As much as we would like to believe that Fascism was defeated in the 40’s, it is still alive. It goes beyond Greece’s Golden Dawn, it goes past Russian Neo-Nazi’s, and it goes even further than France’s National Front. Fascist principals have pervaded every nation it has ever come in contact with. It has changed the way we view government, citizenship, and the definition of ‘Nation’.
In my last two articles I’ve outlined the history and the philosophical principals of Fascism. Now let’s expand this to talk about how it impacts us in America.
The fact is that many of the core tenants of Fascism (particularly nationalism) have existed prior to it. So when we are looking for traces of Fascism in modern society what we are looking for is a very specific ‘twinge’ which is unique and identifiable. Additionally, just because we haven’t had a word for a specific philosophical argument, doesn’t mean it cannot be categorized for what it is.
Finding Fascism is a challenge because Marxism, Fascism, and Liberalism all influence politics simultaneously in the late 1800s and early 1900s. What we get when we attempt to look at political decisions and say “is this uniquely Fascist?” or “is this uniquely Communist?” is a messy soup that has been blended such that it no longer resembles its constituent parts.
So how will we go forward then? I’ll try to identify ‘twinges’ which have a high degree of Fascist influence. This means anything which works toward reinforcing a ‘national ideal’ over ‘nationhood’, policies which argue that humans are inherently collectivists and care more for their nation than themselves, or arguments which argue for force of will over scientific rationalism.
A tall order, let’s see how it goes.
Fascism’s Low Hanging Fruit: JROTC and Public Schools
It doesn’t take a very clever person to see the military in public schools as Fascist inspired. Any modern military in any nation is going to have a lot of Fascist influence. Why? Because Fascism works at convincing young people to sign on the dotted line for military service. And what better place to start training kids than at public school.
The U.S. military has been in US public schools via our High School (which is about ages 14-18ish) since 1916. This program is called the JROTC, or, the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. From Wikipedia, here are some selected objectives of the JROTC.
- Developing citizenship and patriotism
- Developing self-reliance and responsiveness to all authority.
- Developing an appreciation of the importance of physical fitness.
- Increasing a respect for the role of the U.S. Armed Forces in support of national objectives.
I’m not trying to draw a hyperbole here but the first three bullets are word for word, what a Fascist wants out of public education.
Military services highlights everything a Fascist believes is instilled in every man, woman, and child: a willingness to sacrifice for his/her Nation and for cultural ‘myths’ (unquestioning patriotism for the heroism which follows). The goal of the JROTC is to recruit and train children for military service before the cut off age of 18. The idea is to teach students to put the collective needs of the Nation over the needs of the individual.
There is nothing Liberal about military service. Additionally there is no great support for the ‘bourgeoisie’ military in Communist literature either. And while patriotism and nationalism existed before Fascism did, the merger of public education, nationalism, duty (citizenship), and self-sacrifice are uniquely Fascist.
Paying Your Dues: Pledging Allegiance
For those who are joining us from distant foreign lands, every public school in America used to begin its day with the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Nowadays it isn’t compulsory, but a lot of schools still do it. What the salute entails is standing in place with your hand over your heart (if this is after 1942…) or with your hand outstretched like you are saying ‘Heil Hitler’ (if this is from 1892-1942) and you say something like this,
“I pledge allegiance, to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under god, indivisible, with justice and liberty for all.”
The under god part was added when we decided, as a unified and freedom loving nation, that God was the best form of defense against the evils of communist philosophy. It was not included in the original version, but no one cares about that so let’s move forward.
This all started in 1892, which, for those who have read up on their history of Fascism will note that
- The term ‘Fascism’ has not yet been put into existence,
- This is just after the unifications of Germany and Italy,
- It is also (coincidentally) the very year that the Italian Socialist Party was formed (later on Mussolini became a famous and integral member of the organization, leading to its split with nationalist elements and into the Fascist movement)
Does this mean that Fascists wrote the pledge of allegiance? No. But it falls within the precise historical period in which Fascism was developing. Now, does this necessarily mean it is Fascist? No, it’s not that either. So what makes it Fascist?
Reading the pledge closely you’ll note some language which references explicitly the national ideal of America, “one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Now, this is very familiar wording. Take a look at the Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”
Now, the declaration of independence is a quintessential Classical Liberal document. It outlines the relationship between government and the governed. There isn’t a single twinge of Fascism in this document. There is an explicit consent between a citizen and its government that is willing and has nothing to do with the pre-disposition of humans to be collectivists, or our desire to defend “America” as a Nation. No. The declaration of independence has everything to do with the essential rights of the individual. Note how different this is from the pledge of allegiance. To make it clear I added some words (an inference is that Republic roughly refers to the government)
“I pledge allegiance to a symbol of the United States of America, and to our Government to which it represents a single nation, under god, which is indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
What a stark contrast. This is Fascist. You are pledging yourself to the ideal of a single indivisible American Nation and the American Government which represents this nation, for our national ideal of Justice and Liberty. Still not seeing it? Okay, the difference is between pledging yourself to a nation which defends Justice and Liberty compared to the “unalienable rights… [of]…Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” which are guaranteed to each citizen regardless of nationhood or governance.
I’d say this is the most important point of the entire article that I’d like to make:
Classical Liberalism claims that humans are endowed with inalienable rights which are protected by willing consent of a citizenry toward its government. There is no care for nationhood or for a government which represents this nationhood. Only that the government respect these rights. If governments infringe upon these rights, citizens must rise up and destroy said government.
