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Tom Wolfe on Fascism:

I wanted to get the source for the "dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe," so I tracked it down to Tom Wolfe's "The Intelligent Coed's Guide to America," republished in Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine (1976). In the process, I found a more extended discussion that struck me as worth repeating. Here's the relevant excerpt, from pp. 115-17 of the hardcover edition; it reports on a panel discussion at Princeton in 1965, in which the participants included Paul Krassner, editor of The Realist magazine, Günter Grass, and Wolfe:

The next thing I knew, the discussion was onto the subject of fascism in America. Everybody was talking about police repression and the anxiety and paranoia as good folsk waited for the knock on the door and the descent of the knout on the nape of the neck. I couldn't make any sense out of it. . . . This was the mid-1960's. . . . [T]he folks were running wilder and freer than any people in history. For that matter, Krassner himself, in one of the strokes of exuberance for which he was well known, was soon to publish a slight hoax: an account of how Lyndon Johnson was so overjoyed about becoming President that he had buggered a wound in the neck of John F. Kennedy on Air Force One as Kennedy's body was being flown back from Dallas. Krassner presented this as a suppressed chapter from William Manchester's book Death of a President. Johnson, of course, was still President when it came out. Yet the merciless gestapo dragnet missed Krassner, who cleverly hid out onstage at Princeton on Saturday nights. . . .

Support [for Wolfe's view that fascism wasn't coming to America] came from a quarter I hadn't counted on. It was Grass, speaking in English.

"For the past hour, I have my eyes fixed on the doors here," he said. "You talk about fascism and police repression. In Germany when I was a student, they come through those doors long ago. Here they must be very slow."

Grass was enjoying himself for the first time all evening. He was not simply saying, "You really don't have so much to worry about." He was indulging his sense of the absurd. He was saying: "You American intellectuals — you want so desperately to feel besieged and persecuted!"

He sounded like Jean-François Revel, a French socialist writer who talks about one of the great unexplained phenomena of modern astronomy: namely, that the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.

Not very nice, Günter! Not very nice, Jean-François! A bit supercilious, wouldn't you say! . . .

Ian D-B (mail):
Maybe it's precisely because people are always complaining about creeping fascism that it doesn't happen. If we just sat back and said, "let's just trust the government, they've never abused their power before," it seems much more likely that we'd actually see fascism.
2.14.2006 12:24pm
Fede (mail):
Ah, Tom Wolfe, my favorite author. I'm continually fascinated at how he can destroy his targets without really doing much at all; he's like a contemporary Mark Twain (hey, same white suit!). All his essays are absolutely golden, anyone who's unfamiliar should read any they can get their hands on.
2.14.2006 12:25pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Grass and Revel--along with Wolfe--were the life preservers floating in the seas of the morbid 60s and 70s.
2.14.2006 12:37pm
Justin (mail):
Without getting too involved in the discussion, fascism has seem to only take hold in Europe once in the last 100 years (since its birth)...right after the great depression hit. In the United States, it was conservatives who were running the country during the leadup, and so conservatives were not trusted to the reigns, and instead a pretty extreme-liberal (for the time) was handed the job. In Germany, Spain, and Italy, the center-left controlled politics entering the depression, and thus it was the radical right that took hold in the country.

But in all economic distressed situations, battles took place between Communism and Fascism. The United States supported fascists pretty much everywhere, as the lesser of two evils. Communism won out in Eastern Europe due to the influence of Russia.

But the reason why the US has never turned fascist is that the one time since fascism became a political ideology that the economic situation was ripe for political revolution, the revolution was naturally leftwards moving. It has nothing to do with innate American greatness or moral superiority, nor to do with the concern over fascism (if you don't think they're concerned about fascism in western europe, you're probably not politically in tune there, particularly Germany and Italy).

However, today, the two major western countries "closest" to fascism is Russia (by a long shot) (and many of their former soviet socialist republics as well), and the United States. While the United States is a long way off from Italian styled fascism, we've *never* been this close to it in the past, and one does not have to live under Mussilini to be concerned about an executive-strong oligarchy with unlimited powers over its citizenship.
2.14.2006 12:37pm
PersonFromPorlock:
A major problem with American worries about fascism is that nobody knows what the word actually means; 'fascism' is a catchall for anything the Left doesn't like, just as 'communism' is a catchall of the Right.

So, Eugene, how about giving us all a definition of fascism? You'd be filling a real public need.
2.14.2006 12:41pm
Mike W (mail):
I love that quote from Wolfe!

In that same book, Mauve Gloves and Madmen, there is a hilarious story of a successful NY writer who finds his lavish lifestyle of vacation homes, catered parties, etc. has left him nearly broke.

Realizing he needs immediate cash, he sits at his typewriter and types his opening sentence: "Recession and repression, police state America and the Spirit of '76".
2.14.2006 12:49pm
JB:
Fascism: An extreme right nationalist movement based on corporative economics (what's good for the company is good for the workers is good for the state and vice versa) which seeks to create a "new man," a revolution in the personal qualities of the people of the nation. Reliant on mass culture, activity, and spectacle. Militarist, going back to older ideals of manhood. Generally machismatic.
2.14.2006 12:53pm
Michael B (mail):
"Without getting too involved in the discussion, fascism has seem to only take hold in Europe once in the last 100 years (since its birth)...right after the great depression hit." Justin

Mussolini morphed his early Marxism into Italian Fascism. Mussolini was a dedicated Marxist throughout the first decade of the 20th century who provided both the primary intellectual leadership (e.g., he was a formidable social theorist and agitator, spoke seven languages fluently) and subsequently the leadership in terms of praxis and governance. Fascism grew out of Marxism.
2.14.2006 12:58pm
Shelby (mail):
Fascism's "corporatism" doesn't strictly refer to for-profit corporations; it refers to "corporate" bodies -- that is, entities created and chartered by the state to oversee various spheres of life and activity. Though typically you might get business leaders appointed to the bodies relevant to their businesses.

Although Mussolini was initially marxist, I don't think it's fair to conclude that fascism grew out of marxism. Each is a totalizing conception of state authority, but derived from different principles -- the marxist state is a necessary transition to communal self-government; the fascist state is the mechanism for furthering the interests of the "race" (the volk, or nation, as distinct from the state).

I confess, though, that I know little about the real origins of fascism.
2.14.2006 1:06pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
Justin -

I just have two questions:

1) You write:

"But the reason why the US has never turned fascist is that the one time since fascism became a political ideology that the economic situation was ripe for political revolution, the revolution was naturally leftwards moving."

