Progressivism = american fascism

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Progressivism = american fascism

Post by Sir Pun on Sat Sep 14, 2013 2:05 pm

When fascism comes to America, what will it look (and feel) like?

Very much like what we have now, because a version of fascism is already here.

Fascism is a totalitarian political system, in which an all-powerful central government directs a nation's economy. Virtually no aspect of society is independent of the state, which is a one-party regime, dominated by an omniscient leader. Although heavily influenced by populistic themes, fascist ideology is at once anti-democratic and collectivist.

At first blush, the American variety of fascism is different. For one thing, the traditional institutions associated with government in the United States are still in place. Sadly, however, the primary principles of American governance -- especially limited government, federalism, individual liberty, personal responsibility, and so on -- have been severely compromised.

I am reminded of The Roman Revolution, published in 1939 by the late Ronald Syme. The book covered Roman history from Julius Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C.E. till Augustus' death in 14 C.E. Its main thesis is that the Roman Republic's institutions and processes, which had worked during most of the republican era, had become inadequate for the needs of empire. Without drastically changing the Republic's major institutions, Augustus "revolutionized" the key features of Roman government consistent with his monarchial rule. He did so in ways that went largely unnoticed during his lifetime.

Ours has become a system of virtually limitless central governmental power. Whatever one thinks of the IRS and Justice Department scandals -- targeting conservatives and evangelical Christian and orthodox Jewish organizations, spying on AP reporters, and labeling a Fox News journalist a potential felon -- their common theme is that the federal government can do anything it wishes.

Think back to Barack Obama's comment that the main problem with the Constitution is that it is a charter of "negative liberties," because it primarily specifies what government cannot do to people. The Obamians want a charter of "positive liberties"; they want an organic law asserting what government can do to -- oops, sorry -- for people.

Harvard University law professor Cass Sunstein -- a czar in the first Obama Administration -- is the co-author with Richard Thaler of Nudge (2009), a book which argues that government should "gently" push people to do what they ought to have the sense to realize they should do.

Thaler and Sunstein's thesis is an exemplar of the "progressive" theory of government, which was a precursor to fascism, as Jonah Goldberg noted in Liberal Fascism (2008). Progressivism is belief in big government. It has two principles: (1) government regulation of the economy and society; and (2) redistribution of private property in the name of social justice.

Progressivism is a harbinger of fascist collectivism. Omnipotent central government, economic regulation -- sometimes known as "crony capitalism" -- redistribution of wealth; all these are consistent with fascism. (Many conflate progressivism with socialism, but the same features apply to fascism.)

How can a variety of democratic theory like progressivism be a harbinger of fascism, which is obviously totalitarian? The distinction between progressives' notion of democracy and totalitarianism blurs.

Ours has become a system of virtually limitless central governmental power. Whatever one thinks of the IRS and Justice Department scandals -- targeting conservatives and evangelical Christian and orthodox Jewish organizations, spying on AP reporters, and labeling a Fox News journalist a potential felon -- their common theme is that the federal government can do anything it wishes.

Think back to Barack Obama's comment that the main problem with the Constitution is that it is a charter of "negative liberties," because it primarily specifies what government cannot do to people. The Obamians want a charter of "positive liberties"; they want an organic law asserting what government can do to -- oops, sorry -- for people.

Harvard University law professor Cass Sunstein -- a czar in the first Obama Administration -- is the co-author with Richard Thaler of Nudge (2009), a book which argues that government should "gently" push people to do what they ought to have the sense to realize they should do.

Thaler and Sunstein's thesis is an exemplar of the "progressive" theory of government, which was a precursor to fascism, as Jonah Goldberg noted in Liberal Fascism (2008). Progressivism is belief in big government. It has two principles: (1) government regulation of the economy and society; and (2) redistribution of private property in the name of social justice.

Progressivism is a harbinger of fascist collectivism. Omnipotent central government, economic regulation -- sometimes known as "crony capitalism" -- redistribution of wealth; all these are consistent with fascism. (Many conflate progressivism with socialism, but the same features apply to fascism.)

How can a variety of democratic theory like progressivism can be a harbinger of fascism, which is obviously totalitarian? The distinction between progressives' notion of democracy and totalitarianism blurs.

