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



 

Palingenesis

Palingenesis is an ideological goal. Griffin uses the term palingenesis to describe fascism as a mass movement. [1]

Palingenesisis a core feature of right-wing populism. This is related to the concept of the “sacralization of politics” also known as a “political religion.””

The concept of palingenesis is behind the ideological goal shared by all political religions: the establishment of a nation or other entity rebuilt through a sanctified group calling for a purifying catharsis that removes the slag of decadence and dissent just as steel is forged in a fiery cauldron. Add a timetable to palingenesis and you invoke apocalypticism.

[1] Griffin, Nature of Fascism, p. xi, 26.

Scapegoating

Scapegoating is a process by which a person or group of people are wrongfully stereotyped as sharing negative traits and are singled out for blame for causing societal problems, while the primary source of the problem (if it is real rather than imaginary) is overlooked or absolved of blame. It is easier to get people to scapegoat if the target is demonized.[1]

[1] G.W. Allport, 1954: 243–60; R. Girard, The Scapegoat, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

What is Demonization?

Demonization is a process through which people target individuals or groups as the embodiment of evil.[1] This involves a sequence of denigration, dehumanization, and demonization, which results in generating hatred of the objectified target.[2] One way to do this is to claim that the demonized scapegoat is plotting against the public good.[3] This often involves demagogic appeals. With demagoguery, followers must see the movement leader as charismatic, or the performance is easily interpreted as buffoonery. Demagoguery has been used historically not only by populists to denounce corrupt elites, but also by government officials to justify political repression—in both instances based on fears of conspiracies by real and imaginary subversive elements.[4]

[1] J.A. Aho, This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy, Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1994, pp. 107–21; Pagels, The Origin of Satan; D.N. Smith; “The Social Construction of Enemies: Jews and the Representation of Evil,” Sociological Theory, 1996, vol. 14, no. 3; L. Noël, Intolerance, A General Survey.

[2] The sequence concept for generating hatred was suggested by K.S. Stern at the Conference to Establish the Field of Hate Studies, at the Institute for Action against Hate, Gonzaga University Law School, Spokane, Washington, March 18–20. See also, K.S. Stern, “The Need for an Interdisciplinary Field of Hate Studies,” Journal of Hate Studies, 2003/04, vol. 3, no.1.

[3] R.S. Wistrich (ed.), Demonizing the Other: Antisemitism, Racism, and Xenophobia, Routledge, [1999] 2003.

[4] G..W. Allport, “Demagogy,” in R.O. Curry and T. M. Brown (eds) Conspiracy: The Fear of Subversion in American History, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972, pp. 263–76.

Producers v. Parasites

The Noble Producers
being squeezed by parasitic elites above and
lazy, sinful, or subversive parasites below

Click on graphic to enlarge…

 

Populism-Chart-2015-web

Makers v. Takers

Home/

Mitt Romney’s View of Economics

Makers v. Takers

Mother Jones. 2012. Full transcript of the Mitt Romney secret video,
Mother Jones (web only) [Online: 19 September] Available at: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/full–transcript–mitt–romney–secret–video#47percent

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49 — he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. He’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. [Mother Jones, 9/17/12]

Producerism

What is Producerism?

What did Mitt Romney mean when he talked about 47% of Americans being freeloaders: The takers versus the makers?

PRODUCERISM IS A CORE COMPONENT OF
REPRESSIVE AND RIGHT-WING POPULIST IDEOLOGY

Calls to rally the virtuous “producing classes” against evil “parasites” at both the top and bottom of society are based on a tendency called producerism. Producerism a doctrine that champions the so-called producers in society against both “unproductive” elites and subordinate groups defined as lazy, sinful, immoral, or subversive.

Forms of repressive right wing populism weave producerism into conspiracy theories about elite power and a lazy, sinful, and subversive freeloaders who dain society of its vigor. Today we see examples of it in some sectors of the Christian Right, in the Patriot movements and armed militias, and in the Far right.
(see chart of US right).