Why was the revolution in the U.S. naturally leftwards moving? Because the conservatives were "running the country during the leadup" to the Great Depression? I guess that is one possible explanation. I suspect, though, that the truth is more complex than that, and, per de Toqueville, probably did include some component relating to differing cultural norms.

2) I completely fail to understand your assertion that the U.S. has "*never* been this close to [fascism] in the past." Given that, in previous eras, American society had far narrower conceptions of civil rights, and presidential administrations implemented relatively draconian measures restricting them, I'm curious as to how you justify that statement.

- jc
2.14.2006 1:07pm
Michael B (mail):
"Although Mussolini was initially marxist, I don't think it's fair to conclude that fascism grew out of marxism."

To say that Fascism grew out of Marxism is certainly a highly truncated way of formulating a complex historical topic, not a multi-volume explication of that thesis which explores other roots of Mussolini's Fascism. The degree to which Fascism "grew out of" or was "morphed out of" Marxism can certainly be debated and differently approached and analyzed. But Mussolini was in point of historical fact a highly committed Marxist - intellectually/theoretically and in terms of social praxis - for well over a decade and he formulated his Fascism out of Marxist praxis and other Marxist and non-Marxist elements.
2.14.2006 1:19pm
Kazinski:
There isn't much difference between facism and communism, both rely on complete state control of industry, the media and all levels of government. The primary difference is that communism cloaks itself in a commuminitarian internationalist rhetoric, while facism cloaks itself in an insular ultra nationalism.

The reason the American Left keeps crying facism is to because they see theirselves as heroic fighters against evil. There really isn't any evil forces with any power in this country so the evil needs to be manufactured. Thus the frequently conjured images of jackboots at the door. Its not that the right doesn't try to manufacture its own fantasies of impending leftist doom, but they don't seem to be as repetitive or unimaginitive.
2.14.2006 1:31pm
PaulV (mail):
Alsaka Jack,
Justin said that US "*never* been this close to [fascism] in the past" only to prove Wolfe's point.
2.14.2006 1:37pm
Nobody (mail):
Completely off topic, but I just surfed over here to see what the conspirators are saying about Dick Cheney shooting his friend in the face with a shotgun. The conspirators (or some of them, at least) have been vocal proponents of the individual rights view of the second amendment, and critics of gun control laws and of gun control advocates. (That's my impression, anyway--someone please correct me if I'm wrong.) I'm surprised to see that one of the #1 news stories in the nation this week hasn't even been mentioned here. (Unless it has and I missed it--if so, sorry.)
2.14.2006 1:37pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Everyone likes to pretend that they're the plucky underdog, defying all odds, and that they're the inheritors of a great tradition of nobly defying the odds.

Go to left wing blogs and you'll hear about stories the timid media isn't reporting; go to conservative blogs and you'll hear about the liberal media piling on conservatives.

Grass came from outside the bubble that he was addressing, so he could call them on their little game with insight and moral authority.
2.14.2006 1:38pm
Taimyoboi:
Even in a post observing the propensity for declaring that the sky is falling in the U.S., people will still do just that.

I wonder if Goodwin's Law could be generalized from Hitler to Fascism/Totalitarianism.
2.14.2006 1:42pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Kazinski, by the way, does a good job of capturing a right-wing version of the left wing cry of fascism-- "jackboots at the door." It was G. Gordon Liddy who attracted attention about 10 years ago for talking about the importance of retaining one's firearms in order to deter and combat "jackbooted government thugs," if I remember right.
2.14.2006 1:50pm
Cabbage:
Nobody, I'll see your phony outrage and raise you. Why is it that I haven't seen any comments from you on the web sites I visit on Yahoo!'s cooperation with the Chinese government to imprison a dissident?

I take your silence on the issue as your tacit approval of the jailing of dissidents...
2.14.2006 2:02pm
Justin (mail):
To respond to the several points,

Michael B - while Mussolini and other italian fascists were originally marxists, they rejected the parts of marxism that makes it a feature of the left (foundations of equality and labor), turning it into an nonegalitarian, corporatist movement. Thus, regardless of Mussolini's student leanings, his movement was a rightwinged authoritarian movement, Jonah Goldberg ramblings aside.

Alaska Jack (point 1) - as to the Tocqueville cultural norms aspect, I can't be sure. The "Republicans in charge so Democrats take over" position is primary, so our anti-fascist culture wasn't tested. We simply don't know, empirically, what would have happened had Wilson stayed in charge after World War I, keeping a golden age of Democrats, and allowing the fringe right of the Republican party to take over in 1932. Tocqueville would posit that they would be tempered by individualism and localism, but that doesn't seem to be the case in regards to FDR, so it's an open question. I didn't mean to assert this hypothetical situation wouldn't have been prevented by cultural norms, only we don't know.

As to (2) - while civil liberties in fact have been curtailed in the past (during FDR and Lincoln, most notably) to greater extents than currently, no incident as a whole was closer to FASCISM - which is not simply authoritarian or lacking individual liberty in nature, but a complex ruling scheme that involves those traits as well as corporatism and statism over either equality or individuality.

What makes this, from a purely authoritarian view, more worrisome than the previous two situations is simply the fact that the threat is relatively minimal, and the response so unproportional. In other words, while I've taken notice of the "but FDR" and "but Lincoln" responses from the Right, the obvious answer is that FDR and Lincoln each had threats that were serious and significant, whereas the threat that we face now, though not insignificant from an absolute standpoint, is the type of blip in American foreign relations that we've lived with throughout our existance (be it the Cold War, the threat of German expansionism, the threat of Native Americans agaisnt our own expansionism, our hostility with Mexico, our hostility with England and Spain, etc.). It only seems massively significant for the set of people whose political awakening happened after the fall of the Cold War, during Bush I and Clinton's "Pax Americana".

To those, particularly on the right who are disdained to give Clinton any credit, this was not an exceptional period of peace, but the norm, ruined by "9/11" (which, as a New Yorker, I can say is a culture-changing moment, but not nearly in the way Pearl Harbor, Korea, Russia getting the bomb, Vietnam, or the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union was). That mistake...that 1992-2000 was the norm and what we have now is an exceptionalist period of warfare....is a mistake that threatens to leave our country PERPETUALLY with the freedom restrictions during World War II and the Civil War, a position intolerable to and not compatable with a Tocquevillian society of liberty and locality.
2.14.2006 2:04pm
Michael B (mail):
Justin, your non-egalitarian comment alone is beyond laughable.

