Chapter ? - Fascism and Neo-Conservatism
The word fascism is thrown around very often. It is usually used as a smear word for practically anything that one disagrees with. As a system of government, fascism is often given a somewhat false characterization, one of which is that it is on the opposite end of the spectrum of communism (implying that fascism is as far right as one can go and communism is as far left as one can go), and another being that communism and fascism are the exact same thing. But both of these characterizations are false; there are both clear differences and similarities between the two systems. These ideologies have been mischaracterized because of an erroneous one-dimensional view of the political spectrum. Therefore, we must establish what fascism actually is, where it stands on the political spectrum and how it came about.
One must go back in time, long before the advent of modern fascism, in order to set up the scenario. We must begin by establishing that, essentially from time immemorial; there existed an “old order”, the despotic ruling regime that stood for collectivism, militarism, imperialism, uniformity and force. In short, it was the classical form of despotism. Whether this old regime took the form of the oriental emperors, western kings or the Roman Republic is irrelevant in the sense that it was all generally the old ruling elites; pure and arbitrary power backed by force. For thousands of years, the common person lived under some varying form of this. One group of oligarchs and nobles, headed by one supreme ruler (pharaoh, king, queen, emperor, sultan, shaman, etc.), at the top of the structure, confined to a relative minority in comparison to the population at large, were the arbiters of power, the old ruling class.
Thus, from the very beginning, the true “class struggle” was between, on one hand, the state and those that were allied with it, and on the other hand, the common person that was subject to the state’s rule. Essentially, there were the rulers and the ruled. The “ownership class” was the king and the aristocracy and nobles that the king granted feudal privilege to. Feudalism, therefore, was not a naturally arising set of monopolies created by a free market economy, but rather it was a system of monopolies created as a special privilege of the state to those who allied with it. A given piece of property was confiscated by the state, and then it was distributed to the various nobles as their so-called “private property”. It must be realized that the feudal land was not it’s “owner’s” justly acquired private property to begin with, it was property that was given to them as a special monopolist privilege by the state. In short, it was private property only in name, not in actuality. Thus, the common characterization of feudalism as the inevitable culmination of private property in a free market is entirely false. True capitalism was nowhere near existence in the feudal monopolies of the past. Indeed, the places where any degree of capitalism managed to flourish in the past were precisely those places that were most decentralized, most far away from governmental reach. Karl Marx’s class analysis (which widely permeates political thought to this day), which characterizes capitalism as the advent of this feudalism and defines the class struggle as being between private property owners and workers, between capitalists and non-capitalists, is a total misconception. This confusion has lead to a widespread misunderstanding of history.
After a seemingly endless amount of eons of statism, during the renaissance and enlightenment period, there came to be a well-defined classical split in political philosophy. The ancient regime, the old order that believed in preserving the status quo were the “conservatives”, and were put on “the right”. The opponents of this regime, those who believed in revolution and change, in smashing the status quo, were the “liberals”, and were put on “the left”. The liberals were the party of optimism toward the future; they stood for liberty, individualism, cooperation and progress. The conservatives were the party of pessimism towards the future; they were reactionaries that stood for statism, collectivism, theocracy, and class exploitation. This is the classical alignment of the political spectrum. The advent of the American Revolution, French Revolution and English Civil Wars rushed in the first move in history towards classical liberalism, away from the status quo, reducing state power in a way that never was achieved before. However, it did not take very long for classical liberalism to fade away into something else. Classical liberalism declined over the course of the 19th century. There were a number of philosophical reasons for this change: The advent of socialism, romanticism and the abandonment of natural rights and natural law theory, causing a drift of various classical liberals towards utilitarianism. Some liberals essentially started becoming quasi-conservatives. But ultimately, the biggest nail in the coffin is that with the libertarian sentiment decaying from within, into the gap left by the decline of classical liberalism, stepped in the new movement of socialism.
