A familiar path to fascism

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Donald Trump is the first major party presidential nominee to provoke widespread discussion about whether he is a fascist. It is a question raised by analysts across the political spectrum. Now that he is about to become the president, it might be helpful to consider how popular Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were with rightwingers in America.

The first fascist movement to gain power was Mussolini’s Blackshirts in Italy in 1922. The New York Times, the wire services, the business magazines and the mass-circulation Saturday Evening Post treated Mussolini and fascism as “the saviors of Italy” from “the menace of Bolshevism,” according to John P. Diggins in his book Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America.

The Post serialized Mussolini’s autobiography (which may have been ghostwritten by the American Ambassador to Italy) and carried numerous pro-fascist articles (including one by humorist Will Rogers). Diggins notes that Anne O’Hare McCormick, the New York Times correspondent in Rome, “spent almost 20 years explaining to Americans the poetic beauties of the Italian landscape as well as the political beauties of Mussolini and Fascism.”

Editorial pages contained hosannas to the dictator. The Times called Mussolini’s 1922 coup “peculiar and relatively harmless.” The Chicago Tribune said fascism stood for “the most striking and successful attempt of the middle classes to meet the tide of revolutionary socialism.” The New York Tribune editorialized: “The Fascist movement is — in essentials — a reaction against degeneration through Socialistic internationalism. It is rough in its methods, but the aims which it professes are tonic… Mussolini is fighting for normalcy.”

In 1925, when Mussolini announced the formation of his “Corporate State,” the Times said that his conception of power and authority “has many points in common with that of the men who inspired our own constitution — John Adams, Hamilton, and Washington. The uninformed will of ‘the many’ is to be ‘balanced’ by the experience and the wisdom of ‘the few.’”

The business monthly Fortune came out with an entire edition lauding the “Corporate State.”

One of Mussolini’s greatest press admirers was William Randolph Hearst, whose newspaper chain the Italian government considered, in Diggins’ words, “the most favorable to the regime.” Hearst wrote in 1928 that “Mussolini is a man I have always admired, not only because of his astonishing ability, but because of his public service.”

In 1922, Alvin Owsley, commander of the American Legion praised Mussolini and added, “If ever needed, the American Legion stands ready to protect our country’s institutions and ideals as the Fascisti dealt with the destructionists who menaced Italy!”

“By taking over the government?” he was asked.

“Exactly that,” he said. “The American Legion is fighting every element that threatens our democratic government — soviets, anarchists, I.W.W., revolutionary socialists and every other ‘Red.’… Do not forget that the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States.”

That statement is certainly true. Founded by Army officers in 1919, the Legion was similar to the many European veterans groups at that time, which supplied members for fascist parties and counter-revolutionary militias. Legionnaires were notorious for assaulting leftists, breaking up strikes and driving organizers of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) out of town.

In 1924, Adolf Hitler was put on trial for his abortive Munich Beer Hall Putsch. The vice president of the Bavarian parliament testified that the German Nazi movement was partially financed by American car manufacturer Henry Ford. Later, former Nazi agent Kurt W. Luedecke would write that he travelled that year to the United States to obtain funds from Ford for Hitler.

Hitler had a large portrait of Ford hanging above his desk, according to the New York Times (Dec. 20, 1922). He told a Times reporter, “We look on Heinrich Ford as the leader of the growing Fascisti movement in America.’”

The Nazis promoted a book called The International Jew, which consisted of articles that had appeared in The Dearborn Independent, a newspaper owned by Ford and distributed largely through his auto dealerships. The articles were based upon The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was a hoax document created by the Russian Czarist secret police. It claimed to be the proceedings of secret meetings of leaders of world Jewry conspiring to take over the world.

William E. Dodd, who was FDR’s Ambassador to Germany from 1933, when Hitler rose to power, until 1937, said “certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy.”

In addition, Dodd warned that, “A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government, and is working closely with the fascist regimes in Germany and Italy.”

That was a long time ago. But is history repeating itself today? Donald Trump is allied with far right quasi-fascist parties in Europe which are gaining  popularity. Ironically, this time the far rightists are allied with Russia and are hostile to the German government.

Nevertheless, Trump isn’t Hitler and the U.S. isn’t the Weimar Republic. But we are facing the biggest challenge to democracy in our lifetimes.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

  • Windfola

    This article is so helpful in blowing away the rosy fog of “it can’t happen here.” The seeds of fascism are always present in society. Given the “right” circumstances, the seeds can sprout and grow. But if we know our history and pay attention and keep core values in mind, we can stop American fascism from blossoming. Pay attention everyone.

