How Fascism Happens : That Hoary Truism About Learning From History

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Fascism: When bad things happen to good people
By Paul Fish / The Rag Blog / September 28, 2008

A good and recent read is John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience which is really a rather dispassionate and mildly scholarly view of how corrupted core values and mindset can lead anyone, anytime to do things that go against their own “self interests” (to put a non-scaremongering euphemistic phrase in there). The truth is that Dean, who is still a conservative in the old Barry Goldwater sense, wrote this with a focus on the Reagan Revolution crop of neocons.

(Goldwater was viewed as “radical conservative” in his time, but would now be labeled a member of the far-left by the current crop of neocons, so successful has the Neo-Fascist revolution progressed in changing our language. Think “liberal” as a new four-letter word, when this country was, is, and always should be a shining example of a liberal experiment in government — and one for which being a liberal ought to be an honorific, a badge worn proudly.)

About tedious scaremongering itself, as opposed to calm and reasoned planning focused on “today”: I apologize for trotting out a hoary truism (while paraphrasing it) with the concept that to be ignorant of history (either not knowing it or practicing denial) dooms a people to repeat it. In the world of strategic planning, it is always best to understand the core of the opposition because, otherwise, you will never effectively counter its threat.

While not a member of the Jewish culture, and being of the first generation after WWII, I do not have direct experience of the fascist regimes prevailing during that period, nor direct experience from the changes imposed upon the European public over the period leading to military action and the organized ethnic purgings against Jews, Armenians, Poles, gays and general dissidents. I only know what I know from many, many readings of history of my parents’ times.

What I have gathered from those readings is that, for the most part, the step-by-step process that led directly to concentration camps, gas chambers and ovens, was that the citizens of the various European countries involved tended to go along with the step-by-step stripping of their rights, accepting the overthrow of their more democratic forms of government, and accepting racist hateful arguments of threats to their existence. They did so because most were relatively decent people, who could not fathom that “this could happen here.”

The citizens of Germany and Italy became complicit in that overthrow of their liberties and freedom of will because they just could not wrap their heads around the idea that the drip, drip, drip erosion of their freedoms could ultimately lead to where it eventually went. There were plenty enough citizens to stop the brownshirts, to stop the Italian fascistic factions if they had just taken off their blinders of denial and risen up en masse. But they didn’t. It just couldn’t happen here.

So what is happening here?

That there may be hundreds or thousands of people choosing to use aspects of fundamentalist theology to justify committing acts of terrorism is real. Nineteen people acted, rationalized by select sections of their theology, within this country and attacked what they saw as symbols of things they deeply resent about our country. However, most of the reactionary rhetoric used by our current administration and other neocons in general appears to target almost all who share the faith of the attackers, or who derive from Middle Eastern physical types similar to the physical types of the hateful 19.

To generalize like that — and don’t tell me you don’t see it, otherwise why is it an “attack” on Barack Obama to suggest he is Muslim? — is no less racist than the fear mongering about the “great Jewish threat” peddled from Hitler and his brownshirts.

One key factor to what is “fascist” is letting the State (read that: government) dump “unnecessary” liberties and only keep those that are “essential,” as determined by the State. We have allowed the Patriot Act. We have allowed spying on citizens. We allow rendition. We allow habeas corpus to be suspended. We allow “enhanced interrogation.” We allow rewriting of near-history to support us perpetrating hateful actions (read that: outright lying from the neocons) — like invading a country that was no threat to us.

Liberties gone, and Fear as a Tool? Check.

Another key factor to what is “fascist” is that there be a single father-figure leader, but one who has total power (the term “dictator” will do, though having an Imperial Presidency is fairly faithful to the concept). The State, with this dictator as titular head, tells you that it/he is privy to information not available to the masses and, as a direct result, knows much better than the masses what is really at play in the world, knows what is best for the people. How many times over this past eight years have we heard the phrase “We have secret intelligence that shows heightened activities by…” you name it? “Based on this secret intelligence it is imperative that we now…” take this action (go to war, spy on you, torture people that we [through our secret intelligence] know to be enemy operatives — though they must never stand trial in public because our secret intelligence will be revealed, ad infinitum)?

Do we now have a dictator instead of president? Well, okay: “Dictator” seems such a harsh word; “Imperial President” seems so fuzzy and soft. Why not go with some other more euphemistic name — you know, like “Decider”? Dictators decide what action to take and make it happen, and nobody can stop him/her from doing it. Like domestic spying (nothing happens, even though it is a felony at the time it takes place). Like torture (which is a crime, well, just about everywhere more enlightened people rule). Allow oil companies to create our energy policies in closed door sessions ( civil crimes of conflict of interest and flaunting the Public Records Act). Turning the Department of Justice into a one-party kangaroo court. And, as a final nail if it goes through, the Secretary Paulsen presented bailout plan (surely at least partly penned by David Addington), there is the power-grab clause 8a which tells Congress that is has no active part in handling the nation’s purse strings, and tells the Judicial branch it has no power over executive office decisions.

Check all your balances at the door if that clause goes through because, voila! we will have placed the cornerstone brick into the wall of the first American dictator.

Dictator/Decider in place? Check.

Some who say the argument about a new form of fascism taking root here is faulty base part of their argument on this: Under fascism, all of industry belongs to the State. I suggest that the arising neocon/neofascist has created a new flavor of fascism by holding a mirror to that core concept. Whether the State controls all of industry and finance or finance and industry controls the State (the neocon twist) still leaves you with one thing: A Corporate State. Palindromes still end up being the same word, no matter from which end you start your spelling. A corporate state is a corporate state and, so long as the State takes its marching orders and implements decrees from a titular-head decider, it does the duck walk and quacks.

