Spyhopping the Right.
David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. He is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000. His freelance work can be found at Salon.com, the Washington Post, MSNBC and various other publications. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Robinson has worked as an editor or columnist for several national magazines, on beats as varied as sports, travel, and the Olympics; and has contributed to over 80 computer games for EA, Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other companies. A native of California's High Sierra, she spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver, BC in 2004. Her lifelong interest in the social effects of authoritarianism have most recently led her to pursue the MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. She's also a student member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and member of the Accelerated Studies Foundation advisory board on social and cultural issues. For fun, she raises kids and travels. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Sara's recent series:
Cracks in the Wall: Parts I, II, and III.
Tunnels and Bridges: Parts I, II, III, and IV, plus a Short Detour.
Dave's recent series:
The March of the Minutemen
Intro: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Other books by Dave [limited availability]:
"The Rise of Pseudo Fascism": An essay
Available in Adobe PDF format here
Support independent journalism:
Suggested $5 donation
Original posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.
"The Political and the Personal"
"Bush, the Nazis and America":
Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
[Suggested $5 donation]
[In HTML: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV. See explanatory note.]
[Also available in HTML, and with art, at Cursor.]
Orcinus Principium No. 1
Orcinus Principium No. 2
Farrakhan and Turner
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Max Blumenthal nails it in his report on Louis Farrakhan's remarks in which he cites radio talk-show host Hal Turner as a source of his information regarding Turner's conspiracy theory that the New Orleans levees were sabotaged.
Be sure to read it all. I'll just add this: Why anyone would want to be associated with Farrakhan in any fashion -- let alone partipate in an event designed to burnish his reputation -- is beyond me. Whatever good the Million More March may achieve (and as Max says, its larger purpose was truly laudable), his involvement will always cast a cloud over it.
For a little more on the execrable Turner, see this, this, and this.
Pushing our buttons, redux
It's becoming evident that the terrorists with designs on destroying America don't need to actually carry out any attacks to undermine our national security. The Republicans now in power are doing it for them.
Remember that one of the primary goals of any terrorist organization is to get its target population to live in fear. The Republican right has been doing a fine job of doing just that.
Besides raising the prospect of suicide bombings by Islamist radicals where no such threat appears to actually exist, Republicans have also been raising alarms about actual terrorist attacks on the New York subway system.
Last weekend's foofarah in the Big Apple was another incremental episode in the gradual erosion of public confidence in authorities' ability to adequately sniff out and prevent terrorist attacks. After loud public warnings of an imminent attack, the episode failed to catch any terrorists, but it did produce a panic induced by a soda can and headlines in the right-wing tabloids warning of bombs in baby strollers. (One can only imagine what might have happened there had NYC police engaged in the shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy employed by London cops: "three in the melon" indeed.)
Now, according to some reports, it turns out that it was all a hoax anyway. However, subsequent reports have cast doubt on this charge as well -- though it should be clear from the outcome that the warning was indeed groundless.
Another mitigating factor was the fact that both Homeland Security and the FBI cast doubt on the accuracy of the information that led to the warning. However, New York City Mayor Bloomberg -- facing an election in the near future -- decided to make the threat public and to heighten security ... as well as the ambient fear levels.
Nice result, mayor.
Hoax or not, the episode further erodes public confidence in warnings issued by public officials, just as Homeland Security's earlier color-coded warning system did.
This most recent scare followed a trend established during the reign of the color codes: It just happened to coincide with a downturn in political fortunes for President Bush.
And how, well, serendipitous it was, don't you think, that the New York alert just happened to follow on the heels of President Bush's rather lame attempt to rebound in the polls by delivering a national address about the Iraq war and the "war on terror" -- as if his manifest incompetence there hadn't already been thrown into stark relief by Katrina.
Fortunately, Keith Olbermann at MSNBC has been paying attention too:
- Last Thursday on Countdown, I referred to the latest terror threat - the reported bomb plot against the New York City subway system - in terms of its timing. President Bush’s speech about the war on terror had come earlier the same day, as had the breaking news of the possible indictment of Karl Rove in the CIA leak investigation.
I suggested that in the last three years there had been about 13 similar coincidences -- a political downturn for the administration, followed by a "terror event" -- a change in alert status, an arrest, a warning.
We figured we'd better put that list of coincidences on the public record. We did so this evening on the television program, with ten of these examples. The other three are listed at the end of the main list, out of chronological order. The contraction was made purely for the sake of television timing considerations, and permitted us to get the live reaction of the former Undersecretary of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson.
