Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The ""Fascist" Koch Brothers, Part II

MathMan wrote in the comments on my previous post on this topic:

"A little while ago you had a post about how the left and the right often use the word capitalism in different ways, the right using it to mean the lack of government intervention in economic affairs, and the left using it a system designed to benefit the owners of capital. I think something similar is going on here. I think the left is using fascism to mean a system where society is controlled by the interests of big business..."

Well, they might be using it that way (really, I think the word has just come to mean "yicky" when used by many on the left), but such usage makes no sense. That is because, historically, fascism was not a system controlled by the interests of big business. Fascism was a system where the interests of big business had to buckle under to those of the party and the movement. The over-riding characteristic of fascism is, in fact, ultranationalism expressed through a single, militarized party, where all other interests, including those of the owners of capital, must be subordinate to those of the State as a collective.

I don't know the Koch brothers, and have never investigated their sincerity or tried to find out what their "true" goals are. But if one suspects that what they're really after is in an elitist takeover of society, then the right word to use for them is "oligarchs." But that just does not carry the punch that "fascists" does, so what they hey, smear away!

Unlike with "fascism," in the case of "capitalism," we have two different realms of discourse colliding:

1) For the left, "capitalism" usually means the actual, existing social system we see around us right now, e.g. in the G7 countries. That system is characterized by extensive government favors to business interests. By "capitalism" the left is designating an historical ideal type.

2) For many libertarians, "capitalism" denotes a purely ideal state of affairs, in which there is no government "interference" in the market, but which they believe can be made real. These libertarians are designating a (at this moment) purely theoretical ideal type.

Things are not like that with the use of the term "fascism." There really was no theoretical fascism: the fascists were proudly anti-theory. So all we have is the historical phenomenon of fascism. And that was certainly not a system where society was controlled by the interests of big business.


  1. Fascism was rather anti-theory, anti-rationalism, but I was still under the impression that Mussolini's Italy fell short of the totalitarian ideal he described in his writings (at least before the Italian Social Republic). He had to compromise with other parties most of the time.

  2. "…almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come." — George Orwell

  3. Gene,

    I'd say that fascism is quite close in many respects to an aristocratic and monarchical system.

    Under an aristocratic and monarchical system the aristocrats and the monarch control both the state and the means of production. The system is strictly hierarchical, authoritarian, undemocratic and inegalitarian. The workers have no power, and most of the wealth is held by the monarch and the aristocrats, with some held by the other upper classes. Aristocratic systems are also usually militaristic and nationalistic, and often racist. They are based on the belief that the upper classes are inherently superior to the lower classes. They employ mystical notions to justify the hierarchical power structure, and combine traditionalist notions of morality with an emphasis on competition and 'might makes right'. The aristocracy and monarch are treated as being highly individual, whereas the common folk are considered to be an undifferentiated mass. The idea of a 'collective nation' is combined with a strictly hierarchical system in which certain people have more rights than others, and the whole is ultimately controlled by one man, the monarch.

    This is all very similar to fascism, In fact it's almost identical in many respects. In a fascist system the leader/inner party is like the monarch, and the upper class, upper echelons of the extended party, capitalists and big business are like the aristocracy.

    Also I wouldn't say that fascism as a whole was/is anti-theory or without theory. You can read what Hitler, Mussolini and others wrote to see that they did in fact have a general theory about how society should be organized, and on what basis, even if this theory can appear to be incoherent to some.

    This interesting page has more on the subject:

    1. "I'd say that fascism is quite close in many respects to an aristocratic and monarchical system."

      And I suppose you'd say kangaroos are closely related to mushrooms as well.

    2. After all, neither engages in photosynthesis.

  4. no I wouldn't, as kangaroos and mushrooms are not close in many respects.

    I described the ways in which I think fascism and aristocracy/monarchy are similar in the rest of my comment. Perhaps you could explain why they are not similar in those specific ways.

    1. "I described the ways in which I think fascism and aristocracy/monarchy are similar"

      No, "making up a bunch of nonsense" is not the same as "describing."


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