14 Warning Signs of Nothing in Particular
In 2003, an article appeared in the Secular Humanist magazine Free Inquiry titled “Fascism Anyone?”(editor’s note: this link requires a paid subscription to Free Inquiry, the full text can be found for free here) This article, which has since been attributed to a “Dr. Laurence Britt, political scientist/scholar,” detailed the “14 Warning Signs of Fascism” in an attempt to reduce Fascism to a set of commonly shared characteristics by which the determination could be made whether or not a given individual, movement, or government in our modern world was indeed Fascist, or on its way towards Fascism. And this article has proven largely successful, with Dr Laurence Britt being cited repeatedly across the internet in a variety of mediums along with his article in order to reveal the Fascism lurking in the wind, threatening to corrupt our very way of life and lead us all into ruin. But the question is, should this article about the so-called Warning Signs of Fascism really be given so much stock in its validity? This is the question I will be discussing here today, digging into the truth behind the man, the article and the “Warning Signs of Fascism.”
In order to do this, we must first begin with the man behind the Warning. The internet knows him as Dr. Laurence Britt, a political scholar who studied Fascism in great detail in order to bring us these signs of its impending return, citing such examples as Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Suharto’s Indonesia, Pinochet’s Chile and Papadopoulos’s Greece. But who is he really? A search of the internet reveals no “Doctor Laurence Britt, political scholar,” nor can any of his works be found aside from the 14 Warning Signs themselves. Does this man exist? As it turns out, yes and no. There is no “Dr. Laurence Britt, political scientist” and there never was. There is only Laurence Britt, former executive and author of a single book, who wrote the 14 Signs. Far from being anything resembling an expert on politics, much less Fascism specifically, Britt is a former corporate executive who worked for such corporations as Allied Chemical, Mobil and Xerox Corp and studied business at Northwestern University. Armed with this information, I was able to even find a comment made by Mr Britt himself on a blog regarding his original article and the case of mistaken identity:
“For your information I never made a claim that I was a “Dr.” Someone on the internet made that ASSUMPTION when they passed on the article. I am a retired businessman with a life long interest in history and current events. I have a personal book collection on these subjects of over 3000 volumes. I’ve contributed chapters to three books, written another and am working on a second. I’ve written approximately 25 magazine and newspaper articles on political and economic affairs. I spent about 200 hours researching the fascism article building on a lifetime interest in the subject. My novel, “June, 2004″ was written in 1997 and published in 1998. It was a fictional treatment of a future of fascism in America, which has turned out quite predictive of actual events since it was published.”
So, we have established that there is no Dr. Laurence Britt, only Laurence Britt, retired businessman. So what was the inspiration for his article? As it turns out, it was nothing more than a propaganda piece intended to serve as an argument claiming the Bush administration was in fact, Fascist and that it was a basis for his book “June 2004,” in which America descends into Fascism following the election of a strangely Bush-like far-right politician, a book which he maintains has been “quite predictive,” though one might have to actually care to read the book to determine whether or not this is true.
At this point, there will doubtlessly be those who argue that regardless of his lack of scholarly credentials, or the fact that the Warning Signs were nothing more than an argument against Bush and the wider GOP, his original article published in the non-peer reviewed Secular Humanist magazine Free Inquiry still holds true, that these are accurate characteristics of Fascism and maybe Bush was just a Fascist after all. And with this, we come to the second part of this paper. Beyond determining the truth behind Britt himself and his qualifications for determining characteristics of Fascism, my purpose is to address the article itself and its validity in determining whether something is or is not Fascist. To this end, I will address the basis of the article itself, Britt’s research into Fascism and then take on each “Warning Sign” point by point.
