Sam Smith – It is against the rules of the mass media to ever suggest any parallels between what happens in Washington and what has happened in fascist states. To even hint at this is considered a despicable conspiracy theory and thus without relevance.
Because this journal believes life is more complicated than that we have been noting parallels as far back as the Reagan administration and, judging from the increased willingness to discus such matters, it would seem we may have been a bit early but not far off the mark.
At the same time, parallels are not definitions. We are not yet a fascist state but are clearly inclined to a frightening degree in that direction. Something like the 1960s revolution of the young could well save us. We don’t know but it is not wise to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
The two things the Trump regime has most in common with Nazism and fascism are propaganda and corporatism. These clips from earlier editions of the Review tackle these topics.
Adrian Lyttelton, describing the rise of Italian fascism in The Seizure of Power, writes: “A good example of Mussolini’s new views is provided by his inaugural speech to the National Exports Institute on 8 July 1926. . . Industry was ordered to form ‘a common front’ in dealing with foreigners, to avoid ‘ruinous competition,’ and to eliminate inefficient enterprises. . . The values of competition were to be replaced by those of organization: Italian industry would be reshaped and modernized by the cartel and trust. . .There was a new philosophy here of state intervention for the technical modernization of the economy serving the ultimate political objectives of military strength and self-sufficiency; it was a return to the authoritarian and interventionist war economy.”
Lyttelton writes that “fascism can be viewed as a product of the transition from the market capitalism of the independent producer to the organized capitalism of the oligopoly.” It was a point that Orwell had noted when he described fascism as being but an extension of capitalism. Lyttelton quoted Nationalist theorist Affredo Rocco: “The Fascist economy is. . . an organized economy. It is organized by the producers themselves, under the supreme direction and control of the State.”
The Germans had their own word for it: wehrwirtschaft. It was not an entirely new idea there. As William Shirer points out in the Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich, 18th and 19th century Prussia had devoted some five-sevenths of its revenue on the Army and “that nation’s whole economy was always regarded as primarily an instrument not of the people’s welfare but of military policy.”
Germany’s willingness to accept Hitler was the product of many cultural characteristics specific to that country, to the anger and frustrations in the wake of the World War I defeat, to extraordinary inflation and particular dumb reactions to it, and, of course, to the appeal of anti-Semitism. Still, consideration of the Weimar Republic that preceded Hitler does us no harm. Bearing in mind all the foregoing, there was also:
– A collapse of conventional liberal and conservative politics that bears uncomfortable similarities to what we are now experiencing.
– The gross mismanagement of the economy and of such key worker concerns as wages, inflation, pensions, layoffs, and rising property taxes. Many of the actions were taken in the name of efficiency, an improved economy and the “rationalization of production.” There were also bankruptcies, negative trade balance, major decline in national production, large national debt rise compensated for by foreign investment. In other words, a hyped version of what America and its workers are experiencing today.
– The use of negative campaigning, a contribution to modern politics by Joseph Goebbels. The Nazi campaigns argued what was wrong with their opponents and ignored stating their own policies.
– The Nazis as the inventors of modern political propaganda. Every modern American political campaign and the types of arguments used to support them owes much to the ideas of the Nazis.
– The collapse of the country’s self image. Childers points out that Germany had been a world leader in education, industry, science, and literacy. Much of the madness that we see today stems from attempts to compensate for our battered self-image.
So while many of the behaviors that would come to be associated with Nazis and Hitler – from physical attacks on political opponents to the death camps – seem far removed from our present concerns, there is still much to learn from their history.
Article 48 of the constitution of the Weimar Republic stated, “In case public safety is seriously threatened or disturbed, the Reich President may take the measures necessary to reestablish law and order, if necessary using armed force. In the pursuit of this aim, he may suspend the civil rights described in articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153, partially or entirely. The Reich President must inform the Reichstag immediately about all measures undertaken . . . The measures must be suspended immediately if the Reichstag so demands.”