Mussolini-Style Corporatism, aka Fascism, on the Rise in the US

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name. Confucius

One of the distressing things about politics in the US is the way words have either been stripped of their meaning or become so contested as to undermine the ability to communicate and analyze. It’s hard to get to a conversation when you and your interlocutors don’t have the same understanding of basic terms.

And that is no accident. The muddying of meaning is a neo-Orwellian device to influence perceptions by redefining core concepts. And a major vector has been by targeting narrow interest groups on their hot-button topics. Thus, if you are an evangelical or otherwise strongly opposed to women having reproductive control, anyone who favors womens’ rights in this area is in your vein of thinking, to the left of you, hence a “liberal”. Allowing the Overton Window to be framed around pet interests, as opposed to a view of what societal norms are, has allowed for the media to depict the center of the political spectrum as being well to the right of where it actually is as measured by decades of polling, particularly on economic issues.

Another way of limiting discourse is to relegate certain terms or ideas to what Daniel Hallin called the “sphere of deviance.” Thus, until roughly two years ago, calling an idea “Marxist” in the US was tantamount to deeming it to be the political equivalent of taboo. That shows how powerful the long shadow of the Communist purges of the McCarthy era were, more than a generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Similarly, even as authoritarianism is rapidly rising in the US and citizens are losing their rights (see a reminder from last weekend, a major New York Times story on how widespread use of arbitration clauses is stripping citizens of access to the court system*), one runs the risk of having one’s hair on fire if one dares suggest that America is moving in a fascist, or perhaps more accurately, a Mussolini-style corporatist direction. Yet we used that very expression, “Mussolini-style corporatism,” to describe the the post-crisis bank bailouts. Former chief economist of the IMF, Simon Johnson, was more stark in his choice of terms, famously calling the rescues a “quiet coup” by financial oligarchs.

Now admittedly, the new neoliberal economic order is not a replay of fascism, so there is reason not to apply the “f” word wholesale. Nevertheless, there is a remarkable amount of inhibition in calling out the similarities where they exist. For instance, the article by Thom Hartmann below, which we’ve reposted from Alternet, is bold enough to use the “fascist” word in the opening paragrah (but not the headline!). But it then retreats from making a hard-headed analysis by focusing on warnings about the risks of fascism in America from the 1940s. While historical analysis is always enlightening, you’ll see the article only selectively interjects contemporary examples. Readers no doubt can help fill out, as well as qualify, this picture.

By Thom Hartmann, an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host. His newest book is “The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America — and What We Can Do to Stop It.” Originally published at Alternet

Ben Carson’s feeble attempt to equate Hitler and pro-gun control Democrats was short-lived, but along with the announcement that Marco Rubio has brought in his second big supporting billionaire, it brings to mind the first American vice-president to point out the “American fascists” among us.

Although most Americans remember that Harry Truman was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice-president when Roosevelt died in 1945 (making Truman president), Roosevelt had two previous vice-presidents: John N. Garner (1933-1941) and Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945).

In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice-President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”

Vice-President Wallace’s answer to those questions was published in the New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.

“The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information.

“With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word “fascist”—the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)

As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is, “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this. In a 1923 pamphlet titled “The Doctrine of Fascism” he wrote, “If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government.” But not a government of, by, and for We The People; instead, it would be a government of, by, and for the most powerful corporate interests in the nation.

In 1938, Mussolini brought his vision of fascism into full reality when he dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni—the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Corporations were still privately owned, but now instead of having to sneak their money to folks like Tom DeLay and covertly write legislation, they were openly in charge of the government.

Vice-President Wallace bluntly laid out in his 1944 Times article his concern about the same happening here in America:

If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. … They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.

Nonetheless, at that time there were few corporate heads who’d run for political office, and in Wallace’s view, most politicians still felt it was their obligation to represent We The People instead of corporate cartels.

“American fascism will not be really dangerous,” he added in the next paragraph, “until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information….”

Noting that, “Fascism is a worldwide disease,” Wallace further suggest that fascism’s “greatest threat to the United States will come after the war” and will manifest “within the United States itself.”

In Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. The politician, Buzz Windrip, runs his campaign on family values, the flag and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy as anti-American.

When Windrip becomes president, he opens a Guantanamo-style detention center, and the viewpoint character of the book, Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup, flees to Canada to avoid prosecution under new “patriotic” laws that make it illegal to criticize the President.

As Lewis noted in his novel, “the President, with something of his former good-humor [said]: ‘There are two [political] parties, the Corporate and those who don’t belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!’ The idea of the Corporate or Corporative State, Secretary [of State] Sarason had more or less taken from Italy.”

And, President “Windrip’s partisans called themselves the Corporatists, or, familiarly, the ‘Corpos,’ which nickname was generally used.”

Lewis, the first American writer to win a Nobel Prize, was world famous by 1944, as was his book. And several well-known and powerful Americans, including Prescott Bush, had lost businesses in the early 1940s because of charges by Roosevelt that they were doing business with Hitler.

These events all, no doubt, colored Vice-President Wallace’s thinking when he wrote:

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after ‘the present unpleasantness’ ceases.

Fascists have an agenda that is primarily economic. As the Free Dictionary ( notes, fascism/corporatism is “an attempt to create a ‘modern’ version of feudalism by merging the ‘corporate’ interests with those of the state.”

Feudalism, of course, is one of the most stable of the three historic tyrannies (kingdoms, theocracies, feudalism) that ruled nations prior to the rise of American republican democracy, and can be roughly defined as “rule by the rich.”

Thus, the neo-feudal/fascistic rich get richer (and more powerful) on the backs of the poor and the middle class, an irony not lost on author Thomas Frank, who notes in his book What’s The Matter With Kansas that, “You can see the paradox first-hand on nearly any Main Street in middle America—’going out of business’ signs side by side with placards supporting George W. Bush.”

The businesses “going out of business” are, in fascist administrations, usually those of locally owned small and medium-sized companies. As Wallace wrote, some in big business “are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage.”

He added:

Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

But American fascists who would want former CEOs as president, vice-president, House Majority Whip, and Senate Majority Leader, and write legislation with corporate interests in mind, don’t generally talk to We The People about their real agenda, or the harm it does to small businesses and working people.

Instead, as Hitler did with the trade union leaders and the Jews, they point to a “them” to pin with blame and distract people from the harms of their economic policies.

In a comment prescient of Alabama’s recent closing of every drivers’ license office in every Alabama county with more than 75% black residents (while recently passing a law requiring a drivers’ license or similar ID to vote), Wallace continued:

The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination…

But even at this, Wallace noted, American fascists would have to lie to the people in order to gain power. And, because they were in bed with the nation’s largest corporations – who could gain control of newspapers and broadcast media—they could promote their lies with ease.

“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” Wallace wrote. “Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy.”

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism, the vice-president of the United States saw rising in America, he added:

They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

This liberal vision of an egalitarian America in which very large businesses and media monopolies are broken up under the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act (which Reagan stopped enforcing, leading to the mergers & acquisitions frenzy that continues to this day) was the driving vision of the New Deal (and of “Trust Buster” Teddy Roosevelt a generation earlier).

As Wallace’s president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said when he accepted his party’s renomination in 1936 in Philadelphia, “…out of this modern civilization, economic royalists [have] carved new dynasties…. It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction…. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man….”

Speaking indirectly of the fascists Wallace would directly name almost a decade later, Roosevelt brought the issue to its core:

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.” But, he thundered, “Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!

In the election of 2016, we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II.

Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself “conservativism.” The Republican candidates’ and their billionaire donors’ behavior today eerily parallels that day in 1936 when Roosevelt said, “In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for.”

It’s particularly ironic that the “big news” is which billionaire is supporting which Republican candidate. Like Eisenhower’s farewell address, President Roosevelt and Vice-President Wallace’s warnings are more urgent now than ever before.

* In trying to find the New York Times story again, I simply Googled “arbitration,” on the assumption that given that the article was both high traffic and recent that it would come up high in a search. Not only did the story not come up on the first page, although a reference to it in Consumerist did, but when I clicked on “in the news” link, it was again not in the first page in Google. If this isn’t censorship, I don’t know what is. The story was widely referenced on the Web and got far more traffic than the “news” story that Google gave preference (such as, of all things, a Cato study and “Arbitration Eligible Brewers
Brew Crew Ball-19 hours ago”). In fact, the NYT article does not appear on the first five pages of the Google news search, even though older and clearly lower traffic stories do. And when you find the first reference to the story on the news page, which is a Cato piece mentioning it, and you click through to the “explore in depth” page, again the New York Times story is not the prominent placement it warrants, and is listed fifth. Consider how many clicks it took to find it.

