Via – A Little Perspective by Christine Miller
You hear the words “Hitler”, “Nazi”, and “Fascist” thrown around a lot these days. But to see if they are valid descriptors, or just extreme labels meant to inspire a negative emotional response without any correlation to actual facts (a la John Kerry’s claim that American soldiers in Vietnam “razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Kahn,“) we have to know what those facts were. This history series on fascism and nazism will feature quotes taken from reputable sources, by the historians who lived through the events of the 1930s and 40s.
And we have to start with Benito Mussolini.
“…The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone….”
What Fascism Is
When Mussolini took power he had no program except to retain his job. He admits this candidly. But he quickly found a program, which derived from a desire to replace the class struggle, which–certainly–he had done more than most men to intensify, by some sort of class collaboration. This was the origin of Fascism in practice. The contrast to Hitler is striking. Hitler came to power with a very definite program, and soon lost it; Mussolini, devoid of program, quickly invented one.
The outlines of Fascist economy are known to everyone. Private property, private profits, are preserved, but under strict state control. The entire productivity capacity of the country, theoretically represented by employers and employees both, is organized into a series of twenty-two “corporations,” from which deputies from the lower chamber of parliament will be chosen. Representation will be on the basis of occupation instead of geography; a deputy will represent, say, the hotel business instead of the province of Turin.
The scheme was put forward cautiously, and expanded very slowly; in 1936 it was still an embryo structure. Every corporation contains three supervising delegates to the Fascist party; each corporation is headed by a member of the cabinet or an under-secretary, appointed by Mussolini. The deputies, moreover, are “voted” into the chamber from an approved list chosen by the Grand Fascist Council; electors are privileged simply to say Yes or No to the whole list. Mussolini’s two general “elections” have been grossly dull affairs.
The state, being supreme, regulates the economy for its exclusive benefit. Fascism may be, spiritually, “an attempt to make Romans out of Italians,” but physically it made Italy a prison. “Fascism is a series of ideas turned into a person,” according to Gentile; and the peculiar person and character of a Mussolini determined the repressive shape it took.
Are the commonly heard labels, “Hitler,” “Nazi,” and “Fascist” being accurately applied today? History will reveal it:
The son of Alessandro Mussolini (who named him after Benito Juarez, the Mexican revolutionist who ordered the execution of the Emperor Maximilian) and of Rosa Maltoni, who was the school-teacher of the village, grew up in the most crushing poverty … then he taught school himself, until he fled to Switzerland at the age of nineteen to avoid military service. He earned a living as a mason and a laborer; at night he studied socialism. … Mussolini returned to Italy in 1904 at the age of twenty-one and spent ten years as a red-hot socialist.
John Gunther, Inside Europe, pp. 188-89.
In 1922 all of Italy was in upheaval. In that year, Mussolini’s Fascist party made their famous march on Rome. He put down the rival Communists and took over the government. He also took a title: Il Doce, or the Leader.
Robert Leckie, The Story of World War II, pg. 21
Mussolini told an English publicist late in 1935 that he would find no orthodox capitalism surviving in Fascist Italy. And in a famous speech to the National Council of Corporations he announced that the world economic crisis of 1931-34 had bored so deeply into the capitalist system that it had become an organic crisis of the system itself. “Today,” he said, “I declare to you that the capitalist method of production is finished.”
Indeed one may assemble a seemingly impressive list of anti-capitalist forces in the corporate state. No employer may discharge labor without government consent. No capitalist may undertake such comparatively minor independent activity, as, say, enlarging his factory, without state approval. Wages are determined by the government; the employer may hire labor only at government labor exchanges. A factory owner may not liquidate his business without state permission; the government controls his sources of credit; and it takes a large share of his income in Draconian taxation.
On the other hand, the disadvantages to labor under Fascism are infinitely more severe. Liberty, in a Fascist system, ceases; the question for the individual is whether the merits of the regime compensate its loss. Workers have lost their right to bargain; their trade unions have been dissolved; they are the weaker party vis-a-vis the employers in the syndicates; they are still subject to the crises of capitalist economy; their wages may be (and have been) mercilessly deflated by decree; above all, they have lost the right to strike. The capitalist, on the other hand, even if he has suffered inconvenience, maintains his fundamental privilege, that of earning private profits. Fascism as Mussolini introduced it was not, probably, a deliberate artifice for propping up the capitalist structure, but it had that effect. The restriction on the mobility of capitalism was in effect “a premium which the capitalists were willing to pay in order to get full security against the demands of labor.”
John Gunther, Inside Europe, pp 204-205
Mussolini, in his essay on Fascism in the Enciclopedia Italiana, begins by saying how a series of “amorphisms, anticipations, and aspirations” were welded by time into “an ordered expression of doctrine.” He sketches the history of Fascism by describing the things it combated: (1) Pacifism, (2) Marxian Socialism, (3) Liberal Democracy. “War,” he writes, “alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it.” He attacks the materialist conception of history: “Fascism, now and always, believes in holiness and heroism.” And as to democracy: “Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society; it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical consultation, and it affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful inequality of mankind.”
His best passage is devoted to Fascism as the totalitarian expression of the state:
“No doctrine has ever been born completely new, completely defined, and owing nothing to the past. … The foundation of Fascism is its conception of the state, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the state as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the state. … The state, as conceived of and as created by Fascism, is a spiritual and moral fact in itself, since political, juridical, and economic organization of the nation is a concrete thing; and such an organization must be in its origins and development a manifestation of the spirit. …
“The Fascist state is unique, and an original creation. It is not reactionary, but revolutionary, in that it anticipates the solution of the universal political problems which elsewhere have to be settled in the political field by the rivalry of parties, the excessive power of the parliamentary regime and the irresponsibility of political assemblies; while it meets the problems of the economic field by a system of syndicalism which is continually increasing in importance, as much as the sphere of labor as of industry; and in the moral field enforces order, discipline, and obedience to that which is the determined moral code of the country.”
And he ends the essay by an urgent appeal to imperialism: ” For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality.”
John Gunther, Inside Europe, p. 205.
To summarize Fascist philosophy:
- The state is the most important entity in the nation, above the individual;
- Individual freedoms are suppressed to the interest of the state;
- The national economy is controlled by the state rather than the market;
- Totalitarianism is the preferred system of government to maintain the supremacy of the state;
- To maintain the continuity of the totalitarian state, only a single party under a single strong leader is allowed;
- The chief goal of the Fascist state is to wage war, establishing Fascism over as many neighboring nations as possible, so that the Fascist state grows into a Fascist empire.
Already we can see that partisan claims of “Fascist” for President Trump and his supporters is completely out of line with reality. The President’s policies are designed to decentralize federal power and return power to states and individuals, the very opposite of Fascism. The President’s policies are designed to unchain the economy and restore greater abilities to business, labor, and the free market, the very opposite of Fascism. The President’s policy to build a strong military is not so that it will be used to pursue war, but so that it will deter others from waging war against America and Americans; “peace through strength,” the same policy employed by Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.
Now that we have Mussolini’s, the creator of Fascist policy, political philosophy down, the next time we can look at what actually happened in Italy from the time he took power and instituted the Fascist state, until the time his reign was ended.
To be continued …