Some may think fascism is too extreme a word to describe our current government. But what is fascism and where are we today? Most people are followers and want something to believe in. We are prone to believe in our government, even when there is something obviously wrong. And who could support fascism? But are we really living in a fascist country?
by Hari Heath
Fascism became a mass movement between World Wars One and Two. Primarily a European movement, it also had some influence in Japan, Argentina and Brazil. The common theme was an emphasis on a nation-state or race as the central regulator of the people's life and the undisputable authority of a leader, behind whom the people were expected to unite. Most fascist movements originated from socialist philosophies.
The Italian word fascio is derived from the Latin fasces, a bundle of rods with an axe in it. It symbolized the power of the many united and obeying one will; the authority of a state which provides all law, order and national life.
Fascism is directly opposed to our original American philosophy and its emphasis on individual liberty, unalienable rights and the equality of all members of a society. Fascism extols the supreme sovereignty of the nation and the people's submission to the mandates of the state. The Italian fascists' slogan was “to believe, to obey, to combat.”
Fascism is a political method of gaining and retaining power by violence and the suppression of all opposition. It exalts an attitude that promotes the fighting spirit, military discipline, ruthlessness, the prevalence of the strong over the weak and the immediate, blind obedience to the dictates of an authoritative leader.
Fascism and the Fasci
The word fascism was first used by Benito Mussolini in 1919. But its origins reach to the Fasci Siciliani of several decades earlier. The Fasci Siciliani were primitive trade unions of Sicilian workers and peasants in the early 1890's who worked for better labor contracts and to protect villager's lands. The Fasci were founded on socialist ideologies, but their lure was mostly practical. They obtained the allegiance of the people by challenging the low wages of the working class and the dominance of agriculture by large estates.
The upper classes in Sicily felt their monopoly of power was threatened by the strikes organized by the Fasci. In 1893, some peasants in Caltavuturo were killed when they occupied land they claimed was theirs. Retaliating, some public buildings were attacked and burned by the Fasci. The upper class and the police responded with more force to suppress the fasci movement.
In 1894 martial law was declared and Prime Minister Francesco Crispi sent troops to Sicily who arrested many of the Fasci leaders. Crispi used the public's fear of social revolution to strike at all “subversive” organizations.
Ironically, the Fasci, whose name became the root word for fascism, were the people who opposed Prime Minister Crispi and the ruling elite that behaved as fascists.
Two pillars of fascism
Mussolini brought fascism to Italy with a sweeping, violent revolution. He reigned for twenty years, imposing his brand of socialism with his “black shirts.” He invaded Abyssinia and Albania to expand the Italian empire, but he was unable to develop a military force that could compete in the early World War II era. His regime was more chaotic than his German counterparts. Without a clear focus on his goals and a regime capable of employing them, he floundered.
Hitler was another matter. Well organized, the Nazi party destroyed their enemies and rose to power. With a totalitarian police state, Hitler became the embodiment of fascism. Enforced by his security police, the SS, all educational, artistic and media institutions came under his regime's control. The Hitler Youth Movement indoctrinated the young. The Nazis sponsored a German Christian Movement and suppressed other churches. The Jews fared much worse. They lost their civil rights and much of their property was confiscated. First they were sent to ghettos and then to the camps.
Hitler's era was the pinnacle of classic fascism. He was the standard of that dark achievement. The brutality of his regime is forever etched in history.
The essential nature of what has become known as fascism has been around since the early civilizations. Human political structures usually revolve around some form of charismatic leader and a governing force which compels allegiance from the population, usually with force. Individual liberty and self-government are very new concepts in the timeline of human history. Fascism, as a word, is less than a century old, but the concept is timeless.
It appears to be human nature for certain members of humanity to engage in the creation of fascist regimes. Like other organized crimes, the benefits of fascism can be enormous for its perpetrators. And it also appears to be part of human nature to tolerate, even revere fascists. French political philosopher Frederic Bastiat summed it up best: “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it”.
Black's Law Dictionary, 4th Edition describes a fascist as: “A totalitarian; a believer in the corporate state; one opposed to the exercise of democratic methods or of civil liberties; high handed; embodying principles of syndicalism.” The American Heritage Dictionary describes fascism as: “A philosophy or system of government that advocates or exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of belligerent nationalism.” A more modern politically correct definition is: “...any nationalist and authoritarian movement...any system of extreme right-wing or authoritarian views.”
Fascists and communists
Some fascists, like Mussolini, were anti-communist. This may appear to be the case when gleaned from their political rhetoric, but objective observation gives a different picture. Nearly all, if not all, communistic regimes are founded on the fascist tactics of violent revolution; suppression of opposition; rule by an iron hand and central control by the state. Communism is often founded by a charismatic leader.
