Proto-fascist structure

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Sat Nov 20 13:54:25 PST 1999

>>> "Chip Berlet" <cberlet at> 11/20/99 02:30PM >>>

Let me address these points as they come up.

----- Original Message ----- From: Charles Brown <CharlesB at> To: <lbo-talk at> Sent: Saturday, November 20, 1999 1:40 PM Subject: Re: Proto-fascist structure
> >>> "Chip Berlet" <cberlet at> 11/19/99 05:35PM >>
> Not all political repression is fascism. Not even all military
> are fascist. You use the term fascism too loosely to be valuable in a
> serious discussion.
> (((((((((
> Charles: Your logic is backward. My definition of fascism is
>narrower than yours. Your Preface to Russ Bellant's book
>has a definition with about 13 elements in it, which is
>much looser than mine. So you end up backwards in this
>argument, claiming that I am
>being too loose, when I am being stricter than you are.


>Communist Georgi Dimitroff [defined fascism]
>as the open terrorist rule of the most reactionary,
>chauvinist sectors of the financial oligarchy.

This definition was wretched when it was adopted as the Party Line, and it has only gotten worse with age. Recent historical research using computer crunching of voting patterns in Germany reveal that it was the petite bourgeois who in large numbers shifted votes to the Nazis, creating a situation where the ruling class chose the Nazis over the left.


Charles: So far, the facts you adduce do not demonstrate one wit that this definition was wretched when it was adopted as the party line, nor that it has gotten worse with age. First, of all the first fascists were in Italy, not Germany. So, you are leaping in at the wrong historical juncture.

Secondly, "recent historical research" does not just automatically trump prior historical research. You have done nothing to authenticate it. You don't say who did it. It, as far as historical research goes, is further from the primary documents than the older historical reaseach and thus is at a historiographic disadvantage compared to the old. Dimitroff was in Nazi Germany. The latest researchers are not.

But even as to the content of what you say, that fascism is the rule of the financial oligarchy is not in the least contradicted by the fact that petit bourgeoisie may have been the swing vote that got the Nazis in ( they are the swing vote, because the working class is 90% of the population with a good definition of working class ). Are you asserting that the petit bourgeois took over from the big bourgeoisie as the ruling class during the Nazis rule ? Do you think it is the class of the majority of voters in the U.S. who are now the ruling class here ? Your analysis does not comprehend the concept ruling class and who rules even after democratic votes in which the overwhelming majority of those who vote are not part of the ruling class, the big bourgeoisie. The big bourgeoisie are a tiny minority and never are the majority of voters in national elections. In fascism, it is still the big bourgeosie who rule, thus the Dimitroff's definition stands up to your criticisms sti! ll.

Also, the ruling class never even considered chosing the left. The left had become to large for the bourgeois liberals to defeat them in elections.

Overall , your analysis of fascism is fails because of your inadequate class analysis.

> Your definition and approach do not focus on class.

Actually, it does, it just doesn't accept your overly simplistic idea that fascism is concocted in some board room by secret ruling elites.


Charles: Please point to the post where I said this. You certainly are attributing a lot of things to my position that aren't there.

"Overly simplistic" ? You haven't come close to demonstrating that . It is your approach that is repeatedly imprecise, as I keep demonstrating.


Fascism generally emerges as an autonomous populist mass movement of the right wing middle class, which then attracts support from other classes, primarily through scapegoating and demagogic anti-regime appeals. Gullible leftists, with crude anti-elite ideas, often jump on board.


Charles: Well, this has some class discussion in it, but it is wrong, superficial. A class analysis starts out with a recognition of who is the ruling class in capitalism, and who are the revolutionary class. At the stage at which the fascists are autonomous ( of what ? the ruling class of course) , they are not in power. The significant thing is what is the class formation when the fascists take state power. If fascism had remained "autonomous" , we wouldn't be worrying about it so much. As to gullible leftists, Mussolini had been a leader of the Socialist Party, so it also includes corrupt leftists.


>And because one Italian Fascist General was not anti-Semitic,
>you remove the aspect of racism from your long list.
>This is especially faulty when trying to apply the
>concept of "fascism" to the U.S. where
>racism is central to all historical issues.

This completely misrepresents my introduction to Bellan't book.