Gulags vs. Concentration Camps, take your pick.

That's item #1 on a long list of items.
2.14.2006 2:07pm
Justin (mail):
PaulV - given that my point was that Wolfe's point was irrelevant (that the US has never been close to fascism is simply situational, not a part of our identity, to the degree empirical situations can test that response), I think your use of *purpose* in your statement to explain myself is wrong.

Sure, that this is the closest we've been to fascism is relevant evidence of our susceptibility generally. But, for the reasons I've posited, it isn't particularly helpful evidence, since we've never really had the mixture of events that typically allow fascism to prevail.
2.14.2006 2:07pm
Justin (mail):
Michael B - "Marxism" is heavily influenced by theories of egalitarianism. "Leninism" was a corrupt form of marxism, and "stalinism" was a corrupt form of leninism. Even so, and even given the horrible, atrocious things that Stalin did in Russia, any gini coefficient or other positivist measure of equality would tell you that Russia was significantly more egalitarian under Communism than it was either before or after Communism.

If you want to score cheap political points, please go elsewhere. Unless you can show yourself to have a serious point, I will not respond again, and the last word is yours.
2.14.2006 2:09pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Justin said:

"While the United States is a long way off from Italian styled fascism, we've *never* been this close to it in the past, and one does not have to live under Mussilini to be concerned about an executive-strong oligarchy with unlimited powers over its citizenship."

He evidently didn't read or else didn't comprehend this:

"You American intellectuals — you want so desperately to feel besieged and persecuted!"
2.14.2006 2:10pm
Justin (mail):
Oh, and Michael B, for the record, I will not consider any argument that continues to use the "Communism = bad, communism = leftist, fascism = bad, thus fascism = leftist" logical flaws as a "serious argument"
2.14.2006 2:12pm
Justin (mail):
Le Messurier, the point I was trying to make was that Wolfe was wrong, so I'm struggling to understand your critique. While I think Wolfe's point is right to the limited extent that humans generally always overreact to crisis/opposition (see FDR and Japanese internment, the CIA and Russia's capacity, the White House and Saddam's threat), I don't find it a particularly "American" or "intellectual" flaw.
2.14.2006 2:15pm
Michael B (mail):
Justin,

Concerning "cheap political points," take a long look in the mirror. In this thread I've pointedly addressed verifiable historical/empirical facts and have rationally/reasonably argued on the basis of those facts.

Take your own advice and take your cheap and highly presumptive ad hominem slights elsewhere. Or don't.
2.14.2006 2:17pm
Fishbane (mail):
Thus the frequently conjured images of jackboots at the door.

Do you mean like these jackboots? There is a creeping authoritarianism in the U.S., but of course it is uniquely American in flavor.
2.14.2006 2:19pm
Michael B (mail):
Justin,

Re, your added comment, it's a strawman and highly misleading.

I didn't equate Fascism with Leftism in some type of simplistic or mathematical sense. Most pointedly, see this post on Mussolini/Marxism/Fascism, upthread.

If you are going to respond, first quote me, then argue from that quote.
2.14.2006 2:24pm
AppSocRes (mail):
Fascism: The direct translation of the Nazi party's full name is the National Socialist Party. Mussolini's fascist were a socialist splinter group. The key ideological difference between communists and nazis/fascists is the same as the key difference between Roman Catholicism and the Church of England : whether the movement is national or controlled from Moscow/Rome. All else is commentary.

Roosevelt was actually quite conservative. An honest comparison of his and Hoover's policies shows little if any substantive difference. Roosevelt saved this country from left-wing fascism in such forms as Hughie Long's "every man a king" and Father Coughlin's brand of Catholic socialism with a hearty dash of anti-semitism.

The left in this country has had a masterful success in rewriting history.
2.14.2006 2:26pm
Nobody (mail):
Cabbage, my post contained no outrage, phony or otherwise. I think it was pretty polite, in fact. I clicked over to the VC because I was genuinely interested in hearing what the conspirators had to say on one of the top stories of the day. I'm interested in hearing their take on the events. As someone who has never held or fired a gun, and has never been hunting (unless fishing counts, or stepping on roaches in my kitchen), I'm relying on more knowledgeable people to put the facts as they have been reported into context.

I'm not a noted commentator on human rights, on China, or on search engines, so your phony outrage at my silence on the Yahoo story is neither here nor there. Prof. Volokh and company are noted commentators on the right to bear arms, and all I was doing was noting that they don't seem to have commented on the Cheney story.
2.14.2006 2:40pm
Houston Lawyer:
Fascism and Communism are both horrible ideologies. I don't know how the right got saddled with the Fascist label, unless this labeling relates to the ultranationalistic aspects of Fascism. However, anyone familiar with Soviet discourse on the "Motherland" knows that nationalism respects no ideology.

I do see that the Left still apologizes for Communism and defends it against attacks from the Right while the Right tries to put as much distance between itself and Fascism as is possible. When I was in college, it was still quite fashionable to have communists in the faculty and their presence was vigorously defended by the Left. I am not aware of any self-described Fascists on college faculties and, if they were there, I would support their removal.

Fascism today is primarily a label thrown at the Right by the Left. It now apparently means "against socialism".

I always though the primary difference between the Fascists and the Communists was that the Fascists had better uniforms.
2.14.2006 2:40pm
Justin (mail):
Okay, as this thread has now descended completely off point, I am no longer responding to any points upon it. Apologies to those, such as Alaska Jack and Le Messusier, whose responses were sincere and intelligent.
2.14.2006 2:41pm
Nobody (mail):
It would also be interesting to read a discussion of whether the VP is subject to indictment for acts committed while in office. If Mr. Whittington should pass away as a result of his injuries (which would be a great tragedy), presumably the local authorities will need to at least investigate whether manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, or similar charges should be brought. I remember in the late 90's there was much discussion of whether the President was subject to indictment for perjury committed while in office. I assume that the analysis with respect to the VP might be different, but I would be interested in hearing the opinions of the conspirators. I apologize in advance if my interest in an unanswered question of constitutional interpretation offends the sensibilities of Cabbage.
2.14.2006 2:52pm
Guest2 (mail):
Fascism is tough to define because the two primary examples of it -- the regimes of Mussolini and Hitler -- were essentially opportunistic. I suppose a good working definition of fascism could be socialism in the service of national supremacy (as opposed to socialism in the service of worker supremacy, regardless of nations).
2.14.2006 3:17pm
therut:
Welll I am sure there is a lawyer somewhere who would try to charge him with some of the above mentioned. But hey this is Texas not MA. It would be like charging a NASCAR driver who wrecked while racing and another driver got killed. Hunting is a sport or everyday occurrance in TX and much of the US. It is a known risk one takes that one might get shot(very low probability), fall out of a tree stand, have a heart attack etc. I
am going hunting later this week. I might get shot. But I am much more likely to die in a car accident on the way there or back. These things are usually handled in civil court if at all. Friends still in some parts of this country do not sue friends and espically family. Now in MA who knows. Maybe you should go pick up a shot gun and at least shoot one once. Education is everything.
2.14.2006 3:21pm
Nobody (mail):
therut, I appreciate your response, but I'm not sure it responds to the question, which is whether the constitution would permit a state prosecutor/grand jury to indict a sitting vice president for a crime committed while in office. Your post simply says, essentially, "there was no crime here." But that wasn't really the question.

