In the last few years, President Bush and company have referred to Arab terrorists as “Islamic fascists.” The opposition has fired back, arguing that Bush’s foreign policy is reminiscent of Hitler’s preemptive strikes against Poland and Russia. What has been left out of the political equation is any meaningful description of the term fascism.
Fascism entered the world picture with the rise of Benito Mussolini in the early twentieth century. For years, he had been one of the most famous socialist and labor leaders in Italy. According to David Ramsay Steele (in his article “Mystery of Fascism”) “Mussolini was the Che Guevara of his day, a living saint of leftism. Handsome, courageous, charismatic, an erudite Marxist, a riveting speaker and writer, a dedicated class warrior to the core, he was the peerless duce of the Italian Left. He looked like the head of any future Italian socialist government, elected or revolutionary.”
But Mussolini had wanted Italy to enter World War I, which caused an infamous split between anti-war socialists and pro-war socialists. This breach in 1914 facilitated Mussolini’s break with the Italian Socialist Party and his membership in a radical syndicalist organization called Fasci d’azione Revolutionary International, which billed itself as trade union organization.
When Mussolini became prime minister of Italy in 1922, he began to work more closely with corporations and industrialists. To gain support among all classes of society, he exploited the fear of communist revolution and rival socialist factions. In Mussolini’s conception of fascism, the State is the directing force in society, with individuals and all other groups subjugated to it. He poo-pooed democracy and individual freedoms and felt that the vitality of the state depended on its expansion.
President Bush’s critics are correct. His policies do resemble Italian Fascism and Hitler’s National Socialism (which has also been characterized as fascist), since they impose interventionist foreign policies. But many of those same Bush critics are themselves not free from the taint of fascism. “Contemporary liberalism” in America is rife with highly interventionist economic policies. Many economic policies advocated by the left come directly from Mussolini and Hitler.
For instance, President Franklin Roosevelt plagiarized the concept of Social Security from Hitler’s social programs, and FDR’s policies that legalized price fixing and oligopoly under the National Recovery Act (NRA) had their roots in Mussolini’s cartelization of Italy’s economy. The fascists in Italy and German both developed socialized health plans similar to the ones being introduced in the United States today. They were government directed, permitted little individual choice, and were universal except for Jews and undesirables.
Italian Fascism and German National Socialism were movements against classical liberalism, laissez-faire capitalism, and free trade. Mussolini sought to amplify the corporate state of the privileged and elite over individual enterprise. He replaced liberal, market-based economics with centralization and government interventionism. Mussolini’s formula was notoriously simple: “Everything in the state, nothing against the state, nothing outside the state.” By 1939 Italy had nationalized private industry to such a point that it had the highest percentage of state-owned enterprises outside the Soviet Union.
Hitler instituted similar programs, many which are in vogue today. The Nazis called for full employment and a living wage. Using pro-labor rhetoric, they demanded the limitation of profits and the abolition of rents. Hitler expanded credit, opposed the gold standard, instituted government jobs programs and unemployment insurance, protected German industry from foreign competition with high tariffs, nationalized education, imposed strict wage and price controls, and eventually ran huge deficits.
In fact, a number of historians now believe that Germany’s economy began to falter in the late 1930s due to its massive armaments build-up, protectionist trade barriers, and social programs. This left Hitler little choice but to roll out his war machine. He had to invade neighboring nations to grab their natural resources and prevent an economic downturn in his own nation.
Today’s radical Islamic governments have strong threads of fascism interwoven into their framework. They are nationalistic, rattle their sabers from time to time, and have nationalized large parts of their economies. They have fused government and religion into one big melting pot so that the two are indistinguishable. But this “theofascism” is not only reserved for fanatics hiding among the Islamic faithful. The West has their own religious extremists who are willing to attack non-Christian countries simply because they are “pagan” and therefore evil.
What makes fascism and other authoritarian-based ideologies so dangerous is that they are populated by people who love government. These people bitterly disapprove of the opposition party’s policies but are eager to seize the power of government to impose their own particular brand of controls on the populace. Any ideology that puts government before individual sovereignty has all the markings of fascism.
March 16, 2007