What I’ve been reading about fascism

1. Lucy Hughes-Hallett, The Pike: Gabriele d’Annunzio Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War.  A vivid and entertaining look at a major European fascist who remains neglected by Americans (I don’t even think this book has a U.S. edition).  I was surprised how readable this book was, given its length and subject matter.  The words “rollicking” and “psychopath” come to mind.  He was nonetheless one of the most influential European writers of his time.

2. Stanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism 1914-1945.  One of the classics, readable and comprehensive and one of the best places to start.  One thing I learned from this pile of books is how hard some of those leaders worked to have the mid-level bureaucracy on their side.  The centralization often occurred at higher levels, for instance Mussolini had 72 cabinet meetings in 1933, but only 4 in 1936.  The Italian Fascist party, by the way, was disproportionately Jewish, at least pre-1938.

3. Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism.  Along with Payne, one of the core books to read, stronger on analysis while Payne has more historical detail.  He is especially clear on how the fascists built up and refined their political coalitions over time, and the conflicting roles of party and nation in the history of fascism.

4. R.J.B. Bosworth, Mussolini’s Italy: Life Under the Dictatorship.  I’ve only read parts of this one, but it seems to be the best detailed historical account of a non-Nazi fascist regime.  If you wish to know, for instance, how and why the Italian fascists reformed Italian public holidays, this is your go-to source.

5. Alexander de Grand, Italian Fascism: Its Origin and Development.  Highly focused and to the point, also has an A+ quality annotated bibliography.  It considers regions of Italy, demographic issues, looks at the arts, and for such a short book gives the reader a remarkably broad and multi-faceted perspective.  Overall this book emphasizes how deeply rooted fascism was in so many other Italian institutions and ways of life.

6. I’ve also been reading plenty of Benedetto Croce, including his history of Naples and History, its Theory and Practice.  He is oddly boring and non-concrete, but was a consistent opponent of the Italian fascist regime, except for the first two years of Mussolini’s rule (he later claimed that was for tactical reasons).  In any case, the reader learns that the opposing side doesn’t always have a good ability to articulate why bad events are happening.  I can recommend Fabio Fernando Rizi’s very good history and survey, Benedetto Croce and Italian Fascism.

7. Giorgio Bassani, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.  This beautiful short novel (also a movie) is especially good on anti-Semitism in Italy, how youth process political collapse in their countries, and how events can outrace your expectations and leave you in a haze.

Some books on Italian futurism are coming in the mail.

Overall I did not conclude that we Americans are careening toward fascist outcomes.  I do not think that notion is well-suited to the great complexity of contemporary bureaucracy, nor to our more feminized and also older societies.  Furthermore, in America democracy has taken much deeper roots and the system of checks and balances, whatever its flaws, has stood for a few hundred years, contra either Italy or Germany in their fascist phases.

Still, I did not find this reading reassuring, as people will support many bad things in politics.  The Italian war in Ethiopian was remarkably popular, but exactly why?  We Americans could (again) do something quite bad, but without being fascists.

Less directly on fascism, but by no means irrelevant to the topic, I can recommend two new books:

Andrzej Franaszek, Milosz: A Biography. Long, thorough, but readable treatment, focusing on more on his poetry than the political writings.

And I have been enjoying my ongoing browse of Robert E. Lerner, Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life.


Hope you're right.

You won't but you could play your own role in preventing American fascism (sorry couldn't keep a straight face) by policing the incipient Spartacus League on the left. But I get it- no enemies to the left.

These days, this is hard to figure out - do the Russian support the left or the right? Or do they just follow their own interests, without caring about such petty distinctions?

'Like Trump, Flynn has shown an affinity for Russia that is at odds with the views of most of his military and intelligence peers. Flynn raised eyebrows in 2015 when he appeared in photographs seated next to Putin at a lavish party in Moscow for the Kremlin-controlled RT television network.

In an earlier interview with The Post, Flynn acknowledged that he had been paid through his speakers bureau to give a speech at the event and defended his attendance by saying he saw no distinction between RT and U.S. news channels, including CNN.

A retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, Flynn served multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — tours in which he held a series of high-level intelligence assignments working with U.S. Special Operations forces hunting al-Qaeda operatives and Islamist militants.

Former colleagues said that narrow focus led Flynn to see the threat posed by Islamist groups as overwhelming other security concerns, including Russia’s renewed aggression. Instead, Flynn came to see America’s long-standing adversary as a potential ally against terrorist groups, and himself as being in a unique position to forge closer ties after traveling to Moscow in 2013 while serving as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Flynn has frequently boasted that he was the first DIA director to be invited into the headquarters of Russia’s military intelligence directorate, known as the GRU, although at least one of his predecessors was granted similar access. “Flynn thought he developed some rapport with the GRU chief,” a former senior U.S. military official said.' https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/national-security-adviser-flynn-discussed-sanctions-with-russian-ambassador-despite-denials-officials-say/2017/02/09/f85b29d6-ee11-11e6-b4ff-ac2cf509efe5_story.html

Seems like however you classify the national security adviser's politics, the Russians are in with Flynn.


A lot of build up for that punch line.

I don't want to diminish the significance of the pun, but whenever I play board games - RISK for example - it's a fun, good game so long as everyone plays for their own interests. If player A starts helping player B for the lulz, it completely ruins the balance of the game. In this analogy, the Russians seem to be playing for the Russians, which I respect as a strategy, but not as an endgoal (that would end with the entire world speaking Russian). I think America playing for America is also a good strategy, and sometimes we'll attack Australia together, sometimes we won't.

Not a single book specifically concerning Franco? I'm pretty sure that Bannon is more attuned to Franco's framework, if only due to the more prominent role of the Catholic Church.

