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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 04:57 AM
Original message
What is fascism? (parallels to the present) (michael parenti)
Edited on Sun Dec-26-10 05:07 AM by Hannah Bell

No single definition of fascism may be able to satisfy everybody. With fascism there's a really special problem because it's a beguiling mix of revolutionary-sounding mass appeal & reactionary class politics. And the reactionary class politics are the part of fascism that our established historians -- our establishment historians -- almost never talk about.

Hitler's party, for example, was called the National Socialist German Workers Party, the NSDAP -- the Nazi Party. It's a very leftist-sounding name, and it was designed to win very broad support among working people, even as the Nazis were destroying working-class organizations.

In other words, fascism, the original german & italian variations, was a political phenomenon which made a revolutionary appeal without making a revolution.

It promised to solve the ills of the many while in fact protecting the special interests of the few with violence and terror. And it propagated a new political consciousness, a new order, a new nation to serve the same old capitalist system.

Let me run down a few major characteristics of the fascist ideology.

First, There's a glorification of the leadership cult, the commitment to an absolutist & supreme leader, all-knowing and all-guiding.

Second, there's a glorification of the nation-state as an end in itself, as an entity unto itself. An absolute component to which the individual is subsumed.

Third, there was a glorification of military conquest & jingoism.

Fourth, there was the propagation of a folk mysticism, a xenophobia and a racism. The nazi slogan was "ein volk, ein reich, ein fuhrer". Also, the other side of the folk mysticism in this blood cult of special blood -- the special legacy -- the atavistic wonders of our particular people -- was a xenophobia, a hatred of other peoples. With the nazis and most eastern european fascisms it was anti-semitism.

Fifth there was an opposition -- both in italian fascism and german naziism -- an opposition to socialism, to communism, to anarchism, and to all left egalitarian class movements and doctrines, along with opposition to trade unions, opposition to labor parties, opposition to other working class organizations.

One, two, three, four are often talked about by established historians and mainstream historians. That last one, though -- that one is never talked about by western writers, especially american writers. The historians, journalists who treat the subject of fascism usually write from a centrist perspective -- which means they usually ignore the link between fascism and capitalism. Just as they tend to ignore the entire subject of capitalism itself when there's something unfavorable to say about it.

Instead, they dwell on the more fantasmic components of fascist ideology.

After WWI, Italy had a parlimentary government that seemed really incapable of solving the country's economic crisis. Profits were declining, banks were failing, unemployment was rising --

So to ensure profits, the big industrial giants and big landowners would have to slash wages and raise prices. The state in turn would have to provide the big owners with tariff protections along with massive subsidies and tax exemptions. To finance this, the population would have to be taxed more heavily, their wages cut, and social welfare expenditures drastically cut.

It sounds like Reaganism? Well it is, even more extremely so.

But the government wasn't entirely free to apply these harsh measures.

First of all, the Italian workers and peasants had their own unions, they had political organizations, they had cooperatives, they had their own publications, and through the use of demonstrations, strikes, boycotts, factory takeovers, forcible occupation of farmlands they often won very real concessions in wages and work conditions, unemployment benefits. And they won the right to organize.

So the only real solution, really, was to smash the worker and peasant organizations. In effect destroying all political and civil liberties, including the right to organize, agitate and propagandize. The state would have to be more authoritarian and more firmly subservient to the of capital.

Mussolini and his blackshirts were around right after WWI and through -- for about three or four year, the big landowners and industrialists used their fascist goon squads -- gave them money and gave them arms -- and used them kind of like strikebreakers, anti-labor militias -- they styled themselves "The United Front Against Bolshevism".

In 1922, the big capitalist interests in Italy decided to go for the whole thing. Representatives of the Federation of Industry and the Federation of Agriculture, which was a agribusiness firm, and representatives of the banking association -- they all met together -- and they met with Mussolini, and they planned the fascist march on Rome.

(Note: )

Mussolini sat there and planned that with the leading capitalists of Italy. By the way, this is almost never mentioned in the accounts about the march on Rome.

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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 05:06 AM
Response to Original message
1. Pt 2
These big capitalists contributed 20 million lira toward that undertaking.

