Fascism, American Style

The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them.

– Julius Nyerere, First President of Tanzania (1965)

 

There is only one party in the US, the corporatist party. This is a fact that that is readily apparent and has been well documented by many people, from pundits like Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Ralph Nader, Chris Hedges and even Ann Coulter to comedians like George Carlin, Lee Camp and Jimmy Dore.

And if we are to be honest, having a government that is run by and for the corporations; a government in which the line between public service and private enterprise is increasingly blurred; a government that represents the perfect “marriage” between the powers of the State and those of corporations, means, by historical definition, that we have a “fascist” system of government.

The origins of modern fascism

Benito Mussolini is credited with starting modern day fascism. The word “fascism” comes from the Italian word fascismo, which in turn derives from Latin word fasces or “bundle’.

The fasces were symbols of the Roman Empire, the all-powerful state, and were carried by powerful men and magistrates as a symbol of imperium, or executive authority. Mussolini adopted the fasces as a symbol of his fascist state because it hearkened back to the omnipotence of the state under the Roman Empire – an empire which he was seeking to rebuild in the 20th century.

Mussolini’s fascist flag, with the Roman “fasces

Mussolini believed that his new fascist empire would eclipse the old Roman Empire in terms of both scope and longevity. It is therefore a mistake to assume that had Mussolini died, Italian fascism would have died with him. Indeed, fascism is still alive and well in today’s Italy.

Likewise, we associate German fascism, Nazism, with Hitler. It almost seems that we think that there could be no Nazi Germany without this singularly evil person. And yet Hitler designed his Reich to last 1000 years. Certainly he did not plan to be in charge all that time. And despite decades of “de-Nazification” and as in Italy, fascism still exists there as well.

We need to stop thinking of fascism in terms of people and more in terms of systems. The fascist states built by men such as Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet and Milosevic were not the cults of personality that we believe. Rather, they were highly integrated, culturally engineered societies that worked to perpetuate and strengthen the fascist System internally, while expanding the System against perceived enemies externally.

It is the “banality of evil” that makes fascism so insidious. The beating heart of Nazism was not to be found in Hitler’s fist pumping oratory, but in the dutiful record-keeping performed by thousands of clerks in hundreds of concentration camps all over Europe.

In the beginning ….

Although he was obsessed with the grandeur of the Roman Empire, Mussolini invented fascism as a decidedly modern form of government. Indeed, the fact that he defined fascism as a marriage between state and corporate power meant that fascism was, in many ways, a 20th century phenomenon, since transnational and trans-generational corporations were at the time themselves fairly new.

The US, famously, has a Constitution that is one of the oldest in the world. Indeed, the US system of government was conceived and established almost a century before corporations as we know them even came into existence.

So how could a fascist system come to be established in 1776?

The answer lies more in the underlying “big picture” philosophy of the fascist project. Yes, Mussolini sought to combine corporate power with state power, but that is only because corporations were the face of Capitalism at that time, and they represented the power and wealth of Capital in Italy.

In this way, we can say that the US system was a fascist one from the start, in that it was designed specifically to serve the interests of Capital, and Capital was merged with the institutions of government from the very start of the “American experiment”.

Although there were no modern corporations in colonial America, there was Capital. Lots of it. By 1860, there were 4 million American slaves were worth some $3.5 billion, making them the largest single financial asset in the entire U.S. economy, worth more than all manufacturing and railroads combined.

When it came time to draft the US Constitution, almost half of the delegates to the Continental Congress were slave owners. And all of them were white men who were landowners.

Mussolini and the Framers all opposed the “tyranny of the majority”

There has been much discussion lately about the Electoral College, and how this peculiarly American institution is “anti-democratic” because it allows the election of Presidents who have failed to win popular vote. The American Framers went to great lengths to put in safeguards against majority rule and to protect the power of the slave holding elite.

When defending the current system. conservatives always argue against the “tyranny of the majority.” The nation, they argue, should not be defined by the will of the largest group.  The allocation of Senators helps prevent this. The Electoral College does as well.

The result of these safeguards, however, is to create a system that is distinctly fascistic.

