I’ve written about Fascism and Nazis a lot on this here blog through the years (now over a decade) and never in my life, at least since the darkest Nixon years, has the subject been so damned timely. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans are (correctly) called out as semi-fascists by President Biden while Vladimir Putin in Russia makes the claim that Ukrainians are fascists, after Poots invades the peaceful European country in veritable Hitleresque-style. In America, Nazis and Fascists are without question derided as lunatics and losers, most hilariously depicted by Hollywood directors, with financing from international Jewish bankers I hear, such as Charlie Chaplin’s first talkie, The Great Dictator (1940) the great director (and proud WWII veteran) Mel Brooks in the Producers (1967) or director John Landis in the great comedy The Blues Brothers (1980) where “Springtime for Hitler” and “I hate Illinois Nazis” were funny jokes because fascists usually are a joke. Of course, the best way to attack a hateful ideology is with derision and satire and the cultural war against the Nazis was ultimately won by comedians and humorists while the actual war was won by our hardcore Allied killers, some no less hateful than the Nazis to be honest, but they were on our side.
To call someone a “Fascist” isn’t all that funny, though, but compared to the flamboyant and fabulous Nazis, let’s all admit that Mussolini was hilarious, especially when he was swinging upside down from a gas station next to his mistress. And of course, Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain was funny because he’s STILL dead. But the prospect of Fascism and Nazism is as serious as a heart attack, and when Hitler insisted that he heard the insults and the mean barbs, they really got to him, so Hitler then bragged, “who’s laughing now?” as he dreamed of sending six million Jewish people to the gas chambers:
At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense I tell you that the National Socialist movement will go on for 1,000 years. Don’t forget how people laughed at me 15 years ago when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power.
To be a Fascist is a particular thing, a political movement begun by Mussolini in Italy in 1919, admired and improved upon by Hitler in Germany and Franco in Spain and that ideology isn’t quite (yet) what Don Trump or Vlad Putin represent today in even their wettest dreams. Fascism gets it’s brutal icon from the very symbol of the movement, the fasces from Ancient Rome, Oxford’s Dictionary describes the fasces as “a bundle of rods with a projecting axe blade, from ancient Rome was a symbol of a magistrate’s power, which had its origin in the Etruscan civilization and was passed on to ancient Rome, where it symbolized a magistrate’s jurisdiction.” So modern fascism is symbolized by a bunch of reeds holding an axe head that was the ancient Roman symbol of authority, held by ‘lictors’ when attending the emperor or dictator of the moment, so cops held them, or more or less what we call secret police today. The word ‘fascist’ has become almost meaningless to us, as George Orwell lamented in his essay What is Fascism? (1944), “almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.”
In 1924, Adolph Hitler was stuck in jail, following the Beer Hall Putsch (where four police officers were killed), writing his hilarious Mein Kampf, at the same time, in Italy on June 10, 1924, Italian opposition leader Giacomo Matteotti was brutally murdered during a kidnapping that involved a carpenter’s rasp to the heart, perpetrated by Mussolini’s Fascist followers. When it later became obvious that the Moose had a hand in the murder, he infamously took all the blame for the outrageous killing and then put it to the Italian people that they needed a strong man such as himself to defend the country against the Commies (as only Mussolini could know, because he was a flaming Communist before he was a Fascist) and Italians, along with the king of Italy, agreed with him wholeheartedly. Matteotti was on Mussolini’s last nerve because he was actively and effectively calling out voting irregularities and violence associated with Italian Fascists and it was discovered that Matteotti was going to implicate Mussolini in an explosive report to be delivered before the Italian Senate because an American oil company bribed Italian Fascists where Matteotti was all set to reveal the handing over of 100,000 square miles of Italian soil to the American company Sinclair Oil for exploration.
Now, Sinclair Oil Corporation didn’t just bribe the Fascists in Italy, because they were already knee-deep in the Teapot Dome scandal in America, which almost took down the corrupt presidency of Republican Warren Harding, possibly the first American president to be successfully blackmailed in office by a German spy, she was his mistress, whom the GOP paid off millions of dollars for decades after Harding died in office of a ‘heart attack’ — and all was forgiven. Some background on the Teapot Dome scandal: in 1922, Republican Secretary of the Interior and corrupt swine Albert B. Fall leased oil production rights to land called ‘Teapot Dome’ in Montana to Harry F. Sinclair and Fall also leased the Elk Hills reserve to a guy named Eddie Doheny, owner of the Pan-American Petroleum and Transport Company, both of these leases were issued by Fall without competitive bidding, which was technically legal at the time, but the kickbacks certainly weren’t legal. Shortly after the scandal hit the newspapers, Sinclair sold his ostentatious mansion on the corner of 5th Avenue and 79th Street in New York City because the scandal destroyed his reputation and he offloaded the property in 1930. The Harry F. Sinclair House was then acquired by the Ukrainian Institute of America and is now open to the public, so what comes around surely goes around.
