Misquoting Dimitrov on Fascism

For several decades progressives and Marxists in English-speaking countries have been misquoting Dimitrov on the nature of Fascism. This is not a criticism of Dimitrov or his actual statement on the nature of fascism, but an attempt to give proper credit the the original author of the concept adopted and expanded by Dimitrov: Clara Zetkin. It was Zetkin’s 1923 analysis of fascism that was inorporated into the report of the Third Plenum.

This is due in part to:

  • The selective editing of print publication of what Dimitrov actually wrote for ideological reasons in the post-WWII Soviet Union.
  • The strategies of pro-Soviet communists in the period before WWII who supported the idea of “social fascism;” which denigrated the idea of a mass-based popular front.
  • A failure by many writers to read the underlying documents that reveal the errors.

The actual full quotation from Dimitrov reveals three key facts:

  • That the definition of fascism erroneously attributed to him is actual a definition from the Third Plenum based on the work of Clara Zetkin.
  • That the fragment frequently cited lacks the next six paragraphs that put the definition of fascism in two distinct categories requiring differrent forms of resistance:
    • Fascism as it is building a mass base.
    • Fascism after it has seized state power.
  • That the actual definition is drawn from the report written by Clara Zetkin and presented to the executive committee, not the full plenum. The plenum text is what Dimitrov is citing in his famous quote, which usually leaves off Dimitrov’s discussion of the need to use different strategies when fascism is a growing movement as opposed to after fascism seizes state power.

Clara Zetkin: “we view fascism as an expression of the decay and disintegration of the capitalist economy and as a symptom of the bourgeois state’s dissolution. We can combat fascism only if we grasp that it rouses and sweeps along broad social masses who have lost the earlier security of their existence and with it, often, their belief in social order.”


Clara Zetkin – 1923
Order from Haymarket Books (credits: Mike Taber, John Riddell)

Dimitrov in context

Under Construction


Fascism uses the Rhetoric of Right-Wing Populism

Fascism is the most militant form of Right-Wing Populism

Most Right-Wing Populist Movements do not become Fascist Movements

Most Fascist Movements do not Seize State Power




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


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.

Political Religion

In a political religion, some secular entity is sacralized.[1] If this entity is merely venerated, it is not a political religion. What is the problem if people worship a sacred cabbage? If the entity is something that people need to defend through political action, then we have a political religion.

Roger Griffin writes of the palingenetic call for the heroic rebirth of the nation after a period of decay and decline.[2] This involves the perception that time is running out for good to triumph over evil. This apocalyptic and dualistic vision interpolates heroic warriors for the cosmological battle. Using a “chrono-ethological” approach, Griffin points to the elements of “mystic purification and immortality” embraced by those who sacralize a particular entity that needs defense.[3] It is the apocalyptic dream of perfection that creates the nightmare of totalitarian movements and political religions.[4]

Aggression and violence occurs when a palingenetic apocalyptic movement becomes politically active and demands in a totalitarian way that the sacred entity is “an absolute principle of collective existence, considers it the main source of values for individual and mass behaviour, and exalts it as the supreme ethical precept of public life.”[5] This divides the society into those that defend the sacred entity and those from whom the sacred entity needs to be defended.

[1] E. Gentile, The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1994.

[2] The use of the term palingenesis apparently surface with Gentile, while Griffin has now cornered the franchise

[3] R. Griffin, “Shattering Crystals: The Role of ‘Dream Time’ in Extreme Right–Wing Political Violence,” Terrorism and Political Violence, 2003, vol. 15, no. 1.

[4] L. Quinby, Anti–Apocalypse: Exercises in Genealogical Criticism, Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1994.

[5] E. Gentile, “Fascism, Totalitarianism and Political Religion: Definitions and Critical Reflections on Criticism of an Interpretation,” Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, special issue on Fascism as a Totalitarian Movement, 2004, vol. 5, no.3, pp. 351–56.


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.


Apocalypticism is a metaframe that involves the sense of expectation that dramatic events are about to unfold during which good will confront evil in a confrontation that will change the world forever and reveal hidden truths.[1] Apocalyptic movements believe that time is running out. The term millenarianism describes movements that are apocalyptic, with millennialism referring to such movements built around a theme involving a one thousand year span (or some other lengthy period).[2] Robert J. Lifton observes that “historically the apocalyptic imagination has usually been nonviolent in nature,” but they also can generate horrific violence.[3] An apocalyptic leader may take on the mantle of the messiah. In all political religions, leaders portray the sacred entity as threatened by malevolent forces. This creates dualism.