However, it would be a mistake to consider socialism as a whole to be the diametric opposite of libertarianism. Conservatism, in the classical sense of the word, was always the polar opposite of liberty. As Murray N. Rothbard and Leonard P. Liggio have demonstrated, socialism, while it may be to the “left” of conservatism/statism in the classical sense, is a confused middle of the road doctrine. Rothbard takes note as follows in “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty”:
“In short, Russell Kirk, who claims that Socialism was the heir of classical liberalism, and Ronald Hamowy, who sees Socialism as the heir of Conservatism, are both right; for the question is on what aspect of this confused centrist movement we happen to be focusing. Socialism, like Liberalism and against Conservatism, accepted the industrial system and the liberal goals of freedom, reason, mobility, progress, higher living standards the masses, and an end to theocracy and war; but it tried to achieve these ends by the use of incompatible, Conservative means: statism, central planning, communitarianism, etc. Or rather, to be more precise, there were from the beginning two different strands within Socialism: one was the Right-wing, authoritarian strand, from Saint-Simon down, which glorified statism, hierarchy, and collectivism and which was thus a projection of Conservatism trying to accept and dominate the new industrial civilization. The other was the Left-wing, relatively libertarian strand, exemplified in their different ways by Marx and Bakunin, revolutionary and far more interested in achieving the libertarian goals of liberalism and socialism: but especially the smashing of the State apparatus to achieve the "withering away of the State" and the "end of the exploitation of man by man." Interestingly enough, the very Marxian phrase, the "replacement of the government of men by the administration of things," can be traced, by a circuitous route, from the great French radical laissez-faire liberals of the early nineteenth century, Charles Comte (no relation to Auguste Comte) and Charles Dunoyer. And so, too, may the concept of the "class struggle"; except that for Dunoyer and Comte the inherently antithetical classes were not businessmen vs. workers, but the producers in society (including free businessmen, workers, peasants, etc.) versus the exploiting classes constituting, and privileged by, the State apparatus. Saint-Simon, at one time in his confused and chaotic life, was close to Comte and Dunoyer and picked up his class analysis from them, in the process characteristically getting the whole thing balled up and converting businessmen on the market, as well as feudal landlords and others of the State privileged, into "exploiters." Marx and Bakunin picked this up from the Saint-Simonians, and the result gravely misled the whole Left Socialist movement; for, then, in addition to smashing the repressive State, it became supposedly necessary to smash private capitalist ownership of the means of production. Rejecting private property, especially of capital, the Left Socialists were then trapped in a crucial inner contradiction: if the State is to disappear after the Revolution (immediately for Bakunin, gradually "withering" for Marx), then how is the "collective" to run its property without becoming an enormous State itself in fact even if not in name? This was a contradiction which neither the Marxists nor the Bakuninists were ever able to resolve.”
“Having replaced radical liberalism as the party of the "Left," Socialism, by the turn of the twentieth century, fell prey to this inner contradiction. Most Socialists (Fabians, Lassalleans, even Marxists) turned sharply rightward, completely abandoned the old libertarian goals and ideals of revolution and the withering away of the State, and became cozy Conservatives permanently reconciled to the State, the status quo, and the whole apparatus of neo-mercantilism, State monopoly capitalism, imperialism and war that was rapidly being established and riveted on European society at the turn of the twentieth century. For Conservatism, too, had re-formed and regrouped to try to cope with a modern industrial system, and had become a refurbished mercantilism, a regime of statism marked by State monopoly privilege, in direct and indirect forms, to favored capitalists and to quasi-feudal landlords. The affinity between Right Socialism and the new Conservatism became very close, the former advocating similar policies but with a demagogic populist veneer: thus, the other side of the coin of imperialism was "social imperialism," which Joseph Schumpeter trenchantly defined as "an imperialism in which the entrepreneurs and other elements woo the workers by means of social welfare concessions which appear to depend on the success of export monopolism..."