In the words Senator Ettore Conti, himself a very loyal representative of the money interests, "Mussolini was the candidate of the plutocracy," that is of the wealthy, "and the business association".

A very similar pattern of coordination and compliance existed in germany, also, less than a decade later.

The nearly total collapse of the german economy in 1929-30 presented the owning class with a momentous crisis. They had very big capital investments and this left them with very high fixed costs that had to be met even as their plants lay idle. Only massive state aid could revive their profits. Wages and social welfare, human services expenditures had to be cut. Union contracts had to be abrogated. Business would need new subsidies and tax exemptions.
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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 06:08 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Pt 3
Edited on Sun Dec-26-10 06:09 AM by Hannah Bell

The crisis in agriculture was equally severe, and the large landowner (Junker) class demanded even higher subsidies, heavier duties on agricultural imports and an end to agricultural unions. These unions were holding wages up and when wages were being sustained you cut into profits.

So by 1930, most of the large landowners and big industrialists and bankers, especially in steel, coal and mining, had concluded that the Weimar Republic no longer served their interests, and no longer could protect their class, that it was too accomodating to the working class, and to certain sectors of light industry, so they greatly increased their subsidies to Hitler and they propelled the Nazi party onto the national stage.

By 1930 most of the great industrialists and bankers were underwriting the Nazi Party. And what happened in 1930 with this injection of hundreds of millions of marks is that hitler was able to catapult his party onto the national scene. It went from a cult of brownshirt thugs to a national party mobilized. In the elections of 1930 the Nazi Party gained 107 seats in the Reichstag. And in 1930-32 the subsidies from the big industrialists continued to drain in ever-more abundantly. So the Nazis were projected onto the national stage and an ever-larger presence in the Reichstag.

So the threat wasn't really from the left -- the bourgeoisie resorted to fascism less in response from the disturbances in the street and more in response to the disturbances in their own economic system. The threat was from their own economic system and its contradictions and the fact that democratic forces had developed enough democratic strength to resist the austerity and the rollback that the capitalists tried to impose to maintain their levels of profit...

The Italian and German monopolists, the big cartels, also had an interest in an expansionist military regime. They wanted a big rebuilding of the military. One that would, one, compensate for the decline in investment opportunities with huge armament contracts and related public works. In other words, this industrial and financial class wanted a large defense budget, as we would call it, because it was a source of capital investment and enormous capital profits.

Two, they wanted to embark on an aggressive foreign policy to open new markets for export and investment, thereby gaining a more equal footing with French and English competitors.

Now I don't mean to say that all the big industrial capitalist supported Hitler with equal fervor. Some, like Thyssen, were early and enthusiastic backers of Hitler. The aged Emil Kurdoff thanked God that he lived long enough to see the Fhrer emerge as the savior of Germany. They backed Hitler only when he promised to be the best hope for their interests. Light industry, which had lower fixed costs and more stable profits than heavy industry -- they may not have been close to the fascists, weren't but they weren't about to ally themselves with the proletariat against the business class, of which they were a part.

There was another element in these two societies that not only tolerated the rise of fascism, but supported it. I'm talking about the parlimentary capitalist state itself. Not the government or the Parliment as such, but the instruments of the state, the instruments that have the legal monopoly on force and violence -- the police, the army, the courts ande the like -- the secret intelligence agencies and such.

In both Italy and Germany, years before Mussolini & Hitler emerged victorious, these elements -- police, courts, army -- showed a real leniency and an open collaboration with fascism -- while harshly repressing the left. Mussolini and Hitler could not have come to power without the help of the state machinery and that state machinery was never really against them.

In Italy, the police collaborated with the fascists in attacking labor and peasant organizations. They recruited criminals for the fascist action squads, squadristi, they promised them immunity from prosecution for past crimes. When applications for gun permits were denied to workers and peasants, police guns and police cars were made available to Mussolini's goons. In Germany the same kind of thing went on. Immediately after the war the military police and judiciary sided with rightists and suppressed the left -- a pattern of collaboration which continued until the day Hitler took power.

