Monday, August 07, 2006

The Origins of Fascism: Then and Now

It’s not uncommon to hear a left-leaning person denounce the Bush administration with a barrage of Nazi-related epithets. The slurs are typically blurted out in anger with little thought to evidence or validity. In fact, whenever analogies are made linking a person or current event to either the Nazis or Holocaust, accusatory responses of ‘exaggeration’ and ‘slander’ are usually justified; it is indeed immature to randomly compare anything to the machine of Nazism that took the innocent lives of so many. While taking this into full consideration, the following is nevertheless an attempt to make some unpleasant connections.

Contrary to what many historians claim, Fascism does not appear out of thin air. There are economic and social conditions that, appearing repeatedly throughout history, have led to the possibility of tyranny and atrocity. The fascist nations of Italy, Germany, Japan, and Spain are often explained simply as phenomenon of irrationality: charismatic leaders hypnotized the masses into behaving like zombies while willfully contributing to the most horrific crimes. This myth conveniently dilutes the past behind a veil of banalities, leaving the slightest comprehension of a crucial era of history impossible. It is hoped that in explaining the historic and ideological origins of fascism, and showing where they are relevant to the present day, a better understanding of social processes can be gained, and in consequence, a means to combat the current degeneration of the United States. There can be little doubt that such an understanding is essential in determining if a public is well informed and involved in shaping its future, or otherwise reduced to the mentality that was once shared by all ‘good Germans’.

For one to comprehend how Fascism first materialized, a quick review of the social atmosphere of its birth is necessary. Europe, like most of the world at the beginning of the 20th century, was in a state of constant flux and social upheaval due to an international economic expansion—the 1st round of globalization. The end result from this change of worldwide economy was depression, war, and tyrannical governments. In response, the average worker became increasingly militant, organizing over basic demands for improved conditions and sometimes, insurrection and revolution. Perhaps the epitome of this era was the Russian revolution, where for the first time the working-class took political power into its own hands. After the revolution in Russia, the upper layers of society trembled at the thought of such a happening in their own countries, immediately putting their publications to work in creating anti-communist hysteria. It must be pointed out that at the time of its inception, soviet Russia was antithetical to the bureaucratic totalitarianism later to be known as Stalinism, and was in many ways a democratically progressive form of government, expressing the interests and ambitions of the working classes— especially in Europe. Two of the principle worker parties in Europe, the Social Democratic Party and Communist Party, had variants of Marxism as their philosophical foundations. These two parties were instrumental in organizing and spreading the radical ideas that were the basis of militant mood of the masses, as well as the hardened contempt from the world of business; it is under these conflicting forces that Fascism came to the forefront, promising order by repressing the ‘unruly elements’, i.e. anarchists, communists, unionists, activists, and dissidents in general.

The likeness of Italy and German fascism is revealed in the names of the hired thugs that were the party’s original members: the ‘black shirts’ of Italy, and the ‘brown shirts’ of Germany. The similar names were not merely the result of dress, but also because of the mutual duties preformed by the two groups; the goal of these activities was the systematic destruction of the labor movement flourishing at the time. In Germany, the brown shirts attacked union meetings, disrupted speakers, and denounced all labor activities as Bolshevistic. As the criminal enterprises proved themselves effective at union busting and small-scale mob intimidation, more industrial magnates added them to their payroll— because it was a time of mass protest, general strikes, and factory occupations, the owners of industry were desperate to regain their previously unchallenged status. German industry had been forced into making repeated concessions to workers as the result of unions and opposition parties; as a result, the companies had been struggling in the international market, trying to maintain profit-rates among recession and competition. To insure its survival, German industry resorted to the above criminal tactics, creating what was in effect a class war.

As the economic crises deepened, so too did the pockets of fascist organizations. Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party (a name of immense contradiction) soon found itself evolving from a hole-in-the-wall men’s club consisting of fanatics and petty criminals to a party of considerable influence. Eventually, the services performed by the henchmen became regular salaried positions. As resources increased the groups developed into professional mercenaries with official uniforms and unchecked powers, often trained by military officers. From what began as a group of thugs before 1930, turned into a highly disciplined terror organization, eventually adding to its duties the breaking up of worker demonstrations, planned assassinations, and instigation of street battles— the more complex work of ‘extermination’ was to happen only after the Nazis had complete control of government.