Producerism begins in the US with the Jacksonians, who wove together intra-elite factionalism and lower-class Whites’ double-edged resentments. Producerism became a staple of repressive populist ideology.  Producerism sought to rally the middle strata together with certain sections of the elite. Specifically, it championed the so-called producing classes (including White farmers, laborers, artisans, slaveowning planters, and “productive” capitalists) against “unproductive” bankers, speculators, and monopolists above—and people of color below.

After the Jacksonian era, producerism was a central tenet of the anti-Chinese crusade in the late nineteenth century. In the 1920s industrial philosophy of Henry Ford, and Father Coughlin’s fascist doctrine in the 1930s, producerism fused with antisemitic attacks against “parasitic” Jews.

Kazin points out that as it developed in the nineteenth century,

…the romance of producerism had a cultural blind spot; it left unchallenged strong prejudices toward not just African-Americans but also toward recent immigrants who had not learned or would not employ the language and rituals of this variant of the civic religion. . . . Even those native-born activists who reached out to immigrant laborers assumed that men of Anglo-American origins had invented political democracy, prideful work habits, and well-governed communities of the middling classes.

In the 1920s industrial philosophy of Henry Ford, and Father Coughlin’s fascist doctrine in the 1930s, producerism fused with antisemitic attacks against “parasitic” Jews. Producerism, with its baggage of prejudice, remains today the most common populist narrative on the right, and it facilitates the use of demonization and scapegoating as political tools.

Slideshow: The Producerist Narrative in Repressive Right Wing Populism

Our conception of producerism is derived from Alexander Saxton’s discussion of the “Producer Ethic” as an ideology of the early White labor movement that “emphasized an egalitarianism reserved for whites.” (Saxton, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America [London: Verso, 1990], p. 313.) See also White Republic, p. 298; and Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), pp. 21-22, 52, 265-69.

Our conception is also deeply influenced by Moishe Postone’s discussion of how modern antisemitism draws a false dichotomy between “productive” industrial capital and “parasitic” finance capital. See Postone, “Anti-Semitism and National Socialism: Notes on the German Reaction to ‘Holocaust,’” new german critique 19 (Winter 1980), pp. 97-115, esp. pp. 106-13.

We use the term producerism in a different way than Catherine McNicol Stock does in her book Rural Radicals: Righteous Rage in the American Grain (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996). Stock portrays producerism simply as a form of populist antielitism, separate from (though sometimes coinciding with) attacks on people of color. In our view, producerism intrinsically involves a dual-edged combination of anti-elitism and oppression (in the US setting, usually in the form of racism or antisemitism, but also sexism and homophobia) and it is precisely this combination that must be addressed.

–Adapted from Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right–Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press.

http://www.researchforprogress.us/_stash/slideshows/Challenging-Right-Wing-Populism-2016.pdf


 

“Producerist” White Nationalism

Demonization & Scapegoating of an “Other”

Conspiracy Theories of Subversion from Above and Below

Apocalyptic Narratives & Millennial Visions of Threats to the Nation

Trump a Fascist?

Some Early Analysis with Crabby Comments by Chip

Right-Wing Populism is a more useful term at this stage than Fascism and Totalitarianism, even though Trump’s rhetoric, persona, and policies have echoes of both.

For the website for the book Right-Wing Populism in America, Click Here.

The words Fascism and Totalitarianism have evolved over time, but while a contentious debate continues in academia, there is a core general consensus emerging as to an acceptable range of definitions.

Trump certainly has evoked various styles and rhetorical content linked to Fascism’s twin terrors, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Yet the term right-wing populism is a better fit, as Cas Mudde explained in the Washington Post (below).

Read more here about how right right-wing populism can devolve into fascism~~~

Cas Mudde, Washington Post:

“Trumpism” is far too big a term for the incoherent and ever-shifting views of Trump. It is impossible to discern an ideology that Trump adheres to. He never developed a real ideological platform and has been inconsistent on core issues – from pro-choice to anti-abortion, from pro-universal health care to anti-Obamacare, etc. However, his current popularity does seem to be based on a combination of features that defines Europe’s contemporary populist radical right: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism. Just like politicians like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands – whose main campaign poster reads: “More Security. Less Immigration” – Trump links immigration and crime in his speeches. He thereby plays on widespread beliefs that illegal immigration is causing an increase in serious crime.

