Strutting Fascism and swaggering militarism
By Gaither Stewart
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Jul 1, 2008, 00:22
�We work for the moral and
traditional values which Socialists neglect and despise. . . ." --Benito
ROME -- It�s their strutting. That detestable image
of the strutting that links them, the strutting and prancing Fascists and their
swaggering and parading military cousins, up front for their conveniently
concealed corporatist controllers.
A strutting and swaggering couple they are, Fascism and the
entrenched class of war. Their distorted visions of gallantry and nation come
so naturally to both. The spick and span generals, employers of mercenaries and
killers, chin in, chest out, and their majors and their colonels (especially
the generals in the offices and the majors in the tents), thick chests covered
with ribbons and medals and rows of multicolored decorations -- awarded for
killing. And the political Fascists! Defiant chins thrust forward, hard fists
clinched, swaggering and prancing and strutting across the stages of piazzas,
nations and continents in support of the killing.
For God�s sakes let�s don�t waste time on the propaganda of
�supporting our troops over there!� Or defense of America�s values! Or the
future of our children! Or the war on terrorism! Let�s don�t waste words on
that. As if in their strutting and blustering they had a monopoly on
care for our sons! Let the generals and the industrial-military complex and our
new administration (hopefully) support our boys �over there� in the only way
that really counts -- by bringing them home.
But here let�s zero in on strutting Fascism in its dreams of
glory and on its corporate partners and their dreams of a New World
Order. Let�s call a spade a spade. I have in mind the word Fascism that we
progressive writers often use as an epithet. Or sprinkled here and there in our
labels of proto-Fascist, crypto-Fascist, neo-Fascist and today, in Italy,
post-Fascist. An old word whose essence, whose very quintessence, has remained
largely the same while the word itself has acquired such negative connotations
that Fascists themselves deny their heritage, as recently the neo-Mayor of
Rome, the neo-Fascist Gianni Alemanno, who in an interview with the English
press denied he was ever a Fascist, recalling the disciple Peter denying he
ever knew his master, Jesus.
Since their emergence in Italy, Fascists have liked to claim
that they, too, are of the Left. Specious claim. Bizarre conclusion. We have to
keep in mind that that is a Fascist claim. It has little to do with social or
political or even theoretical reality. That Fascism like Socialism was a mass
movement by no means makes it Left. Historical Fascism in Italy and Nazism in
Germany set out as mass movements because they were in political competition
with leftist movements. As such Nazi-Fascism was obligated to appeal to the
masses, to the collective, to that extent becoming social. In that sense
Fascism began as a mass collectivist movement, but only up to the historical
point when it mutated into the Corporatism that Mussolini claimed as its true
Once in power, Fascism then shows its true face: it allies
with and mutates into Corporatism, becomes elitist and regiments the masses. In
power it is no longer a collectivist movement. That Power of any shade or color
often goes wrong is a truism. But that does not mean that all mass
movements-systems-ideologies are the same. The fact is that Fascism and Nazism
arose chiefly in opposition to Communism. Fascism in practice will always be of
the Right, Socialism-Communism of the Left.
After the fall of Soviet Communism two decades ago, some
European intellectuals and political scientists proclaimed the end of
ideologies, that the terms Left and Right no longer made sense and were
old-fashioned, that they were actually the same. This is dangerous speculation
and a lie. The words for the two political poles were in vogue from the French
Revolution up until the onset of the American counter-revolution not many years
ago when American conservatives declared them politically incorrect. Though the
Democratic and Republican parties in the United States contain qualities of
both Left and Right, a little of this, a little of that -- with the result that
both parties are the same -- no political movement with a genuine
ideology is or can be both Left and Right, a negative which in turn confirms
the validity of the dichotomy.
Until the French Revolution society was divided vertically,
with Power at the top, which filtered down through the hierarchy to the voiceless
peasant-slave. The great social division has always been between property
holders -- today�s capitalists -- and the landless -- today�s working class, or
simply between the rich and the poor. The Revolution instituted a more
democratic horizontal Left-Right division, intended to limit and control Power.
Reaction is Power�s nostalgia for return to the old system, which is what
happens in Fascism-Corporatism: return to a vertical society. Just as the
property holders and the landless, today�s capitalists-corporations on one hand
and workers on the other, so also Left and Right, are and always will be by
definition in opposition.