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    1. Portia

      This really caught my attention:

      “They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

      I don’t want to think that Hillary’s mission is to solidify the takeover, but I have a terrible dread.

    2. Boardroom

      Hillary was once president of the Republican party org at her university, old ideas die hard.

      That aside, Hillary ans Bill are “Third Way” Democrats. Third Way Democrats are Democrats in name only. It turns back generations of progress on economics, taxes, trade and. labor.

      Original Third Way founders and backers read like a whos who of Republican corporatists with the exception of being liberal on social issues.

  1. Crazy Horse

    I’ve always detested the weasel words “neoliberal” and “neoconservative”. Lets just be honest enough to call ideologies and political behaviors by their proper name.

    1. timbers

      I agree!

      Telling my friends Obama is “neoliberal” means nothing to 99% of them, they couldn’t care less, it does not compute. So instead I tell them Obama is the most right wing President in history who’s every bit un-hinged as Sarah Palin and at least as bat shit insame as John McCain, but you think that’s totally OK because you’re a Dem and Dems think that because Obama speaks with better grammar than Sarah Palin and is more temperate than John McCain. Them I tell them to vote Green instead of the utlra right wing Dems

      Call Dems what they are – corrupt right wingers, ultra conservatives.

  2. DJG

    Excellent lead-in and excellent article. We have all been circling this diagnosis for years. Let’s call this what it is: Our slide into fascism. Next question: How do we stop it and regain some semblance of a democratic (small D) way of life and, also, and important, a democratic mindset? So much of the current mindset is mean and fascistic. How do we counter that? And how much is just a symptom of the id-like qualities of the WWW, and how much is a real tendency toward authoritarianism?

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      I’ve been calling Obomba a fascist since the fix was in with Lil’ Timmy Geithner and people thought I was unhinged (“No, really, hope and change, he’s young and black and all, and have you seen his jump shot?”). Nice to see the recognition finally awakening even in small circles. What to do about it? Why, what people have always done to fascists: string them up by their thumbs, only the threat of violence has a chance of derailing this runaway train at this stage. We can have civil disobedience backed by controlled bursts of true anger…or we can just wait for the rivers of blood if they insist on doing it the hard way.

    2. HarrySnapperOrgans

      I’ll try an answer to your question “how do we stop it”. I suggest candidates stand for office (regional, state, national) promising to vote as the majority of his / her constituency decides.

      Direct democracy via a passive intermediary via a tally of electronic votes of the constituency. Every bill up for vote put online on a nice website with a space for discussions etc, with the guarantee that the elected representative vote ‘on the floor of the house’ in accord with the constituency.

      I suggest that just a few representatives elected under such a banner could start an avalanche.

      Corporate influence dramatically curtailed (though not completely eliminated).

      1. Malcolm MacLeod, MD

        Harry, they will drop you like a bad habit if you even seriously
        consider starting such a movement.

        1. HarrySnapperOrgans

          Who would drop me? The electorate? Or do you mean something more sinister as in vested interests would drop me to the ground (lynching)? I am interested in feedback because it is possible that this proposal will be properly funded.

      2. JohnnyD

        Surveillance agencies operating on behalf of the fascist government already make this impossible. They can manipulate all you see on the net, including the vote, because you let them, so they can catch terrorists.

    3. Bev

      Jim Willie says JFK assassination and 9/11 were bookends to the fascists take over of America via . Tell the truth about these events ( ) and then get rid of HAVA the subversively named Help America Vote Act which the abusive, criminal Abramoff pushed/blackmailed politicians to put those fascists e-voting, e-scanning machines everywhere. We all must advocate for hand-counted paper ballots posted in precinct on primary and election night.

      My Prediction: Bernie Sanders Will Win the White House
      Posted on June 1, 2015 by Eric Zuesse

      In comments: Encourage Whistleblowers to save Kids and Democracy as there appears to be a link to rigged elections by the same people who abuse children:
      Still Evil after All These Years: The Franklin Scandal and Pedophilia in High Places
      By Charles M. Young Posted by Dave Lindorff

      …as King was climbing into the upper levels of the national Republican hierarchy, Omaha was boiling over with rumors that he was also running a pedophile ring, pandering children out to rich and powerful men in Omaha, even flying the children to Washington, Los Angeles and New York for orgiastic, abusive parties with even richer andmore powerful men.
      The Omaha World-Herald was the foremost local cheerleader for persecuting teenagers instead of investigating their claims. One of its own columnists, Peter Citron, had a long history of arrests for pedophilia and child porn and was implicated by two witnesses at Larry King’s sex parties. The long-time publisher of the World-Herald, Harold Anderson, was a big supporter of Larry King and had raised money for the Franklin. During the 18 years that King presided over the Franklin, the newspaper never noticed that King was living a hugely expensive lifestyle when he was supposedly making $17,000 a year in salary. The World-Herald Company is co-owner of Election Software and Systems, which counts half the election ballots in the United States.
      THE FRANKLIN SCANDAL: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse & Betrayal

  3. Barmitt O'Bamney

    LOL. You get to take your pick between TWO fascist parties in 2016. Just like you did for the last several elections. I wonder if the outcome will be different this time – will Fascism grab the prize again, or will it be Fascism coming out ahead at the last minute to save the day?

  4. David

    Why didn’t Wallace become President when Roosevelt died? From the St. Petersburg Times,

    The Gallup Poll said 65 percent of the voting Democrats wanted Wallace and that 2 percent wanted Senator Truman. But the party bosses could not boss Wallace. They made a coalition with the Roosevelt-haters and skillfully and cynically mowed down the unorganized Wallace forces.

    Take note Bernie fans.

    1. James Levy

      I don’t think it was a matter of bossing Truman around. He thought what they wanted thought, and that was quite sufficient. Truman’s was a case of cognitive capture, not gutlessness.

  5. Synoia

    Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself “conservativism.”

    Oh really? I have two words for this: Hillary Clinton.

    1. cassandra

      Good point. Some think salvation lies with the left, but consider Obama (whom some on the right see as the anti-Christ). Contrary to the spirit and word of his campaign, upon entry into office, he chose Emmanuel for his chief; Geithner/Rubin/Summers for banking; and Baucus with sidekick Liz Fowler (formerly VP of Wellness) for health policy. Subsequent outcomes were predictably consistent. Right and left fight mightily against perceived threats from the other, but both find themselves inadvertently supporting the very policies they both despise.

      1. participant-observer-observed

        Yes, the Dems now are unabashedly “Corpos.” The GOP, at least in the aggregate, retains a semblance of allegiance to principles transcendent of sheer corporatism, and their electorate. The Dem party appears more fascist, in the Mussolini corporatist sense, but only by a matter of degrees.

        1. redleg

          The US “centrist” think tank is called Third Way, which is what Il Duce called fascism. The third way between communism and unregulated capitalism. Coincidence?

      2. digi_owl

        As an outsider looking in, what USA defines as “left” seems to lie to the right of all but the most extreme right wing in Europe.

    2. Ishmael

      I do not agree with Naked Capitalism on all issues but this is one that I believe we see eye to eye.

      I have mentioned Peronism before and if you look at Peronism it is basically fascism. See

      What I disagree with is calling fascism conservativism. There was a recent interview I read by a person who was a young girl in Austria when fascism arose there. What did she discuss, well when it started it seemed very “neo-liberal” (the original liberalism is what our founding fathers outlined – individualism and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) with the Nazi’s handing out lots of freebies to the general population. People do not just stand up and give their freedom away. They have to be conned out of it and it usually sounds something like “Want some candy little girl well just give up your freedoms.”

      Fascism/Corporatism and its partner Corruption are the two major problems of this country.

      1. andyb

        A true Conservative believes in the Constitution (as originally written, not as historically bastardized by SCOTUS), free markets (as envisioned by Adam Smith, but destroyed by the banking cartel), and States’ Rights.

        No one leading candidate in either party fits the bill.

        1. Crazy Horse

          A true conservative believes in free markets, a religious theory that never exists in the real world because in operation it contains within itself the seeds that always lead to differences in wealth and the resulting power to control those same markets.

        2. Je' Czaja

          “A true conservative” wants to conserve. Conserve what? The best of the past-but is the last time anything was good about the past the 1700s?

          And the only free market is the flea market-FreeMarketism is a ginned-up religious movement.

    3. diptherio

      No sh*t. If Hartmann could wasn’t such a hack (which I believe he is, even if he does write the occasional decent article), he would have noticed that Obama and Hillary and Rahm and the rest of ’em are exactly as corporatist/fascist as any self-styled conservatives. Perhaps he should read his own writing a little more closely:

      But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.