(bold highlight added)

What follows is an informal review of and analysis of articles involving the 2015 candidacy of Donald Trump and the political concepts of Fascism and totalitarianism. I usually create several timelines for fact-checking any major article that I am writing. I usually add short notes, but here I have added more and lengthier comments than usual.

July 7, 2015 – Tucker in Newsweek

It seems that much of the media maelstrom over Trump and Fascism was prompted by a well-written polemic in Newsweek, by Jeffrey A. Tucker, “Is Donald Trump a Fascist,” published on July 7 2015.[1]

Itake issue with almost every paragraph in Tucker’s essay because it is pure propaganda for so-called “Free Market” capitalism as being the savior of democracy. I argue that “Free Market” capitalism has created a form of predatory elitist oligarchy that has gutted American democracy like an Oregon salmon.

Tucker commenting on Trump and Fascism in Newsweek is like the editors like asking a member of the flat-earth society to write an essay on geography–only a tiny fraction of scholars of fascism support Tucker’s view.

Tucker slaps down the unwashed masses by writing “The thousands who attend [Trump’s] rallies and scream their heads off will head home and return to enjoying movies, smartphones and mobile apps from all over the world…”

Then Tucker slips in the glimmering silver shiv: announcing that not only the “screaming masses” but all of us in the United States are “partaking in the highest standard of living experienced in the whole of human history, granted courtesy of the global market economy in which no one rules.“ so Tucker praises the invisible hand of the free market, while most in our country feel that hand slapping us in the face on a daily basis.

In an amazingly elliptical paragraph, Tucker observes:

===Whereas the left has long attacked bourgeois institutions like family, church and property, fascism has made its peace with all three. It (very wisely) seeks political strategies that call on the organic matter of the social structure and inspire masses of people to rally around the nation as a personified ideal in history, under the leadership of a great and highly accomplished man.

The paragraph above can be read as an ode to the fascist theory articulated by Mussolini that the “great man” national leader organically personifies the will of the people without the need for democracy or elections. “Trump believes himself to be that man” Tucker states. I really, really hope I am reading this wrong.

Then Tucker write an excellent defense of democracy by writing that Trump and his rhetoric can never:

=== serve a whole nation well. Indeed, the very prospect is terrifying and not just for the immigrant groups and foreign peoples he has chosen to scapegoat for all the country’s problems. It’s a disaster in waiting for everyone.

Right On Dude! And this is a lesson for all of us. Even a right-wing ideologue like Tucker is sometimes right in the analytical sense –as in having a correct political analysis (pun intended).

According to Newsweek, “Tucker asks that we describe him thus: Jeffrey A. Tucker is Director of Digital Development at the Foundation for Economic Education and CLO of Liberty.me. This article first appeared on the Anything Peaceful blog on the FEE website.”

So Tucker is an operative for one of the oldest and most influential “Free Market” pro-capitalist organizations in the United States: the Foundation for Economic Education. The group’s economic theories are founded on the research of Ludwig von Mises and his ally Friedrich August von Hayek (I don’t make these names up).

The progeny of this legacy tend to claim that Fascism is a left wing phenomenon.

For example, Tucker writes that:

===“In the 19th century, this penchant for industrial protectionism and mercantilism became guild socialism, which mutated later into fascism and then into Nazism. You can read Mises to find out more on how this works.”

This view is right-wing dogma but it is rejected by most scholars.

This idiosyncratic view was featured in the book “Liberal Fascism,” by Jonah Goldberg reviewed in an History News Network sponsored online forum in which some of the leading scholars of Fascism in the world ripped Goldberg’s thesis and research to shreds. The introduction is here. My essay is included. Goldberg’s response is here.

According to Tucker:

===What’s distinct about Trumpism, and the tradition of thought it represents, is that it is not leftist in its cultural and political outlook (see how he is praised for rejecting “political correctness”), and yet it is still totalitarian in the sense that it seeks total control of society and economy and demands no limits on state power.

