I've been combing over Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism the past few days. I began to re-read certain parts of the book because I had trotted over to David Neiwert's blog and, unfortunately, read his rehashing of his inaccurate view of fascism which consist of vain attempts to steer it from its proper place on the American left. After reading Neiwert's posts, I looked up Goldberg's responses to Neiwert's criticism and posts on fascism. All this re-reading of the fascism debate brought me to this idea (which is one of the points of Goldberg's book): one have fascistic tendency and not be a fascist.
In most political debate, a fascist is someone you don't like. For example, David Neiwert complaining that Posse Comitatus wasn't mentioned in Goldberg's book. Posse Comitatus is a radical, violent group that advocates for the devolution of political power down to the county level, not the all-encompassing omniscient government. In most intelligent political debate, a fascist is someone who has fascistic aspects that make their rival's ideology look bad. For example, one could argue President Obama's bureaucratic control over parts of the economy or the enamored mass movement that worked tirelessly to get him elected could be fascistic. In reality, fascism is much more basic than Nazi racial hegemony or aggressive foreign policy or a all-knowing police state.
At the core, fascism is an economic and social national unity that puts the state above that of the individual. Unlike communism, which professes global brotherhood between workers, fascism holds that the people of the nation, regardless of class, are a brotherhood and no one is above any other. While there are businessmen, factory workers, soldiers, priests, and so on, in a fascist nation they all are part of the national will, the national destiny.
Fascist economics are not the corporations running the government, which is the incorrect common knowledge, but in fact is the government running the corporations. Communists and socialists want to nationalize (or socialize, the terms are interchangeable) industry, putting it under the direct control of the government. Fascist, for the most part, direct industry through regulation or industry czars, while leaving the corporation in private hands. Government-supported corporations earn monopolies enforced by government regulations while those outside the government suffer due to the interference in the economy. Private-public projects are also part of a fascistic economy.
Socially, a base fascist nation would look down upon a diverse, fractured people. The American people have varying cultural and social cliques: blue-bloods in New York, celebrities and fame-pursuers in Los Angeles, social radicals in San Fransisco, God-fearing folk in Little Rock, etc. This, along with our separated powers and our democratic culture, prevented the rise of an American fascism during Wilson's term. Despite what is taught, fascism does not bring racism, new holocausts or any other kind of pagan crime that the Nazis committed. Fascism, in fact, brings out the “DNA” of a nation. The Italians had over a decade of fascism before the Nazis forced race laws on to it. In fact, Mussolini had Jews in his government until Hitler's threat. Like the economy, its about unity.
Using this simplified (probably too simple, but I don't want to rewrite Goldberg's book) view of fascism, we can say some of our ideas on economy or society could be fascistic. For example, I believe that kids should go through at least a year of Boy Scout or military cadet training for the experience of camaraderie and the promotion of pride of country. Socially, that fits in to the fascistic notion of national unity and national pride. Does that make me a fascist? No, because I'm also for free markets and federalism, two things that are defiantly not part of the fascist platform.
With Obama, who has done a lot to convince many laymans that a fascistic government is on its way, he has taken the fascistic idea of national economic unity through the guidance of the government. He has also created a national volunteer program that some have called the Hitler Youth. This does not make President Obama a fascist. Unlike full fascist states, the economy is still relativity free market despite the millions of strings attached and the continuing bureaucracy being piled on it. Even if the government began to outright plan parts of the economy, the economics would still be only make it fascistic economically. As for the “Hitler Youth”, this shows how good our state run education system is. What Obama has created, at most, is a Civilian Conservation Corps and not an armed, para-military training corp for kids. From the information that's come out about about the GIVE Act, its pretty much a giveaway to Obama's community groups and not a secret army.
Fascism is a specific ideology. To be a fascist, you must advocate a national social and national economic unity that trumps federalism, our diverse geographic cultures and out capitalist economy. While there has been plenty of ideas that President Obama, as well as former President Bush, have promoted that are fascistic, it does not make one a fascist.
Use the word wisely because if we ever end up with true fascist running, no one will call him on it because they won't know what it is.
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