Lawrence Dennis
The Coming of American Fascism



IT Is hoped that the discussion of the preceding eight chapters leaves the larger question of the workability of the liberal capitalist system as well answered in the negative as it can reasonably be expected that such a question could be answered in a few chapters and in advance of the only conclusive verdict, that of history. After all, the unworkability of the present system is only a premise or a hypothesis which, in the light of current events, seems to have strong probabilities of being proved entirely correct by future events. It is a necessary premise for the building of a successor system, without which we shall be badly off if, and as, the proofs of the unworkability of liberal capitalism continue to accumulate.

Assuming, then, as proved sufficiently for our purpose, the proposition that liberal capitalism is unworkable, or that it no longer meets satisfactorily the imperatives of public order in the present situation, What are the order imperatives to be met by a successor system? and, What are the probable choices in the development of a successor system?

No one idea or principle can be called central or paramount in any enterprise as vast as that of erecting a new civilization on the ruins of an old one. But, for the purpose of making a quick intellectual approach to this enterprise, as a present day undertaking, no word could carry the mind farther than that of planning.

Social planning is the outstanding imperative of public order and material abundance in the present day and in the near future. Of course, nothing makes it certain that the world will enjoy order and abundance in the coming era. Wells and Spengler see chaos ahead. Fascism sees no inevitable millennium but merely says, "Given existing conditions in the leading capitalist countries, here is a formula for order and abundance which can be made to work and which most people can be made to like."

As for the questions, "What is fascist planning?" or "What is the fascist plan?" it must be answered that whatever fascism, or the modern executive state, becomes and does, in any given country and period, results from a combination of the requirements for successful management of the productive and cultural factors, from the ideal of a social scheme cherished by the leaders of the discontented elite who seize political power and, of course, from the play of the innumerable and complex factors of the world situation. This is why one cannot express the fascist scheme in the language either of liberalism, or communism, or any other system based on the assumption that it possesses a monopoly of absolute truth.

The liberal scheme rests on the ideology of supposedly eternal and absolute truths. These truths are but verbalisms, like equality before the law, freedom of contract, democratic selfgovernment, fair competition, just compensation, and so on. They sound impressive to the masses, who cannot possibly explain what these verbalisms mean in terms which harmonize the official definitions with the definitions furnished by daily experience.

The fascist scheme of things is an expression of human will which creates its own truths and values from day to day to suit its changing purposes. The logic of liberalism is that of organizing and conducting society according to revelation. Before the French Revolution and the conquest of English puritan liberalism by late 18th century Continental rationalism, truth was supposed to be revealed by God. Since Rousseau and Tom Paine, truth has been supposed to be revealed by reason. Whereas the medium of God was one's conscience if one was a Protestant, and God's vicar on earth if one was a Roman Catholic, the medium of reason in the American liberal commonwealth has been supposed to be the courts. Like the priests of the ancient cults who were ready to say, what God or the oracle revealed, the American courts are supposed to be ready to say what the Constitution and reason reveal through them to the human mind at large. If five of the nine judges agree on the revelation, that makes it binding.

Fascism, on the other hand, starts out from a situation of fact and a human will to do something about it, whether to alter it or to preserve it. As a triumphant force, fascism is essentially an expression of the human will reacting to the changing situations of life in the eternal struggle for existence. Like all forces which are revolutionary in their beginning, it starts out as an expression of the human will to change a given situation to some other desired pattern. Truth, right, justice, and reason are whatever serves the fulfillment of this purpose.

It may be said that the fascist plan is what the people want or what the leaders want. But it must be said that fascist planning is the way to get it. Fascism triumphs because it is, among other things, a formula of fulfillment, which people are happy to turn to from the liberal formulas of defeat, frustration, and inhibition both of governmental and private initiatives-in the fast crystallizing post-War situation. Liberalism today means millions of individuals who cannot do anything about some of their most vital personal problems, such as finding work and a place in the scheme of things--they can no longer go west or migrate-and governments which, because of legal and customary inhibitions, cannot do anything adequate about these great social maladjustments. Fascism may do the wrong things but it is not inhibited from doing anything. The chief plank in the social or political platform of most of the conservatives today can be summed up in the one word inhibition--inhibition of government, inhibition of the underprivileged, inhibition of anything in the nature of a vital plan of a nation.