Right, or in this case Fascism, believes in the superiority
of its cultural heritage and the past of nation, people, race and traditions,
in defense of which it relies on militarism. An extreme right-winger rejects
equality, wants as little change as possible, is skeptical about political
systems and international rules and is committed to a society of hierarchy and
The Left, reformist or revolutionary, stands for
emancipation from the past and for change. Yet it is nonsense that advocacy of
change automatically places one on the Left. In the case of Italy, Fascism�s
brief exploitation of the Futurist movement in the arts in order to execute its
revolution did not make it Left. Fascism, too, wanted to remake society, but by
glorifying and worshipping the past. In fact, a kind of Sicilianism -- change
everything so that nothing changes.
Though some attitudes, positions and values are
interchangeable, there is a limit. War obviously belongs to the Right. War is a
typically Fascist manifestation emerging from its worship of militarism and
expansionism. War is no minor political slipup, as American Democrats should know
by now. Historically, war is all determinant. War has already destroyed the
foundations of the American republic and undermined American democracy itself.
The position on war of America�s Democratic Party today is a Right position, as
is its position on social justice. Right positions inevitably cause increased
social injustice, social clash and war. Likewise the pro-war position of
European Social Democracy at the outbreak of World War I led directly to its
political decline, the birth of Fascism-Nazism, to the predominance on the Left
of the Bolsheviks, and indirectly to the birth of Socialism in one country and
Norberto Bobbio (1909-2004), a major Italian political
philosopher, determined that the major distinction between Left and Right is
the relationship of each with equality. Though not every social-political view
can be classified as Right or Left, as a rule Left tends toward everything that
strives for equality among men; Right tends toward inequality. In practice the
more one rejects equality, the more Right one is. Or, more forcefully, Right
favors forms of the hierarchies dividing men. The distinction on the question
of equality is clear, uncompromising and on target. It�s one or the other --
Left or Right. They are not interchangeable. Despite Fascism�s claims that it,
too, is �Socialist� and despite Hitler�s appropriation of the word in National
Socialism, and despite Left�s frequent electoral claims that it, too, is middle
of the road, both ideologies, if they are genuine, are one or the other.
Neither Left nor Right can be middle of the road.
Some political philosophers in Europe and the USA describe
the basic divisions between the Left and Right with the comfortable categories
of Progressive and Conservative. In my opinion those common words are not
satisfactory. Right can be progressive on certain limited themes, while the
broad Left to achieve and maintain political power becomes conservative as seen
in the Left of America�s Democratic Party or in much of contemporary European Socialism.
To repeat, both Nazism and Stalinism used the word Socialist freely and in the
end created parodies of socialist states.
Today, Left considers the Center a disguised Right; the
Right believes the Center is a cover for the Left. In the political confusion
of contemporary Italy, both the neo-Fascist Right and the Socialist Left have
moved gradually toward Center positions. The Center, or the Third Way, is often
a cover for one or the other positions. That Third Way is often labeled a
�conservative revolution,� as if social ambivalence could prevail over genuine
Left or genuine Right. In the long run, the Center also is obligated to assume
positions reflecting either Left or Right.
So it is one or the other, Left or Right. Even though one
does not eliminate the other, one or the other predominates in a given society
in a given moment. Times change but the basic dichotomy remains.
The most blatant example of ignoring the Left-Right
political reality is the USA, the world�s most powerful country controlled by a
one-party system, which in effect ignores the words Left and Right. America�s
Republican and Democratic parties stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the Right,
bolstered by religious extremists, secret militias and the flag-waving false
patriots. Though the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States
contain a little of this, a little of that -- with the result that both parties
are practically the same -- no political movement with a genuine
ideology is and can be both Left and Right. Some positions and values can be
exchanged and integrated in diverse systems, but there is a limit.
No one genuinely on the Left (in the Democratic Party,
Liberals or Social Democrats) can defend Anglo-American conservatism or the
liberalism-conservatism-Corporatism-Militarism-Fascism alliance. One forgets
that there are limits as to what politics can accomplish. The open spaces the
US political system leaves vacant have been occupied by the all-powerful,
elitist, anti-human, militant and militaristic industrial-military complex of
the modern corporatist state. In sum, the combination creates the authoritarian
system. It is that extra-political vacuum (where there should be a Left!) which
creates space for the populism and demagoguery of Fascism. America�s two interdependent
parties have exchanged political and social values like merchandise. The result
is that the one-party system based on the great euphemism of democracy -- now
a fa�ade, fake and mendacious -- stands as the banner and standard of the great
If one behaves like a swaggering Fascist, speaks like a
super nationalistic Fascist, acts like a Fascist bully, he must be a Fascist.
