Fascism Today and Where to Find It

Ian Kershaw is considered the most important reference on Hitler and his rising.  He is brilliant in portraying the environment that allowed said rise to happen, as in his masterpiece Making friends with Hitler, Lord Londonderry and Britain's Road to War.

The book centers on "Lord Londonderry."  Perhaps more crucial in paving "Britain's Road to War" was the public opinion Kershaw analyzes in Section I of Chapter I (pp. 27–36).  I recommend its reading for those who seek to understand how the Western citizenry and, in particular, its political establishment were led into Hitler's beliefs, which made war inevitable:

The Times, the most important newspaper for the British political class, agreed that Hitler was a 'moderate' compared with some of the more radical figures in the Nazi Party, and thought that he was gaining a sense of responsibility. ...

'The Times, for instance, had already indicated on 29 January [1933], the day following the fall of the government of General von Schleicher, that a government headed by Hitler commanding majority support in the Reichstag was 'held to be the least dangerous solution of a problem bristling with dangers. (pp. 29–30)

Public opinion–makers, however, have yet to make a critical assessment on their own responsibility in establishing fantasies as realities.

The real issue at stake concerns whether we are sensibly looking into the sources of these problems or confusing issues and priorities instead, as we did in the '30s.

Several works recently published focus on the danger of going back to the '30s. Yet some repeat old mistakes, the best example being Madeleine Albright's recent book, Fascism: A Warning.

The introduction of Albright's book starts with her and her parents escaping the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and ends with the fall of the Iron Curtain — understandably for her better symbolized in Prague.  It leads us toward the present erosion of democracy for which she sees "the first reason" being President Donald Trump.

The discussion on fascism has been endless.  She perceives the "popular" character of fascism as a distinct feature from traditional forms of despotic regimes, but she fails to establish a distinction between fascism and communism, even using these concepts interchangeably in the expression "Soviet-style fascism" (p. 4; Chapter 7).

Ms. Albright flits on diverse leaders from Viktor Orbán to the Korean Kim dynasty, calling none fascist but describing all with some diverse fascist tones, apparently only in order to attack Trump and indirectly suggest his link to a present fascist danger.

Her book sheds no light on what was intrinsically distinctive about "fascism" as it emerged in the '30s and, in particular, the distinct signs of a reborn fascism today.  What is striking is Ms. Albright's silence on the modern regime that most resembles old-era fascism — the Iranian theocracy.

Ms Albright's silence on Iran, Pakistan, and China is understandable if we consider her responsibilities in the failure to confront these regimes while working at the top of the U.S. administration.  Otherwise, the twisting of concepts to target Trump is typical of the partisanship dominating most modern political analysis, hers included.

Albright's book is important mainly for presenting a good summary of the distorted picture of political reality of our "mainstream media" and how they serve to conceal the real threats to democracy — which they see as coming exclusively from "populism" and "nationalism" (code names for Trump).

What we today call democracy is a complex structure based on the rule of law, containing both democratic and aristocratic features.  Strong democratic structures can be found within the U.S., which couples traditional representative structures for both executive and legislative branches with direct rule through referenda, some democratic control on the judiciary, and lesser power capabilities for civil servants.  The E.U. is on the other side of the "liberal-democratic" spectrum.

So-called "populist" rebellions against the "aristocratic" or "elitist" features of the political system have happened in the U.S., Andrew Jackson being the best historic example, Trump being a present one.  In the U.S., such developments never transformed democracy into demagogy and therefore never facilitated the overall system's degradation into a tyranny.  The same democratic "populist" manifestations might have different results elsewhere.  In my view, this is exactly what happened in Venezuela, perhaps the clearest example of political decay.

To see populism as the problem is to see the events upside-down.  People wanting to take control of their own destinies is a good thing.  The problem lies with the fragility or even nonexistence of lawful institutions — or sufficient forces to defend them — and with the oligarchic, incompetent, or authoritarian rule that provoked populist reactions in the first place.

The criticism of "populism" and "nationalism" tends to become a criticism of "democracy" or even a corporatist protection of an institutionalised oligarchy.

Thus, mainstream media's reporting that populism and nationalism are a threat is misdirecting the people from the issues that really matter.

Many of us strongly disagree with some of President Trump's views, me included.  Churchill was wrong on a variety of issues, and some of his declarations were unacceptable even by the standards of his own time, let alone now.  Yet he was far-sighted in understanding where the main danger was.

When we witness a confrontation between Trump and Khamenei, exactly as when we witnessed a confrontation between Churchill and Hitler, no one can doubt where the fascism threat lies and on which side we shall stand.

Whoever tries to confuse this reality is doing a great disservice to the struggle freedom-lovers have to be engaged in.  That is the struggle against the Iranian theocracy, the totalitarian threat of our day.

Paulo Casaca was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2009.  He is an author and analyst on the Middle East and South Asia.  He currently heads the Brussels-based NGOs Archhumankind and SADF.