To talk fascism, communism, or 19th century liberalism, of course, is to talk a different language in each case. For that reason many people will have difficulty in understanding this book, which does not reason from many customary assumptions. It is written in the sanguine hope that a few people will be able to understand the language of a system of concepts and purposes which, though different from that of their early mental formation, is not in conflict with their fundamental interests. The usual tendency of the mind in this respect is to try to reduce the content of another ideological system, like liberalism, fascism or communism, to the language of one's own system. When this tendency is not successfully repressed, the values of one system get transmuted, by the processes of translation into another language, from virtues to vices, from nationalities to monstrosities.

Thus, in the language of communism, a small storekeeper, or a farmer hiring a few helpers and working twelve or fourteen hours a day to make a pitiful living and raise a family, is a dirty bourgeois or capitalist oppressor. And, of course, the liberal prints these days are full of choice and violent epithets for things and personalities fascist or communist. What fascists regard as an ennobling love of country, translated into the liberal language becomes mass hysteria. What fascists cherish as social discipline, translated into the liberal language becomes tyranny--and so it goes.

Two simple but profound and fundamental notions are essential to any understanding of planning, or fascism, or communism, as well as to the formulation of any new social system. The first notion is that any social system represents a given scheme or hierarchy of ultimate values, or group and personal objectives, the upholding of which is one of the chief duties of man, the State, and social institutions generally. The second notion is that these ultimate values cannot be validated by the processes of logic or by reason. These two notions are especially important in connection with planning, because the important choices to be made lie mostly in the field of ultimate values, or of ends rather than means.

Contrary to much of the current misrepresentation both of fascism and communism, there is, in the matter of techniques or the choice of means, little difference between liberalism, fascism, and communism. This is true because similar tasks, when undertaken in similar situations and against similar obstacles, are pursued under liberalism, fascism, or communism with similar means, techniques, or policies.

The liberal states in time of peace are free of many of the repressive measures of fascism and communism. But, in time of war, they use quite similar measures, and fascist and communist revolutions are distinctly war phases, just as the English, American and French Revolutions were war phases of an emerging liberalism. The liberal revolutions are over--so is liberalism: Cromwells no longer behead kings and sack Dublins, and the guillotine is no longer working out on the public squares of Paris the liberal ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The fascist and communist revolutions, however, are still in course, which does make a difference.

It will be found that the techniques of an American, Russian, Italian or German steel-mill foreman, bridge builder, machine-gun company commander, or army air-bomber will vary intentionally very little where the task is similar. These differences, more imaginary than real, are quite like the differences between German and other brands of militarism during the War. The one differs from the other chiefly in that the one is a little more or less efficient. Before the American army went into the trenches in 1917, our officers attended British and French schools in trench warfare, gas warfare, tank warfare and bayonet drill. It never occurred to any sane American to suggest that we show the Germans good American fighting methods of the days of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, or Grant and Lee. The fact that we may have to follow in the present crisis certain European precedents in economic planning, just as we followed European experience in loth century warfare, will merely indicate that certain European nations got into the economic crisis ahead of us, just as they got into the late World War before us.

Today one may almost say that there are no peculiarly American or European methods of social or political management. There are just good and bad methods, or apt and inept methods, or modern and obsolete methods. There is nothing in the American tradition to warrant the conclusion that, in meeting the challenge of new conditions, the American way is inept instead of apt, or obsolete instead of modern. In the social or political field we have some vigorous defenders of the obsolete against the up-to-date, but, influential as many of these defenders are, they will have a hard time proving by events that good Americanism consists in being behind the times. America cannot forever remain 17th and 18th century in its law, and political and social theory and practice, while moving in the vanguard of 20th century technological progress. The defenders of 18th century Americanism are doomed to become the laughing stock of their own countrymen. Americans are no more given to conservatism, backwardness, or timidity than any other people, but rather, less, if anything.

What differentiates different social systems, most of which are trying to make the most efficient use of the same machinery and techniques in the maintenance of some scheme of social order, is differences in values, or objectives, or tasks undertaken, with, of course, some differences due to different specific situations, or difficulties to be overcome, in the pursuit of given sets of objectives. There are no real disbelievers in planning--certainly not Mr. Hoover or Mr. Mellon. There are only disbelievers in certain plans and planning by the other fellow.

We have a wide range of values or objectives for national planning from which to make choices. As for techniques or instruments, we are unlimited as to their use except by the indications of suitability to the end. We have less to gain from a study of European precedents in planning than from analysis of our own problems. A discussion of planning for America must assume a set of values, and explore the possibilities of their realization and the possible means to this end. If, in this discussion, it be assumed that one of our values should be a type of racism which excludes certain races from citizenship, then the plan of execution should provide for the annihilation, deportation, or sterilization of the excluded races. If, on the contrary, as I devoutly hope will be the case, the scheme of values will include that of a national citizenship in which race will be no qualifying or disqualifying condition, then the plan of realization must, in so far as race relations are concerned, provide for assimilation or accommodation of race differences within the scheme of smoothly running society.

