The turn of the 20th century was marked with an unprecedented wave of globalization aided by the fast growing airline industry. And with improvements in communication due to the declassification of military technology from the world war 2, ironically aided in bringing the world closer. Thus began the Third Industrial Revolution with the advent of semi-conductors, computers and satellites.
The third Industrial Revolution also paved way for a global wave capitalism taking over the far eastern states. The traditionally socialist China even tasted the tempting yields of Capitalism, leading to profound changes in their system. But if we are to learn of anything from our past, it is that history repeats.
Globalization and capitalism boosted the global economy but with the lack of watchdogs in many nations, this only lead to a polarization between the working class and the ultra-rich while many nations suffered irreversible degradation to their environment while many governments regressed from democracies and monarchies to fascist dictatorships. At the turn of the 21st century, Political Scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt studied the fascist regimes of the last century. From Adolf Hitler’s Germany, Francisco Franco’s Spain, Suharto’s Indonesia, Augusto Pinochet’s Chile to Benito Mussolini’s Italy and he found striking similarities between each of these regimes. Below is a list of observed similarities between fascist regimes.
Powerful hold over institutions and emphasis on separatism.
In each of these fascist regimes, the ruling class had absolute control over the state and its institutions amending the constitution and the independent bodies as they saw fit. The fear of globalization and an irrational fear driven by eugenics, mixing of “bad blood” led their obsession with separatism and often ethnocentrism. The regimes’ obsession with separatism only further isolated the voice of opposition in those states from reaching world leaders.
Identification of Enemies as a unifying cause
The most common feature between each of these fascist regimes and even to those of this century is their identification of an enemy as a unifying cause. Demonization of a minority religion, race, class, uniformed body or even a political view has been used to fuel hatred amongst the ruling party members. These regimes were noted to have consistently targeted a group of individuals to unify the masses. It is also often noted that after the persecution of minority groups, these states resolve to targeting their uniformed bodies including the police and the military as a last resolve.
A common way to achieve this was to spread elaborate conspiracies regarding the minority group or to stage an assassination attempt on a beloved or controversial figure and use it as means to rally the masses against the target group. This also served a secondary purpose of diversion from state authoritarianism. Just as how the Roman Caesar’s kept the masses distracted from rampant corruption with the violent glories of the coliseum, Fascist regimes kept the masses distracted from corruption and authoritarianism by keep the attention on a targeted group of minorities.
U.S President Donald Trump has beend escribed as a fascist.
Controlled Mass Media
The absolute powers of these fascist regime was fuelled by separatism and persecution. Doing this however would draw criticism from other groups within the nation, hence the state had absolute control over not only all institutions but the mass media as well. All forms of mass media from television to printed media was under constant scrutiny by the ruling powers.
Often these medias were under the direct control of a Propaganda Minister who would have the final say before publication. One of the more famous of these Propaganda Ministers was the Nazi Germany Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels who had absolute control over all mass media, was known for scrutinizing all publications released within the Nazi Germany as well as order the publication of propaganda pieces by the Ministry of Propaganda.
Nazi Propagand Minister Joseph Goebbels was a charismatic orator.
Obsession with National Security
The fascist authoritarian regimes were only able to get away with their crimes by diverting the attention of the masses to elsewhere. While targeting a minority was used to fuel hatred as a unifying cause, the fascist regimes had an obsession over national security often using it as means to further consolidate absolute power. In the case of Suharto, he used an attempted coup to take over the Indonesian government and blamed the Indonesian Socialist Party (PKI) for endangering national security. The following massacres left an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 PKI members supporters or alleged supporters dead.
Protected corporate power and Suppressed Labor Power.
In all fascist governments, their absolute authority over the state is maintained through support from few elite corporates close to the ruling party. The oppressive state suppresses the voice of the laborers allowing the big businesses to subjugate workers to poor conditions and poorer pay while reaping massive profits, a part of which goes to fund the ruling party. This predatory practice of the state paving way for labor suppression and oppression was key to maintain the financial means for the ruling party to continue their bribing and self-enrichment.
Obsession with Crime and Punishment
The egocentric eagerness to scapegoat minorities to distract from the authoritarian oppression meant that these regimes had to find means to persecute the targeted minority. During the Nazi regime in the Germany, laws and the constitution as a whole was amended on a daily basis slowly removing the civil rights of the targeted minorities one by one enabling the state to punish the minorities for even the pettiest of crimes. One of the most critical aspects of this was seen in the case where the Jewish minority in Poland was asked to leave the state, but travel was banned, forcing a crime upon the Jewish population of Poland, which ended with internment camps, now known as concentration camps.
Rampant Nepotism, Cronyism and Corruption
The absolute power a fascist regime has is only enabled when the voice of the opposition and the oppressed are suppressed. In every single fascist regime state officials indulged in acts of corruption often enriching themselves and their families and close allies. This egocentrism also meant that key positions of power were reserved for the family and close allies of the ruling power.
If we take a look at Indonesia’s Suharto, by the early 1990’s several charitable foundations were made in his name which raked in an estimated $3 billion while all his 6 children amassed a massive financial empire with over 260 companies under their names, while the state amassed a massive debt from the 4 million bureaucratic employees appointed from amongst the families of the ruling elite.
Indonesia’s Suharto and his family.
Oppressive fascist regimes from Mussolini to Suharto all indulged in fraudulent elections. One such example is when the Italian National Fascist Party led by Jounalist turned politician Benito Mussolini who used fear tactics, bribing and a series of misinformation campaigns to win the 1924 Italian General Elections which led to a 21 year oppressive regime under the infamous fascist Benito Mussolini.
Journalist turned Politician Benito Mussolini opressed Italy for 21 years with his cult personality and followers.
The future and us
Globally, fascism, ultra nationalism and racism has been on the rise with hate crime and persecution of minorities being reported even in the west. Incumbent U.S President Trump has also been described as a fascist with his targeted verbal persecution of minorities to unify his followers while citing immigration as the greatest threat to national security.
However, if we are to lay back and spectate as our predecessors did, we’d be enabling the same oppression from fascist governments. Fascism must not make a comeback, let it be a reminder of our mistakes. Democracy must prevail as American philosopher John Dewey once said “Democracy means the belief that humanistic culture should prevail.”.