Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Superbowl of Fascism

Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile described "fascism" in an entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana as such: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." (Although Gentile should be properly credited with this original definition of "fascism", Benito Mussolini would later strike Gentile's name and add his own). Bearing in mind this definition, what do the terrorists in Afghanistan have to do with "fascism"? They are neither a state nor corporation. On the other hand, what can be said about those fighting the terrorists? Is there a trend of the "merging of corporate and state power" in the U.S.?

Score after definition #1: American fascists-1, Islamofascists-0

According to Wikipedia, the definition of fascism should include other important distinctions: "Fascism is a radical political ideology that combines elements of corporatism, authoritarianism, nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism, and anti-liberalism." Again, the question stands: what similarities are there between trends in this country and this definition of fascism? Does "militarism" apply? "Nationalism"? "Corporatism"? How about something as simple as "anti-liberalism"? Also included under this definition, we begin to see some the characteristics of fundamentalist Muslims as well.

Score after definition #2: American fascists-7, Islamofascists-6

Returning to history, in 1944, Vice President Henry A. Wallace, described a "fascist" as "one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intesity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends." In this case, perhaps many Americans leaders and CEOs could fall under this definition as easily as the terrorists they claim to hate. I remember hearing a therapist once say something about "
projection"... Could it be that American fascists (or Islamic Fundamentalists) are full of self-hatred for falling below their own basic standards of humanity and attributing their own unacceptable behavior to another? Here I am giving both groups the benefit of the doubt, granting them human status and wishing they could be extricated from their denial. Unfortuanately, the result of this denial is the incredibly inhumane treatment of oneself and others.

Score after definition #3: American fascists-17, Islamofascists-15

Wallace continues: "The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party." It's interesting that Wallace invoked a religious concept to describe a fascist's blind obedience, since in the case of both "American fascists" and "Islamic fascists" a central element of their ideologies of hate is a religion: Christianity and Islam. Tragically, neither group seems rational in their understanding of the central messages of their "messiahs": PEACE! A closer examination of this portion of Wallace's definition is instructive for an evaluation of current American fascists since his definition includes a dogmatic worship for institutions beyond religion, such as a "political party," or a "military," or a "culture."

Score after definition #4: American fascists-27, Islamofascists-23

(In the case of "culture", much more could be said, however, it is worth noting that neither fundamentalist Christians nor fundamentalist Muslims are reflecting the central tenets of their religions, but instead the distorted morality of their cultures. Too many Christians are unable to reconcile their capitalist lifestyles with the more benevolent message of Christ. Similarly, a harsh culture of theocratic rule that conveniently imposes a highly deterministic interpretation of the Koran on its followers in order to maintain power, have stifled a good deal of secular humanist growth in the Islamic world.)

Wallace also points out and gives distinction to a type of American fascist as someone who would not necessarily resort to violence, but instead: "[h]is method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power." Perhaps this portion of the definition is more easily located with the American fascists since they overwhelmingly control access to information, but a dearth of divergent viewpoints in the Muslim world lends itself to concept of controling "truth."

Final Score in the Superbowl of Fascism: American fascists-30, Islamofascists-25

Sadly, the toll of modern day "fascism", if that is what it should even be called, is obviously tragic. More important to me than the thought of who is being more fascist, is that as an American, I am obligated to prevent the crimes of my country--full stop--.

The Rise of American Fascism

Project for the Old American Century

Henry A. Wallace's The Danger of American Fascism


Anonymous said...

The central message of the Messiah of Christianity is not "Peace," though such a message is an expected outcome. The central message is substitutionary atonement. Atonement is an interesting question, and the question is, how will we atone? How will followers of Islam atone? For what and how will Americans atone? I do agree with che-bob that fundamentalists on both religious sides have mis-represented their religious doctrines, but we are not saying much there. Isn't that obvious? There are more profound questions at heart that are important to consider. Though I understand the corrective che bob attempts to establish through use of rhetoric and his analysis of definition, and though I tend to agree with such analysis, calling America "fascist" is a short-lived tactic and does not get at the more difficult discussion either in the political or religous rhealm.

Thanks, though, for the provocation!
-Tom Sharp

Aprilloper said...

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
Thomas Paine

To me the heart of CheBob's post is about the oppression of one group on another for various reasons, religion being but one. In my opinion it is not so much about which group (race, religion, ect.) is oppressing another it is about who or rather whom is profitting from this oppression.

Who profits from wars? Is it the young men and women that are asked to give their lives to protect their country's "national interest" in other lands or is it some other group? The group that profits from the pain and suffering of our fellow kindred are the enemy of all of mankind, not those with hatred, anger, and misguided or twisted versions of their religion.Although these things cause pain and suffering, few that fall into this catagory actually profit or benifit from their beliefs and actions, and all to often suffer as well.

Since in most societies it is considered a crime to cause pain and suffering to fellow citizens it is often concidered an even more hanis crime to do such for profit.