No discussion of fascism would be complete without considering ordinary citizens' role. One of the most disturbing books to come out of World War II is They Thought They Were Free (1955), by Milton Mayer, who traveled to Germany in 1952 and interviewed ten ordinary Nazis who lived in west-central Germany. All were anti-Semitic. Two were Alte Kämpfer -- "old fighters" -- who had become Nazis before the Reichstag elections of 1930; the rest joined the party later, typically for opportunistic reasons.

Mayer's "friends" mentioned that the Nazi transmogrification of Germany occurred in a series of small steps, none of which was so wrenching as to produce massive resistance. Had the Nazis moved too swiftly, and made major transformations of Germany, some people -- perhaps enough to make a difference -- might have changed history. (One can't help thinking about Pastor Niemöller's account of how he remained passive during early Nazi outrages, only to discover that, when they came for him, it was too late.)

Even though neither uses the term "fascism" -- two slender books present evidence buttressing the assertion that a version of fascism has come to America.

The first is Angelo Codevilla's The Ruling Class (2010), which argues that a relatively small proportion of the populace -- "the ruling class" -- governs the rest of the population, a.k.a. "the country class." The ruling class is America's elite, and their desires dictate what government does.

The second is Nicholas Eberstadt's A Nation of Takers (2012), which claims that a large proportion of the population -- sometimes approaching half -- receives some kind of government benefit. Instead of sturdy self-reliance, we confront the spectacle of a sizable slice of the public "gaming the system" to "qualify" for government benefits for which they might not be entitled.

How do these books buttress the argument that fascism already exists in America? The Ruling Class illustrates how the country is already governed by a tiny slice of the populace, ruling in their own interests. A Nation of Takers shows that, because they are already so dependent on government, millions of ordinary people lack the resources and the inclination to oppose government diktats.

Benito Mussolini called fascism "corporatism." Today, we in America use the progressivist rubric "Public-Private Corporatism" — also known, obscurely, as "Third Way." Mussolini preached that the "Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the State. It is opposed to classical liberalism (which) denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the right of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual."

Di Lorenzo, in his position as professor at Loyola University, wrote that "The U. S. Constitution was written by individuals who believed in the classical liberal philosophy of individual rights, and sought to protect those rights from government encroachment. But, since the fascist/collectivist philosophy has been so influential, policy reforms have all but abolished many of those rights by simply ignoring many of the provision in the Constitution that were designed to protect them."

Progressivism is clearly the re-emergence of fascism. In fact, Progressivism and Mussolini's Fascism were coeval and co-dependent. They grew up as virtual twins.

In a recent article, "What many churches and the SPLC have in common," (SPLC-Southern Poverty Law Center) Chuck Baldwin instructs that "For all intents and purposes, The U.S. Constitution is dead; the Bill of Rights is dead; the vision of the Founding Fathers is dead; and federalism and republicanism are also dead. What we have (now) is a blend of socialism, welfarism, fascism, statism, and warfarism."

I politely presume to add to Baldwin's accurate appraisal. American citizens are now told by the Progressive Fascists that the Constitution died a natural death, from old age. The truth is that the Constitution, with its protection of individual rights, was assassinated, perniciously, with malicious forethought.

It has not been an outright murder. There are several aggravating elements. It has been more of a tortuous and torturing "Manchurian" killing of the American essence. It has been a murder designed to look like a suicide — democratically chosen.

Think about this seemingly benign alteration of the language. Years ago I noticed, and thought much about, the curious "minor" change of the word "personnel" that became "human resources." As one who believes absolutely that "changes" don't just happen, despite what the crude bumper sticker might say, they are caused to happen, I asked myself why this change was made? I answered myself, "There are no persons in America any longer, we are, now, all resources, to be used-up by the State, and then swept away, in the ashes, when no longer of use."

Fascism, properly understood, is not a right-wing ideology. While many characterize it as such, Wikipedia, of all places, has a pretty accurate rendering, explaining that

[f]ascists advocate a state-directed, regulated economy that is dedicated to the nation; the use and primacy of regulated private property and private enterprise contingent upon service to the nation, the use of state enterprise where private enterprise is failing or is inefficient, and autarky.