And as for heading for fascism? What a strange idea - really. Anyone who lived through the Nixon Administration will recognize what is going on - 'Neither of those assertions is consistent with the fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats. Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.' https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/national-security-adviser-flynn-discussed-sanctions-with-russian-ambassador-despite-denials-officials-say/2017/02/09/f85b29d6-ee11-11e6-b4ff-ac2cf509efe5_story.html

We live in an age of the surveillance state, where any time those in charge of it apparatus feel the need, the curtain can be pulled back. The contemporary bureaucracy knows the power of information is greater than the power beating people in the streets. The people in putative political charge are only there on sufferance.

Ask Elliot Spitzer.

Of course you're "pretty sure" that Bannon is a disciple of Franco. No doubt you reached that conclusion through careful analysis, based on your deep knowledge of the man and his influences.

Meanwhile, you seem to think that the story in your second paragraph refutes the claim we are "heading for fascism" in some way?....???? I can't even tell if that is supposed to be because we are not heading toward fascism, or because we are already fascist. The story doesn't seem to have the slightest relevance to the fascism debate.

Fascism: Always descending on America, but only landing elsewhere.

No primary sources and a slight novel- a very redbrick reading list if you catch my drift.

I see it as far superior to the non-existent reading lists of nearly everyone making claims about Trump and fascism.

No bibliography of the Trump-is-fascist trope can be complete without at least half a dozen Buzzfeed listicles.

No primary sources

An irrelevant rebuke to any faculty member who isn't a historian or working in the historical wing of the other social research disciplines.

I never encountered that expression before. Is the implication that an Oxbridge student (or professor) would read some primary sources, possibly in Italian?

Yes. As would anyone who was truly interested in understanding the topic.

It's hard to trust a reading list with only one double-barreled name on it. Or any list on fascism that's made up of a bunch of Americans and Brits and omits Ernest Nolte. Was a condition for Cowen that the author use their Middle initial?

These are just books for Tyler's colleagues to see him carrying around. It's an easy way of signaling tribal membership.

I had a neighbor whom lived in Italy under facism. He said in that time you could leave a wallet on the street and nobody would touch it. There was an island they sent thieves and other criminals to, and if you were sent there you wouldn't be coming back.

I would seriously recommend Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History by Mark Sedgwick

Meant as a general reply. Sorry!

Government policies, as in so many other spheres of life, are a trade off.

Homer Simpson: Oh, Kent, I'd be lying if I said my men weren't committing crimes.

Kent Brockman: [pause] Well, touché.

Well, if an old Italian man shared stories about how he views fascism through his rose colored glasses, I guess that's the final word on it.

RE: Gabriele d’Annunzio

J.G. Nichols has done a pretty good translation of his poetry for Carcanet. "The Goatskin" is a great poem.

This seems well worth your while:

About ten years ago, I was reading about the early New Deal/FDR thinkers and I was struck by how much they sounded like fascists. A little research and I was astonished to learn that prior to Hitler, American intellectuals were fascinated with the fascists as a good compromise between communism and capitalism. I eventually stumbled onto Gottfried, who has written a lot of essays and columns on the topic. I have not read this book though.

The sad truth is we beat the Nazis and then adopted their politics. Both parties have been corporatist for decades.

Both parties have been corporatist for decades.

There is no corporatism. The closest you came in this country after 1935 (outside of sectors dominated by government contracting) was the industry-wide master contract you'd see in sectors like steel and autos. Well, about 11% of the workforce belongs to unions as we speak, and most members are public employees or the employees of utilities.

If you are going to brush it aside and say it doesn't exist can you do us a solid and give us your own definition of corporatism?

A short, good, non-hysterical work is Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt's America, Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbusch (2006).

And no, we didn't "beat the Nazis and then adopted their politics."

I was also going to suggest Paul Gottfried's book!

Gottfried does two interviews with Tom Woods on the book:

we need a better world for the childrensPlaygroup Singapore we can make it if we mean it.

The thing is people in USA and Europe do have a deep reservoir of knowledge about fascism because it has been in their face, drummed in, flagged up, for 60 years — you can't escape it if you've been to school, watched films, and read some books. Why anyone would feel the need to revisit the lessons of fascism in 2017 perplexes me. But in Singapore I'm not sure, not having attended preschool playgroup there. Several years of my childhood were spent in Berkeley California, and I did salute the flag and give pledge of allegiance every morning. Not very effectively it seems since my teacher once locked me in a cupboard (a complaint was made, she apologised, and I took matter no further). Nevertheless Tyler is clearly correct to say, in so many words, that the rise of Trump does not represent a fascistic threat to his country, and I think most Americans who voted for him do see that VERY clearly. The problem lies with segment of public intellectual class that/who think deplorables need to return to preschool.

This sounds like a joke, but apparently it is true:

"by a 51/23 margin Trump voters say that the Bowling Green Massacre shows why Trump's immigration policy is needed."

What name should we put on that? Orangeism?


Ignorance seems an adequate name.

More than half of Democrats believe that Russia actually changed the election results, which strikes me as a bit more ignorant than knowing about a specific violent incident..

Most people are quite stupid. It's not news. But collectively they are wiser than one very smart person. Kind of like millions of dumb consumers and their thousands of choices are really good at picking good products over bad.

Now, which party thinks choice is a bad thing, and centralized, top-down decision-making a good thing?

So many fun facts in that poll.

"Only 47% of Trump voters know that Frederick Douglass is dead, compared to 78% of Clinton voters who know that."

Most voters are frightfully uninformed. And voters are at least more informed on average than non-voters.

