When fascism comes to America, it’ll be wearing a bad toupee – Daily Kos

7 months ago Comments Off on When fascism comes to America, it’ll be wearing a bad toupee – Daily Kos

Whenever you talk about fascism, someone’s bound to roll out the Mussolini-authorized definition.

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power” – Benito Mussolini

But there’s not often much discussion about just what that means.

First, just because Mussolini said it, doesn’t mean it should it be treated as gospel. Certainly, the guy who coined the term should know it best, but the guy who coined the term also has the most incentive to present it in the best light. Mussolini’s thumbnail description leaves out the egotism, scapegoating, opportunism, and consolidation of power that drove the rise of fascism. 

Second, whenever this quote appears, it’s certain to bring on squads from the right swooping in to say that Mussolini’s corporazione doesn’t actually mean “corporation” in the way we understand it, but actually represents a council of workers. Toss in a few pre-1920 quotes, and you can make it appear that Mussolini was actually saying that fascism is the state acting through unions. Just like the Nazis. National socialists, man! National socialists. This deliberate distortion by people who certainly know better appears on any number of web sites, and the organized conservative pile-ons wherever this quote appears have made it into a “disputed” item on many more neutral sites. 

So … forget the quote. If you want to understand the relationship between fascism, unions, and corporations, you don’t have to part the artificial sea of early Mussolini quotes dogging every site. You just have to look at what fascists did.

Mussolini himself started out with positions that spanned the political spectrum, and those digging into his first decades of public life find it easy to cry “socialist!” Mussolini certainly agreed. That is, he did until he learned that flipping to a former socialist-turned-socialist critic gained him supporters among corporate conservatives that could deliver both money and power. Once that was clear, Mussolini swerved harder and harder to the right. 

At the same time that he was gaining support from corporations and the leaders opposed to the liberal government, Mussolini learned that he could blame socialists and union leaders for the nation’s economic problems. He positioned himself as a champion of the “little people” who could break the stranglehold of established interests and restore growth to the economy by destroying unions and the regulations that kept corporations from excelling. The result was a burgeoning pool of the poor who looked to Mussolini as a tough guy who was willing to buck the system, and powerful support from corporate interests, who saw Mussolini as a chance to smash the government and unions. His growing fascists group openly fought socialists and communists, often to the acclaim of other right-wing factions.

As fascists gained power, they swiftly eroded freedom of the press, repressed the votes of liberals, arrested or replaced judges, and arrested (or assassinated) liberal leaders. Existing unions were destroyed and replaced by a single union which was an extension of the party. Fascists seized control of schools and colleges, forcing the teaching of their doctrine and painting socialists as the enemies of the nation. Fascists moved against the growing economic and political power of women by writing into law restrictions on the jobs women could hold and setting a cap on the number of corporate positions that could go to women.

Instead of attacking corporations, that old socialist Mussolini repealed all taxes on capital investments and investment banking. He cut taxes for corporate officers in half. He eliminated the luxury tax. He forced Italian cities to sell off public functions to the private sector and followed suit by doing the same with parts of the federal government. He made a big deal out of balancing the budget and reducing federal programs. Every state monopoly from life insurance to telephone service was passed into private hands.

Both racism and xenophobia played critical roles in Italian fascism. Likewise, religious intolerance became a part of fascism after entering into a mutual support arrangement with the Catholic church. Fascism was always ready to add new targets of opportunity that stoked public hatred.

Fascism does not equal conservatism. Conservatism does not equal fascism. Fascism is simply what results from conservatism run amok, from conservatism shorn of moderation driven by empathy. It’s conservatism that has hitched its wagon to hate, fear, and unreason. It’s also where the modern GOP has been inexorably going since at least 1994.

I say 1994 rather than 1980 or 1964 because even in the Reagan era, Republicans felt they had to move with some level of reasonable caution. Sure, Reagan had his nine words, but it wasn’t until the time of the Gingrich that Republicans realized they could simultaneously weaken the government, complain about the failure of programs they had just sabotaged, and create a perpetual-motion machine of government destruction. Even as the term Overton Window was gaining attention in the popular press, it was losing value in political circles. 

Republicans found that they didn’t need to nudge the nation’s thinking slightly to the right. The idea of tossing out an outrageous idea then settling for moderation disappeared almost as soon as it had started. They could turn the notch to Unthinkable, and simply never look back. Within a political generation, they started to lap their own ideas. They’d take on anything, no matter how insane, so long as it kept dragging the conversation ever rightward.

Destroying the EPA and OSHA aren’t exclusively Mr. Trump’s ideas. They’re now “mainstream” Republican positions, along with getting rid of the IRS and funding what little remains of the government via flat taxes, sales taxes, and user fees. 

