Left wing fascism

Is fascism purely a ‘right-wing’ enterprise? Popular usage would indicate yes, but if we look at what the policies and practices of fascism actually are one can make the case that it has far more in common with the left-wing.

In fact, it might surprise you to know that the policies of the New Deal are in fact ‘fascist’ in nature.

The hallmark of fascism, as defined by the left today, is of corporations ruling the state or of a corporate/state partnership, or corporatism.

The decision by the FCC this morning to remove the last restrictions on Big Media to the control of the Public Airwaves is but one more sign that we are entering the Age of Corporatism, a world where the interests of the Fortune 500 and the Bush Administration have merged perfectly. One can observe Assistant Secretary of the Interior Stephen Griles working tirelessly to make sure his former clients in the Coal Industry have unfettered access to Federal Lands for mining (as outlined on "Now with Bill Moyers" last Friday) or you watch Michael Powell make sure that the Broadcasters who paid for his luxurious travel arrangements for the past three years, get unfettered access to the public airwaves . All of these moves take "The Commons" which is owned by all of us and move it into the hands of a few wealthy companies who pay little or nothing for resources from which they make millions. Dissident Voice

The reality is that fascism refers not to the privatization of 'common property', but the opposite: to it's collectivization. In short, the antidote to fascism is not more government control of business, but less.

The left's argument that modern conservatives are corporatists and fascists is a total corruption of the terms and of historical fact. If we look back at Mussolini and his fascist state we do not see corporations taking over the state, but rather the opposite, the state taking over corporations. I do not mean to say that 'big corporations' do not go along with and possibly even see this as sometimes in their interests, after all some of the greatest proponents of state control of business are in fact billionaire businessmen. I am merely pointing out that the fascist movement was not inspired and led by businessmen nor business interests, but by politicians and ideologues. It was Mussolini himself who coined the word fascist and created its political philosophy.

There is little historical evidence for the kind of fascism the left routinely accuses the GOP and corporations of engaging in. Corporatism was not corporate control of the state, but the state's control of corporations. Even the Wikipedia entry for this topic admits that it was not Mussolini's intent for the state to share power with any other interest.

"The State not only is authority which governs and molds individual wills with laws and values of spiritual life, but it is also power which makes its will prevail abroad.... For the Fascist, everything is within the State and... neither individuals nor groups are outside the State.... For Fascism, the State is an absolute, before which individuals or groups are only relative...." Mussolini

"Italian Life under Fascism" explains even further that the creation of this corporatist syndicate of industry was a compromise.

Fascism was unique among the radical forces produced by the early twentieth century, developing out of World War I without any clear predecessor in the nineteenth century. It first emerged in Italy in 1919, catapulting its leader, Benito Mussolini, into the premiership three years later and then to the creation of a new political dictatorship beginning in 1925. The term fascism, however, would later be applied to an entire cluster or genus of new revolutionary nationalist movements in Europe between the world wars, of which the most important was German National Socialism, or Nazism, for short, so that the Italian origins of the first fascism would often be overlooked, attention focusing primarily on Germany. The initial, or "paradigmatic" fascism nonetheless had specifically Italian roots and characteristics.

The term comes from the Italian fascio, derived from the ancient Latin fasces, which referred to the bundle of lictors, or axe-headed rods, that symbolized the sovereignty and authority of the Roman Republic. From approximately the 1870s, the term fascio was used in Italy in the names of radical new social and political organizations, normally of the left. Thus the revolutionary nationalists who sought to create a new left nationalist league in 1919, in the aftermath of World War I, formed a Fascio di Combattimento, transformed two years later into the new Fascist Party, and so a radical new "ism" was born.

Italian Fascism began on the left, seeking to combine strong nationalism with modern developmentalism and an aggressive new style of activism that prized violence, idealism, and anti-materialism. While reenforcing Italian colonialism, Fascism originally embraced national liberation and rejected extreme imperialism and racism. Mussolini did not create the movement but skillfully guided himself to power as its Duce (Dux, or leader), at the same time moving the party to the right and engaging in practical compromise with Italy's established institutions. Though Fascists invented the term "totalitarian" for their new system, Mussolini was unable to complete a Fascist revolution and instead presided over a somewhat limited, semi-pluralist political dictatorship. library.wisc.edu

The key element of fascism is the primacy of the state, not the business interest.

Contrast this with the antidote proscribed by those who fight against (the straw man) of corporate control of America. Their antidote is more control of corporations by the state. In fact, in varying degrees their political solutions resemble more Mussolini's fascism than anything else. In fact, the progressive ideal, New Deal itself, is patterned entirely on the Italian model of fascism.

In 1926 Mussolini created the 'National Council of Corporations', essentially organizing all industry under the state.

