Saturday, September 24, 2011

More on "left-wing fascism"

Perhaps the "Obama as Islamo-communist" canard has played itself out. The rightwingers now hope to bring back Glenn Beck's kooky syllogism:

1. Fascism was a left-wing phenomenon.

2. Obama is a left-wing phenomenon.

3. Therefore Obama is a fascist.

Even if the premises weren't inane, the logic would still be unsound. Since you don't want any lessons in formal logic this weekend, let's talk about the inane premises. I have to admit, though, that the task is frustrating. It's like trying to prove the blueness of the sky to a zealot who insists that the sky is green.

The afore-linked piece in the American Thinker resorts to quoting cranks in order give "fascism" a preferred redefinition. Unfortunately, the ill-educated youngsters who read this crap don't know that virtually every major book on fascism (including Mein Kampf and Mussolini's The Doctrine of Fascism) categorizes the movement as right-wing.

According to our American "Thinker," the sheer weight of all those books only proves the immensity of the scheme to misinform the public:
Over the past seventy years, the left and their allies in the media have succeeded in labeling fascism as a right-wing or conservative philosophy when it in reality was an offshoot of socialism.
In other words: "I say that the sky is green. Anyone who says otherwise is part of a conspiracy. If billions say that the sky is blue, billions are in on the plot."

This "allies in the media" label is an outrageous, disingenuous fib. The fibbers know full well that their young readers are too lazy to check the facts for themselves. Those few who do bother to research the state of the American media during the heyday of the fascist dictators will soon discover that most of the press was owned by right-wingers who supported big business.

Moreover, most of those right-wingers were friendly to fascists until fascist crimes became too large to rationalize. Even the film Citizen Kane underlines this point. For an in-depth view of the pro-fascist sympathies of the media in the 1920s and 30s, you can do no better than to consult George Seldes' masterly Lords of the Press -- available online here. What he has to say about the Hearst press should be kept in mind if you ever take the tour of San Simeon.

The powerful McCormick press was the Fox News of its day. And it was decidedly pro-Hitler and pro-Franco:
In the Thirties McCormick and the Tribune form alliances with the most ardent of the Isolationists. Charles "Lucky" Lindbergh becomes the mouthpiece for American Isolation, and accepts ( in 1938) the highest honor the German military can bestow on a foreigner. Lindbergh makes friends among the German high command and is personally decorated by Herman Goring.

Anyone pondering the points where patrician Americans begin to espouse a crypto Fascism in the Thirties should consider the relation between men like McCormick and Lindbergh. Both, usually privately, posit the existence of social, intellectual and biological elites which they just happen to represent. Lindbergh researches, in France, a scientific basis for "a master-race." Fascism was not just a German phenomena, America had its Father Coughlins and Senator Bilbo's. They form a long line extending directly to "populist" Pat Buchanan.

The Tribune, ever anxious to condemn those Americans who had gone to Spain to fight Fascism, is impressed that neither Hitler or Mussolini have labor union problems.

In a Tribune editorial in 1939, McCormick will urge that Poland, England and France turn away from a German Fascist attack and unite against their "real enemy, the Soviet Union." On the day Poland is invaded, the Tribune announces :"This Is Not Our War."
Now let's go to Germany, to the time of the Putsch. The idea of General Ludendorff (co-leader of the Putsch) lending his support to a non-conservative cause will evince howls of laughter from anyone who has ever read anything about that man. The SA brownshirts kidnapped and imprisoned Socialist politicians. Afterward, a right-wing judge gave Hitler a very modest sentence (the charge was treason) and made sure that he received comfortable lodgings.

During Hitler's rise, German newspapers routinely labeled the Nazi party a right-wing party, in contradistinction to the many left parties in Germany at the time. There is virtually no dissent among historians of the period on the question of classifying the NSDAP as a right-wing party during the Weimar period. Far from being sympathetic to the left, the Nazis participated in underground "Fehme" assassination squads which killed socialists -- and even centrists, such as Walther Rathenau and Fritz Gerlich.

The Pooles' book Who Financed Hitler? conclusively proves that the Nazi party would have remained insignificant without massive funding from Henry Ford. Anyone who has ever read a book about Ford knows that he never would have supported a cause that carried even the slightest odor of leftism.