Does the article “Fascism, Anyone?” actually address historic cases of Fascism in proposing the 14 Warning Signs? Remember, the claim was made that the article was the result of studying Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, Franco‘s Spain, Salazar‘s Portugal, Suharto‘s Indonesia, Pinochet‘s Chile and Papadopoulos‘s Greece (though, in fairness, some articles leave out mention of Salazar and Papadopoulos). But are these accurate examples of Fascist manifestations across the world? As it turns out, the answer is both yes and no. No one can really doubt the validity of including Mussolini and Hitler in this list, as these two figures and their respective movements heralded the birth of Fascism as a global ideology. The situation with Franco is more muddled: While Falangism is a legitimate Fascist movement, there are those who argue Franco simply hijacked the movement and after obtaining power marginalized the Party’s Fascist elements and moved away from the ideological platform (even leading to former party leaders splitting away and forming their own movements that more closely adhered to the core principles of Falangism). Yet, for the purpose of this article we will not discount Franco, as he was still a part of a real-world Fascist movement and even marginalized the Fascists within the party had influence in Spain (even if Fascism itself was not achieved).
But what of our other four, lesser known individuals who were scrutinized by Britt? Out of the four, only one can be said to be a legitimate Fascist, Colonel George Papadopoulos, who was a part of the Neo-Nazi movements following World War II and modeled his own movement after the success of core Fascist regimes. But none of the others (Pinochet, Suharto and Salazar) can be said to belong to the same category. Rather, these men belong to a group of pseudo-populist despots that fall into the category of “Para-Fascist,” and they share this illustrious category with the likes of Saddam Hussein, Ferdinand Marcos and Engelbert Dollfuss. Such regimes certainly display ultra-nationalism, but lack the call for a national rebirth found in the palingenetic nationalism of Fascism. Further, they often diverged significantly from core Fascist social, political and economic thought and policy. While such movements were more than happy to borrow Neo-Fascist elements, they were distinct from core Fascism and could best be considered a separate, anti-Communist set of ideologies with a focus on ultra-nationalism, authoritarianism and traditionalism.
So with this in mind, what of the “Warning Signs” themselves? Despite Britt’s lack of academic credentials, his partisan allegiances and his inclusion of non-Fascist movements, do the Signs point towards Fascism? This is what we will spend the remainder of this article determining as we go point-by-point and address each “Warning Sign” and compare it to Fascism, not only the core theory and works of literature, but also historical examples, including those which Britt overlooked in his zeal to paint the GOP as “Fascist” warmongers.
Spoiler: For those who do not wish to join me in addressing the individual “Warning Signs,” the answer is a solid No. Each of the “Warning Signs” tend to fall into one of two categories: characteristics which are common to most movements and governments regardless of place on the political spectrum (and thus are useless in identifying a specific ideology), or else characteristics that were sectarian in examples, but applied broadly to all Fascist thought regardless of accuracy. For those who wish for a more in-depth look at each point, please continue reading.
The First Sign: Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
At first glance, this Sign is completely true. Fascism is known for being an ultra-nationalistic ideology that calls on each and every citizen to place the needs of the nation before themselves and exalts national service as the highest glory one should strive for. But just how accurate is this broad stroke? Britt goes on to clarify “Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism” as being:
“the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy… Catchy slogans, pride in the military and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.”
- The qualities listed as being a sign of powerful nationalism, such as the prominent display of flags, patriotic slogans, pride in the military, demands for national unity, etc, are incredibly common to any country with a strong national identity. Indeed, you will find these qualities not only in Fascist regimes, but also in modern America, Mexico, much of Europe, many South American and African nations, Russia, China, Japan and numerous other first and third world countries. You will also find them in virtually all of the nations which stood opposed to Fascism in WWII. As such, this Warning Sign as written by Britt himself is completely useless in determining Fascism, as these “powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism” are generally more common than they are not in any nation with a flag.
- Britt seems to have ignored (or missed) the fact that while Fascism is ultra-nationalism, it is specifically a form of palingenetic ultra-nationalism. For those not familiar with the term, “Palingenetic Ultra-Nationalism” means that one of the key elements of Fascism is the idea of a national rebirth, that nothing short of a national revolution and a re-discovery of their identity is needed to revitalize the people of the nation who have become disillusioned with traditional politics in order to secure a brighter future under Fascism, by which the nation and its people will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of a degenerate State and the social, economic and politic ills plaguing them. It is this notion of a national rebirth that sets Fascism apart from other nationalist ideologies, as well as the Para-Fascist examples cited by Britt in his original article. Without this element of palingenesis, there simply can be no Fascism regardless of how superficially similar the movements seem.