Fascists similarly use communistic methods to implement and maintain their regimes. The operation of a nation-state which exercises complete control over the lives of the citizen; compelled submission of the citizen to the state; and a dominant single political party are trademarks of fascists and communists alike.
Communism and socialism
Communism and socialism is best measured with a thermometer. They differ only by degrees. Communists are blatant about their methods of domination and control. A single party regime has complete control over all property and the lives of its people. Individual liberty is a foreign concept to communism. The infrastructures of daily life are under the control of the state.
Socialism achieves the same goal but lets you think you are in charge and have control of “your” property. The principle behind the First Plank of the Communist Manifesto is the abolition of all private property and its conversion to a system of rents to fund government purposes.
You may be led to believe you can own property in the socialistic U.S., but who will own your property if you stop paying property taxes -- that “rent” on “your” property? Ultimately, who has control? This communist principle is achieved by the lesser degrees of socialism. Under straight communism, whatever property you get is allotted for your use but the state owns it.
Under our socialist state, you are allowed the illusion of “owning” property. But you must pay for the right to this illusion by purchasing the property. If you still think you don't live under the thumb of socialism, try completing a real estate transaction without state issued identification and a Social Security Number.
So-called health care is another subject where it is only a matter of degrees between the two “isms.” Under communism, the state operates and funds the medical establishment as a state owned infrastructure. The citizen gets whatever healthcare the state chooses to provide.
Under socialism, funding is extorted through taxes and employer contributions. Some socialistic health care systems have the appearance of being private, but government controls them at many levels. This operates “typically through the merging of state and business leadership.” Agency regulations, healthcare provider licensing, HMOs, government mandated programs like Medicare, and the powerful pharma-cartel all “merge” to control your health options, usually for the benefit of those who profit most from disease. Under socialism, the citizen gets whatever health care the corporate state allows.
Whether provided by a communist state or imposed by socialism as a mandatory contribution to a state regulated enterprise, the end result is the same. There are only degrees of difference.
The corporate state
A fascist has been described as “a believer in the corporate state,” and fascism as “...a system of government that [operates]...typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of belligerent nationalism.” Doesn't that describe U.S. citizens and their government?
Corporations and financial interests have essentially purchased our elected officials and put them into power by manipulating the election process. Congress and the executive/administrative branch of government, more often than not, serve the corporate interests that employ them. And the courts put the final nail into the coffin of our formerly free republic.
Positions within the agencies of government are routinely filled by former employees of the corporations they now regulate. This cozy corporate/state relationship is a handy way for dominant corporations to eliminate their competition -- a tactic of fascism.
And when U. S. citizens, those “believers in the corporate state,” need more resources, our government drums up some excuse to send our boys off hither in another act “of belligerent nationalism.” Are we fascists yet?
Capitalism vs. communism
In spite of proclaimed differences, fascism, communism and socialism are just different variations on a theme. But what about our beloved system of free enterprise and capitalism? Consider the following:
Communists use capitalist methods to accomplish their communist objectives, while capitalists use communist methods to accomplish their capitalist objectives.
What nation is creating a massive expansion of capital and rapidly increasing their commercial infrastructure? Communist China. How? By mass merchandising around the world, beating their competition, capturing the market share, and reinvesting in their infrastructure. Isn't that capitalism?
And what nations have fully implemented all ten planks of the Communist Manifesto and operate massive socialist administrations, which are only degrees away from communism? The U.S., Britain, and most of the other G8 “capitalist” nations (see IO, Feb. 1999 article).
Ultimately, what are all these “isms” about? Power. And more of it, any way the perpetrators of a particular “ism” can get it.
Unfettering the Federalists
There are many points in the timeline of American history that we could consider as the emergence of U.S. fascism. But the so-called “Civil War” era began a quantum leap to unfettered power. Although “the Civil War was fought over slavery” is the programming installed at the public indoctrination centers we attended during childhood, the real story behind that conflict suggests other causes.
The northern states wanted to impose taxes on imported agricultural equipment which was used in the primarily agrarian south. The southern states preferred to buy European equipment that was less expensive than the equipment manufactured in the industrial north.
The contest reached a constitutional crisis when the southern states walked out of Congress and began a secession from the union because the northern states wanted to exercise powers in excess of the Constitution's authority.
President Lincoln began to unshackle the federalists from the chains of the Constitution by issuing Executive Orders. This included ordering a draft to fill the ranks of the Union army and calling a Union-only Congress into session. The draft was not popular, nor was his war.
The fascist Lincoln suppressed the protests of the draft in the north by meeting protesters with federal troops. A thousand New Yorkers were killed or wounded when protesting the draft for “Lincoln's War.”
