11
Jul
09

Fighting Facism

Nearly a century ago, Communist leader Leon Trotsky defined Fascism as “…Nothing but Capitalist reaction…”. A reaction to what? There are a number of factors that can result in the rise of Fascism but in order to understand the events that cause this reaction, we must first understand what Fascism is.

One’s might make the assumption that Fascism is the same as Nazism. This is only partly true. Nazism is a white supremacist ideology that originated in Germany, based roughly off of a twisted interpretation of the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nazism can perhaps best be described as a subdivision of Fascism (in other words, all Nazis are Fascists, not all Fascists are Nazis). Fascism itself could best be described as the polar opposite of Communism. While Communism demands the eventual abolition of the state, Fascism requires the existence of an almost all-powerful centralized government. While Communism calls for the abolition of private property and traditionalism, Fascism is based on conserving Capitalism and tradition. In short, Fascism can be described as a far-right Capitalist police state.

From this definition it’s easy to see why people turn to Fascism. Whenever people feel that their traditional values, social/economic standing, or status quo is facing the threat of change, there will be some who turn to Fascism as a form of defense. People, if sufficiently frightened, will trade freedom for safety (or at least, the illusion of safety). However, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both…”. During the 1950s, the US was gripped by the idea that treacherous, subversive Communists were infiltrating the country’s government and infrastructure. Fascists, particularly Senator Joseph McCarthy and his following (though of course, they never indentified themselves with Fascism), exploited the public’s fear and used it to further their own ends, namely by removing political rivals and silencing media opposition by accusing them of having leftist sympathies. At the height of his power, Joseph McCarthy was one of the most powerful (and feared) men in the US, with the support of the FBI and various members of the US government. With promises of protecting the American way of life, exposing the disloyal and subversive, and defending Capitalism from Marxism (by any means possible, no matter how unethical), McCarthy fits all the criteria of a Fascist. Of course, one could argue that McCarthy wasn’t an actual Fascist but a simple megalomaniac who used Communist witch-hunts as a way of seizing power. That may or may not be true- no one is sure of how much McCarthy actually believed the things he said. That aside, it is undeniable that McCarthy led a massive following that actually did believe in the “threat of Communism” and supported and even took part in McCarthy’s Fascist actions.

Of course, the “red scare” of the 1950s is only one example of Fascism; in this case, a reaction to the perceived threat of Marxist infiltration. But people will turn to Fascism for many reasons- take immigration for example.