Charles: Well not completely. I am looking at the "hallmarks" of fascism and nazism on page ix. I count eleven. The word "racism" is not used. "Inferior, subhuman force" is used in one of the eleven. Why is this ? The only thing I can figure is your mention that the Italians were not quite as racist as the Germans.


> With respect to the above, I have never said all political
> repression is fascism. As a matter of fact I have counselled
>other posters in the past that not all tyranny is fascism.
>Many people get confused and call Stalinism fascism,
>and it is not, although it is a form of tyranny.
>Nor does my definition or approach say all military dictatorships are
> I use the term "fascism" quite strictly, contrary to your
>claim that I use it loosely. And you have this issue upside down.

Let's start by examining an earlier thread:

Someone posed the argument:

>Clinton is a far worse menace to individual freedoms
>then all the militia men combined.

then there was a response:

>Clinton is more of a menace than Reagan, as well. Since what passes for the
>was willing to stand up and fight Reaganism, but rolled over like a willing
>supplicant when the same meanness came dressed as Clintonism.

Charles Brown then responded with this:

>I want to criticize further this line that Clintonism and the
>Democrats are more of a fascist threat than
>Reaganism and the Republicans.

So it was you, Mr. Brown, who escalated a discussion of a "threat to individual freedoms" and a "menace" to "fascism."


Charles: Yes, and a threat to individual freedoms and a menace significantly greater than Reagan would be a fascist threat. There isn't that much room between Reaganism and fascism. The most reactionary sector of capital was the ruling sector with Reagan, and all that lacked was OPEN ( as opposed to veiled ) terrorist rule.



> Chip:
> Just because a right wing crank says something bad about
> the government, you should not be so gullible as to believe it, much less
> suggest the drivel to others on this list. The secret team and secret
> government thesis, peddled by Danny Sheehan and the Christic Institute,
> sanitized conspiracy material from the Liberty Lobby and the LaRouche
> network.
> ((((((((((
> Charles: You can't prove that there wasn't a _secret_ FEMA plan.
>It would be secret. Better to presume that there is such a scheme.

This is outrageous. You can't prove a negative, it is a logical fallacy.


Charles: Think of it as the burden of proof being on you who deny such an insurrection contingency plan.

Not only that, there is a lot of evidence of the secret undemocratic actions of the U.S. military and intelligence in general, and particularly of the secret plots of Oliver North, notably Iran-Contra And there was evidence of the FEMA plot published by the Chrisitic Institute, whose veracity your critique does not utterly obliterate. This is not just not proving a negative, it is proving that some evidence brought out is a hoax. I have no reason to trust your veracity over Christic. So, I will err on the side of presuming the worse, in the case of the U.S. intelligence establishment.

Beside this direct evidence, the general nature of the U.S. government is that it would have some contingency for responding to insurrection. So, if not this one, something similar. Thus, the general burden of proof should be on those maintaining that there is no insurrection contingency plan.


The FEMA plan was exposed by the Miami Herald, not some right wing conspiracy theorist.


Charles: You were the one who said it originated with rightwing conspiracy theorists.


The right wing put a spin on it and this was adopted by Harry Martin, the right wing source you cited.


Charles: How do you know the leftists didn't get it from the Miami Herald and not the rightwingers, as you implied before.


A progressive analysis of the FEMA plan is available and I cited it. This article makes it clear that the "plan" was one of a series of readiness exercise scenarios that go back decades. For instance the US has plans for readiness exercise invasions by Canada and Mexico. North's use of FEMA posed a serious civil liberties threat. Let's not hyperbolize what was already bad, and depend on the right wing for our analysis of government repression. It is not better to presume the truth of all anti-government conspiracy theories circulated by the right. This position is disasterous.


Charles: Oh, now we see that YOU say there was such a plan actually. Talking in circles aren't you ?

I think "hyprbolize" is the wrong word here. My analysis is not hyperbole at all, but very sober. And the post I sent to you was the first I had heard of this from a rightwinger. My sources on it have always been left. Like Attorney Bill Goodman of the National Lawyers Guild, who asked Council member Mel Ravitz of the Detroit City Council to consider being part of a law suit to investigate the claims about the FEMA back in about 1987.

Rather than me speaking in hyperbole, I think your " North's use of FEMA posed a serious civil liberties threat" is understatement.


