There are, we might say, the lines of an underlying structure of occurrence, a unifying form of historical thought and life, at work here. We need to understand more exactly its constituting principles.
Lest it be rejoined that the new right’s anti-communism is not racially genocidal in its settled design, it is well to note what neo-conservatives support wherever non-white “communists” are concerned. The killing and maiming of over two million Vietnamese by U.S. armed aggression remains for neo-conservatives a “noble cause” that is defended with ardour a decade after its body count is in.
Both fascism and neo-conservatism understand human society in terms of a competitive struggle among its membership such that some individuals or groups are selected for ascendant wealth and power, others for continued survival in useful functions, and still others for poverty, disease or death, in accordance with their respective possession of favorable genetic characteristics…
Both fascist and neo-conservative movements have as their public leaders spell-binding rhetoricians, who with continuous media attention link to their mass listeners as deeply sincere men or women of pious reverences and iron will. Both movements adopt as their style passionate conviction in the heroic past of the nation…
FASCISM AND NEO-CONSERVATISM: IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?*
The Common Etiological Pattern
* Prepared for presentation to the Liberalism in Crisis Conference, University of Guelph, June, 1983. Published in: Praxis International 4:1 (April 1984), 86-102.
“Fascism,” the West European movement that achieved its greatest strength in Germany and Italy between 1922 and 1944 under the leadership of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and “neo-conservatism,” the dominantly American movement that has achieved its greatest strength in the United States and Britain in the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s under the leadership of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, arise out of historical circumstances that are strikingly similar in nature. In each case, political power is won by a relatively sudden rightward swing of a minority of the eligible electorate towards a war-like leader, backed by a media-lavished bloc of fiercely ideological partisans of old-line values and national military glory. In both cases, the social context of this unusual and dramatic turn towards the political right is one of perceived and objective cultural crisis. Economically, the shape of this crisis in 1930’s Germany and 1980’s America is eerily similar. There is a precipitous decline in effective demand for industrial commodities; great and growing unemployment; a steep rise in family-farm indebtedness; an unprecedentedly large and increasing public debt; a long-term, “runaway,” postwar inflation; a series of severe balance of trade deficits; historic stock market plunges; and a jolting succession of nonproductive mergers of large corporations and failures of small businesses.
On the political and ideological levels, the pattern of similarity is hardly less arresting, In both cases, a new and rhetoric-charged movement of uncompromising, mass-appeal tough talk, backed by a flood of mysteriously funded and militant pressure groups, calls for a return to the nation’s values of “tradition,” “property,” “family,” and “order.” In both cases, a similarly malevolent and powerful enemy of “world communist subversion” is described in alarmist terms as making gain after gain towards global supremacy. And in both cases, liberal democratic policies and parties are repetitively attacked and discredited as weak and vacillating; equality and democratic process itself are openly suspected in high places as unrealistic; “spiritual” revivalism and “patriotic” fervour are thematically played upon by Protestant fundamentalist groups as the heart and soul of the nation; “toughness” is incessantly opposed to “weakness” as the requirement of ascendant will; and “left” and “radical” thoughts and gains of the previous decade are indefatigably scourged as “dangerous” and “corrupting.” Finally, and perhaps most disturbingly, German fascists and American neo-conservatives alike prize unlimited military build-up as a national first priority to restore the country’s lost “greatness,” which in the case of both 1930’s Germany and 1980’s America follows in the historical wake of humiliating defeat in a disastrous and aggressive war.
There is one remarkable difference here in the order of events where Germany and the U.S. are concerned. Economic depression precedes the rise of Nazism to power in Germany, but accompanies the rise of neo-conservatism to power in the U.S. Perhaps the former case had its lessons to teach to the latter of the connection between extreme economic downturn and popular acceptance of extreme-right politics. Certainly the monetarist policies of the neo-conservatives in the U.S. (and elsewhere) had the predictable effect of reducing effective demand, active investment, and worker employment by the radically higher interest-rates they prescribed. (These consequences, ceteris paribus, follow necessarily.) So we may have aconscious causation of extreme right political succession in the West of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in contrast to an unconscious succession of this sort in Germany between 1929 and 1933. (It is worth noting here that inflation caused by military expenditures – which only became serious in the U.S. after its government’s enormous spending on the Vietnam War – is strangely ignored by “anti-inflationary” neo-conservative economics.) But whatever the possibility of economic-political planning of this kind, and it would be naive to rule it out, the similarity between the general nature of the social conditions emerging in German fascism 50 years ago and the general nature of the social conditions grounding neo-conservatism today is systematic in its defining parameters. There are anomalies and asymmetries to which we will attend, but the clear shape of a common conjuncture of economic, political, and ideological conditions is unmistakable. There are, we might say, the lines of an underlying structure of occurrence, a unifying form of historical thought and life, at work here. We need to understand more exactly its constituting principles.
The Unifying Principles of Fascism and Neo-Conservatism
Principle 1: National Military Supremacy as Primary Public Purpose.
Both fascism and neo-conservativism advocate and implement military build-up as the fundamental priority of government policy and expenditure. Both place no limit on the intensity or extent of militarization that is regarded as necessary to “national security.” Both accept without limit or concern the reduction of other expenditures so as to develop and expand production and deployment of offensive arms and strategies. Both justify this unlimited military build-up in terms of “freedom.” And both systematically oppose and discredit de facto parity of military strength, peace movements, pacifists, and disarmament proposals as detrimental to “national defence,” and “duped” or willing betrayal of the country.1
The priority advocacy of national-armed superiority is in each case absolute (i.e. it does not admit of revision in light of facts or circumstances), and – in the case of 1930’s Gerinanv and 1980’s America – world imperial in its reach. That is, military superiority is sought across the face of the globe where no area is seen as “beyond the scope of national interest”: and first-strike capability against “the enemy” is publicly or secretly pursued as essential to a “position of strength.”
Though facist and neo-conservative policies of re-armament and peace-time build-up are in these ways systematically alike in nature, and though both succeed a war-weary period where the country is recovering from a major humiliation in an international war, they appear to be quite unalike with respect to the avowedly racist ideology that distinctively accompanies the German quest for world military superiority in the 1930’s. This is certainly a fundamental doctrinal discrepancy, but the effect in practice may not be so different as it first appears. Aside from the fact that American neoconservative government reduces the established entitlements of its black population (e.g. in social securities and affirmative action programs), allies with the world’s only explicitly racist state (apartheid South Africa), and militarily intervenes in, and only in, predominantly non-white societies (e.g. Nicaragua and El Salvador), there is the simple fact that being “number one” in the world is equivalent in effect to being the world’s “master race” if the basis of supremacy is national military might. Both types of supremacisin are exclusivist, reposed on the capacity to maim and kill out-groups, provocative to relations of co-existence, and, more now than ever, world-destructive in power.
Principle 2: Annihilative Anti-Communism as Categorical Imperative of Value-System.
Fascism and Neo-Conservatism both define themselves less in terms of what they are exactly for, than in terms of what they are immutably against. And in both cases, the ultimatenegatio that is their determinatio is “communism.” Both suppose that there is no sacrifice that is not worthwhile to save the world from its “terrorism” and “slavery.” Both state or imply that there is no evil imaginable that “bolshevism”/”communism” is not capable of, and both conclude from this that there is no annihilative act that is not justifiable to fight against it.’ In both fascist and neo-conservative conceptual frameworks, “communists” are classified in terms depriving them of all morality, particularity or knowledge of humanity’s interests (“hordes,” “cancer,” “the enemy,” “reds,” “subversives”), and only in such terms. Both claim certain supernatural as well as biological sanctions for their beliefs; both assert the world’s fate and survival to hang on their enactment; both set no limit to the mass-killing of dispossessed people those beliefs warrant; and both view any progressive redistribution of power or wealth as evidence of the communist threat that must be destroyed. 4
This logic of anti-communism is, at bottom, the logic of anti-semitism writ large. In Nazi Germany and in post-coup 1970’s Argentina, the two are made explicitly coterminous. It is the “Jew-Bolshevik” or “Zionist-Conimunist” that must be exterminated. 5 But no such explicit coincidence of devil-object is required. The prejudices of anti-communism and anti-semitism are in principle synonymous. In both pathologies of the sorting mind, hatred is directed against what is perceived as a counter-cultural, wealth-taking conspiracy. In each case, the group that is categorized as such is seen as “foreign” in its genesis and its concerns, as non-individual in its horde-like antinomy to Christian conscience, as ingeniously devious in its “plots” and “subversions,” as unlimitedly ambitious in its “takeovers” and “world design,” as “dirty” and “cowardly” in its habits and practice, and as “behind” every “subversion” of “civilization” and “order.” The communist as Jew – the very ring of these epithets sounds the same note. Outcast. Enemy. Unclean One. Plotter and Schemer. Taker of Property. Fearer of Holy Revenge. It is not easy to identify a single difference in these orders of annihilative group-hate, including both’s long, official conditioning and habitual use as fascist and neo-conservative scapegoats for mass unrest.
Lest it be rejoined that the new right’s anti-communism is not racially genocidal in its settled design, it is well to note what neo-conservatives support wherever non-white “communists” are concerned. The killing and maiming of over two million Vietnamese by U.S. armed aggression remains for neo-conservatives a “noble cause” that is defended with ardour a decade after its body count is in. (“If is were not for the ‘weak-willed’ and ‘pacifist’ stab-in-the-back at home,” its Nazi-reminiscent line goes, “the enemy would have been destroyed in toto by the final solution of nuclear war.”)6 The deathsquad murder of tens of thousands of unarmed civilians in Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, and pre-revolutionary Nicaragua by “friendly governments” is, moreover, not only excused by the new right as necessary to the “fight against communism,”7 but wherever the enemy “virus” has not thus been effectively “eradicated,” the financing, arming, training, and directing of these deathsquad dictatorships is actively pursued and escalated by neo-conservative governments and advocates as tantamount to defence of the “national interest.” 8 If this recurrent pattern is not genuinely genocidal in intent and consequence, the differences are likely to elude its potential victims who, from the Philippines through South Africa to El Salvador, are increasingly unanimous in their recognition of it as Nazi-like and fascist in design.
Principle 3: International and War Crimes as Acceptable Policies to Achieve Ends.
“Fascism” as an ordinary language term has as its core referent those actions by the Nazi Germany state which, though nationally legal, involved the violation of accepted principles of humanity and of civilization, namely those codified in The Principles of the Nuremberg Charter and Judgement:
(a) Crimes Against Peace: (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurance,
(b) War Crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war, which include but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation . . . of civilian population,; of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war . . . killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
(c) Crimes Against Humanity: Murder, extermination, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecution on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.
Neo-conservatives have explicitly supported and commissioned such international crimes: for example, the Reagan administration’s now acknowledged financing, arming, and directing of military invasion of Nicaragua from bases in Honduras, as well as its financial, military, and tactical support of internationally documented murder and torture of tens of thousands of noncombatant civilians by government security forces in El Salvador and Guatemala (e.g. by the Atlactl Brigade).9 Moreover, neo-conservatives publicly support and endorse similar such crimes in the past, as occurred in the Vietnam War, whose conduct by commanding U.S. officials qualifies them for conviction as war and international criminals in the written judgement of the U.S.’s own Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.10 There has been no neo-conservative criticism of any of these international and war crimes; there has been wide and explicit support of the actions to which they refer by neo-conservative commentators and politicians; and there have been prominent calls for their still further intensification by the movement’s leading politicians, academics, and commentators.11 As George F. Will, one of the movement’s primary syndicated spokesmen, recently put it:
Vietnam was positively Athenian next to what we’re involved in in El Salvador, but we must recognize we’re not there for the interests of El Salvador, or anyone else’s but ours. Sometimes a great nation has to pursue a policy whatever its costs to others. 12
Principle 4: Social Darwinist World-View.
