Robert Paxton’s book, The Anatomy of Fascism, describes the group of left-wing nationalists (not a contradiction back then) who with Benito Mussolini sought to bring Italy into World War I on the allied side. Officially the movement began on a Sunday in 1919, after the war was over, when more than a hundred persons gathered to “declare war against socialism…because it has opposed nationalism.” Mussolini called this movement the Fasci di Combattimento, which approximately mean “fraternities of combat.”
Their program had some features we would approve of such as women’s suffrage and an eight hour workday. It also had features we might not approve of, such as expanding Italian rule around parts of the Mediterranean.
Paxton describes the movement as boiling with the readiness for violent action, anti-intellectualism, rejection of compromise, and contempt for established society. A solid core of Mussolini’s followers came from the Arditi–select commando units hardened by front-line experience who felt entitled to rule the country they had saved. Other followers included Syndicalists – these people were dedicated overthrowing capitalism. (“Syndicates” is another name for trade unions.) They had the idea of all workers striking at once, and when collapse ensued the syndicates would be the only remaining units of production and exchange in a free collectivist society.
A band of Mussolini’s friends invaded a socialist daily newspaper in Milan, and smashed its presses and equipment. So one of their first acts was against free speech. Four people were killed, and thirty nine injured.
Similar movements were springing up elsewhere in Europe, with violence against both socialist and bourgeois enemies.
In Germany, after Hitler gained power, the novelist Thomas Mann noted in his diary (March 27, 1933) that he had witnessed a revolution of a kind never seen before,
“without underlying ideas, against ideas, against everything nobler, better, decent, against freedom, truth and justice.” “Common scum” had taken power, “accompanied by vast rejoicing on the part of the masses.”
The phenomenon seemed to come from nowhere, a phenomenon that exalted hatred and violence.
It is surprising to think of Fascism being anti-capitalist. Paxton does say that we have to examine what Fascists did when they got into power, which was often in contradiction of their original speeches. They didn’t carry out their threats vs capitalists, but they used the utmost violence against socialists. Once in power they even banned strikes and dissolved independent labor unions. They showered money on armaments industries. They denounced speculative international finance, but as far as everyday capitalism, their problem with it was that it was materialistic, and could not stir souls, and that it was indifferent to the nation.
Says Paxton: “Fascist contempt for the soft, complacent, compromising center was absolute.” Fascism was not a philosophical system so much as a set of “popular feelings about master races, their unjust lot, and their rightful predominance over inferior peoples.”
Fascists often called for an agrarian utopia, free from the rootlessness, conflict, and immorality of modern life. Yet their leaders adored fast cars and planes, and superhighways and weaponry…
So this raises various questions. One question is whether we have fascists in our midst. Some people think Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman running for the Republican nomination, is a fascist. Paxton was actually interviewed on this, and his opinion on that question is no. But he does say of Trump that “He’s a thoroughly self-centered and aggressive personality. The danger, it seems to me, is that in a deadlock between Trump and the Congress or Trump and the courts, he would indeed take some kind of nonconstitutional action, and people would be afraid to say no.”
So why is the Donald succeeding (in Paxton’s view)?
I think there is a public that he’s speaking to. In Italy after the First World War, there was a global depression. Everybody was worse off. In Germany in 1933, everybody was worse off. Now, we’ve got this strange dichotomy of a few people doing incredibly well, amassing pharaonic wealth, and most people in the middle doing somewhat better, and a group of people doing worse, with stagnant wages, with job opportunities that are limited to people with technical skills that poorly educated people don’t have. So we’ve got a group of people who see the others getting ahead by leaps and bounds, and sometimes they think that black people are getting fair advantages to get ahead, and they’re slipping behind. And so, this is a very angry crowd of people.”
it’s in the rallies that he’s established this rapport with a lot of angry people who felt that nobody else was speaking for them. It’s an incredible achievement. He’s very good at sensing the deep feelings of a crowd and playing them. This is another thing that sounds like Mussolini. Mussolini used to stand on the balcony and have exchanges with the thousands of people assembled in the streets below, and they would chant back and forth. He has brought those people into political activity. He’s given them a focus. And he’s installed himself as their spokesperson. And that’s an astonishing achievement.
I would note that the country has major problems, but people disagree on the causes. Some people believe the problem is that the government is in the hands of the special interests, or that the rich are stealing from everyone else. Others (like Trump) believe that unpatriotic companies are putting people out of work by moving their operations overseas, or that miserly business owners are displacing Americans when they hire illegal labor. A third group (that I am in) might agree with former President Coolidge that “the business of America is business” and so notice the remarkable number of federal regulations, some of them extremely costly and hard to justify, that can strangle industries (such as coal). We might notice unfairnesses in our lawsuit system, where a “class-action” suit can be launched in a state with a large number of barely literate and gullible jurors who don’t know the difference between a million dollars and a billion dollars, and which can be another stab to a teetering company. We might notice that companies without the right mix of genders and races can be sued for discrimination by the government. We might notice a heavy and illogical tax system, a national debt approaching twenty trillion dollars, with unsustainable debts for some of our cities and states also. We might notice radical environmentalists who want to “keep fossil fuels in the ground” to save the planet, which in practice means more expensive energy, which is fatal to competitiveness. We might note the fact that 40 percent of children are born to single mothers, many of them struggling financially.