The Second Sign: Disdain for the importance of human rights
This is an excellent example of a knee-jerk statement intended to garner an emotional reaction. After all, how often do we hear about how terrible this or that movement or government is because of their “Disdain for Human Rights?” We even have an international standard for “Human Rights,” where we can see where country’s score on the index in relation to one another. But, how does this work as an identifier for Fascism? Britt goes on to explain that this means Fascism “viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted.” So, is this accurate in describing Fascism? As it turns out, not entirely.
First, the ancient world held no notion of “Universal Human Rights” and indeed the first international treaty on the subject was not passed until after WWII, in direct relation to Fascism. While it is easy to claim Fascism held a disdain for “Human Rights” by pointing to its violations of this standard, it is important to remember that the concept of “Human Rights” is quite literally Anti-Fascist in nature. It was Fascism itself that is seen as giving rise to the need for an international standard of “Human Rights” and the initial violations of these rights were modeled on the negative aspects of Fascist regimes themselves. In essence, the initial “Human Rights” movement opposed everything Fascist and this anti-Fascist mentality became the cornerstone of the movement. As such, claiming Fascism holds a disdain for “Human Rights” based on historical manifestations and the current standard of “Human Rights” is intellectually the equivalent of placing the cart before the horse. Fascism predated our modern standard of “Human Rights.” Thus, as a Warning Sign this characteristic falls short. We also find that a “Disdain for Human Rights” is a common characteristic of any “bad” movement, government or people, regardless of their exact ideology or relation to Fascism.
Second, the Fascist view on Human Rights is not an overly complex one, nor is it as black and white as Britt has attempted to make it out to be. Fascism does not seek to restrict the rights of men, but rather bring the State back into its proper role in the nation and society and in doing so opposes certain Liberal and Socialist values that people claim to be “Rights.” In general this involves removing so-called “rights” rooted in little other than destructive individualism which allow one man to cause harm or trouble to another man. Such as how Socialists in Italy organized strikes without popular support, causing wide-spread problems for those Italians who did not support Socialism and wished to continue working, but could not do so due to the actions of the Socialists and thus had no money with which to feed their families.
A common notion in Fascism regarding rights is that of “Liberty in Private, Obligation in Public Life.” The Fascist holds that in private a man or woman has the Liberty to act as they choose so long as they harm no one or violate the rights of another, but in public one has the obligation to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate of a member of the State and as such recognize that the needs of the many may outweigh their individual desires. To this end, Fascism supports those Rights which do not give one man the ability to cause harm to himself, others or the State, while removing those which are considered destructive. Like most, Fascists are quite concerned with the rights of the people and its nation. They just do not agree with the notion of “universal human rights,” nor do they believe the conditions of one people are necessarily the problem of another.
To the Fascist, Economic Freedom is a right to strive for, not the ability to attack people and slander them or orchestrate large-scale social disturbances which negatively impact hundreds or even thousands of other people who want nothing to do with it. While this is not to say that no Fascist regime has ever been guilty of blatant abuse against its people (Greece and Germany stand as leading examples of “human rights” abuse), it is hardly a universal characteristic in the manifestation or the theory of Fascism and examples brought up are in most cases no worse than the numerous “Human Rights” abuses demonstrated by ancient nations, nations fighting Fascism and modern Liberal nations today.
The Third Sign: Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause
If there was ever a Warning Sign of human nature, this is it right here. Britt says:
“The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective.”
In reality this is the most significant common thread among politics in general, regardless of ideology or nation. Just look at modern America. Politicians make careers and win elections by doing just this. The engage in scapegoating to divert attention from failure, shift blame and get the voters riled up. This is repeated in the politics of most nations you care to name. As a “Warning Sign of Fascism,” it is as useless as the display of flags and national mottoes. But how does this trend compare to Fascism itself?
