William Hamilton " Fascism: It’s not just for liberals or conservatives
April 22, 2008
Soon, we are likely to hear the term “fascist” hurled back and forth by partisans on all sides of the political fence. Chances are that we will see some of the proven practices of fascism, both violent and non-violent, put into use in Denver by the group “Re-create 68” during at the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
But where did Fascism come from and what are its common practices? The term fascismo was invented by Benito Mussolini. He took it from the Italian word fascio, which means “bundle.” As the symbol of their authority, the Roman emperors used a “bundle” of sticks tied around an axe.
Initially, Mussolini was a communist. However, communism, as envisioned by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, was too internationalist for Mussolini who wanted to unify Italy, not the entire world. Mussolini broke with his communist upbringing and developed his own version of national-socialism. Even so, in the 1920s, Mussolini’s method of “cracking heads” drew frequent praise from Stalin.
Both Mussolini and Hitler saw national-socialism as the path to power. In fact, Hitler insisted that the political movement he was leading be renamed the National Socialist German Workers Party or, in German, Die Nationalistische Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. Mercifully, non-Germans condensed the name of Hitler’s party to: Nazi.
But Hitler’s brand of national socialism differed from Mussolini’s in that Hitler wanted to exterminate the Jews while Mussolini was happy to have their talents used to further what Mussolini called his “corporate state” ” a fusion of private trade and industry with an all-powerful state. Mussolini, an avowed atheist, did not hate Jews. However, he did hate the idea of the Vatican State inside of Italy.
Fascist states such as the former Soviet Union, Red China, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and Iran have in common the practices of fascism, which are violence directed against the “old” or previous order, control of the universities, suppression of dissent, control over or co-option of the media, use of scapegoats (often the Jews), male chauvinism, suppression of traditional religions and fraudulent elections.
Surely, the practices of fascism do not occur here.
Wait. Some have.
The 1960s ushered in wave after wave of protest movements. Led mostly by college students, they raged against racism, traditional academic standards but, mostly, their rage focused on the engagement of the United States by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in a war in Vietnam and on the military Draft to which their age cohort were subject. Their inability to get President Lyndon Johnson to stop the Vietnam War led to their alienation from society, in general, and the Democratic Party, in particular.
The 1960s saw the formation of a groups to attack every wrong, real or perceived, such as the Black Liberation Army, Gay Liberation Front, Black Panther, Nation of Islam, New Communist Movement, New Left, Symbionese Liberation Army, National Organization of Women (NOW), Youth International Party (Yippies), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and its off-shoot the Weather Underground.
The most violent groups were the Weather Underground, the SDS and the Black Panthers. (Speaking of black, race has become such a toxic subject that writers, such as myself, who marched for Dr. King in the Deep South in 1960s, feel compelled to say so. Even to mention that the Black Panthers killed police officers and blew up buildings invites criticism.)
The rage of post-WWII, pampered, white, middle-class college students was inexplicable to older generations But the ’60s Generation was convinced their elders had FUBARed (military acronym) the world so badly that anyone over 30 could not be trusted.
Borrowing from the early-day tactics of Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler, the organizers of 1968 DNC demonstrations wanted the Chicago police to come off looking like fascists. TV footage of 668 arrests, of over 1,000 demonstrators receiving First-Aid, and with 111 needing hospitalization, gave the Yippies a propaganda victory. Only Chicagoans seemed to care that 192 of their police were injured and 49 hospitalized.
Hopefully, there will not be any additional “cracked heads” in Denver.
Syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, William Hamilton, is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and a former research fellow at the U.S. Military History Institute of the U.S. Army War College. He is a former assistant professor of history and political science at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
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