Lawrence Dennis
The Coming of American Fascism



IN the fascist view of the crisis of capitalism, the great initial problem of insuring order and welfare is that of getting the right elite in power under a right discipline and plan of national interest. Liberal theory, it will be remembered, considers the problem of order and welfare as largely one of getting the right set of rules and institutions and then letting the majority work out the good life through this system. The definition of the rules is supposed to be made by the courts, and the operation of the system is supposed just to happen as a result of the fortuitous concurrence of three separate branches of government and all the personal and impersonal factors of the national community, the whole acting autonomously and subject only to the rule of law which is, by definition, wholly impersonal. Consequently, liberalism is the most perfect social system ever conceived for allowing great power to be exercised by individuals and groups, chiefly through property rights legally enforced, with maximum irresponsibility of persons or groups for the social consequences of their acts.

The fundamental objectives of order and welfare are common to liberalism and communism as well as fascism. Fascism is distinctive from both, however, in that it recognizes and makes a cardinal point of the functions and responsibilities of the elite. The issues or choices are as to different sets of the elite who may rule, and of different systems of making their rule effective and responsible. There is no choice as to whether or not some group of the elite shall rule. The fallacy of the communist ideal of a classless society inheres in the fact that there must always be a ruling or managing class.

It is always, of course, the out-elite who put over a social revolution, whether they do so in the name of one group or another or of one set of principles or another. It is the contention of this book that fascism makes a stronger appeal than communism to the out-elite in America, though it is fully recognized that communism can have an appeal to certain members of the out-elite, as occurred in Russia. Fascism, or the out-elite making up fascist leadership, must make out a case for the rule of the fascist elite, not because the rule of the elite is a peculiarity of fascism, but simply because fascism--unlike liberalism and communism--frankly acknowledges, or rather boasts, that its elite rule.

It is one of the merits of fascism, and a part of its appeal, that its leaders do not dissimulate their role or try to place responsibility for their rule on a phantom of definition and assumption-such as, the majority or the proletariat. They do not stress a class war, though they naturally fight for their objectives as nearly every one else does. They do not stress a class war, because the formula of solidarity is a national union which includes all citizens. They do not demand a class monopoly of power, except in so far as the ends of order and administration require that the class of the most competent be entrusted with power necessary for efficient management.

The appeal of fascism to the out-elite is too obvious to need much persuasive statement. They have roughly the choices of fascism, communism, or slow degradation, as a necessary accompaniment to the present and unchecked decline of free capitalism. They must turn fascist in large numbers for reasons which make up the subject matter of most of this book. It is the appeal of fascism to the in-elite and the masses which calls for most explanation. One might as well recognize the divergence of interests at any given moment, as between the in-elite, the out-elite, and the masses who are not factually classifiable as being exceptionally influential or powerful as separate individuals or collectively as members of any group. The appeal of fascism to the masses has already been indicated somewhat briefly in the discussion of the question, "Why fascism instead of communism?"

The fundamental case is that the masses need the elite, and that that social system promises most in the way of welfare for the masses which best uses and disciplines the elite. So far as the welfare of the masses is concerned, the problem might with good reason be called largely one of getting the best out of the elite. From the point of view of mass welfare, the best that can be said for liberal capitalism in the days of its success is that it was singularly effective in getting the best out of the elite. The worst that can be said against capitalism today is that it is not getting the best out of the in-elite, and that it is getting nothing constructive out of the out-elite, so many of whom are jobless and functionless. If communism can get more out of the elite as a whole than fascism or liberalism, then communism should be the choice of the masses. As we already have remarked in comparing communism and fascism, it is difficult to see how communism can be expected to get the best out of the elite when it involves the liquidation of so many of them.

The moving spirits of an emerging fascism are, obviously, the quintessence of the elite of influence and power, as we are using these terms. If they were not, there would be no emergence of fascism. They are also likely to be mainly recruited from the over-numerous ranks of the out-elite, except for such members of the in-elite as are wise enough to join them. Their bid for the support of the masses consists chiefly in a sincere and soundly-motivated undertaking to run things better or, expressed in economic terms, to increase the material output by more efficient management.

Fascism lays emphasis on the gains to be realized by more honest and efficient management, which would come largely from better coordination of authority and integration of control. Fascism does not stress the benefits for the underprivileged to be derived from simple transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor. The people are made to see that wealth is income or production, and that an equalization of ownership followed by a heavy drop in production would leave the masses poorer than before.

