Neo-Fascism and the Religious Right

By Swomley, John M. | The Humanist, January-February 1995 | Go to article overview

Neo-Fascism and the Religious Right


Swomley, John M., The Humanist


After the collapse of the Soviet Union's communist system, most Americans breathed a sigh of relief that the danger of totalitarianism had largely passed. There was a similar relief when fascism of both the German and Italian varieties was defeated during World War II.

However, few Americans ever examined the roots of fascism or its implications as they did communism. The reason is that communism by its very existence was an alternative to capitalism, and the business and news interests that determine the nature of American politics and economics have steadily proclaimed the danger and disadvantages of communism.

While there is no immediate danger of a fascist movement taking control of the United States, it is well to examine the characteristics of European fascism and note any parallels in the United States.

Fascism, in other words, is not an unforeseen coup or sudden act by a militant force in society. Acceptance of it can be cultivated by gradual accommodation.

Broadly speaking, there are certain prerequisites for fascism. One is that millions of people, especially those in the middle class or aspiring to enter it, become unemployed or only marginally employed. They become victims of the recurring crises of capitalism, which to soem degree affect everyone. These crises--recession, depression, inflation, the failure of banks and other savings institutions, large-scale bankruptcies and property foreclosures --have occurred in all major capitalist societies.

A second characteristic of pre-fascist rule is the weakening of confidence in political democracy and its institutions.

A third characteristic is monopoly capitalism protected by the state and interconnected with the government. This is evident in the United States in the military-industrial complex (which President Eisenhower warned about) by which the political, strategic, and economic interests of the huge arms industry, the civilian and military employees of the Pentagon, the intellectuals in scientific laboratories and universities, and journalists close to the CIA and Pentagon operate. Seymour Melman, professor of industrial engineering at Columbia University, pointed out that 120,000 Pentagon employees supervise and control an industrial complex of 35,000 industrial firms plus over 100,000 subcontractors employing 3.25 million Americans in military-serving industry. Furthermore, since 1951, the yearly fresh finance capital funds budgeted for the Pentagon have exceeded the combined net profits of all U.S. corporations. The lobbying influence of these corporations and those in the Pentagon who want to mintain a buge war machine have triumphed in the post--Cold War era over those who want to cut the military budget.

This government-military monopoly system has its counterpart or political origin in imperialism: the desire to be a superpower and to maintain an extensive chain of overseas military and naval bases and client states, such as South Korea and a number of nations in the Middle East and Central America. According to the Center for Defense Information in Washington, "The Congressional Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus found that, in addition to maintaining nearly 100 major bases in 16 foreign countries, the U.S. currently has or is negotiating agreements with 38 countries to allow the U.S. to deploy troops and equipment."

The first result of this monopoly-capitalist military and government alliance is the scuttling of any efforts to reduce and limit arms worldwide except for nations that are insufficiently deferential to U.S. interests. They become outlaw nations under pressure to reduce their armies or are threatened with attack.

The second inevitable result is the failure of government to allocate enough money for education, health, housing, and other social services, thus creating ever greater instability within the United States.

Given the above preconditions of fascism which characterized pre-fascist Germany and Italy, the crucial missing step in the United States thus far is the creation of a well-organized extreme right-wing movement with not only a clear political and ideological content but which is also capable of terrorist action against minorities they despise.

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