Still, I did not find this reading reassuring, as people will support many bad things in politics. The Italian war in Ethiopian was remarkably popular, but exactly why? We Americans could (again) do something quite bad, but without being fascists.

I am not sure why the Italian invasion of Ethiopia is being held up as a bad thing here. After all, it isn't as if Ethiopia was a particularly nice country. It was an Empire itself so basically it is a preference for Africans being brutalized by other Africans rather than mildly less brutalized by Europeans. Compare it with the infinitely worse Soviet treatment of Central Asians or their own Poles or the Baltic states. No one holds them up as particularly bad things.

America is not headed for Fascism. Trump is many things but a Fascist is not one of them. Teddy Roosevelt now is another matter.

If you do not understand why invading other countries is bad, you might be fascists. Just saying.

You might. Or you might be a mainstream Leftist. Look at that list - the Soviet invasion of the Baltic states was in every way worse than the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Yet it has been justified, or at best ignored, by the Left for years. As was the invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam or Tibet by China.

And again Ethiopia is such an odd country to defend here. It is that rare Third World country that has lost a fight with its own Liberation movements. Now Eritrea is free. So before this, it was oppressed by Ethiopian colonialism? You are assuming any random state is the only morally right form of existence - even though the Left denies that on a regular basis - and Ethiopia met that criteria. Why? It really is a matter of asserting that more torture by people with darker skin is better than less torture by people with paler skin.

SMFS: Look at that list – the Soviet invasion of the Baltic states was in every way worse than the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Yet it has been justified, or at best ignored, by the Left for years.

Citation please.

Also, specifically define who you mean by "the Left".

"Why? It really is a matter of asserting that more torture by people with darker skin is better than less torture by people with paler skin."

The reason "the Left" (which, if you define "the Left" as "people who think invading sovereign states is bad," as you appear to be doing here, includes pretty much the entire Western foreign policy and political establishments for at least the past seven decades, and arguably longer than that) is opposed to invading other countries is because invading other countries has a pretty abysmal track record in the modern world. Nobody actually believes that torture is OK when dark-skinned people do it, aside from perhaps the naive left-wing boogeymen of right-wingers' imaginations. Rather, invading a country has a quite clear and consistent track record of not actually doing anything about people (whatever their skin color) torturing each other - and, in many cases, worsening that torture - while adding a great side dish of death, destruction and chaos into the torture-mix. That's why it's bad.

And before you retort, in the common "I've read an essay by Niall Ferguson" right-wing sort-of-way, "but the Brits and French invaded all those backwards people in Asia and Africa and modernized them," let me note that this was due to a brief period of extreme technical supremacy in a very particular way. Although I'm no lover of imperialism, I will admit that for the vast bulk of the Third World, Western imperialism was mostly a case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss," and that it did in involve improvements in some ways. However, 19th century military technology was such that European powers could a) subdue traditional powers in much of the world easily, but b) do so without literally destroying everything. It is arguable that the US could conquer and subjugate peoples in a similar fashion today if it really wanted to, but due to the advancement and diffusion of technology, such conquests would involve massive amounts of death and destruction.

Which is another reason why invading countries is bad.

Citations? Alexander Cockburn wrote, regarding the Soviet invasion: "if ever a country deserved rape it's Afghanistan." I think that counts, although it doesn't involve the Baltics.

VJV February 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

which, if you define “the Left” as “people who think invading sovereign states is bad,” as you appear to be doing here

Actually I am manifestly not doing that. As is obvious from the most trivial inspection of what I said. The Left, as I have pointed out any number of times, has no problems with invading other sovereign states - as long as their friends do it. It is the defining feature of the modern Hard Left.

In practice everyone thinks that torture is OK when dark-skinned people do it. Nelson Mandela's party, for instance, ran torture camps outside South Africa and came to power by lynching people by burning them to death. No one has a problem with that at all. At most universities you would be brave to point it out.

In this particular case, Italy invading Ethiopia did not increase the torture quotient. It mildly improved things. As Ethiopia was a pretty awful state before and after the Italians.

LOL at "the Left" not talking about Tibet. For a while there it was the new apartheid.

Tibet is a great example. In the old days, the Left was totally supportive of China's invasion of Tibet. As China liberalized and became more free, the Left rejected them and embraced the Dalai Lama.

For years Tibet was a right wing cause. Until China gave up Communism.

If any polity that invades another (or would have if it was strong enough) is fascist, then fascism is by far the most popular ideology in human history.

The Nazi invasion of Poland is something we make a point of teaching our children about, so they know who the bad guys are. The Soviet invasion of the Baltics is not. Of course, if it can be reconceived as a Russian invasion and if the Russians can be tied closely enough to Trump, that might change :)

(By "we" I mean schools, respectable media, the entertainment industry, ...)

It's almost like the start of WW2 in Europe is given more importance. Weird, huh?

We aren't headed for 1930s fascism in politics any more than we are headed for 1930s futurism in art. We lack a name still for the contemporary form of right wing authoritarian populism - orangeism? - that Trump is certainly part of. The interesting question is how far Trump will push it and how far he can go, and I am more pessimistic because I have a lot less faith in American exceptionalism than you do.

(Long time reader first time poster. I also enjoyed and recommend the Bosworth book.)

This is an entirely underappreciated point. So much of our chattering class seems to think that the only way to communicate that someone is "bad" is to call him Hitler. It betrays an extremely shallow mind.

Isn't Berlusconi the more relevant Italian analog here than Mussolini?

Also worth noting that if US institutions prove resilient to "orangeism", that doesn't mean that Trump isn't himself an orangeist threat.

What makes the movement you describe authoritarian, what makes Trump authoritarian, and how do those vary from other contemporary and historical US political movements and Presidents?