Both fascism and neo-conservatism understand human society in terms of a competitive struggle among its membership such that some individuals or groups are selected for ascendant wealth and power, others for continued survival in useful functions, and still others for poverty, disease or death, in accordance with their respective possession of favorable genetic characteristics and/or strength of will. In consequence of this underlying Weltanschauung, both fascists and neo-conservatives are outspokenly anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic in policy; 13 neither sets any limit to the wealth and/or power that selected individuals or groups may justifiably possess; 14 neither posits any line (it impoverishment or powerlessness beneath which other people ought to be socially ensured against falling;15 and neither ever admits the possibility that any objective antagonism of interest could exist between capital-owning and working classes.”16
To be sure, fascists and neo-conservatives have different ways of giving expression to these underlying common principles. Nazis are explicitly racist in their disqualification of non-white groups from any general right to be free of disease, disabling poverty or death in a society with the productive means to ensure it, whereas neo-conservatives are not expressly racist in this way, but operate on behalf of the same disqualification by means of their general resistance to any measure that would deliberately work to advance the lot of non-white populations (e.g. by affirmative legislation, end-state philosophy, or boycott of racist regimes). On the other hand, Nazis are not explicitly opposed to measures like statutory emission controls which are required to preserve the air, the water, and natural life from pollution and destruction, whereas neo-conservatives continually are.17 In both cases, the unifying principle of the blind or willing disablement and destruction of “lower” realms of being lies in the underlying belief in “laws of selection” whereby unlimited incapacitation or extinction of other life-forms is destined by the order of nature (of which the immutable “laws of the market” are for neo-conservatives an inviolable part).18 Underpinning this view of divinely ordained struggle and selection is the fascist and neo-conservatives’ shared concept of human nature, which both presuppose as propelled by boundless acquisitiveness and “aggression” towards triumph over others in fulfilment of an “invisible,” cosmic plan. 19
Principle 5: Patriarchal Logic of Action.
The patriarchal logic of action requires that young people, dependents, employees, and other beings perceived as “inferior” in effective capacity behave intelligibly and morally only if they submit to the control of specified adult-male “authorities” (a father, husband, employer, etc.). For both fascists and neo-conservatives, this structure of command and obedience is regarded as the essence of a “stable” social order, the “permanent” of all social life.20
In consequence, fascists and neo-conservatives both tirelessly propound some expression of the patriarchal logic of action in their concepts of “proper schooling,” a “good” Frau or “wife,” a “loyal” workforce, “good boys” (soldiers and athletes) and “good old boys” (conforming graduates of these milieus), a “hardworking (native) people,” an “orderly” or “disciplined” society, and so on. Both at the same time conceive of any violation of this “natural order of subordination” as a wilful offence against the “State,” “civilization,” or “authority”: or, in cases of adult male workers to neo-conservatives, “free enterprise.” (That is, in all cases, an offence against what is regarded as civilly absolute.) Neither ever acknowledges or views as worth considering the possibility that any form of government other than prescriptive for non-entitled participants is possible without “chaos” and “inefficiency.” Neo-conservatives and fascists are, in a word, intractable authoritarians: except where the “freedom” of private capital is concerned, private capital being for the neo-conservatives the very ultimate earthly authority whose “laws” and “demands” must be obeyed. Thus “mob-rule,” “democratic excess,” “permissiveness,” “anarchism,” “softness,” “lack of discipline” or any other attempt at a dialogicalstructure of governance for children, dependents, employees or Third World native peoples is treated with contempt or rejection; and, if successfully insubordinating in effect, as in some educational reforms or popular liberation movements, is vigorously attacked by any means thought necessary to repress it (in accordance with Principle 6).
Principle 6: Advocacy of Institutionalized Violence to Uphold “Standards.”
Patriarchal relations are not necessarily violent. The Confucian structure of filial piety, for example, stipulates a “perfect form of obedience,” but considers exemplary behaviour and public reproach the only humane methods of ensuring such conformity. Fascism and neo-conservatism, on the other hand, are law-like in their advocacy of more violent as opposed to less violent methods of maintaining compliance to prescribed norms. Thus, both vigorously defend the use of physical violence against those who would ban it as a means of “disciplining” children (e.g. the strap); both intransigently oppose the general abolition of capital punishment and call for its restoration where it is not imposed; and both variously repudiate virtually any reform that would substantially reduce or eliminate the disablements of imprisonment, social failure or sexual non-conformity, the exception here being those who are associated with or who possess great privilege, wealth or power (whom both; fascists and neo-conservatives are inclined selectively to forgive in accordance with Principles (4) and (8)).
This advocacy by fascists and neo-conservatives of normalized violence by established authority is also always justified in the same way: namely, by some variation on the argument that it is required to maintain settled “standards,” among which is invariably included the right to sanctioned retribution or revenge. But it is not only possible or actual deviators from received norms for, whom institutionalized violence is recommended as appropriate by neo conservatives and fascists. Both also typically endorse and defend institutionalized violence and aggression as an essential crucible of development for, the “fighting spirit” and, in particular, for the development of a “manly youth”: in combative sport and athletics, in military training, in initiatory rites of male passage in general. 21 Like their revenge-and-ordeal model of justice, the martial model of achievement beloved of fascists and neo-conservatives is based on the ancient idea that elevated ideals can only be realized through propitiatory payments of human suffering and pain, usually, someone else’s lower down the ladder. Neo-conservatives are quite unquietable when the price that must be paid is their own (e.g. by progressive income taxes, which they regard as “immoral”).
Connected to this principle of more of other people’s suffering and pain for more fulfilment of “justice” and “excellence” is the fascist’s and neo-conservative’s strenuous opposition to government “hand-outs” to the underprivileged, but not to corporations; their antipathy to equal rights legislation for women and blacks, but not for capital investors in foreign countries; 22their condemnation of “international terrorism,” but not where it is applied on behalf of their own interests.23
Principle 7: Militantly Organized, Mass-Media Appeals to Fear and Ignorance as A Method of Securing Popular Political Support.
