprived of the value which belongs to everything in its relation to moral ends. Life, therefore, as conceived by the Fascist, is serious, austere, religious: the whole of it is poised in a world supported by the moral and responsible forces of the spirit. The Fascist disdains the “comfortable” life.

Fascism is a religious conception in which man is seen in his immanent relationship with a superior law and with an objective Will that transcends the particular individual and raises him to conscious membership of a spiritual society. Whoever has seen in the religious politics of the Fascist regime nothing but mere opportunism has not understood that Fascism besides being a system of government is also, and above all, a system of thought.

Fascism is an historical conception in which man is what he is only in so far as he works with the spiritual process in which he finds himself, in the family or social group, in the nation and in the history in which all nations collaborate. From this follows the great value of tradition, in memories, in language, in customs, in the standards of social life. Outside history man is nothing. consequently Fascism is opposed to all the individualistic abstractions of a materialistic nature like those of the eighteenth century; and it is opposed to all Jacobin utopias and innovations. It does not consider that “happiness” is possible upon earth, as it appeared to be in the desire of the economic literature of the eighteenth century, and hence it rejects all teleological theories according to which mankind would reach a definitive stabilized condition at a certain period in history. This implies putting oneself outside history and life, which is a continual change and coming to be. Politically, Fascism wishes to be a realistic doctrine; practically, it aspires to solve only the problems which arise historically of themselves and that of themselves find or suggest their own solution. To act among men, as to act in the natural world, it is necessary to enter into the process of reality and to master the already operating forces.

Against individualism, the Fascist conception is for the State; and it is for the individual in so far as he coincides with the State, which is the conscience and universal will of man in his historical existence. It is opposed to classical Liberalism, which arose from the necessity of reacting against absolutism, and which brought its historical purpose to an end when the State was transformed into the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the interests of the particular individual; Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual. And if liberty is to be the attribute of the real man, and not of that abstract puppet envisaged by individualistic Liberalism, Fascism is for liberty. And for the only liberty which can be a real thing, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. Therefore, for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value,-outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people.

Outside the State there can be neither individuals nor groups (political parties, associations, syndicates, classes). Therefore Fascism is opposed to Socialism, which confines the movement of history within the class struggle and ignores the unity of classes established in one economic and moral reality in the State; . . .

Individuals form classes according to the similarity of their interests, they form syndicates according to differentiated economic activities within these interests; but they form first, and above all, the State, which is not to be thought of numerically as the sum-total of individuals forming the majority of a nation. And consequently Fascism is opposed to Democracy, which equates the nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of that majority; nevertheless it is the purest form of democracy if the nation is conceived, as it should be, qualitatively and not quantitatively, as the most powerful idea (most powerful because most moral, most coherent, most true) which acts within the nation as the conscience and the will of a few, even of One, which ideal tends to become active within the conscience and the will of all — that is to say, of all those who rightly constitute a nation by reason of nature, history or race, and have set out upon the same line of development and spiritual formation as one conscience and one sole will. Not a race, nor a geographically determined region, but as a community historically perpetuating itself a multitude unified by a single idea, which is the will to existence and to power: consciousness of itself, personality.

This higher personality is truly the nation in so far as it is the State. It k not the nation that generates the State, as according to the old naturalistic concept which served as the basis of the political theories of the national States of the nineteenth century. Rather the nation is created by the State, which gives to the people, conscious of its own moral unity, a will and therefore an effective existence. The right of a nation to independence derives not from a literary and ideal consciousness of its own being, still less from a more or less unconscious and inert acceptance of a de facto situation, but from an active consciousness, from a political will in action and ready to demonstrate its own rights: that is to say, from a state already coming into being. The State, in fact, as the universal ethical will, is the creator of right.

The nation as the State is an ethical reality which exists and lives in so far as it develops. To arrest its development is to kill it. Therefore the State is not only the authority which governs and gives the form of laws and the value of spiritual life to the wills of individuals, but it is also a power that makes its will felt abroad, making it known and respected, in other words demonstrating the fact of its universality in all the necessary directions of its development. It is consequently organization and expansion, at least virtually. Thus it can be likened to the human will which knows no limits to its development and realizes itself in testing its own limitlessness.

The Fascist State, the highest and most powerful form of personality, is a force, but a spiritual force, which takes over all the forms of the moral and intellectual life of man. It cannot therefore confine itself simply to the functions of order and supervision as Liberalism desired. It is not simply a mechanism which limits the sphere of the supposed liberties of the individual. It is the form, the inner standard and the discipline of the whole person; it saturates the will as well as the intelligence. Its principle, the central inspiration of the human personality living in the civil community, pierces into the depths and makes its home in the heart of the man of action as well as of the thinker, of the artist as well as of the scientist: it is the soul of the soul.

Fascism, in short, is not only the giver of laws and the founder of institutions, but the educator and promoter of spiritual life. It wants to remake, not the forms of human life, but its content, man, character, faith. And to this end it requires discipline and authority that can enter into the spirits of men and there govern unopposed. Its sign, therefore, is the Lictors’ rods, the symbol of unity, of strength and justice.


From Michael J. Oakeshott:
The Social and Political Doctrines of Contemporary Europe,
pp. 164-168.
Copyright 1939 by Cambridge University Press.