Ford later became the idol of the John Birch Society, and is now revered by many tea partiers. The modern day inheritors of the JBS legacy (including Beck) don't want you to know that the Society was founded by pro-fascist Americans. More on that below.

Oh...and before someone states the obvious: Yes, it is true that Mussolini had once called himself a socialist. It's also true that Stalin studied for the priesthood, and that Milton Friedman once argued that the government under FDR didn't do enough to combat the Depression. Attitudes can change.

Mussolini defined fascism as "corporatism" -- a definition which the Beckian kooks never like to mention. Neither do they care to note that, throughout the 1930s, America's corporatists usually favored fascism. In fact, they tried to foment a fascist coup in 1934. Take a look at the driving forces behind this coup and ask yourself if these names sound like a list of left-wingers:
Head­ing and direct­ing the orga­ni­za­tion were Du Pont and J.P. Mor­gan and Com­pany men. . . . Heavy con­trib­u­tors to the Amer­i­can Lib­erty League included the Pit­cairn fam­ily (Pitts­burgh Plate Glass), Andrew W. Mel­lon Asso­ciates, Rock­e­feller Asso­ciates, E.F. Hut­ton Asso­ciates, William S. Knud­sen (Gen­eral Motors), and the Pew fam­ily (Sun Oil Asso­ciates). J. Howard Pew, long­time friend and sup­porter of Robert Welch, who later founded the John Birch Soci­ety, was a gen­er­ous patron, along with other mem­bers of the Pew fam­ily, of extrem­ist right-wing causes. . . . Two orga­ni­za­tions affil­i­ated with the league were openly fas­cist and anti­la­bor. One was the Sen­tinels of the Repub­lic, financed chiefly by the Pit­cairn fam­ily and J. Howard Pew. Its mem­bers labeled the New Deal ‘Jew­ish Com­mu­nism’
Emphasis added. For obvious reasons, the folks at American Thinker don't want you thinking about that stuff. Incidentally, Mellon money is the basis of the Scaife fortune, which is behind much modern far-right propaganda.

The disingenuous ideologues who peddle revisionist pseudo-history to uneducated ninnies want to erase all memory of one key fact: There was a thriving fascist movement in America funded by conservative businessmen. Charles Higham's excellent books Trading With the Enemy and American Swastika document the pro-fascist bias of the American industrialist class of the 1930s.

The subject of post-war fascist infiltration of the American power structure is far too large for this post. Suffice it to say that virtually all of the links go to the Republican right -- from Gehlen's incorporation into the CIA, to Joe Kamp's close relationship with Joe McCarthy (whom Ann Coulter and the tea partiers have tried to rehabilitate), to Nixon's connections with Valerian Trifa, to Reagan's connection to Otto von Bolschwing (via Helena von Damme). American Swastika is a good source on this history, as is Christopher Simpson's Blowback.

Space limitations forbid any real discussion of Japanese fascism, which was largely a creation of Japanese capitalism, and which was aggressively anti-left. I'll say only this: If you ever visit the Nixon library in Whittier, take note of the elaborate fountain in the parking lot. A small plaque will tell you that the fountain was donated by one Roichi Sasakawa. His history tells the larger story of Japanese fascism. (Take special note of the Moon connection.)

So what evidence does the American Thinker offer to prove that fascism was a left-wing phenomenon? The writer points to the person whom he considers the most egregious "fascist" of the 1930s. Not Hitler, not Mussolini, not Tojo; the real fascist of that period was, of course, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
But the concept of a corporate state has been a staple of the American left since Franklin Roosevelt.

It was FDR who initiated the National Labor Relations Board to make the government the final arbiter in labor issues.
Well, which is it? Was FDR pro-corporation or pro-union? I don't think the answer matters much to our essayist; he has entered those hallucinatory realms where any paradox is acceptable as long as an enemy's name is besmirched.

Portraying FDR as a proponent of the "corporate state" is ridiculous. The corporatists of his time had quite the opposite opinion; that's why they tried to overthrow him. They viewed Roosevelt as the impediment to their dream of a corporate-run American.

Our essayist further wants us to believe that fascism was pro-union and pro-labor. What nonsense. In 1924, Mussolini outlawed all labor strikes. All trade unions in Nazi Germany were summarily crushed. By contrast, the unionization movement grew stronger under FDR.