[1] N. Cohn, Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith, New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1970; N. Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, New York: Oxford Univ. Press,1993; P. Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap/Harvard Univ. Press, 1992; C.B. Strozier, Apocalypse: On the Psychology of Fundamentalism in America, Boston: Beacon Press, 1994; S.D. O’Leary, Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of Millennial Rhetoric, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994; R. Fuller, Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American Obsession, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1995; D. Thompson, The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium, Hanover, NH: Univ. Press of New England, 1998; E. Pagels, The Origin of Satan, New York: Vintage, 1996. I first heard apocalypticism described as a type of frame by sociologist of religion Brenda E. Brasher at a conference. We later developed the idea in B.E. Brasher and C. Berlet, “Imagining Satan: Modern Christian Right Print Culture as an Apocalyptic Master Frame,” paper presented at the Conference on Religion and the Culture of Print in America, Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America, Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison, September 10–11, 2004.

[2] Here I disagree with Gentile’s statement that apocalyptic political religions are not “millenarian.” I think they are millenarian, but not necessarily millennialist. See Gentile, “Fascism, Totalitarianism and Political Religion,” p. 356.

[3] R.J. Lifton, Superpower Syndrome: America’s Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World, New York: Thunder’s Mouth Books/Nation Books, 2003, p. 21; Catherine Wessinger (ed.), Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press, 2000.


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.


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.


This is the resource page for
the concept of conspiracism


Conspiracism is a narrative. In this context, a conspiracy theory is a narrative form of scapegoating. Conspiracist thinking exists around the world, and in some circumstances can move easily from the margins to the mainstream, as has happened repeatedly in the United States.

“Right-wing pundits demonize scapegoated groups and individuals in our society, implying that it is urgent to stop them from wrecking the nation.
Some angry people in the audience already believe conspiracy theories in which the same scapegoats are portrayed as subversive, destructive, or evil.
Add in aggressive apocalyptic ideas that suggest time is running out and quick action mandatory and you have a perfect storm of mobilized resentment threatening to rain bigotry and violence across the United States.”
Click here for the PDF of the Full Report

How Trump Taps into Right-Wing Conspiracism

by Anne Applebaum, New York Times

“Donald Trump’s campaign of conspiracy theories”


Even before Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, the Internet was seething with lurid conspiracy theories exposing his alleged subversion and treachery. Among the many false claims: Obama was a secret Muslim; he was not a native U.S. citizen and his election as president should be overturned; he was a tool of the New World Order in a plot to merge the government of the United States into a North American union with Mexico and Canada.

Within hours of Obama’s inauguration, claims circulated that Obama was not really president because Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts scrambled the words as he administered the oath of office. A few days after the inauguration came a warning that Obama planned to impose martial law and collect all guns.

Many of these false claims recall those floated by right-wing conspiracy theorists in the armed citizens’ militia movement during the Clinton administration — allegations that percolated up through the media and were utilized by Republican political operatives to hobble the legislative agenda of the Democratic Party. The conspiracy theory attacks on Clinton bogged down the entire government. Legislation became stuck in congressional committees, appointments to federal posts dwindled and positions remained unfilled, almost paralyzing some agencies and seriously hampering the federal courts.

A similar scenario is already hobbling the work of the Obama administration. The histrionics at congressional town hall meetings and conservative rallies is not simply craziness — it is part of an effective right-wing campaign based on scare tactics that have resonated throughout U.S. history among a white middle class fearful of alien ideas, people of color and immigrants.

Unable to block the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, the right-wing media demagogues, corporate political operatives, Christian right theocrats, and economic libertarians have targeted health care reform and succeeded in sidetracking the public option and single-payer proposals. A talented environmental adviser to the Obama administration, Van Jones, was hounded into resigning Sept. 5 by a McCarthyite campaign of red-baiting and hyperbole.

Support for major labor law reform has been eroding. With a wink and a nod, right-wing apparatchiks are networking with the apocalyptic Christian right and resurgent armed militias — a volatile mix of movements awash in conspiracy theories.

