Nah, It Ain’t F**cism

The term fascism is tossed about without much reflection these days. Conservatives talk of Islamofascism even while decrying as class warfare any reference in similar terms to their own extreme right wing stuff. Some left-liberals count almost anything the right does as fascism. None of this has much to recommend it. This kind of ranting is merely baiting those who disagree with whoever is making the fascism accusation or association. George Orwell supposedly said that the word was most often used as a way to insult one’s enemies.

But let’s look a little more closely at what is happening in America today. While it is very difficult to come to a consensus definition of fascism there are a few things most can agree upon. There will be dissenters no matter what, e.g. Hayek and von Mises and such. One term that is frequently used is corporatism. Unfortunately, corporatism itself is subject to widely differing interpretations. Whatever notion of the nature of corporatism you may favor, the fact remains that both the Third Reich and Mussolini’s Italy favored large corporations. Such American giants as Ford and IBM continued operations in Germany throughout the Second World War, and they were compensated after the war’s end for their losses by the Allied powers. It isn’t so much that corporations are nefarious, they are amoral. They will do anything they can get away with to make a profit.

So, without invoking fascism, in the darkest days of the zenith of the right in the twentieth century, right wing governments enlisted the collaboration of corporations, domestic and foreign, to accomplish their aims. Government colluded with business to conduct what amounted to perpetual war. Those governments were militaristic and corporate. In fact, some hold that in these cases, government itself was run like a corporation. I believe that our own government may be sliding inexorably toward similar behavior in our time. Let’s see why I think so.

The U.S. has been at war, with varying intensity, to be sure, at least since 1991. The war in Afghanistan has lasted longer than any war in our history, and there is no end in sight. Despite dire economic circumstances domestically, there is virtually no suggestion by any of our politicians that retiring from war would help balance our books. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are both being waged “off the books” and there is no prospect of ever paying for them. Men, women, and children, combatant and non-combatant, are being killed every day under the sham ruse of a “war on terror” or “protecting our liberties” or, shades of Vietnam, to “win the hearts and minds” of the people left over after we kill their relatives.

Some say this is being done for oil. Others counter by suggesting that the costs of the wars exceed the value of the oil at issue. Leaving aside the paucity of oil in Afghanistan, the wars are not being paid for by those who will control the oil and profit obscenely from that control. It is paid for, if at all, by poor schmucks like you and me. Sadly, oil or no oil, big bucks are in the offing for the deciders. In this day and age, wars are not conducted only by soldiers and sailors. Private contractors rake in billions, and in the process kill anyone with impunity, no matter any claims to the contrary. The military expends trillions over the years for procurements of arms, paid for either by our taxes or by borrowing from the Chinese. In the middle, as it were, Wall Street games the process for its own billions. War may be, as Chris Hedges claimed, a “force that gives us meaning,” but it is also a force that makes the owning class billions and billions, as Carl Sagan might have put it.

The general population pays but little attention to this never-ending state of belligerence, preferring lamentations if they cannot buy the latest useless gadgets. But that’s grist for another post. Absent any move on the part of voters to limit this warfare, there is no way I can see to deny that our culture is militaristic, with a propensity to violence to boot.

Another defining characteristic of the German and Italian regimes was extreme nationalism. In the case of Italy, this took the form of hostility to immigration. For the Germans, it meant “Lebensraum.” Witness today the growing resentment toward immigrants as though they are the cause of domestic troubles, and this from a nation of immigrants (excluding Native Americans, of course.) The cruel irony is that even while energy and time are spent excoriating immigrants, jobs are being exported (emigrating as it were) abroad, in the ceaseless quest for cheaper labor by corporate America. Once, again, grist for another post.

Finally, to keep the length of this post under control, consider that legions of citizens vote against their own interests to empower the very corporate would-be plutocrats, even while the government moves time and again to take from the poor and give to the rich. Once upon a time, the judiciary could be counted upon at least to put up an appearance of protecting the rights of the little guy. Now, the Supreme Court of the United States routinely rules such as to grant the corporate and moneyed classes ever more power, and to steadily whittle away what is left for the rest of us. Especially if the corporate and moneyed class in question is white and male.

No, it ain’t fascism, but it’s a pretty fair substitute if you ask me.

2 comments to Nah, It Ain’t F**cism

  • the signature of fascism is the ingenuity of mass social control that makes profiteering and imperialism possible with virtually total national unity. This is achieved with appeals to the kind of emotion you refer to with resentment of immigrants. Add to that fear, hatred, status anxiety, revenge, and indignation. Fascists resort to false accusations, big lies, conspiracy theories, staged events, provocation, bullying, threats, posturing, name-calling, and any other kind of hysterical method that appeals to visceral emotion. It all silences opposition and heightnes nationalism.

  • when I was an undergrad I think it was Daniel Bell who said Fascism is the engagement of the whole mass of the population in politics.

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