      Like prejudices against conservatives, for instance? “[P]laying upon the fears…of different groups in order to gain power” is the first (and only) page in both parties play-books, as anyone who has been paying any attention at all can confirm.

      I was actually liking the article right up until that sentence about conservatives. No, Thom, follow the money you jack@ss. The Democratic and Republican parties are both working for the corporatists. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see, and Thom utterly refuses. And given that the intent of his article is, apparently, to play up fears and prejudices against “conservatives” in the media, I suppose that makes him one of the fascist tools that Wallace decried. The only question is whether he knows that he’s a tool, or if he’s really just that dumb. I vote for dumb.

      1. Norb

        Does anyone in a public position today operate with a sense of principle? It’s exhausting trying to sort out if anyone with a voice or leadership role in society today is being dumb, a tool, or just an evil sociopath.

        The rule of the day is, “you’re either with us or against us”. And that us is corporatism.

        I think some Woody Guthrie would return the mind to sanity.

  6. Uahsenaa

    I want to expand on the point about feudalism, since it’s even more apt than the article lets on. It was not “rule by the rich,” which implies an oligarchic class whose members are more or less free agents in cahoots with one another. Rather, feudalism is a hierarchical system of distributed administration. A king is nominally in charge or “owns” a kingdom, but he has lords who administer its first primary division, the fiefdom. Lords in turn have vassals, who administer further subdivisions or, in the cases of smaller fiefs, different aspects of governance. Vassals may have their own captains and middle managers, typically knights but also clerks and priests, who in turn employ apprentices/novices/pages who train under them so as to one day move up to middle management. If this is starting to resemble modern corporate structure, then bonus points to you.

    This means feudalism found a way to render complicit in a larger system of administration people who had no direct and often no real stake in the produce of its mass mobilization of labor. Anyone in a position of vassalage was dependent upon the largess of his immediate patron/lord/whatever for both his status and nominal wealth. The lowest rungs of the administrative ladder were responsible for keeping the peasants, the pool of labor, in line either through force or through the very same system of dependence upon largess that frames the lord/vassal relationship. Occasionally, the peasants recognize that no one is below them in this pyramid scheme, and so they revolt, but for the most part they were resigned to the status quo, because there seemed to be no locus of power to topple. Sure, you could overthrow the king, but that would do nothing to deter the power of the lords. You could overthrow your local lord, but the king could just install a new one.

    Transpose to the modern day. A CEO may resign in disgrace over some scandal, but that does little to challenge the underlings who carried out his orders. You might get your terrible boss fired for his tendency to sexually harass anyone who walks in the door, but what’s to stop the regional manager from hiring someone who works you to the bone. Sometimes the peas–err, employees revolt and form a union, but we all know what means have been employed over the years to do away with that.

    tl;dr – Feudalism: it’s about the structure, not the classes

    1. participant-observer-observed

      Great analysis, but in our era of corporations writing legislation and revolving door integration w govt complete w DOJ avoid jail w slap on wrist visits to principal’s office, we can see that removing one GOP rookie president under corporate kingpin control for DEM is negligible on fascist structure of unbridled corporatism allegiance.

      Ralph Nader suggests that overturning the party divide and conquer dynamic is key to interrupting the structures.

      1. dodahman

        Please don’t listen to Ralph. He is part of the problem, and as big a grifter as Ms Palin, just more subtle….

      1. James Levy

        You wouldn’t be a vassal (that was a very small percentage of the population) but you could have ties of patronage with the people above you, and in fact that was critical to all societies until the Victorians made nepotism a bad word and the ethic of meritocracy (however bastardized today) took shape. If you wanted your physical labor obligation converted into a money payment so you could spend more time and effort on your own holding, or you needed help in tough times, or the 99 year lease on your leasehold was coming due, or you wanted to get your son into the local priory, etc. you needed a friend or friends in higher places. The granting or refusal of favors counted for everything, and kept many on the straight and narrow, actively or passively supporting the system as it was.

      2. Uahsenaa

        It’s not that peasants can be vassals in the overall order so much as they are in the subject position, but without the attendant capacity to then lord it over someone beneath them. Lord/vassal in feudalism are also generic terms to describe members of a fixed relationship of patronage. It’s confusing, because those terms are also used for levels of the overall hierarchy.

        The true outliers here are the contemporaneous merchants, craftsmen, and freeholders (yeomen) who are necessary for things to run properly but are not satisfactorily accounted for by the overall system of governance, in part because it was land based. Merchants and craftsmen in particular tended not to be tied to any one place, since their services were often needed all over and only for limited periods of time. The primary administrative apparatus for craftsmen were the guilds. Merchants fell into any number of systems of organization and often into none at all, thus, according to the old Marxist genealogy, capitalism overthrows feudalism.

        Peasants may have had something like a class consciousness on occasion, but I’m not entirely convinced it’s useful to think of them in that way. In Japan, for instance, peasants were of a much higher social status than merchants and craftsmen, technically, yet their lives were substantially more miserable by any modern economic measure.

    2. visitor

      I think that the article gets it seriously wrong about feudalism — an example of what Yves calls “stripping words of their meaning”.

      First of all, feudalism was actually an invention of an older, powerful, even more hierarchical organization: the Catholic Church.

      The Church realized early on that imposing its ideal of a theocratic State (“city of God”) led by the Pope upon the strong-headed barbarian chiefs (Lombards, Franks, Wisigoths and others) that set up various kingdoms in Europe was impossible.

      Hence the second best approach, feudalism: a double hierarchy (worldly and spiritual). The populations of Europe were subject to two parallel hierarchical authorities with taxation, judicial and other economic powers (such as the right to determine when and for whom to work).

      Second, there was a class of wealthy people which did not quite fit in the feudal hierarchy — in particular, they had no vassals, nor, despite their wealth, any fiefdom: merchants, financiers, the emerging burger class in cities. They were the ones actually lending money to feudal lords.

      Third, the problem for underlings was never to overthrow the king (this was a hobby for princely families), and extremely rarely the local lord (which inevitably brought the full brunt of the feudal hierarchy to bear on the seditious populace).

      Historically, what cities and rural communities struggled for was to be placed directly under the authority of the king or (Holy Roman Germanic) emperor. This entailed the rights to self-administration, freedom from most egregious taxes and corvées from feudal seigneurs, recognition of local laws and customs, and the possibility to render justice without deferring to local lords.

      The king/emperor was happy to receive taxes directly from the city/community without them seeping away in the pockets of members of the inextricable feudal hierarchy; he would from time to time require troops for his host, hence reducing the dependency on troops from his vassal lords; and he would rarely be called to intervene in major legal disputes. Overall, he was way too busy to have time micromanaging those who swore direct allegiance to him — which was exactly what Basque communities, German towns and Swiss peasants wanted.

      Therefore, an equivalence between feudalism and the current organizational make-up of society dominated by for-profit entities does not make sense.

        1. visitor

          If you look at this list, it appears that they were revolts directed against the local nobility (or church) because of its exorbitant taxation, oppressive judiciary, rampaging mercenaries and incompetent leadership in war against foreign invasions.

          The French Jacquerie took place when there was no king — he had been taken prisoner by the English and the populace blamed the nobility for the military defeats and the massive tax increases that ensued.

          During the Spanish Guerra de los Remensas, the revolted peasants actually appealed to the king and he in turn allied with them to fight the nobles.

          During the Budai Nagy Antal revolt, the peasants actually asked the Hungarian king to arbitrate.

          In other cases, even when the king/emperor/sultan ultimately intervened to squash the revolt, the insurrection was directed against some local elite.

          Peasants revolts in 16th century Scandinavia were against the king’s rule, but they were linked to reformation and took place when feudalism was on the wane and the evolution towards a centralized monarchical state well advanced.

          Apparently, only the John and William Merfold’s revolt explicitly called for the overthrow of the English king.

      1. Jim Haygood

        ‘The populations of Europe were subject to two parallel hierarchical authorities with taxation, judicial and other economic powers (such as the right to determine when and for whom to work).’

        Just as Americans are subject to two parallel hierarchical authorities with taxation and judicial powers, the states and the fedgov.

        Before 1914, federal criminal laws were few, and direct federal income taxation of individuals was nonexistent. Today one needs federal authorization (E-verify) to get a job.

        Now that the Fifth Amendment prohibition on double jeopardy has been interpreted away, notorious defendants face both federal and state prosecution. Thus the reason why America has the world’s largest Gulag, with its slam-dunk conviction machine.