I assume that getting shot while hunting is not an assumed risk in the way that, say, getting hit by a foul ball at a baseball game is. It's at least conceivable that two people would go hunting together and one would intentionally shoot the other. (Not that I'm even implying that that happened here.) Similarly, I assume (but someone correct me if I'm wrong) that ordinary laws against manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide are not suspended with regard to hunting accidents. For example, I assume that if a hunter is drunk and fires wildly and kills his companion, he may have to answer for that in a criminal court. I would hope that if you and I went hunting, and you shot me in the face and I died, the police would spend more than an hour or two looking into the circumstances before dropping the matter, just to determine whether a crime (even a crime of omission) may have been committed. I would hope that the same would be true regardless of your title, wealth or status. My question was, simply, whether the police have the power to investigate, and whether a state grand jury has the power to indict, as sitting VP. I don't really follow your references to MA--is that Massachusetts? I'm not from there--I don't think I've spent more than about 5 days of my life, total, in that state.
2.14.2006 3:36pm
Nobody (mail):
And with regard to your NASCAR analogy--I would say that a NASCAR driver who intentionally (not accidentally) slammed (not tapped) his car into another, causing a deadly accident, should be criminally charged. Similarly, if the NASCAR driver pointed a gun at another driver and shot him, even during a race, that sounds like a crime to me.
2.14.2006 3:38pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Just a quick note, without getting into the substance, of support for Justin, whose arguments I believe are entirely correct.
2.14.2006 3:46pm
Michael B (mail):
Regarding the origins of the rhetorical/ideological identification of fascism with "the right," a couple of notes which pertain to V.I. Lenin, circa 1914/5.

Lenin was perhaps the first and certainly the most prominent among the first to make this rhetorical association in his speeches and elsewhere. He did this, in general terms, because Mussolini's emerging social theory was gaining popularity and adherents and was viewed as a competing and heretical initiative vis-a-vis Marxist/Leninism. More specifically Lenin, within his oratory and general rhetoric and because it dovetailed with Marxist dogma and theory, indicated that Mussolini's Fascism was a natural evolutionary step of capitalism and a further indication of capitalism's predicted crises and demise.

Btw, when Mussolini formally began to take over the government in Italy, circa 1922, he took it (gradually, from that point forward) in large part from the Italian monarch, the most traditional form of governance on "the right" as judged by the left/right dichotomy originating from the period of the French Revolution.
2.14.2006 3:52pm
AnandaG:
Here is a good article about Mussolini and whether fascism is a movement of the left or the right:

http://www.la-articles.org.uk/fascism.htm

Another point -- the "corporatist" economics of fascism are often cited as a reason why fascism is "inegalitarian" or "of the right". Yet the word "corporatism" as understood by Mussolini and his contemporaries had almost nothing to do specifically with business or industry. The Wikipedia entry on corporatism does a good job of explaining this common confusion:

"Historically, corporatism or corporativism (Italian corporativismo) is a political system in which legislative power is given to civic assemblies that represent economic, industrial, agrarian, and professional groups. Unlike pluralism, in which many groups must compete for control of the state, in corporatism, certain unelected bodies take a critical role in the decision-making process. These corporatist assemblies are not the same as contemporary business corporations or incorporated groups.

The word "corporatism" is derived from the Latin word for body, corpus. This original meaning was not connected with the specific notion of a business corporation, but rather a general reference to anything collected as a body."

(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism)
2.14.2006 3:57pm
Kazinski:
I think Justin and others are confused about the difference between oppression, where they are not allowed to speak and publish their views and run their own candidates, and indifference or scorn where nobody cares about what they have to say, or who they have on their third pary ticket. There is a difference between a dictatorship (whether communist of facist) where there are no meaningful elections, and a democracy where you are backing a platform with no meaningful ideas and you lose election after election. To say we are closer to facism than we've ever been before makes Wolfe's point better than any essay.

On the conservative side we used to have a large segment of Birchers or similar that pulled the whole movement down. It wasn't until Ronald Reagan came along with a viewpoint praising what was good and proper and should preserved that the conservative movement was able to get traction and become the dominent political movement in this country. Thank God the leftists have taken the John Bircher conspiritoral doom and gloom mantle as their own. And thank you Justin for doing your part.
2.14.2006 4:10pm
MDJD2B (mail):
Mussolini came to power in 1922-- long before the Great Depression.
2.14.2006 4:15pm
gerry (mail):
I have read all of these interesting comments carefully. Having lived through the depression, WWII, Korea, the Cold War, (in which I was trained to carry a bomb that would kill a quarter of a million people,) the Church Committee, Viet Nam, the (necessarily) culture changing disasters of 9/11, then Afghanistan, Iraq, and whatever happens to be happening out there as I write this, my comment is:
Kazinski wins.

Boys and girls, labels and cerebral exchanges are fine so long as you remind yourself every hour on the hour of these four realities:
1. There are millions of people out there who want to kill my grandchildren and who are likely to be impatient with discourse.
2. You and each of you have an obligation to protect the lives of my grandchildren
3. And yes, in spite of the culture war, we STILL have an obligation to preserve what is good here including the bill of rights, not just from our sworn enemies but indeed, from "fascism" and "communism".
4, but it didn't get any easier on 9/11.
2.14.2006 4:25pm
Gary Imhoff (mail) (www):
Last year, I was invited to be on a panel of representatives from American politically oriented nonprofit organizations who spoke with a delegation of about forty Central and South American government and press representatives who were visiting Washington, DC.

