Before diving into the subject mater at hand a note is in order concerning the documentation. This writer would have preferred to use references entirely from hard copy works over web site urls. Hard copy references are permanent as opposed to the more fleeting nature of the web. In this regard this writer has tried to limit web references to those of organizations only rather than to personnel pages that may be here today and gone tomorrow.
But the web is a wonderful research tool, yes the web has a lot of junk as well but so does any library. It's up to the researcher to sort out the reliable information in both and to discard the junk. Secondly information on the web is more current than what you can find in any library. With that said the writer has made heavy use of web references. Yes, they may be fleeting in nature, and yes the information may be updated in the future but that is a hazard of any research source. With that said the web references found within this book do what any references do and that is to give credit to the original writer after all you are reading this book on line. For this reason no attempt to update the html links will be made.
This book addresses the topic of creeping fascism in America. Before proceeding we need to carefully define what is meant by creeping fascism. Fascism itself will be defined in the first chapter. Creeping fascism refers to events themselves that may not be truly fascist in nature but when viewed in the context of a greater movement they can indeed be seen as part of a fascist movement or contributed to the rise of fascism. Events of creeping fascism will all have one thing in common they will represent a lost of freedoms for the average citizen. Indeed if any single event in the U. S. short of the suspension of the constitution could be properly labeled as fascist or in any other country for that matter.
Much of what this writer labels as creeping fascism could be properly termed Neo-fascism. Another author who has struggled with what constitutes fascism and neo-fascism is Eatwell.3 The precise definition is all but impossible. Nor does this writer really like the term neo-fascist or neo-nazi. It tends to somehow lend some creditability to them. It's like putting a happy face on a Nazi; rip the mask off and you still have a stark raving lunatic. For the purpose of this book creeping fascism will be defined as any measure that lends support to the elite or takes freedoms away from the greater masses. The danger with such a definition is that's it's a little too broad if used indiscriminately as will be shown shortly but neither the less it's the best definition available to define creeping fascism, which in the remainder of the book will simply be referred to as fascism.
It is the inherent nature of fascism that a revolution is not needed for the fascist to gain power. Indeed the only shooting revolution of the three classical fascist countries was in Franco's Spain. Both the Nazis and Mussolini rose to power in what could be more properly called a noisy protest. This is what makes fascism so dangerous and insidious. It can result from a natural decay of a democratic capitalistic society. Certainly economic troubles aid the fascist, as does the lack of strong leadership, it was precisely such conditions and the resulting chaos that allowed the Nazis to seize power in Germany.
This then is the basis and justification of the term creeping fascism. It refers directly to the decay of a democratic society and the gradual erosion of liberties and freedom leading to an authoritarian state. Thus when the writer labels an event as fascism he is looking at that event in the context of a larger movement in which individual freedoms and liberties are being gradually washed away. Once again the same type of events are easy to spot looking at the history of Germany now, but without the benefit of hindsight the imagines are indeed blurry. For one America may reverse this slide into the dark side. We still have the ability to counteract those that wish to revoke our freedoms. In the final chapter the writer will present definite steps that can be taken to regain our freedoms. Failure to include such solutions is fatalistic and the outcome far too dark to contemplate without their inclusion.
In the second chapter it will be shown that how fascism is unique in not requiring a shooting revolution and can arise out of a nature degenerative process of a democratic capitalistic society. Since fascism is a top down movement all that is required is that the elite of that society begin to concentrate their power without regards to the masses. Thus all fascist need do is to corrupt the political and economic processes to begin their march to a totalitarian state. They can do so with spreading forth propaganda to discredit the government, the schools, the media, the scientists, the courts and the remainder of the very institutions that have made America great. Once they have created a critical mass of distrust in the public then they are free to begin the process of concentration of power. This is the approach that the hard right and Republican Party has followed since the election of Reagan in 1980. It is a gradual process that can easily be cloaked until it's too late. The purveyors of fascism are free to mask much of the concentration under the banner of capitalism. Such as the consolidation of the media, which is today nothing more than the mouth-piece for corporate America.
The writer is not being an alarmist when he labels an event that seems almost harmless as fascism. It's the inherent nature of creeping fascism that masks the true significance of these events until it's too late. Freedom is a precious commodity nor is there any shortage of thugs that will do anything to kill it; it requires a constant vigil. These events leading to fascism may appear to be innocuous by themselves, certainly there were many such events in Germany prior to the rise of the Nazis. Its only after we have seen the nasty outcome of Nazi Germany that we can see that these events were not innocuous that they contributed directly to the rise of the Nazis. But at the time of their occurrence the average German citizen would have dismissed them without any further thought as harmless. But that's the benefit of hindsight.