It would have been impossible for the Nazi party to become influential without the support of German industry. One reason why business decided to prop up Hitler was the Weimer Republic’s overly democratic nature. This means that the working class political parties were gaining considerable power at the expense of profits, preventing a political program that would insure the continued dominance of corporations over workers. The Nazi party was only able to rise above the many other fascist organizations because Hitler’s charisma was able to impress steel magnate Fritz Thyssen, a fact much more important than his sway over his small but eager group of constituents. In his book “I paid Hitler”, Thyssen details his involvement with National Socialism and explains how he involved Germanys other industrial tycoons. With considerable financial backing, Hitler was then able to shower the country with Propaganda, traveling extensively to utilize his speaking skills and spread the Nazi party principles of fear and revenge. After the Nazi party gained power, their supporters were rewarded for the contributions, Daniel Guerin writes in Fascism and Big Business:

"The economic policy carried on by the 'National-Socialists' nevertheless completely justified the confidence which the big industrialists had placed in Hitler. Hitler has in every other respect carried out their policy. He has destroyed the workers' organisations. He has introduced the 'leadership principle' in the factories. He has brought about an expansion of heavy industry in Western Germany by means of an immense rearmament programme and has brought the firms enormous profits” (1)


After becoming large enough to be recognized internationally, the fascist regimes of Italy and Germany soon gained credibility and praise from the United States and England for their unceasing effort in controlling rebellion. The industrial countries were particularly afraid of having the economic giant of Germany becoming the second Communist nation, and thus approved of the fascist ‘Anti-Comintern’ alliance against Russia; this was in fact the justification Britain gave in financially supporting Germany’s rearmament.

Hitler was a master politician in the sense that he realized and exploited the conflicts of interest between different countries. Though neighboring France wanted nothing less than Germany to be rearmed, Hitler’s harangues of defeating Bolshevism attracted the combined support of the USA and England. Not only were Nazi articles regularly published by Hearst-owned newspapers and magazines in America, but the party was consistently commended by the highest ranking politicians of the western democracies, since their countries suffered equally from the illness that was the working class. Winston Churchill was an especially keen admirer of both Mussolini and Hitler; the following exhibits his fondness for the fascism of Italy:

"…If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you [Mussolini] from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism. I will, however, say a word on an international aspect of fascism. Externally, your movement has rendered service to the whole world. The great fear which has always beset every democratic leader or a working class leader has been that of being undermined by someone more extreme than he. Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the masses of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honor and stability of civilized society. She has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism." (2)

This exceptionally candid appraisal of fascism highlights the priorities shared by even the most Democratic of countries; England and the USA both considered the fascist option of government a legitimate response to the ‘instability’ that is the result from the incessant demands of the working class. This is in essence why fascism exists in the first place— the defining characteristics of fascism have their origins in creating stability amidst economic turmoil, blurring class interests through patriotism and fear, widespread terror and repression, and removing civil liberties that allow freedom of protest and organization. This formula has proven successful in enabling the status quo to survive among turbulent times in countries around the world throughout the 20th century. It was only after Hitler encroached on the economic interests of England and France did Fascism become the dirty word it is today.

Fascism attempts to hide the class nature of society by focusing on certain, essential values; the historically most effective of these have been fear, racism, and ethnic and religious nationalism.

The German form of nationalism was based on Aryan pride, a racist fear of ‘foreign conspirators’ (communists), and the easily exploitable Jewish minority. The German public’s acceptance of discrimination toward Jews was a cultivated phenomenon that served the fascist political interest. Although Anti-Semitism had existed in Europe for centuries before Hitler came to power, the Nazi regime gave it an invigorated purpose. Hitler skillfully used people’s prejudices against Jews to amplify his already fervent anti-communist propaganda, creating the belief that communism was a doctrine created by the Jews to take over the world. Because many of the notable German Marxists were in fact Jews, it is not impossible to imagine that Hitler believed his conspiracy theory; his account in Mein Kamp on the subject appears sincere:

“As I calmly and clearly deepened my knowledge of Marxism and thus the effects of the Jewish people, destiny itself gave me the answer...”

