Lawrence Dennis
The Coming of American Fascism



AFTER requisite enlargement of the market, economic control is the next largest problem for an American fascism. Control, management, or government (as one may prefer to term it) of the right sort, or thoroughly adequate to the demands of social order, may be thought of in two broad divisions: First, there is political organization, or the mechanics of control through the use of the coercion of public authority; second, there is indoctrination or the inculcation of right social attitudes to make the social order work.

Under political organization, the two major functions can be called those of administration and representation. Administration is government. It includes the making, interpreting and enforcing of laws, regulations and public policies. No useful distinction can be drawn between making, interpreting, and enforcing law, or- the national plan. Administration is getting the national plan realized and preventing its defeat or frustration. Representation is the process through which government is kept apprised of the popular will and through which government makes the popular will understand and will the means and ends of public administration.

The term democracy will not be made the subject of any essay at definition, but the point may here be interjected that, if democracy means the rule of the people, it must mean that rule under some efficient formula of political organization. The people do not rule by legal definition but by efficient political machinery. The efficiency of public administration in controlling the conditions of life in a country is the measure of popular rule.

It is a distorted sense of reality which calls the rule of impersonal necessity under extreme laissez-faire the rule of the people. The people rule to the extent that they are disciplined and cannot individually do as they please, and not the extent that every man can do as he pleases. The people rule to the extent that the nation can do as it pleases. Anarchy is not the rule of the people or any individual. It is the rule of disorder or nobody. There is no one model form of popular rule. Most of the rules of liberalism which are most touted as safeguarding popular rule merely insure the rule of the rich, powerful, irresponsible, and selfish who, under liberalism, can produce expressions of popular will and opinion to suit their selfish interests at the rate of so many dollars a given unit of expression of popular opinion or will.

The scheme of political organization should make the most rational provision for efficient administration and useful representation of group interests in the determination of public policies. At present it may be said of the American political scheme of organization that tradition is its ruling principle, while in every other American scheme of organization rationality, or fitness of means to ends, is the ruling principle. Fascism would make the American scheme of political organization conform to the standards of fitness of means to ends which govern in all our other important schemes of organization. In other words, fascism would rationalize our scheme of political organization. Fascism holds that we must be administered as a nation, not as a confederacy of sovereign states, and represented according to group interests which have the greatest importance and which are prepared to accept responsibility for full cooperation with government, not according to regional residence.

Integration of governmental agencies and coordination of authority may be called the keystone principles of fascist administration. Applied in the United States, these principles would mean the end of our federal system, of state's rights and of the fictions of a functional separation of powers as between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. And, needless to add, these principles would mean the replacement of the existing organizational pattern of public administration by that of a highly centralized government which would exercise the powers of a truly national State, and which would be manned by a personnel responsible to a political party holding a mandate from the people. This party would be the fascist party of the United States-undoubtedly called, however, by another name.

The ruling principle would be instrumental rationality, or fitness of means to ends. As every one who has a nodding acquaintance with American history should know, the rationale of the federal system, with its forty-eight states and one federal State, is not that of fitness to any logical scheme of present day ends of administration and popular representation, or to any real or strong present day feeling of the people. The rationale of the federal system is that of a compromise made among representatives of regional group interests after the American Revolution.

Most of the people in these regional groups of the American colonies, whether the influential or the poorest classes, had no national citizenship other than that of the mother country. After the American Revolution, most of them did not have even that. They had come to America in flight from distasteful religious, social, or economic conditions in the mother country. America, for them, was not a new nation but merely a place of escape and an opportunity to work out a new scheme of life with as little government, and as much laissez-faire, as had ever been known in a civilized community. Few of the American colonists in 1776 or '1789 wanted an American or any other kind of nation. At first they wanted simply to be English colonies almost wholly free from English control and taxation. When the stupidity of George III and his advisers denied the American colonists the boon of a large measure of laissez-faire, they had no choice about relinquishing British nationality.