We bring you these coincidences, reminding you, and ourselves here, that perhaps the simplest piece of wisdom in the world is called "the logical fallacy." Just because Event "A" occurs, and then Event "B" occurs, that does not automatically mean that Event "A" caused Event "B."
But one set of comments from an informed observer seems particularly relevant as we examine these coincidences.
On May 10th of this year, after his resignation, former Secretary of Homeland Security Ridge looked back on the terror alert level changes, issued on his watch.
Mr. Ridge said: "More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it. Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don’t necessarily put the country on (alert) ... there were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said 'for that?' "
In the ensuing rundown, Olbermann points out one especially noteworthy coincidence: the dramatic appearance of that videotaped message from Osama bin Laden one week before the November 2004 election.
I'm reminded of a piece I wrote for MSNBC.com back in early November 2001 (no longer available online) that discussed John Ashcroft's then-recent warnings of imminent terror threats, titled "Pushing Our Buttons."
These warnings, you may recall, were amazingly vague and seemed aimed largely at raising the national paranoia levels. But what I wrote at the time holds true as well for the New York warnings, which reportedly were more specific, but no better grounded in reality:
- The problem with such a warning is that there is only a marginal chance of its actually preventing an attack, and a considerably higher likelihood that it will backfire and actually harm the nation's chances of responding to terrorist threats successfully. Consider the lessons of history.
In the days and weeks immediately following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, a wave of fear swept up and down America’s West Coast. Public officials began trumpeting unfounded rumors that the disaster had been a direct result of "fifth column" activity by Japanese-American spies in Hawaii (a report that later proved to be completely groundless). Soon the papers began hawking stories predicated on fears of an imminent invasion. The Los Angeles Times ran headlines like "Jap Boat Flashes Message Ashore" and "Caps on Japanese Tomato Plants Point to Air Base" -- and the public quickly jumped aboard. Reports of "signals" being sent out from shore to unknown, mysterious Japanese boats offshore began flowing in.
The end result of all this hysteria was one of the great black marks on American history: internment of some 110,000 people of Japanese descent (70,000 of them American citizens) from 1942 to 1945 in barbed-wire camps. That spring of 1942, the populace and politicians demanded the removal of the "spies" from the Pacific Coast, citing the "imminent threat" their presence posed. Today, few historians doubt that it would have taken place without the active encouragement of groundless fears by public officials.
The lesson in all this for the Bush administration should be obvious: The American public is at its worst when it is egged into a state of fearfulness by its own government, and may even be induced into committing travesties of justice for its own "self-protection."
The administration also needs to consider the nature of the public's typical reaction to such dire warnings, which inspired in 1941 a deluge of red herrings and misinformation that wound up impeding law enforcement from performing its regular important work. Ashcroft's warning is more likely than not to inspire precisely the same kind of overload, swamping officers and switchboards with reports of impending terrorist acts, while diluting the ability of those personnel to respond to genuine threats.
If the warning is a success, and a terrorist threat is actually prevented, then Ashcroft’s decision to raise the fear level among the general public will have proven correct. But the likelihood of that happening is relatively slim -- and that is the only scenario under which raising these kinds of alarms makes sense.
If, for instance, terrorists pull off a successful attack in spite of the warning, then the federal powers in charge of preventing this will look even more impotent. And then the fear level of Americans will skyrocket, because it will be clear to them that even intense scrutiny will not make them safe.
On the other hand, if an act of terrorism is prevented silently — that is, its would-be perpetrators are forced to retrench and wait — then the only thing gained is time. The likelihood of its eventual enactment will remain the same; those terrorists are still free to act, perhaps at a time when Americans’ guards are let down, especially if nothing happens during the week ahead.
Indeed, that is the most likely scenario, and the most problematic. If the week in fact goes by and no terrorist acts occur, then the credibility of the government will take a terrific hit on the domestic front. If the administration attempts to claim the fact that no terrorism occurred actually justifies its warning, it will risk looking like those apocalyptic cults who have at various times announced the impending end of the world and then, when such doom fails to materialize, credited the prayers of its followers for saving mankind.
At the same time, a non-event will only perpetuate a rising perception among the public that Ashcroft and other top officials may lack the competence to do this job properly. Like the villagers who heard the shepherd boy cry "Wolf!" once too often, there is a grave danger that Americans will be lulled by these warnings into a refusal to respond when the threat is real.