"...The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle of Nature and sets in its place the eternal privilege of power and strength of the mass and the dead weight of its numbers. It therefore denies the value of the human personality, contests the significance of nationality and race, and therewith withdraws from humanity the basis of its existence and culture. As a foundation of the universe this [doctrine] would bring about the end of any intellectually comprehensible order. And thus as in this the greatest recognizable organism, the realization of such a law could result only in chaos and, ultimately, death for the inhabitants of this planet”. (3)

Consequently the words ‘Jew’ and ‘Communist’ became inseparable; this propaganda helped portray many of the working class organizations as a foreign, Jewish element, making them automatic targets by the fanatic patriotism that was the basis of ‘National Socialism’. The ‘Jewish-Communist conspiracy’ became the banner under which Hitler whipped up hysteria and fear, vowing to protect good Christian Germans from the bloodthirsty Communist Jews. The media fully participated in pushing this angle, providing unlimited amounts of derogatory editorials and cartoons that depicted Jews as dangerous, sub-human plotters. The ancient customs of Judaism, coupled with the semi-feudal communist state of Russia, were used to symbolize the problem of a ‘clash of cultures’ that the industrialized Christian country of Germany served as the counterbalance. The ‘clash of culture’ propaganda was instrumental in dehumanizing the populations that Germany was eventually to attack or imprison.

A more abstract ideological theme of fascism is the notion of conservatism. Although the majority of fascists are conservative in the political-religious sense of the word, a thoroughly fascist regime will often take the idea of ‘conservatism’ to another level; the conservatism of the fascist countries in Europe sought to return to an era when they were respected world powers. Mussolini and Hitler had as their constituents former military and royal families who shared this belief— the case being especially true for Germany, where the once powerful Hohenzollern Empire was now disarmed and paying war reparations. This fascist idea of returning to a golden age is most eloquently stated by Mussolini:

“...For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence. Peoples who are rising, or rising again after a period of decadence, are always imperialist; and renunciation is a sign of decay and of death. Fascism is the doctrine best adapted to represent the tendencies and the aspirations of a people, like the people of Italy, who are rising again after many centuries of abasement and foreign servitude.” (4)

Thus, by this definition, a regaining of past prestige implies the use of military aggression. This aspect of fascist ideology was especially attractive to the nations steel and war manufacturers, who profited immensely from the rise and conquer mentality.
To emphasize how the conservative idea of ‘renewal’ and profit-making become inseparable in a fascist government, an important artifact of Nazi history is worth revisiting, first analyzed in Trotsky’s essay, Hitler’s Program. Before Hitler became Chancellor he authored an ‘open letter’ to then Chancellor Franz Von Papen, the notorious political representative of German industry. In his ‘open letter’ (written for Germany’s elites) Hitler outlined the need for Papen to adopt the Nazi program to achieve the aims of the ‘nation’, i.e., the industrial classes. Hitler argued that Germany could not achieve its aims of rejuvenation and growth through democratic and legal means due to the restrictions of the treaty of Versailles, but only through the uniquely aggressive foreign policy of the Nazis.

Four months after the letter was published, The Nazis political support dropped dramatically; this was most likely due to an upturn in the economy that made Hitler’s constituency (the middle classes) more optimistic and less receptive to demagogy. However, the ruling classes had taken Hitler’s letter seriously, and rather than have political power shift again to a government less receptive to their needs, Hitler was ‘appointed’ Chancellor, so as to execute the ideas put forth in his letter. It is no surprise that Papen soon became an integral member to the Nazi party as an adviser and ambassador, where he used his international connections to strengthen German advancement. (5)

After Hitler became chancellor, an incident happened that forever changed the course of world history. This was the burning of the Reichstag building (German Congress). As the building was still ablaze and before any investigation could begin, Hitler declared it the work of communists and set the stage for what was to become the waging of wars and the destruction of the constitution (it is now believed that Nazi provocateurs were most likely behind the blaze). The following day, President Hindenburg signed into law the suspension of the sections of the constitution that covered basic civil rights as a “defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state”. The decree included restrictions or removals of fundamental rights of ranging from free expression of opinion to more liberally granted search warrants. Although the directive was supposedly based on fighting criminal or conspiratorial organizations, legitimate political organizations were the typical targets.

Under the guise of defending the nation, Hitler soon asked congress to give him emergency powers so he could adequately deal with the ‘Communist conspiracy’. Sadly, even members of the so-called opposition in congress were fooled, or simply submitted to the charade. Under the deceptive name of the ‘enabling act’ the constitution was trampled over and the legal framework of a dictatorship was set up. It must be noted that at the time, few realized the repercussions of the law. It wasn’t until later when, Hitler’s pronouncements became more outlandish and unpopular, did many discover suddenly that there was no check to his powers, and that the word dictator was appropriate.

