Fascism – a scary word. Most of us do not know what fascism means – we just feel certain it has something to do with a bad method of government or of economic systems. Fascism is a word like Communism or Socialism or Marxism – we don’t feel the need to understand the exact meaning to understand that it is something evil. But it is worth noting how any of these governing or economic systems become reality – understanding the ideas that spawn different systems is the primary method of protecting ourselves from domination by evil. Understanding how those ideas are relevant in real time is critical to good decision making by any populace.
Fascism is essentially a form of government. The purpose of fascism is to protect a national identity, the supremacy of one national or ethnic group. The method of Fascism is an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization. Very few Americans in the early 21st Century would openly advocate either the purpose or method of fascism. But yet fascism is on the rise in America as an unintended consequence of economic despair, fear of the future, and general ignorance of democratic methods of government.
Fascism is fundamentally opposed to democracy and political liberalism. Political Liberalism is defined as:
A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.
This definition seems a reasonable manner of political ideology. Ironically – it is the quest for this exact form of government in times of economic despair that lead political factions toward fascism. When afraid, humans reach back into their mental tool box for the safe security of certainty. We nostalgically perceive past times of less stress, of economic security, of greater moral values – we long for those times. The emotional reaction to fear is to strike out at authority – to blame someone – and to force change. Fear sees progress as the problem – desiring a return to safer times.
There are generally five main components of fascism, and how these apply in 2010 America:
(1) Extreme nationalism, the belief that there is a clearly defined nation which has its own distinctive characteristics, culture, and interests, and which is superior to others. (Conservative political candidates for President and Congress have called for the Bible to take precedent over the Constitution. There is an implication by some right wing groups that our current government no longer represents who we are as a culture.)
(2) An assertion of national decline—that at some point in the mythical past the nation was great, with harmonious social and political relationships, and dominant over others, and that subsequently it has disintegrated, become internally fractious and divided, and subordinate to lesser nations. (With a rising national debt and unilateral entry into war – America is increasingly seen as weaker and isolated from the world community. Some conservatives long for the culture of the 1950’s – a time before Civil Rights, before Vatican II, before Medicare, before Vietnam, and before extreme partisan bickering.)
(3) This process of national decline is often linked to a diminution of the racial purity of the nation. In some movements the nation is regarded as co-extensive with the race (the nation race), while in others, hierarchies of races are defined generically with nations located within them (the race nation); in virtually all cases, the view is taken that the introduction of impurities has weakened the nation and been responsible for its plight. (The election of our first Black President, Barack Obama, caused many closet racists to directly relate the economic strife to a loss of white supremacy- this phenomenon is not necessarily a conscious thought – but the result of fear of economic security. Because the language of racism is no longer acceptable the conservative right focus is against immigration. From Answers.com: ‘…totalitarianism and dictatorship have been replaced by lesser demands for a significant strengthening in the authority of the state, allegedly within a democratic framework; productionism has become interventionism; and military glory has been largely eschewed.’)
(4) The blame for national decline and/or racial miscegenation is laid at the door of a conspiracy on the part of other nations/races seen as competing in a desperate struggle for dominance. (Leaders of the Tea Party movement advocate conspiracies of the ‘liberal left.’ The signs carried at rallies denote pictures of the President as a socialist, with a Hitler mustache. The goal of the ‘conspiracy’ is to remove individual liberty, then create a system of socialism, and to take guns away from the general populace. Republican Representatives openly encourage the belief in outrageous conspiracies – playing on the emotional distress of economic despair.)
(5) In that struggle, both capitalism and its political form, liberal democracy, are seen as mere divisive devices designed to fragment the nation and subordinate it further in the world order. (The great irony in early 21st Century America is irrational fear of political liberalism. Freedom Works and The Tea Party both advocate individual liberty – while seeking a nostalgic return to a white dominated society where poverty limits individual freedom.)
Methods are loosely defined by current unwitting fascist promoters. Essentially these methods have a common goal:
1. the first priority is the reconstitution of the nation as an entity by restoring its purity. (The mission statement of the Tea Party movement: A community committed to standing together, shoulder to shoulder, to protect our country and the Constitution upon which we were founded. Again – a nostalgic idea that somehow political liberalism has diminished or undermined our country. The reality is that political liberalism is exactly how we were founded.)
Means to this end include variously:
(a) the institution of an authoritarian and antiliberal state dominated by a single party;
(b) total control by the latter over political aggregation, communication, and socialization;
(c) direction by the state of labour and consumption to create a productionist and self-sufficient economy; and
(d) a charismatic leader embodying the ‘real’ interests of the nation and energizing the masses. With these priorities fulfilled, the nation would then be in a position to recapture its dominance, if necessary by military means. (Think Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and Sarah Palin. Freedom Works openly identifies former GOP Representative Dick Armey as their leader. Their Mission statement says Armey, “…has an unrivalled ability to reach opinion leaders and elected officials with innovative policy ideas and effective strategies for change…”)
Historically – the extreme result of economic insecurity fostered fascist governments. We note the despair of Germany after World War I. Fascist leaders deny that they are fascists. Modern conservative leaders glorify some mystical idea about what America used to be. The legitimate fear of economic despair is used to imply that our government has somehow morphed into a totalitarian state.
The appeal to diverse groups of Americans rests in obscure ideas of nostalgic patriotism. The idea of The State, as defined by Freedom Works or The Tea Party, glorify a past that never existed. The argument of a return to peace and tranquility – led by the conservative organizers – is the emotional charge.
The Republican Party is scared. Historically the party of business, of the elite upper classes, the GOP fears democratic political domination by the lower classes. The GOP sold their souls to the devil when they partnered with Christian Fundamentalism to gain votes. The mastery of fascism in Church organization by right wing Christian organization is being introduced in the GOP political arena.
“When Fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.” Sinclair Lewis
“That which the Fascists hate above all else, is intelligence.” – Miguel De Unamuno
“Fascism is nothing but capitalist reaction.” – Leon Trotsky
“Fascism is capitalism plus murder.” – Upton Sinclair
“Fascism was a counter-revolution against a revolution that never took place.” – Ignazio Silone
“Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.” – Jean-Paul Sartre