Perhaps the greatest examples of the sort of scapegoating Britt is referring to in Fascism is Nazi Germany’s persecution of the Jewish people and Neo-Fascist Greece’s accusations of a Communist conspiracy within the nation and government. But are these typical of Fascist thought? No, aside from these two examples, Fascist regimes and movements have not engaged in any more scapegoating than their Liberal or Socialist counterparts (less, in some cases), In fact, we more commonly see Fascism laying the blame at the feet of current political and social organization rather than a specific group in general or at the people of the nation themselves who allowed themselves to be herded like cattle into the current state of degenerate affairs. You are far more likely to hear a serious critique from a Fascist regarding the dangers of Parliamentary Democracy, Free Trade Capitalism or Multiculturalism, than you are to hear them lay the blame for society’s troubles on a particular group of people as is so often claimed.
##### The Fourth Sign: The supremacy of the military/avid militarism
Britt, of course, clarifies that:
“Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.”
But is this true? No one would deny the importance of militarism in Fascism, that the social elite often came from this group or that military service was seen as an expression of one’s loyalty to their nation. But is this unique to Fascism? Not at all. It is in fact another common thread in the First World and beyond. Indeed Britt claims that the purpose of the military (to be “used whenever possible to assert national goals”) is itself a sign of Fascism, despite this being a common characteristic of militaries the world over both prior to and following the Rise and Fall of Fascism and including the military powers that once fought against Fascism.
But perhaps Fascism was remarkable in focusing on the military at the expense of domestic needs? Once more, the answer comes out to a solid no. Virtually no Fascist movement focused on the military at the expense of the needs of the people, quite the opposite. Mussolini focused on repairing Italy’s economy, addressing its rampant educational and crime problems and creating strong social programs before he turned his attention to the military (indeed, he was so focused on these problems that his military was unprepared for the outbreak of WWII). The Germans had a thriving domestic scene to compliment their war machine, complete with social entertainment programs, welfare, free healthcare and a myriad of labor and production programs to ensure the needs of the people were met. Franco began immediately focusing on economic endeavors and eschewed the need for a military focus by instituting isolationist polities and using diplomacy to avoid conflict rather than force of arms. The focus of Greece’s Military Junta was not military power, but a series of programs meant to revitalize the nation’s economy and culture. Even Fascist movements that never realized success followed this trend. Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union talked very little about the need for increased military power, but wrote volumes on the need for drastic domestic change in order to realize economic freedom in the UK.
The Fifth Sign: Rampant sexism
Britt goes on to paint a picture of Fascism that was oppressive towards anyone who was not a cis-gendered male, claiming that
“Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.”
Once again we see the cognitive dishonesty of the author of the “Warning Signs” in his statements here. For example, he claims rampant sexism to be a “Warning Sign” of Fascism and one of the qualifiers for this “rampant sexism” is “The simple fact that the political elite and national culture were male-dominated,” when this would mean that the very powers standing opposed to Fascism themselves displayed such “rampant sexism” and still do. In this sense, Fascism was no different from its contemporary counterparts, as the world in general at the time was male-dominated and Fascist regimes were hardly unique in this sense. He also claims that women were treated as second-class citizens, which is not universally true. While we saw the exclusion of women from politics and positions of power in many Fascist movements, most notably Falangism, this is not a universal quality of Fascism.
In Italy women were granted universal suffrage, educated, encouraged to join the work force and even given their own sporting league. In Germany women held an exalted position as the glue that binds society together. English women sent to Germany prior to WWII to finish their educations would remark about how much better treated women were in Germany compared to the UK, prompting many of them to remain in Germany. In Britain, Mosley and his British Union even advocated the creation of a specific branch of the government, as part of their policy of National Syndicalism, which had no purpose other than to see to the needs and the interests of women, especially unemployed mothers and to ensure they received proper representation and were not excluded from politics. While it is true that Fascism preferred defined gender roles, this did not lead to women being treated as second class citizens, but rather a division of responsibilities by which men and women each had their parts to play in the survival of their nation and people.