In other words, labor is better off with seventy per cent of an output of one hundred than with one hundred per cent of an output of sixty. It is not to be supposed, however, that considerable redistribution of ownership and percentage shares of the total income is not effected by fascism. But fascism proposes to raise the living standards of the masses chiefly by making a more efficient use of the available factors of production, such a formula alone being considered by the fascists as capable of securing the fullest or the essential measure of cooperation by the elite.

In this connection, it is pertinent to refer to the frequently exploited device of comparing economic statistics of the fascist countries with similar statistics of the more prosperous non-fascist countries, and drawing from such comparisons conclusions invidious to fascism. No attempt is made in this book to go into comparative economic statistics. There would be no space for doing so. If fair and adequate comparisons were to be attempted, the results would be unreadably technical, and the conclusions too doubtful, to justify the average reader's outlay of effort.

The tricks that can be played with statistics are amazingly deceptive. A few general explanations about statistical comparisons invidious to the fascist countries will be briefly offered. The first and most important set of facts to bear in mind about the economic sequels of fascism are that fascism, thus far, has always taken over control in a moment of extreme crisis. It has had to carry on with whatever resources it has found and against whatever obstacles it has encountered; and most definitely it has not inaugurated its regime under the auspices of a smiling fortune such as beamed on liberal capitalism in its infancy.

Fascism, everywhere, has been born of harsh necessity and not the lucky strikes of explorers and freebooters seeking new trade routes and lands for conquest. For instance, before the War, Italy received a yearly gift of over a hundred million dollars of unearned money from remittances by Italian immigrants to the near relatives and dependents in the mother country. Since the War, the virtual stoppage of Italian immigration by American law has necessarily resulted in a slow drying up of this stream of income. Rising tariffs everywhere have also operated since the War to the extreme economic disadvantage of Germany and Italy, which used to depend on the profits of foreign trade to help defray the costs of supplying many deficiencies in raw materials.

Fascism did not produce these external economic pressures, which have been developing for a long time and which have grown acute since the War. Fascism is the answer to these external pressures. If one says that one prefers in place of fascism the lush days of 19th century liberal capitalist infancy, with all its faults, one has said absolutely nothing logically relevant by way of a criticism of post-War fascism. Nations have to choose what is attainable. Wishes for the unattainable are not arguments against fascism or in favor of liberalism.

Another consideration of which the comparers of fascist and liberal economic statistics fail to take account is that countries like the United States, Great Britain, and France have much larger accumulations of surplus than the fascist countries, with which to carry the economic crisis for a time in good style. The privileged liberal nations are likely to go completely fascist when and as this surplus runs low. Germany lost its surplus through the War, had it replaced partially for a brief spell by foreign loans, and when they stopped the country soon went fascist. Italy never had much of a surplus, and after the War it faced a harder world market in which to compete.

America, England and France have a chance in 1935 to initiate the social plan of fascism under vastly more promising auspices than marked its inauguration in the fascist countries. The whole point as to living standards is that whatever fascism provides ultimately in welfare for the masses must be determined as much by the resources of the moment, and the exigencies of the situation, as by the mechanics of fascism or the wishes of fascists in power. The defense of fascism in Italy is not to say that it has given the Italian worker a higher standard of living than British workers, including those on the dole, have enjoyed during the same period. For it has not done so. The defense of Italian fascism is that it has done a better job of social management than the preceding regime was doing, or would have done, in the situation fascism has had to face. Comparisons of living standards and real wages are further complicated or invalidated by the unpleasant facts that, while the three leading liberal countries, the United States, Great Britain and France, did most of their land-grabbing before 1914 and are now anxious to have the present status quo respected, the fascist countries, having yet to achieve their necessary territorial expansion, hold different views about the inviolability of existing territorial arrangements. The military burdens imposed by the obvious necessity of expansion for the successful maintenance of nationhood must inevitably limit in the fascist countries the living standard which any social management by the elite can afford the masses. The costs of military preparations for expansion naturally levy a heavier percentage of income per capita in the under-privileged than in the privileged nations.