It was only by dint of vigorous argument and hard trading that the nationally-minded few among the triumphant American colonists succeeded in making the American Constitution, and the federal system based thereon, as national as it emerged in 1789. And it was only after the triumph of American nationalism in the Mexican and Civil Wars that we could be said to have passed the stage of loosely confederated colonies which had thrown off allegiance to a foreign nation but which still had not created a nation of their own.

Without laboring further these obvious historical facts, we may say that the American system, in so far as it is expressed in a literal interpretation of the Constitution, was never intended to meet the requirements of any adequate scheme of national aims, but merely to hold together as well as possible thirteen colonies which wanted neither to be separate nations nor yet to be welded into a new nation. We may say further that the trend of Constitutional interpretations, as well as of institutional developments in American politics, has been definitely and overwhelmingly in the direction of making the United States a nation with a strong central government.

Those who talk in favor of a stricter interpretation of state's rights and against an enlargement of the powers of the federal government are, therefore, in harmony with the dominant thought, feeling, and purposes of the American colonists who created the federal system, but against the trend of developments in the system ever since. This being true, we may ask which is the more American, the thought, feelings and purposes of a majority of the founding fathers, or the trend in the thought, feeling and purposes of the dominant majority of their descendants? Surely the only good Americans are not dead Americans--and those longest dead.

After all, there is nothing un-American about centralization. No country has carried national integration, coordination of authority, centralization of power, standardization, and rationalization further, outside of the governmental structure, than the United States. In the economic sphere, the great trust, or the billion dollar corporation, or the holding company, as well as myriad legal devices for centralizing control, are tremendously important cases in point. In the field of cultural and recreational associations, no country has more national associations, economic, fraternal, cultural, and recreational. And in no country is there found more homogeneity in such organizations.

In matters of taste and distinctive habits, no country a third as large as ours is as standardized as to dress, styles, architecture, customs, speech, daily reading, and recreations as we are. Travel a hundred miles in England, Germany, France or Russia, and distinctive regional difference assail the eye, the ear and the palate. Travel three thousand miles in the United States and remain on the same economic level, and you will scarcely notice a difference--unless it be in climate or natural scenery. The scenery of a hotel lobby, the main street, any store, church, or railroad station interior, will not enlighten you as to whether you are in Maine or California. No country has been better prepared for political and social standardization, whether under fascism or communism, than the United States. Our national corporations and social organizations have unified and nationalized us into the most standardized people on earth, mostly during the past thirty years.

The early American colonists were not American nationalists but British colonials. In their peculiar and favored situation of that period they wanted none of their original or ancestral European nationalisms and felt no need of an American nationalism. Ever since, we have been steadily perceiving our need of being a nation, and we have been modifying accordingly the original work of the founding fathers. Today we find ourselves faced with the need of completing the rationalization of our social order by becoming a rationally organized nation. Has this trend of adaptation of political means and institutions to changing needs and problems been un-American? If American is defined to mean 18th century English colonial with a dash of insubordination to the mother country, and a lack of necessity, nerve, and cultural homogeneity to create a new nation on this side of the water, then an American fascism can rightly be called un-American.

The fact is, as a few of the founding fathers were far-seeing enough to foresee, since the American Revolution we have had either to become a nation through the unifying experiences of several wars and the steady expansion of our territory, or else finally to regularize our colonial status by reunion with the mother country or some other European country that was a nation and acted like one. A people blessed with our resources cannot, in a world of competing nations, enjoy the advantages of group culture and solidarity without becoming a nation and acting as a nation. Had we chosen not to act as a nation, we should have received the same treatment China and Ethiopia are receiving today. And today the extent to which we must complete or rationalize our nationalism is being largely dictated by world conditions over which we have no control. We are too large and significant to play the role of a Switzerland or a small Scandinavian country which is protected from foreign intervention by reason of being in a strategic position near great powers, whose peaceful relations, being maintained in a delicate balance of power, will not allow the absorption of these little and comparatively defenceless States. But such circumstances will not protect a large country like China or the United States against a predatory great nation.

