This diary offers an analytic framework to determine whether "Bush Authoritarianism" or "Bushism" is an instance of a fascist ideology. It is a starting-point and not an end-point. It is hoped that it aides further discussion and research into the question.
I. On Method
I want to discuss two methods of analysis that we can apply to the issue. The first is referred to as a 'menu' approach, and the second is a 'continuum' approach. One way we can analyze whether Bushism is a fascistic ideology is to develop a list--a menu--of that which it means to be a fascist ideology and check-off each menu item, i.e., each variable and if a sufficient number of check-marks appear after our analysis, we reach an answer of either 'yes' or 'no'.
I suggest that that is what Naomi Wolf has done in her list of ten variables that I list below:
- Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
- Create a gulag
- Develop a thug caste
- Set up an internal surveillance system
- Harass citizens' groups
- Engage in arbitrary detention and release
- Target key individuals
- Control the press
- Dissent equals treason
- Suspend the rule of law
See also Naomi Wolf's The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot
In my opinion, there is a weakness to this analysis for two main reasons: First, there is a tendency to make the facts fit your seeming arbitrary list of variables. Second, there is a tendency to, if finding one of the variables weakly-met to dismiss the entire analysis.
In the 'real world' I have found the second method, an analysis on a continuum to be more effective, and it is that method that I apply in this diary.
II. Defining Fascism, fascism, and fascistic ideology.
Here we run into an immediate problem, similar to the one I mention above. If we want to be completely accurate, Fascism, with a capital F, began and ended with Mussolini in Italy. Now, we can stop our analysis there and say since Bushism isn't Mussolinii in Italy, Bushism isn't Fascism. A true statement, but, one that is quite unsatisfying and equally uninteresting. It is a dull analyst who stops here and closes the book. It is a lazy one who then goes on to argue that Bushism isn't Fascism, so it must be, say, mere Authoritarianism, because it fits better into the preferred analysis of this or that writer.
But, lets look further. We think we know what fascism means, but, is there a clear definition of the term, with a small 'f'. Well, there is and it can only be arrived at by, I argue, an anlaysis of the variables associated with what we can call the 'fascist ideology'. Again, we are faced with a list. Who makes it? The trite answer is 'anyone can!', but, the better answer is to look towards those historians who have spent their careers creating one.
For convenience sake, I present a list from Professor Paxton writing at the time from Columbia University. The list is found in "The Five Stages of Fascism", 70 The Journal of Modern History 1 (1998), available via the JSTOR database. These seven characteristics are analyzed by Paxton throughout what he describes as a five-stage process.
- The primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether universal or individual.
- The belief that one's group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action against the group's enemies, internal as well as external.
- Dread of the group's decadence under the corrosive effect of individualistic and cosmopolitan liberalism.
- Closer integration of the community within a brotherhood (fascio)whose unity and purity are forged by common conviction, if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary.
- An enhanced sense of identity and belonging, in which the grandeur of the group reinforces individual self-esteem.
- Authority of natural leaders (always male) throughout society, culminating in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating the group's destiny.
- The beauty of violence and of will, when they are devoted to the group's success in a Darwinian struggle.
There are, of course, other lists and descriptions. It is up to the writer to decide and argue for whichever set of variables they believe ought to be in the list. There is no 'right' answer, only good and bad arguments, with good and bad lists of variables. It is up to the writer to assemble what he or she believe is the proper set.
Here is a summary from Emilio Gentile's The Origins of Fascist Ideology: 1918-1925, at p. 368:
In fascism we face a brutal and openly proclaimed aversion to freedom, equality, happiness and peace as life's ideals; we are confronted with obedience of the masses, the sacrifice of the individual to the collective understood as the State and the nation. The fascists never claimed to want to spread freedom and rationality to the world. They proclaimed that reason counted for little in politics where only force, the will to power by select minorities, the consensus created by myth and faith, really do count.
III. Creating an analysis
We are given seven distinct variables by Paxton. As mentioned above, we could simply choose it as a menu and check-off the ones that apply and end it there. But, what I want to do is a different approach that gives the list more value.
You assign each of the seven variables a value, and after studying Bushism, you calculate the value of "Bushism" on a continuum, say, from 0 to 10, to determine a weight to Bushism as a fascistic ideology.