We feel a certain solace in just pronouncing the epithet, �fucking Fascists!�
Yet the word Fascism has not always been politically
derogatory. Not by a long shot. Within a decade early last century, the word
Fascism came to be applied to a cluster of similar nationalist-militaristic
movements in Europe, the most important of which were the original Fascism in
Italy and Nazism in Germany, or National Socialism. In a wave of revolutionary
nationalism, Fascism first emerged in an Italy ravaged by World War I. The
swaggering strutting nationalistic movement of Mussolinian Fascism had no
precise forerunners from the 19th century, as did Socialism and Communism, but
it was soon admired and imitated by like-minded movements across Europe and in
William Dudley Pelly�s Nazi-supported Silver Shirts
organized in the 1930s in the town of Asheville, NC, where I grew up was the
most influential, most violent, most anti-Semitic of native American Fascist
organizations, with allegedly some 2 million members and with whom today�s
Right still has ideological bonds. America�s Fascists favored Nazi Germany and
Fascist Italy in WWII. Religion and intense hatred of minorities bond Christian
Identity and right-wing extremists with the former Silver Shirt movement. TV
evangelists of the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have followed the same
format -- hate of Communism, Jews, gays, abortion, welfare, unions -- in favor
of the corporate-clerical state.
With the rise of the power of corporations came also the
rise of the modern military-police profession cast in a new role. As did former
monarchs, modern corporations and their stockholders need the military-police
control mechanism in order to ascertain that the populace never rises up in
protest. Their marriage is the heart of Fascism. Fascism in practice is thus
the protective shield for Corporatism. For every Corporate-Fascist state
inevitably erects a police state to regulate and finally enslave its people.
The most striking historical examples were Italy and Germany last century.
Today, it is the USA and its proxy puppet governments around the world.
The term Fascism derives from the Italian fascio, or Latin fasces, in reference to the bundle of rods
that symbolized the authority of the Republic of ancient Rome. The term was
used occasionally in the late 19th century for new radical movements combining
strong nationalism, aggressive activism and violence and �authoritarianism,�
another term coined by early Italian Fascists, signs of which have reappeared
today in contemporary Berlusconian Italy.
Revolutionary Italian nationalists after WWI used the word fascio
for the movement that in 1921 became the Fascist Party. Wearing a black shirt, the color of Fascism, Benito
Mussolini recruited a fascio di combattimento, or combat group. Mussolini did not found Italian Fascism but he
insinuated himself into its leadership and became its supreme leader, Il Duce.
His combat fasces and the drums of
authoritarianism created an atmosphere in which Fascist dictatorship was wildly
perceived as the only salvation of strife-ridden Italy, a strategy eerily echoed
today in Berlusconian Italy. Mussolini became modern Europe's first Fascist
leader, Italy's prime minister and dictator from 1922 to 1943.
In the widespread
post-World War I disenchantment and in Europe, Mussolini's revolutionary spirit
and his Fascist model were contagious and spread over Europe and to the USA. Based
on a corporatist and totalitarian vision of the state, Fascism then, as today,
has considered itself a third way between capitalism and Socialism-Communism.
Benito Mussolini offered this authoritative definition of
Fascism: �Fascism is a great mobilization of material and moral forces. What
does it propose? We say the following without false modesty: To govern the
nation. With what program? With a program necessary to guarantee the moral and
material grandeur of the Italian people. Let�s speak clearly: It�s of no import
if our concrete program is somewhat convergent with that of the Socialists as
far as the technical, administrative and political reorganization of our
country is concerned. We work for the moral and traditional values which Socialists neglect and despise. . . ."
Corporatism was so much the heart of Italian Fascism that
Mussolini insisted that Fascism should in fact be called Corporatism because it
is a merger of the nationalist-military state and corporate power. His words
struck a chord in the hearts of European and American capitalists in the 1930s
and '40s, just as they still do today. For if one bothers to look, the traits
of Fascism are highly visible in Corporatism. What are corporations anyway?
Corporations are legally named persons, fictitious persons that have gained
more rights than individual human beings.
By nature corporations are thirsty for power. They are
insatiable. Growth and more power are their mottos. As corporations acquire
more power, they and their lobbies come to control also the puppet government
and thus the real people of flesh and blood whose rights cannot but
deteriorate. The goals of corporations, their raison d�etre and the twin
pillars of their existence, are growth and greater and greater profits.
