A subtle kind of fascism
By John Chuckman
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Oct 12, 2006, 00:54
The word fascism
is used a lot, often pejoratively. The image that immediately comes to mind is
Mussolini in a steel helmet, hands on hips, head tipped back, jaw thrust out.
It is an image that influenced other fascists. Young Hitler was a great
It is always
helpful for any discussion to define the subject carefully, a seemingly obvious
principle often ignored. What exactly is fascism? Can fascism coexist to any
extent with democratic institutions?
is not the same thing as communism, although both these systems are represented
by strongmen or tyrants and the state apparatus needed to support them. Those
who like the nomenclature of the French Revolution might say that the two
political extremes, right and left, almost meet somewhere in a bend of
of course, has been regarded as incompatible with communism, although
contemporary China with its New Economic Zone begins to confuse the issue.
Things have always been quite different with fascism. Fascist governments are
favorable to the interests of enterprise, at least the interests of large-scale
enterprises. Great private combines existed and were encouraged under Hitler,
Tojo, and Mussolini. Fascism represents, if you will, a kind of large-scale,
Fascism, much like
the mental image of Mussolini, tends to be about power, generally a raw display
of political and military power. These two things are welded together in a
fascist state. Flags, banners, strutting, and marching feature prominently,
with political occasions sometimes difficult to distinguish from military ones.
strutting-peacock displays serve several purposes. One, with their rise to
power, fascist parties brag about getting things done (the reality of
entrenched fascism proves another matter altogether), as opposed to the
mundane, boring inefficiency of ordinary deliberations. This kind of promise
appeals to the frustrations of many people who yearn for decisive change. Their
yearnings may concern anything from building public projects to imposing moral
There likely is a
built-in component in human beings which finds authority attractive, at least
over certain limits. Society mimics the show of power in many institutions from
popes to presidents.
The display of
power also intimidates enemies. Political opponents are not a common feature of
fascist states, which always feature secret police, secret prisons, and heavy
domestic spying, although they are sometimes allowed to exist in a neutered
form for show or internal political purposes.
closely associated with fascism. Partly the aggression is simply the result of
having large standing armies and all the state and corporate apparatus
associated with them. Large standing armies simply tend to get used --
historians have offered this as one of the important explanations for the First
World War -- and the impulse to use them is undoubtedly increased by the psychology
The psychology of
fascist states tends to include penis-fixation -- big guns, big flags, and big
monuments. Aggression is a direct outgrowth of all the strutting, bragging, and
grows out of the fascist tendency to regard the nation as somehow specially
blessed or endowed or entitled. There follows an assumed inherent right or even
obligation to rule over others or at least to direct their destinies.
When you consider
these characteristics, every one of them is an intrinsic part of contemporary
American society. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that America is a kind of
fascist state, certainly a softer-appearing one than some in the past, but then
America excels at marketing, perhaps its one original intellectual gift to the
America does cling
to ideals of human rights, something which it never fails to remind the world
at international gatherings, but the truth is international gatherings are only
regarded as useful for just such announcements. Despite clinging to
human-rights ideals, at the very same time, America refuses to deal with others
on the basis of these rights, and it often fails even to enforce the rights of
selected categories of its own citizens.
about human rights is not so odd if you consider the many American Christians
who enshrine Jesus' great commandment and the Ten Commandments and yet stand
ready at a moment's notice to kill others in meaningless wars.
Genuine respect for
human rights is surely more a matter of prevailing day-to-day attitudes in a
society than words written on old pieces of paper.
But America is a democracy, isn't it? It
certainly has many of the forms of a democracy, but when you closely examine
the details, as I've written previously, American democracy resembles a badly
worn wood veneer. The ugly structural stuff underneath sticks out the way
elbows do in a threadbare coat.
Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor