Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fascism And You Know Who (YKW)

[from when the Italian Fascist government was 'but a few years old"]

"The Secretary of the Fascist Party visits a large factory, accompanied byt the obsequious company director.  At the end of the tour all the workers are massed in the yard to listen to a speech. Before addressing them the Fascist chief looks them over proudly from his podium and asks the director: 'What are these people's politics?' The director answers: "One-third of them are Communist, one-third Socialist, and the rest belong to several small parties.' The Fascist's face turned livid. 'What?" he cries, 'And how many of them are Fascist?'  The director reassures him quickly: "All of them, Your Excellency, all of them.'"

Luigi Barzini, The Italians, 1965, pp. 225-226.

I shall simply list a bunch of characteristics associated with fascism and see how YKW (He Of Whom We Cannot Speak) fits as of now, an ongoing situation as it were.  So my list would include extreme nationalism, militarism, racism, sexism (and homophobia), left-right populism ultimately going right, mixed relations with organized religion, building infrastructure, control of arts, megalomania, dictatorship, and suppression of human rights.

1. Extreme nationalism.  YKW seems to fit the bill here. Totally.

2. Militarism.  It would seem that he does here too, proposing a $54 billion increase in the military budget even as he proposes slashing most other parts of the budget to the point of eliminating completely some agencies.  OTOH, he claimed to be anti-Iraq war (although he supported it initially) and campaigned on how he would pull US out of Middle East conflicts. So far looks  like he is going the other way, sending more troops to Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, if not yet going off the deep end, although making loud noises towards North Korea, and China, if not Russia.  Also, OTOH, he has never served in the military personally, indeed got out of Vietnam War service due to an obviously phony claim about some foot spur that just disappeared conveniently.  He does not himself seem into wearing military uniforms and strutting about like Mussolini and some others have done.  But he has also  appointed more generals to high positions in his administration than we have ever seen in US history, and weirdly enough many of us are counting on them to be Voices Of Reason in this completely wacko and incompetent administration.

3. Racism.  His dad was arrested in a KKK demo back in the 20s or thereabouts, and among Trump's first business activities were managing housing complexes that were convicted of racial discrimination, not just once but twice.  His whole history stinks of racism, although it looks like he is more anti-Hispanic and Mexican in particular than anti-black, although the family KKK history is certainly the latter.  I mean he does keep Ben Carson around a few other friendly African-Americans, but Hispanics of any sort are very hard to find in this admin, and his anti-Mexican screeds, attitudes, and policies seem deep-died, with his ridiculous campaign to "build that wall" one of the few things he seems to be really set on, although he may yet not be able to get funding for it from Congress.

4. Sexism (and Homphobia).  Well, quite aside from all his notorious "grab..." quotes and wandering through the dressing rooms to see scantily clad teenage girls during some of the events he has hosted over the years, and despite some token stuff about child care that favored daughter Ivanka managed to talk him into (not likely to go anywhere in current Congress), he seems to be playing into current views on Planned Parenthood  and so on of the current GOP.  On LGBTQ he has played a bit of a mixed game, again with perhaps Ivanka and Jared trying to hold him back as well as the fact that obviously all those years in NYC and show biz has left him with many gay acquaintances, he seems in the end to  siding with the traditional GOP conservative view, even if  the Log Cabin Republicans supposedly find some things to like about him.  Anyway, very sexist, although not pushing a fully classic kinder, kirche, kuche line (a kkk rather than a KKK).

5. Left-Right Populism Ultimately Going Right.  Yes, this is certainly a forte of his, dragging those poor sucker coal miners to stand with him while he trashes environmental policies when we all know that there will be no new coal jobs in the US probably ever simply due to market forces, definitely reinforced by his anti-enviro policies, especially not slowing fracking, which is what  has given us cheap natural gas, which has become the death knell for the coal industry.

The other aspect of this is of course the trade issue, and certainly on this we have portions of the old midwest manufacturing working class that he is appealing to and has made moves to please, at least with his withdrawal from TPP, even if  other moves to protectionism are floundering in his ongoing incompetence.  Will there be a major restructuring of NAFTA?  Will there be a trade war with China?  I don't know, but increasingly it looks like probably not, but who knows?

As for Going Right, well, traditional fascists tended to appoint their party hacks who came up through the ranks with lower class backgrounds (like Mussolini and Hitler themselves) and their cronies, who would go all corrupt once they got government positions.  But with spoiled brat YKW who would be wealthier by all reports if he had simply reinvested and sat on his inheritance, we have the biggest flood of full out billionaires into top positions we have ever seen, with many of them apparently amazingly incompetent on top of all their money (see DeVos).  Libertarians like to argue that the fascists and Nazis were socialists because, well, the fascists did nationalize some industries, and "Nazi" is short for "National Socialists," although the Nazis did not nationalize companies and were quick to make friends of big business such as I.G.Farben, even if big business had not been among their original supporters, who were,  well, little guy populist suckers, just like those supporting YKW.

5.  Mixed Relations With Organized Religion. For classical fascists this has largely meant the Roman Catholic Church, although in Germany Hitler had a stronger base in the Protestant rural North than in the Catholic South, even though his initial base was uber-conservative and Catholic Bavaria.  Mussolini was initially anti-Church, and the Nazis long pushed their pseudo-Wagnerian neo-paganism, even as Wagner himself ultimately went with the Church in his final opera, Parsifal. Certainly the softer fascists in Spain and Latin America have tended to side up with reactionary elements in the R.C. Church, and in the end Mussolini made peace with the Church in the 1929 Lateran treaties, aka "Concordat," that settled relations between the Church and the Italian state, a deal that still holds today (Barzini credits Mussolini with this, saying it is the one clearly good thing he did).