      2. Uahsenaa

        Except, first off, there were non-Christian societies that made use of the system of warrior vassalage, and the manorial system that undergirded feudal distribution of land and resources, as least as far as Bloch is concerned, is a fairly clear outgrowth of the Roman villa system of the late empire. Insofar as the Late Roman empire was nominally–very nominally–Christian, I suppose your point stands, but according to Bloch, the earliest manorial structures were the result of the dissolution of the larger, older empire into smaller pieces, many of which were beyond meaningful administrative control by Rome itself. Second, bishoprics and monasteries, the primary land holdings of the clergy, were of the same order as manors, so they fit within the overall feudal system, not parallel to it.

        If Bloch is not right about this, I’m open to reading other sources, but that’s what my understanding was based on. Moreover, the basic system of patronage and fealty that made the manor economy function certainly seems to have survived the historical phenomenon we call feudalism, and that parallel was what I was trying to draw attention to. Lord/vassal relationships are fundamentally contractual, not just quid pro quo but organized around favors and reputation, and maybe the analogy is a bit strained, but it does point to the ways in which modern white collar work especially is about more than fixed pay for a fixed sum of labor output.

      3. Thure Meyer

        Isn’t this rather off-topic?

        This is not a discussion about the true and correct history of European feudalism or whether or not it applies to the situation at hand, but a dialogue about Global fascism and how it expresses itself in this Nation.

    3. HarrySnapperOrgans

      I suspect that the similarity of medeavil fuedalism with the relationship between a large modern corporation and its employees is not properly appreciated because the latter, unlike the former, does not necessarily include direct control over living conditions (housing, land, rent), even though in the end there may be a similar degree of effective servitude (lack of mobility and alternatives, and so effective entrapment at low wages) .

  7. washunate

    With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power

    Such a concise and cogent explanation. The go-to policy advice of the fascist is to do moar of whatever he’s selling.

    1. susan the other

      I was just going to say something like this too. There is a logical end to fascism and if it is blocked and prolonged then when it finally runs its course it ends in a huge mess. And even the fascists don’t know what to do. Because everything they were doing becomes pure poison. Moar money and power have an Achilles Heel – there is an actual limit to their usefulness. So this is where we find ourselves today imo – not at the beginning of a fascist-feudal empire, but at the bitter and confused end. Our implosion took far longer than Germany’s, but the writing was on the wall from 1970 on. And then toss in the wages of prolonged sin – neoliberalism’s excesses, the planet, global warming.

      1. TarheelDem

        Yes. This.

        One would think that Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the killing of 1000 people by cops would be a clue. As would an understanding of the counter-New Deal that began to unfold in 1944, gained power in 1946, and institutionalized itself as a military and secret government in 1947. Or the rush to war after every peace, the rush to debt after every surplus, and perpetual inability of the IRS to collect taxes from the wealthiest.

        Maybe not even a Franco-level fascist state or a fascist state with a single dictator, more like the state capitalism of the Soviet Union and current China without the public infrastructure. Just the oligarchs.

        And yet it is in a state of failure, and inability to do anything but feather then nests of those who rule, all those King Midases.

        1. participant-observer-observed

          Also, the increase of censorship (GMO labels or fracking chemicals), and persecution of whistleblowers and political prisoners, incarceration of whole swathes of black population, along w execution w no due process, continuous wars abroad w no apparent tbreat to domestic security and the state of the nation is apparent.

    2. Jim

      Isn’t it important to keep in mind that fascism, as it developed in Italy and Germany, were authentic mass based movements generating great popular enthusiasm and not merely a clever manipulation of of populist emotions by the reactionary Right or by capitalism in crisis.

      The orthodox left made this mistake in the 1920s and early 1930s and in 2015 still appears wedded to this erroneous assumption.

      1. washunate

        Authentic augmented by the generous application of force, I’d say. That I think is a very interesting discussion about just how freely fascism develops. I don’t think Italy and especially Germany developed with a particularly genuine popular enthusiasm. Very early on, the national socialists were arresting internal political opposition through parallel courts with explicit references to things like state security. Dachau, for example, was originally for German political prisoners. Jews and foreign nationals came later.

        And of course there’s the ultimate in false flags, the Reichstag Fire Decree. The whole point of that and the Enabling Act was to circumvent the checks and balances of democratic governance; Hitler himself certainly did not trust the German people to maintain the power he wanted of their own accord and discernment.

        Or to put it differently, I’d say the appearance of popular enthusiasm from a mass movement was the result of fascist control as much as the cause. That’s what’s so unnverving about the American context of 21st century fascism. It does not require a mass movement to implement this kind of totalitarianism. It merely requires the professional class to keep their heads down long enough for a critical mass to be reached by the power structure in hollowing out the back-office guts of democratic governance.

        1. Ishmael

          Fascism was a counter revolution to Bolshevikism. The upper and upper-middle class was scared to death of what happen in Russia under Bolshevikism. They united with the military looking for someone to counter Bolshevikism and settled on Hitler and the Nazi’s. The military thought they control him but they ended up being wrong.

          You have to understand that after WW1 the allies kept a sea blockade on Germany and that resulted in over a million Germans starving to death. Then came depression followed by hyperinflation. Then there was the fear of Bolsheviks. The Nazi’s showed up and things started working again. The Bolsheviks were driven from the street. The Nazi’s started borrowing tons of money (yes they issued bonds) and started work programs. The economy started recovering. People had work and food and soon the Nazi’s were furnishing free health care. After you had gone through hell this was heaven.

        2. MathandPhysics

          It’s strange but 9/11 and the 3 steel frame buildings collapse into dust in few seconds isn’t recognized by the masses as false flag Hitler style, then what do you expect ? Massmedia did what it could to confuse them all, only math and physics can help you to see the truth.

        3. Jim

          It would, indeed, be an extremely worthwhile discussion to analyze how freely fascism developed in Italy and Germany.

          As a first step in that directkion,Washunate, you might take a look at studies like “Elections, Parties, and Political Traditions: Social Foundatons of German parties and party systems.

          In the July 1932 elections the SPD (Socialist Party) received 21.6 percent of the vote and was replaced by the NSDAP (Nazi party) as the countries largest political party (with 37.3% of the vote). with the KPD (the communists) capturing14.5%of the vote.

          It was at that time that the Nazi party become a true “people’s party” with a support base that was more equally distributed among social and demographic categories than any other major party of the Weimar republic.

          1. washunate

            Given the general trajectory of our system, I anticipate we’ll have future topics to continue to explore that.

  8. Tone

    The thing that troubles me most is that there are no leaders like Roosevelt or Wallace today. Where are the POPULAR politicians (Roosevelt was elected 4 times!) calling it like it is and publicly refuting conservative/fascist dogma? Sanders? Maybe. But he’s trailing Clinton and certainly he’s not a force in the Democratic party like Roosevelt was. At least not yet.

    I agree with the “quiet coup” assessment, and I keep waiting for the next Roosevelt, the next Lincoln, the next Founding Father, to appear on the political stage and fight the battle against corporatist/fascist forces. Sadly, it hasn’t happened yet.

    1. Masonboro

      Unfortunately the next Founding Father to appear (or has appeared) will be John Jay (first Chief Justice among other roles) who was quoted as having said :

      “Those who own America should govern it”


    2. TarheelDem

      Hank Paulson and George W. Bush prevented the situation in 2008 from forcing a Rooseveltian Congress. And the Congress went along with them. Then it was so easy for the do-nothings to argue for less and continue the austerity. And as in Roosevelt’s era, racism helped prevent full change, which allowed the post-war rollback.

    3. participant-observer-observed

      Even among the corporatists in govt or business, there are no distinctive shining exemplars of leadership or competence !

    4. Massinissa

      Founding fathers?

      Who do you think put the basis of rule by the rich into practice in the first place? A series of ‘popular movements’ like Shays Rebellion was what forced the founding fathers to make voting rights not dependent on owning land, not because the Founding Fathers were really nice people who luvved ‘Democracy’.

  9. Masonboro

    “on the rise” or firmly entrenched ? We already have Homeland Security, Justice Thomas, Donald Trump ,Ted Cruz, and the Koch Brothers (who are running ads in NC extolling recently passed changes in the tax code to continue shifting from income to consumption taxes). What is missing?


    1. susan the other

      I always think of the Kochs when the word fascist is used. They are ostensibly great environmentalists. Never mind that they operate some of the filthiest industries on the planet. They sponsor NOVA; one brother is a raving environmentalist (that’s fine with me) and the other two tone it down. But their brand of conservative politix is as pointless as it is ignorant. That’s an interesting topic – the hypocrisy of rich corporatist environmentalists. They are living a contradiction that will tear them apart. But at least they are agonizing over the problem.