In the question and answer period, one of the South American press representatives asked whether we had faced any threats, intimidation, or menace from the government for the work we did. A couple of the other members of the panel stretched and exaggerated to try to show how brave they were to stand up to the government on policy issues. At that point, I had to tell my story.

I work with DCWatch, a local good government organization that concentrates on the local city government of Washington, DC. In the election of 2002, the incumbent mayor of Washington, Anthony Williams, filed nominating petition sheets for reelection that were filled with fraud and forgeries -- over eighty percent of the signatures he submitted were forgeries, and there weren't enough legitimate signatures on the sheets to qualify him for the ballot. DCWatch filed a complaint with the DC Board of Elections and Ethics and, after a rather contentious hearing, the Board withdrew the mayor's name from the ballot. It was highly embarrassing for him, and he had to run a write-in campaign to get reelected.

And in retaliation, I said, nobody from DCWatch has been invited to the mayor's annual birthday parties again. That's been the extent of it. The journalists and government officials from South and Central America, who knew regimes where that kind of opposition to an incumbent politican could get them exiled or killed, laughed in appreciation. In the US, with very rare and isolated exceptions, politics hasn't been dangerous, and fears of fascist repression have been nothing but paranoid fantasies.
2.14.2006 4:27pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Michael B - while Mussolini and other italian fascists were originally marxists, they rejected the parts of marxism that makes it a feature of the left (foundations of equality and labor), turning it into an nonegalitarian, corporatist movement. Thus, regardless of Mussolini's student leanings, his movement was a rightwinged authoritarian movement, Jonah Goldberg ramblings aside.
Student leanings? Sorry, but Mussolini was born in 1883. He resigned his position as editor of the Socialist Party newspaper Avanti in 1914—so he was 31 years old. Try as hard as you want to pretend otherwise, Mussolini came from a socialist family (his father named him for Benito Juarez), and he was not simply a socialist, he was a significant leader within the Italian Socialist Party as an adult.

There's a careless tendency to equate fascism and national socialism. There were significant theoretical differences between them, and often significant practical differences as well. The Italian Parliament continued to meet, and had opposition political parties in it, right into the middle of World War II. They were allowed to argue only because they had no chance of changing anything. (Parliament changed the election rules shortly after Mussolini formed a government to guarantee that the dominant party would completely control results.)

Where Hitler's national socialism was focused on race, Mussolini's fascism focused on nationalism, and this is part of why Jews only had a lot to worry about in Italy as German power over Italy strengthened.

The "National Socialist" of the NSDAP party's name was not originally dishonest or manipulative. There was a strong socialist component to the party, and leaders like Gregor Strasser and Ernst Roehm (who led the highly homosexual Sturmabteilung) were part of that wing of the party. They lost their role, and their lives, because Hitler was fundamentally an opportunist, who saw a chance to ally his party with industrialists who feared that Germany's only real choices were Communism, and an ersatz version, National Socialism.

There's a sizeable literature on the overlap between the Communists and the National Socialists, with both parties attempting (with some success) to lure in both proletariat and lumpenproletariat who were disillusioned with capitalism because of the Depression. Of course, as William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich points out, Hitler was quite successful at getting at least the tacit support of academics and school teachers, many of whom were partial to his nationalism and contempt for capitalism.

The lowering of the voting age in Germany in 18 in 1932 also plays a significant part in Hitler's rise to power. Young people facing the prospect of unemployment as they left school were readily persuaded by the idealism of the NSDAP's 1932 slogan, "Gemeinnuetz vor Einnuetz"—"Common needs before individual needs." If there's anything that you learn as you get older, it is not to believe every idealistic slogan that a politician throws at you.
2.14.2006 4:40pm
Kazinski:
Nobody:
The Cheney is is terribly off topic but somehow it is tied in with leftest paranoia about the "dark night of facism". Whether or not Cheney is Vice President, the Sheriff or, if Whittington somehow dies, Medical Examiner will make a brief inquiry and rule the hunting accident as a hunting accident and that will be that. Whittington is of course able to sue.

As for the gun control issue, I didn't know that even the most extreme proponents of gun control had extended their aims to encompass a 28 guage hunting shotgun which would have to be about the last gun they would come for. If that is the case maybe I should be paying more attention.
2.14.2006 4:41pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Obviously, you are all forgetting that the entire Southern part of this country lived under a system that was repressive and ruled under a reign of terror and was blatantly racist where a third of the population had no real rights and could easily lose their lives, property, or liberty for violating unwritten social mores or racist laws that were sanctified by the Federal Government. I don't know how else other than fascist you would describe the governments of the states of the old confederacy, and even some non-Southern states like Indiana for periods, in the years from the end of Reconstruction until at least the early 1960's. The KKK was often the de facto government.

(And nobody gets bonus points for pointing out they were controlled by Democrats)
2.14.2006 4:45pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Obviously, you are all forgetting that the entire Southern part of this country lived under a system that was repressive and ruled under a reign of terror and was blatantly racist where a third of the population had no real rights and could easily lose their lives, property, or liberty for violating unwritten social mores or racist laws that were sanctified by the Federal Government.
No one has forgotten it. Some differences between Jim Crow South and the Holocaust is that:

1. The South didn't want to exterminate its black population; they needed their labor long-term. To the Nazis, labor camps were simply a method of extracting a bit more work out of people that were going to die anyway.

2. Lynching was a tool of control, using terror to keep blacks in their place. The Nazis had no similar interest.

You will notice that the entire Jim Crow system is now gone. It was wiped out at some significant cost, but nothing like what it cost to stop the Holocaust (which effort, unfortunately, was only a side effect of defeating Germany).
2.14.2006 4:51pm
Kazinski:
Freder,
Finally we are getting somewhere, the definition of Facism means "stuff I don't like". I thought it meant an ultra-nationalist Statist government without freedom of the press or meaningful elections. The South was a bastion of institutionalized racism that trampled on minority rights. But it was not facist, there was a robust freedom of the press, there were contested elections, (white) people were safe in their homes and property and the rule of law did apply. In fact things were so bad for blacks because of majority rule, and offices were held by responsive elective officials that would be thown out of office if they didn't conform to public seniment. For words to have meaning they have to have some constancy. Facism is a society ruled at the top with little or no regard for public sentiment, that was never the case in the American south.
2.14.2006 4:58pm
Nobody (mail):
Kazinski: what if the VP was drunk when he shot his friend? News reports seem to indicate that local sheriff's deputies sought to question him Saturday night, mere hours after the shooting, but that they were turned away by the secret service and told to come back the next morning. Will you grant that it's at least conceivable that Cheney needed a few hours to sleep it off, or to metabolize the alcohol that may have been in his system, before meeting with the authorities? Is it a paranoid fantasy merely to state that such a thing is possible? Does asking such a question render one a leftist? I thought that being a leftist required one to adhere to certain liberal political philosophies; I wasn't aware that a wish for law enforcement to investigate potential crimes was a pillar of leftism.