This is harder to call because Protestanism is more important in the US than Catholicism.  Like the old fascists it looks like YKW is really not very religious, if not openly anti-religious in the way Mussolini was for awhile.  But he has made peace with the US conservative religious establishment, with so-called Evangelicals among his strongest supporters in the election, as well as conservative elements in the Catholic Church, as well as Orthodox Jews.  He has clearly set himself up against the liberal Pope Francis, with his alt-right de facto fascist adviser, Steve Bannon, openly involved in an effort to combat the current pope.  So, he has allied himself pretty firmly with traditional religion.  No wonky neo-paganism for him.

6. Building Infrastructure.  Ah yes, a classic fascist fixation given their fixation on Ancient Rome, which did a good job with infrastructure.  On this YKW has talked a lot, although the rumbles have involved silly stuff such as tax breaks to private companies to privatize infrastructure.  Given his massive incompetence, for better or worse his talk about a big infrastructure program looks like it is going nowhere.  This is one area where maybe we would wish that he was more of a "good fascist" than he is.  I mean, Mussolini did make those trains run on time, more or less. Looks like YKW could care less.

7.  Control of Arts. Classical fascists would ban certain types of art and push certain other types that they viewed as building up the nation and state.  YKW has proposed simply eliminating funding for NEA, no more Big Bird, so it does not look like he is out to Control Art, although clearly he simply does not care about it all, major vulgarian that he is.

8. Megalomania.  Yep, like nationalism, this one YKW has in spades.  It  is All About Him.

9.  Dictatorship.  Thankfully this is  one area where he has run into  a brick wall thanks to the US constitution and judicial system, at least so far.  He obviously has fascistic tendencies and would really like to just be able to order people to do what he wants and have them do it. After all, this is a CEO view of the world.  The real question will be if he ends up pulling a Reichstag Fire routine and uses some incident, cooked up or  not, to declare martial law, and if he does so, will he get away with it. If he does, well, then we shall have the full monty fascism here in the US.  If he is held back by the courts, his incompetence, or whatever, well, for all his tendencies, we shall fortunately hold back from full out fascism.

10.. Suppression Of Human Rights.  This is obviously tied to the previous one as the really serious suppression of human rights that we saw in classical  fascism with death camps and all that came with dictatorship.  But even without that his racist-motivated anti-immigrant push has been one of the few things that he has seemed really into pursuing vigorously, even as he has run into road blocks from the courts on some of  his initiatives. But in terms of horrifying episodes happening since he became president, the worst have involved deportations and people being held trying to enter the country, including people with a full right to do  so.  YKW may not (yet) be a full blown fascist, but in this particular area his fascistic tendencies have probably shown their fullest and most egregoius manifestations.  Let us hope that it does not get worse.

Barkley Rosser


One point I missed is that of the economic policy labeled "corporatism," which both Mussolini and Hitler officially subscribed to.  Aspects of it were described above in the part about "left-right," but it should be commented on.  While both of them came from anti-clerical initial positions, corporatism as a term and a concept came from the Roman Catholic Church in the late 19th century in reaction to  the socialist movements of the time.  The idea was that the class conflict was to be overcome or subsumed in a national unity that would involve state-private interaction within the moral codes of the Church.  This implied that some bones should be thrown to  the workers, underlying the "left" part of the appeal, although in practice under fascism unions were suppressed as the state claimed to speak for the workers.  There was also much state interference in the private  sector, often to support national leading companies, but in some cases more directly,with Mussolini nationalizing some industries and Hitler through Hjalmar Schacht instituting command central planning, although firms remained privately owned, hence formally capitalist.

Another area where YKW does not resemble these  earlier leaders is that he is personally wealthy and out to add to that in office in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution and in a way unprecedented in US history.  Thus he resembles more the recent buffoonish Italian leader, Silvio Berlusconi more  than the officially poor Mussolini and Hitler, even if they did have lavish lifestyles while in power.

4 comments: said...

Just to lighten things up, another quote from Barzini, p. 337:

"In the heart of every man, wherever he is born, whatever his education and tastes, there is one small corner which is Italian, that part which finds regimentation irksome, the dangers of war frightening, strict morality stifling, that part which loves frivolous and entertaining art, admires larger-than-life-size solitary heroes, and dreams of an impossible liberation from the strictures of a tidy existence."

[one sentence]

Tom Hickey said...

Benito Mussolini assisted by Giovanni Gentile explained what Fascism is in "The Doctrine of Fascism," a short piece available in many places on the Internet like Internet Archive. said...

Thanks, Tom. Looking at that some elements are in my description and some are not. Roughly it asserts that the individual is to be subordinated to a totalitarian State. It admires tradition and then rejects Marxism, socialism, liberalism, and parliamentary democracy.

There is also a brief mention of guilds and the idea of "corporazione, a hint of corporatism, although that was not spelled out in the way that the Catholic Church had formulated it in the late 19th century, although one can sort of see it coming. This last one is probably the one that I should have mentioned in my list, and although YKW does not use that terminology, some of his policies may fit with it, with his personal interventions with companies very quasi-coeporatist, and nationalist corporatism also tended to be very protectionist, which YKW most certainly is as noted above.

That pretty much covers it. Nothing about racism or infrastructure or the arts, although one can see these fixations in practice in Italy under Mussolini and Germany under Hitler.

kevin quinn said...

Another key element, following Zeev Strenhell's work (Neither Right Nor Left, Anti-Enlightenment) is a complete and utter nihilism about the truth, an identification of truth with power, a thorough-going relativism. For Sternhell, the roots of fascism are in the Counter-Enlightenment attacks on reason. When Trump's lies are exposed, his defense is consistently: we won the election, therefore we're right - ask "The American people." Sad. Beyond Sad. Scary.