Scratch the surface and you find people peddling bogus conspiracy theories about liberal secular humanists, collectivist labor bosses, Muslim terrorists, Jewish cabals, homosexual child molesters and murderous abortionists. This right-wing campaign is about scapegoating bogus targets by using conspiracy theories to distract attention from insurance companies who are the real culprits behind escalating health care costs

Quick Clicks

Collectivism Phobia A selection of well-known books

Currency Conspiracism

Conspiracy Theory Generator

Money Manipulators (Coming soon)

Debunking the Federal Reserve Conspiracy Theories
(and other financial myths)
by Professor Edward Flaherty
last updated September 5, 2000)

Gerry Rough Collection

A History of Printed Money (really! a serious website)

Right-Left Coalition Building

Pressebüro Savanne: Right-Left – A Dangerous Flirt

Site Reviews
Web of Debt

Ellen Hodgson Brown, http://www.webofdebt.com/

“Our money system is not what we have been led to believe. The creation of money has been ‘privatized,’ or taken over by private money lenders.”

Brown is frequently cited on progressive websites as an authority on money and debt. Her claims on currency and the Federal Reserve are at their core revisions of the myths and conspiracy theories refuted  in the Flaherty Series.

It’s Our Economy

“It’s Our Economy is dedicated to changing the dynamic of the current economy designed for the wealthiest to an economy built on principles of equity, cooperation, and sustainability. An economy that puts people and the planet before profits would reduce the wealth divide while giving people more control over their economic lives. We believe that a more just, modern, and restorative economy would involve the people in economic decision-making in both their communities and the nation more broadly.”

This is an excellent website and highly recommended. It supports public banking and many other reforms. The review below of Popular Resistance is in no way a criticism of It’s Our Economy.

It’s Our Economy is a project of Popular Resistance.

Popular Resistance

Popular Resistance Report on “Fed-Up 100” demonstrations

Occupy Oakland posted reports from San Francisco: “San Francisco: Illuminate The Fed. A Mission Well Accomplished.”

“Occupy activist Jane Smith described their purpose: ‘The Federal Reserve is owned entirely by Wall Street banks, so our money is issued by a private institution.  Money should be created by the government as money, not interest bearing debt.’ ”

Jane Smith illuminated the crowd with a well-prepared and well-executed talk about what the Federal Reserve is (a private bank, owned by other, private, Wall Street banks) and what it does (controls the money supply to the benefits of its bankster owners). She was one of the original SF Occupiers in October of 2011, now of Occupy Bay Area United and Strike Debt Bay Area, and was one of the main organizers of the event.

From Washington, DC

“What’s going to happen when your pension is sucked up by these corporate cabals of bankers? What’s going to happen when your life savings is taken away?”

That’s what Barry Knight demanded to know as police hustled him off the steps of the headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank

United Front Against Austerity (UFAA), an organization backing today’s protests against the Federal Reserve, suggests nationalization of the Federal Reserve ….

The report from Philadelphia at the bottom of the post includes a video that begins with Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” apparently with no clue this would be offensive.

RT Russia Today

RT Carried a piece on the Fed Up demonstrations.

FED up? Hundred years of manipulating the US dollar

Adrian Salbuchi is an international political analyst, researcher and consultant. Author of several books on geopolitics in Spanish and English (including ‘The Coming World Government: Tragedy & Hope’), he is also a conference speaker in Argentina and radio/TV commentator. He writes op-ed pieces for RT Spanish as well as RT English, and is a regular guest on alternative media radio and TV shows in the US, Europe and Latin America.

According to Salbuchi:

In 1995, American investigator and author, G. Edward Griffin, published what is clearly the most authoritative book on the“FED” – as it is colloquially called in banking circles and by the mainstream media – “The Creature from Jekyll Island”.

Griffin’s book is one of the best known of conspiracy theory books about the Federal Reserve.

United Front Against Austerity (UFAA)

The page on recommended reading shows 3 out of 4 essays are by Webster Tarpley, the former LaRouchite and notorious antisemite who still spins conspiracist theories.  http://againstausterity.org/recommended

Tarpley spoke at the 2014 Left Forum:

“Webster Tarpley revisits his riveting lecture to the 2014 Left Forum. Essential, a must watch! Continued at tarpley.net – See more at: http://againstausterity.org/article/end-fukuyama-re-starting-history-after-quarter-century-unipolar-globalization

Basic Bibliography

J. Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism 1860–1925, New York: Atheneum, [1955] 1972; R. Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” in The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965, pp. 37–38; D.B. Davis (ed.), The Fear of Conspiracy: Images of Un–American Subversion from the Revolution to the Present, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1971; D.H. Bennett, The Party of Fear: The American Far Right from Nativism to the Militia Movement, revised and updated, New York: Vintage Books [1988] 1995; G. Johnson, Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics, Los Angeles: Tarcher/Houghton Mifflin, 1983, 17–30; F.P. Mintz, The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985; R.A. Goldberg, Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America, New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2001; M. Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2003).