Along with the increasing power of Hitler came the many bogus legal justifications to fool the public. So as to not alarm their supporters, the Nazi party clothed its hegemony in Democratic finery, gradually consolidating its power until further pretension was superfluous. Only Nazi sympathizers were appointed to key positions or ruled over important decisions. One ingredient of this judicial rearrangement was the introduction of military tribunals to deal with those deemed to be part of the ‘world conspiracy’. William Shirer explains the setting up of the ‘Peoples Court’:

… It consisted of two professional judges and five others chosen from among party officials, the S.S. and the armed forces, thus giving the latter a majority vote. There was no appeal from its decisions or sentences and usually its sessions were held in camera. Occasionally, however, for propaganda purposes when relatively light sentences were to be given, the foreign correspondents were invited to attend… (6)

Along with the attack on civil rights came the end of Habeas Corpus, due to a new legal term called Schutzhaft, or ‘protective custody”. The end to this fundamental right enabled Hitler to arrest thousands of people in giant sweeps that he justified along the same bogus lines.
After President Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler’s title became Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor. The ‘temporary’ powers that he acquired to handle the countries ‘emergency’ enabled him to consolidate his control over the entire country. One of the essential ways these emergency powers helped strengthen Hitler’s powers was by the merging of the federal policing agencies known as the Gestapo and SS; the name of the new super-agency was called the Reichssicherheitshauptamp (RSHA). This extremely secretive and highly financed organization had at its disposal differing federal and local police agencies, and was used primarily to destroy any political opposition within Germany and the occupied territories. It was the organ also used to implement the ‘final solution’ that was to be the systematic destruction of the Jewish people. As soon as a territory was occupied by the Germans, the RSHA went into action by killing or imprisoning anyone who resisted occupation or could be characterized as a leader. It is no mistake that the first inhabitants of the concentration camps were intellectuals, Communists, Anarchists, Social-Democrats, and trade-unionists. The RSHA, through various methods of terror, managed to effectively pacify much of the potentially unruly population.

Although the megalomania and ultra-racism of Hitler helped to distinguish the Nazi brand of fascism from the many other varieties, the processes at play that created the phenomena were the same as in the many other countries that suffered from the cultural abomination.


American fascism

There can be no doubt that the United States is undergoing a transformation of sorts. With this transformation has come a mixture of reaction involving deep resentment by large sections of the population. The basis of this dissatisfaction most likely comes from a changing and ailing economy, and all the evils that come with it. The economy of the US is in fact a microcosm of the international situation, where corporations are desperate to attract international investment in the ever-changing world of a finance-dominated globalization. As Bush begun his first term, the promise of the technology boom had faded, and a slump had firmly established itself. Rather than bowing to economic reality, the President strove to compensate by aggressive wars, the dismantling of social programs, and unheard of debt.

Bush’s solution to the sluggish profit-rates of his corporate sponsors has also been an agreement to the virtues of capitalist-style globalization that, like war, comes with a disgruntled populace. Virtually every section of the economy has had substantial job loss due to trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA; the manufacturing sector leading the way with 2.9 million lost jobs in the last five years (7). The processes of this profit-driven globalization have created a polarization in America unknown since the 20’s— While a record number of millionaires have been created, there are 40+ million Americans living in poverty, with over two million in prison. Instead of improving, these figures will likely worsen as heightened interest rates and free-trade agreements have their continued effects.

The reality of the situation, though already bleak, has been largely shielded from the publics view, chiefly thanks to incredible government borrowing that has enabled the President to continue his aggressive policy without the predictable upheavals that come from a more major recession, or worse. The situation will invariably worsen once the debts start getting paid; thus far, two of the major indictors of the economy, the trade deficit and national debt, are well beyond the level of concern, and are merely waiting for their existence to force itself upon an unsuspecting public.

A sinking, debt-ridden economy and an intensifying anti-war sentiment is the swampy ground on which the current administration stands. Bush has made it clear however, that he will not yield to popular opinion, and the media and leading Democrats have echoed the perspective of what is now a completely alienated class of elites. For liberals, the intolerableness of the situation has not resulted in a full comprehension of the problem; the ‘this can’t be happening’ attitude is perhaps demonstrative of many who vehemently oppose the direction of the country, but either disregard or misunderstand the previous eras that have produced similar results, leading one to conclude that the emerging crisis is without cause or explanation.

Many on the left continue to ignore the above economic explanation of events, opting instead for more simplistic answers. The current fad is to blame the state of affairs on so-called ‘neo-conservatives’. This group is often portrayed as a small band of fanatical ultra-rightists who— through conspiracy and wit— have weaseled their way into the highest echelons of power. This story, like the charisma of Hitler, or the hypnosis of Rasputin, seems all too mystical of an explanation. A more reasonable answer involves revealing what aspects of ‘neo-conservative’ policy found reception and sponsorship from the upper-strata of American business and politics, and why.