Will we ever know if Cheney was drunk? You seem certain that any investigation will lead to nothing. What is that based on? All the facts we have about the incident come from (1) a lobbyist who was present; and (2) the White House press secretary, who obviously has other interests to protect.
2.14.2006 5:01pm
Guest2 (mail):
In addition to what Kazinski said at 4:58, the 1865-1960 South did not have the fascist characteristic of a centrally controlled economy.
2.14.2006 5:20pm
nk (mail) (www):
The essential doctrine of fascism is that the individual has no rights except as he earns them through conformity and utility to the State. You may want to go back to ancient Sparta for its roots which has been described as "slaves ruling over serfs". The Spartan "peers", the ruling military caste of Sparta were taken from their parents at age 7 and trained in military camps until about age 18. After that, they lived in barracks until age 45? Even the married men. The women maintained the house and the men would visit. There may have been an exception for the two kings. They could not work, only fight. The primary workers were the helots (serfs) and the merchants the non-citizen perioikoi (neighbors). Neither of these groups had any rights of citizenship. At military age the "peers" had very little political power. After military age, they composed the Gerousia (Senate) which still was constitutionally tied hand and foot by the laws of Lycurgus. Five or seven? ephors (judges) mostly ran the city ocassionally even putting a king and his family to death from deviating from the traditional system. Now, that's fascism.
2.14.2006 5:37pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
No one has forgotten it. Some differences between Jim Crow South and the Holocaust is that:

Well you are equating the Jim Crow South with the worst fascist nation. Remember that the other two major fascist nations (Spain and Italy), while repressive, never took their regimes to the extremes that Hitler did. Hitler even had to occupy Italy when Mussolini quit the war and Mussolini was never very enthusiastic in his anti-semitism. Spain managed to maintain it's status as a fascist nation until death of Franco during the first season of Saturday Night Live (where the death of Francisco Franco was a running joke on Weekend Update).

But it was not facist, there was a robust freedom of the press, there were contested elections, (white) people were safe in their homes and property and the rule of law did apply.

Well, I would disagree with the contention that there was robust freedom of the press. An editorial advocating the end of segregation, voting rights for blacks, or condemning the Klan would certainly put you in risk of life and limb and almost certainly guarantee a brick an torch through the front window of your newspaper offices with absolutely no help from the authorities.

As for the rule of law. It is a strange "rule of law" when the law is used as a tool to suppress and intimidate 30% of the population and will not help those who fight the status quo. And I am not just talking about the written laws that institutionalized the petty indignities. The law never prosecuted the crimes committed against the minority population, even when entire towns were burned to the ground or the entire black populations of counties were chased off. The law was used to punish people, often with long sentences or even the death penalty, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, looking at a white woman the wrong way, or just being an "uppity nigger".

The law and the political system of the old south was used to intimidate and suppress a significant part of the population in the name of maintaining the existing social structure, society, order and a twisted notion of morality. If that isn't a good definition of fascism, I don't know what is.

Facism is a society ruled at the top with little or no regard for public sentiment, that was never the case in the American south.

I don't know where this notion comes from. The Nazis and Hitler were popular almost until the end. And if you were a good German, the legal system still functioned quite well. The society still functioned quite normally for those who did not fall into suspect categories.
2.14.2006 5:42pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
the 1865-1960 South did not have the fascist characteristic of a centrally controlled economy.

I don't think that a centrally controlled economy is a necessary element of a fascist state. Nazi Germany certainly never had one, neither did Italy or Spain. I think that was added on by the right wing at a later date when they tried to equate fascism with being a left wing movement, when of course it was the exact opposite, as it rose out of opposition to communism.
2.14.2006 5:46pm
therut:
The simple problem as I see the discussion is the Left is definately associated with Commumism or Socialism. Is is what their politics is all based on. The Left in the US has tried for years to make Conservatives equal to the European Right which is of coarse FALSE. They are in no way associated. The Conservatives in the US have nothing to do with the Right in Europe. Never have and Never will. But the Left -------------------well their history has been written. The Left ideology did not originate in the US based on the Constitution it swam across the ocean. You can not find US Conservative thinking any where else in the World. You can find a few similarities but the differences are much more. European Conservatives are left leaning compared to US Conservative thought. That is because Conservatism in the US in based on our founding documents. It is home grown.
2.14.2006 5:58pm
AnandaG:
Are you kidding? The German economy was extremely centrally controlled before and during WWII (of course, most economies were centrally controlled during WWII, including the American one), and the whole point of Mussolini's <i>corporativismo</i> was to organize the economy along the lines of a guild system, run by a select unelected group of syndicate heads. Central planning is an essential element of fascism. And fascism did not rise out of opposition to communism; rather, as the article I linked argues, it began "as a revision of Marxism by Marxists". It's a good piece, check it out: http://www.la-articles.org.uk/fascism.htm
2.14.2006 6:05pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I don't think that a centrally controlled economy is a necessary element of a fascist state. Nazi Germany certainly never had one, neither did Italy or Spain.
Utterly wrong with respect to Germany and Italy. Neither country abolished private property, but that's not quite the same as saying that they didn't have a centrally controlled economy. Nazi Germany forced all exsting industrial firms to join government controlled cartels, and created quite complex systems to set prices and production. Within two years of the Nazis forming a government, companies were complaining about the vast paperwork that they were now required to complete.

The operation of the slave labor system alone would have been a basis to class Nazi Germany as a centrally controlled economy; they rented slave laborers out to private corporations. One of the most disturbing parts of William Manchester's The Arms of Krupp is a discussion of when the SS fined the Krupp firm for abusing their slave laborers. Can you think of anything more disturbing than relying on the SS to protect you as a worker?