Virtually all the commentary and scholarship on the fascist and neo-conservative movements explicitly agree on one point: that both movements display an extraordinary mastery of mass-persuasion techniques, and that both bolster this virtuosity of communication powers with a relatively sudden, nation-wide proliferation of militant and well-resourced action-groups. In neither case, however, despite the vast literature, have the lines of funding for this right wing army of “patriots,” “moral crusaders,” and “hit” groups ever been clearly revealed.
The similarity of political method within these broad lines of likeness is not exact in detail, but it is systematic in principle. Both fascist and neo-conservative movements have as their public leaders spell-binding rhetoricians, who with continuous media attention link to their mass listeners as deeply sincere men or women of pious reverences and iron will. Both movements adopt as their style passionate conviction in the heroic past of the nation, radically belligerent and virulent attacks on the Left opposition, intellectually impervious commitment to authoritarian education, housewife womanhood, and old-Testament religion; and both rejoice in resplendent dress, ceremony, and love of’ punitive order and sacrificial discipline. Both unremittingly pronounce their belief in national renewal by harsh methods of “restraint,” “stiff penalties,” and “tough response” behind which each claims certain endorsement by an almighty Providence or “spiritual” absolute. Both, to general, map the authoritarian and mythical of the past onto the future as its inviolable order, and denounce any deviation from it as an offence against country and God. Both warn continuously and in the most extreme terms of an immoral, godless, and deceitful Enemy with ever-increasing resources and world-subverting goals. Both ceaselessly exhort their national audiences to “sacrifice” for a national military “strength” so invincibly advanced, so vigilant, and so free of the “weakness” of the recent past that no enemy, however powerful and inhuman, can ever again seek to undermine its “honour” and “freedom.” And both reduce all situations to two-term, black-versus-white oppositions – the good versus the wicked, the nation versus the enemy, and the “spiritual” and “God-fearing” versus the “materialistic” and “atheistic” while, in fact, almost invariably defending the more powerful, the more narrowly enabling, and the more materially acquisitive side in both domestic and foreign affairs (in accordance with Principles 2 and 4).
Such backward-looking and self-confuting political methods and contents lead, inevitably, to collisions with rationality and fact. To avoid such discrediting frictions with reality, fascists and neo-conservatives both employ two main methods of prevention. The first is to make anti-intellectualism a core of doctrine and practice from the outset – if not by book-burning and brown-shirt attacks, then by cross-nation sweeps of library and school book bannings, withdrawal of federal funds for public broadcasting, systematic attempts to control or back-peddle science curricula, and to eliminate or reduce social-inquiry subjects in schools and colleges, political campaigns to fire “leftist” teachers and professors, the use of tax and postal departments to harass “radical” publications, the selective cutback of publicly funded nonmilitary research, the appointment to environmental arms-control and foreign-policy agencies of uninformed partisans, and the repetitive charge from the literati of the movement that disagreeing “intellectuals” are a “new class” of powerful under miners of the nation’s traditional stability and order. 24
The other method of overcoming the resistant presence of reason or fact is simply to ignore them both while aggressively declaring their opposite to be true again and again over the country’s mass media: the public relations technique that was once more frankly known as “the big lie.” The Nazis used it by falsely promulgating the Reichstag fire as a “communist plot” to take over the nation. The neo-conservatives analogously use it by ceaselessly proclaiming a huge Soviet lead in nuclear warheads and a “proven” but never shown “Eastern Bloc conduit” of arms to rebels in Central and South America: both of which claims are without factual warrant, but are billed, like the Reichstag fire, as a “communist plot” to destroy America.25 Such indifference to the requirements of truth are not restricted by either fascists or neo-conservatives to mere inventions about “communist subversion.” With a social setting increasingly biased towards public ignorance by neo-conservative assaults on established methods of research and information disclosure, anything at all may be asserted that suits the interests of the new right’s military, industrial, and financial constituencies: that, for example, there is no connection between acid rain and millions of tons of acid-rainmaking effluents; 26 that widespread poverty in America does not exist ;27 that financing and directing of security-forces who murder thousands of unarmed civilians is financing and directing “a significant and concerted effort to comply with internationally recognized human rights”;28 that disagreement by other countries with policies of international environmental destruction is “foreign propaganda”; 29 that “free and fair elections” are ones in which opposition parties are excluded and its centrist leaders are under army sentence of death ;30 that refusal to negotiate and financing of armed terror by the U.S. in a smaller country is “refusal to negotiate” and “terrorism” by the smaller country; 31 that regulation of domestic pollution, drugs, and hazardous working conditions cannot be afforded by the world’s richest nation; that “getting government off the people’s backs” is transferring tax benefits to the rich and reducing occupational and health protections, school milk programs, social security legislation, and Medicaid for the old ; 32 and that “security” and “self-determination” for other peoples is their not being “lost” to U.S. control. 33
Principle 8: Systematic Benefit to Wealthy Property Holders and Military-Industrial Corporations by Government Policies.
“National socialist” and ” neo -conservative” are not terms that correctly correspond to these movement’s policies. In truth, Nazis were violently anti-socialist once in political power, and “neo-conservatives” are almost as violently anti-conservative in their opposition to conserving lakes, forests, public health, human rights, social security, and civilized standards of international conduct.
One of the most striking findings of research into “national socialist” and “neo-conservative” political behaviour is how alike both are in their policies of selective benefit to big business and the military-industrial complex. Both grant enormous and increased tax reductions and exemptions to large industrial corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of benefits to the remainder of the population. 34 Both are active and extremist in their hostility to established workers’ unions. Both claim “excessive wage demands” in times of rapidly declining real wages (down 20% on the average in the U.S. between 1965 and 1981). 35 Both selectively subsidize large industrial enterprises, in particular those involved in weapons manufacture. 36 Both allow or promote an historically exceptional amount of corporate merging, and both nourish production monopolies in the military-industrial sphere. Both extensively “privatize” sectors of public enterprise; 37 both appoint business representatives to state offices regulating business; 38 and both, including Hitler, preach the virtues of “individual initiative” and “economic liberty” in business affairs. 39 Both, in short, operate in unprecedentedly selective defence of the interests of a numerically small proportion of the population, namely, those at the apex of the nation’s military and corporate power.