In the capitalist state the �government of the people� becomes a fiction and
morphs into corporate rule. In that sense US liberalism has considerable
overlap with Fascism. The word Corporatism fits well the social-political setup
in the USA and most of Europe today and, in that sense, is an heir of Fascism.
Mussolini, I believe, would feel quite comfortable in the
NATO-European Union-USA-European arena today. The merger of the
military-industrial complex and the political world in the USA is the most
contemporary example of the concept of Corporatism-Fascism. In their
penetrating, pervasive and increasingly authoritarian interventions in
socio-economic life, today�s governments in America and Europe are in fact
examples of Fascism in action. Moreover, it should be noted here that while
Fascism in its Mussolinian origins was nationalist, today it is global.
Globalization is no less than Mussolini�s Fascism-Corporatism in action on a
It�s no wonder that from its inception Fascism violently
opposed Socialism and Communism. Anti-Communism and anti-Socialism have been
the US corporate-political policy since the rise of workers' movements in the
middle of the 19th century. The original Fascism itself was born in part as a
reaction to the Russian Revolution, in part in opposition to the rise of the
ideal of liberal democracy. From the start Fascism everywhere combined
ideological aspects of the extreme Right such as nationalism, militarism, expansionism
and meritocracy (the latter is much in vogue today in Berlusconian Italy) and
idealist elements borrowed from workers' movements such as the primacy of
labor, social and unionist revolution. The very word Nazi derived from the name
of Hitler�s National Socialist Party, reflecting its emergence from and support
by the petty bourgeoisie. And still today, Italian neo-Fascists describe their
movement as social and named their post-Mussolinian political party, the
Italian Social Movement.
Antonio Gramsci, the political thinker, philosopher and
co-founder of the Italian Communist Party, in an article, �Little Fascists�
(Piccoli fascisti), in Ordine Nuovo,
January 2, 1921, linked the Fascism of his time to the petty bourgeoisie, at
the time called the shopkeepers� class, perhaps closest to the American liberal
upper middle classes today.
�In this its last political incarnation which is �fascism,�
the petty bourgeoisie has revealed its real nature as a servant of capitalism
and landed property. But it has also shown that it is fundamentally incapable
of playing any historic role: the people of monkeys fill the news, does not
create history, leaves traces in the newspapers, does not offer materials for
books. The petty bourgeoisie, after having ruined Parliament, is now ruining
the bourgeois state: it substitutes private violence for the authority of law.
. . ."
In one of Gramsci�s famous quotes Fascism was described as
an attempt to resolve production and trade issues with �machines guns and
�Productive forces have been ruined and wasted in the
imperialistic war: twenty million men in the flower of youth and energy have
been killed; the thousands of links that united world markets have been
violently destroyed; the relations between countryside and city, between
metropolises and colonies, have been turned upside down; the streams of
emigration that periodically re-established unbalance between an excess of
population and the potentiality of the means of production in single nations
have been profoundly upset and no longer function normally. . . . Yet there
exists a small layer of population in all countries -- the petty and middle
bourgeoisie -- that believes it can resolve these gigantic problems with
machine guns and revolver shots, and this small layer fuels fascism, supplies
manpower to fascism.�
The roots of Fascism are European, linked to the birth of
mass society after WWI, especially in those nations in transformation, which
were conditioned by political and economic weakness as were Italy and Germany
defeated in the Great War. Labeled by Thomas Mann the �moral sickness of
Europe� of the epoch, Fascism found particularly fertile ground in Italy and
Germany. Fascism is not based on any one class. It draws support from all. It
is the result of wayward moral conscience and drunken decadence produced by the
horrors of war and it affected most countries that participated in the conflict
-- that is much of the world.
Yet, as Gramsci noted, the petty bourgeoisie provided
Fascism�s most ardent supporters. This relationship of Fascism-middle class is
essential, central, in order to grasp the nature of Fascism at all latitudes.
It was the common denominator between Italy and Germany. This relationship
distinguishes Fascism from similar regimes and movements elsewhere which though
often called Fascist are only marginally so. This relationship also explains
the mass support Italian Fascism and German Nazism acquired, the reputation as
mass movements, for regimes that in power could only develop based on a police
state, terror and a monopoly of mass propaganda.
Fascism as Corporatism
There is some truth to the claim that liberalism created
Fascism. The Italian petty bourgeoisie created Mussolinian Fascism and still
today, 2008, the same petty bourgeoisie in Rome�s borgate, the vast poorer and workers�
districts, are the backbone of Italy�s neo-Fascism and Berlusconian populism.
