Fascism: the Real Story
excerpted from the book
by Michael Parenti
The Michael Parenti Reader
City Lights Books, 2007, paperback
Fascism is the name given to the political movement that arose
in Italy under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, who ruled that
country from 192.2. to 1943. Nazism was a movement led by Adolph
Hitler, who was Germany's dictator from 1933 to 1945. Nazism is
considered by most observers to be a variant of fascism, as to
a lesser degree was the militaristic government that controlled
Japan from 1940 to 1945; so too the Falangist movement led by
Francisco Franco, who in 1939 took over Spain after a protracted
civil war, with the military aid of the Italian and Nazi fascists.
... the major characteristics of the fascist ideology.
First, the leadership cult, the glorification
of an all-knowing, supreme and absolutist leader.
Second, the idolatrous worship of the
nation-state as an entity unto itself, an absolute component to
which the individual is subsumed. Everything for the state, nothing
against the state, nothing outside the state. That was Mussolini's
and Hitler's dictum. Hitler's henchman Rudolf Hess once said,
"Adolf Hitler is Germany, and Germany is Adolf Hitler,"
thereby wrapping both the leadership cult and the state cult in
one. The leader is the embodiment of the state, and the state
Third, glorification of military conquest
and jingoism: the state is vitalized and empowered by subduing,
conquering, and enslaving other peoples and territories.
Fourth, propagation of a folk mysticism,
with its concomitant xenophobia and racism. The Nazi slogan was
em Volk, em Reich, em Führer (one people, one empire, one
leader), an atavistic celebration of the special blood lineage
and wondrous legacy of the people. Along with this comes a disdain
for other peoples and nationalities. For the Nazis and most other
Eastern European fascists, the core enemy was the Jew, who was
seen as the perpetrator of all societal ills. Behind the trade
unionists, communists, homosexuals and others were the Jews, wickedly
alien creatures who would pollute the pure-blooded and undermine
Fifth, on behalf of the interests of the
giant business cartels, there was a concerted suppression, both
by the Italian fascists and German Nazis, of all egalitarian working-class
loyalties and organizations, including labor unions.
Of these various characteristics of fascism,
the last one is rarely talked about by mainstream historians,
political scientists and journalists who usually ignore the link
between fascism and capitalism, just as they tend to ignore the
entire subject of capitalism itself when something unfavorable
needs to be said about it. Instead, they dwell on the more bizarre
components of fascist ideology: the "nihilist revolt against
Western individuality," the mystic yolk attachment, and so
forth. Fascism was those things, but along with its irrational
appeals it had rational functions. It was a key instrument for
the preservation of plutocratic domination.
Upon assuming state power, Hitler and his Nazis pursued an agenda
not unlike Mussolini's. They crushed organized labor and eradicated
all elections, opposition parties, and independent publications.
Hundreds of thousands of opponents were imprisoned, tortured,
or murdered. In Germany, as in Italy, the communists endured the
severest political repression of all groups.
The Italian and German cartels looked to huge armament contracts
and related public works as an expanded source of profitable investment.
This also fit with their desire for a more aggressive foreign
policy that might open new markets and put them on a better footing
with their French and English competitors. So the fascists became
a very useful ally against the capitalists' two worst enemies:
the workers in their own country, and the capitalists in other
Not all the big industrialists and financiers
supported fascism with equal fervor. Some, like Thyssen, were
early and enthusiastic backers of Hitler. The aged Emil Kurdoff
thanked God that he lived long enough to see the Führer emerge
as the savior of Germany. Others contributed money to the Nazis
but also to other anti-socialist parties on the right. They backed
Hitler only when he appeared to be the most effective force against
the left. Many of them remained privately critical of the more
extreme expressions of Nazi propaganda and were uneasy about the
anti-bourgeois rhetoric enunciated by some of the plebeian brownshirts.
Some business elements were not that enamored
with Hitler. Light industry had lower fixed costs and more stable
profits than heavy industry, and was more dependent on consumer
buying power. Consequently, light industrialists were not that
keen about a more aggressive foreign policy and subsidies to heavy
industry. But when push came to shove, they may not have been
close to the fascists, but they were not about to ally themselves
with the proletariat against the business class, of which they
were a part. They either sided with the cartels or kept their
There was another element in these two
societies that not only tolerated the rise of fascism but supported
it: the capitalist state itself. Not the parliament as such, but
the instruments of the state
that had a monopoly on the legal use of
force and violence, the police, the army, and the courts. In Italy
years before Mussolini emerged victorious, the police collaborated
with the fascists in attacking labor and peasant organizations.
They recruited criminals for the fascist squadristi, promising
them immunity from prosecution for past crimes. While applications
for gun permits were regularly denied to workers and peasants,
police guns and cars were made available to Mussolini's goons.
Likewise in Germany immediately after
World War I, the military police and the judiciary tended to favor
the rightists while suppressing the leftists, a pattern of collaboration
that continued into Hitler's day. In other words, these liberal
capitalist democracies-that supposedly were "equally opposed
to totalitarianism of the left and right"-were not really
equally opposed. They often collaborated with the extreme right,
those who were protecting the interests of big capital and the
existing class structure. If defeating socialism and communism
also entailed destroying democracy, so much the worse for democracy.
In Germany, it was the same story. Between 1933 and 1935 wages
were lowered anywhere from z to 40 percent, a harsh cut for ordinary
workers trying to make ends meet. Wage taxes were instituted.
Municipal poll taxes were doubled and other payroll deductions
were imposed. The nonprofit mutual-assistance and insurance associations
that had existed before the Nazis were abolished. Their funds
were taken over by private insurance companies that charged more
while paying out smaller benefits. And in Germany, just as in
Italy, inflation substantially added to the workers' hardships.
In both Italy and Germany, perfectly solvent
publicly owned enterprises, such as power plants, steel mills,
banks, railways, insurance firms, steamship companies, and shipyards,
were handed over to private ownership. Corporate taxes were reduced
by half in both Italy and Germany. Taxes on luxury items for the
rich were cut. Inheritance taxes were either drastically lowered
or abolished. In Germany between 1934 and 1940 the average net
income of corporate businessmen rose by 46 percent. Enterprises
that were floundering were refloated with state bonds, recapitalized
out of the state treasury. Once made solvent, they were returned
to private owners. With numerous enterprises, the state guaranteed
a return on the capital invested and assumed all the risks. The
rich investor did not have to worry about any losses; if a business
did poorly, the investor would be recompensed from the state treasury.
What the fascist state attempts is a final
solution to the problem of class conflict. It obliterates the
democratic forms that allow workers some room for an organized
defense of their interests.
... a similar fascist pattern emerged
to do its utmost to save corporate business from the troublesome
impositions of democracy. Fascism's savage service to big capital
remains almost entirely a hidden history.