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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More Fascist Resonance: that whole 'keep the workers willing' thing all over again

Okay - so plenty of moderates and nearly all good, cable-news-watching, average Joe-and-Jane tax-paying people; people who keep their noses clean and do their jobs and pay their bills; really hate to see comparisons between the current state of affairs and the Fascist rise in Europe in the 1930s.

And such discomfort is understandable. That period in modern history is among the ugliest on a global scale. There are good reasons to not make comparisons to that time terribly lightly.

What the moderate and not-so-political folk often forget is, at that time in the past, there was a similar Fascist rise here in the USA. Thanks to the Great Society efforts by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that rise here was nipped in the bud.

Mussolini really put the proper face on what "Fascist" means when he said he hated the term "Fascism" because it was too emotionally loaded: he coined "Corporatism," as that term more accurately reflected the government both he and Hitler sought to create. And, in his speeches, Mussolini used the term "Corporatism" fairly freely.

But, at the end of the day, what does Fascist really mean? How can one define this term used not only to insult, but to also silence others?

Let's just go with the High School Senior version of world history. Within that easily-limited view here is what we can analyze given "common knowledge" via public education and the addition of some critical thinking.

(1) Fascism is government for the corporation.

Mussolini "made the trains run on time" and used government contracts to arm Italy - while at the same time creating jobs during a significant global Depression. Hitler provided IG Farben, Krupps Artillery and Bavarian Motor Werkes (yes - BMW: they used to make airplanes for the Luftwaffe) with labor camps to cut production costs and help insure prosperity to "True Germans."

State dollars funding the corporation to assure mutual growth and power, in short.

And today?

Our government is now run by corporate interests who dictate environmental, tax, labor/wage, and investment rules. Our government subsidizes key industries, even when those industries are mismanaged (eg. the airline bailouts). Our government encourages outsourcing to third-world countries to keep labor costs low so corporations can make bigger profits.

Oh - and two more words. "Halliburton Contracts." 'Nuff said?

(2) Fascism puts issues like "social services" and "social welfare" in the hands of the corporation.

Hitler used the lodgings vacated by the to-be-exterminated "undesirables" to house factory workers who moved from farm to city to help arm Germany for war. Both Hitler and Mussolini used the government's ability to garnish and sequester resources such as food and gasoline to provide workers supporting the war effort with a bit "extra." The goal of such actions goes back to the idea of Fascism being government for the corporation: together, the government and corporation work for their mutual self-interest, not for the society.

And today?

Today, we have state-run programs where our mentally handicapped must work to participate in state-run services. We have state-run programs where single mothers, the dispossessed, the poor, and the ill must work to get the most menial benefits - and the work itself is only minimally compensated.

We call it "workfare."

Conversely, corporations get tax abatements, subsidies, and other forms of gravy to grow and open new facilities (whether here or overseas). These abatements and subsidies derive directly out of citizen tax dollars paid to the government.

Doing a websearch on the term "workfare" and restricting the search to provides some telling insight to my above statements.

(3) Fascism crushes the left and labor

Both Hitler and Mussolini used Left-Style social services, administered between an alliance of government and industry, to entice workers into supporting the Party, the State (and, later, the war). Free housing and healthcare were popular examples of such enticements (see my point about social services, above).

But to insure labor conformed, the Fascist state had to ensure a Left-Labor movement that was utterly devoid of power. Corporations insured unions leaders remained in either company or government pockets . . . if unions were allowed to remain at all (and unions often weren't). Socialist and Communist leaning ideas had to be silenced (not to mention outright Socialists and Communists themselves). To that end, anything of a Leftward flavor was crushed. Artistic movements from such perspectives saw the artists banned and paintings burned. Literature from such perspectives was branded subversive and made illegal. And the minds of the left? Those minds were imprisoned in what were, initially, work camps where the symbolic value of Capitalism as embraced by the Fascist state were displayed, quite literally, over the doors - arbeit macht frei (an accurate translation being "work liberates").

Granted, today, we know the statement " arbeit macht frei" is irony given what the camps were planned to become.

And today?

Today, our unions are gutted and we are as likely to see labor leaders lunching with high-level politicians as we are seeing them at a labor rally. Wages are down, job and worker protections are nil, and the left has been effectively silenced. In fact, we see our "left" leaders on the National level as often jumping into bed with the right as not (Hillary Clinton, Joe Liberman, Zell Miller) and our own voices are relegated here, to the back-rooms of blogs, where we cheerlead to each other but get very little useful national attention outside our own small forums.

(4) Fascism uses militaristic threat to keep both citizens and foreign powers in line

Germany invading the "Germanic Lands." And then Poland. And then the the other nations which evolved to being the European amalgam known as The Axis Powers.

You know the story: no need to drag this part out.

And today?

Today, we have the doctrine of both perpetual and preemptive war.

Sound familiar?

(5) Fascism also uses economic controls to keep both citizens and foreign powers in line

The Reich used funds to control other nations and groups - the most infamous action of which was passing legislation, under the rubric of the Nuremberg Laws, to deprive Jewish business owners of the rights associated with being both business owners and citizens: the property of such people was either redistributed to Germanic Aryan competitors or Party officials.

And what about today? Are there parallels today?

In fact, there are. Remember the election in India a few years back that led to a Socialist Prime Minister? Global concern about the future of India as a cheap labor source created such intense pressure that the democratically-elected PM stepped down? Or the flux of formerly Union-protected jobs overseas?

Perhaps these two are a bit of a stretch - but the end result is, certainly, quite similar: the consolidation of economic power to keep people and nations in line.

Do we live in a Fascist state, then?

I do not know.

But I do know this.

Between (1) the spineless Dems, the sellout Dems, the inability of the left to organize and take action (forget the protests - actually DO something) and the (2) systematic, efficient, cut-to-the-tendon-and-bone RethugliKKKans, things don't look good.

Hell - even with all the scandal, corruption, legal violations, and paper trails, making hay out of 9-11 failures, lies, faked intel, financial corruption, Katrina, and two court nominations, I'm still waiting for someone to start swinging a baseball bat.

From what I can see, I'll be waiting for some time.

For the moment, however, there is yet another 1930s flavor here: one worth addressing (credit goes to

CLARIFICATION: The link above connects to an article about the current economic situation - and some numbers we have not see since 1933 - The Great Depression

UPDATE: Gary posted this link, in some comments below, comparing the types of hate-speech from then to now. It's well worth the read.