During the First World War, Woodrow Wilson and the progressive movement used war as a means to rally society to the collective good of the nation. George Perkins, a financier of progressive causes at the time, boasted that the First World War “is striking down individualism and building up collectivism.” Michael McGerr, in his book A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, cited one progressive who championed the war claiming, “Laissez-faire is dead. Long live social control.”

Jonah Goldberg, in his well regarded book Liberal Fascism, noted that “[m]ore dissidents were arrested or jailed in a few years under Wilson than under Mussolini during the entire 1920s.” Americans often ignore our history and often the media forgets history when it choses to report or not report something.

In May of 1918, several hundred publications were denied access to the postal service. As Goldberg documented in Liberal Fascism, “In Wisconsin a state official got two and a half years for criticizing a Red Cross fund-raising drive. A Hollywood producer received a ten-year stint in jail for making a film that depicted British troops committing atrocities during the American Revolution. One man was brought to trial for explaining in his own home why he didn’t want to buy Liberty Bonds.”

Just as progressives were generally enthusiastic about socialist movements in the Soviet Union and Europe, they were also overwhelmingly supportive of the fascist movements in Italy and Germany during the 1920s and 1930s. “In many respects,” writes journalist Jonah Goldberg, “the founding fathers of modern liberalism, the men and women who laid the intellectual groundwork of the New Deal and the welfare state, thought that fascism sounded like ... a worthwhile 'experiment'”:

H. G. Wells, one of the most influential progressives of the 20th century, said in 1932 that progressives must become “liberal fascists” and “enlightened Nazis.” Regarding totalitarianism, he stated: “I have never been able to escape altogether from its relentless logic.” Calling for a “‘Phoenix Rebirth’ of Liberalism” under the umbrella of “Liberal Fascism,” Wells said: “I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti, for enlightened Nazis.”
The poet Wallace Stevens pronounced himself “pro-Mussolini personally.”
The eminent historian Charles Beard wrote of Mussolini’s efforts: “Beyond question, an amazing experiment is being made [in Italy], an experiment in reconciling individualism and socialism.”
Muckraking journalists almost universally admired Mussolini. Lincoln Steffens, for one, said that Italian fascism made Western democracy, by comparison, look like a system run by “petty persons with petty purposes.” Mussolini, Steffens proclaimed reverently, had been “formed” by God “out of the rib of Italy.”
McClure’s Magazine founder Samuel McClure, an important figure in the muckraking movement, described Italian fascism as “a great step forward and the first new ideal in government since the founding of the American Republic.”
After having vistited Italy and interviewed Mussolini in 1926, the American humorist Will Rogers, who was informally dubbed “Ambassador-at-Large of the United States” by the National Press Club, said of the fascist dictator: “I’m pretty high on that bird.” “Dictator form of government is the greatest form of government,” Rogers wrote, “that is, if you have the right dictator.”
Reporter Ida Tarbell was deeply impressed by Mussolini's attitudes regarding labor, affectionately dubbing him “a despot with a dimple.”
NAACP co-founder W. E. B. DuBois saw National Socialism as a worthy model for economic organization. The establishment of the Nazi dictatorship in Germany, he wrote, had been “absolutely necessary to get the state in order.” In 1937 DuBois stated: “there is today, in some respects, more democracy in Germany than there has been in years past.”
FDR adviser Rexford Guy Tugwell said of Italian fascism: “It's the cleanest, neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I've ever seen. It makes me envious.”
New Republic editor George Soule, who avidly supported FDR, noted approvingly that the Roosevelt administration was “trying out the economics of fascism.”
Playwright George Bernard Shaw hailed Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini as the world’s great “progressive” leaders because they “did things,” unlike the leaders of those “putrefying corpses” called parliamentary democracies.
According to Goldberg, progressives' affinity for fascism was quite understandable because, contrary to popular misconception: “[F]ascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left.”