What is initially anomalous to the comparison of fascist and neo-conservative movements is that the former ideologically glorifies and even deifies “the state,” while the latter selectively ridicules and attacks it. This anomaly is less mysterious if we recognize the distinction between neo-conservative rhetoric and practice. Thus, while its ideology tirelessly decries “big government” on behalf of “the rights of the individual,” neo-conservative governments, in fact, establish a more powerful, more wasteful, and more authoritarian state by unlimitedly expanding its military budgets. Neo-conservative governments also, in fact, reduce the “rights of the individual” they claim to protect by depriving him or her of former civil protections against poverty, disease, discrimination, and premature death. What must be kept in mind in assessing the new Right’s attacks on “big government” is that, just as appeals to pious feelings for “the State” in 1930’s Germany, these propagations are geared to attract and incite a specific population with specific ingrained habits and dispositions. Fascists revere the state to a state-revering population, but they destroy its established forms. Neo-conservatives abuse the state to a tax-hostile population, but they increase its costs and its violent powers. The reality is what is done, and in both cases what is done is that government specially protects and advances the interests of much the same military and capital-owning group at the expense of organized and unorganized labour, minority groups, and less powerful people in general.
What is most distinctive about fascist and neo-conservative government is how extremely willing both are to sacrifice the interests of those whom their policies do not favour. It is here that their corresponding principles of outlook and action come together with the clarity of an advancing military line. Armed supremacy, social Darwinist world-view, annihilative anti-communism and war crime policy, unlimited inequality, authoritarian dictate, and militant ignorance all converge into one dogma-linked phalanx against whomever does not fit or opposes their unlimitedly acquisitive and destructive “push.” All that has been built to hedge in the cruelty, indifference, and greed of ascendant possessory power is brushed aside as expendable or nationally hostile, and no internal limits of pressure or method exist to restrict the aggression within evolved bonds of human concern. What is opposed to the expansion of multinational profits and military superiority is opposed to the nation itself. What is opposed to the nation itself is the enemy and absolute evil. What is the enemy and absolute evil must be destroyed by any means possible. This is the underlying logic of fascist and neo-conservative thought, and it is only restrained from without.
Fascist and neo-conservative governments are not long-lived in historical terms. They eventually bring forth too vast a resistance from surfacing humanity and the world’s more developed social establishment to endure. The question is whether their holocaust pattern is civilly recognized in time to curtail its implementation.
- This set of positions is familiar enough. Its explicit formulation as proto-neoconservative policy dates from Senator Barrv Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative (New York, 1960), where Goldwater represents America’s rightful position as “master of the world” (p. 89), which position requires, he argues, a “strategy primarily offensive in nature. We must strive to achieve and maintain military superiority. Mere parity will not do” (p. 122).
- That “no area of the world is beyond the scope of U.S. interest” was declared by President Reagan’s national security advisers in a prepared document on foreign policy entitledStrategic Guidance, revealed by The New York Times News Service on November 13, 1980. It is in accordance with this premise that primary presidential adviser Edwin Meese has recently said of U.S. support and direction of armed intervention in Nicaragua, “I think we absolutely have a moral right to do what we’re doing in Nicaragua” (In These Times,May 4-10, 1993, p. 3). That first-strike capability has long been considered a priority of the U.S. Air Force is acknowledged by former Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara in an interview with the Manchester Guardian Weekly (August 15, 1982, p. 9), and that U.S. nuclear weapons are now “grossly in excess of what is needed to provide deterrence” is acknowledged by Field Marshall Lord Carver, recent chief of the British Defence Staff (A Policy for Peace (London, 1982), p. 11), as well as, implicitly, by the Reagan administration’s foreign policy adviser, Colin Gray: “Strategic forces do not exist solely for the purpose of deterring . . . Instead they are intended to support U.S. foreign policy” (The Canadian Forum, June, 1983, p. 4).
- On January 31, 1933, the day after Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany, Joseph Goebbels recorded in his diary the anti-communist policy defining Nazi government: “In a conference with the Fuehrer we lay down the line for the fight against the Red terror.”Within a month, the repressive measures characterizing National Socialist government had begun to be implemented as a “defensive measure against Communist acts of violence, endangering the state” (See William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York, 1959, pp. 266-7 1). President Reagan also began his term of office by declaring his administration’s concern to fight “Communist terrorism” (a charge which the C.I.A. itself subsequently described as “unsubstantiated” in a public statement two months later), and its determination to replace the previous administration’s concern for “human rights” with a policy of “counter- terrorism” (Reuter News Service, January 30, 1981). “Communism,” Mr. Reagan has since remarked, “is the focus of evil in the modern world” (The Manchester Guardian Weekly, March 20, 1983, p. 6), a description that is reminiscent of Goering’s conceptualization of it as “a deadly bacillus” which must be “fought against to the death” (H. Goering, Reborn (London, 1934), p. 395).
- The propensity to conceive of even established church communities seeking to help the poor as “Communist” is evidenced in the U.S.-supported military regime of Guatemala: “Anyone working with the poor, anyone involved in leadership training was labelled a ‘communist’, without any basis (Guatamalan parish priest)” Oxfam Special Report,“Guatemala. The Peasant Revolution,” May, 1983, p. 1. Lest we think such categorization is confined to third-world tyrannies, Britain’s Marquess of Salisbury, writing in the eponymous Salisbury Review, has described the current Church of England as “that self-appointed fifth column of the Communist Party (The Manchester Guardian Weekly March 13, 1983, p. 19).
