THE RECURRENCE OF FASCISM: Today's Corporate Dominance Eerily Similar to Pre-Fascist 1920s and '30S
Bigioni, Paul, CCPA Monitor
Observing political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970s leads to an inescapable conclusion: the vast bulk of legislative activity favours the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big business is very well off, and successive Canadian and U.S. governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their primary objective for at least the last 25 years.
Digging deeper into 20th century history, one finds this steadfast focus on the well-being of big business in other times and places. The exaltation of large corporations 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 rise again, 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 antifascism."
By exploring the disturbing parallels between our own time and the era of overt fascism, we can avoid the same hideous mistakes. At present, we live in a constitutional democracy. The tools necessary to protect ourselves from fascism remain-at least potentially-in the hands of the citizen. All the same, North America is clearly on a fascist trajectory. We must recognize this threat for what it is, and we must change course. Current economic and political trends are already leading us down the path trodden by Italy and Germany in the 1920s and '3Os.
Consider the words of Thurman Arnold, head of the Anti-trust section of the U.S. 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 quasimilitary 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."
Thurman Arnold's words may not resonate with most Canadians today. They think they know what fascism is, but, when I ask people to define fascism, they typically tell me what it was, the assumption being that it no longer exists. I have asked this question on numerous occasions, and the usual answer contains references to dictatorship and racism, with no awareness of fascism's political and economic characteristics.
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 processes that these nations underwent while they were still democracies. In both 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 fuelled and gave rise to fascism in Italy and Germany. …