Indeed, Mussolini could have been referencing the US when he wrote the following in his “The Doctrine of Fascism“:

“The State…is no mere matter of numbers, the sums of the individuals forming the majority. Fascism is therefore opposed to that form of democracy which equates a nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of the largest number.”

In short, Mussolini would have felt right at home with those elitist Founding Fathers who were determined to have a system that did not lower itself “to the level of the largest number.”

Like Mussolini, the Founding Fathers also emulated Rome

It is fairly common knowledge that the men who created America were huge fans of the Roman Empire. The “Framers”  such as Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, etc. were well educated men who had been schooled in the Classics  This classical education played a key role in choosing a new political system.

The resemblance between the Ancient Roman Republic and America’s political system is something that is obvious even to the most cursory observer. America’s Executive branch of President & Vice President is similar to the two consuls of Rome. Furthermore, the judicial branch (Supreme Court), and legislative branch (Senate) were directly derived from the Ancient Roman model.

The Imperial Presidency of Richard Nixon

Fascism usually coalesces around a strong leader, a figure who embodies the State and the People. Mussolini famously declared, un popolo, un Duce (one people one leader). So how could the US Government become fascist if we do not have such a powerful dictator, if in fact all three branches of our government are “co-equal”?

The short answer is that they are NOT, in fact, co-equal, and the Executive branch has become, over time, ever more powerful.

My brother married a woman from Venezuela. She was highly educated, very smart, and when it came time for her to take her US citizenship test, she got only one question wrong. That questions was: “in the US government, who has the power to declare war?” She answered “The President” – and was stunned to find out that it was, in fact Congress. She could not believe it. She rattled off a list of the times that the US went to war based on the President’s say-so.

As a South American, she was more than familiar with all the US military adventures undertaken in the past 60 years, in which a President would appear on TV to announce that he had sent in US armed forces to invade or attack someone. How can this be? She asked. How can a President just violate the Constitution whenever he wants? Sadly, no one had a good answer to give her.

Looking back, I think the answer once more lies in the US’s emulation of the Roman Empire. In times of war, the Roman Senate would elect a “Dictator” – a unitary Executive to rule the country as an autocrat until the war was over or the emergency had passed.

It seems that the US Government is still following the Roman example. And although the US Constitution has no mention of a Dictator, the fact that the country has been at war for most of its history has meant that the Commander-in-Chief role has become ever more important. And this importance has allowed the Office of the President to accrue ever more power.

The phrase “Imperial Presidency” was first coined by historian Arthur Schlesinger in 1973. He wrote a book by that same name examining how the Nixon Administration represented the culmination of a power shift away from the Legislative branch and towards the Executive.

“In the late twentieth century Presidents made sweeping claims of inherent power, neglected the collection of consent, withheld information ad libitum and went to war against sovereign states. In so doing, they departed from the principles, if less the practice, of the early republic.”

The Unitary Executive Theory of Bush and Cheney

Alas, since Nixon it seems that the Presidency has only become more imperial. In fact, the George W. Bush Administration sought to actually codify the Imperial Presidency through constitutional means. Vice President Dick Cheney and his aide, Richard Addington, put forth a legal doctrine they called the Unitary Executive Theory.

According to the George W. Bush administration’s interpretation of the Unitary Executive Theory, the President’s power is restricted only by the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. Congress can hold the president accountable only by censure, impeachment or constitutional amendment. Legislation restricting the executive branch has no power.

The Trump Administration has also promulgated the theory of the Unitary Executive. most recently, they asserted that the President had the power to unilaterally fire “at will” the Head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who had been appointed by Barack Obama. The conservative Supreme Court sided with Trump in a 5-4 decision along party lines.

On a side note, this case makes clear why the Republicans are so keen to have conservatives appointed to the courts. If they subscribe to the Unitary Executive Theory, then the Supreme Court is the only check on a President’s power. And of that court is a conservative court, then they will uphold the autocratic (some might say totalitarian) powers that the Unitary Executive Theory assigns to the President.

In summary, when we look at the structure of the US Federal Government, especially given the wealth, power and beliefs of the men who designed it, we see a government that was inherently disposed to the totalitarianism of wealthy interests. The wealth and the interests of the Capitalist class of slave owners exerted their power and influence over the nascent US Government long before the existence of the corporations that formed the power base of the modern fascist state as envisioned by Mussolini.