The prevailing opinion of the liberal countries, of course, is that the fascist countries do not have to expand. This opinion can be rebutted by arguments too lengthy to develop here. But why waste time arguing that the present fascist countries need to expand when every one knows that they will try to expand or perish in the attempt? And if they perish as nations in the attempt, there is not likely to be much left of western civilization in the now liberal countries after the attempt. Propositions for which nations fight rather than argue cannot be met with argument but must be met with concession and compromise, or else war. There is, therefore, no sense to any liberal argument intended merely to talk the underprivileged nations out of a will to expand. Further discussion of the international aspects of this question is left for the chapter on the international implications of fascism.

Here it need only be said in resume that the demands of an expansionist policy on an underprivileged nation must render pointless all comparison of its living standards with those of privileged nations on the defensive. And it must be repeated that fascism has not invented national expansion. The liberal countries founded their prosperity on expansion, and cannot now make a desire by the fascist countries for expansion the subject of a reproach. The underprivileged fascist countries will have to pay more dearly in individual sacrifices for their bid for expansion than the now liberal nations had to pay for grabbing South Africa from the Boers, or Texas and California from Mexico, just as the American settlers in the middle of the i7th century paid more dearly for the rocky shores of New England snatched from the Indians than the American expansionists of 1848 had to pay for the fertile lands of Texas and California taken from Mexico in a war which was little more than a summer picnic. What the people have to pay in living standards for national existence and expansion is not determined mainly by the scheme of social organization but by the limits of their resources and the nature of the obstacles to their expansion.

Perhaps the strongest point in the fascist appeal to the masses, so far as the rule of the elite is concerned, is one seldom considered by critics of fascism and not always fully appreciated by the rank and file of fascists. It is the consideration that the elite are more dangerous to mass welfare when rendered desperate than when well treated and well disciplined. Fascism believes in providing ample and satisfactory functions or careers and rewards for the elite. Communism disclaims any such belief but practices it with great thoroughness. Liberalism disdains haughtily, though insincerely, any solicitude for the elite, and affects an attitude of neutrality and laissez faire so far as the personal struggle for existence is concerned. Liberalism assumes that the elite will make jobs or careers for themselves, unaided by the State, a sufficiently good assumption until the elite start making careers for themselves in social revolution or banditry or international war.

The association of the elite with banditry may seem incongruous to many modern minds, which are accustomed to think of the elite as bespectacled intellectuals or bejewelled merchant princes. It should be sufficient to bring such minds to a sense of reality by pointing out to them that practically all the proudest noble houses of Europe, or those whose patents of nobility were won by gallant exploits and not bought with money since the French Revolution, were knightly bandits and warriors, who derived much of their income from periodically shaking down the money lenders and the common people. The masses are vastly better off under a nationally disciplined elite than by being at the mercy of an elite engaged in private, gentlemanly warfare and knightly banditry.

From the point of view of mass welfare, if one's perspective takes in the history of several centuries instead of merely several decades of capitalism in its youthful upsurge, and if one's perspective includes the trends of the hour, it should be fairly clear that the best protection for the masses is to have the elite provided for with useful functions, and driven neither to orderly international warfare nor the still more inhumane conditions of private warfare. Any accurate sense of the laws of life, of the struggle for existence, of the survival of the fittest to survive, must tell one that if the elite do not find useful functions provided for them by a booming capitalism in expansion, or by a benevolent, paternal State with unlimited powers, the elite will ultimately find functions for themselves, as did their ancestors, the robber barons of medieval Europe, the piratical buccaneers of Queen Bess, or, still farther back, the strongest savages.

It is a curious insensitiveness to the logic of history and the struggle for existence which allows many muddle-headed sympathizers with communism or radical socialism to deride or denounce fascism for taking care of the elite. The safety and welfare of the masses depend on nothing so much as taking proper care of the elite in exchange for their social contributions and disciplined service of public order. If the elite return to the ways of their ancestors of only a few brief centuries ago it will be bad for a large number of them, but it will be still worse for those who are not of the elite or whose fangs are not so long and whose cunning is not so great. Any notion that the elite of the genus homo will ever exterminate each other and leave the weak of the same species to inherit the earth contradicts any expectancy based on natural history.

The great contribution of fascism to mass welfare is that of providing a formula of national solidarity within the spiritual bonds and iron discipline of which the elite and the masses of any given nation, every one in the measure of his capacity, can cooperate for the common good. The achievement of conceiving and realizing such a formula is the alternative to a return to the types of the struggle for existence which prevailed up to the rise of modern capitalism.