Like most analyses, it rather missed the predictive mark in some key areas; I underestimated, I think, the American public's capacity to see "strong leadership" in a figure like Bush -- rather than the incompetence he embodied -- at a time of crisis because of its need to. So the silly color codes and the multiple conveniently timed warnings that turned up empty didn't destroy the public's confidence in Homeland Officials, as I feared.
What they have done, instead, is gradually erode that confidence. And now, with Bush's misfeasance of the presidency coming into full technicolor view, the whole house of cards looks ready to crumble.
Most of all, it's becoming apparent that the Bush administration indeed learned well the lessons of history, both present and past: It knows all too well that "the American public is at its worst when it is egged into a state of fearfulness by its own government."
It knows now that, when the fear level goes up, Americans are prone to support those already in office, particularly when they wrap themselves simultaneously in patriotism and point accusatory fingers at their political opposition. And it is using that knowledge in the most cynical fashion.
This is true of the conservative movement at large, and can be readily found in the recent behavior of its mouthpieces like the New York Daily News. Typical of the right-wing response to the New York reports were Roger L. Simon's exercises in hysteria, in which he went on to attack anyone in sight who dared suggest the warnings might not be well grounded. Afterward, of course, Simon was utterly unrepentant; as Tristam Shandy points out, he lacked even the grace to apologize to the people he attacked so viciously.
But really, Simon was just symptomatic of what we heard throughout from the right-wing Wurlitzer, both the radio gasbags and the right-wing bloggers. If you go back and check over the latter's work for the past week, it's all about terror. Terra, terra, terra. Boogadah boogadah boogadah.
And it's all just transparent bullshit. Which really is a problem.
If there's anything America needs right now, it is leaders, and thinkers, and media figures who will not play games with our national security -- who will forsake the temptation to parlay the real war on terror into a political marketing campaign.
It's a temptation this administration has fully indulged, with the adamant support of its cheering section in the Republican Party. Indeed, it is now apparently even being refined by lesser Republican lights in their local races.
And someday, we're all going to pay for it.
Friday, October 14, 2005
- You may think you know what you're dealing with -- but believe me, you don't. -- Noah Cross to Jake Gittes
It's been kind of heartwarming, really, to see the American right -- almost overnight, seemingly -- become all aflutter at the prospect of domestic terrorism as a potentially significant front in the war on terror.
There's only one problem: They seem to be operating under the illusion that the most likely source of this threat is from radical Islamists.
Most of the flurry of worry from the right is coming from a feeding frenzy over a suicide bombing at the University of Oklahoma. So far, all of their speculation has been built on a foundation of apparently false "facts."
Besides a Washington Times editorial built on a groundless presumption that Hinrichs was potentially associated with Al Qaeda or other radical Muslims, there have been numerous reports on Fox and various right-wing radio talk shows (in Seattle, KVI's John Carlson devoted an entire show to the subject). The right blogosphere -- led by Michelle Malkin, of course -- has chimed in, with contributions from such luminaries as Jawa Report, Wizbang, and the ever-enlightened Little Green Footballs.
Next thing you know, they start seeing an Islamist suicide bomber behind every homemade bomb that turned up. LGF trumpeted an explosive device found at UCLA, while Malkin and others began hyping some bombs in plastic containers found at Georgia Tech.
Of course, it turned out that the latter was just a pasty-faced student who says the whole thing was a prank. There's only fleeting mention of this on the blogs who trumpeted the case. (There's still no word yet on the UCLA case, but don't be shocked if there's a similar outcome.)
Likewise, much of the factual grounding for the hysteria about Islamist suicide bombers in Oklahoma is looking, well, questionable at best. It turns out that he did not attend a local mosque, had never visited there, and he was not Muslim; it appears doubtful that he attempted to enter the stadium.
But the fearmongering has been good for something: creating fear among Muslims in the vicinity:
- Distorted media stories have city and student Muslim communities on edge, after it was revealed that bomber Joel "Joe" Henry Hinrichs roomed with a Muslim student at the Parkview apartments near the University of Oklahoma campus.
However, the FBI has found no connection between the 21-year-old engineering major, who died from an explosion at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday about 100 yards outside OU's Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium packed with more than 84,000 fans, and the Muslim community, other than other than Hinrichs' rooming with OU finance major Fazal M. Cheema from Pakistan.
And Hinrichs apparently never visited the Masjid An-Nur Islamic mosque that has served the Muslim community at 1304 George Avenue since 1978.