Umberto Eco, the great novelist and historian who grew up under Fascism in Mussolini’s Italy, was perplexed as to “why the word fascism became a synecdoche, that is, a word that could be used for different totalitarian movements.” For one thing, he wrote, “fascism was a fuzzy totalitarianism, a collage of different philosophical and political ideas, a beehive of contradictions.” While Eco was firm in claiming “There was only one Nazism,” he also said, “the fascist game can be played in many forms, and the name of the game does not change.” Eco reduced this Ur-Fascism (1995), or ‘Eternal Fascism’ down to 14 typical features. “These features,” he wrote, “cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.”
In the 1930s, there was a spasm of fear and hatred that resulted in the rise of National Socialism which gave the German people what they really, really wanted: to feel strong and smart again. After all, German culture was once considered high and mighty before the 20th Century began, but Germans, under the repressed homosexual leader Kaiser Wilhelm, started and lost WWI and Germans were sad about being losers, so they decided to make Jews and ‘November criminals‘ the scapegoats for all their troubles. Nothing new, Jewish people had been persecuted in Europe for centuries, but starting after WWI, during the Weimar Republic, Germans specifically blamed all Jewish people and also liberal Germans who supposedly ‘stabbed them in the back’ resulting in the loss of the war, rather than the American, British and French Armies and Navies, who actually stabbed them and shot them from the front. Western democracy kicked the German’s war-mongering, imperialist asses all over Europe until Germany was broken and beaten to a pulp — and that’s why the Weimar Republic looked so damned bad — because they had to pick up the pieces of their destroyed nation after WWI, ‘the war to end all wars’ as that stupid canard was bandied about at the end of the first world war, finally put to rest when Germany ignored the Treaty of Versailles and rearmed themselves for another pointless, losing war in ‘the Big One.’ By the time Germany was all set to invade Poland in 1939, they had stolen all of the money to fund the war (um, expropriated) from German Jews and used these billions of reichsmarks to finance their Aryan bloodlust.
One of the tactics used by Hitler to subjugate Jewish people into utter submission was to threaten all of them if even one of them so much as hinted that they would try to fight back. So in 1936 when a Jewish man assassinated the German Ambassador and asshole Ernst von Rath, the German government punished every German Jew by implementing the ‘Blood and Honor’ laws that began the destruction of the majority of European Jews in earnest. The Nazis marginalized and then ghettoized the entire European Jewish population until they were weakened and ripe for slaughter, while the Nazis blamed anyone who stood in their way for causing it the first place, but anyone who had read Mein Kampf knew that Hitler’s dream was always to kill all the Jews way back in the 1920s, if anyone had bothered to read his terrible book.
When Spain’s dictator, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, was executed in 1936, becoming Franco’s convenient rival/dead guy to the cult of personality that Generalisimo Francisco Franco would later become; of the fascists to arise from WWII, Franco was one of the few who survived all the way up until the 1970s. This I know because Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update told me often that “Generalissimo Francisco Franco… Is STILL dead.” Another convenient dead guy for Franco (dictators seem to have a lot of convenient deaths happen around them) was the ‘accidental’ death of Spanish coup planner Segusmindo Casado – think of these dead Spanish Fascists as the Ernst Rohm and Gregor Strasser of ‘Night of the Long Knives’ fame – used for their ability to wield terror on the street-level, eliminated by politicians when these thug factions were incorporated into the federal government.
Not that these fascists were missed much by the world, however the reactionary, right-wing terror groups that arose from the fertile soil of hatred and distrust, sewn by Soviet intervention in Spain, always sought to hate and distrust more than the Reds. In Russia, Marxism birthed two great cults of personality – Lenin and Stalin – and when the untested Soviet Communist system of government failed after these totalitarian dictators died, their cults of influence faded and the resulting power vacuum was filled by autocrats. Franco and the Spanish people, their culture and country torn to shreds after the Civil War, wouldn’t see the rise of fascism as any sort of ‘victory’ – and it ended with a thud when the ‘Caudillo’ finally died on November 20, 1975. As many Spaniards died in the 1930s as Americans died in our Civil War in the 1860s, however many more innocent women and children died in the Spanish Civil War.
