I recently used the word Fascism and watched a number of other bloggers go crazy, while others suggested that they were disappointed with my rather angry outburst. So, though I admit that the outburst was initially a little strong, (and I rewrote it the same day), there is an important issue here that should be discussed.
Fascism is a word that is particularly provocative and raises the shackles of many, particularly in right-wing circles where they don’t like being accused of any association with this particular political approach. However, it should be made clear, and I have talked about it on my blog before, that despite the excessive emotion that the word elicits, it is a word that applies quite well to many Western Governments and political parties.
Mussolini famously defined Fascism as a significant collusion between Big Government and big business. And it is conveniently forgotten how popular Mussolini was in North America in the 1930s. This popularity resulted in a special edition of Forbes magazine devoted to Mussolini’s politics which suggested that this was the future of Capitalism. This particular edition of Forbes is now almost impossible to obtain but it makes clear how Capitalists and Conservatives felt about Fascism.
Then in the 50s an American academic and statesman named Bertram Gross wrote a remarkable book entitled Friendly Fascism which outlined how, despite the war, the US had slowly instituted fundamental principles of Fascism through the back door, though with less of the blatantly racist and militaristic rhetoric of the European fascism of the 1930s.
Since Bertram’s book, the fascist mechanisms in the US and other Western countries have dramatically increased and the connection between big business and big government has continually expanded, though in many cases this relationship is so cozy and inherent that it goes unnoticed. Another writer who has talked about this is of course Gore Vidal who documented the military-industrial complex of the US in a startling fashion. Noam Chomsky has also added a great deal to this discourse as have Howard Zinn and a number of other writers.
Last year I wrote a long blog discussing why the Harper Government is essentially fascist as outlined by Mussolini, Gross, and Vidal. This is not hyperbole but a serious political discourse which most people in the West are unwilling to engage in simply because they don’t want to admit the fundamental ways in which Government has become aligned with business. Furthermore it is not hyperbole to talk about the ways that supposedly moderate parties like the Liberals under a leader like Ignatieff could be seen as inheritors of the friendly fascist tradition. Besides Mr. Ignatieff’s obvious support for Western militarism (including the militarism of the State of Israel), Ignatieff has defended torture, and uses a political discourse that is at times frighteningly Euro-centric and stands up for many of the basic assumptions that neo-conservatism stands for.
Though a blog does not afford the space to properly address the intricacies of these issues, we ignore them at our peril. Democracy in the Western nations is increasingly in crisis: participation rates are falling, public discourse is narrowing (largely as a result of media ownership), access to political office is becoming increasingly more difficult, political discourse is creeping ever closer to business discourse, and Conservative parties are continually attacking basic human and labour rights. I recommend Gross’s book as well as several books by Vidal in order to realize that suggesting a link between Western Governments (and Parties) and Fascism may sound provocative but is by no means hyperbole. Conservatives (and even Liberals) may bristle at the connection but if they ignore it they are not being honest about political discourse.