excerpts from the book

Blackshirts and Reds

by Michael Parenti

publisher - City Lights Books, 1997
261 Columbus Avenue
Sand Francisco, CA 94133




Whom Did the Fascists Support?

There is a vast literature on who supported the Nazis, but relatively little on whom the Nazis supported after they came to power. This is in keeping with the tendency of conventional scholarship to avoid the entire subject of capitalism whenever something unfavorable might be said about it. Whose interests did Mussolini and Hitler support?

In both Italy in the 1920s and Germany in the 1930s, old industrial evils, thought to have passed permanently into history, re-emerged as the conditions of labor deteriorated precipitously. In the name of saving society from the Red Menace, unions and strikes were outlawed. Union property and farm cooperatives were confiscated and handed over to rich private owners. Minimum-wage laws, overtime pay, and factory safety regulations were abolished.

Speedups became commonplace. Dismissals or imprisonment awaited those workers who complained about unsafe or inhumane work conditions. Workers toiled longer hours for less pay. The already modest wages were severely cut, in Germany by 25 to 40 percent, in Italy by 50 percent. In Italy, child labor was reintroduced.

To be sure, a few crumbs were thrown to the populace. There were free concerts and sporting events, some meager social programs, a dole for the unemployed financed mostly by contributions from working people, and showy public works projects designed to evoke civic pride.

Both Mussolini and Hitler showed their gratitude to their big business patrons by privatizing many perfectly solvent state-owned steel mills, power plants, banks, and steamship companies. Both regimes dipped heavily into the public treasury to refloat or subsidize heavy industry. Agribusiness farming was expanded and heavily subsidized. Both states guaranteed a return on the capital invested by giant corporations while assuming most of the risks and losses on investments. As is often the case with reactionary regimes, public capital was raided by private capital.

At the same time, taxes were increased for the general populace but lowered or eliminated for the rich and big business. Inheritance taxes on the wealthy were greatly reduced or abolished altogether.

The result of all this? In Italy during the 1930s the economy was gripped by recession, a staggering public debt, and widespread corruption. But industrial profits rose and the armaments factories busily rolled out weapons in preparation for the war to come. In Germany, unemployment was cut in half with the considerable expansion in armaments jobs, but overall poverty increased because of the drastic wage cuts. And from 1935 to 1943 industrial profits increased substantially while the net income of corporate leaders climbed 46 percent.


Kudos for Adolph and Benito

Italian fascism and German Nazism had their admirers within the U.S. business community and the corporate-owned press. Bankers, publishers, and industrialists, including the likes of Henry Ford, traveled to Rome and Berlin to pay homage, receive medals, and strike profitable deals. Many did their utmost to advance the Nazi war effort, sharing military-industrial secrets and engaging in secret transactions with the Nazi government, even after the United States entered the war. During the 1920s and early 1930s, major publications like Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Saturday Evening Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Christian Science Monitor hailed Mussolini as the man who rescued Italy from anarchy and radicalism. They spun rhapsodic fantasies of a resurrected Italy where poverty and exploitation had suddenly disappeared, where Reds had been vanquished, harmony reigned, and Blackshirts protected a "new democracy."

The Italian-language press in the United States eagerly joined the chorus. The two most influential newspapers, L'Italia of San Francisco, financed largely by A.P. Giannini's Bank of America, and n Progresso of New York, owned by multimillionaire Generoso Pope, looked favorably on the fascist regime and suggested that the United States could benefit from a similar social order.

Some dissenters refused to join the "We Adore Benito" chorus. The Nation reminded its readers that Mussolini was not saving democracy but destroying it. Progressives of all stripes and various labor leaders denounced fascism. But their critical sentiments received little exposure in the U.S. corporate media.

