Observing political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970’s leads to an inescapable conclusion: the vast bulk of legislative activity favors the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big business is very well off, and successive Canadian and U.S. governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their primary objective for at least the last 25 years. Digging deeper into twentieth century history, one finds this steadfast focus on the well-being of big business in other times and places. The exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism. Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business, and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity. These facts have been lost to the popular consciousness in North America. Fascism could therefore return to us, and we will not even recognize it. Indeed, Huey Long, one of America’s most brilliant and most corrupt politicians, was once asked if America would ever see fascism. His answer was, “Yes, but we will call it anti-fascism” . . .
Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was the end result of political and economic processes which these nations underwent while they were still democratic. In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism in Italy and Germany.
Business tightened its grip on the state in both Italy and Germany by means of intricate webs of cartels and business associations. These associations exercised a very high degree of control over the businesses of their members. They frequently controlled pricing, supply and the licensing of patented technology. These associations were private, but were entirely legal. Neither Germany nor Italy had effective antitrust laws, and the proliferation of business associations was generally encouraged by government. This was an era eerily like our own, insofar as economists and businessmen constantly clamored for self-regulation in business. By the mid 1920’s, however, self-regulation had become self-imposed regimentation. By means of monopoly and cartel, the businessmen had wrought for themselves a “command and control” economy which effectively replaced the free market. The business associations of Italy and Germany at this time are perhaps history’s most perfect illustration of Adam Smith’s famous dictum: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices” . . .
Neo-liberal intellectuals often recognize the need for violence to protect what they regard as freedom. Thomas Freidman of the New York Times has written enthusiastically that “the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist”, and that “McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15…”. As in pre-fascist Germany and Italy, the laissez-faire businessmen call for the state to do their bidding even as they insist that the state should stay out of the marketplace. Put plainly, neo-liberals advocate the use of the state’s military force for the sake of private gain. Their view of the state’s role in society is identical to that of the businessmen and intellectuals who supported Hitler and Mussolini. There is no fear of the big state here. There is only the desire to wield its power. Neo-liberalism is thus fertile soil for fascism to grow again into an outright threat to our democracy.
Having said that fascism is the result of a flawed notion of freedom, I respectfully suggest that we must reexamine what we mean when we throw around the word “freedom”. We must conceive of freedom in a more enlightened way. Indeed, it was the thinkers of the Enlightenment that imagined a balanced and civilized freedom which did not impinge upon the freedom of one’s neighbor. Put in the simplest terms, my right to life means that you must give up your freedom to kill me. This may seem terribly obvious to decent people. Unfortunately, in our neo-liberal era, this civilized sense of freedom has, like the dangers of fascism, been all but forgotten.
MUST READ!! Marching toward Nuremburg
From "The Real Threat of Fascism" by Paul Bigioni at OpEd News:
Posted by total at 10/03/2005