Ian Kershaw is considered the most important reference on Hitler and his rising.  He is brilliant in portraying the environment that allowed said rise to happen, as in his masterpiece Making friends with Hitler, Lord Londonderry and Britain's Road to War.

The book centers on "Lord Londonderry."  Perhaps more crucial in paving "Britain's Road to War" was the public opinion Kershaw analyzes in Section I of Chapter I (pp. 27–36).  I recommend its reading for those who seek to understand how the Western citizenry and, in particular, its political establishment were led into Hitler's beliefs, which made war inevitable:

The Times, the most important newspaper for the British political class, agreed that Hitler was a 'moderate' compared with some of the more radical figures in the Nazi Party, and thought that he was gaining a sense of responsibility. ...

'The Times, for instance, had already indicated on 29 January [1933], the day following the fall of the government of General von Schleicher, that a government headed by Hitler commanding majority support in the Reichstag was 'held to be the least dangerous solution of a problem bristling with dangers. (pp. 29–30)

Public opinion–makers, however, have yet to make a critical assessment on their own responsibility in establishing fantasies as realities.

The real issue at stake concerns whether we are sensibly looking into the sources of these problems or confusing issues and priorities instead, as we did in the '30s.

Several works recently published focus on the danger of going back to the '30s. Yet some repeat old mistakes, the best example being Madeleine Albright's recent book, Fascism: A Warning.

The introduction of Albright's book starts with her and her parents escaping the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and ends with the fall of the Iron Curtain — understandably for her better symbolized in Prague.  It leads us toward the present erosion of democracy for which she sees "the first reason" being President Donald Trump.

The discussion on fascism has been endless.  She perceives the "popular" character of fascism as a distinct feature from traditional forms of despotic regimes, but she fails to establish a distinction between fascism and communism, even using these concepts interchangeably in the expression "Soviet-style fascism" (p. 4; Chapter 7).

Ms. Albright flits on diverse leaders from Viktor Orbán to the Korean Kim dynasty, calling none fascist but describing all with some diverse fascist tones, apparently only in order to attack Trump and indirectly suggest his link to a present fascist danger.

Her book sheds no light on what was intrinsically distinctive about "fascism" as it emerged in the '30s and, in particular, the distinct signs of a reborn fascism today.  What is striking is Ms. Albright's silence on the modern regime that most resembles old-era fascism — the Iranian theocracy.

Ms Albright's silence on Iran, Pakistan, and China is understandable if we consider her responsibilities in the failure to confront these regimes while working at the top of the U.S. administration.  Otherwise, the twisting of concepts to target Trump is typical of the partisanship dominating most modern political analysis, hers included.

Albright's book is important mainly for presenting a good summary of the distorted picture of political reality of our "mainstream media" and how they serve to conceal the real threats to democracy — which they see as coming exclusively from "populism" and "nationalism" (code names for Trump).

What we today call democracy is a complex structure based on the rule of law, containing both democratic and aristocratic features.  Strong democratic structures can be found within the U.S., which couples traditional representative structures for both executive and legislative branches with direct rule through referenda, some democratic control on the judiciary, and lesser power capabilities for civil servants.  The E.U. is on the other side of the "liberal-democratic" spectrum.

So-called "populist" rebellions against the "aristocratic" or "elitist" features of the political system have happened in the U.S., Andrew Jackson being the best historic example, Trump being a present one.  In the U.S., such developments never transformed democracy into demagogy and therefore never facilitated the overall system's degradation into a tyranny.  The same democratic "populist" manifestations might have different results elsewhere.  In my view, this is exactly what happened in Venezuela, perhaps the clearest example of political decay.

To see populism as the problem is to see the events upside-down.  People wanting to take control of their own destinies is a good thing.  The problem lies with the fragility or even nonexistence of lawful institutions — or sufficient forces to defend them — and with the oligarchic, incompetent, or authoritarian rule that provoked populist reactions in the first place.

The criticism of "populism" and "nationalism" tends to become a criticism of "democracy" or even a corporatist protection of an institutionalised oligarchy.

Thus, mainstream media's reporting that populism and nationalism are a threat is misdirecting the people from the issues that really matter.

Many of us strongly disagree with some of President Trump's views, me included.  Churchill was wrong on a variety of issues, and some of his declarations were unacceptable even by the standards of his own time, let alone now.  Yet he was far-sighted in understanding where the main danger was.

When we witness a confrontation between Trump and Khamenei, exactly as when we witnessed a confrontation between Churchill and Hitler, no one can doubt where the fascism threat lies and on which side we shall stand.

Whoever tries to confuse this reality is doing a great disservice to the struggle freedom-lovers have to be engaged in.  That is the struggle against the Iranian theocracy, the totalitarian threat of our day.

Paulo Casaca was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2009.  He is an author and analyst on the Middle East and South Asia.  He currently heads the Brussels-based NGOs Archhumankind and SADF.