A Brief Look at the Theory of Fascism
Two days later it was the President himself. “Those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism…[are the] successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century.”
The venue was the 88th Annual American Legion Convention. The speeches were the opening salvos in a new rhetorical offensive to reverse the sinking U.S. public support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the amorphous “global war on terror” a.k.a. the “long war.”
The administration’s current ploy tries to create a philosophical link stretching back to the emergence of radical leftist (generally) nationalism in Italy in the 1870s. In the aftermath of World War I, groups espousing a curious mix of extreme anti-imperialism, anti-materialistic idealism with strong, even violent developmental activism on behalf of national liberation – ignoring Italy’s own reach for colonies – formed their own political movement in 1921 and seized power on October 28, 1922 when 100,000 Blackshirts marched on Rome. Over the ensuing three years, Mussolini maneuvered his way to the top of the party to become Il Duce (The Leader). This was heady stuff for a man who had spent much of his life wandering in the wilderness of political philosophy. (In an essay for the Institute for Historical Review, James Whisker notes that Mussolini had dabbled in anarchism, socialism, pacifism, internationalism, and statism.)
Over the following thirteen years, Mussolini gradually shifted the party’s orientation from its original leftist roots to a right-wing corporate syndicalism in which the state is the sole “value” to which all else is subservient. Everything that is part of the corporate state contributes its life and experiences to the creation of the unique collective experience of the state. Thus labor, capital, and the state working together would, the fascists believed, produce unparalleled prosperity for the masses as long as the population provided unwavering and unquestioning support of the “natural leaders” of the state.
Ensuring that this support remained unwavering requires the state, for its own survival, to see, participate in, or otherwise be aware of everything that the population is doing (or not doing). This requires the state to be supreme, otherwise it could be endangered from within. Since its first duty is its own survival, the corporate state assumes a life of its own that, in turn, defines the political relationships on which fascism rests. As Whisker summarizes: man is because the state is; without the state, mankind is nothing and can become nothing; and mankind’s “natural” condition is to be linked to the state.
Ironically, fascism, like Nazism, gained power because it succeeded in restoring social order – albeit by very violent, even brutal, means – and developed programs to combat the effects of the world-wide depression. But its greatest flaw was that to maintain its supremacy, the state had to expand constantly into new ventures and acquire more and more power. It could do this only through war and conquest followed by the incorporation of the “life” of the conquered state into its own.
In other words, war is the highest duty of the corporate state.
In terms of the Bush Doctrine of preventive war and his oft-repeated declaration that his first duty as president is to defend America against attack, there would seem to be little difference between the theory of the corporate state (facism) and the unitary presidency of George Bush.