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Fascism Anyone?

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  • robalini@aol.com
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Fascism Anyone? Laurence W. Britt
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2005
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Fascism Anyone?
      Laurence W. Britt

      The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23,
      Number 2.

      Free Inquiry readers may pause to read the "Affirmations of Humanism:
      A Statement of Principles" on the inside cover of the magazine. To a
      secular humanist, these principles seem so logical, so right, so
      crucial. Yet, there is one archetypal political philosophy that is
      anathema to almost all of these principles. It is fascism. And
      fascism's principles are wafting in the air today, surreptitiously
      masquerading as something else, challenging everything we stand for.
      The cliché that people and nations learn from history is not only
      overused, but also overestimated; often we fail to learn from
      history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is
      the norm.

      We are two-and-a-half generations removed from the horrors of Nazi
      Germany, although constant reminders jog the consciousness. German
      and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this
      twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this
      worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated
      by protofascist1 regimes at various times in the twentieth century.
      Both the original German and Italian models and the later
      protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics.
      Although many scholars question any direct connection among these
      regimes, few can dispute their visual similarities.

      Beyond the visual, even a cursory study of these fascist and
      protofascist regimes reveals the absolutely striking convergence of
      their modus operandi. This, of course, is not a revelation to the
      informed political observer, but it is sometimes useful in the
      interests of perspective to restate obvious facts and in so doing
      shed needed light on current circumstances.

      For the purpose of this perspective, I will consider the following
      regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco's Spain, Salazar's
      Portugal, Papadopoulos's Greece, Pinochet's Chile, and Suharto's
      Indonesia. To be sure, they constitute a mixed bag of national
      identities, cultures, developmental levels, and history. But they all
      followed the fascist or protofascist model in obtaining, expanding,
      and maintaining power. Further, all these regimes have been
      overthrown, so a more or less complete picture of their basic
      characteristics and abuses is possible.

      Analysis of these seven regimes reveals fourteen common threads that
      link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of
      power. These basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in
      some regimes than in others, but they all share at least some level
      of similarity.

      1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the
      prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins,
      the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the
      regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always
      obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity
      were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually
      coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on

      2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves
      viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing
      the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda,
      the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by
      marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was
      egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

      3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most
      significant common thread among these regimes was the use of
      scapegoating as a means to divert the people's attention from other
      problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in
      controlled directions. The methods of choice - relentless propaganda
      and disinformation - were usually effective. Often the regimes would
      incite "spontaneous" acts against the target scapegoats, usually
      communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities,
      traditional national enemies, members of other religions,
      secularists, homosexuals, and "terrorists." Active opponents of these
      regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with

      4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites
      always identified closely with the military and the industrial
      infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of
      national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic
      needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of
      nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals,
      intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the
      ruling elite.

      5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite
      and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes
      inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly
      anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually
      codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the
      orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for
      its abuses.

      6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media
      were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to
      stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power
      to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing
      and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism,
      and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often
      politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually
      success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes'

      7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security
      apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was
      usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond
      any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of
      protecting "national security," and questioning its activities was
      portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

      8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes,
      the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless
      by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves
      to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray
      themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the
      ruling elite's behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the
      religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the
      illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and
      opponents of the "godless." A perception was manufactured that
      opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

      9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of
      ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large
      corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The
      ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure
      military production (in developed states), but also as an additional
      means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often
      pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of
      interests, especially in the repression of "have-not" citizens.

      10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor
      was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political
      hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was
      inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass,
      viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being
      poor was considered akin to a vice.

      11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.
      Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression
      associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and
      academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and
      the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled;
      politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox
      ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or
      crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the
      national interest or they had no right to exist.

      12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes
      maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison
      populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked
      power, leading to rampant abuse. "Normal" and political crime were
      often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used
      against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of
      criminals or "traitors" was often promoted among the population as an
      excuse for more police power.

      13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and
      close to the power elite often used their position to enrich
      themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would
      receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in
      turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the
      power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other
      sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With
      the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled,
      this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by
      the general population.

      14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or
      public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with
      candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power
      elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining
      control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising
      opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a
      last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.

      Does any of this ring alarm bells? Of course not. After all, this is
      America, officially a democracy with the rule of law, a constitution,
      a free press, honest elections, and a well-informed public constantly
      being put on guard against evils. Historical comparisons like these
      are just exercises in verbal gymnastics. Maybe, maybe not.


      1. Defined as a "political movement or regime tending toward or
      imitating Fascism" - Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.


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      Chabod, Frederico. A History of Italian Fascism. London: Weidenfeld,
      Cooper, Marc. Pinochet and Me. New York: Verso, 2001.
      Cornwell, John. Hitler as Pope. New York: Viking, 1999.
      de Figuerio, Antonio. Portugal - Fifty Years of Dictatorship. New
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      Eatwell, Roger. Fascism, A History. New York: Penguin, 1995.
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      Yglesias, Jose. The Franco Years. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1977.

      Laurence Britt's novel, June, 2004, depicts a future America
      dominated by right-wing extremists.
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