In an effort to explain this, it will be useful to examine the now infamous document many consider to be the manifesto of the neo-con movement: the ‘statement of principles’ from the Washington think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The numerous contributors to this document consist of high-ranking Bush appointees, governors, high-ranking military officials, Ivy-league intellectuals and media tycoons, i.e., representatives from a powerful section of the ruling class.

The PNAC made its debut as an organization primarily concerned with critiquing the policies of President Clinton, and in the process, promoting their own political agenda; official letters were published with the purpose of explaining to the upper classes— as opposed to the general public— why the Democrats foreign policy was bad for business. These letters often focused on the Presidents non-aggressive foreign policy, particularly where ‘American interests’ were concerned (Iraq being always the most mentioned issue). Clinton was criticized because he was not forceful enough, leaving the expansion of US interests in stagnation. In fact, the PNAC perspective clearly expressed the interests of Americas leading financial institutions; corporations are forever in need of expansion, since investments and profit demand it—the PNAC, and now the Republicans in general, are simply the mouthpiece of this desire.

This is the first and most important connection between the Republican and Nazi parties— their relationship to the economy is the same: both are champions of corporate interests. The PNAC critique of Clinton is thus reminiscent of Hitler’s ‘open letter’ to Papen as mentioned above, since it was meant to sway the corporate oligarchs to abandon the ‘ineffective’ policies of a political party in order to adopt a more reactionary course. The following excerpts from the PNAC Statement of Principles are particularly revealing:

"…We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council."

And, in the ‘open letter’ to Clinton:

"...We urge you to act decisively. If you act now to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. or its allies, you will be acting in the most fundamental national security interests of the country. If we accept a course of weakness and drift, we put our interests and our future at risk." (8)

Although the latter paragraph successfully blurs the meaning of ‘U.S interests’ to include national security, the words ‘vital interests’ make the actual intention clear. The main point in the first quote is to ignore UN unanimity, i.e. international democracy, in order to insure the expansionist business interests of the United States. This was the same argument Hitler gave to Papen on why Germany should ignore the legality of the Versailles treaty in favor of an expansionist policy.

The reception by the elites to these ideas of the Republicans has been clear, and is best displayed by a shamelessly submissive media and a totally discredited ‘opposition party’. The abovementioned ailments of the economy have produced a largely bipartisan agreement among the ruling classes in favor of a more aggressive imperialist strategy. The Democrats, who have been unable to criticize the President in any meaningful way, since they agree with the basic tenets of his program, have been reduced to lamenting about how Bush ‘mismanaged’ or ‘bungled’ both the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq— as if either endeavor had a legitimate basis. Such a weak appraisal to such inexcusable and widely unpopular policies helps to illustrate how wide the chasm is between the interests of a population and those that decide its fate. The ‘unity’ that has been sought by politicians since the trade center attacks is simply the shared perspective of various factions of business in regards to militarism and aggression.

As mentioned above, fascism is often explained as an ideology of renewal, a resurrection of declining culture, with military expansion offered as the cure to the social ailment. The neo-con philosophers have clung tightly to this important precept that is uniquely compatible with the need of corporations for new markets, raw-materials and the crushing of competition. Much of the language used by the PNAC is eerily similar to that of Mussolini in his quote above concerning fascist rejuvenation — the PNAC saw Clinton’s reduction in military spending and not-aggressive-enough foreign policy as a sign of economic, national and cultural deterioration, allowing America’s position in the world to languish, the ‘statement of principles’ says:

”We are in danger of squandering the opportunity and failing the challenge. We are living off the capital -- both the military investments and the foreign policy achievements -- built up by past administrations. Cuts in foreign affairs and defense spending, inattention to the tools of statecraft, and inconstant leadership are making it increasingly difficult to sustain American influence around the world. And the promise of short-term commercial benefits threatens to override strategic considerations” (9)

As the ideological basis of Conservative thought has a fascist element, so too does its methods of attracting support and maintaining allegiance. One of the basic tenets of fascism that applies to the current administration is a chauvinistic nationalism. The trend of both the media and politicians to exploit and cultivate this emotion has been increasingly vulgar since the Trade Center attacks. Nationalism is invaluable during times of war, when public opinion is needed to support aggression and quell protest. The trade center catastrophe has been used to conjure a patriotism unknown since WWII, creating a means to push through the aggressive foreign policy long desired by the Republicans.