In other words, these supposed democracies which were equally opposed to totalitarianism of the right and the left were not equally opposed -- they were opposed to the left and they were very cosy with the of the right. Because the right, while it was out to destroy that destroy that democracy, the right was protecting the interests of property and capital.

But there's something else -- who did fascism support when it came to power?

Well, in Italy and Germany, when they came to power, they began implementing the stern measures that were needed to rescue the capitalist economy.

Labor unions were dissolved, strikes were outlawed, union contracts were nullified, prominent union leaders and other labor activists were imprisoned or murdered, unions property was confiscated, worker publications were banned, opposition political parties were outlawed, their leaders jailed. Civil liberties were suspended.

Fascist-sponsored unions -- quote "unions" -- were set up and their function was to speed up production, prevent wildcat strikes, and apply punitive regulations, including fines, dismissals and imprisonment against workers who agitated or complained of shop conditions.

Even a Nazi labor front newspaper had to admit: "Some shop regulations are reminiscent of penal codes."

Workers no longer had the right to change jobs, they could be shifted from one employment to another regardless of their wishes, they could be conscripted into any work assumed to be necessary for the nation's economy without guarantee of wages equal to previous earnings.

In both italy and germany the government exercised compulsory arbitration and regulation of working wages.

By the way, any worker contesting that would be declared an enemy of the state. Not just in conflict with management, but an enemy of the state. So in effect what you got was a perfect wedding of the interests of the state and the interests of the capitalist class.

And by the way, these measures had their effect. According to the figures supplied by the Italian press itself, the already-meager wages in effect in 1927 were cut in half by 1932. By 1939 the cost of living had risen 30% and this constituted an additional decrease in real wages.

Taxes on wages were introduced. The minimum wage law was abolished. There was no more increased pay for overtime. In some regions, sanitary and safety regulations were dropped. In many areas child labor was reintroduced. In other words, all the old abuses, the old evils that Italian workers thought were dead, belonged to a generation ago, were returned under fascists.

In Germany the same story. Between 1933 and 1935 wages were lowered anywhere from 25% to 40%.

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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 06:36 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. Everything happening now is direct from an old playbook.
- The nonprofit mutual-assistance and insurance associations that had existed before the Nazis were abolished. Their funds were taken over by private insurance companies that charged more while paying out smaller benefits.

- In both Italy and Germany, perfectly solvent publicly owned enterprises, such as power plants, steel mills, banks, railways, insurance firms, steamship companies, and shipyards, were handed over to private ownership.

- Corporate taxes were reduced by half in both Italy and Germany. Taxes on luxury items for the rich were cut. Inheritance taxes were either drastically lowered or abolished. In Germany between 1934 and 1940 the average net income of corporate businessmen rose by 46 percent.

- Enterprises that were floundering were refloated with state bonds, recapitalized out of the state treasury. Once made solvent, they were returned to private owners.

- With numerous enterprises, the state guaranteed a return on the capital invested and assumed all the risks. The rich investor did not have to worry about any losses; if a business did poorly, the investor would be recompensed from the state treasury.

Fascism's savage service to big capital remains almost entirely a hidden history.
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lebkuchen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 05:46 AM
Response to Original message
2. 1969 American Heritage Dictionary publication definition:
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

1992 American Heritage definition:

a system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socio-economic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism

Which year's definition do you think is more precise?
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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 06:09 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. interesting & orwellian. the later definition makes it almost sound like an attack on capitalism.
Edited on Sun Dec-26-10 06:45 AM by Hannah Bell
in the "stringent economic controls"

it appears to me that fascism is one possible reaction of capital to crisis. The reasons for the elimination of the labor movement & "the left" has obvious motivations in that light.

It also shines a different light from the standard explanation ("racism") on the attack on the jews, the mentally ill/retarded/handicapped, & gypsies.

also interesting to me is that looked at from this pov there are many parallels to the current situation:

1) the attack on labor (public unions)
2) the build-up of the military/security state & foreign adventurism, as well as the infiltration of the military infrastructure by far-rightist & fundamentalist elements like "the family"
3) austerity programs
4) covert support for the build-up of fundamentalist christianity (sponsorship of a 'popular' mysticism to bind people in support for the business-statist program)
5) increase in imprisonment & prison labor
6) the encouragement by state actors of "revolutionary" discourse by the proles

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malaise Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 07:38 PM
Response to Reply #2
14. After reading the first edition of Democracy for the Few
I was hooked on Parenti - the love affair is still intact.
He must be laughing at the way what many thought of as a radical interpretation of America is now a mainstream discussion. He was 100% CORRECT.

