by Michael P. Riccards
March 15, 2010
REFORMING THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In a op-ed piece for The New York Times written in April 1944, Vice President Henry Wallace offered this definition of fascism: "A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends."
Sound familiar? With the way that such words as "Nazi" and "fascist" get thrown around casually - and often incorrectly - these days, its worth remembering how someone like Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, or how Benito Mussolini took power in Italy, and the parallels of their rise with the present day.
In the years leading up to World War II, several major corporations aided Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini before and, in some cases, well after Pearl Harbor.
Henry Ford supported Hitler and lent the Nazis money from the early 1920s until the start of the war. The House of Morgan fronted Mussolini $100 million to keep his government from going bankrupt and many other American banks lent money to Hitler and Mussolini. William Randolph Hearst signed a deal worth $400,000 a year to publish bylined stories by Goebbels, Goering and other top Nazis in his newspapers and magazines.
Standard Oil (Esso then, ExxonMobil now) and Texaco both sold gasoline and other petroleum products to Francisco Franco's army in Spain and to the German and Italian military forces up to and after Pearl Harbor. Esso was a member of the same industrial cartel as I.G. Farben and shared patents with the Germans for making high octane aviation fuel and synthetic rubber.
Other corporations that were members of Nazi cartels included Alcoa, General Electric, General Motors and Du Pont. GM's Opel subsidiary in Germany built the planes and tanks for the Panzer divisions all the while GM dragged its heels at home building equipment for the U.S. military. Pratt & Whitney, Curtiss-Wright and Douglas Aircraft all sold aircraft parts to Hitler. Curtiss-Wright salesmen demonstrated the then-secret technique of dive bombing to the Germans in order sell its planes.
The histories of the "Good War" tend to gloss over this stuff, but it was all documented by the late muckraking journalist George Seldes in his 1943 book, "Facts and Fascism." So why did the biggest corporations in America embrace Hitler, Franco and Mussolini? Because it was profitable. As long as there was good money to be made, the moral ramifications of their various dealings were of little concern.
That's why fascism is less about thugs in jackboots, and more about a system that Mussolini called "corporate control of the state." And you can draw a straight line between the industrialists who supported Hitler and Mussolini, and today's industrialists who support anti-democratic policies to fatten their wallets.
The methods have scarcely changed since Wallace's time.
"The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact," wrote Wallace. "They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. ... They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."
The historical record shows that Hitler and Mussolini were nobodies until the biggest corporations in Germany, as well as the United States, saw that he might have some potential. Likewise, the various "Tea Party" groups would have remained in obscurity without the infusion of cash and press coverage from the wealthy and the corporations who see an opportunity to smash the last remnants of American democracy.
Call it fascism, oligarchy or even kleptocracy, but our nation is organizing itself more and more on Mussolini's principles than on Madison and Jefferson's principles. Corporate domination of government and a guiding philosophy that private power and profit trumps the public good will ultimately destroy our nation.
Wallace called fascism "an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction." But when he wrote those words, when victory over Germany and Japan were in sight, he believed that democracy would not just prevail, but endure.
"If we put our trust in the common sense of common men and 'with malice toward none and charity for all' go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail."
Today, around the world, people are rising up against a global economic tyranny and are reclaiming the ideals of hope, solidarity and concern for the poor and oppressed - ideals that have been ruthlessly crushed by those in power.
In a globalized world where corporations bow to no government, money goes where the highest return can be gained. Dictators are propped up. Human rights are a mere legal technicality to be ignored. Genocide gets winked at. As long as there is a profit to be made, it's all good.
The revolution that we are in the midst of is a battle against this mindset. It is a revolution of hope that a better world is possible. It is a revolution that must not fail.< Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.