Although questioning the government’s role in the September 11th attack is entirely reasonable, given the suppression of any legitimate investigation, a simple mention of the similarities between the Bush administrations response to the attacks and the reaction of Hitler to the Reichstag fire is in itself daunting. Like the Reichstag fire, the immediate reaction to the Trade Center attack was an assault on civil liberties; the Enabling Act of Germany and the Patriot Act of America have both resulted in an immense increase of Federal powers, especially the executive branch. Like Hitler, Bush has been given emergency powers to deal with a formless, external threat. These powers have been repeatedly abused to ignore new laws passed by congress (the McCain Torture Act), and used also to justify the obviously illegal NSA spaying program.

The Patriot Act remains in clear violation of the 4th amendment, as it destroys much of the legal barriers that existed to protect a citizen’s right from illegal search and seizure. A wide variety of private information about any citizen can now be obtained with little, if any oversight. In addition, new breeds of judges are being produced that willingly submit to this new executive power, carrying with them a new judicial philosophy known as the ‘unitary executive’— a perspective shared by all those who seek placements in federal courts. Although the ‘unitary executive’ philosophy was first debated in the Federalist Papers 200 years ago, its current usage is the most horrific of misrepresentations. The idea was originally meant for times of emergency, when the President would need to maneuver quickly in case a ‘real’ army was invading. This idea is now being expanded upon to include instances our founding fathers never dreamed of. One example of the accommodating spirit of the unitary executive philosophy is its apologetic approach to what are known as ‘presidential signing statements’. When signing approval to a new law, Bush has used the signing statement to clarify his personal interpretation of the act. Often, Bush’s signing statement blatantly contradicts the intention of the law, the dual result being a severe weakening of the legislative branch and the increasing subservience of federal judges.

The function of Congress is becoming strangely similar to that under Hitler’s reign. The Nazi party dominated the legislative branch, using it as a smokescreen to hide what was eventually a dictatorship; the trends mentioned above cannot be ignored as being dissimilar. Congress is quickly becoming an empty vehicle used to achieve the aims of the Bush administration, responding jovially to any shameless request made by the executive branch. When important legislative decisions need to be made, commissions dominated by Republicans (or subservient Democrats) are created to support or suppress them. The fact that even a long-time member of the establishment such as Al Gore has arrived at many of the same conclusions as mentioned here, though phrased more delicately, is crucial to accepting the criticalness of the situation. Gore says:

“… the President seems to have been pursuing policies chosen in advance of the facts -- policies designed to benefit friends and supporters -- and has used tactics that deprived the American people of any opportunity to effectively subject his arguments to the kind of informed scrutiny that is essential in our system of checks and balances” (10)

Hitler’s justification for a more concentrated executive power, a war against the Jewish Communist conspiracy, was as obscure and unimaginative as Bush’s asinine ‘war on terror’. Although there are groups who wish to harm to the U.S. government, avoiding a real discussion as to ‘why’, and solving the problem by a continuous global war against various sovereign nations has created a public debate limited to ignorance and hysteria. In not reporting the demands that groups like Al-quaida have issued, and instead creating false and irrational motives, the media and politicians have lead us to horrible conclusions; by claiming that the attackers “hate our freedom”, or whatever absurd slogan is used, one can only conclude that these groups are fanatical and incapable of reason. Both political parties have been aided by the media in cleverly extending these false conclusions to having a basis in religion, giving the impression that Islam attracts and breeds hate-filled ‘extremists’.

The newly cultivated racism in America is very much comparable to the hatred of Judaism that prevailed in Germany during Hitler’s era. In newspapers and magazines across the US, the dehumanization of Middle Easterners is unmistakable. These racist symbols range from the subtle—magazines showing Muslims praying while discussing violence and terrorism, to the more obvious—consistently printing degrading cartoons in publications around the country.

Caught in the xenophobic crossfire of the politicians are immigrants, who are suddenly viewed with suspicion and hate. The boarder issue is being resuscitated as illegal aliens become the targets of intensified discrimination. In juxtaposing the fear of terrorism with the popular anger over the economy, and channeling them both into the unrelated issue of ‘boarder protection’, the media has created yet another scapegoat for the many problems faced by the government.