When France was invaded and defeated by Germany in 1940, the result was that ossified WWI war hero Philippe Pétain then became the dictator of France and it’s an open question as to why Hitler allowed Vichy France to exist as a puppet government rather than to simply take it over, but France had a significant base of fascist followers that allowed the Nazis to hand over limited power, which saved Germany the costly expense of France’s wartime administration. This distinction is described in detail by political scientist Robert Owen Paxton, Mellon Professor Emeritus of Social Science in the Department of History at Columbia University:
Authentic fascism is not for export. Particular national variants of fascism differ far more profoundly one from another in themes and symbols than do the national variants of the true ‘isms.’ The most conspicuous of these variations, one that leads some to deny the validity of the very concept of generic fascism, concerns the nature of the indispensable enemy: within Mediterranean fascisms, socialists and colonized peoples are more salient enemies than is the Jewry. Drawing their slogans and their symbols from the patriotic repertory of one particular community, fascisms are radically unique in their speech and insignia. They fit badly into any system of universal intellectual principles. It is in their functions that they resemble each other. Further, the words of fascist intellectuals – even if we accept for the moment that they constitute fundamental philosophical texts – correspond only distantly with what fascist movements do after they have power. Early fascist programs are poor guides to later fascist policy. The sweeping social changes proposed by Mussolini’s first Fascist program of April 1919 (including the vote for women, the eight-hour day, heavy taxation of war profits, confiscation of church lands, and workers’ participation in industrial management) stand in flagrant conflict with the macho persona of the later Duce and his deals with conservatives. Similarly, the hostility of the Nazi Twenty-Five Points of 1920 toward all capitalism except that of artisan producers bears little relation to the sometimes strained though powerfully effective collaboration for rearmament between German business and the Nazi regime.
Professor Paxton’s Five Stages of Fascism is an excellent overview of fascism and it’s as timely as ever, his analysis explains why Vichy French collaborators paid off handsomely for Hitler by funding the upkeep of the conquered nation while also sending millions of francs to Berlin, while over 72,000 French Jews were also sent to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps. When Pétain solidified his power by becoming a fascist dictator, he adopted the symbol of the fasces in French Tricolor, leaving no doubt as to who was really in charge. The traitor Pétain, already an elderly man, was sentenced to death after D-Day and the liberation of France, but his life would be spared and he spent the last four years of his miserable life in jail.
Paxton, however, fixes the birth of fascism right here in the Good ‘Ol USA, where the Ku Klux Klan may be considered as the first social phenomenon that could legitimately be called ‘fascism’ and he goes further to explain that fascism almost always evolves from a functioning democracy, flourishing in weakened liberal states where disorder, decline and humiliation lend an opening to new, authoritarian ways out of the mess that democracies almost always foment over time. Fascism then usually evolves into what it really is: violent, animated communism. This idea is at the heart of Professor Vladimir Tismăneanu’s excellent book, The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century (2012), Tismăneanu is the director of the University of Maryland’s Center for the Study of Post-Communist Societies, a Romanian-born scholar who at first studied the negative consequences of totalitarian communism, he uses his personal experiences within communist totalitarianism to compare communism and fascism as competing, sometimes overlapping, and occasionally strikingly similar systems of political totalitarianism. Evolving from separate ends of the political spectrum, the extreme left for communism and the extreme right for fascism, we must comprehend that these two abhorrent systems are directly responsible for most of the barbarism and inhumanity that has plagued the World for the past century. Fascism and communism are two sides of the same coin of totalitarianism — a political, social, and cultural construct that managed to erase thousands of years of traditional approaches to an understanding of good and evil.
In 1940, Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator turned his Hitler-styled dictator — thinly disguised as “Adenoid Hynkel,” the dictator of the fictional country of Tomania — into a blustering, pompous clown, surrounded by his toadies bent on world conquest. Chaplin’s most commercially successful film, The Great Dictator ends with a brilliant speech delivered by this timeless character that’s a tour-de-force of biting satire, hilarious in it’s irony, Chaplin skewered the very notions of fascism and totalitarianism and in doing so, ridiculed all fascist dictators forevermore as preening liars and losers:
In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!
September 5, 2022