Throughout the 1870s, 80s, and 90s, America was flooded with immigrants. Millions from Italy, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, etc. traveled to the US in search of a better life. Some, such as factory owners and industrialists, saw this as a good thing- a sudden (and seemingly endless) supply of cheap labor had become available. Some saw this as a testament to the superiority of American democracy and the liberties set down in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Others, however, saw this as a threat to the known balance of life. The sudden surge of new citizens had upset the previous social order, and in reaction to this, Fascism rose up in the form of the Klu Klux Klan. Granted, the KKK had existed since the end of the US civil war (a reaction to the massive social and cultural changes taking place due to both emancipation and rapid expansion) however, it was the massive immigration of the 1890s that turned the KKK from a mere white-supremacist group to a full-fledged Fascist organization. Before immigration, the KKK’s sphere of influence was limited primarily to the South and parts of the Midwest, the areas where the effects of the civil war were most pronounced. Immigration, however, affected the entire US and during this time, the KKK’s empire expanded across the country, fueled by the fires of racism, xenophobia, and hatred. By the 1920s, the KKK had well over five million members, and was capable of murdering anyone it wanted with no fear of action from the authorities (who often enough were members of the Klan themselves). “Why would any rational society not be horrified and disgusted enough by the actions of these Fascists to take action against them? Why would any reasonable and free society tolerate this?”. Quite simply, fear is neither rational nor reasonable. Even at their largest, the KKK never numbered at more than five and a half million members- a fraction of the general population. The only reason the Klu Klux Klan had the power it did was because the general populace tolerated and accepted them out of misdirected fear. The public, terrified of the thought that their way of life was being taken from them, reacted to the change immigration was bringing by turning to Fascist murderers and terrorists. The Klu Klux Klan, like every Fascist organization, has never admitted to the charges of racism and murder. What we would call racism, a Fascist would call “patriotism” or “nativism” (a word meaning “the rights of a native population [or at least, a group claiming to be native] superseding those of newcomers and immigrants [i.e. ethnocentric racism]). What we would call murder, a Fascist would call “the actions of a non-representative extremist group” (effectively shifting blame without condemning the crime) or even “self-defense” (of the imaginary attack on the traditional values of said group, of course). The admonition of American writer Sinclair Lewis have proven true, “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross…”. Fascism- even in all its terrorizing, murdering, big-brother glory- will still attempt to pass itself off as the reasonable, patriotic, pious, tradition-oriented movement existing only to serve and protect. Take the words Thomas Robb, the national director of a Fascist group called the “Knights of the Klu Klux Klan”, for example. According to Robb “… Our people- my white brothers and sisters- will stay committed to a non-violent resolution… The hatred for our children and their future is growing and is being fueled every single day. Stay firm in your convictions. Keeping loving your heritage and keep witnessing to others that there is a better way than a war torn, violent, wicked, socialist, new world order. That way is the Christian way- law and order- love of family- love of nation. These are the principles of western Christian civilization. There is a war to destroy these things. Pray that our people see the error of their ways and regain a sense of loyalty. Repent America!”. In this diatribe (for that is what it is, once you cut through the thinly veiled propaganda), key words and phrases stand out: “hatred for our children and their future”, “convictions”, “heritage”, “way”, “the Christian way”, “law and order”, “love of family”, “love of nation”, “principles”, and “loyalty”. All of these words fit with the Fascist creed- the “defense” of traditional values and ideals (in the case of the Klu Klux Klan, an America dominated by conservative, protestant Christian, pro-Capitalist  Caucasians) through any means necessary. Of course, Robb states that actions must be “non-violent”. Quite simply, this is a lie. Robb insists that there is “…a war to destroy these things…” yet insists that his organization is non-violent and based on the love of law, order, and family. When a man- any man- is woken up in the middle of the night and believes that someone is breaking into his house (whether this is true or not), he will get up, grab a baseball bat/fire poker/golf club/etc. and start prowling the house. How then are we expected to believe that such a group as the KKK (with a long history of violence), fully believing that there is a war against their very value system, will not react to this threat (whether it’s real or not). One might as well use that logic to argue that a bear won’t maul you if kick it’s cub, or that a snake won’t bite you if you try to tie it in a knot. To believe that the Klu Klux Klan, an organization responsible for hundreds of lynchings, beatings, hate crimes, and savage acts of intimidation, will suddenly stand back and passively allow their dreams (delusions, is perhaps a better word) of white-supremacy be destroyed is simply ridiculous. Where there is fear (particularly the fear of change), there are those who will turn to Fascism.

Of course the Klu Klux Klan still exists, as does racism and hate crime. Fortunately, however, the KKK is barely a shadow of its former self. No longer a unified group and having long since lost any credibility or respectability among the general populace, the Klan is- at most- a tiny (yet still toxic) fringe group and a sad reminder of a part of American history we’d rather (but cannot and should not) forget. Of course, one could argue that Fascism in the US didn’t die with the Klan but transferred to the industrial-military complex (an issue to be discussed in a later post), however one could just as easily counter that (like McCarthy) these groups themselves are not Fascist, but would merely benefit most from a Fascist or Fascist-style government.

“So what’s the point of all this?” one might ask, “The Nazis, Klansmen, McCarthyites, and Blackshirts are dead and gone and the Neo-Nazis and Skinheads are few in number and have most of the population turned against them!”. Now that is partly true. Yes, the KKK’s power is broken but there has been increased growth in their numbers, and while estimate believe that there are about eight thousand KKK members currently spread across the country (which is about eight thousand too many, if you think about it). Please, keep in mind that while the Klu Klux Klan is a nauseatingly racist and potentially dangerous organization, I am by no means advocating any physical attack (no need to lower ourselves to their level). According to US law, everyone has the right to peaceably assemble. To use the KKK’s own tactics would not help defeat Fascism but help lead it to victory. After all, if we violently attempt to preserve our value system from those who would change it, we ourselves become Fascist.