This low-point of culture is inevitable once the objective of nationalism is sought. In order for a country to be ‘united’, an identity must be created that excludes certain groups, enabling a cohesive community to take shape. The ‘identity’ of the United States, as given to us by our representatives, consists of such key terms as “freedom loving”, “democratic”, and the super-ironic “peaceful”; because these terms are intended to separate us from our enemy, we are to assume that all Middle Easterners are warmongering and autocratic. Anti-Arab rhetoric is becoming so accepted that high-ranking government officials regularly appear and speak at functions where the speaker-list includes the likes of Ann Coulter, and other notorious racists. This systematic defamation allows for the same, underlying message of a “clash of cultures” that Hitler used so efficiently to foment war. The clash of cultures idea is now being used by politicians in the form of silly maxims such as ‘protecting our way of life’ — something that requires an aggressively waged ‘on-going war’ to achieve. Especially receptive to these ideas of nationalism have been the Christian fundamentalists, who remain the most cherished of constituents for the Republicans. The power this group has gained is further evidence of the fascist-orientated direction of the country, seeing as religion has played an important role in nearly every previous fascist government.

Perhaps the most tragic of similarities between the Nazis and the current United States government is the twin usage of barbaric tactics to achieve political goals. The systematic use of torture in US prison facilities has been shown to be equally gruesome to any crime committed by the Nazis, the only difference thus far being the number of victims. In fact, Bush is unique in that he is the first modern leader to openly argue in favor of torture, where as the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pinochet attempted to keep the embarrassing issue stowed away. Bush has made it clear through yet another ‘signing statement’ that despite the new Anti-Torture Law, torture will continue unabated. This torture has taken place exclusively inside US Concentration camps— undoubtedly an appropriate term to describe the phenomenon that is occurring throughout the world as tens of thousands of political prisoners have been held without legal recourse in various countries.

Like the Nazis, the Bush administration has worked strenuously in preventing any basic due-process for the thousands of ‘detainees’ held in different facilities. To retain the appearance of legality, the use of military tribunals are being employed that— similar to the Nazis— are the most lawfully farcical displays imaginable. One maneuver that is proving to be especially successful in continuing the judicial charade is the government’s insistence that the release of detainee’s names, as well as evidence supporting allegations against them, is impossible due to national security concerns. In an effort to manipulate the outcome of these trials the Bush Administration has issued guidelines for federal courts to accept regarding secret witnesses and evidence; because of this, many suspects are often denied the most basic of rights, including the name of their accuser, competent legal representation, and sometimes even the ‘alleged’ key evidence against them. By labeling anyone an ‘enemy combatant’, including US citizens like Jose Padilla, the Bush administration has reserved the right to detain a person indefinitely while ignoring all internationally recognized laws. The recent Supreme Court decision denouncing these tactics will shed further light on the direction that the executive branch is heading; if the courts decision is pandered to, but ignored, yet another step towards dictatorship will be made. As stated above, Hitler was able to imprison anyone he labeled a ‘communist conspirator’; the only difference in the present situation appears to be the label of the accused.

The domestic agency responsible for combating the ominous terrorist threat, as well as enforcing the anti-terror legislation is the newly created Department of Homeland Security. This organization marks the largest consolidation of power in United States history, with 22 previously independent agencies within five separate department’s now under one roof. The new department consists of over 170,000 employees, and now controls FEMA, the Coast Guard, the Immigration and Naturalization Services, Transportation Security Agency, among many others. As a pretext for the establishment of the 40 billion dollar a year monstrosity, politicians have claimed that ‘information sharing’ between agencies was largely responsible for the Trade Center attacks, while ignoring the more plausible though potentially incriminating evidence.

Now the FBI, CIA, and NSA can work together in handling domestic threats, and use technology and personal that were before reserved for complicated foreign surveillance and spying operations. Bush has called the effort “the most extensive reorganization of the federal government since the 1940’s”, something that should cause alarm bells considering that the same tired premise of a terrorist threat is being offered to justify the apparatus. This agency, with its all encompassing powers and its enforcing of repressive laws like the Patriot Act, has earned a characterization along the lines of the Nazi RSHA, or any other fascist government where incredible federal powers were needed to pacify an unruly populace. The Nazi police force had unimaginable authority in controlling German citizens; Bush’s new agency has the potential to be equally powerful, and reported abuses are already trickling in. It is becoming evident that the increase in Federal powers that was justified by a dubious war is being used to control the growing social problems mentioned above. It has been revealed that the Patriot Act has been used to monitor a variety of opposition groups; in 2005, The ACLU initiated a lawsuit claiming that the FBI was engaged in a systematic intimidation of antiwar and environmental groups. In addition, the word ‘extremist’ is now being gradually extended to include not only terrorists, but also protest organizations; just as Hitler linked communism to anti-Semitism, politicians and the media are now making connections between political dissidents and terrorism. This leap is perhaps the most revealing aspect as to the actual intentions of the ‘war on terror’. Activist and political groups like Green Peace, Independent Media, the Communist Party, and Food not Bombs are all peaceful organizations that have been declared by various FBI localities to be on the terror watch list. In addition, Protestors around the country are facing longer prison terms and steeper fines in order to deter and destroy any organized opposition. To add to the ridiculousness of the situation, environmentalists are now referred to broadly as ‘Eco-terrorists’, while drug traffickers are ‘Narco-terrorists’, making the whole concept of a ‘war on terror’ ever more trivial.