I found one historian from 1945 that, while determining if "Nazism" was "Fascism" did a similar analysis. Gerard DeGre. In his "The Fascist: An Operational Definition", 24 Social Forces 166 (1945), available at JSTOR.
Where is my analysis? It is under construction, as it were. I am at the point where I am developing the proper list of variables, taking into account the literature through the 1990s, and trying to unravel, as we all are, what has happened and what continues to happen each day.
IV. Other examples
Nazism as fascism.
It goes without saying, for the reason stated above, that Nazism isn't Fascism with a capital "F", and some writers stop there and go on to treat Nazism as sui generis. Because of Nazism's Antisemitism, i.e., because of--to use my language--Antisemitism being such a strong variable in the analysis, Nazism cannot possibly be associated with Fascism. Paxton, in footnote 5, points to the fact that Mussolini had a Jewish mistress named Margherita Sarfatti, and one of his favorite henchmen was Jewish: Giacomo Matteotti. Again, this argument seems to end too soon, and it seems a bit too uninteresting to stop the analysis there. But, by over-weighing one of the variables, to the exclusion of all others, the debate ends.
Paxton then points out that 'eminent authorities', such as Renzo De Felice did believe that Nazism was an instance of fascism. De Felice, an Italian scholar had his work extracted by Michael A. Ledeen in book form in Fascism: An Informal Introduction to its Theory and Practice: An Interview with Michael A. Leeden. I leave it to the reader to unravel the connections between Mussolini, De Felice, Ledeen, and Bush, should any exist.
Of course, the variable of Antisemitism found in Nazism is a terribly strong one with a terrific amount of painful baggage attached to it, and it is perhaps impossible for a historian to see it as only one variable of the set, so as to not miss doing a complete analysis of Nazism and Bushism as fascistic ideologies. But, it is but one variable. Is Bushism Antisemitic? That is beyond the scope of this brief diary, and the answer to that question is probably 'no' but the jury is out until more is uncovered. Nixon's Antisemitism, likely present throughout his entire adulthood, only became actualized to the general public in the mid 1970s with the release of his tapes. Only last week, an article appeared about Abraham Lincoln and his Antisemitic remarks made during the American Civil War. What will be uncovered in the dark putrid dead soul of George Bush twenty years hence can only be imagined.
I subtitled this diary with Paxton's phrase, "fascism in motion". An analysis of a temporal ideology requires a dynamic process. As the historian in 1950 sees fascistic ideology through the lens of Nazism, so must the historian in 2007 look through the lens of the past fifty years and beyond to determine the answer. Of course, the tool-set is different now for the fascist-want-to-be than it was in the 1930s and 40s. One major contribution to the tool-set is the Anglo-American development of the modern corporation and all it entails. That is a subject beyond the scope of this short diary, but, it is mentioned as an additional variable that would not have been available to Italy and Germany in the early Twentieth Century. The theory of the corporation has existed for centuries in one form or another, but, it is only with the work of Berle and Means, Coase, Easterbrook, Posner, and the Chicago School after World War II, that the corporation has such significance and power in people's lives and in their governments.
As a brief tangent, I wish to point the reader to a fascinating article in the recent issue of Law and Literature, titled, "Abu Ghraib and its Shadow Archives" published by The Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, by Joseph Pugliese. Professor Pugliese analyses the Abu Ghraib photographs through the lens of what he calls the 'neofascist codification of torture' and places the photographs not as simply an isolated event but as an indicator of something deeply-rooted in what I am referring to as Bushism.
I mention this as a third example of a style of analysis that is being applied to this issue: as his abstract states, I analyse those points of intersection between the genealogies of techno-political-military power and visual regimes of subjugation, mastery, violence and torture' I also mention it to show that the application of the term 'fascist' to 'Bushism' is no longer reserved to rabid Bush haters such as myself, but, to academics in various fields of research.
Is Bushism a fascistic ideology? Of course, my answer is 'yes', but, my answer isn't worth much, is it? It is, whether we like it or not, up to 'future historians' to answer that question with specificity. However, it is hoped that the reader realizes the worth of the analysis and the importance of doing one in this case. The Bush Crime Family and its ideology which for convenience I have called "Bushism" is a world-wide criminal enterprise with tentacles throughout several countries. The determination whether it is also based on a fascist ideology will not be made today, or next week, but, will concern historians for decades as they look backward through the death and destruction of people and principles during this period of Bushism.