Friday, May 30, 2014

Fascism--Then and Now

Eighty years ago was a very significant time for the faithful Christians of Germany. At this very time, on May 29-31, 1934, members of the Confessing Church were meeting in Barmen, a part of the city of Wuppertal, Germany. There they approved The Theological Declaration of Barmen.
Theologian Karl Barth was the principal author of the Barmen Declaration. In addition to Barth, the best known signers include Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller.
The Barmen Declaration was primarily drafted in opposition to the fascism of Hitler, who came to power in 1933 and who was supported by the Nazis (those who belonged to the National Socialist German Workers Party).
Hitler became the totalitarian leader (Führer) of all segments of German society—including the Church as he co-opted the support of the “German Christians.” But Pastor Niemöller declared, “Not you, Herr Hitler, but God is my Führer.”
That was the sentiment of all who signed the Barmen Declaration.
Our situation in the United States today is much different than that of Germany in the 1930s. There are those who, ludicrously, try to link the policies of the President with Hitler.
However, in this country now the movement toward fascism is not political but primarily economic.
Interestingly, in an April 29, 1938, message to Congress, President Roosevelt warned that the growth of private power could lead to fascism. He declared that
the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
It seems evident today in the U.S. that large corporations raise and spend huge amounts of money on the political campaigns of the Presidents and congresspeople. They also spend huge amounts of money hiring former government officials to lobby Congress to pass laws that mainly benefit their interests.
These corporations are not an organized group plotting to control the country. Nevertheless, even though acting independently, the wealthiest corporations seem to have considerable control over what takes place in the halls of Congress and even the White House.
The power of the corporations has been abetted by the “Citizens United” Supreme Court ruling in 2010 saying that corporations are people, having the right to funnel unlimited amounts of cash into political elections anonymously.

Back in December 2010, outgoing Congressman John Hall (D-N.Y.) warned that the massive changes to campaign finance law prompted by the “Citizens United” decision could lead to fascism. (Check it out here.)
Others are suggesting that the country is becoming a “fascist corporate state.” One such person is Ray Pensador, who until earlier this year regularly wrote for Daily Kos. On April 18 of last year he wrote,
The fascist corporate state, like the one rapidly ascending in the United States today, focuses on extracting the maximum amount of profit from the citizenry, and from the environment (natural resources) for the benefit of a tiny ruling elite.
In June of last year Ralph Nader was interviewed on Democracy Now! He is quoted as saying,
It is not too extreme to call our system of government now “American fascism.” It’s the control of government by big business, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defined in 1938 as fascism.
Faithful Christians, and others, today need to declare much more definitely their staunch opposition to this kind of fascism: government unduly influenced by a “tiny ruling elite.”


  1. Here are significant comments from local Thinking Friend Eric Dollard"

    "Thanks, Leroy, for your always acute observations.

    "The only way to deal with corporate power is to boycott the corporations, at least the ones that contribute to political campaigns, as much as possible. Buy the most fuel-efficient vehicle possible and then walk or bicycle as much as possible in order to boycott Big Oil. Cut your home electricity use as much as possible, or go solar, in order to boycott Big Coal. Become a vegetarian (or eat only wild game) and either grow your own vegetables or buy from local farmers in order to boycott Big Ag and Big Food. Exercise, eat healthy foods, and practice preventive medicine in order to boycott Big Pharma (we are a drug addicted nation). Get your news from multiple foreign sources (or from NPR or PBS) in order to boycott Big Media. Get and stay out of debt, and use cash rather than credit cards, in order to boycott Big Finance. And whenever possible, buy from local businesses, not the chains (except perhaps for Costco, which treats its employees better than most). Think and act like a minimalist.

    "Finally, start a movement to publicize those corporations that contribute to political campaigns.

    "Getting enough people to join a boycott movement will be difficult, but right now it seems to be our only legal recourse (i.e., the movement to amend the constitution in order to reverse the Citizens United decision is not likely to succeed).

