With a Twist: Scary Reading about Fascist Tendencies
What are today’s barriers to peace?
Fascism – [fash-iz-uhm] noun – a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
By Judi Wyatt
This is a summary of an article called How to Tell if You’re Ruled by Fascists: Study of Past Fascist Regimes is Informative and Disturbing by Laurence W. Britt as published in the CCPA Monitor, Nov. 2013.
Fascist governments have included those of Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain, Pinochet’s Chile, Salazar’s Portugal, and Suharto’s Indonesia. Quite different countries in terms of their history, language, cultures and levels of development, yet very similar in terms of their essential characteristics.
The following makes for scary reading.
Laurence W. Britt, and American political scientist, has identified 13 characteristics of a fascist regime.
- Strong expressions of nationalism as seen in overt patriotism: flags, pride in military power and hostility to foreigners / foreign behaviour.
- Disdain for human rights which are seen as a hindrance to national objectives. “Citizens were brought to accept the state’s violations of human rights as unavoidable in the maintenance of national security.”
- Identifying “enemies” as a unifying tactic. The regimes diverted attention from problems by shifting blame for failures, using propaganda and disinformation, and scapegoating. Common scapegoats were “socialists, unionists, liberals, homosexuals or atheists”. Opponents were denounced as traitors or enemy sympathizers.
- The supremacy of the military: “Ruling fascist elites always identified closely with their military and ‘defense’ industries.”
- Rampant sexism: Fascist regimes were invariably male-dominated, homophobic and anti-choice.
- A supportive mass media: In some regimes, the media was strictly controlled. In others, the control was exerted by economic pressure and implied threats.
- Obsession with national security: A national security system was developed and maintained by the direct control of the ruling elite, usually operating secretly, extra-judicially and oppressively. Its actions were justified to meet internal or external threats. Critics were labelled unpatriotic or treasonous.
- Religion and ruling elite closely linked. Most fascist regimes had close ties with the dominant religion. Incongruities between the government’s actions and the precepts of the religion were ignored.
- Promotion and protection of corporations: Large corporations were permitted to act with little oversight, and were used as social control through repression of workers and the poor.
- Suppression of labour: Organized labour was weakened because it was seen as a threat to the regime and corporate allies.
- Suppression of intellectuals and the arts: Intellectuals and experts who deviated from the party line were muzzled. Arts and literature were of value only to serve the national interest.
- Obsession with crime and punishment: Most fascist regimes enforced harsh criminal punishments resulting in huge prison populations. ”Police were glorified and given broad powers that were often abused.”
- Rampant cronyism and corruption: Ruling parties received funds from corporations who in turn were given lucrative government contracts.
- Fraudulent elections. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, and destroying or disallowing legal votes.
Lawrence Britt concludes his article in this way: “Historical comparisons like these can be dismissed as completely irrelevant in North America. Or can they?”
Do you see any examples of this behaviour in Canada today?
November 19, 2015 @ 7:55 pm
I found your blog-posting, Judi, to be most thought-provoking — and disturbing — in what it says and in what it doesn’t say.
I’ve learned over the years to think of the word, ‘fascism’, as having a special ‘power’ all its own. Its meaning is so awful, so extreme, that it effectively separates me (and my society) from those ‘others’ who have done such terrible things.
These days, I sense the same kind of meaning in the word, ‘terrorist’. At an earlier time in my life, I was taught to see the same meaning in the word, ‘communist’. Farther back in the history of Western Civilization, it was there in the word, ‘witch’. In every case, the satanic ‘other’.
And yet, when I look over the list of social characteristics you have presented, I can definitely see aspects of my own society’s way of life in every item on the list. Which makes me wonder: is the word (or the concept), ‘fascism’, helpful to me in understanding what’s happening all around our word today? or is it (in some ways, anyhow), misleading? Another way of asking the same question: should I be using that word as an analytic tool, or should I try to get beyond it…or beneath it?
How do our words and concepts affect what we do — and don’t — see in our way of life? What we do — and don’t — understand about it? I believe your posting has hit the nail on the head. Much thanks.