So why write a lengthy explanation (and condemnation) of a dead ideology? Because Fascism isn’t dead!

Yes, Hitler is dead, as is Mussolini, and Disney (yes, Walt Disney was a supporter of Nazism), and countless others. Fascism, however, survives and has recently taken hold in Europe, primarily Britain. Like America in the 1890s, Europe is currently experiencing a similar wave of immigration. And as the power of the KKK expanded in 1890s America, so has the support for various Fascist groups in Europe. Take the British Nationalist Party (BNP) for example.

The British Nationalist Party (founded 1982) is the quintessential Fascist organization. The BNP is unconditionally pro-Capitalist, nativist to the point of ethnocentrism (“Sink the [immigrant] boats!” has become a BNP slogan), violently anti-leftist (The Propaganda Director of the BNP was convicted for attempting to plant a nail-bomb in the headquarters of a British Communist party), and vehemently anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, anti-racial mixing, and anti-Homosexual (while none of these last four are technically Fascist, they are traits commonly found in Fascist organizations). “So Britain’s got a Fascist party that actively spreads propaganda and in some cases, perpetrates acts of violence- America has the KKK and neo-Nazis groups, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to win seats in the Senate!”. In America, that is true. Not so in Britain. Earlier this year, two seats in the European Parliament were won by the BNP, and the party has made increasing strides in both popularity and elections (which are small victories, but victories nonetheless). Let the facts be faced, in Europe, Fascism is rising again.

So what’s to be done? How does one go about fighting Fascism?

Fascism, one must remember, is a social, economic, and political system based on fear. People turn to Fascism when they are afraid, trading freedom, rights, and privacy for security (or at least, the illusion of security). The easiest way to combat Fascism is to combat fear. If people are afraid that immigrants are changing their way of life, remind them that it’s the immigrants who have uprooted themselves to become part of the society they’re moving to. If people are afraid that Communism (or general leftism) is threatening them, explain that they will probably benefit from the socio-economic and political change. If people are afraid that they may lose some of their traditions as a result of change, instruct them that just because something is tradition it doesn’t mean it’s right, important, or useful. Attacking the roots of Fascism (fear, xenophobia, ignorance, and racism) essentially wipes Fascism out before it can take root, and keeps it from spreading if it already exists. Protests, anti-Fascist (also called “Antifa”) groups, and general participation in counter-Fascist movements also helps. Indeed, even having a basic education about Fascism helps in combating it.

Let there be no mistake, Fascism, while battered and broken, is far from dead and buried. The world is changing and many across the globe are turning to Fascism out of fear. I submit that FDR was right when he stated that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”. In short, it not we who should be afraid of the Fascists- it is the Fascists who should be afraid of us!

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2 Responses to “Fighting Facism”


  1. July 13, 2009 at 4:11 am

    “If people are afraid that they may lose some of their traditions as a result of change, instruct them that just because something is tradition it doesn’t mean it’s right, important, or useful.”

    In America, that is the one difference of political opinion that explains all the others. Thomas Sowell, in his book A Conflict of Visions, explores this. Some people put considerable stock in traditions, others less so, and the extent to which they do or do not determines which end of the political spectrum they lean towards. Typical conservative or liberal positions on issues such as abortion, gun control, welfare, etc. can all be traced back to the difference of visions people have regarding tradition, which is why we always tend to see the same bunch of people on the same sides of every debate.

    I won’t try to repeat everything in his book but I will say that he put forth clear limits within which his theory applied. It did not apply outside the United States, where different dynamics are at play. It did not apply to non-democratic or hybrid political systems either, including fascism. Fascism, in Sowell’s view, is a system in which the people are obligated to observe tradition (particularly when determining right from wrong), but the one leader at the top is not. That and other ideas in his book may be interesting and useful to you, and I recommend reading it.

  2. 2 trotskyite
    July 13, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Thanks- I’ll look into it.


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