Mussolini's "corporatives" were, in theory, for the benefit of the whole society--workers, business owners, and government representatives operating for the common good--rather like the "National Economic Planning" that was so popular with American Democrats in the 1970s. In practice, these cartels worked for the benefit of business owners, to the detriment of the masses. The regulatory system established in the U.S. in the 1930s for some industries has a similarity: the Civil Aeronautics Board regulating airfares to prevent competition; the National Recovery Administration (which the courts nixed); the natural gas price controls of the Federal Power Commission; farm price supports; minimum retail prices for milk--a whole host of programs that were similar in style and effect to economic programs in Fascist countries.

This doesn't make FDR a Fascist. It is a reminder that the difference between FDR's style of liberalism and Mussolini's Fascism was primarily with respect to political dissent. FDR didn't murder his opponents (of course, he didn't need to).
2.14.2006 6:20pm
Guest2 (mail):
What AnandaG said. That's why fascism has frequently been characterized as the "middle way" -- a system that combined the central planning of socialism with the nationalism and traditional values of Western democracies. In Germany and Italy the centralized aspect was simply less obvious than in the USSR, because the state did not own most businesses outright; it "merely" told them what to do (often through intermediate guilds, etc., and accompanied by a lot of corruption).
2.14.2006 6:30pm
Guest2 (mail):
What Clayton E. Cramer said, too.
2.14.2006 6:32pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
The German economy was extremely centrally controlled before and during WWII (of course, most economies were centrally controlled during WWII, including the American one), and the whole point of Mussolini's corporativismo was to organize the economy along the lines of a guild system, run by a select unelected group of syndicate heads.

When I talk about a centralized economy, I am referring to an economy like that in the old Soviet Union, where almost all major industry is directly controlled and owned by the government and there has been massive nationalization of the means of production. Fascist governments simply didn't do this.


The fascist nations in the thirties and forties had economies that were as or less centralized than those of the western allies. Were they more centralized than the current economy of the U.S. or most of Western Europe before the depression? Of course. But it was no more or less centralized than any of the economies in the world in the thirties and forties? Of course not. In fact, the lack of centralization seriously hurt the war economy of Germany (granted, much of it was do to incompetence and corruption rather than a lack of desire to centralize the economy).

A "socialized" economy was seen as a solution to the economic excesses and uncertainty of the teens and twenties by a whole range of political systems. As you indicate yourself, many of the programs in this country (which you are arguing has never been a fascist country) are very similar to those implemented by the fascists and they are still present in many of the current social democracies in Europe. How then, can they be a distinguishing characteristic of fascism?
2.14.2006 6:49pm
Kazinski:
Freder,
There were I'm sure many cases of unpopular opinions putting people at risk in the south, but there were also many instances of people openly speaking their minds too. I don't think you can point to any cases of systematic govenment political censorship in the American South that in anyway compare to the practice in totalitarian facist or communist dictatorships. Unpopular opinions were always being aired even if they were disaproved.

And as Clayton and others point out, you really are showing your ignorance of the subject by saying the facists didn't have centrally controlled economies. While many corporations did remain in private hands, they were only privately controlled as long as they followed the strict orders of the central planners. This was the situation even pre-war in Germany and Italy. National Socialism was no mere slogan, its aim was the consolidation of all power to the state.
2.14.2006 6:53pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
That is because Conservatism in the US in based on our founding documents.

Our founding documents are based on the Age of Reason in Europe. So it is most certainly a "European" (and dare I say French--can you say Voltaire) movement. As for "modern American Conservatism" being based on the founding documents, that is a dubious claim it best, if for no other reason than there is no single "American Conservatism". It is hopelessly confused. Libertarians certainly don't care much for the founding documents. Neither do the new social conservatives who want religion to guide the operation of the government. About the only conservatives who may claim that are the true small government, traditional Republicans, who are often sneered at nowadays as "RINOs".
2.14.2006 6:55pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
While many corporations did remain in private hands, they were only privately controlled as long as they followed the strict orders of the central planners.

Name one non-Jewish owned Corporation in Nazi Germany that was nationalized by the Nazis.

And the same can be said of Ford, GM and Boeing during the war in this country. There was, after all, a war on.
2.14.2006 6:59pm
Kazinski:
Freder:
I can't recount the entire first 1000 pages of Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" right here. But I have read it, and it does recount in dizzying detail how National Socialism exercised complete contorl of the economy and why Schacht, Hitler's economics minister, was tried as a war criminal even though he was out of power by 1938 before the first shot of the war had been fired or the first death camp opened.
2.14.2006 7:29pm
Kazinski:
Correction:
I should have said Schacht was no longer economics minister by '38, he was still head of the Reichsbank until '43.
2.14.2006 7:34pm
Guest2 (mail):
Libertarians certainly don't care much for the founding documents.

I think this could be an arguably reasonable statement only if you equate "libertarians" with "anarcho-capitalists." Most libertarians seem to me to care more for the founding documents than the average Republican or Democrat.
2.14.2006 8:46pm
Dustin R. Ridgeway (mail):
It seems to me that Fascism is nothing more than extreme ultra-nationalist, anti-Communist/Socialist form of statism. I think Fascism originates from the germ of Marxism but basically all totalitarian idealogies are influenced by Marxism, which was probably the most influential philosophy in the history of the 20th century.

While many Fascists &National Socialists advocated certain goals/objectives that what we would now consider leftist/liberal, It seems the forces of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and similiar regimes were primarily concerned with bulwarking Leftist idealogies. They arose during a period when the crisis of confidence in capitalism was quite high, and though they seem to take the criticisms of capitalism of the day at face value, their main concern was trying to keep their states from being subsumed by marxist influences &idealogy.

In certain ways, the economic views of the fascists were similair to those of the teachings of the Catholic Church at the time in Rerum Novarum. The effect of "Laissez-Faire Capitalism sucks and workers have it bad, but Marxism is evil and we must find a third-way between the two."
2.14.2006 8:47pm
James of England:
I'd always thought that the reason the US didn't head further in a fascist direction was because the NIRA was found unconstitutional and the US had sufficiently strong respect for its institutions that court packing gutted FDR's support (he won more elections, but never had his pre-36 power again). Keep in mind that it was under Truman that the fascists left the party because, unlike under FDR, the Democrats were no longer the party which perpetuated their beliefs.

Fascism, bluntly, isn't an obviously bad thing in all respects. The NLRA, for instance, was strongly influenced by corporatist thought. Harmony between business and labor supported by regulation to encourage the smooth flow of commerce is arguably a good thing. Fascism was a "third way" between Capitalism and Communism. I'm pretty hard-core freemarketeering, with the only serious barriers to trade that I support being stuff like uranium sales to nutty dictatorships. Still, the move away from Vegelahn v. Guntner and air strikes and organized warfare being a part of labor relations was, on balance, a positive thing. American thought in almost every arena is based on adversarialism, and is hence inherently unsuited to totalitarian rule, but a little solidarismo to soften the edges can help everyone. Maybe unions are too powerful, but very few people want to go back to an unregulated wholly laissez faire labor market.