The Political Compass positions Trump and Clinton thus:


There is a chart below the one you looked at which also includes Bush and Cruz. It has them just a tiny bit below Trump on the "authoritarian" metric, basically indistinguishable from Trump when comparing him to Clinton, or, say, the far less "authoritarian" Gary Johnson (the gap between Clinton and Johnson is significantly larger than the gap between Clinton and Trump).

The metric is ridiculous anyway, as the commentary says "There is no stronger single indicator of authoritarianism and state power than a willingness to execute," a very stupid indicator of authoritarianism. But it sure doesn't support any contention that Trump is uniquely bad.

There are man examples of populist right wing authoritarianism in American history. Think about Andrew Jackson and the Cherokee, the antebellum south, Jim Crow, the interplay of government and big business in suppressing the labor movement before FDR, the phenomena of sundown towns in the North and West, segregation in northern cities, or the Federal government's dealings with Native Americans. How did these governments/elites justify themselves? Did they respect the rule of law? Honor their word? Did they work with and/or excuse vigilantes? , what myths did they create to defend their actions, and how did they react when those myths were challenged? I think these are probably more useful guides to worst case Trumpism might look like than fascism or falangism or nazism.

Some of those things don't seem authoritarian, and some don't seem to be "right wing."

But you are right that our own history, and the extent to which our history involves authoritarianism, are the best ways to analyze the issue.

I'm curious, which of these do you think are non-authoritarian and/or non-right wing?

I don't think indian or racial relations fit easily into the right vs. left framework. If you had written a list of "left authoritarianism," you may have included FDR given his great expansion of the executive, court-packing plan, and internment of Japanese-Americans. The latter suggesting right vs. left is not the right frame.

Nor do I think they fit well into an authoritarian framework. A sundown town, for instance, could arise in a highly democratic environment of dispersed power: if the town is majority white, and that majority is racist, it may decide at a public meeting of white people to oppress the black minority. I don't think that is properly classified as "authoritarianism," but as an oppressive majoritarianism of some form.

Our system could be said to be constructed on the fear of two dangers: authoritarianism and majoritarianism. We want to prevent the tyranny of a powerful individual or small group of individuals, and that should be understood as authoritarian. We also want to prevent the tyranny of a majority over a minority, and that should be understood as majoritarianism. The systematic defenses we have (or should) enact against each will be different, and so it is important to keep the two concepts distinct.

Of course, the two could interact: we might imagine an authoritarian tyrant riding a majoritarian wave to establish some form of totalitarianism. But that is itself a distinct issue, and it is only properly understood by seeing that authoritarianism and majoritarianism are distinctive types of (potential) threats.

With that in mind, much of what you listed I would call instances of majoritarianism instead of authoritarianism: safeguards against a dominant majority subjugating a minority were too weak (or were never put in place, in the case of slavery and, mostly, the case of Natives) and failed to prevent the majority from dominating the minority.

I should not have used "majoritarianism" as my term there, but I couldn't think of a better term. I mean "majoritarianism" as a "tyranny of the majority," not as the majority simply getting its preferences.

So many -isms...

Of course, Trump will not have an affair with Clara Petacci, the US will not invade Abessinia, and Americans will not speak Italian. What an extremely narrow reading of the term "fascism"!

2017 is still young. Where's Clara Petacci buried? We can make this happen.

Italian Wikipedia has the following: She was buried at Cimitero Maggiore in Milan under the ficticious name of Rita Colfosco. In 1959, she was exhumed with the authorization of the Minister of the Interior and reburied in the family tomb at Cimitero Comunale Monumentale Campo Verano in Rome. But she is turning 105 later this month. Wouldn't that be too old for Don Aldo?

Sometimes a man must make sacrifices for his nation. Sometimes that sacrifice is making sweet love to exhumed 105 year old bodies.

Just so he can prove he is @realBenitoMussolini?

Mussolini endorsed him for a reason: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5l_r8MG5II

As always, I appreciate Cowen sharing his reading list. But I'd also appreciate Cowen sharing more concrete impressions of fascism. By that I don't mean the horrible things fascists may do, but the path they took to get where they could do them. Cowen mentions the effort of fascists to manipulate the bureaucracy, but I'm more interested in how the rise of fascism was reflected in the public. For example, has it been typical for the public to willingly accept lies, not so much propaganda, but what are incontrovertible lies, and to willingly suspend disbelief. And if so, did this phenomenon arise quickly and spread rapidly? Did the willingness to accept lies and to suspend disbelief start with small lies and then evolve into ever larger lies? Reading Orwell one gets the impression that propaganda served as a psychological tool to confuse, to blur the distinction between facts and lies, in effect to train the public to lose the ability to think clearly and objectively and critically. One also gets the impression that the psychological effect took time, the repetition of lies serving to numb the ability to distinguish facts from lies. Or is this reading of Orwell wrong, that the effect of the demagogue was almost immediate, more like the spread of a contagious and deadly virus?

America/West is a very good example, of effective propaganda, you seem to be very willing to accept every lie the government tells you (ex: war on Iraq etc.). So like the other used to say "the people are more willing to accept a big lie than a small lie". Trump did not end democracy in America, America has stopped being a democracy in a long time, it is a pure oligarchy. The main feature relative to fascism, is that there is really no need for gulags (theres evolution for you): by limiting the public speech into giving the illusion that there is debate (Fox vs MSNBC), while holding the important stuff (ex: military spending, fake war on terrorism) off-limits, you basically get the outcome the regime wants. Notice that about 50% of the people don't really care whatever you do, and basically only about 20% have to ability to even understand a bit of whats going on, but for these people there are newspapers which give a good brainwash...