    • ernie_oertle

      You are college-crendentialed. What an indictment!!! Edumacated-people know .. squashing the profit-motive has worked soo-o-o-o-o-o-o well ….. in socialist economies. Mashing the profit-motive out of commercial functions for socialisthumanitarian purposes, Citizens-of-the-World altruism, has led to boon-times in communist bio-technical industries. Edumacated-people know all about brilliant innovation in totalitarian authoritarian maoist/FASCIST strict-pigrezzivist-doctrinal Orwellian pharmaceutical design-bureaus. There will be such a wondrous & impressive flow of medicines out of those bureaus & industries – when our stupid system gets rightfully clobbered by your ideology. “Fundamentally-transformed”. Your ilk is as Smart as you think you are by one-half.

    • ernie_oertle

      Oh, we should build a 3rd-column. HokeyDonkey’s column next to DT & adolfSchicklegruber’s would read: Uses racism to deceive; Makes heinous use of fake-news; Deceives w/ fake-news; Anti-white; Eager to collaborate w/ muslim-cultists to defeat hellish main enemy Freedom&Liberty

  • ernie_oertle

    Let us revisit your accusations that others & Trump are the `fascists’. The modern axiom is, watch-out citizens because:

    fascists will be the ones calling themselves `anti-fascists’.

    Liberal reactionaries have proved easy marks for believing absurd & preposterous
    things *implied for fear-purposes* by HardLefters & squint-eyed professors. Things like, if the conservatives-&-libertarians win election – they’ll cancel the CivilRightsAct-of-1965! Or, they’ll completely close down Protection of the Environment! Or, they’ll negate the14th Amendment & throw black-people back in to slavery & illiteracy! !!! Or, they’ll draw a red-line in the sand in Syria & set us up for endless war! Oh god No caveman!, not endless war!! Or, the Coke-brothers will send theUSMilitary to Africa to catch zeeka/ebola & then bring it back to all of us but there’ll be no SinglePayer, caveman.
    The national-debt is above $20TObama headed-for-$24TObama, the threat of collapse & wreckage of theEconomy & the country is real unless austerity &
    cutbacks are commenced — & the sinistral fringe is going to attempt to keep their clinton’s-clutch on Policy by exactly Crook’s kind of screech & baboon-shriek protest to keep the obummunist’s boot-on-neck. Your attitude is precisely why Trump got elected.

  • ernie_oertle

    BS Bernie worst-case scenario =

    Trump survives.
    Business responds enthusiastically to a release from socialistic threat, sees Obamacare written-off, sees the possibility of a bloom of post-socialistic/fascistic Freedom&Liberty ideas, sees a relaxing in the tensions of Obama’s artificially & meanly-concocted racial-divisiveness, sees country broadening to a new nationalistic harmony, realizes border control & security actually does work. Bernie worst-case scenario = Democrats become more irrelevant, leftist extremism rejected.

  • ernie_oertle

    HokeyDonley DID look at ALL the leftwinger marxist redistributionist collectivist fascist-biased Academic/ Journalistic IndustrialComplex narrative arranged fact-checking sites, ……… & ALL of the leftwinger marxist redistributionist collectivist Academic/ Journalistic
    IndustrialComplex narrative fascist fact-checking sites … say Trump IS lying !!!!!!!!

  • ernie_oertle

    ?? Fascist?
    “.. running a fascist campaign …” ????

    Ya mean like Obama & theDemocrats fascistic cooperative w/ the piggrezzivist-hornswaggled insurance-companies?
    The left recognized they couldn’t get their worshiped `Single-Payer’ socialistic
    nationalization of the healthcare-industry all in-one-fell-swoop, so they went w/ Plan B – an intermediate nationalization plan where they suckered/scared-the-bejesus out of the medical-insurance industry. Ownership & their executives feared in ’09, that BarrrrackHusseinObama socialists would TAKE their industry & careers away. Secular-progressives then salved-over the distress by letting business literally write Obamacare, giving them EVERYTHING (2300-plus pages) the industry-types thought they would possibly need to operate a total-coverage national healthcare program, scheming an unavoidable all-citizens payment artifice to theoretically fund the thing,
    & concocting a full-scale government/private-business control-nostrum over a captive unrecounted customer-base in a out-right fascistic cooperative. — Obamacare was sold by Democrats as a public/private cooperative consortium. That private insurance companies will run the whole thing w/ just this l-i-t-t-l-e b-i-t of gubmit guidance. Instead, private for-profit insurance will be unable to function as tenable businesses in a cancerous bureaucratic authoritarian-rule-filled gulag of super-regulation, & will one-at-a-time over the next 5-to-15yrs, abandon the industry >>> as is already happening<<<. For the lefty-blowhards, THIS IS BY DESIGN. They intend this development. Leaving BigBrother to dock the minions into being the Single .. Payer as it fills the fabricated trap / void the cancerous authoritarians have machinated. It will be the tribulations of theVA, writ for the whole population.

  • YETI67

    Even if this suggestion about The Donny were true, I don’t recall Hitler Or Moosey having anything like congress in their path. Nothing to see here.