If the so-called friends of peace, or the liberal leaders of the Allied powers at Versailles, in 1919, and their several followings, had had any sense of the realities of the struggle for existence and had possessed a genuine passion for peace, they would have given more thought to political and economic formulas to provide places for the elite of the defeated enemy nations and the underprivileged Allied nations. They would have reasoned that, as wars are desired, planned and provoked by the frustrated elite who see in war opportunities they do not perceive in peace, the chief problem in ensuring European peace was that of fitting as many as possible of these potential war-makers into a peaceful scheme of things. This would have made it apparent that the survival of liberal republican government in Germany depended on nothing so much as on tolerable solutions for the elite. Questions of territorial rearrangements, war indemnities, and colonies, would have been discussed with consideration for this major imperative of preserving the peace in Europe.

But, as I have had occasion to learn from scores of conversation with some of the most eminent and influential of the liberal preachers of peace, the liberal ideology makes it impossible for them to see any connection between realities like the frustration of the elite and international war. Liberal ideology forces them to see peace, like every other desirable social result, as being principally a matter of legal enactment, contract, and judicial procedure. Hence the silly mania for the League of Nations and the World Court as means of preventing war, while half the graduates of German universities each year found no jobs. A mind properly formed in liberal ideology finds the greatest difficulty in grasping the idea that normal or average men would rather fight, whatever the prospects, and even would rather go into a fight with the certainty of death (which no one has in going into a war), than face the certainty of life-long frustration, defeat, and humiliation, with a strong probability of slow death by malnutrition or some one of the concomitants of prolonged poverty and frustration.

From the point of view of the masses, there is to be considered the question of controlling the elite, as well as getting the best out of them and keeping them from plunging the world into war or the cruder forms of the struggle for existence. In the matter of controlling or disciplining the elite in power, fascist technique or theory marks a great advance over liberalism.

Fascism uses the science of propaganda, indoctrination, education, group conditioning, and a rational scheme of personal motivations, to make the elite behave according to a desired pattern. Liberalism, on the other hand, relies chiefly on law courts and policemen to make the elite behave, quite forgetting that the elite must make, interpret, and manipulate any law enforcement machinery. If an ideal pattern of behavior by the elite is left to law enforcement, and if law enforcement is a game, the elite will play to beat the game. If an ideal pattern of behavior by the elite is made a matter of conditioned reflexes or habits scientifically formed by education and indoctrination, the elite will behave as desired in much the same way soldiers or other trained men behave. The trouble with liberal training of the professional elite, of course, is that they are not trained to be good citizens, as West Pointers are trained to be good soldiers. They are trained to make money.

On the score of conditioning the elite for social control, it has to be recognized first and foremost that there is no sure system of negatively controlling the elite. Education, indoctrination, and habit formation are the only scientific methods, and their effectiveness depends largely on the efficiency of the training. Communism certainly offers little to the masses in the way of control for the in-elite, as Trotzky and his fellow exiles, or millions of the slain by the Red forces, might testify. Fascism, as we have just observed, offers as its most promising instrument of control for the in-elite the motivations of selfinterest and the logic of a scientific pragmatism. Fascism indulges in no such naiveté as attaching importance to constitutional or legal inhibitions on the elite, who, as long as they are powerful enough to be abusive, will be powerful enough to interpret or amend any constitution or law to suit their ends.

Under capitalism, as might be expected, the worst abuses of power are committed with the aid of the courts and law enforcement. Fascism attaches importance only to the guarantee afforded by a spirit of discipline by a consciousness of national solidarity, by a certain sense of noblesse oblige, and by the logic of self-interest under a given set-up for those who have power. These spiritual forces and fundamental motivations are the only measures of control for the elite, or the only effective safeguards against their neglect of duty or commission of errors and downright abuses.

Fascism, in other words, so far as the control of the elite in the national interest or the protection of the people is concerned, pins its faith on character, rather than on codes or on the training and spirit it gives the elite, rather than on the policeman it might put over them. Broadly speaking, the inelite, as a whole, can be controlled or disciplined only by forces within themselves. External or institutional controls, like laws, courts, and police, are largely worthless for the in-elite, as a whole, for the simple reason that the in-elite themselves will operate such institutional controls. This is true equally under liberalism, fascism or communism.