So to answer your question: there's no need for a demagogue (ex: Putin).

So you think that even though there is no evidence of America being Fascist, even though the institutions of democracy seem to be working fine, the fact that the voters have not agreed with you is evidence that they are puppets in the hands of quasi-Fascist manipulators who are secretly controlling everything from behind the curtain?

You don't happen to think these masterminds are, you know, Zionists do you?

"Fascist" in current American English usage is just an insult. The majority of people using it today know nothing about 1930s Italy other than the fact that Mussolini was a bad man.

I thought the best line on Twitter, in the midst of a lot of bad news for Trump yesterday, was this:

"It's like Trump & Bannon went to all this trouble to score the keys to a sweet ride, only to realise they don't actually know how to drive."

I do worry about how far they would take their new authoritarianism, if they could, but they have proven so bad at it. The Executive Orders end up now as a textbook example of how to blow mandate and momentum.

They say that other things that became real fascism had their "joke" phase though, so rally boys. To the checks and balances.

Not that it hasn't been painful for some, as with the US born citizen, and Olympic medal winner, held by customs and questioned for 2 hours this week, because she is Muslim.


That would be the sign that some rank and file uniformed officers are up for a little "orangeism."

Are you sure you understand their goals?

How much press coverage would the executive order have gotten, if it had been done competently, given enough notice to ensure nobody was stranded at an airport, and made an exception for greencard holders? Would there have been a successful court challenge? Would it have been big news?

The folks who think the Bowling Green massacre really happened and Saddam was behind 9/11 will remember that Trump tried to ban muslims and the ACLU and the courts stopped him. I suspect this works out just fine for Trump politically. It's bad governance, probably good politics, and definitely good theater. And that's what Trump is all about.

No, I am not sure I understand their goals. When Trump is surprised that he can't just "do things" as President that might be a huge cultural illiteracy. It might be less an attempt to subvert the Constitution and more surprise at what it says.

There was that moment in a debate where Trump scolded Clinton for being in Congress and not fixing everything - in our house we turned from the tv and more or less said the same thing. "This guy wants to be President, but has no idea how government works."

You are suggesting that Trump can hold a coalition of Know Nothings. I am more optimistic this week. Note that there are no "Trump is a great President" claims on this page either.

Trump is the third worst president of the 21st century so far. There ya go, Anon.

From that polls link:

"If voters could choose they'd rather have both Barack Obama (52/44) or Hillary Clinton (49/45) instead of Trump."

Fascism was a distinct inter-War phenomenon which arose in a few traditional nation-states as a competitor with Bolshevism for State power. The fascist views the State as the ultimate human institution. Old Ba'athists from the Middle East have this mindset and it is jarring when you encounter it. They really believe the State is this cornucopia of Heaven on Earth if we just get the right people in charge to drive the Jews into the sea and share the oil money to pay for everything. Even Canadians I know come across as very different, with an almost tearful reverence for their governing institutions.

Americans just have too many competing loyalties. They are steeped in pre-State institutions like the common law, Family, the People, Faith of our Fathers. Also, we have as many small arms as the government does which tends to weaken reverence for the State.

Like Dragon-Con attendees claiming to be "pagans," I don't think Americans could be fascist if they wanted to be. And no, wanting criminals locked up and the borders closed does not make somebody a fascist. Like "racist" or "literally Hitler" (but never "literally Stalin," "literally Mao," or "literally Pol Pot"), "fascist" is just a totem waved around by the Left as if it's all that's necessary to end debate.

Just the left, eh?

What is it when Trump and Sessions just make up a crime trend when they talk to cops, and about the need to give cops more author-i-tay?


Just "normal" right wing authoritarianism?

Still not fascism. Grow up.

I asked if it was just “normal” right wing authoritarianism?

Perhaps it is, and you are on board.

As this illustrates (and the Olympian story above) when you say "not fascism yet" that is a shield for some, to deflect simple and concrete "bad things."

Hassling US citizens is a bad thing, lying about crime statistics is a bad thing.

Since Obama and Black Lives Matters began inciting urban unrest, the murder rate has shot up. It has been a moderate version of the results of that Brazilian police strike. The police go fetal and the crims go on the rampage.

So how is telling the truth authoritarian? How is trying to save Black lives a bad thing?

The only true "rising stats" were cherry picked for specific cities, possibly showing random variation, and do not represent the national trend.


You think the residents of those cities care about your granular distinction? Are they fascists too?

Where is your data?

Sigh, my job.

While the murder rate has increased, overall crime across the U.S. is near all-time lows. The report’s authors note that “concerns about a national crime wave are still premature, but these trends suggest a need to understand how and why murder is increasing in some cities.”


Concerns premature. Need for more study.

To get the mental effect of suddenly getting that these statistics are preliminary and not especially scary, simply assume they're being used to justify the urgent need to ban handguns. Suddenly, about 80% of the people arguing over their meaning will seamlessly switch sides.

While the murder rate has increased, overall crime across the U.S. is near all-time lows. The report’s authors note that “concerns about a national crime wave are still premature, but these trends suggest a need to understand how and why murder is increasing in some cities.”

So a more accurate way to describe that would be "Trump was totally correct, but we will try to avoid the issue by insisting that it is just a few cities and it is too early to be sure"?

Right read Nolte. Understand fascism. Stop trying to find modern analogues.

It's amazing how easy some of this is if you pick the right authorities to read rather than just scrolling through the you might also like bar on amazon.

You read a bunch of books to tell you water is wet. I suppose that's an improves on Scott Sumner, who would be perfectly unmoved by Stanley Payne and keep flogging the 'Trump the fascist ".

