Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Continuing Fascist Fascination

How is it that some version of neo- or theo- Fascism appears to be the dominant political/economic faith in the world today? It is really quite stunning.

The point of Fascism, after all, was to serve as a reactionary counterweight the looming triumph of Communism. Remember when all the world was thought to be "falling" to Communism On The March? I do.

Well, what I remember is Post-War anti-Communism and all the propaganda and conditioning that went with it. In those days, though, one had no truck with Fascism, either. The wounds of World War II were still too recent and raw, and the memory of Mussolini, Hitler, Tojo and all the rest of the Fascist dictators and militarists who had been storming all over the world for the past decade and a half was too deeply seared into consciousness -- and conscience.

What wasn't really clarified during the Post-War period, and what really didn't become clear until the 1970's, was the present-day persistence of Fascism in Spain and Portugal and throughout Latin America and its development and growth in parts of the Middle East (the Ba'athists who became such a thorn in the side of Americans in the Middle East were/are old line Fascist nationalists; the Pan-Arabism of Nasser, on the other hand, was a more universal form of ethnic Fascism). Fascist juntas were frequently encountered in various parts of the world, from Greece to Indonesia. And many of the newly-liberated former colonies of European Powers adopted Fascist -- rather than, say, "democratic" -- governing principles upon independence.

In other words, Fascism per se wasn't really defeated in World War II; it remained almost as prevalent after the War as before it, though its profile was much lower after the War, and its centers in Italy, Japan and Germany were... "cleansed" of the taint of militaristic Fascism and of the more outré aspects of genocide and so on. 

So long as there was a perception of a "Communist Threat," Fascism and Fascist dictatorships were sponsored, tolerated, or installed by and on behalf of the United States and the political and economic interests of its elites.

But then the "Communist Threat" disappeared with the evaporation of the Soviet empire. The first wave of "color revolutions" in the late '80s and early '90s included heady revolts against Fascist dictators (such as in the Philippines) as well as nationalist revolts in Soviet satellite states.

Dictatorship and totalitarianism were themselves the targets of these revolts. Doing away with them was human nature -- or so it seemed.

And yet here we are twenty some-odd years since the end of the "Communist Threat" and for reasons I cannot fathom, Fascism seems to be resurgent as never before. It should have disappeared with the "Communist Threat" it was designed to counter. But it didn't. It adapted and evolved, mutated and metastasized and became a nearly universal operating system for governments around the world, even many of those which espouse -- or formerly espoused -- Social Democratic principles.


What is the fascination and appeal of Fascism?

I don't have an answer. Perhaps it's not even the right question. The neo- and theo- Fascism of today is not the same thing as the rightist populist totalitarian movements of the past. In fact, Fascism of the moment barely acknowledges "the People" in any way -- except as resources to be corralled, exploited and disposed of.

No, today's Fascism is almost entirely a phenomenon of the High and the Mighty, a tool of the rich and powerful. It follows Mussolini's classic dictum and possibly apocryphal definition of Fascism:

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."
We've certainly seen the progressive merger of state and corporate power in the United States since the advent of the Bushevik reign, but it was apparent well prior to the judicial coup of 2000.

Many of the Busheviks appeared to openly emulate Fascist principles of rule, and some, like Rumsfeld, were enthusiastic admirers of the Wehrmacht and other aspects of Nazi unpleasantness. The invasion of Iraq was certainly evocative of the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

I think that perhaps the key to understanding the continuing fascination with Fascism -- when there really isn't any need for it -- is to be found in the typically adolescent mind-set of so many of the rich and powerful.

Not all adolescents are susceptible to Fascism, not by a long shot, but some, especially boys, are attracted to and mesmerized by it. The ideal of imposed order and the belief in natural superiority are strong among some of the young.

Is the fascination with Fascism due to the extended adolescence of some of those in power? Could be.

But I'm sure it's more than that.

Today's Fascism is not the rightist populism of the past, to be sure. Nevertheless it is as dangerous and destructive today as it ever was. Given the absence of any realistic challenge from Global Communism, the survival of Fascism (in its neo- and theo- guise) and the continuing fascination with its principles among the High and Mighty is bizarre.


  1. One thing I like to point out whenever that quote - whatever its true origin - comes up is that the "corporations" discussed in the Italian context aren't the same thing we would refer to by the term.

    The two share the same etymology and conception - the unitary embodiment of multitudes. But rather than the American idea of business enterprises jointly owned by multiple investors, the Italian "corporations" were something like economic tribes or maybe guilds. The idea was that instead of, say, a labor union of fishermen and a business lobby of fishery/cannery owners, each at each others' throats and seeking state power as a weapon, there would be a corporation of fishing, which would serve to determine a way to go about things that worked for everyone, and implement it on behalf of the state.

    The idea was to overcome the "social problem" of owner/worker conflict by transcending the divisions and uniting by economic function. I don't know if it's ever been put in practice in a way that lives up to the promise, but what has. The idea draws heavily on Catholic social thought and syndicalism, a traditionally "leftist" program that native Italian fascism actually took a lot from.

  2. The quote is probably apocryphal, but even if not, as you say the meaning of the term "corporation" in Italy at the time was not what we think of today, just as "commune" meant something different in Italy than it did, say, in the Soviet Union.

    The appeal of Fascism, beyond the uniforms and the display, is, I believe, the appeal of "order" and "rule." When one faces chaos day after day, one is much more inclined to follow a (populist) Leader who promises to impose order and to rule over the forces of chaos.

    Yet there is almost no populist element in modern Fascism. Order and rule are not a promise to the masses. In fact, nothing is promised.