  10. lou strong

    Maybe my English is too bad, but it seems there’s a misunderstanding about “corporatism” meaning, which is unfortunately reflected, as it seems again, in some American dictionaries. Corporation in Italian has approximately the meaning of guild and has nothing to do with big enterprises . So, while there is no doubt that fascists took power in Italy as the armed wing of big capital, big finance and big landholders against the unrests of the low classes, the idea of corporatist state for them meant the refusal of the principle of class war in favor of the principle of class (guilds, “corporations” :both for employers and employees/trade unions) collaboration , and all of them as subservients to the superior interest of the state.Fascism agenda wasn’t primarily economic.There wasn’t either a specific agenda : until ’29 the regime acted as deeply “neoliberal” with privatizations, deflationary policies to fix a strong lira smashing labor rights and purchase power etc etc , after the crisis it nationalized the failed enterprises and introduced some welfare state elements.So at least the regime got the property of the failed banks/enterprises, much unlike current situation , where we see the mere socialization of losses and privatization of profits .

    1. Massinissa

      You are correct, I have read this before.

      But English speakers either dont know or dont care. Ive seen people talk about “Mussolini Corporatism” like this for what, five years, and they never get corrected.

      I dont think theres anything we can do to get people to stop using that term as if it means what they think it means.

      1. visitor

        Massinissa and lou strong are correct — corporatism in Mussolini’s Italy meant structuring the State and the legislative body around organizations representing specific professional or economic sectors.

        By the way: we should not forget another fascist State, Portugal, which during the entire Salazar regime officially defined itself as a “corporatist republic”.

      2. Barmitt O'Bamney

        You can direct them to the Wikipedia entry for corporatism, which is extensive, or to Michael Lind’s 2014 article on the multiple historical meanings and recent misuse of this term. But the term has currency and traction today for reason neither article quite puts a finger on. Under Italian Fascism, the traditional meanings of corporative representation and bargaining were invoked but fused tightly under the auspices -or control- of the nation state, which of course was a single party state. The theoretical representativeness of corporatism was as a facade for political control of all institutions of Italian life by the Fascist Party. In the present time, with unions and guilds a fading memory, regions homogenized and classes atomized, with churches that are little more than money making enterprises as transparent as any multilevel marketing scheme, there are few non-government institutions in western life with any weight besides for-profit corporations. When people struggle to describe what seems wrong to them with our political life, the subservience of our government – and therefore everything else – to profit seeking corporations, they need a term that reflects neatly what has happened and where we are. Democracy of course is defunct both as a term and in reality. We don’t have a state of decayed democracy (passive, negative), we have a state of corporate diktat (active, positive). “Corporatism” is an attractive and convenient verbal handle for the masses to latch onto, no matter how much this disappoints the learned. In English, when enough people “misuse” a term for a sufficiently long time, what happens is that the OED adds a new sub-entry for it reflecting its current usage.

        1. nobody

          Guido Giacomo Preparata has also made the point:

          L.S.: What do we see actually in the United States and elsewhere in the West, given the popular labeling these days: a predator Capitalism, some sort of Socialism, or rather Corporatism/Fascism? In other words, are Mussolini’s words of interest here:

          „Fascism ought more properly be called corporatism because it is the perfect merger of power between the corporation and the state.“

          G.P.: None of these things. Fascism’s corporativismo was something altogether different —the corporazioni were State-mandated guilds; it’s another story, entirely. What we have in the US, instead, is a system governed by an ever more oligarchically-diseased, and outwardly aggressive, bureau-technocracy, which, internally, presides over a gradual privatization of public-functions, a sweeping commercialization of all spiritual endeavors (higher learning and the arts), and a virtual monopolization (corporatization) of all economic activity. The combined impact of this insectifying / privatizing / monopolizing devolution has so indentured and enfeebled the nation’s middle-class as to have transformed American society into a pervasively barbarized termitary with the highest crime, brutality, and incarceration rates of the post-industrialized world.

          One of the prominent cultural (viz. devotional) derivatives of such a disquieting process is a now ominous and televised worship of violence in all its forms —e.g., from the grotesque realm of wrestling and the downright savagery of UFC, to slasher/dismemberment horror (the Saw saga), an avalanche of porn of the most degrading forms channeled inter alia by GM and AT&T, and the glorification of industrialized holocaust as well as a crass pulp-mythologizing of ancient Sparta or Imperial Rome cut for semi-illiterate audiences. In its main outlines, America’s present socio-economic and cultural model is to be analyzed in depth so as to prevent its adoption by, and diffusion to, the rest of the world.

          L.S.: Why do you think the US and the West are on this path?

          G.P.: It’s a million dollar question – you are asking me about cosmic evolution. The superficial answer is that ten years after the demise of the Soviet Union and in the face of a major geopolitical gridlock, the usual Anglo-American strategic centrals needed a jolt to re-deploy, re-tune, re-launch in grand style the conquest of the world, and what more obvious gambit than planting the red-white-and-blue banner smack into the omphalós of the landmass itself, Afghanistan? I mean, it’s Kipling’s Great Game all over again.

          The deeper, cosmic answer is that I do not know. All I know is that after 9/11, psychically speaking, I have witnessed a dramatic transformation. True, the seeds were there, had one looked more carefully, but the shift was nonetheless astounding, especially to my (more objective) outsider’s eyes. It really made me feel as though I were in Ionesco’s play Rhinocéros: all of sudden, everybody around me began to grow a horn on the snout. But maybe the horn had been there all along; or maybe it was I who then morphed into a rhino…

  11. Les Swift

    Corporatism is indeed an old idea, feudalism re-branded as “fascism.” After Hitler ruined the term, fascism remained, but underground, until it reemerged in the 1960s as what George Ball termed the “world company,” which is better known as the system of global corporations. The same general idea, but under a new marketing slogan. Today we have globalization, the raft of “trade” treaties, the Austrian/Libertarian ideology, all of which ultimately push the world toward yet another replay of feudalism. The box says “new and improved,” but inside it’s the same old crap.

  12. Jess

    Unfortunately, Hartmann’s solution for this and other socio-economic ills is to vote for Democrats. He has Bernie on his show every Friday but mark my words, if Bernie wins the popular vote but the Dem party apparatchnik super-delegates steal the nomination for Hillary, good ‘ol Thom will be out there urging everyone to vote for the Hildabeast.

      1. participant-observer-observed

        Yet neither mention the prospect of Bernie supporters Not voting Dem. Somebody somewhere must be running the numbers. Dems function better for socialists in opposition, that is what 8 years of Obama has shown.

        1. Massinissa

          And 8 years of Bush.

          I miss those days, you know? Back when we had a president that didnt get accused of being a gay muslim communist by the right every day. Worked out so much better for the left.

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Bernie should read the writing (super-delegate count), take stock of his career and his age, and go full bore opposing the machine. The best legacy he could leave would be well and truly calling a spade a spade once and for all, loud, clear, and unrestrained. Like most Dems he still thinks politics is some kind of gentleman’s game, only to be played under polite rules of engagement. But “polite” didn’t work in the 70’s when we stopped a war, threw a crook president out, and completely changed the society. Sometime prior to Hilary’s WW III we need a very, very different answer and we’re not going to get it with niceties.

    1. Tom Allen

      Hartmann has said as much on his show. Here, for example. He’s a big Hillary fan — “I love Hillary. I think Hillary Clinton would make a great president.” — though he likes Bernie too. Like a lot of career progressives, he’s straddling the fence during the primary and concentrating his attacks solely on the Republicans.

  13. tim s

    How can someone write such a damning piece, and hit the mark so well, and then seemingly obliviously screw up the conclusion stating that IT’S THE REPUBLICANS???

    If it is deliberate obfuscation in trying to paint the DEMS as the good guys, he is dangerously close to exposing too much of the dark side with his efforts.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Hartmann has long been a temporizer who can’t face the Democrats’ collusion in our long slide into authoritarianism. I actually wrote to him about it years ago, when he sounded approachable; no response. With a TV show, he now has a big stake in staying in line.

      He’s hardly the only one who can make the case but never quite grasp his own argument.

      1. tim s

        Well, I’ll give him credit for the article up to that point. Perhaps the last bit was thrown in just to appease/fool the masters.

  14. kevinearick

    Clone Dreams

    “The more people that transact with one another, the greater the division of labour and knowledge, the greater the ability to develop comparative advantage and the greater the productivity gains.”

    What could possibly go wrong?

    In any empire, virtual or otherwise, you are always surrounded by communist thieves that think they are going to control your output with a competitive advantage illusion, which conveniently ignores opportunity cost. Government is just a derivative piece of paper, the latest fashion for communists, all assuming that the planet is here for their convenience, to exploit. Well, the critters have blown right through 45/5000/.75, and Canada was supposed to be the proving ground for the Silicon Valley Method. Now what?