But there are other factors stemming from the founding of the United States that contributed to the creation of a fascist state.

White Settler Colonialism – the precursor to fascism?

One of the undeniable hallmarks of fascism – or indeed any form of totalitarianism – is the need to keep the population terrified and mobilized militarily. This is done through the creation of an enemy and the demonization of forces that seek to destroy society. It is this constant threat to the country that allows fascist leaders to rally the populace to their cause. This fear of the Other is also used to justify the most draconian laws and means of enforcement.

The US, as a white settler colonial nation, has always had a “built-in” enemy, an Other to demonize and to fear. In the beginning it was the Native Americans from whom the American settlers were stealing the land they planned to use to create their own nation. The threat of “Indian massacres” was real, as native peoples sought to defend their lands and expel the invaders, and so settlers in many colonies were actually required to have firearms in their house, ready to be used to repel native attacks. These anti-native gun laws later evolved into forming the organized militias that are described in the infamous Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

Americans thus suffered in fear of their first “Red Menace” for the first hundred years of the Republic.

As the native American peoples were either eliminated through genocide or sequestered on remote reservations, the demonized threat to American society became the black man. Rebellious or escaped black slaves replaced Native Americans as the marauding barbarians who were poised to massacre white American families. Again, firearms played a huge role in defending the white settler colonialists from a non-white enemy.

This fascistic persecution of various groups of Others forms the very foundation of  American society in ways most Americans fail to see or understand. For example, the famous Colt revolver was innovated as a weapon for the US Army during the wars against Native peoples. The gun later became the favorite of slave drivers in the South. In both cases, it allowed white men to kill non-white men in a disproportionate number.

The hunting and recapture of escaped slaves gave rise to the Slave Patrols, which in turn became the highly armed, violent and brutal modern day police departments that we see in the US today. Likewise, the carceral system of American prisons grew out of the jails and work farms used to house and punish rebellious or escaped slaves.

After emancipation, fear of the newly freed black men continued to spur the growth in violence, firearm sales, imprisonment and punishment of the black population. White America still lived in fear.

So in terms of the totalitarian themes of militarism, racism and demonization of enemies, the US was already a fascist state even before the term existed.

There are general attributes by which one is supposed to be able to identify a fascist regime. Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany had these. Does America?

Hyper-Nationalism

Americans are often oblivious to the hyper-nationalism that surrounds them. The over-the-top rhetoric that is so commonplace in US political discourse would seem out of place if not downright comical in other modern democracies, yet in America it is almost mandatory to sign the unique praises of the USA in every speech, every policy utterance.

“American exceptionalism” is a concept that was first developed in European countries as a slight, a piece of criticism aimed at the arrogance and hubris of their US cousins. And yet this concept is worn as a badge of honor by Americans themselves.

Ronald Reagan, who is most responsible for the rise of modern American fascism, explained the unique brand of American hyper-nationalism in an address in 1982 to the Organization of American States (OAS). In his address, he gave an undeniably religious tinge to the doctrine of American exceptionalism.

“I have always believed that this anointed land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the earth who had a special love of faith and freedom.”

Although Reagan and his GOP were the fiercest promoters of American exceptionalism, the uniqueness of the US is invoked reflexively by politicians of both parties. And it is weaponized against them as well.

Barack Obama, for example, was attacked by the Right because he allegedly refused to say that America was “exceptional.” This caused Obama to overcompensate, spouting jingoistic pablum like this:

“What makes us special — a lot of times we talk about American exceptionalism and how much we love this country, and there are so many wonderful things about our country. But what makes us the envy of the world has not just been our ability to generate incredible wealth for a few people; it’s the fact that we’ve given everybody a chance to pursue their own true measure of happiness.”

Likewise, Donald Trump has been constantly attacked by the Left for abandoning and endangering American exceptionalism. Under Trump, they say, the US will descend to the level of other countries. Oh, the horror!