In Mussolini�s time, the wealthy upper classes abetted and encouraged Fascism�s
emergence, confident that it could control it. To a certain extent and for a
certain time it did. Until Fascism in power showed its true face and controlled
the controllers. Yet Mussolini insisted on the name of Corporatism instead of
Fascism. Today, capitalism is both partner and controller of American Corporate
Fascism as were capitalists in Europe and the USA in the 1920s and '30s.
Even a superficial analysis of the state created by the
Corporate Fascism-middle class symbiosis of three-quarters of a century ago
shows clear analogies with the American form of Corporatism today. Though not
yet widely identified as such, Fascism is already in place in power in this
great and powerful Corporatist state. American Corporatism has created the
bases of its police state as Corporatism did in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
The state relies on terrorism to create the threat from external enemies
created by the state itself. Hitler�s burning of the Reichstag in Berlin for
which Communists were blamed was Nazi Germany�s Twin Towers. The American
corporatist state uses establishment media and acquiescent intellectuals for
its mass propaganda a la Goebbels to maintain the false consciousness and the
Americanism image. The subservient media and compliant intellectuals serve to
create the myths of the elusive American dream and the mythical American way
of life of comfort and ease -- in sum, Americanism -- and to assure the
consent of the masses in the interests of wealth, power, and privilege.
Fascism is thus a product of capitalist society, an
anti-proletarian reaction to protect the social relations reigning in
capitalist production. Fascism is the falange Italy�s Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi speaks of today to break workers movements in the interests of
capital. Mussolinian Fascism, and German Nazism organized the nation
spiritually by intense radical demagogic propaganda, military build-up, the
creation of a mass social base and centralized government. In a similar
fashion, the Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan governments of the 1980s
marked the revival of the process of Corporatism, the crushing of any illusions
of a welfare state in the USA and the weakening of the foundations of social
democracy in Great Britain.
Once firmly in power Fascism always carries out a palace
revolution in order to further regiment the masses while leaving capital free
to dispose of plus value as it desires. In this sense, the corporate state
crushes class struggle and guarantees the monopoly organization of capital.
During the acme of his power in the early 1930s, Mussolini repeatedly claimed
that within a few years all of Europe would be Fascist. Though I am little
inclined to dwell on affinities between Mussolini and Lenin, still, in the 20th
century the great ideological movements were in competition for the souls of
the masses. Mussolini believed firmly in the fascistization of the world as
Lenin did in world Socialist revolution. In that respect Fascism was
counter-revolutionary and reactionary despite its claims that it was social and
One question remains: the difference between Fascism and
Nazism. Can one distinguish between them qualitatively, recognizing however the
same essence in each? Or are they perhaps different movements also in essence?
Mussolini believed they were different. Subsequent history has also
differentiated between them. The Polish Pope John Paul II said at the end of
his life that Nazism was the supreme evil of the century. Though history in
general tends to consider Fascism a variation of other authoritarian regimes,
one might add, closest to the USA today, I prefer to leave them together,
wrapped in each other�s arms, one comforting the other.
In contrast to
Socialism, both Fascism and Nazism were from the start extremely nationalistic,
attempts to perpetuate the heredity of a people, a nation, a race.
Socialism-Communism, despite its failures to live up to that promise, was
internationalist by nature; in the long run Soviet Communism became
nationalistic, even though that mutation came to be blamed on the capitalist
encirclement. That encirclement was real, not a scarecrow as is terrorism and
security today. It really happened. Fascism on the other hand goes far beyond
traditional nationalism. It perceives of the nation not as the hereditary
container of values but also as a future of power. For Fascism, history is not
perceived as loyalty to values but as history�s continuing recreation over and
over again, which requires for its fulfillment the crushing of anything
standing in its way. Hitler himself recognized Italian Fascism as the first
movement that fought against Marxism and Communism, in his view, from a
non-reactionary point of view.
In the USA the choice of individualism and the privation of
a solid and stable workers movement capable of political power in the name of
social justice are dissonant with social development and social justice. In
Europe the diverse histories of workers movements had close relationships and
inter-connections with the rise of the nation states. Therefore, the flagrant
divergence of the model of the federal state projected by the USA from that of
Europe. Therefore, the pernicious halo around the now fictitious American dream
and Americanism, which provide the permanent foundations for an enduring
in Rome, Gaither Stewart, journalist and writer, well known for his dispatches
and essays from Europe, is Cyrano�s Journal�s Senior Editor & Special
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