    “Don’t panic : world trade is down….Don’t bet against the Fed….BTFD.” Expect something other than demographic variability, financial implosion, and war.

    The communists are always running head first over the cliff, expecting you to follow. Labor has no use for cars that determine when, where and how you will travel, and the communists can’t fix anything, because the ‘fix’ is already inside, embedded as a feature. America is just the latest communist gang believing it has commandeered the steamroller, rolling over other communist gangs.

    The Bear isn’t coming down from the North, China isn’t selling Treasuries, and families are not moving away from the city by accident. Only the latest and greatest, new-world-order communists, replacing themselves with computers, are surprised that technology is always the solution for the problem, technology. Facebook, LinkedIn and Google are only the future for communists, which is always the same, a dead end, with a different name.

    Remember that Honda of mine? I told the head communist thief not to touch that car while I was gone, told his fellow thieves and their dependents that I told him so, and even gave him the advantage of telling him what the problem was. How many hours do you suppose the fools spent trying to control that car, and my wife with it?

    I don’t care whether the communists on the other side of the hill or the communists on this side of the hill think they are going to control Grace, and through her my wife, and through her me. And there are all kinds of communist groups using pieces of my work to advance their AI weapons development, on the assumption that my work will not find itself in the end. Grace will decide whether she wants to be an individual or a communist.

    The only way the communists can predict and control the future is to control children. That’s what financialization is all about. And all communism can do is train automatons to follow each other, which is a problem-solution addressed by the planet every three generations. You don’t have to do anything for communism to collapse, but get out of the way.

    Technology is just a temporary tool, discarded by labor for the communists to steal, and stealing a hammer doesn’t make anyone a carpenter, much less a King, which is why the Queen always walks through the wreckage, to a worthless throne. The story of Jesus was in fact the story of a king, who had no use for a worldly kingdom, other than as a counterweight, always surrounded by communists, like pigs at a trough. Jesus was no more and no less a child of God than you are.

    Labor loses every battle because it doesn’t participate, leaving the communists to label each other as labour and knowledge. And if you look, you will see that all their knowledge is real estate inflation, baked into everything, with oil as grease. The name, Robert Reich, didn’t give you a hint; of course he knew all along, and like a good communist, changes sides on a regular basis.

    You can’t pick your parents or your children, or make choices for them, but you can love them without pissing your life away. Navy hasn’t disappeared just because the US Navy chose to be a sunk cost, at the beck and call of Wall Street, trying to defend the status quo of communism, for communists on the other side of the pond. A marine is not always a Marine, and a flattop can be turned on a dime.

    “The Muses doe attend upon your Throne, With all the Artists at your becke and call…”

    If you want to show up at WWIII with a communist and a dc computer as a weapon, that’s your business, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so. Labor can mobilize far quicker than the communists can imagine, which isn’t saying much. Be about your business until the laws of physics have been overthrown, and that hasn’t happened yet.

    You can count on communists to be at an intersection, creating a traffic jam, building a bigger toll booth, and voting for more of the same, thinking that they are taking advantage of each other, doing the wrong thing at the wrong time at the wrong place. Any intersection of false assumptions will do.

  15. alex morfesis

    let the merry breezes blow synthetic winds…

    his name was hanz…or so I was told…we had acquired a lease from the NYC HPD from a parking lot/marina that was at the very north edge of Harlem River Drive at Dyckman (pronounced dikeman)….there is a school there now…he “came” with the lease…years later I would find out he was working with Carlos Lehder and helping arrange for cash payments to conveniently amnesiastic police officers who used the hardly functioning marina to go fishing…in the east river & the hudson…go figure…the more I tried to get rid of him…the more “problems” occurred…my father begged me stop poking around and just “leave it alone”…I don’t think he ever really knew what “hanz” was doing or who he was…oh well…might explain how we lost a billion dollars in real estate (ok…it was not worth a billion back then…but it had not debt other than real estate taxes…it was not lost for simply economic reasons)

    we as a nation were “convinced” to allow 50 thousand former nazis to enter this country after ww2…under the foolish notion that “the russians” (who have never killed too many americans if my history serves me right) were a “new danger” and only the folks who LO$T to the russians had the knowledge needed to save us from those “evil communists”…(evil communists who helped the Koch Family make their financial start…details details…)

    those nazis, from my research have probably grown to a force of about 250 thousand who are the basic clowns (MIC…see you real soon…KEY…why, because we like you…) Ike was talking about in January of 1961…

    but…as Ike mentioned when talking about the Koch dad and his John Birch nonsense…they are small and they are stupid…

    the use of “coup” in the context of some of the strange happenings in our history these last 55 years is probably not a reasonable term…

    I would say we have had “coupettes” where certain groups threatened MAD if they did not get their way or were not left alone…and then those wimps in power decided…better you than me…and turned a blind eye for 30 pieces of silver…coincidence and causality sometimes are not just mathematical anomalies…

    there is no need to “take back” our country…it is ours and has always been ours…the reason “the clowns that be” worry so much is that for all the use of bernaze sause…they can hardly fake half the population into showing up to vote on “one of the chosen ones”…and that 50% that are not fully mesmerized are the fear factor for the clowns that be…

    remember…try as “they” might…can “they” keep you watching the same tv show for ever…or get you to buy their useless “branded” product without coupons or advertising…

    it is not as bad or scary as they would like you to believe…they would not be working this hard if they were comfortable in their socks…they do not sleep well at night…you are the “zombie apocalypse” they are afraid off…

    pass the popcorn please…

    and may our freedom

    “bloom again” at “the end of the century”

    (or sooner…)

    happy trails…

  16. Les Swift

    Huh? Many of the things you brand as “communist” existed long before Communism was created. To blame it all on “communists” is a serious error which blinds you to much older evils, some of which Communism was at least nominally intended to correct. It is important to recognize that the “Red scares” have been used by forces in the West to bolster their own power. One can both disagree with Communism and disagree with the “Red menace” propaganda at the same time. The people who scare you with the threat of Communism are more of a threat than the Communists themselves.

  17. Mark Gisleson

    Use “Google News” to search for news stories. The NYTimes article has cycled off the top matches, but most of the matches are to coverage of the NYTimes article.

  18. Jim

    When talking about the rise of fascism(especially if the US experiences another economic/financial meltdown in the next few years) it is so important to get the historical context as accurate as possible.

    Mussolini began his political career as an exponent of a different type of socialism. One of his early followers was Antonio Gramsci and they both deplored the passivity of orthodox Marxists.

    Mussolini was attracted to the theoretical framework of Sorel to offset traditional left passivity and the syndicalist focus on the importance of human will. He founded a journal in 1913 called Utopia and called for a revision of socialism in which he began referring to “the people” and not the proletariat, as well as stressing the importance of the nation. He attempted to bring nationalist and syndicalist streams of thought together.

    After World War I Mussolini helped found a new political movement in Italy which brought together both nationalist and socialist themes. Its first program was anticapitalist, antimonarchical and called for an 8 hour day, minimum wages, the participation of workers’ representatives in industrial management and a large progressive tax on capital.

    By the early 1920s the Fasci of Mussolini gained a powerful base of support in rural Italian areas, advocating of program of peasant proprtietorship rather than endorsing the calls for the nationalization of property of the orthodox left.

    By this time fascism presented itself as an opponent of “Bolshevism” and a guardian of private property while emphasizing the collective good and criticizing absentee landlords and “exploitative capitalists”

    For an excellent discussion of the development of these ideas as well as the concrete steps toward corporatism that took place after 1922 see Sheri Berman “The Primacy of Politics”

    A key point to keep in mind was that the fascism that eventually developed in Italy was willing to assert unconditionally the power of the state over the market.

  19. participant-observer-observed

    Relevant postbocer at Counterpunch too:

    Not everybody just “wants what we have,” as the common view here has it. In fact, from Bolivia, where the average person consumes perhaps 1/20th the total resources of her analogue in the US, comes the old-new idea of buen vivir (the good life): a life in which the health of your human community and its surrounding ecosystem are more important than the amount of money you make or things you own.

  20. Jacob

    “In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word fascist’—the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word.”

    An Italian Jew by the name of Enrico Rocca is cited in “Roots of Hate: Anti-Semitism in Europe Before the Holocaust” as the founder of Roman fascism. This name is completely unknown in the U.S. A large number of Italian Jews were founders and members of the Italian fascist party prior to 1938 when anti-Semitism became official. “Among Mussolini’s earliest financial backers were three Jews: Giuseppe Toeplitz of the Banca Commerciale Italiana, Elio Jona [?], and the industrialist Gino Olivetti. . . .” The banker Toeplitz was the main financier behind Mussolini’s blackshirts, which served as union busters for big business and land owners (also see “Fascism and Big Business” by Daniel Guerin). Undermining organized labor in order to drive down wages was a central aim of fascism in Italy and later under Hitler in Germany. In 1933, roughly ten percent of Italian Jews were members of the fascist party. These facts are important to know because moderns are led to believe that fascism is inherently anti-semitic, but that wasn’t the case in the early years of fascism in Italy, where it was founded.

  21. Jim

    It is also important to keep in mind, as Sheri Berman has argued, that social democracy, the fascism of Mussolini and National Socialism in Germany agree on a set of key assumptions.

    1. All assume the primary importance of politics and cross-class cooperation.
    Edward Bermstein at the turn of the 20th century began attacking the main pillars of orthodox Marxism, historical materialism and class struggle while arguing for an alternative vision based on state control of markets–social democracy became the complete severing of socialism from Marxism.

    2. For these same Social Democrats the primacy of the political meant using the democratic state to institutionalize policies and protect society from capitalism.

    3. For fascists and national socialists using a tyrannical state to control markets was supposedly necessary–but, of course, this postion deteriorated into moves to ensure the hegemony of the modern State.

    But is it the case, in 2015, taken the power of our contemporary Surveillance regime, that a democratic state still exists?

    Do contemporary democratic socialists first have to first focus on how to restore democracy in the U.S. rather than assuming that the contemporary political structure just needs the right leadership–someone like Bernie Sanders–and the right credit policy– such as MMT?

  22. hemeantwell

    Hartmann draws from Mussolini the idea that the fascist state prioritizes and organizes corporate interests, but misses what Mussolini left out of his harmonistic definition, which was that in both Germany and Italy organized terror was to be used to destroy opposition to corporate interests. The systematic use of terror had major implications for the way the internal politics of the fascist state developed, for the weight given in its organizational structure and tactical options to the elimination of internal enemies. Along with this, both political orders were infused with a leadership ethos that, particularly in Nazi Germany, could attain strikingly absolute forms, demanding absolute obedience and sacrifice. This encouraged a strong tendency to subordinate any institution that might serve as a point of coalescence to interests opposed to the regime. The Fuhrer’s picture had to be both on your wall and in your heart.

    Hartmann misses this political knife edge of fascism and the leadership fascination that supports it. It is not wildly speculative to say that this is largely because the domestic enemies against which it was directed, primarily leftist trade unions, are not a threat in the US. No such organizations need to be wrecked, no such memberships need to be decimated, imprisoned, and dispersed. It is simply astonishing that Hartmann says nothing specifically about labor organizations as the prime instigating target of both fascists and the corporations who supported them. In this respect his analysis unwittingly incorporates the ideological suppression of the labor movement that mirrored the fascist onslaught.

    It is also telling that although Hartmann references Wallace and Roosevelt he fails to note that they themselves have also been accused of corporatism, albeit one that involved the imposition of a Keynesian, welfarist orientation to capitalist interests that were, at least in some quarters, inclined to “liquidate, liquidate” their way into a revolution against themselves. Instead, he quotes Wallace and Roosevelt as they render fascism as a kind of power-hungry, antidemocratic urge on the part of some “royalists,” thereby blurring out how the central issue was how to manage labor. He misses that Roosevelt offered the state as an organizer of conflict between capital and labor within a framework in which labor was guaranteed bargaining status. Roosevelt was thereby moved to attack capitalists who wanted to deny labor that status and risk both devastating hardship and insurrection. Hartmann falls for Roosevelt’s broad democratic rhetoric against them, more exhortation than analysis, and so he himself ends up talking ethereally of threats to “freedom” and “American institutions.”

    We’re not living under fascism and Hartmann, whose criticism is often very useful, is wrong in trying to use the term as a rallying orientation. I agree that the social order is corporatist, but its maintenance has not required the kind of direct oppression + totalitarian/personalized leadership cult that is a marker of fascism. Concepts the Frankfurt School have used such as “total administration” and the like are perhaps too anodyne, not to mention absolute in their own way, but they fit better with a situation in which explicit violence does not have to be generalized.

    Robert Paxton’s “The Anatomy of Fascism” is a useful backgrounder on this.

  23. Jim

    Heamtwell stated directly above that ” We’re not living under fascism…”

    Some concepts/ questions which may begin to get at our potential propensity for moving in that direction might include the following:

    Paxton, mentioned by Heamtwell above, isolated five stages of fascism.
    (1) the initial creation of fascist movements
    (2) their rooting as parties in a political system
    (3) the acquisition of power
    (4) the exercise of power
    (5) their radicalization or entropy

    Paxton has argued that Fascism can appear where democracy is sufficiently implanted to have aroused disillusion–a society must have known political liberty.

    In regards to Paxtons first 2 stages and our situation in the US.

    Are political fascists becoming rooted in political parties that represent major interests and feelings and wield major influence on our political scene?

    Is our constitutional system in a state of blockage increasingly insoluble by existing authorities?

    Is rapid political mobilization taking place in our society which threatens to escape the control of traditional elites to the point where they would be tempted to look for tough helpers in order to stay in charge?

    1. hemeantwell

      Is rapid political mobilization taking place in our society which threatens to escape the control of traditional elites to the point where they would be tempted to look for tough helpers in order to stay in charge?

      I think that’s the primary question, and it helps to define what we’re facing with the current party system.

      It is apparent that both corporate parties are increasingly incapable of properly deflecting and channeling the interests of the electorate. Whether you think of 2007-08 as simply another business cycle, one that was exacerbated by toxic assets, a product of increasing income and wealth disparity, etc. it seems that portions of the electorate have been shocked out of their confidence in the system and the steering capacity of economic and political elites. This might lead the parties, under the pressure of events, to might reformulate themselves as the political cover of a “government of national unity” that, depending on the extremity of the next downturn, impose a “solidarity from above,” blocking the development of popular organizations in a variety of ways. I certainly see this as possible. But treating the parties, or the system itself, as fascist at this point in time is not only not helpful, it is fundamentally disorienting.

  24. Ron

    F* is an ugly word as is all its close relatives, but your definitions are very interesting, and so maybe I’ve learned some things by reading them. However; by what contrivance did you manage to get any of these pages past the f* who own the internet? It seems I must suspend my disbelief to believe, Freunde von Grund

  25. todde

    I disagree.

    In Fascism, corporations were subservient to the State. What we have is the State subservient to Corporations.

    Also Italian corporatism was more than just business, as a.corporation in Italy can have.non business functions.

  26. tommy strange

    Great post and great comments. Though I wonder why no one has brought up the only way to stop fascism. A militant class based libertarian left. Outside of the ballot box. If a liberal party still ‘exists’ they will then at least respond to the larger non party real left, just to nullify it’s demands. Fascism has never been defeated by the ballot, only by a militant anarchist/socialist left. Or at the least, that ‘left’ fought back. Liberals rarely have fought back, and most often conceded. How do you do form such? Urban face to face organizing. With direct action and occupation and even organization towards workers’ control of manufacturing.

    1. Ishmael

      tommy -Fascism has never been defeated by the ballot, only by a militant anarchist/socialist left.

      I believe you should go re-look at history. Fascism has always defeated socialist left. Three examples — Italy, Germany and Argentina. I welcome an example other wise and if it did how did it end.

      1. visitor

        The paramount example is of course Spain, where all left-wing movements (communists, trotskists, anarchists, socialists) were ultimately defeated by fascists despite ferocious fighting.

  27. Synoia

    Mussolini-Style Corporatism, aka Fascism, on the Rise Well Established in the US

    Set to Dominate World after TPP, TTIP and TISA ratified.

  28. Keynesian

    Much of Robert Paxton’s work has focused on models and definition of fascism.

    In his 1998 paper “The Five Stages of Fascism”, he suggests that fascism cannot be defined solely by its ideology, since fascism is a complex political phenomenon rather than a relatively coherent body of doctrine like communism or socialism. Instead, he focuses on fascism’s political context and functional development. The article identifies five paradigmatic stages of a fascist movement, although he notes that only Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy have progressed through all five:

    1.Intellectual exploration, where disillusionment with popular democracy manifests itself in discussions of lost national vigor
    2.Rooting, where a fascist movement, aided by political deadlock and polarization, becomes a player on the national stage
    3.Arrival to power, where conservatives seeking to control rising leftist opposition invite the movement to share power
    4.Exercise of power, where the movement and its charismatic leader control the state in balance with state institutions such as the police and traditional elites such as the clergy and business magnates.
    5.Radicalization or entropy, where the state either becomes increasingly radical, as did Nazi Germany, or slips into traditional authoritarian rule, as did Fascist Italy.[4]

    In his 2004 book The Anatomy of Fascism, Paxton refines his five-stage model and puts forward the following definition for fascism:

    [quote]Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.[5][/quote]

    Here is a more contemporary analysis of politics in America using Paxton’s model.