Well, no. Trump is not demanding “no limits on state power” and thus is not a totalitarian. Meanwhile Tucker gets to take another shot on the left by pointing out that Trump is rejecting “political correctness” a very bad thing. Of course the current use of the term “political correctness” to imply censorship was inserted into our vocabulary as part of a coordinated right-wing media campaign launched to denigrate concern for equality and respect for traditionally oppressed, identities. But for that story you would have to read the Wikipedia page from 2005, before the page was commandeered by right-wing fanatics.

Conor Lynch, Salon

“Donald Trump Is an Actual Fascist,” trumpeted a July headline in Salon. It was a misleading headline—in the article, journalist Conor Lynch writes that the “GOP are obviously not fascists, but they share a family resemblance”

The resemblance, according to Lynch, is explained in the famous quote attributed to Italy’s fascist dictator during World War II, Benito Mussolini:

===Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.

According to Lynch, this “definition may very well fit the GOP ideology: a kind of corporate fascism.”

Alas, the quote is a hoax, widely circulated on the internet but debunked years ago. Mussolini never wrote or said anything like that, since the fake statement refutes Mussolini’s actual views on fascism.

Lynch cites from Tucker’s article on Trump, and then adds some excellent analysis and commentary. Conor asks, “So is the GOP becoming the new fascist party?” then writes:

===“That might be an exaggeration, but it does share many similar features, and Trump, with his demagogic style, is simply exposing how very similar the passions of the GOP base are to the passions of fascism of the early 20th century.

===The modern GOP is a party of unwavering and dogmatic patriotism mixed with traditionalism and intolerance. The social progression we have been witnessing over the past decade in America, most clearly with the acceptance of the LGBT community, seems to be triggering a reactionary movement on the right.

Despite a few missteps, much of the Conor article is quite good.

Thom Hartmann, Alternet

Tea Party and the Right
The Sad Truth of Our Politics:
It’s Basically Turned into a Competition Among Oligarchs to Own Everything
It could still happen here.

November 1, 2015

Hartmann repeats the hoax Mussolini quote and much of Hartmann’s post  is based on outdate social science or statements by politicians from the 1940s era, as well as earlier posts by Hartmann.

Chris Hedges: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

In his book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, Chris Hedges, has lumped together Christianity, fascism, totalitarianism, the Christian Right, right-wing populist movements, and Republicans. This is neither accurate nor useful for progressive organizers.

While a tiny set of religious movements within the Christian Right are neofascist, the main body of the US Christian Right is not fascist. Movements such as Christian Reconstructionism are accurately considered quasi-fascist or fascistic by some scholars.[2]

Gentile sees totalitarianism as the “sacralization of politics,” while others refer to it as “political religion” in the sense that a political movement confers on itself the status of religious veneration and the demand of strict obedience.[3] But these concepts are often misunderstood to imply all rigid, bigoted, and demanding right-wing religious movements are totalitarian. This is not accurate.

Hedges warns of movements whose followers:

=== “commit evil to make a better world. To attain this better world, they believe, some must suffer and be silenced [and the] worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach such grand, utopian visions, those who seek to implant by force their narrow, particular version of goodness.”[4]

This is entirely true and was expressed succinctly by historian Richard Hofstadter in his quip “I believe…that an unbridled passion for the total elimination of this or that evil can be as dangerous as any of the delusions of our time.”[5] By “Paranoid Style” however, Hofstadter did not mean clinical paranoia, no matter how deranged conspiracy theories may sound.

Damian Thompson argues that the conspiracy theories that Hofstadter described as the “paranoid style” in right-wing movements are really derived from Christian apocalyptic beliefs such as those spread by the contemporary Christian Right in the United States.[6] This adds to the difficulty to parsing these matters since fascist and totalitarian movements often employ conspiracy theories. In addition fascist and totalitarian movements sometimes graft onto various religions.