However, in our own country the crime of profitting from pain and suffering of others is not only not considered a very serious crime but is also the standard by which our economy is built. That which makes the United States the richest country in the world is the lenght to which we as a people allow ourselfs the sin of causing pain and suffering in other countries and our own.

None of us, and I mean NONE are free of this sin, we all live very well at the expense of others. However, we are all guilty of a far greater crime than just profitting from the pain and suffering in the world we are also all partisipants in this, by enabling and by lending aid and support to these conditions, whether it be by our apathy, by just allowing the situation to continue because we don't want to risk our own comfort, or by allowing our government to be run unchallenaged by the very criminals that are in fact our real enemies.

By our very actions we are put ourselves at risk of being exploited by the same mechinism that exploits others for our benifit. That is why I included the Thomas Paine quote.

Facism is a very real theat to all of us, but I am really a lot less concerned with a few possible facists in the middle-east and much more concerned with the ones that have control of the money, power and the military might of the United States. Because they are not only a threat to the rest of the world they are a very real threat to me and my family, right now!

Ché Bob said...


You are very right, this was intended to be a corrective and not necessarily about a long-term tactic for the more difficult issues at hand. Furthermore, I must admit that I was feeling fed-up with media's casual and loose use of such an intense lable.

On the other hand, I do feel language is an extremely important aspect of global realities. I believe it vital that the dominant discourse be challenged. In a "society of the spectacle," we cannot underestimate the importance of language. In my post I was careful to say that I'm not sure the word "fascist" should be used at all. I especially feel this is true if we are unwilling to look in a mirror and assess ourselves, hence the mention of "projection."

In an earlier blog, I criticized the governor of Montana for calling Hugo Chavez a "dictator" on 60 Minutes. I find this kind of behavior by our governor reprehensible. Society is such a spectacle that it's nearly impossible to know if that's what an apple is really supposed to taste like or if that flavor is something you're imagining. Debord pointed out that the "sign" is more important in our modern society than that which it signifies.

Anyway, I would like to suggest that while reclaiming language is but one aspect of a much more "difficult discussion," it is nonetheless an important one!

troutsky said...

Toms point about Christs underlying revolutionary message of attonement is interesting field to till.I forever harp on the idea that the system forms the psychology (either greed or attonement) rather than the Idea forming the system but I welcome challenges.

I also like aprillopers point about worrying about the ones qwith the huge imbalance of power rather than an ideological fringe.What he needs to explain however, is what determines the "criminal" aspect in the first place and allows it to accumulate so much power.

As for the basic thesis on fascism, I think Che proved the dis-utility or non-utility of the term itself for our discourse on advanced capitalism.I believe all this "terminology" in the end brings us back to imperialism and the local oppressive systems which manifest from the basic contradiction of over-supply and lowered profits.

Aprilloper said...

Okay, I will define what troutsky asked, it will be posted at http://idahoblue.blogspot.com/ . I hope I can explain it well enough, so that I can exchange my concept with something as limited as the writen word.


PS. I am a she, and Che Bob's BIG sister, but thanks for asking the question so that we can reclaim a sense of better communication like, Che Bob said in his posted comment.

troutsky said...

Sorry Ms.Aprilloper (what is aprilloper?)about gender confusion.I eagerly await your post and love your little bro.

Little Bro, do you see my point about how all these definitions make everyones next door neighbor a "fascist"?

Ché Bob said...

Troutsky asked:

"Do you see my point about how all these definitions make everyones next door neighbor a "fascist"?"

Absolutely, Trout, that was the purpose of pulling out the mirror. Sorry that wasn't clearer. I guess I was a little too smug.

LeftyHenry said...

Good Post! I got in an arguement with someone who claim fascism is a product of the left. He obviously doesn't understand corporatism.

The Continental Op said...

Fascism certainly incorporates (hah!) elements of corporatism. But it is a mistake simply to equate the two.

Corporatism was a fairly popular theory/ideology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with adherants on both the left and the right. Of course, as with most "-isms", different people meant different things by the term "corporatism". But the common thread was the organization of society on the basis of social groups -- "corporate" bodies in the generic, not necessarily economic, sense. Different conceptions of corporatism gave primacy to different sorts of groups.

"Left" corporatists saw workers' organizations -- trade unions, workplace associations, and such -- as the building blocks of a modern, post-capitalist society. An example would be the French sociologist and (non-Marxist) socialist, Emile Durkheim and his notion of "organic" versus "mechanical" solidarity. (Contrary to today's association of "organic" with "nature" and "mechanical" with "industry", Durkheim associated "mechanical" solidarity with pre-capitalist society, and "organic" solidarity with capitalist and post-capitalist society). "Mechanical" solidarity refers to social bonds along "traditional" lines of family, religion, caste, etc. "Organic" solidarity, by contrast, emerges in capitalist society, in which people come to identify with one another according to their common position within the division of labor (i.e. "class" in the Marxian sense). In a sense, Durkheim's conception of "corporatism" had much in common with "council communism" (though I very much doubt that Durkheim would have seen it that way!).

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