Trump was asked by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly whether he “respects” Russian President Putin, whom O’Reilly described as a killer. “You got a lot of killers,” Trump responded. “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”

And with that, the collective heads of the DC elite exploded. Trump had gone against the mantra of US fascist mythology, which says that the US is unique in the world in its unselfish defense of freedom, and that anyone we kill, essentially, deserves it.

Indeed, Dan Drezner, a prominent International Relations expert, decried Trump’s crime of honesty in an article in the Washington Post entitled, “America the unexceptional”:

“The United States under Trump now looks like other post-2008 democracies in Europe, Latin America, and the rest of the world…A Trump administration will not be leading the charge on democracy, free trade, or human rights promotion. Trump’s America looks just like a normal nation-state.”

THIS more than anything else, is the reason that the US elites in the government and the media want Trump gone. Trump is exposing one of the big lies that enable the maintenance of the fascist American state: the fact that, no matter how polluted and squalid, no matter how violent and vain, the USA is a force for good in the world, and Americans, no matter how impoverished or benighted, are simply better than everyone else.

Use of religion and “traditional values”

Another aspect of fascism is its elevation of religion and tradition. As a movement that defined itself primarily as anti-Bolshevik and anti-Socialist, it needed to differentiate itself in every way from its political antithesis. Where socialism was about tearing down old ways of thinking, fascism embraced the old ways; where Socialism was neutral on religion or even anti-religion, fascism sought to be pro-religion.

The Roman Catholic Church also perceived Socialism as its nemesis. In most countries, the “Mother Church” played a role in shaping and governing the society. It was thus vehemently opposed to any system in which religion did not participate in ruling.

Benito Mussolini signing Lateran agreements,  Vatican City, February 11, 1929.

Mussolini signed a pact, called the Lateran Treaty, with Pope Pius Xi in 1929. This was a working agreement that set forth how the Vatican would cooperate and support Fascist Italy. Hitler signed a similar agreement, called the Concordat, in 1933.

In fascist Spain under Franco, the Catholic Church was actually virtually branch of the central government. This position was merited, after all, because when the Spanish Civil War broke out, Pope Pius XI had helped rally the people to help Franco defeat the socialist loyalists.

When the people of Spain resisted the fascist takeover, Pius XI spoke out strongly, calling everyone who was not a fascist a Bolshevik, and blessing “all those who have taken the difficult and dangerous task to defend and reinstate the honor of God and Religion.”

Religiosity has always been a hallmark of fascism, most importantly because religious faith helps delineate the fascists from the “godless” Bolsheviks and Socialists.

The US, for example, went to great lengths to emphasize its “moral superiority” over the USSR by adding God everywhere. In 1954, the US Congress voted to add the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance that is recited by schoolchildren every day. This small addition was made at the behest of Reverend George M. Docherty, the pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church where President Eisenhower worshiped. One day the Reverend gave a sermon lamenting the fact that God was missing from the pledge. He said, “it could be the pledge of any republic. In fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag in Moscow.” And so President Eisenhower pushed Congress to make the change.

Not satisfied with just changing the Pledge of Allegiance, Eisenhower and the US Congress set about finding other ways to add God to the public square, so that they could further distinguish themselves from the Godless Russians. And so, in 1956, two years after havong injected God into the pledge, Eisenhower signed a law that made “In God We Trust” the official motto of the United States. And, being true fascist Capitalists, the US started printing and minting money with the phrase “In God We Trust” the following year.

Surely these changes would have made Franco and Mussolini – and Pope Pius XI – smile.

The over-use of symbolism

When I was growing up in the 1970’s I found it remarkable how the Nazis and fascists used flags and other regalia so profusely. I thought it was silly, garish and even childish. Yet today we see this in America as well: the overabundant use of flags, whether as backdrops to a podium or spread across an entire football field, are extremely fascist in nature.

LEFT – JFK gives a speech with one lone US flag; CENTER: Ronald Reagan introduced the idea of multiple flags forming a backdrop to his speeches; RIGHT: Trump takes hyper-nationalism to its extreme, hugging and kissing the US flag.

The obsession with the flag in American life is unique. I am pretty sure the US is the only country where children are forced to pledge allegiance to a flag. The flag pledge was developed by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy and introduced by the National Education Association in 1892. The pledge was designed to inculcate immigrants with patriotic respect and to generate nationalistic pride during the Spanish-American War. Bellamy gave precise guidelines on how the pledge was to be recited. One of these was a straight-armed salute to the flag.

