THIS book is addressed to the thoughtful who are not frightened by new and unpopular terms and concepts. If liberal capitalism is doomed, a fight for a lost cause will impose on mankind the most futile sort of suffering. The British Mercantilist System of the 18th Century and the Southern Planter-Slavery System of the pre-industrial-revolution period each fought on American soil an utterly futile and foolish war to save what was doomed by the inevitable and irresistible trend of social changes. If the present system, or more particularly, those features of it which are challenged by current trends be doomed, the longer and harder the fight waged to preserve it, the greater will be the suffering and losses of the people. Assuming that the old system is doomed, the basic premise of this book and an assumption which current events surely render probable enough to be entertained as an hypothesis in exploratory thinking about the near future, What are the possible alternatives to ultimate social disintegration and chaos? Most intelligent observers of the changing scene, whatever their personal preferences and prejudices, are agreed that, in the event the present system is not soon made to work better, the alternatives fall into the broad classifications of fascism or communism.
Precise definition of these two terms, now on every one's lips, should give us little concern. Officially, communism is whatever the latest encyclical from Moscow says it is, while the fascism of every fascist country is whatever its authorized fascist exponents proclaim it to be. Actually, of course, terms like communism and fascism, just as terms like Christianity, Americanism, or due process of law, must mean many different and often mutually exclusive things to different people. It is always possible to sustain two or more sides to an argument about the precise meaning of terms which, in the nature of things, cannot have a fixed definition like that of an English yard or a French metre. Still, if we are to have intellectual discourse, we must use terms like Christianity, fascism, socialism and so forth, in the expectation that other parties to the discussion will accept such terms in the sense in which they have come to be currently used and in the broad and almost undefinable sense in which we accordingly use them. Naturally, if a party to the discussion refuses to accept a term in a sense acceptable to the other parties, discussion must end.
In the case of the term fascism as applied to a social scheme yet to be developed in this country or as a term applied to the mere advocacy of such a scheme, it should be clear that no argument about the correct use of the term fascism can now be settled by an appeal to authority. Certainly Signor Mussolini, Herr Hitler or an American college professor who has written a book against fascism cannot be appealed to as an authority to define what fascism for America would be like. Obviously the official definition given the coming American fascism will be that of its authorized party exponents. This definition is not likely to call the American fascism by that name. It is much more likely to include an emphatic denial that the, new American fascism is fascism. And it is fairly certain, if it follows the precedents of other important party platforms and propaganda, to say that the official American fascism, probably called by another name, is a great many things which it clearly is not.
This book is essentially one man's definition of what a desirable fascism, in his way of thinking, would be like. For obvious reasons, it cannot be a definition of the future American fascism, called by that or any other name. In discussing future social developments we can talk to some point about desirable and undesirable possibilities and probabilities. As these are largely matters of speculation and deduction from the limited field of the known to the unlimited field of the unknown and future unknowable, such discussions cannot deal in certainties nor can they to any good purpose give much time to questions of pure terminology respecting what admittedly lies still in the womb of time.
In this book, the system advanced is the thing, not the validity of the term used to describe or identify it. The reader is asked to remember that Italian fascism and German Nazism are not primarily the subjects of discussion. Correctly or incorrectly, the term fascism has come to identify in most people's minds many things and the general synthesis of ideas here advanced, all with exclusive reference to this country. The term, fascism, is therefore used chiefly as matter of intellectual integrity. I am fully aware and am incessantly being reminded that the term fascism is most unpopular at this time in the United States. I am also told that the thing itself is unthinkable in this country, an opinion which I find naive. Nothing could be more logical or in the best political tradition than for a type of fascism to be ushered into this country by leaders who are now vigorously denouncing fascism and repudiating all that it is understood to stand for. Dr. Arthur Rosenberg, a communist sympathizer if no longer a member of the Party, points out in his admirable History of Bolshevism (Page 98) that the motto of the Bolshevist Revolution was not "The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Down with Democracy!" but its exact contrary: "Long Live Democracy and Down with Dictatorship." The ideal fascism would be one which was honestly and truthfully presented to the people during its struggle for power. The fascism most to be feared is the fascism sailing under false colors. Such a type of fascism will be the worse for the duplicity of its leaders, and much of the blame will attach to those soft-thinking liberal leaders who have sought to make of fascism a synonym for all that is socially iniquitous instead of a descriptive for a rational and workable social scheme to which they happen to be opposed.
Both fascism and communism should be thought of as formulas of revolutionary social action for those of the underprivileged, dissatisfied and frustrated who have a will to power and a will, through the seizure and use of power, to change a situation they find intolerable, and, of course, to conserve a situation they find more satisfactory. Both fascism and communism are crisis formulas, that is to say, unlike formulas of liberal reform, neither has significance except in so far as it may have a chance of full realization as a new totalitarian or all-embracing social scheme. And, unlike liberal reform, neither has such a chance except in measure as the crisis of the existing system makes an entirely different system the alternative to chaos.
