Facism Lying In The Shadows Of Democracy

Fascism refers to an authoritarian right-wing system of government and social organization that has always lurked in the shadows of democracy like a circling shark. Fascism is notably contemptuous of the democratic process. While some practitioners include racial superiority and personal supremacy, all Fascists require unquestioning obedience to a supreme “leader”. There have been many times in history when Fascism overtook democracies and we may be witnessing one of those moments right now. It is easy of course to call names at people whose behavior we don’t like and that makes it necessary to be quite careful when doing so. But as the old saw puts it: “If the shoe fits … etc..” One purpose of calling names is, of course, to dehumanize the targeted groups of non-believers and to create a common vocabulary with which to describe a taxonomy of common experience. On the other hand, there are also times when labels are exact, to the point, and necessary.

So then what exactly is “Fascism”?  Well, it cannot be whatever we want it to be as a label for people and movements we disagree with. I submit here Robert O. Paxton’s description of the intrinsic nature of Fascism which seems to fit not only the historical manifestations of Fascism but those which are current:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood  …  and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Historically the most powerful incubating conditions necessary for Fascism to emerge have been economic. When a majority of people in a society feel threatened by economic failure those fears are easily exploited by demagogues fingering immigrants, overbearing government bureaucrats, or foreign powers, a cleverly played “blame game” that exploits anxiety, insecurity, fear, ignorance, and makes irrational attributions of evil to necessary “others”, others being the most useful essential element in the equation. As a tactic, cynically playing groups within a society against one another almost always succeeds. Joseph Goebbels wrote during the Nazi takeover of Germany, “It will always remain one of democracy’s best jokes that it provided its deadly enemies with the means by which it was destroyed.” It is not difficult, as Hitler and his associates demonstrated, to play any class of people against any other, to vilify scapegoats, especially in difficult economic times. This scenario has been played many times throughout history. And, even as you read this, Fascism is rearing its ugly head in several places in the world including the United States. As Chris Hedges put it, “Thomas Paine wrote that despotic government is a fungus that grows out of a corrupt civil society. This is what happened to these older democracies. It is what happened to us.”

Robert Paxton also wrote that in Fascism  “ … a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues … without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.” I would add to this an inhumanity wrapped in callow religious piety. For example, one of the leader of the Republican assault on the Affordable Care Act in the US House of Representatives in recent years is a self-professed pious practicing Catholic who has been praised by his Bishop. We have to ask them, was the “fishes and the loaves” lesson not taught in that diocese? Given that the majority of those in this country who are perpetrating these wars against humanity are self-professed Christians one can’t help but marvel at their inhumanity and the apparent ineffectiveness of their religious beliefs. 

When I read comments made by elected officials that poor people are somehow lacking in effort and motivation it brings to mind reading A Tale Of Two Cities in high school – the poor people at the barricades, the infamous, “Let them eat cake.”  It could have been A Tale Of Two Worlds – rich and poor, advantaged and disadvantaged, powerful and weak, selfish and giving, employed and unemployed. Those are the contradictions Fascism tirelessly works to exploit. Fascism, today cloaked within the shadows of high finance and so-called conservative politics, is ready and waiting in the wings to overtake and drown our wounded Democracy in it’s own contradictions. The dichotomies describe social patterns repeated over the course of history which have led inexorably to political upheaval and violence. History does, of course, repeat itself- perhaps endlessly because human nature is what seems not to change. The Karmic wheel keeps on turning.

1 Response to “Facism Lying In The Shadows Of Democracy”

  1. 1 Dennis Corso April 27, 2019 at 10:29 am


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