This phenomenon of right-wing socialism is the seeds of modern fascism. Fascism is, in essence, right-wing socialism; it is the ancient regime trying to reassert itself in the industrial world. The advent of Fascism was the culmination of the drift towards right-wing collectivism. By the time it becomes the early 20th century, fascism is a full-scale phenomenon in various countries, most famously in Italy and Nazi Germany. Various business interests became attracted to fascism as opposed to left-socialism, as fascism provided a means by which business can be cartelized and married to the state apparatus; a system of special privilege for businesses and various special interests to unjustly block off their competitors. The true entrepreneur and free enterpriser, the true “free market capitalist”, does not function in this way, they work within the voluntary atmosphere of the market. On the other hand, the “political capitalist” gets the state to give them special favors. Indeed, the vast majority of subsidies are for businesses to get privileges that they could not acquire if they were functioning on the free market.
Thus, there are indeed differences between fascism and communism. Where Communism seeks to substitute the state for private ownership, fascism seeks to incorporate or co-opt private ownership into the state apparatus through public-private partnership. Secondly, fascism tends to be more nationalist, militarist and chauvinistic in nature, as well as anti-intellectual. Fascism particularly stresses allegiance to the state and/or one’s culture or ethnicity. Communism, in contrast, tends to be more internationalist and sometimes anti-authoritarian in nature; at least in its theory. There is a difference in emphasis in strategy between fascism and Communism in this respect. When faced with existing institutions that threaten the power of the state, the Communist impulse is generally to abolish them, while the fascist impulse is to generally to absorb them into the state. These contrasts should not be overstated, however. No matter how cosmopolitan in nature a communist regime may be in theory, they inherently tend to be just as nationalistic and authoritarian in practice as fascist regimes are. On the other hand, fascist regimes sometimes use quasi-liberal and cosmopolitan rhetoric as lip service to left-socialism. This, of course, is just the political use and abuse of language to achieve power. Fundamentally, what unites or likens communism and fascism is that they are inevitably authoritarian and statist in practice. Stalin and Hitler are not on opposite ends of the political spectrum; they are rather close to each other. There might be a dime’s difference between them, but not a quarter. What defines these two people and likens them to each other is that they are totalitarian in nature. On the other hand, what sets them apart to a certain extent is the underlying “rationales” and means that they used. Fascism is a counter-revolutionary movement; it establishes a set of frozen monopoly privileges onto society. Modern “state-capitalism”, therefore, is essentially fascism.
In order to apply our analysis to the 20th century American political scene, we must address a common myth of history that permeates rather widely to this day, with different interpretations by the left-wing and ring-wing camps. This myth goes approximately as follows: America was generally a haven of laissez-faire capitalism until the New Deal; then Roosevelt, influenced by "Fabian" and Communist "conspirators," engineered a revolution which set America on the path to Socialism, and, further on, beyond the horizon, to Communism. The modern conservative tends to believe something along these lines, and therefore tends to be considered an “extreme right-winger”. There are some grave flaws in this conception. The New Deal was not a sudden revolution in any real sense; its entire program was anticipated and preceded by Herbert Hoover during the great depression, and by the war-collectivism and central planning that pervaded America during WWI. Every single element in the New Deal program: central planning, creation of a network of compulsory cartels for industry and agriculture, inflation and credit expansion, artificial raising of wage rates, government regulation and ownership, all this had been anticipated and adumbrated during the previous two decades. This was not left-wing socialism, this was right-wing socialism; fascism, a marriage between big business interests seeking control beyond that which the open market could give them. Indeed, figures such as Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover are more like proto-fascists then socialists.
A defining feature of a fascist economy is government cartelization and centralization of banking. This occurred in and in the time running up to 1913, when the Federal Reserve was instituted on the behalf of J.P. Morgan and other such big banking interests. From then on, a group of “private” central bankers were given the special privilege by the federal government to manipulate the money supply as they please, which means that they can “legally counterfeit”. Coupled with this inflationism, is usually the advent of the confiscation of the citizen’s gold, which both FDR and the Nazis did in the 30’s. In the fascist economy, the centralized banking system becomes a necessity in order to run the warfare state, the military-industrial-complex. Inflation provides a way to move towards a police state and engage in expansive warfare without directly laying taxes on the populace. The stronger the fascism gets, the more the military becomes merged with various industries. Thus, while in communism the government takes over the means of production, the fascist state is somewhat of a “mixed economy” in which the government allows private property to exist in name, but it heavily regulates this property and absorbs various businesses and unions.
