Wild accusations of fascism a betrayal of genuine victims
Next Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy during the Second World War. The battle, often simply referred to as D-Day, involved more than 150,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen from eight countries, who left the security of Britain to engage the most formidable enemy on the beaches and fields of northern France. As the planes and boats launched for the assault, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, was unsure if his men would succeed. Fortunately, they did, and the daring mission marked the beginning of the end for the fascist forces in Europe.
Today, too many demagogues and radical partisans falsely accuse their political opponents of being fascists. Among a segment of politically angry citizens and politicians in Europe and the US, “fascist” has become a common slur with little basis in fact. To examine this absurd phenomenon, it is important to first understand what fascism is.
Fascism, according to a mid-20th century edition of Webster’s Dictionary, is “a system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of the opposition… the retention of private ownership of the means of production under centralized governmental control, belligerent nationalism and racism, glorification of war, etc.” A definition provided in the last century seems most apt, because that is when fascism originated and terrorized Europe.
There is not one country in Western Europe or North America today that has a government even resembling fascism. Yet that does not stop political agitators from screaming “fascism” at their ideological opponents. During the US presidential election of 2016, opponents began comparing candidate Donald Trump to Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy before and during the Second World War. In July of that year, there was a video posted on YouTube that juxtaposed the two in an attempt to conjure a resemblance. In July of 2018, the political website the Daily Beast published a column with the preposterous headline, “It is happening here, Trump is already early-stage Mussolini.”
There is not one country in Western Europe or North America today that has a government even resembling fascism
Ellen R. Wald
In the last three years, a radical and violent political organization has arisen in the US calling itself Antifa. The name is supposed to stand for “anti-fascist,” but the tactics of this fringe group betray that it actually uses the methods of fascism. Antifa has been filmed in cities like Berkeley, California, and Portland, Oregon, rioting, destroying property and physically assaulting those who share different opinions. Antifa is not part of the government and thus it cannot meet the definition of fascist. However, it does try to forcibly suppress the opposition with violence. That is a key component of fascism.
Even a former US secretary of state has accused Trump of being a fascist. In fact, Madeleine Albright wrote a whole book about it last year, called “Fascism: A Warning.” Albright’s book reads: “Why, this far into the twenty-first century, are we once again talking about fascism? One reason, frankly, is Donald Trump. If we think of fascism as a wound from the past that had almost healed, Trump in the White House was like ripping off the bandage and picking at the scab.” Either Albright was ignorant of the meaning of fascism, was too deluded to see that the Trump administration does not fit the definition, or was so hatefully partisan that she was willing to fabricate. As a child, she was actually a victim of the fascist Nazis, which makes it all the more disgraceful that she would cheapen the evils of fascism to use it as a political slur in a free country.
Even Europe, whose population should probably know better, is suffering from the phenomenon of the “fascist” slur. The chief business columnist for the Independent, a British news site, recently raised the question of whether outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May was displaying fascistic tendencies. It turns out James Moore was unhappy with Britain’s National Health Service, the failures of which long pre-date May’s tenure. He knew it was wrong to use that insult but couldn’t help himself. He wrote: “I don’t use the term ‘fascistic’ lightly, because it is uttered too often — and usually incorrectly... But May’s speech was at least testing the borders of it.” May will step down next week because the people have lost confidence in her. Fascist dictators do not step down just because the people express discontent.
On June 6, 1944, brave young men gained a foothold in northern France, a major step in the defeat of the fascist Nazis. Mussolini had been executed only 39 days earlier, as the Allies fought through Italy. When angry partisans in free countries accuse their opponents of fascism, they are betraying the memories of those who suffered under true fascism and those who fought to defeat it. When they make such wild accusations against people in power and survive with no consequences, they are actually demonstrating that those in power are not fascist at all.
• Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D. is a historian and author of “Saudi, Inc.” She is the president of Transversal Consulting and also teaches Middle East history and policy at Jacksonville University. Twitter: @EnergzdEconomy