By this same note, Fascism’s position on abortion or homosexuality were hardly unique for their time, or even unique in our modern world. Indeed their attitudes were mirrored by America and most of Europe. In fact, these attitudes are not at all inherent to Fascism. The opposition to abortion was most often to prevent the needless killing of healthy children who would grow up to serve their people and most regimes in fact supported abortion for eugenic purposes, especially in regards to inheritable disabilities and diseases. The exact stance regarding abortion varied movement to movement. On a similar note, Fascism has had a complex relationship with homosexuality. Despite enacting laws against it regularly (on the basis that homosexuality was dangerous as a biological and cultural trend), many Fascists were in favor of homosexual rights. Some prominent Nazi officials were homosexual, such as Adolf Hitler’s close friend and ally Ernst Rohm (who was killed on the Night of the Long Knives not due to his sexual preferences, but rather because of his support of the Strasserites in implementing a Second Revolution).
The Sixth Sign: A controlled mass media
In describing a “Controlled Mass Media” as “the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism and implied threats.” Britt has once again described a characteristic common to governments everywhere, both authoritarian and not so authoritarian. Even his further comment, “The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite,” only goes so far as to demonstrate common trends in modern politics. In this sense, as he describes it, a controlled mass media is not unique and it is hardly uncommon at all. Indeed, most of the world’s media today would be considered controlled according to these standards and it is these media outlets that modern Fascists are highly critical of. An excellent (and ironic) example would be the mass media of Greece, which today is effectively controlled through many of these methods in order to suppress information regarding the Golden Dawn (A genuinely Fascist movement) and to spread disinformation regarding them and their actions. Once more, we are left with a “Warning Sign” that is so ridiculously common in our modern world that it is completely useless in identifying anything, much less Fascism.
The Seventh Sign: Obsession with national security
At first glance, this Sign is similar to the “powerful nationalism” addressed in the first point, in that it appears to be completely true. After all, Fascist leaders and figures are well-documented in their desire to strengthen the security of their nations and their people. But, who is not? This “Warning Sign” again becomes a “Warning Sign” of nothing other than the nature of government, which by its very definition obsesses over national security as one of its functions. To be fair, Britt does explain this obsession as going beyond the usual call for increased funding and bombing terrorists:
“Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.”
But even then it falls short of being a unique characteristic of Fascism as it remains common to most successful governments in First World nations. There is not a First World nation that comes immediately to mind which has not dealt with a scandal regarding excessive and secretive powers in the name of national security. Contemporary opponents of Fascism have made use of these methods to see to their own national security. While this Sign is true of Fascism, it also remains true of virtually any government and thus remains worthless.
Fascism does exceed most governments in its call for national security, but not in the way Britt claims. Rather, it focuses on cultural and domestic aspects as well, instead of simply looking at outside threats and military/government issues. Fascism recognizes things such as multiculturalism, economic and political dependence on foreign powers and foreign participation in our politics as threats to our national security and worth being dealt with, though solutions that rely on the people themselves standing up are preferred to secretive operations in the shadows.
The Eighth Sign: Religion and ruling elite tied together
Again we see the cognitive dishonesty in Britt’s claims, specifically that “most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion.” This is untrue of Fascism in general, though it does hold true to a specific variety of Fascism known as Clerico-Fascism, or ideologies which combine political and socioeconomic doctrines of Fascism with theology or religious tradition. The best example of this would be Franco’s Spain, in which Falangism was merged with Catholic Traditionalism. It also includes the Iron Guard movement in Romania, as well as Ba’athism. For the majority of Fascist movements, however, religion was generally regarded as a non-issue. In Italy Fascism promoted contempt for organized religion, instead viewing Fascism itself as a sort of new religion for the 20th century. In Germany, we saw appeals to Christianity, but even then organized religion was distrusted and Nazi officials were known to have open admiration for Muslims and the religion of Islam. Other movements, such as the British Union, openly advocated a hardline separation of Church and State, with Mosley declaring that Fascism was concerned with matters of the nation and not with matters of religion.