Fascism claims that humans align themselves through their Nation represented by their Government to pursue a national ideal. There are no ‘inalienable rights,’ there is only the collectivist will of a Nation which trumps all else. There are no rights to infringe upon since the argument is that the Fascist Government IS representative of the ideal. The pledge of allegiance makes the explicit association that the government provides us our Liberty and Justice and deserves our allegiance, not that we allow the government to exist such that it may serve us in our desire for our freedoms.
It is for this reason that the pledge of allegiance is Fascist and it doesn’t need to come out of Mussolini’s mouth for it to be so. Of course, the “Liberty for all” part is not Fascist by any means, but this is America not Mussolini’s Italy. We live in a complicated soup of competing, and sometimes contradictory, philosophical arguments.
Let’s move forward to something else close to home
The Fascism We All Demand: Presidents Like Us
First off, let’s just say this: the process of having a presidential election is not Fascist. Fascists do not like democracy in any form. However, in the process of going through the election ritual we place a lot of restrictions on presidential candidates. These restrictions are, I argue, heavily influenced by Fascist philosophical principals. Let’s start with the purpose of our leadership. See if you disagree with anything here.
We want to elect a leader which is a representation of the nation. Someone who will defend American interests abroad on the world stage of predatory nations. Since the president needs to be a representative of America, he needs to have a number of essential traits which all Americans possess, this will allow him to be immediately identifiable as ‘American’. These traits are as follows,
- He must be a believer in the Christian god (such that our country may be divinely guided)
- He must have devoted his life to the Nation (seen by military service or a lengthy public service career)
- He must be relatable, not too ‘intellectual’. He must be someone you have a beer with, someone who understands the worries of the average American
- He must give unquestioning praise and exalt the heroism of those who choose military service over a civilian life
Disclaimer time: If I don’t say this people will explode with fury so let’s get this over with, okay? Little pieces of Fascism in a society are inevitable and are not inherently evil. Just because we want to pick a leader who looks like and talks like us does not mean we are all secretly Fascists. Additionally, just because the majority of modern perceptions about militarism are Fascist doesn’t mean it’s necessarily evil/bad/infused with Satan. But the argument I am making is that the increased desire for this to be so (much more than is seen in early American history), is heavily influenced by Fascist philosophy.
The selection of a leader who represents an American ‘national ideal’ and represents the American ‘Nation’ is indeed Fascist. In-fact, the paragraph just under the above picture is basically a copy/paste of my explanation of Totalitarian Democracy in the prior Fascism article. So if you found yourself agreeing with that paragraph, give yourself +3 to your Fascism score. (It’s okay, I’m at +6 already)
So one more thing I’d like to address is science. For the most part Fascists are very anti-science while Liberals and Communists are extremely pro-science. Wanting a candidate who is ‘down to hearth’ and ‘not intellectual’ goes to a principal argument of the Fascists that was unique in the 1900s; science doesn’t explain everything. So before we go I’d like to address this point.
Fascism and Science
Why do Classical Liberals see Fascism as anti-science? The reason lies in two philosophical doctrines.
- The idea that humans do not interact with their reality in individualized units
- That there is no objective ‘truth’ or reality, rather, all ‘discovery’ has some form of the discoverer’s bias and value system influencing the result.
Therefore the idea that there are undeniable rules and axioms which are the laws of nature is seen as ridiculous. The rules are bias toward the creator of those rules. Therefore there are no immutable laws at all, rather explanations for what we derive in our social experience.
As a side note, this was also the time where there was a big push in mathematics to construct a uniform and single set of axioms for all of mathematics (so you can see the trend it is fighting against, Hilbert’s second problem).
Science is not unique. Art, history, drama, poetry, all attempt on equal footing to explain the social human experience in some way. Science is merely a branch of this, it is a branch that is a method of explaining the current reality we live within, via a rigorous method. That is all. Therefore, it is not argued that the discoveries of findings of science are false, but rather, that those findings are merely a way of explaining the world within current explanations of reality.
Fascism has pervaded America just as it has other nations. In some areas, such as Greece, France, and Russia its influence has become more serious. This isn’t all together bad. Sure, certain principals of Fascism when followed too far will yield horrific results, but that doesn’t mean a little appreciation for those who enter military service, or the selection of a president who represents our “Nation” will mean the destruction of democratic America. Right?
But the very fact that I feel compelled to disclaimer all my statements about Fascism in America is indicative of how powerful the ideological argument is! I am “immoral” and evil if I, even for a single moment, question the heroism of those in military service. To expand on this, those in military service do vow to defend the US Constitution, which is great! But at the same time they also vow to obey the orders of the President of the United States. This is the philosophical difference between defending the concept of “Liberty” and defending a Government who claims to provide it.
Additionally I am a “hopeless intellectual liberal” to even assert that a president who comes off as ‘nerdy’ would be preferable to one who comes off as ‘relatable’. If our Classical Liberal founders were right then I’d want to pick a president who simply vows to defend my inalienable freedoms. Why care if he’s a nerd or not? But deep down I want the charming smile. I want the ‘quintessential’ American.
I am in awe of ideology. While I feel the need to say all arguments of Fascism are evil; I find myself emotionally charged when defending government endorsed militarism or the increase of nationalism in society.
At the beginning of every sporting event I am compelled to stand with my fellow Americans and pay my respects to the flag of our Nation. A flag which represents a people, who are represented by a Government which defends our national ideal of justice and liberty. In this moment the role of my relationship with the government has been reversed from our Classical Liberal beginnings. No longer is the government at the whim of my desire for my inalienable rights.
I am at the whim of my government who provides these rights; for the world is too dangerous without its divinely guided protection.
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