- In his chapter “The Jewish Peril” in Mein Kampt, Adolf Hitler says that the Jew works politically through the “propagation of the doctrine of Marxism” and, he argues at length, it is through this Bolshevik “annihilation of the economic system” that the Jew achieves his goal of “destroying civilization” (Communism, Fascism and Democracy, ed Carl Cohen (New York, 1962), pp. 415-19). Jacobo Timmerman describes the same Jew-Communist equation in his now famous account of recent imprisonment and torture by Argentina’s military authorities, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number (New York, 1981).
- “For the American side was not defeated militarily in Vietnam. It simply lost the will and stomach to continue the fight … You don’t argue with arsonists or bank robbers, you put them out of harm’s way” (Brian Crozier, “Caribbean Scourge,” National Review, Sept. 2, 1983, p. 1062). See also Norman Podhoretz, Why We Were in Vietnam (New York, 1982), as well as “The Lessons Nixon Learned” by Morton H. Halperin (who dissents from this pattern of thought) in The Vietnam Legacy: The War, American Society and the Future of American Society) ed. Anthony Lake (New York, 1976), pp. 412-18. Throughout neo-conservative literature (Podhoretz revealingly prefers to call it “neo-nationalist”), the idea of “communism” as an “absolute evil” which must be destroyed wherever and however possible as an “inhuman” threat to “civilization” is – as with 1930’s fascism – the underlying first principle of moral judgement.
- Current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, is perhaps the neo-conservatives’ most eminent apologist for “traditional” violence against “communists” by “friendly” regimes. (See her well-known article “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” Commentary, November 1979, p. 35.) In one of her most effusive endorsements of mass murdering “subversives,” she congratulated the government of El Salvador, whose death squads have killed over 40,000 civilians in the last four years alone, according to a senior staff worker in the Salvadorean Human Rights Commission (Globe and Mail, Nov. 3, 1982, p. 10) with an unparalleled attainment in “democratic practices” (Reuter News Service, March 18, 1983).
- The Reagan administration, through a combination of executive fiat, embassy general staffs, and established programs (the Military Sales Finance Program, Military Assistance programs, and International Military Education and Training Program), has increasingly escalated its financing, arming, training, and direction of the mass-killing military regimes of El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, and the Somicista contras, despite Congressional attempts at limiting such involvements. (See, for example, The Central American War: A Guide to the U.S. Military- Build-up (Philadelphia, 1983), passim). What is referred to by the Reagan administration as preserving “the national security of all the Americas” in Central and South America has been described by onlookers in less Orwellian terms: … the forcible expulsion of the Indian peasants from their lands coveted by the landowners and military, amounts to a veritable genocide” (World Council of Churches, July, 1982); “There will be no stop to the killing until the rebels win or the army kills all the indigenous peoples”(Oxfam Special Report (Toronto, Canada, Fall, 1983).
- The Reagan administration no longer denies financial and military aid to armed bands illegally attempting to overthrow Nicaragua’s government from foreign bases, but denies that this is its intention. Leaders of the contras attempting this armed overthrow, however, “flatly contradict” this pretence (Globe and Mail, May 2, 1983, p. 1), and President Reagan himself smilingly acknowledged, in a response to a question on this issue in a nationally televised Presidential Press Conference, that he was continuing to deny what was evident because it was against the law (Presidential Press Conference, May 26, 1983).
- Former Chief U.S. Prosecutor at tile Nuremberg Trials, Telford Taylor, comes to this conclusion in his book, Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy (Chicago, 1970).
- Neo-conservative academic, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, the Reagan administration’s U.S. Representative to the United Nations, says this of El Salvador, whose security forces murdered over 30,000 civilians in the previous three years (according to the administration’s own ambassador (Globe and Mail, November 3, p. 10): “I’ve never met more government people who impressed me as more deeply concerned with trying to perfect democratic practices, including certainly respect for human rights” (Reuter News Service, March 18, 1983). Ambassador Deane Hinton, who made the death estimates from muted reports in El Salvador’s government-censored media, was removed from his post in El Salvador in early June, 1983.
- Martin Agronsky Panel, Public Broadcasting Service, March 11, 1983.
- Fascism’s opposition to equality and democracy is well-known: “It equates”, says Benito Mussolini, “the nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of that majority” (Cohen, op. cit. p. 352). Less well known is the neo-conservative hostility to the “excess of democracy” in America today (Samuel Huntington), and to the intolerable “egalitarianism” that “will surely destroy liberal (sic) society” (Irving Kristol). For an account of the assault on the ” complete levelling” and “the democratic distemper” which neo-conservative intellectuals perceive as undermining “authority” and “order” in America today, see Peter Steinfels, The Neo-conservatives (New York, 1979), passim.
- The principal argument of Robert Nozick’s Anarchism, State and Utopia (New York, 1974) is against any such “end-state” lines being drawn rather than “side-constraints” on “legitimate acquisition and transfer.” Because these “side constraints” admit of any possible extent of possession or dispossession at all, Nozick’s argument has been of academic importance to the neo-conservative justification of wealth and poverty without limits.
- For the fascist, lines of impoverishment or powerlessness below which others will not be allowed to fall violate precisely the “process of selection” that it is the duty (if fascists to implement. “In this process of’ selection,” says Heinrich Himmler of the “negative population policy” of the Nazis, “there can never be a standstill” (cited in Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (London, 1958), p. 311). An analogous “process of selection” is achieved by the neo-conservative policy of systematic reduction of spending on social welfare programs and other measures of assuring basic sustenance to the needy (e.g. through unprecedented cut-backs of social security in domestic government expenditures and draconian International Monetary Fund conditions to Third World countries requiring the elimination of price controls on basic commodities and a massive reduction of fiscal spending on social welfare and public projects.
- It is because Marxian analysis argues the contrary that both fascism and neo-conservatism are explicitly dedicated to its elimination. As the current Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, expressed it in her lead-off of the recent British elections: “And 0 what a prize we have to win — to banish from our land the dark and divisive forces of Marxism” (BBC News, May 16, 1983).