As the United States makes threats of further aggression, the likeness of political tactics used to justify the expansionist policies of the United States and Nazi Germany have become indisputable. William Shirer, in his Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, describes in detail the ways in which Hitler carefully invented justifications for military aggression; his explanations for attacking sovereign countries always involved protecting German citizens and interests. These tactics later became a crucial aspect of the Nuremburg Trial. The ways in which Germany’s foreign policy served as a pretext for aggressive wars was a main theme of the trial, and the high ranking German officials who helped initiate the lies that justified the aggressive wars were found guilty of war crimes. This later became the foundation for the Nuremburg principle against “preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression”

Three years after the Iraq war it has been proven that all the reasons for invasion were fallacious, as well as deliberately and methodically constructed. The same pattern of accusatory platitudes is now being given to prepare the public for a new attack on Iran. This illegal pattern of aggression is now firmly established as political doctrine, and is explained in full in the 2005 National Security Strategy documents, where a policy of preemptive strikes is patently reserved by the US military in obvious disregard of the above Nuremburg Principle.

It is unknowable how long the various countries of the international community will tolerate the invasion into their spheres of influence. It must be remembered that historians now claim that the countries united against Hitler’s advancements used the method of ‘appeasement’ to deal with his intrusion. Such is the current situation in the world. There are currently no countries capable of challenging the US military in any pursuit it chooses; the international community remains on high-alert in response to America’s recent expansion and can give only cries of protest while later groveling for imperialistic breadcrumbs — a process undoubtedly to be later known as ‘appeasement’.

To those who dismiss the conclusions made in this essay out of hand, there is likely no amount of evidence that could influence them on the matter. To many, the sacred reverence of the Holocaust disables one from making common-sense historical conclusions and instead, breeds the dogmatic acceptance of fascist ‘irrationality’ as the answer to a question too holy to investigate. To their credit, an across the board comparison of Nazi Germany and America would be incorrect. Just as the similarities mentioned here are largely irrefutable, so too are the differences; separate eras in history have at their core a variety of actors and processes that cannot be easily transferred across time, especially in regards to the exaggerated fascism of the Nazis. Sometimes, however, a definite likeness is ignored merely because of a conflicting label. Without using too much imagination, a worsening of the political situation in the United States can be envisioned, perhaps to the point where a more explicit Nazi analogy becomes acceptable— as of now a legal framework for a police state is all but complete.

The ‘Nazi analogy’ used in this essay will undoubtedly be accused of sensationalism, an allegation impossible to fully refute; if this is to be admitted, so too should the comparison’s usefulness for reasons of practicality and correctness. Because of the abundance of details regarding the government of Nazi Germany, a large base has been created from which to recognize patterns that transcend historical epochs, the above information being a testament to this fact. The biggest such example of history repeating itself is the United States’ recent evolution towards dictatorship; presently, there are no signs that this course will change. While the transnational profit crisis continues, Bush’s circle has made it clear that further aggression toward a still-invisible enemy is to be expected. In addition to this, we can expect the public response of outrage to be continually ignored, as well as further stimulated by the economies inevitable adjustment to reality. In response, the now gargantuan federal power, in the name of maintaining stability and defeating terrorism, can only be more repressive. Although the usage of the word ‘dictator’ or ‘police-state’ may now be immature, such phrases will become appropriate if the corporate-directed path of government continues unchecked. The forms this repression will take may or may not assume the same repulsive traits of Nazism, though the underlying processes, as well as their causes and general outcomes most certainly will.

Notes

1)Daniel Guerin, Fascism and Big Business
2) Winston Churchill, Speaking in Rome on 20 January, 1927 (from the essay, The Menace of Fascism, by Ted Grant)
3) Adolf Hitler, Mein Kamp
4)Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932
5)Leon Trotsky, Hitler’s Program, 1934,
6) Shirer William, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
7) Paul Craig Roberts, Nuking the economy, counterpunch MBG Information Services
8) PNAC, Statement of Principles
9) Ibid
10) January 16 speech delivered by Al Gore, New York University

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