“If the facts say otherwise, then the facts must be altered.” George Orwell
There’s a word going around, used so incessantly against anyone who disagrees with the progressive ideology and said so mind numbingly often that we tend to dismiss it as just more political mudslinging; such use of the word fascism underlies an important fallacy, one that exposes it as nothing more than a distortion of facts. In order to understand what this word means, where it came from, its political genesis, and who its supporters actually are, we need to put aside the political spectrum defining right and left wing politics, which is at best misleading.
If you walk into a current college classroom for the study of political science and ask the simple question as to who was the founder of fascism, there would be few if any students or professors who would say the name Giovanni Gentile, historically credited as the “Philosopher of Fascism.” Most would say Benito Mussolini, some maybe Francisco Franco or Adolph Hitler, but they would be wrong. The word itself was not coined by Gentile; it’s the anglicization of the Latin word fasces, a tied bundle of rods with a protruding ax, the ancient Roman symbol of state power. It also became the symbol of the Partito Nazionale Fascista, Mussolini’s party, and that put the word fascism into the lexicon of political science.
Gentile, together with his mentor Karl Marx, were two of the world’s most influential philosophers in the early twentieth century; he believed in “true democracy”, i.e. the subordination of the individual to the state. It was however Karl Marx who first observed that “Democracy is the road to socialism.” Gentile was a committed socialist as fascism, like communism, is socialism. Common to both these ideologies is a strong emphasis on national identity. While Gentile has faded into historical obscurity of late, we all remember Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy; in his day, he was considered Gentile’s ultimate disciple, who wrote the doctrinal of early fascism, “Dottrina del Fascismo”, in which he stated that “All is in the state and nothing human exists or has value outside the state.” We don’t talk in such blatant terms today but with rhetorical bromides like “We’re all in this together!”
There is one methodological difference between Gentile’s and Marx’s versions of socialism, and it’s economic. Marx was forthright against free markets, advocating for the state as a substitute. Gentile, and his disciple Mussolini, were more manipulative, promoting a corporatist economic system consisting of syndicates of labor and management, collectively with the state to set economic policy; as Mussolini stated, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
So much in high esteem was Mussolini held in his heyday that other nations sent delegations to Italy to observe and study his methods and accomplishments. Which brings us to the title of this post, and some inconvenient historical facts that progressives distort, willfully ignore or are ignorantly unaware; one of those admiring national leaders was FDR, who sent his close advisor Rexford Tugwell to Italy; upon his return, he reported that “Fascism is the cleanest, neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I’ve ever seen. It makes me envious.”
FDR was even more effusive in his admiration for this dictator, telling journalists that “I don’t mind telling you that I am keeping a fairly close touch with that admirable Italian gentleman.” Again, writing to his Italian ambassador that “There seems no question he is really interested in what we are doing and I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished and by his evidenced honest purpose in restoring Italy.” This is not an appropriate position for an American president to take about a fascist thug; true, he became Italy’s dictator in a plebiscite, but a despot nonetheless.
The infamous National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA), known as the Blue Eagle Campaign, was modeled on Italian fascism; it created and enforced an alliance of industries, which were required to write “codes of fair competition” that effectively fixed prices and wages, established production quotas, and imposed restrictions on entry of other companies into the alliances. The NIRA was overseen by the Industrial Advisory Board, answerable only to FDR. General Hugh Johnson, an avowed admirer of fascism, ran the NIRA; his guide book was “The Structure of the Corporate State,” written by one of Mussolini’s aides. While the NIRA was at that time almost universally recognized as a fascist project, there was a purposeful great effort for disassociation following WWII; after all, how embarrassing would it be to have the patron saint of liberal democracy associated with the evils we had just defeated?
Americans need to understand their history or be subordinated by the ignorance of it; the US came dangerously close to fascism under FDR, yet most don’t realize the clear and present danger he represented. He is worshiped to this day as a great president with an unprecedented four term plebiscite; however, like today we should also understand the times he ruled in when 15,000 to 20,000 people came out to honor and mourn the deaths of the notorious killers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. As George Orwell observed, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
So before progressives hurl this derogatory slur at those that stand by the US Constitution and its Bill of Rights as fascists, they need to understand what that word actually means, and to remember that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the closest thing we have had to date as a fascist leader. Further, that their support for obvious socialist policies as our current administration represents are in the tradition of Gentile and Marx. It is curious that Marx, who was Gentile’s mentor, failed to understand what his disciple and Hayek did, and that is “Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion.”