The straight armed salute remained the official practice until 1942, when Congress passed the U.S. Flag Code, which officially adopted Bellamy’s Pledge of Allegiance but with the removal of the stiff-arm salute. Enemies had changed since 1892, and it was was seen as too closely resembling the fascist salute.

School children offer the original straight-armed salute to the U.S. flag, 1915

In addition to forced salutes to the flag,  there are constant efforts to make any “desecration” of the flag illegal.  And any US politician who fails to properly salute the flag or who fails to wear a flag pin on their lapel is immediately condemned as being unpatriotic and possibly worse.

Hyper-Militarism

The unique role that the military plays in American life is plain to see at every American professional football game, where flags and military personnel are paraded out to cheers and solemn praise.

A mammoth display of “patriotism” as a prelude to a Green Bay Packers football game.

One might think that these extreme displays of militaristic jingoism have evolved organically from an innate desire of the American people. But that is not entirely true. In fact, the US military has shaped the development of the sport of American football since the late 1800’s. It is not a coincidence that the “Army-Navy Game” has served as a morale booster in wartime and is still one of the most popular football events of the year. And recently it was revealed that the Pentagon actually paid 14 NFL teams a total of $5.4 billion to host “Salute the Troops” and other recruiting events at their games.

There is no question that American football has taken on the importance of the “Bread and Circuses” policy of the Roman Empire during the time of its dictatorial regime.

Demonization of The Enemy

This phrase could have been used in the 1850’s as well.

Fascism, like most forms of totalitarianism, requires that a threat to the people be identified and demonized. As I mentioned above, for the first part of its history, America had the Native People to play that role. Thereafter it was runaway or rebellious slaves. Then there was the Spanish-American War, followed by WWI and then WWII, wherein America had to defend itself against bloodthirsty hordes abroad and spies and saboteurs at home.

Following WWII, the US settled into a Manichean struggle with their arch nemesis, the USSR. Although the two countries had been allies in the war against Hitler’s Germany, the end of WWII meant that there were only two great powers left standing: the USA and the Soviet Union. And, with the development of the Russian A-bomb, that struggle expanded to engulf the entire world, as each side tried to expand its sphere of influence in every way possible short of nuclear conflict.

While the Cold War is best known for the various armed conflicts, rebellions and civil wars that it caused around the world, perhaps the most important aspect of the Cold War was its impact in domestic US society.

With the Axis threat neutralized, the fascist US ruling class had to find another enemy to demonize. And so Americans were subjected to their second “Red Menace” – the existential threat of the “international Communist conspiracy.”

Democrats still blame Russia for “sewing dissent” in the US

The characterization of socialism and the Russians as deadly threats proved useful also in the suppression of social justice movements. Black leaders from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, Jr. were attacked as communists. People or groups that advocated for equal rights were condemned as “useful idiots” of the Kremlin. In the South, people believed that black people’s desire for equality and rights was the result of “communist agitators.”

Fear of “communist infiltration” was used as a bludgeon to eradicate and suppress all manner of progressive organizations in the US. There had always been an active labor movement in the US, and prior to WWII, the US had a very vital American Communist Party as well as the American Socialist Party. These leftist parties had been very active during the years of the Great Depression and played a role in the pro-worker policies of FDR’s New Deal.

Those New Deal policies, however, were only implemented in order to stave off a possible worker revolt such as happened in Russia. The “socialist” policies and programs enacted by Roosevelt did not represent an evolution or a movement by the US towards socialism. Quite the contrary, the New Deal concessions to the working class were meant to act as a political “fire break” to prevent any actual gains in power by the working class.

The message of the 1950’s remains unchanged even now.

The end of WWII signaled the unfettered return of Capitalism to America. The industrial might of the US continued to grow apace, as the US took advantage of its singular position of being the only industrialized country to still have its manufacturing base intact and its economic engines unscathed by the world war. Indeed, the US accounted for almost 40% of the global GDP in the post-war period.The US was at full employment, and life for the average worker seemed to be getting better.