Thanks for the link - Rec
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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 08:54 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. i like that he writes & lectures accessibly. that's the working-class background.
so many "leftist" writers come from the upper crust, & their way of presenting information reflects it.
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OHdem10 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 10:07 AM
Response to Original message
6. Fascism , the merger of Business and Government with Business
having the power. Mussolini appropriately called it
Corportatism. Fascism is an ideology of the Right.

It differs from Communism in that the State holds
the power in Communism. Communism is ideology of the Left.

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DemReadingDU Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 10:45 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Corportatism

I would think the biggest banks have the most power

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leveymg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 01:38 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. Contemporary Corporatism is more like oligarchic control with a limited state. The state redistrib-
Edited on Sun Dec-26-10 01:40 PM by leveymg
utes incomes upwards and outwards into the hands of global financial and corporate elites.

This is very different in function and philosophy from the state-centered power structure of traditional fascism and Nazism. While the bankers and industrialists maintained ownership over private industry and property under fascism, the State had real power in fascist Italy, Nazi Germany as well as in the Soviet Union - the opposite is true today. What we see today is oligarchical capitalism that leverages state and quasi-public institutions, such as the Federal Reserve and the GSEs, to profit off of public debt and obtain direct subsidies at the expense of a large but declining American middle-class.
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DemReadingDU Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 02:52 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. With a declining middle class

which is declining in income which results in declining taxbase, this structure we are living in now, can't succeed much longer. There is no more real money to be passed upwards, only debt that is passed on to us. We are heading to the 2-class system, the few very very rich and powerful, and everyone else being poor in debt.

I doubt at my age (early 60s) that I will live see how this devolves, but my toddler grandbabies will live thru it all, if they survive.

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leveymg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 02:59 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. Definitely not a sustainable system. It'll probably morph into something more akin to traditional
fascist police state, but a very high-tech one that operates by isolating and impoverishing its real, perceived and potential enemies, rather than tanks in the street.
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Enthusiast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-27-10 09:40 AM
Response to Reply #10
22. Oh, I believe you will get to watch it unfold.
As it is now happening at such an accelerated pace.
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hansberrym Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 11:09 AM
Response to Original message
8. Does anybody get the feeling that history is repeating itself, but with new twist on an old theme?
From Musolini's Fascist Doctrine:
'Against individualism, the Fascist conception is for the State; and it is for the individual in so far as he coincides with the State, which is the conscience and universal will of man in his historical existence. It is opposed to classical Liberalism, which arose form the necessity of reacting against absolutism, and which brought its historical purpose to an end when the State was transformed into the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the interests of the particular individual; Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual. And if liberty is to be the attribute of the real man, and not of that abstract puppet envisaged by individualistic Liberalism, Fascism is for liberty. And for the only liberty which can be a real thing, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. Therefore, for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value, outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people.'

The only good thing about Fascism and Communism is that we have thus far been able play one against the other since they represent the extremes of right vs. left ideology. But had the forces of Statism joined together, WWII might have come out very differntly for the free world.

What is troubling now is that the left v right issue seems to be fading and Statism (defining characterisitic is subsumming of the individual to the interests of the state or larger community)is on the rise. The Statism vs. classical liberalism divide does not break down cleanly in terms of left v. right wing ideology. There are many on both the right and left that embrace statist ideals, and the same is true for classical liberal ideals(individualism, free will, free speech, freedom of religion, etc.)

Does it strike anyone else as odd that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, with its free will denying mandate to purchase health insurance, was enacted by an overwhelminly left wing House and Senate? The classical left wing approach would be to provide a service by way of taxation rather than forced purchase of a product sold by a corporation.

Is the most important distinction left vs. right anymore? Or should we be more concerned with the State vs. the Individual contest?