    "Other readers of your blog probably have some additional ideas (e.g., move to Sweden)."

  2. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson sent the following comment:

    "This is a Barmen moment, Leroy! What has happened since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Citizens United is reason for serious concern, as you ably argue."

  3. Thinking Friend Rob Daoust, who is also my Canadian-born son-in-law, sent the following comments (along with posting permission):

    "That sums it up nicely.

    "I think the majority of westerners would tend to associate fascism or fascists with people who are fanatics or conspiracy seeking types. Surely a country as great and noble as the US in the 21st century couldn't be ruled by fascists - absurd, ludicrous.

    "I'm surprised that folks such as Ralph Nader and Amy Goodman haven't already been locked up and silenced to keep them form spreading more malicious rumors about the elite minority. Perhaps that day is not too far around the corner.

    "I think there are numerous reasons why the wealthy elite are getting away with taking all the candy from the candy shop (uh, the PLANET), without any significant consequences. Huge groups in the country such as the NRA and Christian fundamentalists are keeping over 50% of Americans dumb-downed enough that they are content enough with their Budweiser six packs, a barely manageable truck payment and their evening sitcoms at the end of the day.

    "Somehow I don't think Mr. Shell or Mrs. Exxon will be sitting down with God Bless America Americans while watching an episode of Duck Dynasty. No, I think that Mr. and Mrs. Shell be having prime rib and champagne with folks at the White House where they are looking out for the best interests of a government for the people by the people. No six packs here, super PACs and caviar only, please. We'll send out the cake leftovers at the gate.

    "What, did somebody say something about storming the White House? No, of course not; that was the Bastille, stupid."

  4. The Corporate State has as its necessary partner the Consumer Society in which all social transaction becomes to some extent consumption. Persons become resources. Corporations (in spite of hyped "values") regard their clients and employees as cattle. Along with this we have the "Market Personality," in which success is about how well you sell yourself. Genuine thought and feeling is suppressed for what has the better market value.
    In the Internet and social networking culture, we are reduced to marketable information.This corruption isn't just in the political and economic spheres but in our very souls.


    1. Patrick, thanks for your astute observations. As you say, the problems in society are not just because of "them." To a large degree the problems are in the "very souls" of all of us.

  5. Local Thinking Friend Don Wideman sent the following comments with permission for them to be posted here:

    "Excellent! And scary! There seems to be a lot of examination and exposure of this truth, but little action to change it. I pray for God to raise up statesmen leaders for our time."

  6. A few minutes ago, Temp Sparkman, another local Thinking Friend, emailed these comments:

    "I have long kept up with this form of fascism, and every thing I read from Robert Reich's insightful warnings about it are unsettling.

    "One facet of the problem in the gap CEO pay and the workers. CEOs increased by 50% and workers by l.3 % last year. They make 257 times the average worker. That gap was l81 in 2009.

    "Thanks for keeping this moral issue before the public."

  7. The rich are very powerful, for they are the rich. Yet, the rich are very weak, for they are very few. In this paradox is reason for both hope and despair. Perhaps the most important thing at this point is a better understanding by all of economics. What usually passes for economics is no more than a religion that worships the Unseen Hand. The need is great for a truly scientific economics that has a true scientific basis, and not a set of formulas stolen from a classical physics that no longer accepts those formulas itself.

    I believe that in the long run, the truth will make us free. I also believe we live in a fallen world, where things will never work perfectly, or even very close to that. We need the courage to do the best we can with this.

    1. Craig, I am not sure the rich are "very weak" because they are few in number.

      I am also not sure of the accuracy of the information, but in January this year it was widely reported that the richest 85 people in the world own more wealth than the bottom half of the entire global population.

      If that is true, then it is mostly likely that those 85 people have far more influence on the world than half of the people in the world have. So being few in number is not really the issue.

  8. This is a legitimate concern! And you named it well: facism! I wonder why more folks aren't more concerned about this! Your "thinking friend Rob" suggests that our lifestyles numb us to the political reality. I am afraid that is true!