The southern “Rebels” attempted to stop the northern “Union” from rebelling against the Constitution, but the federal fascists prevailed in America's bloodiest conflict and began the “Reconstruction Era.” The federalists now had their chance to usher in unfettered federalism. With the money powers of the north and the Industrial Revolution in full swing, private and public interests merged.
After reconstruction, the corporate state was further enriched by the land and resources acquired by westward expansion and the “belligerent nationalism” imposed on the west's native peoples.
The federal fascist dictatorship
The basic forms of constitutional government are used only for show purposes. We are not actually governed by anything constitutional. Congress exceeds its constitutional powers with great abandon. The President operates an executive regime that declares war and issues its own orders. The courts no longer interpret laws in the light of the Constitution. They legislate with elaborate doctrines, in defiance of plain English and our fundamental Rights.
And the real power lies in the shadows. FEMA, the CIA, the Department of Justice, an unaccountable federal judiciary and countless agencies wield the fascists sword, or in the case of the fasces, an ax.
In true fascist fashion, swarms of federal agencies have been sent hither “with an ideology of belligerent nationalism” to control opposition and bring everyone into the fold of the corporate state.
Just as socialism isn't exactly communism, a single dictator doesn't lead our federal fascists. Keeping the outer appearance of constitutional form, a multi-headed fascist, administrative dictatorship has assumed the awesome power to regulate our national lives.
Never mind the Constitution's mandate that “all legislative power shall be vested in the Congress.” What has Congress become? A worse than useless debating society with a bottomless retirement fund? The Republican vs. Democrat theater maintains the illusion of a functional two party political system. What substantive differences do they offer?
Democrats and Republicans are the ruse by which the American people are fooled into believing they are not being ruled by a single party, totalitarian, fascist, communist/socialist regime.
Leaps and bounds in the age of terrorism
The agencies we have all come to know and love have now been merged into a super-fascist agency. Homeland Security is now the big business of our corporate state. And while we were paying our collective national attention to “We Got Him” and “Rat in the Hole,” the real terrorists, our single party corporate state, quietly passed Patriot Act II, with more fascist power mergers looming.
Where are we headed?
If we look past the programming we have been indoctrinated with, a pattern is emerging. In recent times, the fascists first went to Idaho and killed a mother and her son. Then they marched off to a church in Texas, laid siege, and burned it to the ground; men, women and children inside.
Then they went to Oklahoma and bombed their own building at the start of the workday. While Congress churned out more fascist state control acts, the Department of Justice pinned the tail on patsy McVeigh. As the score went from 2, to 86, to 168, the fascists blood lust grew.
Next thousands were killed as some prime real estate in New York City was destroyed. And the most secure military facility in the world was penetrated, without any defensive maneuvers, 55 minutes after the first “attack” and 37 minutes after the second plane hit. Quite a feat of event engineering and the mother of all cover-ups.
It laid the foundation for the next act of pre-planned national belligerence in some one else's oil fields.
But after that, what is next? Hints have already been dropped that those terrorists will be using weapons of mass destruction, dirty bombs and biological weapons. Is it really news, and who are the real terrorists? Cover-ups and lies dominate every official story of these recent events.
The FBI told us Timothy McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma City Federal building but they refuse, even under court order, to release the 22 video surveillance tapes that show what really happened. And the same FBI told us 19 Arab hijackers caused the events of 9-11. But the FBI hasn't explained why the hijackers weren't on the airlines passenger manifest or why 7 of those alleged hijackers are still alive. Who are the real terrorists and what's next on their fascist agenda?
We can continue to have our fascist “protectors” amass even more powers while they plan their next event in the most extreme, evil, Hegelian manner. Or we can say enough is enough -- with the kind of force that tyrant fascists must heed. We will either, by conscious action, take the steps necessary to alter our current direction, or by default succumb to the plans of those who would have absolute power over us. The path before us is ours to choose, collectively and individually.
The limits of tyranny
Frederick Douglass explained our predicament and the choices we must make, by default or otherwise: “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong, which will be imposed upon them. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want rain without thunder and lightning.”
Our police state
Some have said only three per cent of the American colonists fought in the American Revolution. What will happen to the police when three per cent of the American people decide they can no longer tolerate living in a fascist police state. And what will the good people of America do to those fascists who have committed the atrocities that mark our times? Will a Fasci Americana emerge to challenge the federal fascists? And how will the federal fascists respond to a new American Revolution? Isn't it time we were brave enough to find out?
“Fascism should more properly be called 'corporatism,' since it is the merger of state and corporate power.”
(Originally published in the January 2004 Idaho Observer)