Regardless of whether it is true for certain sects of Fascist thought, however, this Sign remains as useless as the others. The merging of religion with political power has been going on since the dawn of organized religion and indeed it is hard to find a politician these days of any ideology who does not express allegiance to a particular religion.
The Ninth Sign: Power of corporations protected
For those familiar with politics, this Sign immediately brings to mind the fake Mussolini quote regarding Fascism being the merger of corporate and state power (a quote which did not appear until 60 years after the death of the Italian Fascist himself and was made famous in a book by an American Conspiracy Theorist who claimed 9/11 was an inside job by Big Oil companies) and Britt’s explanation does little to dispel the similarity. He says:
“Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised… Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of ‘have-not’ citizens.”
This again remains untrue and displays a lack of knowledge regarding Fascist history and thought. In Italy, we saw industry leaders come under the direction of the Fascist government, with little ability to operate freely as the government decided what was produced, how it was distributed and how much these industrial leaders were paid as a result. Indeed, research into Italian records from the era show that the industrial leaders were growing increasingly resentful of their lack of power and were beginning to mount resistance to Fascism in Italy. In Spain, Capitalism and capitalist firms were largely dismantled as Franco sought to move the nation towards a Syndicated economy. The BUF under Mosley advocated the complete removal of the modern business model, with private corporations to be replaced by worker-and-manager operated public corporations. Perhaps the only reliable example of the sort of collaboration discussed by Britt was in Germany as Hitler consolidated power with the industrial leaders and allowed them to maintain their wealth and power. This move led to widespread loss of support by the party itself, with those such as Strasser calling Hitler a traitor to the ideology of National Socialism and calling for a Second Revolution to completely abolish capitalism. All in all, this particular Sign is an example of Britt applying isolated incidences (Such as Hitler betraying the working class for personal gain) to the whole of Fascism, even where it was not and could not have been true, especially in nations such as Italy and Spain where the bourgeois lifestyle led by the economic elite was considered degenerate and anti-patriotic and relentlessly attacked.
In a sense Fascism did protect the power of corporations, but once more not in the capitalistic manner suggested by Britt. This stems from the misconceptions regarding Fascist economics, also known as Fascist Corporatism, which sought to bring about a “Corporate State.” Fascist Corporatism calls for the inclusion of “corporate power” into the government for the formation of such a State in the form of National Corporations/Syndicates which were formed from citizens of united economic, social, or political interests in order to represent themselves and determine public policy in their areas of expertise. Fascism claimed that this Corporatism was the most beneficial form of Democracy to any Nation or State and a far cry from the idea of a nation ruled by capitalist-corporate interests that usually is associated with claims of corporatism (For those interested, the ideas behind Fascist Corporatism are best described in Alexander Raven Thomson’s “The Coming Corporate State”).
The Tenth Sign: Power of labor suppressed or eliminated
This has become one of the rallying cries of Socialists and Communists against Fascism, that Fascism is responsible for the suppression of labor power in nations where it comes about, often referring to quotes by Hitler regarding the destruction of labor unions. Britt himself adds to this, saying “organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.” But once more, is this true? No, it is not and we will address it in two parts.
- Britt claims that Fascism feared the power of organized labor, but this is patently false in the face of Fascist economic theory. As we discussed on the previous point, Fascist Economics called for the creation of a Corporate State by which all labor held a voice in determining national policy and production. Thomson, Sir Oswald Mosley’s chief ideologue, describes Fascist economics as leading to a corporate state in which all workers are members of industrial unions and these unions directly represent the interests of the workers in the overall national corporations. In Italy, we saw the creation and expansion of trade unions, as well as the passing of the Charter of Labour, which cemented the rights of workers in Fascism, as well as the responsibilities of employers to them. In Germany, we saw independent and often socialist trade unions replaced by the German Labour Front, which ensured the employment and rights of all workers in Germany (though most will agree it would have been better had Hitler not collaborated with industrialists). In Spain, we saw the creation of syndicated work forces by which production was largely worker-controlled (the political environment which in fact gave rise to the Mondragon Corporation, one of the largest worker operated and owned businesses in the world). Organized labor has been a central aspect of Fascist thought since its conception and Fascism indeed is considered by its adherents to be a proletariat movement. While these measures shown were not perfect, especially considering the external and internal pressures facing Fascist governments, they demonstrate that the power of labor was exalted, not suppressed, in Fascism.
- Britt also claims that in Fascist societies, being poor was viewed with suspicion or contempt and was akin to being a vice. But, as we just explained, this does not fit with the Fascist narrative. Indeed, the proletariat working class was heralded as being the heroes of the nation, being those responsible for virtually all production and provisions enjoyed by the rest of the nation. In all manner of Fascist nations we saw immediate social programs aimed at lightening the economic load felt by the poor, as well as increasing their benefits so that they might better enjoy the fruits of their labor. In Italy and Germany, we saw “upper class culture” being dismissed as un-Fascist and the poor were seen as the real backbone of the nation. In Italy, the Fascist party actively encouraged the people to adopt anti-bourgeois attitudes and ordered the suspension of bourgeois culture, encouraging the people to reject such things as going to nightclubs, drinking coffee, engaging in social games, wearing formal evening dress, starching collars, riding first class on trains and rejecting the stock exchange, all of which were seen as characteristics of the bourgeois class who had chosen private gain over national victory. In Germany, the common man was heralded as the hero of the Fatherland and indeed the goal of Fascists such as Strasser was to spread the means of production as wide as possible among all of the people so that it would be the common man who was to benefit from it. Even under Hitler, we saw the creation and expansion of social programs to help the poor and they were openly described as being the core of Germany, not looked upon and treated with contempt. This theme is repeated throughout Fascism and demonstrates once more that Britt poorly understands the relation between Fascism and Labor, both historically and in theory.
The Eleventh Sign: Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
“Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.”
This is, according to Mr Britt, the leading theme behind this particular Warning Sign. And in many ways, he is more accurate here than with his other signs (though I for one am inclined to believe this is a matter of accident, not a sudden case of honesty on his part). Fascism indeed did hold that intellectualism and art that did not serve national interests did not have a right to exist, though this is a common tenet within Fascism itself, that there can be nothing without or outside of the State. Intellectualism in many cases also served as a threat in the form of spreading counter-revolutionary ideas that threatened the Fascist State, but even in this case this hardly makes Fascism unique. Just look at modern America, where it has recently come to light that Progressives in academia have been systematically rejecting and suppressing the intellectual works of their more Conservative counterparts. Fascism also is not unique in its attacking and silencing unorthodox ideas. After all, it is considered taboo in modern society to even suggest a candid investigation into such things as a scientific basis for Race and any Communist will tell you that “Anti-Communist” ideas must be suppressed in order for Communism to succeed. So, despite the accidental accuracy of this Warning Sign, it remains like the others useless in identifying Fascism as it remains a common quality to politics in general.
The Twelfth Sign: Obsession with crime and punishment
At first glance, this like many appears to be an accurate Warning Sign. After all, one of the first things Mussolini focused on was the rampant crime and drug problem in Italy, focusing his efforts on removing the Mafia from economic and political power. But is Britt’s assessment anymore accurate than the rest of the Signs themselves? He describes an obsession with crime and punishment as “Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations.”, as well as discussing the glorification of the police with unchecked power and a fear or hatred of “Criminals” and “Traitors” being used to scare the population into giving the regime greater political power. Is this a common trait in Fascism, or unique to Fascism? Yes and no.