To expound further on how these events can appear harmless at the time of the event, a brief look at the reaction to the appointment of Hitler will provide the ideal example. Considering the enormity of the event with the benefit of hindsight one would except the reaction to have been a loud and bloody protest, but instead the reaction was muted indifference. In a newsreel that was widely shown in movie houses throughout Germany, Hitler's appointment as chancellor was the last of six events. It followed such newsworthy items as a report on ski jumping, a horse race and a horse show. Editor of Vorwarts, Fredirich Stampfer recalled that most people had no idea what had befallen them. Foreign reactions were restrained. A Czech diplomat in Berlin saw nothing significant in the new cabinet. The British ambassador informed England that the appointment of the cabinet marked the end of the presidential governments.1 Other members of the German press reported that it was Hugenberg who was the power behind the new cabinet. Indeed some of the leaders of big business expressed more concern over Hugenberg as economic minister than of Hitler.2
To further complicate maters these events need not have been supported by the Nazis, they may have been supported by well meaning government officials or others while the Nazis were still viewed as nothing more than a noisy bunch of thugs led by a little guy with a funny mustache. One such example would be the flaw in the German constitution that made no allowances for a negative parliament. It was a defect that Hitler successfully exploited in his quest for power. Following the war the flaw was corrected and the German parliamentary system has performed admirably. Another example would be the lack of comprising among the various parties to form a parliamentary president starting around 1930. This was another large factor in the rise to power of the Nazis, there was an acute power vacuum; there was no strong leadership. The electorate was simply too fractured or polarized for a strong leader that was responsible to the people to arise. Yes, much of that polarization was the direct cause of the Nazis, but the other parties likewise contributed to it, including the centralist parties.
Another example would be the practice of big businesses forming cartels dating all the way back into the monarchy. How much these cartels contributed to the economic problems of the 1920s can only be estimated, but it certainly added to the economic woes of Germany. Further the various fractions of businesses sought out conflicting goals from the government contributing to the general government instability. The Rhur industrial sought to promote free trade while the agribusiness's sought out higher tariffs on grain imports to protect their livelihood.
Additionally we have already hinted that some of these events even proceeded the formation of the Nazi party. Indeed the best example of this is the prevalence of anti-Semitic feelings in Germany dating all the way back to the time of Martin Luther. Hitler exploited the underlying anti-Semitism to divide the electorate in order to gain power. Is racism in America part of a fascist movement? In the book that follows it will indeed be treated and labeled simply as fascist. Again we don't have the benefit of hindsight at the moment to know. We do know from looking at the history of fascism that racism is indeed a characteristic of fascism, as is any method that can divide the electorate.
This writer feels that divisionism is another trait of fascism that is always present just as is authoritarian and extreme nationalism is. The writer acknowledges that any political party in a democracy uses some form of divisionism in order to win elections. But there is a difference here, when this writer refers to divisionism as a trait of fascism he is referring to destructive divisionism that serves only but one purpose and that is to solely further the aims of the user.
A good example of this destructive divisionism was after first being appointed chancellor Hitler immediately set about destroying any chance at forming a parliamentary majority. This will be gone into more depth in the first chapter. Likewise, the Republican led government shut down over the budget in 1997 was simply labeled a fascist move on the part of the Republicans in an analogy in the same chapter. Clearly this writer means it to be an example of creeping fascism and not out right fascism, the writer chooses not to insult his readers' intelligence by repeating the exact phrase. Throughout the remainder of this book the writer will label such events as fascism rather than creeping fascism. Likewise this writer will simply label an event as divisionism rather than destructive divisionism. One final example of divisionism that has already been mentioned is racism. Certainly it serves no constructive purpose and it certainly fractures the electorate.
This particular rise of the hard right in America is unique and poses a dangerous threat to our liberties and freedoms. Like the period between wars this rise in fascism is global in nature not confined to one country or one area of the world. The author does recognize that there have been times in the past of widespread repression such as the rise of the Klan in the 1920s, the prosecution of the Wobblies in the same time period, McCarthyism in the 1950s and even COINTELPRO in the 1960s. What then makes this time particularly dangerous and unique? The second chapter explores the 3Ms needed for a revolution to succeed. Those are the media, the military and the money. The hard right today have taken on the aspects of social darwinism and at no time in the past has the wealth of the country been controlled by so few. The media has consolidated until only seven companies now control the airwaves and the press. . In essence it is now a reality that big money now owns the media, the only exception to that is the net. But even here consolidation is already beginning to occur.
It should be noted that a similar consolidation of the press occurred in Germany during the late 1920s. Indeed there are many parallels and analogies between the present time and Nazi Germany. Other writers have also noted a "hauntingly similarity" to Nazi Germany.4 In this case the writer attributes the sudden shift to the right in America to five factors: conservative religious revitalization, economic contraction and restructuring, racism, social stress and backlash, and a well-funded network. In past times, not all of these root causes have occurred simultaneously. This writer concurs with such an analysis and those topics will be explored later in detail.
Indeed this shift to the hard right would not have happened without the excesses from the 1960s. The 60s was the period in which the religious right laid the ground work for their movement. The Goldwater campaign provided a pivotal role for the formation of today's hard right. Not only did it provide fertile ground for the organizers but it also lent some sort of legitimacy to their radical extremist views and served to desensitize us.
The primary focus of this book will be the times following 1980. As hinted to already in order to understand the shift and the danger it presents background material from earlier times is needed. The chapters from the first section will lay the ground work for the background needed to fully understand the 1980s and the hard right movement. The second part will deal with the 1980s and more recent times. In any book such as this, which is primarily a survey of the subject, the various topics are numerous and a full discussion of any single topic is beyond the scope of this book. Indeed books have been written on the topics or even of subdivisions of a topic. The writer is not going to bore you with over repetitious examples and analysis. Rather the writer will present various examples that serve to make the point before moving on. The objective here is to stimulate the reader into thinking for himself not to provide exhaustive analysis and examples.
1. Thirty Days to Power, Henry Ashby Turner, Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1996, p159.
2. German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler, Henry Ashby Turner, Oxford Press, 1985, p326.
3. Fascism, Roger Eatwell, Penguin, 1996. 4.