To clarify this point, a working definition of fascism is in order. A comprehensive discussion of fascism's tenets and variations can be located here, but for the purpose of this discussion, fascism can be distilled down to this: It is a totalitarian movement that empowers an omnipotent government to control every nook and cranny of political, economic, social, and private life – generally in the name of “the public good.” Its leadership is commonly spearheaded by a powerful, charismatic, even deified figure who is viewed as uniquely capable – along with his hand-picked advisers – of leading his nation to new-found or restored greatness. Its economics are collectivist, socialist and redistributionist – supremely hostile to free-market capitalism and wealth inequalities. And it tends to promote and exploit the grievances of “the common man,” portraying society as the theater of a ceaseless conflict – a class war – between oppressor and oppressed, victimizer and victim. Consequently, identity politics are central to fascism.

The foregoing traits are also part and parcel of progressivism. Thus it is accurate to say that progressivism is, in effect, an American version of European fascism. Modern progressives recoil in horror at the utterance of this plain reality, chiefly because, for decades, the word “fascism” has been tossed about carelessly by many people who have not understood its actual meaning. As George Orwell once observed, “The word 'fascism' now has no meaning except in so far as it signals 'something not desirable.'”

Nowadays the term "fascism" is typically used as a synonym for such unsavory phenomena as tyranny, authoritarianism, racism, militarism, anti-Semitism, and genocide. And indeed, all of these traits were characteristic of the fascism that developed in Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. But German fascism was only one of numerous types, or varieties, of fascism. Fascist impulses manifest themselves differently in different cultures, though they draw, as Jonah Goldberg explains, “on the same intellectual wellsprings.” “Fascisms differ from each other because they grow out of different soil,” Goldberg elaborates, and “the differences between various fascisms can be profound.”

For example, whereas the Nazis were genocidal anti-Semites, the Italian fascists were protectors of the Jews until the Nazis took over Italy, and the fascist dictator Francisco Franco refused Hitler’s demand to deliver tens of thousands of Spanish Jews to the latter for extermination. Whereas the Nazis despised Christianity, the Italian Fascists made peace with the Catholic Church – notwithstanding Mussolini's passionate contempt for that institution. And whereas racism was central to Nazi ideology, Mussolini expressed his own “sovereign contempt” for the “one hundred percent racism” of Hitler's government. (A more detailed discussion of the various possible manifestations of fascism can be found here.)

According to Jonah Goldberg:

“Nazism was the product of German culture, grown out of a German context. The Holocaust could not have occurred in Italy, because Italians are not Germans. And in America, where hostility to big government is central to the national character, the case for statism must be made in terms of 'pragmatism' and decency. In other words, our fascism must be nice and for your own good.”

Along those lines, Goldberg elaborates, American fascism “was moderated by many special factors—geographical size, ethnic diversity, Jeffersonian individualism, a strong liberal tradition, and so on. As a result, American fascism is milder, more friendly, more 'maternal' than its foreign counterparts.... Nice fascism. The best term to describe it is 'liberal fascism'” – a phenomenon characterized by “nannying, not bullying.” In the early decades of the 20th century, it was simply called progressivism.

“Progressivism was a sister movement of fascism,” writes Goldberg, “and today’s liberalism is the daughter of Progressivism.” The journalist J. T. Flynn – perhaps the best-known anti-FDR muckraker of the 1930s, foresaw that American fascism might one day manifest itself as “a very genteel and dainty and pleasant form of fascism which cannot be called fascism at all because it will be so virtuous and polite.”

It should be noted, at this point, that fascism is closely related not only to progressivism, but also to communism. The chief difference between fascism and communism is that the former is rooted in nationalism and seeks to create a socialist utopia within the confines of a particular country's borders; thus the Nazis embraced “National Socialism.” Communism, by contrast, seeks to transcend national boundaries and promote a worldwide proletariat revolution, where the foot soldiers are bound together not by a common nationality but by their membership in the same economic class. This was expressed by Karl Marx's famous exhortation in the Communist Manifesto: “Workers of the world, unite!” Apart from this distinction, communism and fascism are kindred spirits of anti-capitalism. Jonah Goldberg characterizes them as “closely related, historical competitors for the same constituents, seeking to dominate and control the same social space.” “[I]n terms of their theory and practice,” he says, “ the differences are minimal.”