I'm surprised you didn't read anything about Franco to see how facism would function in a more normalized situation.

Franco was a 'fascist' only in the imagination of the leftoid word-merchant sector. The Franco regime was not revanchist at all bar contra a discrete set of ideologically-defined internal enemies for a discrete period during the 1940s. Spain was a status quo power with no territorial ambitions and circumspect in its international relations. Franco himself was an accomplished professoinal soldier who had no political involvements prior to 1934, very unlike most of Europe's fascist leadership (who tended to be no-accounts (Hitler, Codreanu), journalists (Mussolini, Doriot), or professional men of no special distinction (Pavelic, Primo de Rivera, Henlein)). The ruling party in Spain was drawn from Falangist, Carlist, and Alfonsine monarchist strands, of which the Falangist element had been the weakest prior to the Civil War. Spain was an authoritarian state which made use of corporatist institutions. It otherwise bore no resemblance to Europe's fascist regimes, or to their counterparts in the Arab world. Allan Bloom put it thus: it was the last example of a regime of throne and altar.

If you liked Payne's history book, allow me to recommend his other, more poli-sci book /Fascism: Comparison and Definition/ which is available on Amazon, albeit only from "third-party vendors". Payne does an excellent job of creating a taxonomy of fascism in its many guises and in the context of other similar movements, much better in my view than other writers, most of whom are historians and who look at fascism and national-socialism as entirely right-wing phenomena, on a continuum past traditional civilian and military authoritarianism (Paxton is particularly egregious in this regard).

National socialism is not fascism. Italian fascism--what Musso himself called "corporativismo"--corporatism or corporativism--is nothing like Dollfuss's Austrian clerico-fascism, nor is it like the civil-military non-party authoritarianism of Pilsudski in Poland. None of these are the same as Salazar's /Estado Novo/ in Portugal, nor indeed like Getulio Vargas's /Estado Novo/ in Brazil. Franco's regime was somewhere between Pilsudski's and Dollfuss's.

National socialism--as the name implies--is largely a movement of the Left, but stripped of its internationalist tendencies in favor of an amped-up version of "socialism in one country" (ahem). Fascism has its roots in the Catholic social doctrines of the late 19th century which were largely developed in *opposition* to socialism. They stand in the same relation as socialism and communism--at least at one time--did: mutual opposition.

You would also do well to read the collection of essays published as /The New Corporatism/ edited by Frederick B. Pike and Thomas Stritch, published in 1974 by the University of Notre Dame Press, which is now not only out of print but nearly unobtainable. In particular, I highly recommend Philippe Schmitter's essay, "Still The Century Of Corporatism?"

Finally, I also highly recommend James Burnham's /The Managerial Revolution/, which he wrote in (IIRC) 1940, and whose core contention is that the systems then in place in Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and the New Deal United States would presently converge on the core element common to all three, which he called "bureaucratic-authoritarianism." I assume, in the current environment where the vast majority of the rules that govern our daily lives are made by unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats working in executive agencies, mediated--if at all--only by equally unelected judges, it is unnecessary to observe the prophetic nature of Burnham's thinking.

From a purely economic standpoint, fascism--or, as modern political scientists more epicenely call it, "corporatism", see above--has been the dominant economic philosophy of the post-war era on both the left and the right. That's what's going on when you hear people talking about "industry-government partnerships" or "labor-management conciliation"--people being considered as economic units of larger conglomerates.

As others have observed, all you needed to do was watch as the chairman of the National Union of Manufacturers and the president of the Trades Union Council met with the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street to see this in action. Similarly, back in the pre-Reagan days, when the FTC saw its role in the competitiveness arena as protecting smaller companies from larger ones, that too was classic corporatism. Competitiveness policy only returned to its liberal roots once it came around to the view that it should concern itself more with how predatory policies affected the consumer, rather than other companies. Incidentally, this is an area where the New Deal's policies have a lot to answer for: FDR was much more uncomfortably close to being a proto-fascist than most people realize or are willing to admit.

Solid points. Of course, most people throwing fascism and authoritarianism around are using them as weapons, not as part of a genuine effort to understand history or the present.

I know. "Experts." Am I right?


There is no expertise on display there.

"Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay — or even stop — him from filling positions and implementing policies."


anon, what recent president publicly threatened the use of the "pen and phone" when he and others on his side viewed Congress as delaying or stopping the implementation of his policies? What party removed the filibuster in the Senate when a faction of that body was delaying or stopping the filling of positions in the executive and judicial branch?

No, they aren't. There is no such thing as 'clerico-fascism' except in the imagination of William L. Shirer. Austria in 1936 was an authoritarian state run by quondam parliamentary politicians. These men had discrete aims. They weren't engaged in some antic effort at national mobilization.

There were a string of authoritarian regimes all over Europe by 1939. Only Italy and Germany could properly be termed 'fascist'.

The difference is in what you focus on in defining fascism.

David is right that corporatist economic philosophy could be considered a fundamental trait of fascism, and that it was present in many nations in the inter-war period, and has perhaps dominated at times in the post-war period.

If you focus more on external aims, and on the extent to which internal policy was based on the desire to achieve certain external aims, then yes, you may end up with only Italy and Germany as "fascist" because they were the only ones featuring an aggressive, expansionist nationalism as opposed to a defensive nationalism, and a desire for national mobilization to achieve those expansionist aims.

I don't think there is an abstract right answer.

No, there's a right answer. People aren't horrified at what happened in Europe because of corporatist institutions, and only idiot polemicists would refer to the Roosevelt Administration as 'fascist' because it made a stab at introducing corporatist measures in the United States.