Our American Thinker also claims that rising taxes under FDR are indicative of his innate fascism. But taxes remained surprisingly low in Nazi Germany. The economy expanded through "military Keynesianism" and gross deficit spending -- the strategy later employed by Reagan.

As for Mussolini's tax policy -- well, Wikipedia has a nice summary.
The government undertook a low-key laissez-faire program - the tax system was restructured (February 1925 law, 23 June 1927 decree-law, etc.), there were attempts to attract foreign investment and establish trade agreements, efforts were made to balance the budget and cut subsidies. The 10% tax on capital invested in banking and industrial sectors was repealed, while the tax on directors and administrators of anonymous companies (SA) was cut down by half. All foreign capital was exonerated of taxes, while the luxury tax was also repealed...
Mussolini was, in short, a libertarian in his dealings with big business.

His deification of the state was simply a nationalistic jingoism indistinguishable from that displayed by this nation's reactionary flag-wavers. The Italian dictator's government used its oppressive power only to crush the working class, never to inconvenience the corporations.

What I'm saying here is nothing new. In more civilized times, these things were taught in grade schools.

Alas, the people who want to replace real history with the fake stuff have tons of money and illimitable patience. They produce books filled with bunk -- and these works cite each other, creating an illusion of academic consensus. That's why our "Thinker" can get away with spouting nonsense as though it were indisputable reality. Example: "Yet it is generally recognized today that by pursuing these policies FDR prolonged the Great Depression by another 5-7 years." There is no such general recognition.

(I could write a whole post around this particular piece of revisionist BS. One day, I will.)

As I glance up at the opening of this essay, I realize that we never got around to discussing the second premise of our silly syllogism. Need I do so? Many, many previous posts have already made the point. Calling Obama a "leftist" is like calling the Incredible Hulk "dainty."
Comments to the article in your first link are unbelievably ridiculous! They mostly appear to be written by literate people, not wailing banshees we see on some comment threads. Yet how can they be so deluded?

One clip from SeniorD's comment:
Are the Socialist forces which have been diligently working to undermine capitalism and freedom (read the right to own property) seeing their goal in sight? If this country, once viewed as a haven of freedom, turns Socialist in fact if not in statements this world has no champion for individual freedom, a free wheeling capitalist society with less onerous taxes and soveriegn States united by a small federal government.

"Working to undermine capitalism"?

I know what you mean. As I read those comments, all I could think was: "A little learning is indeed a dangerous thing." That is -- it is dangerous if you are intent on learning only those facts which conform with your prejudices.

I registered for the site and offered a link to this story. But my comment won't pass moderation.
How about (1) Obama is bought and paid for by corporations, a corporatist who has governed to benefit business at the expense of the populace; (2) Fascism involves co-option of the govt by business;(3) Obama is a Fascist?
Closer to the truth, anon. But for his fealty, Obama is now despised by much of corporate America.

This is a phenomenon I can't clearly understand right now. As years pass, we'll get a better view of what happened.
Corporate America sees Obama as someone with no spine. If enough of his base deserts him, he'll go after Wall Street. It took the losses of 2010 to get him moving on DADT.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike, I tend toward a different theory. I suspect that we are seeing something like "The Shock Doctrine" in action.

There is, undeniably, a group that would like to remake the entire country in an ultra-libertarian fashion. You can't do that without shock, without economic ruination. To get the desired outcome, the catastrophe must be seen as a "liberal" creation.

That is Obama's role. Whether or not he is conscious of it -- I doubt that he ever was or will be -- is immaterial.
"There is, undeniably, a group that would like to remake the entire country in an ultra-libertarian fashion. You can't do that without shock, without economic ruination. To get the desired outcome, the catastrophe must be seen as a "liberal" creation." That is Obama's role. Whether or not he is conscious of it -- I doubt that he ever was or will be -- is immaterial."

Looking at the legislative intransigence concerning economic solutions of the congressional republicon/Tp'ers from that perspective, explains alot. It also explains the current crop of batshit crazies on the GOP debate stage.

And thanks for a great post.
You do realize that Hitler and Mussolini invented Fascism because they were thwarted in their attempts to be Gay Atheist Married.

Good Post, I'm going to reference it.
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