Fascism as a whole is an evil doctrine, but the suggestion that the only fascists were pals of Hitler (as some imply) ignores regimes like the Greek Colonels, the survival of regimes like the Portugese Estado Novo into the late sixties and the continued popularity of continental fascist parties (le Pen in France, Haider in Austria, and so on). This narrow view of the doctrine as roughly meaning "hatred of jews and civil rights" gives rise to ridiculous arguments like "shooting and smoking bands are bad because Hitler wanted them".

Not every idea that fascism supports is a bad one. Enthusiastically not being communist, for instance, is a great idea. It's true that almost every way in which fascism differs from democratic capitalism is a way that fascism is inferior, but that's true for a lot of political doctrines, albeit not always as true (middle of the road socialism sucks, but rarely as murderously as fascists until the end of the cold war tended to be). Still, there's an argument that Fortuyn's "list" wasn't the worst party in the EU. It's not just fascism, but a broad repression and a lack of civil rights generally that hits Europe rather than the US. Gaullism, Petainisme, Maoism, Marxism and Fascism cover the bulk of the major French political players, to which Islamism is trying to make an addition. Americans should recite the pledge daily, and mean it.
2.14.2006 9:42pm
James of England:
To try to put that more coherently, fascism is a continuing presence in Europe. Ghastly regimes are all over Europe, and have since... I guess there's never been a time when there wasn't at least a couple of Continental kingdoms that have sucked. Fascism briefly had a small constituency in the US, but America has pretty much always been further from the underlying ideals of fascism than anyone in the western world. If nationalised health care is what matters to you, bitch all you want about the Great Satan. If you want freedom of the press, a defense attorney and the ability to practice your religion of choice or comfortably and safely be of the ethnicity of your birth, then if you're not in America you should move there and if you're there, you should be grateful.
2.14.2006 10:18pm
byomtov (mail):
There were I'm sure many cases of unpopular opinions putting people at risk in the south, but there were also many instances of people openly speaking their minds too.

If you think there were many white people speaking out against racism you are mistaken.

Yes, lots of people openly spoke their minds, but it was people who supported segregation. Those who opposed it generally did not, out of a wholly justified fear of the kind of reaction Freder describes.

I'm not a big fan of arguing about definitions, so I'm not interested in whether the Jim Crow South was "Fascist" or not. I do know that Freder's 4:45 description of conditions was pretty accurate.
2.15.2006 12:02am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Libertarians certainly don't care much for the founding documents. Neither do the new social conservatives who want religion to guide the operation of the government. About the only conservatives who may claim that are the true small government, traditional Republicans, who are often sneered at nowadays as "RINOs".
This is incorrect on just about every count.

Libertarians do care a great deal for the founding documents. The problem is that they tend not to understand their historical context very well--it tends to be a literalist reading of the Bill of Rights, not understanding the meaning of "right of the people" in the Second Amendment terribly well.

Religious conservatives are actually quite close to the Founders on religion and government, although a bit more liberal than them. Look at the state constitutions adopted in the Revolutionary and early Republic period. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 requires the legislature to pass mandatory church attendance laws, and fund churches from taxes where local congregations won't do so voluntarily. Many of the state constitutions limited officeholding based on religion. Some limited it to Protestants (New Jersey Cosntitution of 1776); some allowed the state to limit officeholding to Christians (for example, Maryland). The federal government as late as the 1820s was still in the business of endowing churches in Ohio by giving one section of each township for the support of whatever church the township picked.
2.15.2006 12:00pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I'd always thought that the reason the US didn't head further in a fascist direction was because the NIRA was found unconstitutional and the US had sufficiently strong respect for its institutions that court packing gutted FDR's support (he won more elections, but never had his pre-36 power again)
We could have gone all the way into dictatorship--it came very close, at one point. See my article about Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler and the plot to seize the White House that appeared in History Today some years back. The text is here. You can read some of the documents here.
.
2.15.2006 12:06pm
James of England:
Mr. Cramer, reading the article, it doesn't look as if you believe that the revolution was likely to happen.

So far as I can tell, even if Butler (and Van Zandt, Glazier, and French) was telling the truth, all he shows is that one well-connected businessman was plotting a coup. I don't think that that comes close to saying that the coup was likely. MacGuire doesn't appear to have been amazingly competent. FDR was hugely popular in '34 (472 electoral votes in '32 and 523 in '36). You compare the situation to Spain, but Franco only got his initial success because Spain was already falling apart. Azana was no FDR. It doesn't just seem unlikely that the start of the revolution would have happened, but bordering on impossible that it would prosper.

Mr. Cramer, reading the article, it doesn't look as if you believe that the revolution was likely to happen.

So far as I can tell, even if Butler (and Van Zandt, Glazier, and French) was telling the truth, all he shows is that one well-connected businessman was plotting a coup. I don't think that that comes close to saying that the coup was likely. MacGuire doesn't appear to have been amazingly competent. FDR was hugely popular in '34 (472 electoral votes in '32 and 523 in '36). You compare the situation to Spain, but Franco only got his initial success because Spain was already falling apart. Azana was no FDR. It doesn't just seem unlikely that the start of the revolution would have happened, but bordering on impossible that it would prosper.

My brother was one of the committee for a Stop The War Coalition meeting dominated by Socialist Workers Party a couple of years back. They eventually spent most of their 4.5 hours talking about their plan to storm the houses of parliament and thus take over the country. My brother and other voices of reason failed to impress on them that successfully standinging the Commons and Lords wouldn't mean that people obeyed the new laws that they were debating passing (very important part of any pie in the sky revolution, the discussion of the details of the things you'll never do). To my mind, it's the sign of a healthy democracy that it can live with all sorts of groups believing that they have a chance of taking over by coup, planning on doing so, and never really getting there. Some, like the IRA or the Symbionese Liberation Front make it as far as murdering people and dealing drugs, but no one in the Anglosphere bridges the gap to other traditional governmental functions (like teaching math and building roads). They're less civilised, but part of the burden of being cautious with regard to the civil liberties violations you're willing to tolerate.
2.15.2006 9:36pm