So with the Capitalist class firmly in charge, and the threat of a worker’s revolution removed, it was time to continue the war against socialism, America’s greatest enemy.

Indeed, if there is one thing that defines and unites all fascist movements, it is the fact that they are rabidly, completely and fanatically anti-socialist.

Fascism is really just “Militant Anti-Socialism”

I have lived for several year in Italy and Spain, and I have always been impressed by the cavalier manner in which Italians and Spaniards identify themselves as fascists. The word simply does not have the negative connotations that it does in the US.

In Italy and Spain, where fascism enjoyed a very widespread popularity, the meaning of fascism is more anodyne. It means, more than anything else, to oppose Socialism and Communism.

Remember, fascism arose in 1920’s Italy – just a few years after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Like Germany, Italy has always had very vibrant and active Communist and Socialist movements, and fascism developed as a reaction to Bolshevism and the move towards communism.

More than anything else, European fascism was a movement to fight socialism.

The Spanish Civil War was a bloody example of the true nature of fascism. On one side, there was the Second Spanish Republic, a socialist government that was allied with the USSR. On the other side was Francisco Franco and his fascist Falangists, allied with Hitler and Mussolini.

The people I know in Europe today who are anti-socialist, pro-military, hyper-nationalistic, religious and who revere “traditional values” are relatively happy to call themselves fascist. Because that is what they are.

But we Americans fought fascism in WWII, We cannot go around saying that we are fascists. So we say we are Capitalists.

This has never really made any sense. It is simply ridiculous to think that a farmer or a worker who owns no stocks and barely pays their bills every month – in short someone without one cent in Capital – would nonetheless proudly call themselves a Capitalist.

I really think that this is simply due to an aversion to the word fascist. Yes, the American elite have built a fascist State, but we don’t call it that. We say we are Capitalists and, as Nancy Pelosi famously said, “that’s just the way it is.”

Because of such sloganeering, many Americans believe incorrectly that capitalism is a form of society. It is not. Capitalism has no political or social component. It is purely an economic system.

By contrast, fascism is a political and social system, but not an economic one. So you can see how fascism and capitalism complement each other. Fascism is a political and social order in search of an economic system; capitalism is an economic system in search of a political and social order in which to operate.

Socialism is different from fascism and capitalism because it embodies all three components of a human society: it is at once a political, a social and an economic system.

And that is why fascists perceive socialism to be their mortal enemy. Socialism poses a “triple threat” to fascism, embodying as it does a cohesive and unified alternative to the fascist-capitalist construct.

So what do you call a self-proclaimed capitalist who has no capital? What do you call someone who works for a living, has no investments, but is nonetheless rabidly anti-socialist, pro-military, hyper-nationalistic, and terrified of enemies both at home and abroad?

The answer, at least for Europeans,  is that you call that person a fascist.

And yet there was also a time in the USA when the word fascist was not viewed as a negative. A time when Benito Mussolini was, in fact, the darling of the American ruling elite.

America’s love affair with Italian fascism

As Mussolini came to power, he was greeted with admiration and support by the US Capitalist ruling class – even by FDR himself. As Noam Chomsky pointed out in this interview:

The Italian Fascist Party flag

“Roosevelt himself had a mixed attitude. For example, he was pretty supportive of Mussolini’s fascism, in fact described Mussolini as “that admirable Italian gentleman.” He later concluded that Mussolini had been misled by his association with Hitler and had been led kind of down the wrong path. But the American business community, the power systems in the United States were highly supportive of Mussolini.”

Indeed, the US is full of fascist symbology, especially in Washington, DC. Much of the planning and some of the construction for the Federal Triangle project occurred during the Hoover administration (1929–33), which was when Mussolini was at the height of his popularity – both in Italy and among US elites.

Andrew Mellon, who served as Treasury secretary until 1932, personally oversaw much of the planning and design for the Capitol area. He was an early and durable Mussolini fan, and fasces – those symbols of Mussolini’s power – are to be found everywhere in Mellon’s construction projects.

It is difficult to say whether these fascist symbols were inspired by Mussolini’s Italy or directly by the Roman Empire, but the prominent and abundant use of the fasces as a symbol of American power is undeniable.