"He had never been to our mosque and he's not associated with our mosque in any way, shape or form," said 44-year-old Mohamed Farid Elyazgi, who has lived in Norman with his family since 1985. "We had never seen him until we saw his picture in the media."
Elyazgi emphasized that Islam forbids suicide and Muslims condemn all acts of violence.
He said many area Muslims have become concerned about television stations filming stories about the bombing in front of the mosque and its sign, fearing it could fan fear and perhaps violence against Muslims or associate the incident with the Islamic Society of Norman.
The source of the problem -- beyond the fearmongers themselves -- as the Oklahoma Daily pointed out in an editorial, is an FBI that has put the clamps on any information and left the public in the dark:
- Remember, the FBI has commandeered this investigation. In doing so and by not telling anyone anything, they are only allowing the events of Oct. 2 to be misinterpreted over and over by people who are firm in believing something that is false and terribly dangerous.
For example, unsubstantiated claims that Hinrichs had been frequenting the Norman mosque have managed to seep onto television news broadcasts even though everyone we have contacted at the mosque says Hinrichs was never seen there.
So who is lying? Inherently, people should perceive the unfounded news broadcasts as the liars, but that doesn't always happen. And even if only one person sees and believes such a report there or online, word of mouth can transmit that "truth" to hundreds or thousands within a matter of days.
Which is why it is undeniably the duty of the FBI to break its unctuous vow of silence and talk to somebody. The longer the feds delay in doing so, the more they become equally responsible for misinformed social reactions as the hacks who started these rumors in the first place.
The FBI's tight-lippedness is largely standard policy, though the agency has been known to relax it when it serves the public interest; this appears to be such a case, however, given the extraordinary and irresponsible speculation that the case has elicited.
The hysterical reaction from the right recalls the first few days after the Oklahoma City bombing, when speculation of Middle Eastern terrorist involvement ran rampant, and a number of Muslims were made to suffer as a result. Then, of course, it turned out that the bombing had been perpetrated by a couple of right-wing extremist white men.
The similarities of the most recent case in Oklahoma to that earlier tragedy underscore the seriousness of what's at stake here. Hinrichs apparently did try to buy a large amount of ammonium nitrate a few weeks before; there are other indications he may have intended to kill large numbers of people with his bomb.
It's worth noting that some news reports have described him as someone with a long interest in guns and explosives -- interests that are more indicative of right-wing proclivities than any pro-Islamist or left-wing sympathies.
But caution is always called for with domestic terrorism, particularly when it comes to sorting out motives. When entering that aspect of the problem, you're entering a hall of mirrors in which things often are not what they seem.
Certainly, focusing on the M.O. of the perpetrators gives us only an oblique guess at best. The ammonium nitrate certainly reeks of Tim McVeigh, but we can't assume that Joel Hinrichs was a right-wing militiaman because of it.
Likewise, the appearance of plastic bottles as a bomb container -- seized upon by the right-wing bloggers as potential evidence of a larger plot -- is meaningless in the larger context of what we know about homemade bombs.
Lots of people besides terrorists make such devices -- usually young males with slightly less sense than your average rock and a preternatural interest in things that go boom. Most of these amateurs nowadays get their recipes off the Web, from such places as the "Terrorist's Handbook", which recommends the following:
- Plastic containers are perhaps the best containers for explosives, since they can be any size or shape, and are not fragile like glass. Plastic piping can be bought at hardware or plumbing stores, and a device much like the ones used for metal containers can be made. The high-order version works well with plastic piping. If the entire device is made out of plastic, it is not detectable by metal detectors.
When it comes to actual terrorists, the next most likely suspects are so-called "lone wolves," who attack for ideological reasons that are often idiosyncratic. These can include such figures as Ted Kaczynski, but far and away more common are the Eric Rudolph type of right-wing extremist, including the many abortion-clinic bombers who have tended to remain at large more often than not. All of these extremists -- including McVeigh -- emerge from an ideological milieu that encourages and embraces violence as a means of enforcing its own bizarre version of morality.
The least likely kinds of terrorists to engage in these kinds of attacks on American soil, however, are Middle Eastern extremists. In fact, there has never been a record of even an attempt at such a lone-wolf suicide bombing in the USA -- though, of course, this does not preclude it from happening. Nonetheless, the history of homemade bombs strongly suggests we look elsewhere for motives when trying to sift through the evidence.
The concern about domestic terrorism raised by the recent Oklahoma case has some legitimate dimensions, but the right wing seems interested in none of these. All they actually seem interested in is tarring Muslims by association.
