"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Real Threat of Fascism

First clarity, then the horror of the realization that real parallels exist between the political and economic conditions of contemporary North America and those of the fascistic societies of Germany and Italy that arose during the 1920s until their defeat at the end of World War II. Some believe that we are in that downward spiral.

The exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism.

Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity. These facts have been lost to the popular consciousness in North America. Fascism could therefore return to us, and we will not even recognize it. Indeed, Huey Long, one of America's most brilliant and most corrupt politicians, was once asked if America would ever see fascism. His answer was, "Yes, but we will call it anti-fascism." ...

Consider the words of Thurman Arnold, head of the antitrust division of the US Department of Justice in 1939: "Germany, of course, has developed within 15 years from an industrial autocracy into a dictatorship. Most people are under the impression that the power of Hitler was the result of his demagogic blandishments and appeals to the mob ... Actually, Hitler holds his power through the final and inevitable development of the uncontrolled tendency to combine in restraint of trade."

Arnold made his point even more clearly in a 1939 address to the American Bar Association: "Germany presents the logical end of the process of cartelization. From 1923 to 1935 cartelization grew in Germany until finally that nation was so organized that everyone had to belong either to a squad, a regiment or a brigade in order to survive. The names given to these squads, regiments or brigades were cartels, trade associations, unions and trusts. Such a distribution system could not adjust its prices. It needed a general with quasi-military authority who could order the workers to work and the mills to produce. Hitler named himself that general. Had it not been Hitler it would have been someone else." ...

Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was the end result of political and economic changes these nations underwent while they were still democratic. In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism in Italy and Germany.

Business tightened its grip on the state in both Italy and Germany by means of intricate webs of cartels and business associations. These associations exercised a very high degree of control over the businesses of their members. They frequently controlled pricing, supply and the licensing of patented technology. These associations were private, but were entirely legal. Neither Germany nor Italy had effective antitrust laws, and the proliferation of business associations was generally encouraged by government...

How was Hitler able to achieve his goal?

1. Germany was "bent to the will of powerful industrial interests.

2. Certain taxes applicable to large businesses were reduced while simultaneously increasing the same taxes as they related to small business.

3. Price ceilings were repealed increasing the cost of living for average families, hastening the destruction of the middle class. "The fact that he did this while simultaneously destroying them was a terrible achievement of Nazi propaganda."

4. Hitler destroyed organized labor by making strikes illegal.

5. Hitler allowed the creation of cartels. ( an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition)

6. Nazi law gave over total control over wages and workers to the employer.

7. Slave labor was formed oof the untermenschen (subhuman), largely German and European Jews, Poles, and Russians that were, most of whom were imported or worked in place in the factories and labor camps of conquered nations.

8. The use of deception, slogans, and the appeal to fear mesmerized the German population.

The same conditions existed in Italy. Mussolini, like Hitler "used a socialist language to lure the people to fascism.

Mussolini spoke of a "corporate" society wherein the energy of the people would not be wasted on class struggle. The entire economy was to be divided into industry specific "corporazioni", bodies composed of both labor and management representatives. The corporazioni would resolve all labor/management disputes, and if they failed to do so, the fascist state would intervene.

Unfortunately, as in Germany, there laid at the heart of this plan a swindle. The corporazioni, to the extent that they were actually put in place, were controlled by the employers. Together with Mussolini's ban on strikes, these measures reduced the Italian laborer to the status of peasant.

Mussolini, the one-time socialist, went on to abolish the inheritance tax, a measure which favored the wealthy. He decreed a series of massive subsidies to Italy's largest industrial businesses and repeatedly ordered wage reductions. Italy's poor were forced to subsidize the wealthy. In real terms, wages and living standards for the average Italian dropped precipitously under fascism.

"It is always dangerous to forget the lessons of history." I might add -- It is always dangerous to not apply these lessons to the present and to be ever vigilant and jealous of our rights and freedoms. I see the writing on the wall and fear for our children and grandchildren.

Read it all.


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