Others might blame technological changes such as automation, or the pharmaceutical innovations that result in an aging population – more old people, less children.
To illustrate, I saw comments that we had lost millions of jobs due to Nafta. I asked for documentation, and this is the answer I got:
REALLY?!!! Your head in the sand? WOW. OK.. my company alone shut down 6 plants in the US and moved them to Mexico. They are part of the automotive industry. Many US jobs lost. A friend had a business and sold to a bigger company who then moved the entire operation to Mexico. My best friend’s company was sold to a Belgian company who then moved all jobs to Mexico. Ford and Carrier Air just announced they are building massive plants in Mexico and expanding business. Surprise.. the jobs currently in US will be moved to Mexico once the plants are built. NAFTA has not only hurt US JOBS, it has also harmed small Caribbean countries who produce similar products to Mexico but they don’t get the trade benefits so lost market share. NAFTA not only has cost MILLIONS of jobs (which is documented.. just look up how many businesses have moved to Mexico). but the unbalance of trade has helped their economy and HURT ours! ANYONE supporting NAFTA IS TO BLAME
My view, which Trump supporters would not like, is that you can’t force companies to stay in the U.S. A better approach is to make them WANT to come here. Right now, if I were a executive at a corporate board meeting in secret to decide where to put a new plant, I might indeed choose Mexico. I might look at the possible election of a socialist who believes in huge taxes AND protectionism, Bernie Sanders, on the Democrat side, versus Trump who is also a protectionist, whose policies, if implemented, would interfere with my exports. I might look at the crime situation as well, the racial problems, the widespread failure of the educational system.
The point is, we have huge problems, some of which are exacerbated or even caused by our political leadership. And some people are giving up on the traditional types of candidate.
But they do not see Trump as a fascist. Russian immigrant Oleg Atbashian, who has friends who are Trump supporters quotes some of their opinions on his supposed ‘fascist’ tendencies.
Oleg introduces Brendan, Christina, and Colin as follows:
Brendan has spent years working on New York construction projects, including some that involved Donald Trump. He witnessed Trump getting personally involved with contractors and workers without any mediators, not afraid to get dirty and drive a hard bargain…
He doesn’t see anger among Trump’s supporters, but rather optimism and love for the country. He also scoffs at those who compare Trump to Mussolini or Hitler. Trump has been in the public eye for almost 70 years, running a large business, producing a TV show, and nobody ever complained about him acting like a despot…
Christina has a PhD in literature, but her academic career ended when she evolved from a liberal into an outspoken conservative. All her previous activism in helping the inner city families, being involved in refugee resettlement programs, working with the ACLU, and other liberal credentials didn’t matter anymore. She became an untouchable and soon lost her job. Since then she has been active in local Republican politics and Tea Party circles, exposing the rot in America’s education system, fighting Common Core, and organizing book tours for conservative authors.
She sees Trump as the only candidate who is not buying into the neurotic identity politics that’s currently driving both political parties. In her experience, identity politics and political correctness are the drivers of fascism in America today. In that sense, Trump is the most anti-fascist candidate in the race — and the most optimistic one, too.
She objects to the description of Trump supporters as angry. There was no love lost for either political party or for the media in that crowd, she says, but the people weren’t angry at all: they were optimistic.
Colin, who had acted on Broadway and choreographed dances for some of the most famous pop stars, said that unlike other politicians, Trump spoke off the cuff, didn’t mince words, called things by their real names, and used strong language when necessary, unconcerned about what society and the media would say about that behind his back.
I’ve also seen accusations that the strong anti-Trump movement among some Republicans is due to their desire to hold onto cushy jobs that they have under any president, Republican or Democrat. This is unfair. Just by reading articles by anti-Trump people I can see that they really have reasons they don’t want him in charge, some of them very convincing.
Anyway, there is a movement in the U.S. that does have fascist similarities, and that is the movement to tear away much of the Western United States, and create an Aztec nation from it. Specifically the group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan (MEChA), wants the following:
1. Ethnic cleansing. Miguel Perez of Cal State-Northridge’s MEChA chapter has been quoted as saying: “… Once Aztlan is established, ethnic cleansing would commence: Non-Chicanos would have to be expelled — opposition groups would be quashed because you have to keep power.”
2. A zero-sum ideology: the motto is: “For The Race everything. Outside The Race, nothing.”
3. To rectify injustice since: their rightful lands were “brutally stolen from a Mexican people marginalized and betrayed by the hostile custodians of the Manifest Destiny.”
These Mecha quotes are coming straight from the official MEChA sites at Georgetown University, the University of Texas, UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Colorado, University of Oregon, and many other colleges and universities around the country.
And they have a point. Mexico’s originally claimed borders did reach far north, though the people of the northern areas were not Aztec. (If you go to Arizona, you will see large lands that belong to the Navajo and others, and they are not Aztecs). The United States did seize Mexican territories by force in the 1840’s. But having a point does not justify this type of ideology.
My experience of being targeted over a long period by a criminal Mafia suggests that criminals are just contemptuous of “rights” as Fascists are. In fact they reveled in removing those rights from me, a person they instinctively disliked and despised. There was behavior on my part that merited disdain, but that is not an excuse for normal people to attack someone. Though organized groups of criminals are thought of as non-ideological materialists and Fascists as anti-materialist nationalists, the two groups are not that different, in one respect. If they have a goal, other people’s rights are tossed aside in the process of getting it.