So I have a hunch that, when these turn out to have nothing to do with radical Islamists -- which seems nearly certain in all of these cases -- their recent concern about domestic terrorism as a front in the war on terror will turn off like a light switch. The cases will be dismissed as "isolated incidents." Malkin in particular has a history of this.
Likewise, expect no mea culpas regarding the groundless fears they raised about local Muslim communities with their thoughtless rhetorical bombs. They were too busy having their own little blast.
But then, a good smear is always easier than the hard work of keeping us safe, isn't it?
Fascism: Two hoary myths
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
A couple of recently recurring bits of misinformation about the nature of fascism have come floating across my radar recently. Their falsity is fairly clear, but nonetheless, they are enjoying some currency at present, and need debunking.
The first is a supposed quote that I keep seeing pop up in e-mails sent to me:
- "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini
The fact is that, as far as anyone can ascertain, Mussolini never said or wrote this. Indeed, it contradicts much of what he did say about corporatism.
As Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates explained awhile back:
- It is unlikely that Mussolini ever made this statement because it contradicts most of the other writing he did on the subject of corporatism and corporations. When Mussolini wrote about corporatism, he was not writing about modern commercial corporations. He was writing about a form of vertical syndicalist corporatism based on early guilds. The article on Wikipedia on Corporatism explains this rather well.
Here are some typical Mussolini quotes from original documents:
- The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State--a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values--interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people. (p. 14)
Fascism recognises the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade-unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which diverent interests are coordinated and harmonised in the unity of the State. (p.15)
Yet if anyone cares to read over the now crumbling minutes giving an account of the meetings at which the Italian Fasci di Combattimento were founded, he will find not a doctrine but a series of pointers… (p. 23)
"It may be objected that this program implies a return to the guilds (corporazioni). No matter!... I therefore hope this assembly will accept the economic claims advanced by national syndicalism." (p. 24)
Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and economic sphere. (p. 32)
The Fascist State lays claim to rule in the economic field no less than in others; it makes its action felt throughout the length and breadth of the country by means of its corporate, social, and educational institutions, and all the political, economic, and spiritual forces of the nation, organised in their respective associations, circulate within the State. (p. 41).
- Benito Mussolini, 1935, The Doctrine of Fascism, Firenze: Vallecchi Editore.
The Labour Charter (Promulgated by the Grand Council ofr Fascism on April 21, 1927)—(published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale, April 3, 1927) [sic] (p. 133)
The Corporate State and its Organization (p. 133)
The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and usefu [sic] [typo-should be: useful] instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.
State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management. (pp. 135-136)
- Benito Mussolini, 1935, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, Rome: 'Ardita' Publishers.
The other recurring myth is actually a great deal more popular -- namely, that because Mussolini was at one time an ardent socialist, and because Hitler's party called itself the National Socialists, then fascism itself was a form of socialism, and thus a left-wing phenomenon.
The reasons for its popularity are obvious: It's a convenient way of smearing the left for conservatives, as well as shedding their own well-established baggage from the far right. Rush Limbaugh repeats this claim regularly, as do a number of other right-wing commentators. You can find it expressed throughout a number of right-wing Web sites, notably Free Republic. It even popped up in my comments here recently.
So, let's do a reality check: Both Hitler and Mussolini pretended to have socialist aspirations as part of their propaganda efforts during their rise to power, largely as a way of encouraging working-class support. But they were unquestionably right wing politically by the time they obtained power, and in fact were viciously anti-left-wing as well.
Those who repeat the "Nazis were socialists" claim are, in fact, falling for (and repeating) Nazi propaganda from the 1920s.
Mussolini was indeed an active socialist at the beginning of his political career. But he was remarkable for shifting his alliances and adjusting his ideology accordingly as he climbed the ladder of power; and by the time he had completed his climb, he was an outspoken and lethal anti-socialist.
Hitler's fascists, somewhat in contrast, only adopted a limited socialist rhetoric as a sop to its efforts to recruit from the working class. Hitler quickly jettisoned these aspects of the party as he obtained power, particularly in forming a ruling coalition with conservative corporatists. There was little doubt that Hitler and the Nazis were devoutly anti-leftist: their Brownshirts made a career of physically attacking socialists and communists wherever they gathered, and the first people sent to the concentration camp at Dachau in 1933-34 were socialist and communist political leaders.
