Sunday, 2 August 2009

Functions of Fascism - Michael Parenti

Fascism...a beguiling mix of revolutionary-sounding mass appeals and reactionary class politics. The reactionary class-politics are the part of fascism that establishment historians almost never talk about.

Hitler's party - the National Socialist German Workers Party - NSDAP - NAZIS. It's a very leftwing sounding name, and it was designed to win broad support among working people, even whilst the Nazis were destroying working class organisations.

A political phenomenon that made a revolutionary appeal without making a revolution. It promised to solve the ills of the many while it protected the special interests of the few with violence and terror. It propagated a "new" political conciousness - a "new" order - a new nation - to serve the same old capitalist system.

A xenophobia, a hatred of other peoples' nationalities. With Nazism and most eastern european fascisms it was anti-semitism. "The jew" was seen as the perpetrator of all that was ill in society: the trades unionists - they were jews; the communists - they were jews; so forth and so on.....

There was an opposition to socialism, to communism, to anarchism and to all left egalitarian class movements and doctrines - opposition to trades unions - opposition to labour parties - opposition to other working class organisations.

This opposition to labour movements and trades unions is never talked about by establishment historians and writers, especially American writers.

Fascism is written about from a centrist ideological perspective, which means they ignore the link between fascism and capitalism, just as they tend to ignore the entire subject of capitalism itself when there's something unfavourable to say about it. Instead they dwell on the more phantasmic components of fascist ideology - the nihilistic revolt against rationalism and individuality, the mass appeals to submission to a leader....

Fascism was those things......but along with its irrationalism, it had rational functions: it was a rational instrument for class domination, and for the preservation of the existing capitalist system.

After World War 1, Italy had a parliamentary government that seemed incapable of solving the country's economic crises: profits were declining, banks were failing, unemployment was rising. So, to ensure profits, the big industrial giants and the big landowners would have to slash wages and raise prices.

The state, in turn, would have to provide the big landowners with tariff protections along with massive subsidies and tax exemptions. To finance this, the population would have to be taxed more heavily, their wages rolled back, and social welfare expenditures drastically cut.

It sounds like Reaganism, well it is, even more extremely so.

But the government wasn't entirely free to apply these harsh measures: Italian workers and peasants had their own unions and political organisations, they had co-operatives, their own publications, and through the use of demonstrations, strikes and boycotts, factory takeovers, forcible occupation of farmland - they often won real concessions in wages and working conditions, unemployment benefits and the right to organise.

Even in the face of this worsening economic crisis, Italian workers were able to mount a troublesome [to the capitalists] defence of their standard of living.

So the only solution was to smash the worker and peasant organisations, in effect, destroying all civil and political liberties, including the right to organise, agitate and propagandise: the state would have to be more authoritarian, and more firmly subservient to the interests of capital.

Mussolini and his blackshirts were around right after World War 1, and for about 3 or 4 years the big landowners and industrialists used their fascist goon-squads, gave them money, and gave them arms, and used them as strike breakers - anti-labour militias. They styled themselves "The United Front Against Bolshevism."

In 1922 the big capital interests in Italy decided to go for the whole thing: representatives of the Federation of Industry and the Federation of Agriculture and the National Banking Association all met together and met with Mussolini and planned the fascist 'march on Rome'. Mussolini sat there and planned 'the march on Rome' with the leading capitalists of Italy. This is almost never mentioned in the accounts of 'The march on Rome.'

These big capitalists contributed 20 million lira toward that undertaking. "Mussolini was the candidate of the plutocracy," that is, of the wealthy and the business associations. A very similar pattern of co-ordination and compliance existed in Germany less than a decade later. German workers and farm labourers under the Weimar Republic won some important economic concessions - an 8 hour day, unemployment insurance, they were able to elect shop committees, the right to unionise - and again, during the 1920's these paramilitary right-wing gangs, most notably Hitler's brownshirts (stormtroopers), were subsidised by business and kept as a kind of reserve army what Goering called the Bodyguard - "the Bodyguard of Capitalism", and their job was to strike-break, and harass organised workers, beat up socialists and communists and so forth.

The nearly total collapse of the German economy in 1929-30 presented the owning-class with a momentous crisis: they had very high capital investments, and this left them with very high fixed costs that had to be met even as their plants lay idle. Only massive state aid could revive their profits. Wages, social welfare, human service expenditures had to be cut. Union contracts had to be abrogated. Business would need new subsidies and tax exemptions. The crisis in agriculture was equally as severe and the large landed proprietors demanded even higher subsidies, heavier duties on foreign imports, and unions were holding wages up - and when wages were being sustained, profits were being cut.

So, by 1930 most of the influential landowners, big industrialists and bankers, especially in steel, coal and mining had concluded the Weimar Republic no longer served their interests and could no longer protect their class. It was too accommodating to the working class and certain sectors of light indusrtry.

So they greatly increased their subsidies to Hitler and propelled the Nazi party onto the national stage. By 1930 most of the great industrialists and bankers were underwriting the Nazi party. And what happened in 1920 with this injection of hundreds of millions of Marks? Hitler was able to catapult his party onto the national scene. It went from a cult of brownshirt thugs to a national party mobilised in the election of 1930 gaining 107 seats in the Reichstag. And later on, Hitler evoking the memory of what he called "that astonishing campaign" told his listeners to think of "what it means when 1000 speakers each has a car at their disposal and can hold in a year 100,000 meetings".

In 1931 and 32 the subsidies from the big industrialists continued to grain in ever more abundantly.

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