So we may say that it matters little how American jurists, historians, political scientists, or states-rights men, profess authoritatively to define the American nation and delimit the powers of its metaphysical forty-nine separate sovereignties. What they have to say is important mainly to themselves. The only definition of the American national leviathan which has validity must be written by the necessities of group self-preservation and assertion of group values in a world situation which no one nation can control. In the face of prolonged foreign menace or aggression this would mean, concretely, that the national government would be forced to choose between scrapping the Constitution and scrapping the country. It would be an easier and more satisfactory transition to a purely national state and a centralized executive formula of government if it were worked out more leisurely in peace time under the immediate pressures of only domestic order imperatives.

Were there space for it, a lengthy and well documented case could easily be submitted to show that purely domestic problems indicate only slightly less urgently than foreign challenges to our security the inadequacy of our federal formula to the demands of order. In matters as different in character as waging war on desperate and nationally organized criminals, the policing of every sort of business activity, domestic relations and divorce, industrial regulations for social protection, or simple relief for the army of the unemployed and destitute, it is easy to show that satisfactory results can only be obtained by the national government.

The time has come to ask, Why the States? and to reject answers which amount merely to saying, "Because, while the American nation was still unborn and only a series of colonies, the fathers of the Constitution and colonial confederation found it necessary to make compromises with ideas, feelings and purposes which were then widely and tenaciously held and which are no longer held." It is time to recognize that not one American in ten really thinks any of those 18th century American colonial thoughts, feels' any of those feelings, or cherishes any of those purposes in deference to which our system was originally devised. Many more than one citizen in ten, possibly, will be found to profess all sorts of faith in and attachment to state's rights, out of respect for past tradition, and current opinion as to what is the correct attitude in respect to such tradition. Abundant proofs of the insincerity of these professions of attachment to state's rights can usually be remarked even on superficial notice. Thus, a man who professes great attachment to his state, will often be found maintaining outside of his state a legal domicile or business headquarters to lessen his tax bill, or going outside his state for cheaper labor or materials, or sending his children to school outside the state, or invariably spending his vacation outside the state, or using great ingenuity and pains to get the better of the state in a dozen different ways.

In most cases of particularly vigorous champions of state's rights, one can go through the man's history with a fine toothcomb in vain to find one instance of his ever having made a sacrifice for, or a voluntary gift to, his state, or any other person, merely on the ground of a state tie. People feel some special ties to fellow members of all sorts of associations, religious, fraternal, professional, and commercial. But one seldom finds instances of people showing real evidence of feeling a stronger bond with a fellow Pennsylvanian or Californian solely because of state origin.

It is nothing for any one to deplore or apologize for that he or someone else never gives evidence of a genuine and disinterested partiality to his own state or of a feeling of peculiar solidarity with a fellow Kansan or Rhode Islander. Associational groups, to merit any respect or admiration from outsiders, or to deserve the loyalty of insiders, must have some logical reason for their existence, or must serve some purpose useful to insiders and outsiders. Today it is difficult to find a logical reason for the existence or functions of state governments as provided for in the Constitution. The state boundaries, generally speaking, correspond no longer, if ever they did, to economic or useful administrative divisions of territory. The states are just survivals, the explanation or rationalization of which has to be made exclusively in terms of the 18th or 19th century conditions, feelings and purposes, most of which have long since ceased to be operative.

To say that an American fascism can find no use for the present federal set-up is not to say that fascism would have no use for regional subdivisions for political and economic administration. It is only to say that political subdivisions must correspond to some rational and useful purpose to which the states cannot be said to correspond. Nor is the rejection of the federal system as prescribed in the Constitution tantamount to a rejection of local self-government or a denial of representation to any significant group interests. The forty-eight American states are not divisions of territory, people, or interests which are any longer significant or relevant to useful purposes. State boundaries in many instances arbitrarily separate areas which are united by a series of community interests and which could constitute political and administrative units. Thus, the metropolitan area of New York, a useful geographical unit for administration and representation, is divided by state boundaries. For purposes of political administration or representation of significant regional interests, the metropolitan areas ought to be separate units.