This site does a reasonably good job of laying it all out:
- Prior to the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, worker protests had spread all across Germany in response to the Great Depression. During his drive to power, Hitler exploited this social unrest by promising workers to strengthen their labor unions and increase their standard of living. But these were empty promises; privately, he was reassuring wealthy German businessmen that he would crack down on labor once he achieved power. Historian William Shirer describes the Nazi's dual strategy:
- "The party had to play both sides of the tracks. It had to allow [Nazi officials] Strasser, Goebbels and the crank Feder to beguile the masses with the cry that the National Socialists were truly 'socialists' and against the money barons. On the other hand, money to keep the party going had to be wheedled out of those who had an ample supply of it."
Once in power, Hitler showed his true colors by promptly breaking all his promises to workers. The Nazis abolished trade unions, collective bargaining and the right to strike. An organization called the "Labor Front" replaced the old trade unions, but it was an instrument of the Nazi party and did not represent workers. According to the law that created it, "Its task is to see that every individual should be able ... to perform the maximum of work." Workers would indeed greatly boost their productivity under Nazi rule. But they also became exploited. Between 1932 and 1936, workers wages fell, from 20.4 to 19.5 cents an hour for skilled labor, and from 16.1 to 13 cents an hour for unskilled labor. Yet workers did not protest. This was partly because the Nazis had restored order to the economy, but an even bigger reason was that the Nazis would have cracked down on any protest.
In other words, the Nazis did a classic bait-and-switch: They convinced working-class people to vote against their own self-interest by clever use of propaganda techniques and pretending to embody their values, but then screwed them over from one end to the other once they had obtained power.
At any rate, it's also useful to refer to Robert O. Paxton's defintive text, The Anatomy of Fascism, which describes the overt antileftism of the early fascists as well, p. 84:
- Fascist violence was neither random nor indiscriminate. It carried a well-calculated set of coded messages: that communist violence was rising, that the democratic state was responding to it ineptly, and that only the fascists were tough enough to save the nation from antinational terrorists. An essential step in the fascist march to acceptance and power was to persuade law-and-order conservatives and members of the middle class to tolerate fascist violence as a harsh necessity in the face of Left provocation. It helped, of course, that many ordinary citizens never feared fascist violence against themselves, because they were reassured that it was reserved for national enemies and "terrorists" who deserved it.
Paxton also describes the fascist appropriation of left-wing ideas for its own purposes, pp. 56-59:
- It turned out in practice that fascists' anticapitalism was highly selective. Even at their most radical, the socialism that the fascists wanted was a "national socialism": one that denied only foriegn or enemy property rights (including that of internal enemies). They cherished national producers. Above all, it was by offering an effective remedy against socialist revolution that fascism turned out in practice to find a space. If Mussolini retained some lingering hopes in 1919 of founding an alternative socialism rather than an antisocialism, he was soon disabused of those notions by observing what worked and what didn't work in Italian politics. His dismal electoral results with a Left-nationalist program in Milan in November 1919 surely hammered that lesson home.
The pragmatic choices of Mussolini and Hitler were driven by their urge for success and power. Not all fascist leaders had such ambitions. Some of them preferred to keep their movements "pure," even at the cost of remaining marginal.
Paxton goes on to describe how the failed Spanish and French fascist movements are exemplary in this regard. Then he says:
- Hitler and Mussolini, however, not only felt destined to rule but shared none of the purists' qualms about competing bourgeois elections. Both set out -- with impressive tactical skill and by rather different routes, which they discovered by trial and error -- to make themselves indispensable participants in the competition for political power within their nations. ...
Long after his regime had settled into routine, Mussolini still liked to refer to the "Fascist revolution." But he meant a revolution against socialism and flabby liberalism, a new way of uniting and motivating Italians, and a new kind of governmental authority capable of subordinating private liberties to the needs of the national community and of organizing mass assent while leaving property intact. The major point is that the Fascist movement was reshaped in the process of growing into the available political space. The antisocialism already present in the initial movement became central, and many antibourgeois idealists left or were pushed out. The radical anticapitalism of early Fascism was watered down, and we must not let its conspicuous presence in early texts confuse us about what Fascism later became in action.
Paxton later puts in simple terms the political space occupied by the fascists:
- ... In sum, fascists offered a new recipe for governing with popular support but without any sharing of power with the Left, and without any threat to conservative social and economic privileges and political dominance. The conservatives, for their part, held the keys to the doors of power.
The more we hear mainstream conservatives today act as though liberals, their longtime partners, are no longer fit to share power, the more I fear for a repeat of history.