Corporate State? Check.

Finally, and this is no afterward, no afterthought, what about all this neocon chatter over the past 30 years about restoring morality and ethics to a culture gone astray? That neocon Christianity thing? Sorry to say it folks, but that is covered under the tenets of fascism as well as being instrumental in “normalizing” diverse opinions to better reflect the ethos and “morality” of State “virtues.” It is central to controlling the masses (a political end, political tool that has been used throughout the history of humankind since the first time a king or emperor claimed he or she was also a god or tuned into secret divinations from on high, directly or through their personal High Priest). To tell someone that you want half their crop just because you are a king or queen is far, far less compelling than if you tell your people that the rain will stop, mothers will be barren, that they will be visited upon by famine or pestilence or have a one-way ticket to the flaming pits of hell if they don’t.

State Religion? Check.

On the off chance some may feel I’m just making this all up, pulling these tenets of fascism straight out of nether anatomical regions, I have one further reading recommendation, though it is a bit of a tough to slog through: Go a-Googling for “The Doctrine of Fascism” by one Benito Mussolini from 1932. Hitler was not the guy who created fascism; that was good old “let’s restore the Roman Empire” Benito. You are probably safe in skipping past most of section one because it is all vague sky-pie generalities. However, if read from a “here in America” perspective the second section, which spells out in by-the-numbers concepts all the working parts of fascism, it is amazing how close it reads to maybe the Podhoretz, Reagan, Cheney, Rove and Bush playbook, with stark parallels in ways I’ve discussed above as well as many others not mentioned.

Do I share this as some “hair on fire” rant with intent to incite panic? No. Fear? Well, yes: Fear by itself is not a bad thing. It evolved as a survival mechanism across millions of years. Fear is not an end, it is a motivator. Anger? I hope so. Because this “Revolution” that Reagan, Pat Robertson and Norman Podhoretz started is not some intellectual exercise, or some too-cute-by-half term used to describe reinstituting American values our wayward culture lost along the way. It is a revolution.

The crop of neocon believers in this revolution — meaning overthrowing the core tenets of this republic — never, ever agreed with the Constitution as it was originally written and has evolved for the past few hundred years. They descend from a malcontent minority present at the start of this country, and whose ideologies were never added to the country’s founding principles. The authors of this country were too liberal for their tastes. They descend from the nation’s forefathers who wanted Washington to be not the First Citizen President; they wanted him to be our new king. For life. They did not want checks and balances. They wanted, on the one hand, a monarchical central leader, but with feudal Nation States under him. They never wanted a central Constitution at all. So the new neocon verbiage “strict construction” is code language for strict deconstruction in reference to the Constitution and Bill of Rights. They do not like this liberal country, founded by liberals, and run by an uber-liberal document called the Constitution.

They do not want a Bill of Rights but, instead, a Bill of Prohibitions. Otherwise these new revolutionaries would not constantly be arguing for amendments that strip or limit rights.

And, under the administration of Bush the Lesser, half of that Constitution is already gone, already in tatters. We are maybe one last election away from fruition for their revolutionary plan. Unless, of course, a security Red Alert is issued in October, with “secret intelligence” that there is a suitcase nuke loose in our borders, that Martial Law is declared to “protect us” and the elections are suspended until the threat is neutralized. Which it never will be. And Bush the Lesser remains our Decider. Strange to think that it could be that close at hand. And Bush the Lesser has the power, will, and demonstrated willingness of deceit to do it.

No. I do not see the “change” that’s needed as a matter of merely restoring decency or fairness or bi-partisan negotiation or ending one given war. We can not negotiate with those who wish to overthrow the republic. We must use what non-violent tools we have left to throw them out of power, to keep them from completing their converting this country to something our founders would recognize all too well, and which the founders committed tears, sweat and blood to get rid of: A vast anti-liberal tyranny.

All that, and Condi Rice just admitted that strategies for using torture took place in the White House before it was implemented as a policy of The State. And none of them are yet in jail.

I’m just saying.


[Paul Fish posts to Progressives for Obama.]

The Rag Blog

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3 Responses to How Fascism Happens : That Hoary Truism About Learning From History

  1. smokey says:

    A little bit of honesty can only be a good thing.
    Hitler,Stalin, and mussolini
    All leftists
    All Socialists
    Fascist is real specific to the political party mussolini formed
    after his expulsion from the italian Socialist party.
    The american left was pretty keen on fascism in the first part of the last century and only rejected european fascists when Hitler attacked the Soviet union
    And isn’t Neocon crypto fascist code for jew?
    i’m just saying

  2. Anonymous says:

    No you moron, the American Left marched all the time against Fascism. Fascism was an Ultranationalist ideology that was INVENTED to destroy socialism. Mussolini was a FORMER member of the Italian Socialist Party.
    Hitler was NEVER a socialist. Francisco Franco was not even close to being a socialist. So, nice try, but no one who has any intellectual honesty or knowledge of ACTUAL history would claim fascism as a left wing movement. It was VIOLENTLY anti-left. Read a book by someone who isn’t a lying revisionist lunatic and maybe you’ll see how stupid that sounded

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hitler lead the National Socialist Party, which was in direct competition with the communist party for the minds of the young German socialists; they fought not for ideology, but for recruits and power. In the end, there is little difference between socialism, fascism, and communism–all elevate the state, the collective, above the individual. This is why the supposed right wing behavior of Hitler was so similar to the supposed left wing behavior of Stalin. There was nothing capitalist about the Nazi’s. In fact, success in business is one of the characteristics they used to scapegoat the Jews. Nice attempt to distract, but you socialists are very transparent in your motives.

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