It cannot be stressed too much that in the field of choices of ultimate values or objectives lie the issues most to be studied, clarified and debated. I have said that ultimate values cannot be validated or proved good or desirable, or the opposite, by the processes of logic. I am often asked why I try to talk or write rationally about ultimate values if they cannot be validated or proved good or bad by reason. My answer is an easy and adequate one to make: Rational statement, analysis, clarification, and comparison of values are useful for two reasons: First, values are realized, made to triumph, or enforced, through the instrumentality of reason. That is, if you know what you want, reason will help you to get it if it can be had. And, second, values can be clarified and compared only by the processes of reason. What many people, trained in 18th century rationalism, cannot understand, is that there is a difference between the rational clarification, comparison and implementation of a scheme of values, and the rational demonstration that that scheme is good or bad.

In connection with the problems of planning, it is important to dispose of the popular notion that social planning is purely an engineering or technical feat which will be ideally performed by experts, if supplied adequately with facts by factfinding agencies, and with funds by the taxpayers, or by some endowed foundation. This notion of 18th century rationalism not only assumes that reason is normative instead of being merely instrumental, or the tool of the will and of our emotional drives; but it also regards facts as ascertainable absolutes or truths. Such notions about the nature and function of reason are among the prepossessions of formal logic. The logician is supposed to wait for the scientist to bring him, done up in neat bundles, the facts for his premises. The logician then pours the facts into his little machine and turns the crank, whereupon truth and error, justice and injustice, right and wrong, come out the other end duly separated and graded like different grades of milk and cream issuing from a cream separator. This notion is one of the basic assumptions made by American jurisprudence as to the function of the courts. It also underlies the logical structures of most of the liberal social sciences.

As the scientist well knows, facts have to be selected according to purposes, or preconceived theories and intuitions, or hunches, or, more definitely, according to the conclusion or verdict which it is desired to reach, or according to the hypothesis it is desired to build up. The greatest scientists recognize that there can be no scientific observation without a previous theory or intuition. Furthermore, as we have already seen, facts are merely the ways in. which things experienced or observed appear to different persons. And facts have a charming way of nearly always seeming as they should seem in order to prove some given preconceived theory or conclusion.

Then, too, there is the great limiting consideration that, even if several observers see the same data alike, or agree as to what the facts are, and if they are indifferent as to the conclusion (as natural scientists ordinarily are and as social scientists ordinarily arc not) it always remains true that no group of observers can ever observe everything or get all the facts about any matter.

Contrary to the charges of many critics (See Bertrand Russell's article on "The Revolt Against Reason" in Harper's Magazine, February, 1935), fascism is not anti-intellectual or antirational. On the contrary, it uses observed fact and logical deduction quite as well as liberalism. Fascism, however, unlike liberalism, does not regard the processes of reason as a game which one must suppose to be played in a certain way and which one must play in a different way. The fascist recognizes that when the fact finders have dumped a series of facts about a given matter into the hopper of a law court, a theorist, or an administrative expert, they have merely supplied a limited number of observations selected with some purpose in mind other than that of pure truth-assuming there is such a thing.

Besides, the fascist does not assume that the truth, all the truth, and nothing but the truth, can ever be known about anything. The will that dictates the purpose in the gathering and submission of facts, and in the logical use made of them, must also, grosso modo, determine the conclusion, verdict or result. Thus we see, in communist Russia, that there is one law for the member of the communist party and another law for the capitalist, just as, in capitalist America, there is one justice for the rich and another for the poor in the vast majority of situations in which law is an important factor. Legal advice how to get around the law, or due process of law to beat the law, is to be bought. The more a man can spend on the law and its due process, the less difficulty it will cause him, and the more he can get away with. The social plan expresses the will and purposes of the dominant classes and not the indications of absolutes or abstractions called by names like reason and justice. In a later chapter we shall explore further the power aspects of the social plan.