While fascism is to be thought of essentially as a formula for the frustrated in an extreme social crisis, it also has a strong appeal to many whose personal fortunes may still be far from desperate in such a crisis, as well as to national governments which may be interested more in conservation than further acquisition. Such persons, while moved by no feeling of frustration, still do not feel a zest for, or confidence in the outcome of, any fight to the finish under present world conditions between those in the house of want and those in the house of have. Interestingly enough, large numbers of extreme conservatives seem to share the understandable eagerness of the extreme communists for such a fray. The communists are entirely logical and loyal to self-interest in desiring and promoting wherever and whenever possible an intensification of class warfare. From it they have nothing to lose and, as a result of it, a chance to come to full power. The back-to-Hoover Republicans or back-to-Jefferson Democrats who would liquidate the New Deal or the back-to-liberalism British leaders who would liquidate fascism in international war stand only to lose by fighting those in the house of want, be they underprivileged nations seeking a place in the sun or the frustrated Elite in liberal countries seeking an escape from the consequences of indefinitely prolonged depression. It is little short of astounding to see how the liberals of Downing Street, Wall Street and the Quai d'Orsay have been welcoming the comradeship in sanctions and arms of communist Russia against fascist Italy. (The fountain head of liberalism in America is really Wall Street or the eastern plutocracy, with its endowed and kept agencies of liberal indoctrination, the leading colleges and metropolitan newspapers.) These moneyed liberals who are seeking to use communist Russia in a war against fascism are singularly blind to their own interests, since they can never be comrades of communists. The liquidation of fascism where it is in power could only mean the succession of communism, and that could only mean the liquidation before a firing squad of property owners. And it is not to be supposed by the liberals of England, France, or even the United States, that they would long be safe in a world half-communist. The fact, of course, is that the liberals and conservatives, really two terms for the same people nowadays, as a whole, are still not sufficiently worried over the implications of present trends or over the ability of the system to stage a come-back. To those still in the house of have who are worried and humanely disposed at the same time, fascism makes an appeal which communism cannot make. Fascism does not expropriate all property rights or effect a wholesale liquidation of the owning and managing classes of the present order. And fascism does not mean a dictatorship by the leaders of the Marxist parties, falsely called by the communists a dictatorship of the proletariat.
Fascism is being widely denounced by liberals in the house of have and by their paid propagandists in the United States as being irrational as well as wholly evil. This book is an undertaking to rationalize fascism before it becomes an accomplished fact in the United States. The point of view from which the subject is discussed is that wherever fascism has happened, there has been reason for its occurrence and that wherever it survives, there must be reason in its use of power. Whether one wishes to go with and try to guide an important social trend, the ruling motivation in the writing of this book, or whether one wishes to oppose the trend, one can only profit from an attempt to. understand it as a rational pattern of human behavior. It can serve no useful purpose, either of guidance or opposition, to pronounce fascism madness and fascists madmen.
As for the attempt to make fascism out to be a manifestation of mob madness or social irrationality, let it be borne in mind that fascism and communism, respectively, present a new social order, each with its own synthesis of values or ends and each with a highly rational scheme of social means to these ends. Each system of operating fascism and the Russian system of communism will be found to contain much that will be rejected by most Americans and much that would be inappropriate or down-right impracticable in this country. But it has to be recognized by any intelligent person that, so far as ends are concerned, the fascists know what they want, something which cannot be said of many liberal statesmen and something which is not rationally to be called a sign of insanity or irrationality. And, as for means to these ends, it can hardly be denied that fascism has had considerable success in fitting means to ends or in getting things done the way the leaders of action have willed. As much cannot be said of many liberal statesmen and as much cannot rationally be said of any one who is correctly defined as a lunatic or a moron.
Indeed, as to rationality, or fitness of means to ends, it has to be recognized that both fascism and communism are gigantic undertakings or adventures in what might be called sociological rationalization, corresponding to the sort of thing that has been carried so far in the advanced industrial nations in the fields of technology, having been given in Europe the name of industrial rationalization. Whether one starts out from the premise that the liberal ends, such as a chicken in every pot, equal justice under law, personal freedom, etc., etc., are well enough but that the social means to these ends are proving hopelessly ineffectual, or whether, like the communists, one starts out from the postulate that the ends of liberal capitalism are all wrong, the formula resulting from any thinking through of current problems of social ends and means is certain to be revolutionary. And in this fact resides the truth of the thesis of John Chamberlain's brilliant and inevitable "Farewell to Reform."
It seems likely that it will be as a radical program of sociological rationalization to bring our social machinery up to date or to make social and institutional means fit ends, that fascism will exercise a strong appeal in the United States. After many of our discontented and frustrated have experienced a few more disappointments with monetary schemes, economic specifics, and largesses of the public treasury to minority group interests, it is likely that they will see the logic of fascism as the only rationalized scheme of social means and ends, other than communism, which promises success. There can be but one refutation of the charge that the present system won't work and that is to make it work. Those who have been driven by the experiences of economic defeat and frustration to challenge the present system and seek a substitute cannot rationally be expected to respond to appeals to help make the system they are attacking work better. In other words, any rational discussion or analysis of fascism has to be conducted primarily from the point of view of the frustrated with a will to power and of those who feel neither able nor disposed to fight them and who also question the ability of the social order to buy them off indefinitely with government gifts financed by borrowing. Discussing fascism in other terms or from other points of view may faithfully and gratifyingly express one's own feeling about the matter but, so to relieve one's feelings about fascism will not throw much light on the logic of the situation as it must appear to those who will make an American fascism a reality, if it becomes a reality. And it is as a possible reality in the United States that fascism is most worth while discussing.