So far as regional divisions are concerned, it would seem today that they should be drawn from time to time solely with reference to the needs of efficient administration. While as for regional representation, it would seem most doubtful that any good can come of attempts to provide for political representation according to geography. If there must be minority group representation, and it would seem that there must be, it should be representation only for groups having interests that are peculiar to the group and common to all or most of the members of the group. Now, it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be supposed that the people living in any one of the states, Pennsylvania, New York, or Illinois, have interests in common as inhabitants of those states, except as such community of interest is artificially created by the state form of government. The residents of the metropolitan cities of New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, have more interests in common and of a nature peculiar to residence in a big city than the residents of New York City have with the farmers of upstate New York. The ends neither of rational administration nor rational representation are well served by the state organizations of the federal union. If this proposition be reasonably true, is it good Americanism to be irrational and bad Americanism to be rational ?

So far as political organization for representation is concerned, it must correspond to the rationale of power politics and workability. If, as is the case under our present system, the attempt is made to give representation to groups like the inhabitants within an area artificially delimited to correspond to no present day significant cultural or economic boundaries, one gets, among other things, an unofficial and irresponsible representation through improper and often illegal ways of real group interests such as bankers, the utility companies, the manufacturers, the farmers, trade unions, the American veterans, certain religious associations, and so on. Liberals and eminent elder statesmen are constantly deploring the behavior of pressure groups in relation to government. And they insist on telling us that such behavior is not according to the rules of the game and should be stopped. With this naive thought they are constantly investigating, exposing, and legislatively forbidding, the improprieties of minority group representations. They forget that these minority groups constitute real communities of interest, real force potentials, and thoroughly human factors and, also, that they have no legal and proper means of adequate political representation. Reform cannot remove or curb these force potentials, but fascism can create for them socially disciplined instrumentalities of expression and representation.

The moral for the would-be reformer is that representation for unreal or economically and socially powerless minority groups like the inhabitants of regional subdivisions called states must be scrapped, and legal representation for real and powerful minority groups must be provided for in an adequate manner. Representation will always be proportionate to might, regardless of law or contrary ethical standards. The citizens of a state, as such, have practically speaking no political or economic might. These same citizens as members of a public utility committee, a manufacturers' association or a labor union, have, as a practical matter, a very real might. It is for this reason that the laws and administration of state governments, as well as of the federal government, conform to pressures of minority groups rather than to the pressures of the citizens of states as such.

It may be said that we have got along fairly well under this system. It is true that we have got on fairly well in spite of this system. The fact is that administration and representation will go on in spite of almost any institutional absurdities. The evils of the combination of a formal, legal, proper, and visible government by unreal group organisms called states, with an informal, illegal, improper, and invisible government by real group organisms are too obvious to need argument. These evils can be epitomized in one word--irresponsibility. Doubtless it is fair to say that no people deserve a better government than the one they get, or that the government can never be better than the people. A fascist government will be no better than the people and the leaders in power, but it will exemplify administrative functioning and group representation, which are responsible. That is to say, there will be government persons to take full responsibility for acts of administration, and minority group leaders to take responsibility for acts in representation of minority group interests.

In this connection it is apropos to remark, in passing, that the well-known hostility of the labor union leaders formed under liberal capitalism to the theory and practice of fascism is chiefly due to their innate aversion to an assumption of social or political responsibility. The labor union higher-ups are doubtless, for the greater part, fairly loyal to the interests of their clients, provided the permanent jobs and high incomes of the upper bureaucracy are secure. But they wish to play an individualist game for the smaller social group constituted by their members so far as the entire social group is concerned. Labor union leaders have, therefore, opposed laws forcing on the unions incorporation and publication of financial statements. They like to be able to play with the millions of dollars which flow in dues into their war chest, without any one outside of a charmed circle of three or four high officials knowing where the money goes. In this respect, the executive committee of an American labor union likes to work with the same secrecy and social irresponsibility with which executive committees of great corporations so often operate. Indeed, the best apology for the secrecy and irresponsibility of high executive action by labor leaders or corporate executive committees is to say that it is the universal way of exercising power under liberal capitalism. Fascism believes in, and provides for, labor representation, but with full responsibility of group organizations for organizational decisions.