Introduction to the Report:
Toxic to Democracy

Even before Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States the Internet was seething with lurid conspiracy theories exposing his alleged subversion and treachery.

Among the many false claims: Obama was a secret Muslim; he was not a proper citizen of the United States and his election as President should be overturned; he was a tool of the New World Order in a plot to merge the government of the United States into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada.[i] Within hours of Obama’s inauguration, the Internet circulated claims that Obama was not really President of the United States because the wording of the oath of office had been scrambled by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

A few days after the inauguration came a warning that Obama planned to impose martial law and collect all guns.[ii] The first clues of the impending tyranny would involve changes in traffic laws and signage. Many of these false claims recall those floated by right-wing conspiracy theorists in the armed citizens Militia Movement during the Clinton administration – allegations that percolated up through the media hierarchy and were utilized by Republican political operatives to hobble the legislative agenda of the Democratic Party.[iii]

The conspiracy theory attacks on Clinton damaged far more than the Democratic Party. The entire government became bogged down. Legislation became stuck in Congressional committees and appointments to federal posts dwindled and positions remained unfilled, almost paralyzing some federal agencies and seriously hampering the federal court system.[iv]

During the same period, the lurid (and false) claims of the Militia Movement suggesting Clinton had engineered the death of his associate Vince Foster or that he had engaged in a cover-up of drug-smuggling and child molestation created an atmosphere of suspicion and fueled a crisis of legitimacy for the entire government. [v]

While suspicion of government remains high, especially in the U.S. Political Right, it was the conspiracy theories that told of foreign troops massing along U.S. borders under the command of the United Nations that mobilized “patriots” across the country to join “Border Watch” organizations. To this day there are acts of intimidation and violence by paramilitary vigilantes along the southwestern border areas, and a growing xenophobia toward immigrants, especially people of color.[vi]

A similar scenario to Clinton’s could make the work of the Obama Administration more difficult. When Obama’s “web-savvy” aides saw “conspiracy theories building up on the internet,” they staged a repeat swearing in as “the fastest way to stop the speculation getting out of control.”[vii] If past is prologue, it is inevitable that some activists on the Political Left will become mesmerized by the startling and convoluted explanations of the plot.

The study begins by looking at the rise of conspiracy thinking in recent years, especially after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It traces the bigoted roots and dangerous dynamics of conspiracy theory as a form of political analysis in the United States. The study follows periods in United States history when conspiracy theories gained a mass public following. It demonstrates how the basic dynamics behind conspiracy theories remain the same even though the named scapegoated targets are interchangeable at different moments in our history as a nation.

It is easy to dismiss conspiracy theories as marginal phenomena with little importance. This study argues otherwise, and suggests that progressives need to be critical of conspiracy theories no matter where they come from on the political spectrum. Even the most sincere and well-intentioned conspiracy theorists contribute to dangerous social dynamics of demonization and scapegoating—dynamics which are toxic to democracy.

[i] On the North American Union, see Chip Berlet, “The North American Union: Right-wing Populist Conspiracism Rebounds,” The Public Eye Magazine (Spring 2008), http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v23n1/NA_Union.html (accessed January 15, 2009).

[ii] Conveyed by a researcher who received the warning at a coffee shop while on his way to work.

[iii] “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce,” memo prepared in 1995 by the White House counsel’s office, with attachments, obtained from the White House Press Office. First revealed by editorial writer Micah Morrison in Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1997. See criticism of the memo in “Who’s Shooting the Messenger Now?” Media Watch, March 1997.

[iv] Joe Conason and Gene Lyons. The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton (New York City: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), pp. 369-373.

[v] On the theory of delegitimization and social turmoil, see Jürgen Habermas, (1973). Legitimation Crisis. Translated by Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973).

[vi] Juan F. Perea, Immigrants Out! The New Nativism and the Anti-Immigrant Impulse in the United States (New York: New York University Press, 1997); Dale T. Knobel, “America for the Americans”: The Nativist Movement in the United States (New York: Twayne, 1996); Devin Burghart, “Do It Yourself Border Cops,” The Public Eye Magazine 19 no. 3 (Winter 2005); Roberto Lovato, “Far From Fringe: Minutemen Mobilizes Whites Left Behind by Globalization,” The Public Eye Magazine 19 no. 3 (Winter 2005).

[vii] Ewen MacAskill, “Obama retakes oath to quell conspiracy theories,” The Guardian (London), January 23, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/23/obama-presidential-oath (accessed January 23, 2009).