> As far as rightwing sources, most of Russ Bellant's sources are fascistic
rightwingers. He even goes to KKK rallies. Many of his sources on the Nazis in the Republican Party are rightwing. He went to a World Anti-Communist League Convention.
> Or for example, you quote Mussolini at the beginning of your Preface to
his book. Don't you consider Mussolini a rightwing source ? You also quote Hitler in a highlight in that Preface. You give no indication that these quotes are quoted as crackpot sources. You seem to think they give accurate insights into fascism.


Don't be silly, there is a difference between citing right wing sources in the form of quotes, or from their own meetings or publications; and citing right wing conspiracy theories uncritically as you have done.


Charles: I'm not silly. What is the difference ? Hitler and Mussolini can be trusted on abstract and theoretical questions about fascism, but there is nothing to learn from a rightwinger about the facts of what is going on. Where was your criticism of what Mussolini and Hitler said in your Preface ?

I thought you quoted Mussolini "Fascism, which was not afraid to call itself reactionary... does not hesitate to call itself illiberal and anti-liberal" for some valid insight into fascism. " In the text, you don't seem to criticize this idea of Mussolini's. "Fascism is reaction,"said Mussolini. And then you say "but reaction to what ? " You seem to be agreeing with Mussolini, not criticizing him.

Then you quote Hitler : "The great masses of people...will more easily fall vicitms to a big lie than to a small one." I see no criticism of this by you. As a matter of fact this was a criticism I had of the Preface when I read it. Why quote Hitler on this infamous theory about the big lie ?Maybe it is actually the little lies that work best. Or the less blatant lies. And Hitler is throwing us off so that we look for big lies as a sign of fascism.


>Also, I think it is important to start naming names of actual individuals
who are the leaders of the ruling class , the ones pulling Reagan or Clinton's strings. One of the unique characteristics of the bourgeois ruling class, as compared to previous modes, is that they rule in relative anonymity.

This is absurd, all you have to do is read Forbes magazine to see the contours of the ruling class.


Charles: Again, it is you who is prone to hyperbole, not I. The above ain't hardly absurd. Try something a little less dramatic , like "I disagree".


The fallacy here is that there is a united ruling class mechanically pulling wires that controlled Reagan and now control Clinton.


Charles: The fallacy in your statement is that I never said they were "mechanically" pulling wires controlling Reagan and now Clinton. They are pulling the strings quite consciously. The bourgeoisie are subjects.

Well the process is "mechanical" in the sense that the ruling class automatically takes steps as a matter of course to control BOTH parties. There is never a time or an election that they don't do it. They never leave it up for grabs, so that a working class politician might get in. This is even at the level of lower offices,Senate, Congress, Governors, etc.

There is some disunity in the ruling class, but they are always substantially united on class questions. This is why a tiny minority can rule over a giant majority. The former must always be more united than the latter or else , comes the revolution.


This is so overly simplistic as to be a paraody of Marxism.


Charles: It is pretty exactly Marxism, which is la verite.


I was once on a panel discussing the legacy of C. Wright Mills. The other panelists were G. William Domhoff and Holly Sklar. We all bemoned the fact that conspiracy theorists on the right and left misread systemic analysis and transform it into a hunt for "who controls everything."


Charles: You were all wrong if you meant that claim to apply to me.

I have been part of Marxist organizations ( including probably panels) in which we fully subscribe to the idea that capitalism is a system, not a policy (conspiracy) , but this does not contradict the notion that the ruling class is class conscious and takes many actions according to this consciousness , including especially consciously controlling the apparatus of the national state governments , bribing public officials, etc. The notion that the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is on automatic pilot is a little like "Invisible Hand " theory in economics.

You can get so conspiracy theory -free as to become naive.

The important thing, as Lenin taught , is that the solution is not to use assassinations. This was the error of the People's Will , etc.


Nobody "controls everyting." And the ruling class is seldom united on a specific policy.

We simply disagree.


Charles: If only there were such sharp divisions in the ruling class. So , you do believe there is a ruling class. Well, that's a start.

The exact structure of the ruling class is what discussions like this are about determining. Your approach cuts off the empirical process before it gets very far by dogmaitcally asserting that "that there are no conspiracies controlling the U.S. government or others. " I doubt any ONE person controls everything. But there is a board of directors of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie ; and it represents quite consciously the interests of the richest people; and it controls the modern state which is it executive committee. For example, at one point there was the Trilateral Commission, though I would say the form generally remains secret to the general public.


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