Throwing people out of the country—including changing the definition of citizen from those born here, to those born here to the right parents—that’s not Trump. That’s the GOP. That’s Trump … and Cruz. And Rubio. And every candidate on the GOP debate stage, even when that stage had enough diversity to include a woman who thought that people born in this country aren’t American citizens, and an African American who thought that people born in this country aren’t American citizens.

Gleefully surpassing the votes of minorities. Burying the idea of free speech under a mountain of paid speech. Destroying programs that support the poor, even when those programs are nothing more than food for poor children … Republicans have done everything possible to rat the lines of our shaky social safety net, then scream about the unraveling as a reason for cutting away what remains.

They’ve eaten away at the effectiveness of the government every day in every way, and then stood up to point the finger at government ineffectiveness. And it’s worked. It’s all worked. Over and over again.

Why? Because hate.

They built a movement that started with Austrian School “we don’t need statistics or history, we already know we’re right” economics. But you need more than a curve sketched on a napkin and the deep conviction that it would be dandy if we gave those people who already have 99 percent of everything the few scraps that remain. Even the Gipper couldn’t sell that on a plate by itself.

You’re a party based on obscure, unproven economic theories? Hey, add racism and sexism. That should get you enough people to win a few elections. Racism and sexism is running out? Well, there’s always authoritarianism and military hawks. Not enough people wanting to shoot and/or bomb other people to keep you in power? Dammit, weld on religious extremists. And xenophobes. Don’t forget your basic xenophobes. And smart people. We hates them, we do.

So now you’re the xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, anti-gay, anti-trans anti-muslim anti-intellectual pro-violence party militant … with a side order of weird unproven economic theories. Funny thing: Most of the people in your party don’t give a tinker’s dam about the difference between a flat tax, an excise tax, and brass tacks. That economic theory? It’s no longer the elephant. It’s barely even the tail. The guys cheering for Trump don’t care about the tax rate. They’re just there for the chance to draw that line around some group of Americans they can label as “other.”

But hey. If you’re going to put a blackshirt in the White House, at least you still win. You can count on privatizing Social Security and finally, finally killing Obamacare. And you’ll get some tax policies that will deliver that last stubborn morsel to the hungry, hungry plutocrats. Right? Right?

The guys back at the central office, the ones who really do believe the Laffer Curve is more than an ink blot test? They might want to look at what happened with old Benito.

After a few years of his low-tax, laissez-faire, wide-open corporate banquet, the economy of Italy was booming. Or … no. Not so much. Faced with depression and spiraling inflation, Mussolini floundered. First he listened to Ron Paul and put Italy back on the gold standard. (Okay, so maybe Ron was not there. Maybe.) The gold standard move was a disaster, driving the economy closer to collapse. 

Despite all the hard-right support that had put the fascists into power, the corporate bosses made an uneasy discovery: Mussolini didn’t have a real economic policy. He talked like a corporatist when it suited him, like a socialist when that worked to stir up the crowd, and mostly he was just a dictator. He didn’t really have a theory of the economy beyond “I should be in charge of it.” 

Mussolini took control of hiring, of pricing, of production. He conducted bail outs with make-believe cash and swallowed industries whole. He replaced collapsing private banks with new government banks and merged the holdings of these new creations into giant state-controlled industries. He raised increasingly high walls against foreign ownership, foreign investment, and foreign trade. He attempted to make Italy into an autarchy—self-sustaining, self-defined, and completely under his thumb. He swerved left, he swerved right, but mostly he just went Mussolini-ward.

The result was an economy in shambles. Even as other nations were recovering from the Depression, Italy was rolling into an unwinnable war with an economy still mostly composed of agrarian peasants and with industry so crippled it took them a year to build as many planes as the U.S. could construct in a week. It did not end well for Benito, or for the people who supported him.

Anyway … here’s the point. If you’re willing to go to bed with anyone in order to find voters for your squeeze-the-poor economic policies, eventually you’re going to wake up with a Mussolini. Though his name might be Donald.

And really, it doesn’t matter if Trump is the nominee. The party is still going to be the party that’s openly working to suppress the votes of black Americans, keep gay and lesbian Americans from getting married, force trans Americans to embarrass themselves daily, march immigrants out of the country, de-patriate children born in this country, keep refugees in danger, destroy the environment, cripple the educational system, abolish unapproved religions, support police violence, keep poor kids from being fed, bomb every country that ever looked at us cross-eyed, and pull the rug out from under the elderly.

Plus, they have some stupid economic theories.

When fascism comes to America, it’ll be wearing a bad toupee – Daily Kos