You're just defining fascism as "the horrifying thing that happened in Europe," and saying that only those attributes that directly led to that horror are properly called "fascist."

That is one approach I suppose, but there is no reason it is abstractly right. Someone else could define "fascism" based primarily around political economy, and you could have heated arguments back and forth.

At this point, the only reason most anyone cares about the categorization is for polemics anyway, not to try to understand the different movements and the circumstances giving rise to those movements. The word "fascist" is so loaded that we would be better off throwing it in the garbage heap as a descriptive term.

You’re just defining fascism as “the horrifying thing that happened in Europe,” and saying that only those attributes that directly led to that horror are properly called “fascist.”

Ultimately, validity is reducible to face validity: are you measuring or observing what you propose you are measuring or observing.

The notion that there is some subtle understanding that no one's ever thought of before is very attractive to some people. And false.

And David really isn't saying something so much different from you. You just vehemently disagree with him on the Catholic aspect of his propositions.

He says that each flavor of authoritarian regime was unique, and that even Italian fascism and German national socialism are significantly different from one another. So he might agree that calling all of those interwar regimes "fascist" conceals more than it reveals.

Turkey, there is no 'Catholic aspect' to fascism. There is no fascism without a contrived program of national mobilization and a menu of political grievances. If you're trying to understand 'fascism' by reading texts on political economy, you're trying to understand a love letter by doing a chemical analysis of the ink with which it was written.

Look, if you want to argue that the defining feature of "fascism" should be understood as "a contrived program of national mobilization and a menu of political grievances," and that this properly distinguishes a special kind of ideology and state that existed in the mid-20th century, I am open to the idea. It sounds reasonable enough on its face and from what I recall of studying the issue more closely.

But I don't think you can properly take the position that this is just abstractly right, and that alternative definitions are all foolish. Politics and ideology are messy. So is history. Trying to define a historical political ideology will invariably be messy. It does not lend itself to absolutes.

But I don’t think you can properly take the position that this is just abstractly right, and that alternative definitions are all foolish. Politics and ideology are messy. So is history. Trying to define a historical political ideology will invariably be messy. It does not lend itself to absolutes.

The problem with 'alternative definitions' is that you fail to distinguish between fascist regimes and any other authoritarian regime and fascist regimes and any other regime which makes use of corporatist institutions.
'Alternative definitions' make use of a taxonomy wherein the use of the term 'fascism' is incoherent. Jonah Goldberg has tried to finesse this by offering a thesis that inter-war fascism was a peculiar manifestation of a more generic cultural impulse (which does not manifest itself as fascism in, say, North America). Zevedei Barbu elected to go a different route and construct his taxonomy out of threads from social psychology. That may reclassify some countries; what he's not doing is rummaging through the writings of obscure purveyors of Catholic Social Teaching or corporatist bargaining schemes.

>Fascism has its roots in the Catholic social doctrines of the late 19th century which were largely developed in *opposition* to socialism.

How do you square this with Musso's socialist origins?

Nice comment David, and you might also want to shed some light on the differing themes between the three - National Socialism tended to emphasize racial elements of its philosophy, whereas Communism focused more on the aspects of class warfare. Italian fascism appears for the most part to have avoided those two, and focused more on just the power of the state - one consequence being that the Italians were remarkably uninterested when it came to assisting the Nazi's with their Jewish pogrom.

Fascism has its roots in the Catholic social doctrines of the late 19th century which were largely developed in *opposition* to socialism.

Utter nonsense. Catholic parties in Europe were fairly variegated. None had objects akin to what Hitler and Mussolini were constructing. Fascism had it's roots in interwar revanchist sentiment, social and economic stressors, and very granular social conflicts. See Zevedei Barbu's discussion of the origins of the Iron Guard in Roumania, and the social-psychological properties of fascist political practice.

For the great majority of people, fascism and authoritarianism just mean someone they don't like using power to achieve ends they disagree with.

Is the "fascism" threat based on the assumption that DT might be bald? Or is it his irredentism?

Sounds like another hobby to me ,for when one is bored. Or growing a beard to be "manly"

"Fascist" like "social justice" and "alt-right" has become one of those useful heuristics that signal one can safely tune out the speaker without the likelihood of any great loss.

I suggest you supplement your reading on fascism with two real world exercises.

One, speak with a WWII combat veteran and find what enlightenment he has to offer.

Two, walk into the university faculty "lounge," confess that you believe that Jesus Christ is your Redeemer/Savior, and admit that you voted for Donald Trump. Assuming that you are not six-foot-four, 250 lbs., and ripped like Hercules . . . that ought to be interesting.

In one of my last excursions into a faculty rathskellar, there was a lesbian theatre professor at the next table with two other faculty members. She was yapping about a great display of sex toys she'd seen at some confab she'd attended. I doubt the two men she was lunching with were all that pleased by the turn in the conversation. They didn't have the cojones to shut her up, though.

"One, speak with a WWII combat veteran and find what enlightenment he has to offer. "

Not sure where you're coming from with this. Did the average WW2 combat veteran see himself as "fighting fascism?" I doubt these were the same people who joined the Abram Lincoln Brigade.

From articles of the time, the popular sentiment seems to have been revenge for Pearl Harbor and coming to the aid of longtime allies Britain and France in a fight which thuggish, brutal Germany started.

Among the things I'm sure they weren't fighting for: Open Borders, gay marriage, and #BlackLivesMatter.

Fascism is here. You see it in the faux outrage of the left organized by pro-communism groups. The organized and paid for "grassroots" demonstrations where the activists are just there for the social interaction and don't even know what they are supposed to be protesting against. You see it in the antifa-facsists who show up in the uniform of the day to break and burn things and to hurt people. What we say this week at Berkeley was America's "Kristallnacht" Ironically bought and paid for by Soros who was probably in attendance for the first one. This is what fascism looks like!