Fascism was indeed preoccupied with crime and often instituted harsh sentences for many criminal offenses, but this was in reality a reaction to the rampant social and political problems associated with crime affecting their nations and in this sense their reactions were hardly unique, or even excessive. Any number of Third World nations fit this qualifier for Fascism due to extreme reactions to extreme problems, as have many First World nations. Many countries in Europe, such as Germany, have instituted laws regarding “hate speech” and some quite frankly “draconian” sentences for such offensive criminal actions and such measures are regularly used by mainstream political parties in order to silence more extreme opposition, such as the Liberal government of Greece trying to brand the Golden Dawn a criminal organization in an attempt to strip it of power and support among the people, or political parties in France calling for Far-Right political parties with similarities to Nazism to be banned following the death of an anti-Fascist who picked a fight that got him killed. Indeed, this is shaping up to be another “too common” Warning Sign. There are few, if any, truly civilized First World nations this day which do not meet this qualifier for Fascism. While modern Fascists do advocate a hard stance on crime and punishment, opposing such notions as criminals must be reformed and treated with special care, the idea of a rampant Fascist judicial system which stands out in its cruelty is unwarranted.
The Thirteenth Sign: Rampant cronyism and corruption
Another common criticism of Fascism regimes and movements is the notion of corruption, that the movement only serves as a means to an end for a wealthy elite, many Communists going as far as to claim Fascism is the “Last defense of a capitalist state”. Britt himself says that “Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism.” In light of the results of the previous signs, should we expect this to be true? The answer once more is no.
While it is no secret that many people became rich as a result of the rise of Fascism, many of these instances are not the result of corruption or favoritism, but rather individuals with the means stepping forward to serve national interests in the economy or society. A core concept of Fascism is “No reward without service” and those who serve the nation and its interests are rewarded for their efforts. In this way, many people earned for themselves comfortable lives and detractors of Fascism have since attempted to label them as the result of corruption, insinuating that it is impossible for these men and women to have gained their rewards through effort and service, rather than having it handed to them by a corrupt government. As we have already discussed in previous Signs, there is little if any evidence of collaboration between business elites and Fascist governments in historical Fascist regimes, the main exception being Nazi Germany following Hitler’s consolidation of power. But even then, this Sign remains firmly as one of Britt’s attempts to apply isolated incidences to the whole of Fascism as a broad criticism.
It is important to note that the rampant cronyism and corruption present in liberal economies has long been one of the primary points of criticism for Fascists attacking other systems, as the system described here by Britt is not one of Fascist design, but rather a dead-ringer for what Mussolini described as “Supercapitalism,” the corruption and decay of “heroic capitalism” and the eventual end of all Liberal States. Despite Britt’s claims that this is what Fascism brought about, it is in fact everything Fascists fought against and sought to purge from their own societies, which contributes to the special animosity felt by many at Hitler’s betrayal of National Socialist ideals.
The Fourteenth Sign: Fraudulent elections
As Britt describes it, Fraudulent Elections means “maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.” and it immediately becomes visible as yet another trait common to corruption in general and hardly unique to Fascism. While it is true that numerous Fascist regimes have made use of these qualities and that is a black mark on past Fascist regimes, to claim this behavior is limited to Fascism, or even descriptive of Fascism itself, would be a serious error as this sort of behavior can be observed as a result of corruption and dirty politics in any ideology or country. Even today, Progressive and Conservatives accuse one another of these very tactics and it is a scene mirrored the world around. One can certainly argue that such fraudulent elections are symptomatic of corruption within politics certainly, but not that it is a unique quality of Fascism that can be used to accurately identify Fascist individuals, governments, or movements. But then, that has been the general idea behind most of the Warning Signs, has it not?
And there you have it folks, the infamous Warning Signs of Fascism dissected, addressed and ultimately dismissed as nothing more than a partisan’s attempt to create a broad set of negative characteristics he can loosely associate to Fascism in order to discredit those he considers his political opponents. Considering the current state of the modern world and what passes for “politics,” this revelation should hardly come as a great surprise as we are confronted by such individuals and their arguments every day online, on television and even in person as we go about our daily lives. Due to the nature of those who would believe the ramblings of these individuals, some things like the Warning Signs receive more attention and due to the common idea that the more people on the bandwagon the more true it must be, are viewed as being somehow more legitimate and the credentials of those who wrote them are exaggerated more and more. However, even the most widely accepted of such arguments cannot stand an in-depth investigation and analysis of their contents and are revealed as nothing more than the elaborate partisan dogma we are assaulted with each and every day.