While we are still on the subject of the fascist appeal to the masses, we should also stress the point that the elite, under fascism, are not an aristocracy of heredity except in so far as the qualities of the elite prove hereditary. Under fascism, every private carries a field marshal's baton in his knapsack. Fascism, to be true to its pragmatic principles and inner logic, must take care of the elite, and that means, of course, giving the elite, wherever found, the function and rewards appropriate to their possibilities of usefulness. The system is so organized that those in control have an interest in obtaining the best contribution of everyone, and consequently there is every incentive freely to admit to the functions of the elite all who are capable of exercising them. Fascism needs and uses all the elite it can command. Hence a fascist regime is likely to provide for the freest circulation of the classes or furnish the best facilities for persons of exceptional qualities to find their proper place in the scheme of things.

We have stated some of the more important elements of the fascist appeal to the masses. The welfare of the masses depends on the contributions of the elite, and on the elite being well enough cared for and disciplined under peace not to turn to war or the more primitive forms of the struggle for existence. It remains only to state a few important considerations which should make fascism appeal to the more , intelligent of the elite who are still among the ins. At the outset, those whose one idea in the present crisis is to hold the fort until relief comes from another capitalistic revival, should be reminded that they are staking a great deal on an extremely uncertain event. About all that can be reasonably said for the happening of this happy event is that it has always happened before.

Then these stand-patters among the in-elite should be told that fascism is in no sense a fatal thing for them or their interests. We can well understand that they prefer liberal laissez faire to fascist discipline. But, after all, they should remember that fascist discipline may be self-administered, and that there will be no wholesale liquidation of the in-elite. It is also to be borne in mind that the sternest social or group discipline can be rendered agreeable to personal taste by the processes of scientific conditioning of the human personality. A scientist or a professional soldier who for years has been disciplined to certain habits will be made miserable, if not ill, by a life of complete idleness which so many persons crave. Disciplined service to the State or under State supervision, given the necessary conditioning, can afford to the elite the same degree of personal satisfaction found by so many of them at present in making money. The rewards of honor and power are equally gratifying and abundant under fascism or under liberalism.

And, most important of all, perhaps, are the considerations that, while revolutionary change is slow in getting started, it is extremely swift, once under way; that if the in-elite oppose fascism or fascist principles as long as possible, it may not be possible for them to jump on the band wagon of a swiftly emerging fascism at the last minute; and that, in the most happy circumstances of fascist success, the longer the in-elite stay out of the movement or oppose its principles, the less they will have to say about the formation of the new American fascism.

In 1935, a substantial number of the in-elite, adopting a clear-cut fascist ideology, could easily unite under a common political banner enough of the out-elite and the masses in a movement along orderly and non-violent lines of procedure to effect the most desirable sort of fascist revolution conceivable. The worse conditions become before fascism definitely emerges, the less the chances that its leadership, program, or methods will be agreeable to the in-elite.

Mr. Roosevelt, or the candidate of the Republican Party, or both, conceivably, could, by the middle of 1936, be offering to the American electorate what might be fascism in everything but name. It is not entirely improbable that Mr. Roosevelt may be pushed far in such a direction by the middle of 1936, especially under the pressure of world events. It is more improbable that a Republican candidate could be run in 1936 on anything but a platform of muddled liberalism. If capitalism cannot stage a full recovery, the in-elite will be far better off in the long run to join the ranks of a vigorous fascism at the start than to remain with a moribund liberalism until the ship sinks.

Whether the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, or both, turn towards fascism, and how far they move in that direction, will depend almost entirely on the in-elite, the consensus of whose opinions largely determines the platforms of both major parties. At present, the in-elite are combating fascism by name, and its ideology in all its phases, hardly less violently than they are attacking communism. Yet how infinitely better for the in-elite of the moment to have fascism come through one of the major parties of the moment than to have it fight its way to power as the program of the most embittered leaders of the out-elite. The old regime in France, at any time up to a few months before the outbreak of the French Revolution, could have averted that misfortune for themselves and their nation by merely initiating a regime comparable to that which eventually emerged.

From the point of view of the broadest consideration of all interests, and of the most humane interest, it seems clear that, if we are to have a social revolution, it is desirable to have its leadership representative of as many group interests as possible. By opposing fascism, the logical orientation for the out-elite, and communism, the program of peculiar though deceptive appeal to the masses, the in-elite are really condemning us to a dog-fight between the fascism of the out-elite and communism. What we need, of course, is a fascism of the nation, or a fascism which will embrace the largest possible number of the elite, which will have fewest enemies to liquidate, and which will attain most good will of the masses. Whether we get such a fascism or not at present depends mainly on the attitude of the in-elite.