The only people who can afford to pay for complex astroturfing (fake grassroots organizations) like you describe are interested in corporatism not communism.

I don't doubt you believe that but the money trail leads back to well known communist organizations in the U.S. The only thing you have is ignorance of the facts and denial.

Which communist organizations?
Please school me on the matter.

Is Burson Marstellar a communist organization?

Here is a white paper on what I am talking about PR organizations and their centrality to the corporate state.

You might also want to read the classic:

"Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich" by Professor George F. Mosse . Essays by one of the most prominent Nazi historians with original source material. A classic. Rumored to be on Steve Bannon's bookshelf.

The upshot of this obsession with needing to label Trump as fascist or authoritarian will be that attention is drawn away from actually reducing the extent to which our system has moved in the authoritarian direction over time. He's just a naughty man - when the good guys (almost assuredly from my Party) have power, they can be trusted with it.

We may see a pause under Trump due to the resistance against him as an individual, but succeeding Presidencies will feature a continuation of ever-expanding executive power, as the partisans of both sides defend the expansions when their guy is in office, and bluster against them when the other team takes power, knowing underneath that it will be their turn again eventually.

What would we have seen under Clinton? With a Republican legislature in opposition, a willingness of Democratic partisans to excuse expansions of Executive power as the only means of achieving their policy ends.

We haven't had 'ever expanding executive power'. We've had ever expanding judicial meddling. A conduit to judicial meddling is the regulatory process. One reason we've had these things is that Congress is sclerotic, ineffectual, and stupid.

The expansion in presidential power over the last century has two sources: the replacement of Britain as the world's pre-eminent power (and the associated propensity to spend more on the military and the intelligence services) and the expansion of the federal government's role as a regulator and service provider. However, these vectors were tapped out by about 1975.

How could you read about Italian Fascism and not look at Antonio Gramsci--an ardent fighter against Mussolini.

"First they came for the socialists..."


How can you read so much, so widely, and so well? speed reading? no sleep? do tell us.

I recommend "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg.

Why weren't the campus darlings worried about fascism when Barry was in office?

I look at the black shirt thugs having their own Kristallnacht in Berkeley to silence a controversial speaker, and I say "who are you calling fascist, bud?"

We have had eight years of systemic programs to silence dissent, and only now is there protest?

There are joke answers I could give, like "the Berkeleyites have taken Salt Lake City and are heading east."

But the truth is Obama pretty much knew his Constitution, and where the limits to Executive power lay.

As opposed to:


US News is still considered a mainstream, middle class, publication, right?

But the truth is Obama pretty much knew his Constitution,

No, BO was hired to teach 'constitutional law' (a subject on which he never published one word in scholarly venues. That commonly meant boutique courses in "___ & the Law". (While we're at it, 'constitutional law' as it is taught in American law schools is an apologetic politico-theoretic exercise justifying rule by a kakistocracy of lawyers).

I have to chuckle at that answer. You want to mitigate "Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay — or even stop — him from filling positions and implementing policies.”

So you say Obama's Constitutional law class wasn't super advanced.

Compared to Trump's "disbelief" night classes for a GED are advanced.

I'm not trying to mitigate anything. I'm pointing out your description of Obama is phony. This isn't that difficult.

Yeah, Obama "knew his Constitution" which is why the Supreme Court *unanimously* held his recess appointments as unconstitutional (National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning); the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Obama helped to create, was unconstitutional (PHH v. CFPB); and a District Court judge held that "Paying out [Obamacare] reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution" (House of Representatives v. Burwell).

Also Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, and Michael Mann, Fascists.

I read Jose Ortega y Gasset's "The Revolt of the Masses" around the same time as I was reading about inter-war fascism and authoritarianism more broadly, and remember it being a nice complement to the other stuff (including some of what you've listed and others have recommended).

René Guénon should probably be on your list.

A good list. But fascism and its cousins don't just live in Europe. If I were looking for leaders analogous to Trump, I'd say: Peron in Argentina (he had been military attaché in Italy) and, closer still, Huey Long.

Oral and first-person accounts worth finding:

Account Rendered by Melita Maschmann - one of the best and hardest things I've ever read. Memoir by a senior staffer in the Hitler Youth.

The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen - study of a single town

They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer - oral history gathered in the late 1940s.

Lost Victories - Manstein's memoir, for the criticisms he does and does not make of Hitler.

Also: J.P. Stern's book on Hitler, don't miss the preface to the samizdat Czech edition. "The first of the similarities between the two regimes I have in mind [the Nazi and the Czech communist] is their attempt totally to politicize the life of the societies they govern. The encroachment of the political ideology on all aspects of life – on the family, on the life of the mind, on religious belief and the law, on literature and all the other arts, on the economy and the modes of production as well as on all the natural sciences – this sense of constant encroachment, which threatens even some of the most private relationships, you are utterly familiar with..." And the new biography by Volker Ullrich is quite good so far.

I don't have a link at hand, but Umberto Eco wrote a famous essay about fascism. I don't agree with his conclusions about nature of fascism anymore, but especially his memories of living in Mussolini's fascist Italy as a schoolboy were interesting (also reflected in his other texts and books).

I am a long term reader of the blog. I have always been amazed by the voracity of your reading lists - how do you find time to read so much? I don't mean that in a philosophical or naive way; rather tactically, given professional and personal demands of your time, how do you manage your reading time? Especially interested in reading books vs reading "the internet" (e.g I spend a lot of time reading twitter, blogs like yours which often means i don't have time to read books). Thanks!

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