- This obstructive resistance to regulatory control of corporate pollution has come to be known as the Reagan administration’s “Sewergate.” Yet acid precipitation from sulphate effluents, whose control the neo-conservative Reagan administration has intractably opposed, is estimated by a U.S. Congressional Study to cause 50,000 deaths a year in North America from respiratory disease (Globe and Mail, November 8, 1982, p. A 13), and the death of over 2,000 fresh-water lakes annually (Time, November 8, 1982, p. 100).
- Milton Friedman, for example, has characterized as a necessary “shock treatment” the “free-market” economic reorganization of Chile which has resulted in over 20,000 police and army murders, a 25% unemployment rate, and a 13.5% fall in industrial growth (Guardian, Sept. 8, 1982, p. 13).
- The “redemptive morality of capitalism” says George Gilder in his distinctively amiable neo-conservative book, Wealth and Poverty, is that “its very essence is the competitive pursuit of transitory positions of monopoly” (Wealth and Poverty (New York, 198 1), pp. x and 37).
- The Fuehrerprinzip of Nazism entails that leadership of any social unit from the home and factory to the national state must be vested in a hierarchy of unopposable authority. As the eminent Martin Heidegger put it as a University Rector in the early years of Nazi rule: “Let not doctrines and ‘ideas’ be the ruler of your being. Today and in the future, only the Fuehrer himself is German reality and its law” (Alisdair MacIntyre, Marcuse (London, 1974), p. 9). Though neo-American conservatives more openly posit the “laws” of capital as the repository of ultimate sovereignty in civil society, the British new right still harks back to the mystified state absolutism of fascism proper, as in Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism (London, 1980). In this self-acknowledged “work of dogmatics,” Scruton prescribes to us that it is the “subjection to external will which heralds the citizen’s realization of his membership in society” (p. 32), that “no citizen [is] possessed of a natural right that transcends his obligation to be ruled” (p. 16), and that “a nation state dictates to its citizens that it is for it, and it alone, to determine how they fight and die” (p. 186).
- Inculcation of martial virility is a unifying first principle of neo-conservatism and fascist philosophies of development from the nation to the football field. On the level of the nation, it is believed that “. . . Nations fight, wholly, absolutely and to the death. Renaissance Italy produced the highest culture … from a state of war” (Scruton, p. 185). On the level of the football field, the idea is: “Critics of college football are kooks, crumbums and commies – hairy, loudmouthed beatniks. Football is war without killing . . . [and] football players possess a clear, bright, fighting spirit which is America itself” (comment by former Superintendent of Schools, Max Rafferty, cited in The Nation, January 18, 1971, p. 84).
- The principal objection of the Reagan administration to Canada’s 1981 National Energy Plan, which was attempting tile goal of securing 50% Canadian ownership of Canadian energy reserves by 1990, was that it was “discriminatory” against American investors because it did not grant them “equal rights” to Canadian government subsidies and taxbenefits (see Stephen Clarkson, The Reagan Challenge (Toronto, 1982)).
- This tendency of fascist and neo-conservative governments to condemn the “terrorism” of others while recommending and commissioning considerably more extensive terrorism than what they condemn is monumentally documented in Edward S. Herman, The Real Terror Network: Terrorism Fact and Propaganda (Boston, 1982) and Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism: The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume I (Montreal, 1979).
- This extraordinary claim is traced across the spectrum of neo-conservative thought by Steinfels, op cit., pp. 65-7, 279)-94. “Intellectuals” of liberal or radical persuasion appear to be the only social referent for which neo-conservatives will tolerate use of the referring term “class.”
- President Reagan has reported to the public that the Soviet lead in nuclear arms is “like a box-score of 1300 to 0” (C.B.C. Sunday Morning, March 27, 1983). The U.S. Department of Defence’s own estimate of U.S./U.S.S.R. nuclear strengths, which has not been referred to by the Reagan administration in its continuous appeals to the public for more money for nuclear arms, is as follows:”. . . while the era of U.S. superiority is long past, parity – not U.S. inferiority – has replaced it, and the United States and the Soviet Union are roughly equal in strategic nuclear power” (United States Department of Defence Annual Report FY, 1982, p. 43).
The claims about a “Soviet conduit of arms” to El Salvador have never been supported with substantiating evidence. It is interesting to note that the veracity of the original author of these claims, General Alexander Haig, was summatively described by his former colleague and Deputy Commander of NATO, Nino Pasti, as follows: “I had a difficult job to discover one truth told by General Haig” (International Seminar, London, Nov. 25-26, 1978).
- “Acid rain is natural” is the position of U.S. utility holding companies (e.g. Time, op. cit., p. 98). This position has been backed by the U.S. government’s refusal to implement or negotiate controls on the grounds that “too little is known,” when in fact U.S. international research agencies long ago established the detailed and systematic connections that are denied (e.g. “The Long Range Transportation of Air Pollutants,” United States-Canada Research Consultation Group, 1979).
- “In America, there aren’t any poor people left”, R.L. Bartley, Editor, The Wall Street Journal (cited in The Manchester Guardian Weekly, August 8, 1982, p. 17).
- See note 8. The Reagan administration has met such public relations problems in ways like the following (cited from a Dec. 22, 1982, Information Telex from the London Secretarial of Amnestv International): “Guatemala officials have said repeatedly that Amnesty International has been invited to visit Guatemala to survey the human rights situation but has not taken up the invitation. This claim has been repeated by U.S. officials and has been reported in international news media. It should be made clear in response to this claim that no such invitation has ever been received at Amnesty International’s International Secretariat, the movement’s headquarters.”
- The Reagan administration’s State Department declaration of a Canadian National Film Board documentary on acid rain as “foreign propaganda” in the spring of 1983, carried with it the stipulation that all viewers be required to register their names on a list, to be subsequently submitted to the State Department, before viewing the film.
- See James R. Gordon, “The Big Fix in El Salvador,” Canadian Forum, June/July, 1982, p. 6.
- That President Reagan had approved a plan to invest $19.9 million in clandestine operations by the C.I.A. to “destabilize” the Nicaraguan Government has been known since March 10, 1982, when the Washington Post, and subsequently on March 14, the New York Times, reported tile project. One year later, President Reagan was asking for more money to implement the plan as “freedom aid” to bring down the “violent” government of Nicaragua (Toronto Star, April 28, 1983, p. 1).