As with Mussolini, so with Hitler. The press did not look too unkindly upon der Fuehrer's Nazi dictatorship. There was a strong "Give Adolph A Chance" contingent, some of it greased by Nazi money. In exchange for more positive coverage in the Hearst newspapers, for instance, the Nazis paid almost ten times the standard subscription rate for Hearst's INS wire service. In return, William Randolph Hearst instructed his correspondents in Germany to file friendly reports about Hitler's regime. Those who refused were transferred or fired. Hearst newspapers even opened their pages to occasional guest columns by prominent Nazi leaders like Alfred Rosenberg and Hermann Goring.


Friendly Fascism

One of the things conveniently overlooked by mainstream writers is the way Western capitalist states have cooperated with fascism. In his collaborationist efforts, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was positively cozy with the Nazis. He and many of his class saw Hitler as a bulwark against communism in Germany, and Nazi Germany as a bulwark against communism in Europe.

After World War II, the Western capitalist allies did little to eradicate fascism from Italy or Germany, except for putting some of the top leaders on trial at Nuremberg. By 1947, German conservatives began to depict the Nuremberg prosecutors as dupes of the Jews and communists. In Italy, the strong partisan movement that had waged armed struggle against fascism was soon treated as suspect and unpatriotic. Within a year after the war, almost all Italian fascists were released from prison while hundreds of communists and other leftist partisans who had been fighting the Nazi occupation were jailed. History was turned on its head, transforming the Blackshirts into victims and the Reds into criminals. Allied authorities assisted in these measures.

Under the protection of U.S. occupation authorities, the police, courts, military, security agencies, and bureaucracy remained largely staffed by those who had served the former fascist regimes or by their ideological recruits-as is true to this day. The perpetrators of the Holocaust murdered six million Jews, half a million Gypsies, thousands of homosexuals, several million Ukranians, Russians, Poles, and others, and got away with it-in good part because the very people who were supposed to investigate these crimes were themselves complicit.

In comparison, when the Communists took over in East Germany, they removed some 80 percent of the judges, teachers, and officials for their Nazi collaboration; they imprisoned thousands, and they executed six hundred Nazi party leaders for war crimes. They would have shot more of the war criminals had not so many fled to the protective embrace of the West.

What happened to the U.S. businesses that collaborated with fascism? The Rockefeller family's Chase National Bank used its Paris office in Vichy France to help launder German money to facilitate Nazi international trade during the war, and did so with complete impunity. Corporations like DuPont, Ford, General Motors, and ITT owned factories in enemy countries that produced fuel, tanks, and planes that wreaked havoc on Allied forces. After the war, instead of being prosecuted for treason, ITT collected $27 million from the U.S. government for war damages inflicted on its German plants by Allied bombings. General Motors collected over $33 million. Pilots were given instructions not to hit factories in Germany that were owned by U.S. firms. Thus Cologne was almost leveled by Allied bombing but its Ford plant, providing military equipment for the Nazi army, was untouched; indeed, German civilians began using the plant as an air raid shelter.


Hundreds of Nazi war criminals found a haven in the United States, either living in comfortable anonymity or actively employed by U.S. intelligence agencies during the cold war and otherwise enjoying the protection of high-placed individuals. Some of them found their way onto the Republican presidential campaign committees of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush.



For most of this century U.S. foreign policy has been devoted to: the suppression of revolutionary governments and radical movements around the world. The turn of the twentieth century found the McKinley administration in a war of attrition against the people of the Philippines lasting from 1898 to 1902 (with pockets of resistance continuing for years afterward). In that conflict, U.S. forces slaughtered some 200,000 Filipino women, men, and children. At about that same time, in conjunction with various European colonial powers, the United States invaded China to help suppress the Boxer Rebellion at substantial loss of life to the Chinese rebels. U.S. forces took over Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam and in the following decades invaded Mexico, Soviet Russia, Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and other countries, actions that usually inflicted serious losses upon the populations of these countries.