    [quote]Fascist America: Are We There Yet?
    Friday, August 07, 2009 — by Sara

    In the second stage, fascist movements take root, turn into real political parties, and seize their seat at the table of power. Interestingly, in every case Paxton cites, the political base came from the rural, less-educated parts of the country; and almost all of them came to power very specifically by offering themselves as informal goon squads organized to intimidate farmworkers on behalf of the large landowners. The KKK disenfranchised black sharecroppers and set itself up as the enforcement wing of Jim Crow. The Italian Squadristi and the German Brownshirts made their bones breaking up farmers’ strikes. And these days, GOP-sanctioned anti-immigrant groups make life hell for Hispanic agricultural workers in the US. As violence against random Hispanics (citizens and otherwise) increases, the right-wing goon squads are getting basic training that, if the pattern holds, they may eventually use to intimidate the rest of us.

    Paxton wrote that succeeding at the second stage “depends on certain relatively precise conditions: the weakness of a liberal state, whose inadequacies condemn the nation to disorder, decline, or humiliation; and political deadlock because the Right, the heir to power but unable to continue to wield it alone, refuses to accept a growing Left as a legitimate governing partner.” He further noted that Hitler and Mussolini both took power under these same circumstances: “deadlock of constitutional government (produced in part by the polarization that the fascists abetted); conservative leaders who felt threatened by the loss of their capacity to keep the population under control at a moment of massive popular mobilization; an advancing Left; and conservative leaders who refused to work with that Left and who felt unable to continue to govern against the Left without further reinforcement.”

    And more ominously: “The most important variables…are the conservative elites’ willingness to work with the fascists (along with a reciprocal flexibility on the part of the fascist leaders) and the depth of the crisis that induces them to cooperate.”[/quote]

  29. hermes

    I think there is something missing from this analysis, having to do with the definition of corporatism itself. I think our contemporary definition of corporatism is rooted in neoliberalism and is actually a far cry from the definition used by the Fascists in forming the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Because to them corporatism wasn’t simply business interests (which is how we know it today), but (from Wikipedia):

    ‘[was] the sociopolitical organization of a society by major interest groups, or corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labour, military, patronage, or scientific affiliations, on the basis of common interests. It is theoretically based on the interpretation of a community as an organic body. The term corporatism is based on the Latin root word “corpus” (plural – “corpora”) meaning “body”.’

    In other words, corporatism was not only made up of business interests, but all major (and competing) interests within society.

    This is not to downplay the importance and absolute seriousness of confronting the increasing absolutism of ruling business interests. It is also not to downplay the historical truth of who ultimately held power in Fascist Italy. But I think it is also important to place Fascism in it’s own historical context, and not try to blur historical lines where doing so may be misleading. When Fascists spoke of corporatism they had something else in mind, and it does not help us to blur the distinction.

    1. hemeantwell

      Good point, and it raises this question: how can institutional organicity, with its ideological aura of community, partnership, and good old Volkishness, develop when we’re talking about corporations that are multinational in scope as well as financialized and thereby even more rootless and and community indifferent? How can organicity develop in the sort of institutional setup foreshadowed by the TPP?

  30. sd

    My impression is that today Corporatism more closely represents the interests of multinational corporations and the people who hold executive leadership positions within those companies. What they have in common is a listing on NYSE.

  31. Oregoncharles

    Anyone heard from Naomi Wolf lately? She was the most prominent author calling out fascism during the Bush administration, got wide coverage at least on the left. She re-emerged during the Occupy movement, for a little while.

    I ask that because, at the time, she said she’d go silent if it looked like people like her (that is, writers/journalists) were being persecuted. Haven’t heard from her, at least on this topic, since Obama started prosecuting whistleblowers. Didn’t see a farewell, either.

    And that leads to a personal question: how safe are our bloggers feeling? Arguably, this site is an exercise in personal courage. Any ugly straws in the wind?

  32. Carlos

    As much as I would like to stick a hugely unpopular ancient label like ‘fascism’ or ‘feudalism’ on our modern day style of governance. The anti-democratic mish mash of neoliberal economics, corporatism and financial globalisation is quite a different beast.

    I shall call it Arseholerism for want of a suitable derogatory ‘ism’. Definition: The practice of arseholery by a bunch of arseholes. It’s entirely accurate, memorable and flexible enough to meet everyone’s needs.

    E.g. Those “Koch brothers were a bunch of despicable arseholes”, “Obama is such an arsehole”, the CIA have been up to a bit of arseholery and Goldman Sachs have arseholed everyone …. again.

    1. sillybill


      Trying to argue to normal everyday people that we are ‘descending into facism’ is a tough chore, and probably impossible – look at all the argument over semantics and history just on this post.
      It is however, very easy to highlite the absolute assholery going on at every level of society, and it’s easy to show who the head assholes are and how they are subverting our democratic institutions.
      Religous assholes, warmongering assholes, racist assholes, moneygrubbing assholes, the list goes on.
      And ‘Fuck the assholes!’ fits nicely on a bumper sticker, but might be misinterpreted. Perhaps ‘Fight assholery’ would be better.
      I guess I better get started on the manifesto to fight world arseholery. Thanks Carlos.

  33. JoeK

    I have been hoping, rather naively–obviously–that it might start plateauing some time soon, maybe even before we caroom into a triple-whammy global catastrophe. I guess not.

  34. Tyler

    “With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

    I instantly thought of the poor saps who vote Republican.

  35. Wayne Gersen

    The privatization of public services, which comes from the notions that we should “run government like a business” and “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem”, is leading to a situation where the privately appointed boards of billionaires who oversee for-profit businesses are displacing publicly elected boards who formerly oversaw schools, libraries, municipal facilities, etc. We have only ourselves to blame for this since we don’t want to see our taxes increase for any reason.

  36. Lee Baker

    Yves’ emphasis on the correct definition and some interesting history of fascism is ‘must reading.’
    I loved the article and have little to add except that the analysis of the media take-over by the wealthy was analyzed 27 years ago by Herman and Chomsky in their “Manufacturing Consent.” It’s a long book requiring lots of energy to get through. But its points apply today. So I found a nice summary of its main points on The Real News ( The link take you to an interview with Edward Herman in 2013. He was a professor of economics at the Wharton School.

  37. barrisj

    A recent book attempting to answer the question of “persuasion” or “coercion” as regards the near-complete absence of opposition to the corporatist stranglehold that has characterised American life through the latter half of the last century and continues unabated today is Steve Fraser’s “Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power”, which is discussed in a recent issue of the NYRB by reviewer David Bromwich. Fraser postulates that “choice”, or “market choice” is but an popular avatar for “freedom”, that sacred tenet of American society, and that the ascension of “choice” into “…the principal quasi-moral value of American society today” is a product of subtle and not-so subtle propaganda by the banking, credit, and financial institutions of the US. Fraser contrasts where America is today with where it was during the first “Gilded Age”, and one of the most salient differences was that in the late 1800s and early 1900s there existed the presence of a militant working or “proletariat” class, who in fact KNEW they were working-class, and KNEW who the enemy were: the “Bosses”. Trade unionism and worker solidarity was but a natural response to the excesses of robber capitalism, and led over time into a far more equal sharing of the economic pie than prevails today. However, over the last several decades, people have been more or less “persuaded” that “we are all middle-class”, and that “working class” has become synomous with low-skill, unskilled labour, mainly the province of ethnic and racial minorities. Better to identify oneself with the upper, moneyed classes as “aspirational models”, than to frankly admit that to enter the top 10th or even 20th percentile of acquired wealth is well beyond them. As Fraser notes, “…we can no longer imagine a way of life and labor at odds with capitalism”. Both by deliberately contrived illusion (and self-delusion) and the massive influence of advertising media guided by the principal vested interests, Americans today are and remain prey to the malign forces that continue unimpeded – neither by legal constraints, nor moral imperatives, nor any form of countervailing opposition – to practice rent-seeking and wealth extraction directed toward the masses. Whether one wishes to call this phenomenology “American-style fascism”, or “Mussolini corporatism”, the signal identifying aspect is mass acquiescence to and fatalism of the public that this indeed is the established order and that this is their collective fate in a deterministic universe, “freedom” or “choice” notwithstanding.

  38. Bern

    fascism has at its core/corps always been about wingtips, not jackboots…

    no bread; these days only circuses…

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