Does it make sense that we are still at war some 4 years after the dems captured the house and 2 years after electing a dem president?

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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 08:10 PM
Response to Reply #8
15. yes, history is repeating itself with a different twist. capitalist crisis is the link.
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hansberrym Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-27-10 12:08 AM
Response to Reply #15
17. But why the march towards Fascism when we have
dems in control of the House, Senate, and Presidency? What is he saying about the present governemnt of the USA?

Parenti makes the usual obligatory slap at Reagan for starting the move towards fascism and favoring of the monied class. However Bush Sr.(a supposed moderate though anything but in my opinion) slashed capital gains taxes further (from 28 to 20%) and Clinton cut them yet again(from 20 to 15%). Bush Sr. tried to get NAFTA passed, but couldn't, though Clinton finished the job. If these guys were on opposite ends of the politcal spectrum, why would they push the same policies? Plus we ought not forget Nixon's and Johnson's contributions to the present problems.
IMO Reagon only got it half wrong, he should not have broken down the regulatory barriers, though others took deregulation even further, such as in later years of the CLinton presidency when he and the republican congress deregulated banking and set the stage for the crisis we are in now.

Yes we are in an era of capitalist failure, but we are also in an era of "big government" failure. That the present government of the US(nominally of the left)is embracing fascistic measures should make us very nervous -which is the point of the article.

I believe we are witnessing the rise of neo-fascism ("neo" since no longer on racial or religious lines as very few countries have a single dominant race or religious creed). The corporate intersts are combining with the big government intersts at this time to cover each other's losses and each other's asses.

What I favor: much greater government focus on its role as regulator of big business and less on role of provider. We need to break up the coziness between government and big business before it gets further out of hand. The best way to do that is to make their interests opposed to each other. When government becomes a provider, many assume that government is then in competition with business and thus has opposite interests. But that is not the case. Just as big businesses will collude to preserve their mutual profit margins, so will big business and big government. A prime example is the PPACA with its health insurance mandate.

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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-27-10 12:10 AM
Response to Reply #17
18. nothing particularly new there. all factions of capital went along with the turn to fascism in
Edited on Mon Dec-27-10 12:11 AM by Hannah Bell
the ww2 era as well.

the state & capital have *always* been hand-in-glove.
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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 05:46 PM
Response to Original message
12. k
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Overseas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-26-10 07:21 PM
Response to Original message
13. K&R ! Love Michael Parenti. And yes, we now have corporations more powerful than countries.
We are in the era of totalitarian capitalism. Where giant companies have greater GDPs than many nations and can thereby dictate their national policies using buckets of cash and intimidation of various kinds.

Their generous donations and lobbyists softened up the resistance of my Democratic legislators who did not filibuster the appointment of right wing judicial activists to our supreme court. And those activists gave the multinational corporations the Citizens United decision-- even more power to advertise which candidates we should love and hate to support their future success.

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hansberrym Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-27-10 12:20 AM
Response to Reply #13
19. Which was worse -Citizen's United or Kelo?

Which is worse Fascism or Communism?

Which is worse Capitalistic Totalitarianism or Socialistic Totalitarianism?

IMO we ought to avoid either by using government against big business, while preventing government from becoming big business by denying it the provider role.

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Octafish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-27-10 12:25 AM
Response to Original message
20. It's not just idealistic.
It is very real.

Fascism is the antithesis of Democracy.

And no matter what anyone tells you, it's a certain class of superrich turdball bobbing at the top of the cesspool who benefits at the expense of the majority in terms of wealth and power. Know your BFEE: Spawn of Wall Street and the Third Reich

Thank you for a great OP and thread, Hannah Bell. Parenti pegs it.
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Enthusiast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-27-10 09:33 AM
Response to Original message
21. Thank you for sharing this, Hannah Bell.
After watching this entire program I can see while there are several disturbing trends and similarities to fascism in today's politics there are also many distinctions.
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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-27-10 01:18 PM
Response to Reply #21
23. lol. you watched this program? you mean the series of random clips
attached to parenti's speech?

not sure what additional information that gave you.
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