The Costs of Counterrevolution

From grade school through grad school, few of us are taught anything about these events, except to be told that U.S. forces must intervene in this or that country in order to protect U.S. interests, thwart aggression, and defend our national security. U.S. leaders fashioned other convenient rationales for their interventions abroad. The public was told that the peoples of various countries were in need of our civilizing guidance and desired the blessings of democracy, peace, and prosperity. To accomplish this, of course, it might be necessary to kill off considerable numbers of the more recalcitrant among them. Such were the measures our policymakers were willing to pursue in order to "uplift lesser peoples."

The emergence of major communist powers like the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China lent another dimension to U.S. global counterrevolutionary policy. The communists were depicted as evil incarnate, demonized conspirators who sought power for power's sake. The United States had to be everywhere to counteract this spreading "cancer," we were told.

In the name of democracy, U.S. leaders waged a merciless war against revolutionaries in Indochina for the better part of twenty years. They dropped many times more tons of explosives on Vietnam than were used throughout World War II by all combatants combined. Testifying before a Congressional committee, former CIA director William Colby admitted that under his direction U.S. forces and their South Vietnam collaborators carried out the selective assassination of 24,000 Vietnamese dissidents, in what was known as the Phoenix Program. His associate, the South Vietnamese minister of information, maintained that 40,000 was a more accurate estimate. U.S. policymakers and their media mouthpieces judged the war a "mistake" because the Vietnamese proved incapable of being properly instructed by B-52 bomber raids and death squads. By prevailing against this onslaught, the Vietnamese supposedly demonstrated that they were "unprepared for our democratic institutions."

In pursuit of counterrevolution and in the name of freedom, U.S. forces or U.S.-supported surrogate forces slaughtered 2,000,000 North Koreans in a three-year war; 3,000,000 Vietnamese; over 500,000 in aerial wars over Laos and Cambodia; over 1,500,000 million in Angola; over 1,000,000 in Mozambique; over 500,000 in Afghanistan; 500,000 to 1,000,000 in Indonesia; 200,000 in East Timor; 100,000 in Nicaragua (combining the Somoza and Reagan eras); over 100,000 in Guatemala (plus an additional 40,000 disappeared); over 700,000 in Iraq;3 over 60,000 in El Salvador; 30,000 in the "dirty war" of Argentina (though the government admits to only 9,000); 35,000 in Taiwan, when the Kuomintang military arrived from China; 20,000 in Chile; and many thousands in Haiti, Panama, Grenada, Brazil, South Africa, Western Sahara, Zaire, Turkey, and dozens of other countries, in what amounts to a free-market world holocaust.

Official sources either deny these U.S.-sponsored mass murders or justify them as necessary measures that had to be taken against an implacable communist foe. Anticommunist propaganda saturated our airwaves, schools, and political discourse. Despite repeated and often factitious references to the tyranny of the Red Menace, the anticommunist opinion makers never spelled out what communists actually did in the way of socio-economic policy. This might explain why, despite decades of Red-bashing propaganda, most Americans, including many who number themselves among the political cognoscenti, still cannot offer an informed statement about the social policies of communist societies.

The anti-Red propagandists uttered nary a word about how revolutionaries in Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and other countries nationalized the lands held by rich exploitative landlords and initiated mass programs for education, health, housing, and jobs. Not a word about how their efforts advanced the living standards and life chances of hundreds of millions in countries that had long suffered under the yoke of feudal oppression and Western colonial pillage, an improvement in mass well-being never before witnessed in history.

No matter that the revolutionaries in various Asian, African, and Latin American countries enjoyed popular support and were willing to pursue a neutralist course in East-West relations rather than place themselves under the hegemony of either Moscow or Peking. They still were targeted for a counterrevolutionary battering. From opposing communists because they might be revolutionaries, it was a short step to opposing revolutionaries because they might be communists.

The real sin of revolutionaries, communist or not, was that they championed the laboring classes against the wealthy few. They advocated changes in the distribution of class power and the way wealth was produced and used. They wanted less individualistic advancement at the expense of the many and collective betterment for the entire working populace.


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