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Fascism For Dummies
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[Editor's Note: The following article is from TDV Correspondent Pete Kofod. Pete's bio appears at the end of the article]
Here at TDV fascism is frequently referred to as the increasingly prevalent form of government in the West. We recognize that this conjures strong emotions and we often get a few angry emails voicing displeasure with our characterization of their homeland. We understand that the word fascism is an emotionally charged word and we do not use it lightly.
We recognize, however, that we have never taken the time to define it completely nor place it within the context of our communications (although Jeff did compare the USA to the dictionary definition of "fascism" in "The Fasco-Communist Police State of America"). As such, we have fallen victim to one of our own cardinal sins; letting somebody else control the thoughts by controlling the definition of the words used to define those thoughts. To make matters worse, by default, we have relegated the responsibility of defining those words to two of the most criminally complicit estates in our society, namely the educational system and mass media. It is time to address this oversight.
THE ETYMOLOGY OF "FASCISM"
The word fascism is rooted in the Latin word fasces, a Roman object made of wooden rods tightly bound by red, overlapping straps. At the top, or occasionally in the middle, of the fasces was an axe head. The bound wooden rods represented strength through unity and the axe represented the means by which authority was exerted by the unified entity. In addition to being used as a weapon by Roman authorities, the fasces was a key symbol on government buildings of the Roman empire. The symbolism of the fasces is significant. The wooden rod represents the weak individual whose sole contribution is to provide strength to the unified object, in this case the State. The axe head, unsurprisingly, represents the force with which the State will ensure its survival.
Fascism is referred to as an ideology with numerous characteristics, the most common being fervent nationalism, virtually unlimited central authority, militarism, and state control of production. While those traits are almost universally present in fascist run societies, we take the position that fascism in, in fact, not an ideology at all. Merriam-Webster defines ideology as the “visionary theorizing of a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture.”
We contend that the objective of fascism is to ensure the survival and further the influence of the State. As Benito Mussolini famously stated, “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” Fascism holds self-preservation of the State as the supreme objective, regardless of method. It is therefore difficult to envision fascism as an ideology any more than a pride of lions being governed by an ideology. Fascism is an observed organizational structure in which the State exerts unlimited and arbitrary power over all its subjects merely for its own survival.
THE CORE CHARACTERISTICS OF FASCISM
While we contend that fascism is without principles, that is not to say that it does not have core characteristics. Rather than representing a platform of principles from which to rule, however, these characteristics represents processes and tools that empower the State apparatus. As times and conditions change, a fascist State will shift message, priorities and effort, all for the purpose of self-preservation. At times the State will appear pro-market, other times it will claim national exigencies demand that it assume control of production in the economy. Commonly observed traits, however, include:
Nominal or no limit on the power of the State. Whether explicit or de facto, when the State ceases to recognize limits on its authority, it is displaying a core characteristic of fascism. This is often seen in the broad powers that are granted to the law enforcement, military and the intelligence apparatus. As a related aside, a common observation in fascist regimes is that law enforcement and military cease to be viewed as members of the community in which they serve. Their encroaching and increasingly heavy handed tactics become the source of discontent among the people which in turn results in increasingly hysterical propaganda from the State.
Significant spending on national defense. Regardless of the financial conditions of the State and its subjects, military spending is virtually unaffected by financial stress occurring in other segments of the economy. The State recognizes that political power is meaningless without the force to back it. Money goes to salaries, weapons, research and various military adventures. In Germany and Italy in the 1930s, significant production and economic benefit was bestowed upon the military and the military industry. This is still the case in some countries today.
Key segments of the economy are granted cartel status by the State. Industries including agriculture, health care, banking, energy and manufacturing find themselves submitting to the State’s plan for production or being run out of business. In a fascist regime, the State typically does not actually seek to run the enterprise, they merely dictate the conditions and stipulations under which producers must operate.
A final note on fascism. It is commonly held that fascism is a right-wing form of government. We hold that the differentiation between left and right in this context is completely meaningless. North Korea and the former Soviet Union certainly can be characterized as fascist. The key characteristic is a high degree of force and deceit that the State deploys in self preservation.
This brief article is far from an exhaustive study on the matter of fascism. Lew Rockwell of the Mises Institute and Richard Maybury, author of the Uncle Eric series of books have dedicated many years of academic research to this topic. Much of what we have captured in this short primer is a result of their pioneering work. For those interested in further study of fascism, its history and how it manifests today, we encourage you to seek the works by these two remarkable men. See "The Fascist Threat" by Lew Rockwell and the Uncle Eric books here.
Pete Kofod is the founder and president of Datasages, a technology services firm that offers cloud computing and strategic technology services to various private organizations. Pete is a property owner at Doug's Gulch in Argentina and enjoys a variety of outdoor activities including tennis, skydiving and hiking. His most recent adventure is pursuing his private pilot's license. Pete is married and home schools his two children.