- See Donald Riggs, “No Net for the Needy,” In These Times, May 18-24, pp. 12-13, and Robert Lekachman, Greed is Not Enough: Reaganomics (New York, 1982), for a profile of the selective cutbacks of social programs for the poor by neo-conservative government. It is of interest to note in this connection the words of the leading historian of German business, Henry A. Turner Jr: “What offended big businessmen about the German state [prior to Hitler’s Chancellorship] was its adoption of costly welfare measures . . .” (“Big Business and the Rise of Hitler,” American Historical Review (1969-70), p. 57.
- As Henry Kissinger has put it in an article that reveals much about the growth of neo-conservative foreign policy: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own government,” (Seymour M. Hersh, “The Price of the Power,” Atlantic Monthly, December 1982, p. 37).
- Canadian Conservative Senator Eugene Forsey described the pattern in this way: “Neoconservatism is just a fancy name for the biggest international romp ever mounted by the rich for skimming the poor” (Globe and Mail, November 29, 1982, p. 15). Against standard misconceptions, this pattern of selective benefit to the wealthy by government policies and programs was similarly the case in Nazi Germany. The supporting evidence here is vast. It is found throughout two volumes written at the time by Daniel Guerin, (Fascism and Big Business, trans. Frances and Mason Merrill (New York, 1939), and R. Palme Dutte (Fascism and Social Revolution (London, 1935)). It is also documented at length in Arthur Schweitzer’s Big Business in the Third Reich (London, 1964), and sporadically throughout William L. Shirer’s monumental study, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich(Greenwich, Conn, 1960. See in particular pp. 202 ff, 283, and 358 ff). As well, it is disclosed en passant in Richard Hamilton’s Who Voted for Hitler? (Princeton, 1982, especially on pages 359, 372-80, 413, 429-32). What is most interesting about the latter work is the positive correlation it reveals, between the wealth of all electoral district and the extent of voting support it gave to the Nazi Party.. “The line of investigation,”summarizes Hamilton, “yielded the crucial finding that support for the National Socialistsin most cities varied directly with the class level of the district. The ‘best districts’ gave Hitter and his party the strongest support” (Ibid., p. 421). Such a conclusion from the most detailed study yet done of the electoral success of Hitler and the National Socialist Party conflicts with the common belief that it was the “lower middle class” or “petty bourgeoisie” that propelled Hitler into power. It also contradicts the well-received view of Hannah Arendt that it was “class breakdown” that put Hitler and the Nazis into office (e.g. op. cit., 312-13). Hamilton’s findings emphasize, on the contrary, that “paradoxically the workers remained steadfast in support of the status quo, while the middle class, only marginally hurt by the economic constriction, turned to revolution (sic) . . . the principal stress being that it was fear, not the objective facts of their condition that moved them” (op. cit., 374). As the above analyses of the Nazi rise to power in Germany variously emphasize, too, attention and favour to Hitler and his extreme program by wealthy press-empires was a sine qua non of the National Socialists’ social acceptance, and to the simultaneous demoralization of opposing democratic parties (e.g. Hamilton, op. cit., 379, 474). It is of interest to compare this pattern to the American and British press conglomerate predictions and celebrations of “landslide” victories for neo-conservative leaders and parties in these nations’ most recent elections where, in fact, the eventual “landslide” consisted in 26% of the registered vote in the former case, and a 1.5% decline of popular-vote support in the latter.
- Robert R. Reich, “The Next American Frontier,” The Atlantic, March, 1983, p. 43, In Germany “the share of all German workers in the national income fell from 56.9% in depression year of 1932 to 53.6’% in the boo)m year of 1938” (Shirer, op. cit., p. 364).
- This pattern of selective subsidization of military production is not confined to 1930’s Germany or 1980’s America, but grew dramatically by almost 400% in Canada between 1978 and 1982, in interesting correspondence to the spread of neo-conservative political influence in the country. One example of such public subsidization is the almost $20 million free government grant to Litton Systems, producer of the Cruise Missile, by the Defence Industry Productivity Program in the year 1991-2. The source of the above figures is the Public Account of Canada, 1981-2, cited by Ploughshares Monitor, March, 1983, p. 3.
- This “privatization” policy is a well-known policy of neo-conservatives in North America, but is not well known as a policy of fascist governments in both Italy and Germany in the 1930’s. Mussolini, for example, declared that the “state should renounce its economic functions . . . because it is incompetent in such matters” and the Nazi government announced almost immediately after its ascension to power that there “will be an end to all the attempts of recent years at nationalization” (Guerin, op. cit., pp. 2 10-11).
- In Italy, the fascist Minister of Finance declared on his Party’s assumption of power: “We have broken with the practice of persecuting capital” (Guerin, op. cit., p. 213). In America, under the Reagan administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Occupational Safety Health Administration are or have been all headed by former business lobbyists against environment and safety laws (Toronto Star, Feb. 28, 1983, p. 8). The same pattern is evident in external affairs. For example, the current U.S. Special Envoy to Central America, Richard Stone, is formerly a public relations employee of the deposed Guatemalan dictator, Romeo Lucas Garcia (Globe and Mail, June 15, 1983, p. 3).
- Cohen, op. cit., pp. 345 and 418. Because of misconceptions of fascist attempts to repress “free enterprise,” it needs to be emphasized that, in fact, fascists engineered dramatic turnarounds in corporate profits by government giveaways, tax reductions, and merciless repressions of worker organization (see, for example, Guerin, op. cit., pp. 210-15, 249-51 and Shirer, op. cit., pp. 362-64). “Stimulation of individual interest,” said the Nazi Minister of the Economy, Dr. Schact, “is and will remain the foundation of all economic activity” – a policy to which his successors Goering and Funt added their blessing: “Nationalization would only be a hindrance by bureaucratising industry and killing the initiative of the industrialists” (Guerin, op. cit., p. 251).