Fascism is a word first coined in 1919 by the Italy’s former Prime Minister Benito Mussolini. In school I learned Fascism meant the combining of government and big business, because Mussolini defined it that way and ran Italy so. Further defining fascism by Mussolini’s Italy, it is an extreme, totalitarian government on the far right end of the political spectrum, if Communism is on the far left. A political “spectrum” is more of a circle, which is why there are similarities between Fascism and Communism when it comes to restricting speech and dissent under a strong authoritarian power. The distinction lies in ownership, however. Under Communism, the government owns business and industry, while under Fascism, business and industry own the government. For the purposes of this post, I will use this definition.
The Nazis are Fascists, as well, although they deliberately named themselves the National Socialist Party (“Nazi: being its acronym). Calling things the opposite of what they are is not new in politics. Bush’s “Clear Skies Initiative” released more toxins into the air so unless he meant clearing the skies of birds (attribution to Senator Al Franken), the title of that initiative is an oxymoron. Nevertheless, Nazis are an extreme right-wing group, regardless of what they are called.
When I hear the word “Fascism” thrown around, it seems it has taken on a popular definition of authoritarian-style government or dictatorial leader, without the distinctions I noted above. I imagine that is why the term Fascism and Communism are often used in the same breath. There is some merit to the evolution of politicla terms, as different groups embrace them. For example, many racist, Neo-Nazi and skinhead groups call themselves Fascists. But I think I is dangerous to ignore the original and fundamental distinction, which is how power is granted to the government and by whom.
I mention Nazism because it is the quintessential textbook example on how an extreme political entity can take over a country. Hitler transformed Germany slowly with his charisma, repeated phrases and small and seemingly positive and innocuous laws. I compare it to the frog placed in a pot who does not notice the water slowly heat to boiling until it is too late. It works on humans, too, if they are all diverted by mass distractions like sporting contests, new technology and thoughtless entertainment. If our fifth estate, journalism, is not doing its part either, a lot can happen in plain sight.
Most Americans pay very little attention to the politic in this country. Perhaps in another blog I will lay out why I believe the diversion is deliberate. European counties with much longer history leave their citizens with a greater cynicism, which I believe is healthy and keeps them more engaged. They think we are naive to think our way of life or our current government can’t be drastically changed overnight or that our leaders would never try to destroy our democracy. They know better because their countries have lived though it.
The Internet has had its share people posting concern over the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United case, which, building upon the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, grants personhood to corporations (from any country), thereby granting them the First Amendment right to free speech and free and unlimited permission to donate to campaigns, even anonymously. Since the 2010 decision, it is now a near certainty the interests of the wealthiest 1% will be put into law, verses virtually zero chance for the interests of the majority.
Yet the majority of people polled say they favor the right for workers to bargain collectively, the importance of manufacturing jobs staying here, that college education should be free, that the rich should pay more in taxes, that health care should be a right for all, that the government should improve our roads and bridges, and yet many of our states and Federal government votes against these majority opinions. This is even more that case in recent years. Demos.org lays out how money in politics has stacked the deck against the rest of us.
Most of the corporations influencing Congress and our presidential and even state candidates with fat stacks are not even American companies but according to the Supreme Court, all corporations are people. And we are not even allowed to know who these donors are. But this didn’t happen overnight. It’s been happening gradually and not enough of us are paying attention. It might not be Fascism but it sure is Fascism-adjacent. I don’t know about you, neighbor frog, but I think the pot is heating up.