Somewhat ironically, in 1934, the British Leninist theoretician R. Palme Dutt published a rather scathing analysis of the progressive era and New Deal as "social fascism"--as Fascism cloaked with a thin veneer of populist demagogy. Dutt wrote that the Roosevelt policy was to "move to a form of dictatorship of a war-type"; the main policies were to impose state-capitalism through the NRA, to subsidize or cartelize business, banking, and agriculture through inflation, and to the regulation and exploitation of labor by means of government-fixed wages and compulsory arbitration. Dutt concluded with a quote from an editor of the highly respected Current History Magazine: "The new America (the editor had written in mid-1933) will not be capitalist in the old sense, nor will it be Socialist. If at the moment the trend is towards Fascism, it will be an American Fascism, embodying the experience, the traditions and the hopes of a great middle-class nation." Essentially, the intervention by the federal government was designed, not to curb big business in the name of “the public good”, but to artificially create monopolies that big business, as well as some smaller businesses, had not been able to establish through the means of competition on the free market.
This was a conscious effort to mold the economy a cement of subsidy and monopoly privilege. Each particular economic interest group was being cartelized and monopolized; made to fit into its privileged niche in a hierarchical socio-economic structure. In another ironic and revealing note, Gabriel Kolko, a left-socialist, concluded about the pre-new-deal progressive era (roughly 1900-1920):
“A synthesis of business and politics on the federal level was created during the war, in various administrative and emergency agencies, that continued throughout the following decade. Indeed, the war period represents the triumph of business in the most emphatic manner possible... big business gained total support from the various regulatory agencies and the Executive. It was during the war that effective, working oligopoly and price and market agreements became operational in the dominant sectors of the American economy. The rapid diffusion of power in the economy and relatively easy entry virtually ceased. Despite the cessation of important new legislative enactments, the unity of business and the federal government continued throughout the 1920's and thereafter, using the foundations laid in the Progressive Era to stabilize and consolidate conditions within various industries ...The principle of utilizing the federal government to stabilize the economy, established in the context of modern industrialism during the Progressive Era, became the basis of political capitalism in its many later ramifications.”
Thus, the New Deal was really a continuation of what had already been started in the progressive era. The New Deal cemented the foundation for the welfare-warfare state that persists to this day. This kind of fascism came to bury itself in egalitarian promises and rhetoric. In those days, there was a relatively small but vibrant quasi-libertarian (with some full libertarians as well) opposition to the new deal that existed in the Republican Party. It was by no means the majority of the party, but a meaningful faction within it. But what this ended up eventually doing was provide the vast majority of non-libertarians, and quasi-fascists that existed in the Republican Party the rhetoric of liberty necessary to gain political support while implementing its opposite once power is attained. In the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s, the fascistic tendencies of the Democrats such as Wilson and Roosevelt became increasingly fused into Republican conservatism. Furthermore, there was a distinct “fusionist” movement in the 50’s and 60’s in which “me-tooism” (bi-partisanship in the name of the state) became the siren song of the day, where both the Democratic and Republican establishment came to a general consensus in terms of an alleged “need” for increased government intervention. Essentially, a fascistic model became the official consensus of the political status quo. Conservatives quickly became “Strict Wilsonians” and some even idolized FDR as an ultimate executive role model and statesmen. The conservative movement became proponents of heavy foreign intervention, increased domestic police powers, monetary manipulation, redistribution, and government cartelization of business. The only difference is that they do it while hypocritically claiming to be proponents of a more limited and decentralized government. Modern America in general has been drifting in the direction of fascism for a long time, and the modern neo-conservative movement is the extreme culmination of this drift. Thus, we must analyze the modern conservative movement; we must apply our analysis to the modern American political scene. We must provide a libertarian critique of conservatism and Republican politics in general.