That said, we can see that fascism, communism, and progressivism are all closely related to one another. The progressive U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was a devoted disciple of the German philosopher Georg Hegel, whose ideas – most notably his view of history as an evolutionary, unfolding process where conflicting forces constantly battle in order to bring about change and progress – also had a profound influence on Karl Marx. Mussolini, for his part, carried with him a medallion of Marx. Progressives commonly saw Mussolini’s project and Lenin’s as linked enterprises. The progressive muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens referred to the “Russian-Italian” method as if the two were flip sides of the same coin. Steffens and his fellow progressives generally saw Mussolini, Lenin, and Stalin as three men pursuing a similar objective: the fundamental transformation of corrupt and outdated societies. As Jonah Goldberg observes, “The reason so many progressives were intrigued by both Mussolini’s and Lenin’s 'experiments' is simple: they saw their reflection in the European looking glass.”

Because progressivism embraces the ideal of nationalism and touts the so-called “Third Way” between capitalism and communism, its pedigree is closer to fascism than to communism. Progressivism and fascism share the totalitarian belief that with the proper amount of tinkering, social engineers will be able to realize the utopian dream of establishing a nation where perfect equality reigns. This mindset accounts for the support that the early progressives gave to eugenics, whose ultimate aim was the creation of a pure race, a “New Man” – not unlike the Nazi “Aryan” ideal. Such a project, of course, could only be overseen and carried out by a wise and omniscient leadership, an intellectual elite endowed with judgment superior to that of the unwashed masses.

The totalitarian impulses that animated both fascism and progressivism were once viewed by the Left as evidence of compassion and humanitarian concern for the welfare of the lowly. In its original sense, the word “totalitarian” did not have the negative connotations it has acquired over time. Mussolini himself coined the term to describe a society where everyone belonged, where no one was abandoned socially or economically. This ideal dovetailed neatly with the progressive (and fascist) desire to eliminate class differences among the populace. In many of his speeches, Hitler clearly stated his intent to erase all lines of division between rich and poor. Robert Ley, who headed the Nazis’ German Labor Front, boasted: “We are the first country in Europe to overcome the class struggle.”

In late 1934, Rexford Guy Tugwell, an influential advisor to FDR, visited Italy and noted: “I find Italy doing many of the things which seem to me necessary.... Mussolini certainly has the same people opposed to him as FDR has.”

Early fascism and progressivism also shared the trait of militarism. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, German intellectuals advanced the notion that war could serve as a means of unifying a population and thereby overcoming class distinctions. These intellectuals had an enormous influence on the American mind. Consequently, progressives in the U.S. favored America's entry into World War I because they believed it would help to collectivize society and make it properly obedient to the mighty federal government. For example:

The education reformer and socialist John Dewey spoke of the “social possibilities of war” and the “immense impetus to reorganization” that it afforded. He added, with an air of hopefulness, that the conflict might force Americans “to give up much of [their] economic freedom”; to abandon their “individualistic tradition” and “march in step”; and to recognize “the supremacy of public need over private possessions.”
The progressive financier George Perkins said the “great European war … is striking down individualism and building up collectivism.”
Grosvenor Clarkson, Chairman of the Federal Interdepartmental Defense Board, said the war effort “is a story of the conversion of a hundred million combatively individualistic people into a vast cooperative effort in which the good of the unit was sacrificed to the good of the whole.”
The social worker Felix Adler said the regimentation imposed on society by the war effort was helping America create the “perfect man…a fairer and more beautiful and more righteous type than any…that has yet existed.”
And President Woodrow Wilson stated, “I am an advocate of peace, but there are some splendid things that come to a nation through the discipline of war.”
Meanwhile, Benito Mussolini was making virtually the same pro-war arguments on his side of the Atlantic.

American progressives, for the most part, did not disavow fascism until the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust became manifest during World War II. After the war, those progressives who had praised Mussolini and Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s had no choice but to dissociate themselves from fascism. “Accordingly,” writes Jonah Goldberg, “leftist intellectuals redefined fascism as 'right-wing' and projected their own sins onto conservatives, even as they continued to borrow heavily from fascist and pre-fascist thought.” This progressive campaign to recast fascism as the "right-wing" antithesis of communism was aided by Joseph Stalin, who began to label all of the most blatantly evil traits shared by communism and fascism alike, as simply “fascist.”

Sir Pun

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