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?” and as the following endnote explains, the essay has been misrepresented without Britt’s permission.[7] Though earnest, Britt’s list fails the test of logic that states that things similar in many elements are not necessarily identical. 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.”[8]

Henry A. Giroux

More complicated is the detailed and erudite polemic in Truthout (9/15/15) by Henry A. Giroux, expanded from Tikkun (9/9/15). In “Political Frauds and the Ghost of Totalitarianism,” Giroux invokes the theories of world-famous philosopher Hannah Arendt on totalitarianism. He warns that widespread civic illiteracy in the US population is more than the media manufacturing “ignorance on an individual scale”; it is, in fact:

===producing a nationwide crisis of agency, memory and thinking itself…a kind of ideological sandstorm in which reason gives way to emotion, and a willful limitation on critical thought spreads through the culture as part of a political project that both infantilizes and depoliticizes the general public.

According to Giroux, “Donald Trump is not the singular clown who has injected bizarre and laughable notions into US politics; he is the canary in the mineshaft warning us that totalitarianism relies on mass support and feeds on hate, moral panics” and what Arendt called the “the frenzied lawfulness of ideological certitude.”

Yet long before the appearance of totalitarianism in the modern era, the United States saw mass movements that used force to subjugate or purge the degraded and demonized “Other.” As a nation, we enforced white Christian nationalism through the genocide of indigenous peoples and the enslavement and mass murder of black people for profit. For many decades, immigrants including those who were Irish, Italian, Polish or Russian were second-class citizens, not considered “white.” Women had few rights and were treated as the property of their fathers, then their husbands. Jews were perpetual outsiders. People with unpopular religious views were shunned and in some instances killed. Chinese were excluded, Japanese were interned in camps. Nativist racism periodically has cut a bloody gash through our body politic, without reliance on totalitarianism.

 

[1] Jeffrey A. Tucker, “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?,” Newsweek Online, 7/17/15.

[3] Gentile, Emilio. 1996. The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

[4] Chris Hedges. (2008). American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. London: Vintage.

[5] Hofstadter, Richard. 1965.  Anti–Intellectualism in American Life, Alfred A. Knopf, 1963, p. 23.

[6] Damian. Thompson, The End Of Time: Faith And Fear In The Shadow Of The Millennium. (Great Britain: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1996).

[7] Lawrence Britt, 2003. “Fascism Anyone?” Free Inquiry. 23: 20-22. Britt’s essay originally appeared in, a respectable publication. Note that Mr. Britt is not a professor and does not hold a Ph.D., although these claims are often attached to Britt’s essay without his permission. 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.

[8] Umberto Eco, “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 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. As of the date of this publication, there is an archival copy of “Ur Fascism” here.

Dualism

Dualism is a metaframe, through which people see the world divided into the forces of good and evil. Manichaeism gave dualism a boost into Christianity. Richard Hostadter noted that the “fundamentalist mind…is essentially Manichean.”[1] Anthony and Robbins coined the term “exemplary dualism” to describe a hyperbolic form of dualism in which “contemporary sociopolitical or socioreligious forces are transmogrified into absolute contrast categories embodying moral, eschatological, and cosmic polarities upon which hinge the millennial destiny of humankind.”[2] They find this in “totalist” religious and ideological movements “with highly dualistic worldviews” and “an absolutist apocalyptic outlook” where members cast a “projection of negativity and rejected elements of self onto ideologically designated scapegoats.”[3]

[1] Hofstadter, Anti–Intellectualism, p. 135.

[2] D. Anthony and T. Robbins, “Religious Totalism, Exemplary Dualism, And The Waco Tragedy”, in T. Robbins and S.J. Palmer (eds) Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements, New York: Routledge, 1997, pp. 261–84, quote from p. 267.

[3] Ibid., pp. 264, 269.

Sacralization of Politics

Gentile sees fascism as a form of political religion, but by this he does not imply that fascism is a religion, but that the sacralization of politics is an aspect of totalitarianism whereby the state, the party, or some other entity in political life is raised to a cosmological level of significance, as in a religion.[1]

[1] Gentile, “Fascism, Totalitarianism and Political Religion;” _____, “The Sacralization of Politics: Definitions, Interpretations and Reflections on the Question of Secular Religion and Totalitarianism,” Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, 2000, vol. 1, no.1; Gentile, The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy.