Producers v. Parasites

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

Click on graphic to enlarge…



Makers v. Takers


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:–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]

Undeserving Poor

Williams (1992, 1997) traces this since the 1960s to an organized right–wing campaign to portray those receiving certain government benefits as the “undeserving poor” with a clear subtext that these people were predominantly non-white.

Lo (1995) found similar subtexts in the tax revolt of the 1970s.

Hardisty (1999) writes about the cynical use of racialized caricatures of the “undeserving poor” as “mobilizing resentment” among the white middle class to build right–wing social movements.

The outcome has had devastating results for poor families and welfare recipients (Morgen, Acker, and Weigt 2010).

Hardisty, J. 1999. Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press.

Lo, C.Y.H. 1995. Small Property versus Big Government: Social Origins of the Property Tax Revolt, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Morgen, S., Acker, J., and Weigt, J.M. 2010. Stretched Thin: Poor Families, Welfare Work, and Welfare Reform. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Williams, L.A. 1992. The ideology of division: behavior modification welfare reform proposals. The Yale Law Journal (102)3, 719–46.

_____. 1997. Decades of Distortion: The Right’s 30–year Assault on Welfare. Somerville, MA: Political Research Associates. [Online]. Available at:–of–Distortion.html [accessed: 12 December 2012].

Mother Jones. 2012. Full transcript of the Mitt Romney secret video, Mother Jones (web only) [Online: 19 September] Available at:–transcript–mitt–romney–secret–video#47percent [accessed 10 November 2012].


Producers v. Parasites

The Undeserving Poor

Makers v. Takers (Romney)




What is Producerism?

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


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.


“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 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 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 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.

Terms & Concepts: Use with Caution

by Chip Berlet, 2001

Islamophobia & Arabophobia,
Clerical Fascism,
Theocratic Islamic Fundamentalism,
Apocalyptic Demonization


Since the attacks of 9/11, writers and commentators have had problems in finding accurate language to describe complicated and unfamiliar phenomena while remaining sensitive to issues of prejudice. Terms such as Islamist, radical Islamic fundamentalist, and clerical fascist entered public discussion. We hope this article will help sort out some of the confusing and problematic terminology that abounds.

Islamophobia & Arabophobia

For instance, scholars and foreign policy analysts have used the terms “Islamist” and “Islamicist” for years to refer to a specific form of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism. As these terms began to appear in popular discussions following 9/11 their use and meaning shifted. Some commentators began to use the terms in an overly broad manner to refer to all forms of Islamic fundamentalism or traditionalism, militant political activism by Muslims, or terrorism by Muslims.

You can see the language problem in terms of relative usage. If “Islamicism” is Muslim fanaticism, then is “Judaism” thus Jewish fanaticism? An “ism” is just a belief structure. In the context of rising anti-Muslim and anti-Arab attacks, the popular use of the terms “Islamist” and “Islamicist” can inadvertently fuel bigoted attitudes. A more acceptable term would be “Islamic supremacist.”

Some high profile conservative commentators such as Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes are using the terms while stepping over the line into anti-Muslim stereotyping. Both have a history of this type of Islamophobia. For some conservatives the problem is in how they frame the issue as a “clash of civilizations,” (a phrase drawn from Samuel P. Huntington); a tendency that promotes anti-Arab prejudice, called Arabophopia. Being an observant Muslim or even a “fundamentalist” Muslim who resents U.S. foreign policy actions in the Middle East and South Asia does not mean that one automatically supports theocracy, violence, or terrorism. At the same time–and sadly predictable–antisemitic conspiracy theories also have zapped across the Internet.



Terrorism is accurately defined as using force or the threat of force against civilians to advance a political objective. Using this definition, terrorism can be carried out by individuals, groups, or states. It can be a methodology used by the weak against the powerful, or the powerful against the weak. These complexities have been largely erased in media representations of the al Qaeda network. Terrorism is not militant non-violent civil disobedience, despite what is suggested in recent FBI reports about anti-globalization and environmentalist groups. And forces seeking the erosion of civil liberties are fanning fears of terrorism to soften their blow.



There is much confusion and disagreement surrounding the use of the term fundamentalism, to the point of even questioning its use to describe movements outside of Christianity. The original use of the term fundamentalism referred to a populist protest movement that arose in the early 20th century. It was a reaction against mainline Protestant denominations in the United States such as the Presbyterians and Baptists, and to a lesser extent Methodists, Episcopalians, and others. Leaders of these major denominations were accused of selling out the Protestant faith by forging a compromise with the ideas of the Enlightenment and modernism. In the early 1900s conservative critics of this leadership developed voluminous lists of what they considered the fundamental beliefs required for people to consider themselves Christian-thus the term fundamentalism. Anthony F.C. Wallace says similar revitalization movements exist across many spiritual and religious traditions.1 But not all revitalization movements even within Christianity are fundamentalist.

The term fundamentalism is now used to describe similar but not identical religious revitalization movements in other religious traditions, including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Fundamentalism is often confused with orthodoxy and traditionalism. Fundamentalists claim to be restoring the “true” religion by returning to “traditional” beliefs and enforcing orthodox beliefs-the set of theological doctrines approved of as sound and correct by a faith’s religious leaders. In fact, while fundamentalist movements claim to be restoring tradition and orthodoxy, they actually create a new version of an existing religion based on a mythic and romanticized past. This thesis was a central argument in Karen Armstrong’s The Battle for God, a comparative study of fundamentalism in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.2

So, while fundamentalism is a reaction against the Enlightenment and modernity, it is ironically a distinctly modern phenomenon. Jamal Malik, who studies Muslim identity, explains that with Islamic fundamentalism “Islamic tradition is modernized, since the imagined Islamic society is to compete and correspond with Western achievements. This would only be possible in a centralized Islamic state over which they would wield control as the agents of God’s sovereignty on earth. . . .”3

This explanation of Islamic fundamentalism describes a form of theocracy-a system where the only appropriate political leaders are persons who see themselves as devoted to carrying out the will of God as interpreted by a common religion. Some scholars, however, argue that not all forms of fundamentalism are necessarily theocratic, at least in practice. In the most extreme case, however, theocratic Islamic fundamentalism could potentially be a form of neofascism.



Even in progressive publications, the terms theocratic fascism or clerical fascism were used not only to describe the Taliban and the al Qaeda networks, but also the government of Saudi Arabia and even all militant fundamentalist Muslims. This is an overly broad usage.

Fascism is an especially virulent form of extreme right populism. Fascism glorifies national, racial, or cultural unity and collective rebirth while seeking to purge imagined enemies. It attacks both revolutionary movements and liberal pluralism in favor of militarized, totalitarian mass politics. Fascism first crystallized in Europe in response to the Bolshevik Revolution and the devastation of World War I, and then spread to other parts of the world. Between the two world wars, there were three forms of fascism: Italian economic corporatism; German racial nationalist Nazism; and clerical fascist movements such as the Romanian Iron Guard and the Croatian Ustashi. Since WWII, neofascists have reinterpreted fascist ideology and strategy in various ways to fit new circumstances.

Roger Griffin, an influential scholar of generic fascism, argues that “fascism is best defined as a revolutionary form of nationalism, one that sets out to be a political, social and ethical revolution, welding the `people’ into a dynamic national community under new elites infused with heroic values. The core myth that inspires this project is that only a populist, trans-class movement of purifying, cathartic national rebirth (palingenesis) can stem the tide of decadence.”4

There are other common components of fascism, including an exclusionary form of ethnonationalism that narrowly defines who the real “people” or Volk are; the idea of the primary importance of the homogenous whole (Integralism); and the diminution of the importance of the individual in a society ruled by leaders who metaphysically represent the will of the people (Organicism). These factors create a drive for totalitarian control in fascist movements and states. Totalitarian movements and governments insist on intruding into and controlling every aspect of a person’s life-public or private-political, social, or cultural. Totalitarianism is a term that still has analytical value despite its frequent misuse to bash the Left. Most notorious was Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, 1981-1985, who promulgated a theory that communist governments were totalitarian and could never be reformed, but brutal right-wing dictatorships were merely authoritarian and thus could be reformed through alliances with the United States. While this misrepresented the work of Hannah Arendt in her definitive book The Origins of Totalitarianism, it also suffered from a certain lack of historical accuracy when communism collapsed in Europe.5


Clerical Fascism

Clerical fascism is the least studied form of fascism. We can see examples of clerical fascism in the contemporary United States. Aryan Nations is a U.S. fascist movement built around the theology of Christian Identity, Aryan Nations-plural-wants to establish many racially-pure “Aryan” nations around the world. It is nationalist in desire and yet internationalist in scope. Some of its followers have engaged in violence and terrorism. Karen Armstrong refers to Christian Identity as fascist, and sees a potential for fascism in Christian Reconstructionism. As Armstrong observes, the system of dominion envisaged by Christian Reconstructionist theologians R. J. Rushdoony and Gary North “is totalitarian. There is no room for any other view or policy, no democratic tolerance for rival parties, no individual freedom.”6

The Protestant reformation did not start out by spreading an Enlightenment critique including the idea of liberty. One early form resulted in theocratic Calvinism and the uptight Puritans. The effort to find a compromise with the Enlightenment and modernity came later and generated the U.S. Christian fundamentalist movement. The Christian Right Reconstructionist movement and Extreme Right Christian Identity movement are attempts to reform a Protestantism that already was the result of a previous process of reformation of Catholicism started by Martin Luther. This repeated process is common. Something similar is happening within Islam.


Theocratic Islamic Fundamentalism

In Islam there was a series of reformations in the 1700s, similar to Martin Luther’s reformation of Catholicism into Protestantism, but the decentralized nature of Islam was an issue, and there were several separate reform movements. One was led by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-92), that became the Wahhabi movement-the theology behind the Saudi government. Think of the Wahhabist Saudi government as similar to the theocratic government created by John Calvin in Geneva. Both are based on the idea of the sovereignty of God administered by righteous men.

Now there is a second reformation going on within Islam that is more global-theocratic Islamic fundamentalism. It has its roots in the theological/political theories of Abul Ala Mawdudi (1903-79) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-66) and the emergence of a theological outlook called Salafism that is complimentary to Wahhabism. As Khaled Abou El Fadl explains:

“Wahhabi thought exercised its greatest influence not under its own label, but under the rubric of Salafism. In their literature, Wahhabi clerics have consistently described themselves as Salafis, and not Wahhabis….””Salafism is a creed founded in the late nineteenth century by Muslim reformers such as Muhammad ‘Abduh, al-Afghani and Rashid Rida. Salafism appealed to a very basic concept in Islam: Muslims ought to follow the precedent of the Prophet and his companions (al-salaf al-salih). Methodologically, Salafism was nearly identical to Wahhabism except that Wahhabism is far less tolerant of diversity and differences of opinion. The founders of Salafism maintained that on all issues Muslims ought to return to the Qur’an and the sunna (precedent) of the Prophet. In doing so, Muslims ought to reinterpret the original sources in light of modern needs and demands, without being slavishly bound to the interpretations of earlier Muslim generations.”

Islam and the Theology of Power
Khaled Abou El Fadl
special section, “Islam: Images, Politics, Paradox. Middle East Report, 221, (Winter 2001).

[For a serious study of the theology of Osama bin Laden, see: “The ‘Religion’ of Usamah bin Ladin: Terror As the Hand of God.” Jean E. Rosenfeld, Ph.D., UCLA Center for the Study of Religion; Islam and the Theology of Power, Khaled Abou El Fadl, Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Fellow in Islamic Law at the UCLA School of Law; Bin Laden and Revolutionary Millennialism, Catherine Wessinger, Professor of Religious Studies, Loyola University New Orleans, editor of Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases (2000) and author of How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate (2000).]The result is a form of Islamic fundamentalism that is very repressive. Mawdudi argued that his ideal Islamic State “would be totalitarian, because it subjected everything to the rule of God. . .” notes Armstrong.7 In the most extreme case, this type of social totalitarianism based on theology has been called a new form of clerical fascism-similar to WWII European clerical fascist movements such as the Romanian Iron Guard and the Croatian Ustashi. This is a disputed view.

Although the concept of clerical fascism is used widely in analyzing certain forms of fascism, is it fair to apply it to certain forms of theocratic Islamic fundamentalism? Armstrong mentions there are some similarities worth noting.8 Walter Laqueur discusses its usefulness as a concept at length in Fascism: Past, Present, Future.9

A number of academics, however, disagree with the use of the term fascism in this context. Roger Griffin believes it stretches the term fascist too far to apply the term `fascism’ to “so-called fundamentalist or terroristic forms of traditional religion (i.e. scripture or sacred text based with a strong sense of orthodoxy or orthodoxies rooted in traditional institutions and teachings).” He does, however, concede that the United States has seen the emergence of hybrids of political religion and fascism in such phenomena as the Nation of Islam and Christian Identity, and that bin Laden’s al Qaeda network may represent such a hybrid. He is unhappy with the term `clerical fascism,’ though, since he says that “in this case we are rather dealing with a variety of `fascistized clericalism.'”10

In any case, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda networks are revolutionary right-wing populists seeking to overthrow existing Muslim states. They not only want to rid all Muslim nations of the evils of secularism, humanism, and Western influence, but also seek to restore a “true” Islamic theocracy based on a militant fundamentalist version of Wahhabism.

Saudi Arabia is an example of a repressive and reactionary orthodox Islamic theocracy, but it is not technically fascist. The point is not to be an apologist for the Saudi regime, but to suggest that theocratic Islamic fundamentalist totalitarianism would be worse than the already repressive Saudi oligarchy.

At Political Research Associates we feel the term clerical fascism can be defended for use in public discussions and when applied specifically to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda networks. However some caution is required. The term fascism is often overused, and currently some use it in a propagandistic way. Therefore we feel progressives should only use the term clerical fascism where: it is not a justification for excessive and aggressive militarism; does not demonize or scapegoat Arabs and Muslims; and is differentiated from inaccurate and sweeping misuse.


Apocalyptic Demonization

The attacks on 9/11 generated nightmarish apocalyptic images. But the themes of apocalyptic demonization and conspiracist scapegoating go deeper than the horrific images. According to Gershom Gorenberg, fundamentalist groups within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all have apocalyptic stories about heroic battles with evil before some expected messianic event-all of which involve the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.11

Apocalypticism is the belief in an approaching confrontation, cataclysmic event, or transformation of epochal proportions, about which a select few have forewarning so they can make appropriate preparations. One version of apocalyptic beliefs involves the idea of a final showdown struggle between absolute good and absolute evil. Apocalypticism can fuel a sense that time is running out, resulting in violent confrontations or acts of terrorism. People or groups that are demonized in apocalyptic visions are easy to scapegoat.

Demonization is portraying a person or group as totally malevolent, sinful, or evil-perhaps even in league with Satan.

Demonization involves marginalization (using propaganda and prejudice to set people outside the circle of wholesome mainstream society) and dehumanization (negatively labeling the targeted persons so they become perceived more as objects than as real people).

Scapegoating is blaming a person or group wrongfully for some problem. Scapegoating deflects people’s anger and grievances away from the real causes of a social problem onto a target group demonized as malevolent wrongdoers. The problems being reacted to may be real or imaginary, the grievances legitimate or illegitimate, and members of the targeted group may be wholly innocent or partly culpable. In all these cases the scapegoats are stereotyped as all sharing the same negative trait or are singled out for blame in an unfair and hyperbolic manner.

Conspiracism is a narrative form of scapegoating that portrays the enemy as part of a vast insidious plot against the common good. Conspiracism assigns tiny cabals of evildoers a superhuman power to control events, frames social conflict as part of a transcendent struggle between Good and Evil, (called dualism or Manichaeism) and makes leaps of logic, such as guilt by association, in analyzing evidence. Conspiracism sees secret plots by tiny cabals of evildoers as the major motor powering important historical events. Armstrong argues that with “most extreme types of fundamentalists, members see conspiracy everywhere and cultivate a theology of rage and resentment.”12

In most struggles over power and privilege, the processes of demonization, scapegoating, conspiracism, and the use of an apocalyptic style are present in some form in all the individuals, groups, or governments involved. Philosopher René Girard calls this mimetic scapegoating.13 We need to examine our complicity in these processes both as individuals and as a nation.

This article was originally posted on the Internet on 10/19/01. This is a slightly revised and updated version.
The author wishes to thank Douglas Kellner, Robert Antonio, Jean E. Rosenfeld, and Roger Griffin for conversations that helped clarify some of these issues.

Chip Berlet, “Terms & Concepts: Use with Caution.” 10/19/01

Revised in 2003. as “Terminology: Use with Caution.” In Roger Griffin and Matthew Feldman, eds., Fascism, Vol. 5, Critical Concepts in Political Science. New York, NY: Routledge.


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Trump, Fascism, and Totalitarianism

The outlandish rhetoric of Republican presidential wildcard Donald Trump has left many journalists at a loss for words—words such as bigotry, xenophobia, racism, sexism and demagoguery.

Some media outlets raised these issues. Yet many reporters (or perhaps their editors) still seem reluctant to move past the aphasic and simplistic sports-reporting model, in which ideological content analysis is renounced.

An example of a typical article is the piece on Trump’s stump speech by Michael Finnegan and Kurtis Lee in the Los Angeles Times (9/15/15). It is well-written, colorful and even includes the obligatory single sentence from an anti-Trump protester.

Yet there is little serious political or historic context.

One line does note that Trump borrowed from “Richard Nixon’s polarizing pledge to stand up for the ‘silent majority’ amid the social upheaval of the 1960s.” Nixon’s speech, however, concerned support for the Vietnam War. A more apt comparison would have been Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” to garner votes from white voters (The Nation, 11/13/12).

Journalists and scholars familiar with the rise of contemporary right-wing populist political parties and social movements in Europe, however, recognize that xenophobic, anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric can lead to acts of violence.

For several years, I have had editors tell me that the contention that right-wing rhetoric can lead to violence is a liberal myth. Right-wing media pundits certainly reject this claim. Yet this is a well-studied chain of events, analyzed by scholars since the rise of fascism in Europe following World War I and the Nazi genocide during World War II. So I wrote a survey of the scholarship as a book chapter titled “Heroes Know Which Villains to Kill: How Coded Rhetoric Incites Scripted Violence.” In it, I summarized the consensus:

The leaders of organized political or social movements sometimes tell their followers that a specific group of “Others” is plotting to destroy civilized society. History tells us that if this message is repeated vividly enough, loudly enough, often enough, and long enough—it is only a matter of time before the bodies from the named scapegoated groups start to turn up.

Freedom of speech is not the issue. A free and open debate is a necessity for democracy. Trump therefore is not legally culpable for any acts of violence against his named scapegoats. Trump should be held accountable on a moral basis by the media for his using the tools of fear, such as demonization and scapegoating, that put real people at risk for attacks.

The progressive press has done a better job of pointing out this ugly potential. Writing for The Nation (9/14/15), Julianne Hing argued, “It’s clear that the xenophobia at the core of Trump’s campaign is resonating, and his antics are already echoing beyond the campaign trail into both culture and policy.” Hing quotes Mario Carrillo of the immigrant rights group United We Dream as saying Trump’s “rhetoric is leading to real-life consequences.”

Many instances of physical attacks are chronicled in Hing’s article, although motivation is usually unclear. One pair of attackers did tell police they were directly influenced by Trump’s rhetoric, according to the Associated Press (9/3/15). Trump said he does not condone violence. Nonetheless, immigrant rights activists worry violence will increase.

Adele Stan in the American Prospect (9/9/15) put it boldly:

What Trump is doing, via the media circus of which he has appointed himself ringmaster, is making the articulation of the basest bigotry acceptable in mainstream outlets, amplifying the many oppressive tropes and stereotypes of race and gender that already exist in more than adequate abundance.

The headline for Evan Horowitz’s piece in the Boston Globe (8/19/15) claims “Donald Trump Blazes a European Path in American Politics,” and Horowitz asks, “Does Donald Trump represent the emergence of a new force in American politics, a right-populist movement that could reorganize the American” political spectrum? Missing is the fact that, from President Andrew Jackson in the early 1800s through George Wallace in the 1970s to Pat Buchanan, there have been right-wing populist movements in the United States. It is not a European import.

Part of this confusion over Trump is definitional: Scholars write entire books trying to map out the contours of right-wing political and social movements, especially the line dividing right-wing populism and neofascism. The pre-eminent scholar in this area, University of Georgia’s Cas Mudde, explained in the Washington Post (8/26/15):

The key features of the populist radical right ideology – nativism, authoritarianism, and populism – are not unrelated to mainstream ideologies and mass attitudes. In fact, they are best seen as a radicalization of mainstream values.

For many scholars, right-wing populism is classified as part of the “radical right,” while the term “extreme right” is reserved for insurgent groups seeking to overturn the constitutional order.

In his book Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, Mudde lists as common “extreme right” features nationalism, racism, xenophobia, anti-democracy and the strong state, including a law-and-order approach.

In his Ideology of the Extreme Right, Mudde wrote:

The terms neo-Nazism and to a lesser extent neo-fascism are now used exclusively for parties and groups that explicitly state a desire to restore the Third Reich (in the case of neo-fascism the Italian Social Republic) or quote historical National Socialism (fascism) as their ideological influence.

That’s not Trump. His ideology and rhetoric are much more comparable to the European populist radical right, akin to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front, the Danish People’s Party or Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. All of them use the common radical right rhetoric of nativism, authoritarianism and populism.

Matthew N. Lyons, with whom I co-authored Right-Wing Populim in America, argues that there are several newer strains of neofascism that do not harken back to Italian Fascism or German Nazism, but Lyons still agrees that Trump is not a full-fledged neofascist as he explains in an essay: “On Trump, Fascism, and Stale Social Science.”

There are a number of published articles linking Trump to Fascism.

Thom Hartmann’s essay, “The Sad Truth of Our Politics,” was published on Alternet and reposted on Salon. In it Hartmann repeats his use of the hoax Mussolini quote, and the usually erudite Hartmann then follows with some flawed analysis that skips the last 20 years of scholarly work on fascism.

The Hartmann piece was reposted on Salon as “It can still happen here: Donald Trump, Ben Carson and the ‘American fascists’ among us; Sinclair Lewis feared demagoguery and a corporate ruling class. The right is bringing his dystopia to fruition.” Hartmann has been using outdated research on fascism since 2004, when he used the hoax Mussolini quote in a lengthy article. Hartmann returned to the subject again in 2009, still using outdated research but not mentioning Mussolini. .

“Donald Trump Is an Actual Fascist” trumpets the headline in Salon (7/25/15) for Conor Lynch’s article on Trump. Ignoring the current rise of xenophobic neo-fascist groups in Europe, Lynch tells us that “fascism died in the mid-20th century.”

Undermining Salon’s headline, Lynch tells us 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 views on fascism.

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.”

The full quote from the Arendt website makes it clear that she did not consider totalitarianism to be an aspect of a defective democracy, but a new form of government tyranny:

In the concluding chapter to The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt argues that totalitarianism must be understood as a new “form of government” in its own right, rather than as a transitory or haphazard series of external catastrophes afflicting classical forms like democracy or monarchy.

Essentially different from the extralegal form of tyranny as well, totalitarianism’s emergence marks a terrifying new horizon for human political experience, one that will surely survive the passing of Hitler and Stalin.

Arendt’s point is that the totalitarian form is still with us because the all too protean origins of totalitarianism are still with us: loneliness as the normal register of social life, the frenzied lawfulness of ideological certitude, mass poverty and mass homelessness, the routine use of terror as a political instrument, and the ever growing speeds and scales of media, economics, and warfare.

"Yellow Terror in All Its Glory" (Wikimedia)

Hitler and Stalin were the analytical icons for Hannah Arendt in her masterwork The Origins of Totalitarianism. 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.

Trump is not an example of creeping totalitarianism; he is the white man growing hoarse with bigoted canards while riding at the forefront of a new nativist movement. Adele Stan bluntly suggests that to “ask if the rogue Republican’s surge is good for Democrats is the wrong question.” Instead, we need to ask what is wrong with America, “that this racist, misogynist, money-cheating clown should be the frontrunner for the presidential nomination of one of its two major parties?”

Trump feeds the resentment felt by many people who are white, male, straight or Christian who feel displaced by “Others” taking over “their” nation. These people see themselves as the real producers of value in the United States, and consider the disparaged “Others” to be parasites. Thus the 2012 campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was built around the clandestine theme of mobilizing the “makers” against the “takers,” as reported by Eric Schulzke in the Deseret News (9/19/12). This is called “producerism” by scholars, and it is a central element of right-wing populism in the United States.

What fuels this sort of bitter backlash movement now? The late scholar Jean Hardisty of Political Research Associates argued in 1995 that a confluence of several historic factors has assisted the success of the right in the United States:

  • a conservative religious revitalization,
  • economic contraction and restructuring,
  • race resentment and bigotry,
  • backlash and social stress, and
  • a well-funded network of right-wing organizations.

“Each of these conditions has existed at previous times in US history,” wrote Hardisty:

While they usually overlap to some extent, they also can be seen as distinct, identifiable phenomenon. The lightning speed of the right’s rise can be explained by the simultaneous existence of all five factors. Further, in this period they not only overlap, but reinforce each other. This mutual reinforcement accounts for the exceptional force of the current rightward swing.

Scholars Michael Omi and Howard Winant, in Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s, suggest that this set of circumstances makes many Americans fear the end of the “American Dream.” This backlash is picking up speed. The Republican voter base in the Tea Party long ago shifted its attention away from fiscal restraint toward anti-immigrant xenophobia, banning abortion and pushing gay people back into the closet.

Many scholars of fascism and neofascism now suggest right-wing populism can metamorphosize into these fascistic totalitarian forms, but they recognize that it seldom does–and that fascist movements seldom gain state power. Yet the demonization and scapegoating that accompanies right-wing populism in the United States is breeding a counter-subversion panic targeting immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, feminists, gay people, liberals and leftists. Planned Parenthood has become a special target to appeal to the Christian Right.

While racism is not confined to the American South, a recent study by sociologists Rory McVeigh and David Cunningham, described on Brandeis Now (12/4/14), found that a significant predictor of current Republican voting patterns in the South is the prior existence of a strong chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the area in the 1960s. McVeigh writes on the London School of Economics website (12/17/14) that although “populist politics appealed to many Southern voters in earlier times, the Southern Democratic Party was also a key instrument in the defense of white privilege and racial oppression.”

The passage of federal Civil Rights Act in 1964 propelled many Democratic Party “Dixiecrats” into the Republican Party, where they now appear at campaign rallies in freebie “gimme hats” touting Monsanto, Koch brothers fertilizers and Coors beer. They choose racial privilege over economic security. That’s What’s the Matter With Kansas. Now this mass base cheers Trump on while he is Mobilizing Resentment–the title of Hardisty’s 1999 book about the rise of right-wing politics in the US.

McVeigh argues that it is shifts in power dynamics and hierarchies in economic, political and social spheres that launch the processes in which radical right-wing groups attract members, and sometimes a mass base large enough to intrude into the larger society.

Using as his analytical example the Klan in the 1920s, McVeigh demonstrates that the right-wing KKK in the 1920s was composed of white people attempting to defend their relatively more privileged position in the social, political and economic life of their communities (E-Extreme, 2-3/10).

According to McVeigh, in his book The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan: Right-Wing Movements and National Politics, “the Klan can best be understood as a response to devaluation in the economic, political and status-based ‘purchasing power’ of the movement’s constituents.” McVeigh adds that “right-wing movements often provide individuals with an effective vehicle for preserving status-based interests as well as political and economic interests.”

During the 1920s, millions of Americans joined the Klan, turning it into a major electoral force in several states with an important role in national politics. The tropes of racial threats posed by people of color as rapists and murderers were glued to the American psyche even before decades of stories planted by Klan organizers in their stump speeches for membership, notes Gerald Horne of the University of Houston, whom I interviewed for the Washington Spectator (8/1/15) after Dylann Roof allegedly murdered nine black people in a historic Charleston, South Carolina, church. Roof told a participant in a Bible study: “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country…and you have to go.”

In covering the Charleston story, the New York Times (6/22/15) invented a cowardly phrase, “white primacy,” to describe the blatantly white supremacist group, the Council of Conservative Citizens, where Dylann Roof apparently learned this storyline.

On the day of the Republican candidates debate, the New York Times (9/16/15) burnished Trump’s rising star, declaring that Trump was starting to:

conform to some of the demands of a presidential race, making him, in some ways, more of a typical politician. It suggests that, as much as the Republican electorate is becoming more comfortable with the idea of Mr. Trump as its standard-bearer, he is embracing the rituals and expectations of the role, too.

The Trump candidacy and the shooting in Charleston are connected thematically by a mobilization to defend white nationalism while the racial and ethnic face of America changes hue. The populist right and the extreme right fuel each other. This backlash is picking up speed. The Republican voter base in the Tea Party long ago shifted its attention away from fiscal restraint toward anti-immigrant xenophobia, banning abortion and pushing gay people back into the closet.

The more we as a nation ignore this process of nativist demonization, the more targets will be painted on the backs of our neighbors. History will record how long these right-wing backlash movements will spread their virulent rhetorical venom in our nation. But as Arendt observed, history judges us as individuals as to whether or not we stood up and spoke out against the banality of evil.

The Trump Collection Landing Pages:
>>>The Trumping Democracy page for in-depth analysis of Trump’s use of right-wing populism
>>>Trumped Up: A collection of articles on Trump in reverse chronological order starting from July 2016
>>>Trumpism: Resources on Trump’s Voter Base


Mussolini: the Fake Quote

Mussolini on the Corporate State:
Debunking a Hoax Quote

by Chip Berlet

Fake quote–> “Fascism should more properly
be called corporatism because it is the merger of state
and corporate power.”

— Benito Mussolini <–Not True

A Google™ search on January 12, 2005 turned up some 5,000 hits
on the following “quote”

In 2015 there were over 10,000 hits,
but some of them now note
it is a fabricated quote


He Never Wrote It!

When Mussolini wrote about corporatism, he was not writing about modern commercial corporations.
He was writing about a form of vertical syndicalist corporatism based on early guilds.


This specific article on Wikipedia on Corporatism
explains this rather well.

Most scholars of fascism dismiss not only the fake Mussolini quote, but other dubious sources of information that claim that “late stage” or other forms of advanced capitalism or “neoliberalism” are all undifferentiated forms of naked fascism:

The book “Friendly Fascism” is a popular argument in this regard.

Gross, Bertram Myron. Friendly fascism. New York: M. Evans, 1980.
Alas, while well-intentioned, the book is highly misleading, especially in the erroneous conflation of the Italian word “corporatism” with contemporary business corporations. This specific article on Wikipedia on Definitions of Fascism explains this all rather well.
Georgi Dimitrov’s definition of fascism at the
Seventh World Congress of the Communist International
is often abbreviated to this snippet:

“Fascism is the open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”

This is a seriously misleading misquote
and inadequate summary what Dimitrov actually wrote:

Click here for the details.

…And even Dimitrov began his speech by crediting an earlier study–yet failed to mention that it was written by Clara Zetkin in 1923.

The Fake Mussolini Quote

The fake quote is generally attributed to an article written by Mussolini in the 1932 Enciclopedia Italiana with the assistance of Giovanni Gentile, the editor. The quote, however, does not appear in the Enciclopedia Italiana in the original Italian.

It does not appear in the official English translation of that article: Benito Mussolini, 1935, “The Doctrine of Fascism,” Firenze: Vallecchi Editore.

And it does not appear in the longer treatment of the subject by Mussolini in: Benito Mussolini, 1935, “Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions,” Rome: ‘Ardita’ Publishers.

Where the quote comes from remains a mystery, and while it is possible Mussolini said it someplace at some time, a number of researchers have been unable to find it after years of research.

It is unlikely that Mussolini ever made this statement because it contradicts most of the other writing he did on the subject of corporatism and corporations. When Mussolini wrote about corporatism, he was not writing about modern commercial corporations. He was writing about a form of vertical syndicalist corporatism based on early guilds. The article on Wikipedia on Corporatism explains this rather well.

Here are some typical Mussolini quotes from original documents:

The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State–a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values–interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people. (p. 14)

Fascism recognises the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade-unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which diverent interests are coordinated and harmonised in the unity of the State. (p.15)

Yet if anyone cares to read over the now crumbling minutes giving an account of the meetings at which the Italian Fasci di Combattimento were founded, he will find not a doctrine but a series of pointers… (p. 23)

“It may be objected that this program implies a return to the guilds (corporazioni). No matter!… I therefore hope this assembly will accept the economic claims advanced by national syndicalism.” (p. 24)

Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and economic sphere. (p. 32)

The Fascist State lays claim to rule in the economic field no less than in others; it makes its action felt throughout the length and breadth of the country by means of its corporate, social, and educational institutions, and all the political, economic, and spiritual forces of the nation, organised in their respective associations, circulate within the State. (p. 41).

Benito Mussolini, 1935, The Doctrine of Fascism, Firenze: Vallecchi Editore.

The Labour Charter (Promulgated by the Grand Council ofr Fascism on April 21, 1927)—(published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale, April 3, 1927) [sic] (p. 133)

The Corporate State and its Organization (p. 133)

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and usefu [sic] [typo-should be: useful] instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.

State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management. (pp. 135-136)

Benito Mussolini, 1935, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, Rome: ‘Ardita’ Publishers.


Note to Chris Hedges:
please stop using this fake quote


Fascism & Neofascism

Selected Resources