Mussolini, for example, capitalized on fear of an imminent Socialist revolution [3] (http://www.thecorner.org/hists/total/f-italy.htm), finding ways to unite Labor and Capital, to Labor's ultimate detriment. In 1926 he created the National Council of Corporations, divided into guilds of employers and employees, tasked with managing 22 sectors of the economy. The guilds subsumed both labor unions and management, but were heavily weighted in favor of the corporations and their owners. The moneyed classes in return helped him change the country's laws to raise his stature from a coalition leader to a supreme commander. The movement was supported by small capitalists, low-level bureaucrats, and the middle classes, who had all felt threatened by the rise in power of the Socialists. Fascism also met with great success in rural areas, especially among farmers, peasants, and in the city, the lumpenproletariat. wikipedia

Compare this with the National Industrial Recovery Act signed into law in 1933 by Roosevelt:

The passage of NIRA ushered in a unique experiment in U.S. economic history-the NIRA sanctioned, supported, and in some cases, enforced an alliance of industries. Antitrust laws were suspended, and companies were required to write industry-wide "codes of fair competition" that effectively fixed prices and wages, established production quotas, and imposed restrictions on entry of other companies into the alliances. The act further called for industrial self-regulation and declared that codes of fair competition-for the protection of consumers, competitors, and employers-were to be drafted for the various industries of the country and were to be subject to public hearings. Employees were given the right to organize and bargain collectively and could not be required, as a condition of employment, to join or refrain from joining a labor organization. Ourdocuments.gov

Despite protestations after the fact, Mussolini's fascist state was held in high regard for a time in many circles, including within the United States. Europe still practices this model of corporatism where the state 'partners' with labor unions, and big business to manage the economy. In the thirties this was the height of economic thought, the idea of 'planned capitalism', or the 'managed economy'. The fact that this idea is still in vogue today despite its close association to the fascist states of both Italy and Germany is due entirely to the fact that many have worked hard to disassociate the two. To the point where today the term fascism is implied to refer to the inevitable natural result of Laissez-Faire capitalism, rather than what it was... state capitalism.

Keep some partisan protestors out of a Presidential appearance and talk begins on the left of an attempt to 'silence all opposition' and of the rise of a 'dictatorial regime'. Yet if we look at the policies enshrined by the left as sacred we see far more dictatorial actions in the name of progressivism.

After Roosevelt created the NIRA in response to the 'national crisis of economic depression' the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. In response Roosevelt attempted to take over the judicial branch by packing the Supreme Court. Funny that the left does not seem to see this in the same light as excluding protestors within a Presidential appearance.

Fascism was built on the foundation socialism and the commonly held belief at the time that planned economies were scientific, rational, and efficient rather than the heretofore 'liberal' idea of Laissez Faire capitalism. Fascism and communism are both collectivist in nature, meaning that they disregard the value of the individual in favor of the collective society. Both are totalitarian in nature.

The idea that fascism and communism are opposite ends of the political spectrum is pure wishful thinking on the part of some who wish to divorce the close association of the two in structure, ideology, principle, and practice. Both determined that complete government control of industry was not only necessary but imperative. In practice, as opposed to theory, both slaughtered millions.

Huey Long, American Dictator

The closest thing we have ever had to a dictatorial regime in the United States was in Louisiana in the 1930's. Democrat Huey Long held all the reigns of power in his state. Patronage, the kind of which we usually associate with third world dictators, was the order of the day. He traveled with armed guards protecting his person at all times. Political enemies were destroyed outright, sometimes violently. Long had no regard for the state constitution, and even made the claim that he was the constitution!

The hallmark of Huey Longs rise to power was his 'Share the Wealth' program, a massive plan to redistribute the wealth of the country so that, 'poverty would be wiped out'. Huey's chosen political enemy was the rich and the corporate interests. The reason there were poor among us, he said was that the rich had all the wealth.

He supported Roosevelt and his platform for the New Deal until it became obvious to him that Roosevelt wasn't going to go far enough in his mind to actually restructure America the way he thought it should be.

Does any of this sound familiar? There is no doubt in my mind that had Huey Long ever achieved his ambitions that America would have been doomed.

A few more references:

The Phony of the Century
The American Experience, Roosevelt
"Through the NIRA, the federal government took a prominent role in cooperating with and managing business."
Franklin Roosevelt's Statement
on the National Industrial Recovery Act

Goose-Stepping Ghosts
Corporatism has sometimes been labeled as a Third Way or a mixed economy...
"Possibly Italy's Benito Mussolini will be 1934 Man of the Year when his new Corporative State begins to show results." -Hugh Johnson, NIRA Administrator
FDR and Mussolini, A Tale of Two Fascists
"The New Deal: The Conservative Achievements of Liberal Reform"
Crisis and Quasi-Corporatist Policy-Making: The U.S. Case in Historical Perspective
The Great Society: A Libertarian Critique
The End of Reform, New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War
Great Depression, Econlib.org
Economic Fascism
Fascism, Econlib.org

Posted by Eric Simonson at February 21, 2005 7:23 PM