Perhaps the greatest single vice of the liberal system is that of the anti-social or socially irresponsible behavior of powerful minority group interests in determining the decisions and policies of public administration. The right to behave in these ways is usually the right which minority group representatives complain that fascism violates. The logic of the fascist answer to these complaints is the logic of a discipline necessary for the welfare of the total group. Any discipline to meet the order and welfare imperatives of the total group must force minority groups to accept representation of their interests, and cooperation with the scheme of the total group, in ways to make the totalitarian group scheme work. The logic of this discipline is that the members of the minority groups will not long prosper if the larger or total group does not prosper. Concretely, this would mean that the rate a power company might charge in a given community, or the wage a small group of special workers might obtain, would not be whatever could be had by the use of the monopoly power in the one case or the blackmail power of the strike in the other case.

On careful analysis, it will usually be found that the rights of the minority group alleged to be denied or curtailed by fascism are rights to use a pressure in a given situation, really against society as a whole, for all it may be worth at that moment to that group. Obviously, if minority groups exercise their powers within the latitude allowed by liberal or libertarian principles, the results will be anarchic, as they so often are, certain groups getting the best of it and the majority of the people getting the worst of it. One of the functions of government is to impose a national discipline on minority groups rather than to furnish a playground with umpires and constables for the free play of minority group pressures.

The specific problems of mechanisms to effectuate national administration and rational representation cannot be advantageously opened up in anything but a highly technical treatise. No useful purpose would be served by a brief description of fascist mechanisms abroad, for such description would have to be too brief to be adequately informing and, however adequate it might be, it would be largely irrelevant to our peculiar needs and problems. No one need worry about the technical capacity for rationalizing governmental administration and group representation to be found in a country which has our record in the rationalizing of industry and the development of great trusts. We have working models in the modern corporation for organization for centralized control and management. In a great variety of trade, professional, and fraternal associations we have the models, techniques, and experience for solving all problems of representation. The State has all these resources at its command. And, in the United States, these resources are more abundant than in any European country.

The fascist issue is not how to rationalize public administration in the technological sense of the term, that is, in the sense of making means suit ends. The only real issue raised by fascism in this respect is that of whether we shall rationalize our political system. This issue will doubtless be resolved not by the pressure of arguments such as those advanced in this book, but by the pressure of necessity in the face of challenges to our national security, the most dynamic and creative of such challenges probably arising first in foreign war, or threat of war, rather than in domestic difficulties.

This rationalization of our political system in the direction of fascism is in progress. It has been going on, at different rates of speed, since the days of John Marshall. President Franklin D. Roosevelt is forcing the issue, or being driven to force the issue, more than any of his predecessors. The use of the modern trust and the present-day uses of the modern corporation began during the last two decades of the 19th century. These institutions and ways have done more to make fascism inevitable than any European precedents. Economic conditions and events in the world today, the subjects of early analysis in this book, are providing the pressures which are driving this country and President Roosevelt towards fascism. And, as we have already amply stated, these conditions and events have to be met with measures of social adjustment for survival, not with attempts to disprove the actual, or with moral denunciations of what is wholly unaffected by the pronouncement of a moral judgment.

In any secular or long term trend of this sort--from one social system to another--it is idle to speculate about, or attach too great importance to, the exact moment when the greatest or more or less final change will take place. It seems too obvious to need saying that there is little likelihood that, within the next four or five years, the United States will be transformed into a fully rationalized national State, which, in this book, is called fascist for purposes of identification with certain familiar characteristics of now operating systems also labelled fascist.

The purpose and usefulness of this discussion may be considered as the preparation of enlightened opinion and effective leadership for the inevitable trend of social change and readjustment. The greatest single merit of the founding fathers of the American system in the late 18th century was their grasp of the political theory of their times. The greatest single demerit of our leaders today is a grasp of that same theory to the exclusion of any other. Times have changed, and a political theory to suit the changed times is required.