Reason is useful as a means to an end, and as a selector or clarifier of ends about which one is not clear. Thus, if a man demonstrates to me that he clearly understands a given value or scheme of values which he cherishes, and that he understands all the implications or consequences of that value or scheme of values which I am able to point out to him, and that he still clings to it and is prepared to pay the full price of its pursuit, I, as a rational person, must recognize that there is nothing further I can reasonably say to him to change his mind and purpose in this respect. If I am wholly rational, and not an irrational addict of a certain cult of rationalism, I will further recognize that he may be quite as rational as I in choosing and pursuing a diametrically opposite set of objectives from my own. Nothing raises more doubt of the rationality of liberal rationalists today than the frequency with which they apply terms like mad, insane, and crazy, to persons and things they dislike.

Had I been living in 15th century Spain, with my present religious views, I should have understood the futility of any appeal to reason to dissuade the heads of the Inquisition from their enterprises of religious persecution or purification of Spain of heresy. Their rational capacity was quite as good as mine, and their understanding of the implications and consequences of religious persecution was quite as complete as mine. But their premises and emotional attitudes differed from mine. If they felt that those unpleasant things they did had to be done, or those heavy prices they made Spain pay had to be paid, to save their souls and the souls of most of their compatriots, and that saving souls as they understood it was the most important thing in life (as undoubtedly they felt with all sincerity and deep intensity), what could be said to them in the name of reason to alter their conviction? Obviously, nothing. A really rational mind will size up such a situation as presenting, broadly stated, four possibilities: (i) Become a convert; (a) be a martyr; (3) fight and win; (4) fight and lose. If the decision be to fight, the reason will be found useful as an instrument. If the decision be for conversion or martyrdom, the reason may be found somewhat of a nuisance, though converts and martyrs usually have their reason well under control. The decision will, in any event, be determined by emotional attitudes and impulses rather than the reason.

What is most needed today in the discussion of a plan for America is rational clarification of values or social objectives. Many people who think they cherish a value can be made to repudiate and abhor it completely by being made, through the processes of reason, to see its implications. What most people cherish, after all, is a set of verbalisms, some of which, of course, stand for values they would die for, but most of which are just meaningless symbols to which their emotional responses have been conditioned to react in certain ways, but which their understanding never even attempts to grasp. Thus, if a man says that he is ready to shed the last drop of American blood, including his own, to uphold a decision of the League of Nations, or the World Court, or to maintain the present status quo in Europe, or to keep the Japanese out of the Philippines, I realize that I have nothing to say to him on these questions. If, however, as is most often the case, he is just a muddle-headed believer in international justice and cooperation, or the white man's burden, who has never grasped the consequences of any serious espousal of a cause flying one of these verbal banners, then he is open to an appeal to reason. It is possible to make him reject his value not by rational invalidation but by rational clarification of the value. But some people know what they want and still want it -a fact which many liberals have difficulty in understanding.

What makes so many people tiresome as well as mischievous in the discussion of issues of values is their persistence in attempting to argue on premises the other fellow does not and will not accept. That is their notion of an appeal to reason. Because fascists reject that sort of appeal to reason, they are often accused of being anti-rational or anti-intellectual. Now, a conflict between two nations, or two economic groups, or two persons, can often be averted by making one or both parties see clearly the implications or consequences of maintaining his position. But conflict is rather hastened than averted by one or both parties trying to make the other accept his values or his premises by an appeal to reason.

Using reason to clarify momentous social values and their consequences finally brings the choice of alternatives down to one of fight or make concessions. The attempt to evade this final issue by making the other fellow see that God, reason, justice, right, or whatever else the word invoked may be, is on one's side, never averts the fight but rather exasperates the other fellow, and makes him all the more eager to fight. In the discussion of values or social objectives, it is useful to be clear as to what one wants and what the other fellow wants, and also to find out at hat point either party will fight. Taking this view of the issue will usually produce more concessions on both sides than a futile appeal to justice or reason to support one's scheme of values. Certainly, the American Civil War could have been averted had both sides talked constantly in terms of fight or concede. Both sides could have made enough concessions to make fighting unnecessary. But neither side could convince the other that it had God, the Constitution, justice, right, or reason on its side.

In the coming clash between the haves and the have-nots, or between the embattled bond-holders and the frustrated elite of the lower middle classes, a new formula on the basis of mutual concessions is possible. But the appeal by either side to the Constitution, justice, right, reason, or Americanism is not going to avert what must be an irrepressible conflict if neither side is prepared to make concessions. In this issue, obviously, most of the concessions will have to be made by the haves. But they should be reminded that in life-and-death conflicts of interest and principle the final choices are always concessions or throatcutting. And, before they say their last word against making concessions, they should measure carefully their probable chances in the long run, if conflicts of economic interests finally come to an issue of arms.