Mussolini salutes from a balcony flanked by fasces; Obama delivers his State of the Union flanked by these same symbols. The fasces placards were added during a renovation of the House chamber in 1950.

Fortune Magazine cover, July 1934

In the late twenties and thirties, renowned US publisher Henry Luce was accused of harboring fascist tendencies. His accusers pointed primarily to the editorial practices of  Fortune and its older sibling, Time. In particular, Time was well-known in its support of Mussolini. As the historian Robert Herzstein notes, “When important issues were at stake, one knew where Time‘s editors stood …. The magazine approved of Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, il Duce.”

Luce devoted the entire July 1934 issue of Fortune Magazine to Fascist Italy, praising Mussolini and his government as modern and forward thinking, and above all, moral.

A 2014 article in the City Journal covered the use of fascist symbolism in Washington:

“…when fasces started popping up on major federal buildings in Washington, D.C., in the 1920s and 1930s, no politically aware citizen could have been ignorant of the connotation. American architects knew of Mussolini’s grandiose building projects, and some publicly lauded them. Cass Gilbert, who designed the Supreme Court building, met Mussolini on a 1927 visit to Italy to procure

Fasces adorn almost all the modern buildings in DC, including the Lincoln Memorial.

marble for the project. No doubt Gilbert saw the countless fasces in Italian architecture. He was also favorably impressed by Il Duce himself. “

 

Whether the American elite took the fasces as a symbol from Mussolini, or whether they – like Mussolini himself – took them directly from Roman imperial iconography, is a distinction without a difference.

America’s pro-fascist postwar policies

Fascism is simply a form of extreme militant capitalism, and that is what “American exceptionalism” is all about. The one thing that unites all fascist regimes, from Mussolini to Pinochet, is a deep hatred of socialism. The fascism of the 1930’s was based on anti-Bolshevism, and the fascism of the Cold War was propped up and supported by the USA as a bulwark against the USSR.

Indeed, during the period 1973 to 1992 alone, the US actively supported and protected brutal fascist regimes all throughout Latin America and the Middle East. As Alex Henderson writes in a 2015 AlterNet article entitled “7 Fascist Regimes Enthusiastically Supported by America”:

The fascist regimes of Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain became the blueprint for a long list of fascist dictators in Latin America, from Juan María Bordaberry in Uruguay to Tuburcio Andino in Honduras to Fulgencio Batista (another U.S. ally) in Cuba. And the Mussolini/Franco model of governing was also a major influence on the Somoza dynasty, which ruled Nicaragua with an iron fist for decades and did so with the blessing of the U.S. government. Torture was the norm under the Somozas.

Fascism is as fascism does. The US is a Capitalist oligarchy that views Socialism as an existential threat. It has always been that way. The US has always been willing to work with fascists, such as in Operation Paperclip and the thousands of high level Nazis that found asylum – and important government jobs – in the US after WWII.

What it means to live under “Fascism, American Style”

The US is a fascist one party state. It has a strong authoritarian leader chosen by the oligarchy. Sometimes that leader is a Democrat, sometimes a Republican. But they all have quasi-dictatorial powers and are truly autonomous when it comes to waging war, invading countries and building and expanding the Empire.

Oh, we don’t call our Leader by vulgar names such as Führer or Duce, that would be too obvious. No, we prefer to wring our hands and warn about the dangers posed by “the Imperial Presidency” and the “Unitary Executive” – sonorous euphemisms to describe the startlingly autocratic and fascistic power structure that rules the country.

We are outraged and dismayed when we find out that we are bombing countries and killing children in a dozen countries, conducting active military and special ops in 80+ countries, spending 63% of our tax dollars on a war machine that we don’t even need. We live in a society where our own government spies on us through a sophisticated surveillance state that has been built up over three different Administrations. And yet, we are powerless to do anything. Why? Because we live in a country where Corporate Power has been merged with Government Authority. This was the very definition of fascism according to Benito Mussolini.

About Euroyankee

EuroYankee is a dual citizen, US-EU. He travels around Europe, writing on politics, culture and such. He pays his US taxes so he gets to weigh in on what is happening in the States.
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