Fascism: A Warning
By Madeleine Albright
Who better to help former Secretary of State Madeline Albright make her point than the first fascist, Il Duce, Benito Mussolini. He advised, pluck the chicken feather by feather so as to keep the squawking discrete; in this way, disappearing freedoms go unnoticed until too late. Sounds similar to what we are experiencing in the form of lie constantly, toss out outrageous statements regularly, do all to divert attention and confuse matters.
Using fascist leaders, dictators, and authoritarian rules from Mussolini’s and Hitler’s days, Albright describes and thereby alerts us to the pattern of how these people work. Wise people should pay attention.
Early on, Albright offers a checklist for defining a Fascist, and it’s worth quoting it here, for if you go no further than this, at least you will have a handy way for judging many of today’s strong men. “To my mind, a Fascist is someone who identifies strongly with and claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use whatever means are necessary—including violence—to achieve his or her goals. In that conception, a Fascist will likely be a tyrant, but a tyrant need not be a Fascist.”
Albright reinforces her point by taking readers through the circumstances allowing, the rise of, and the methods of control employed by a real rogues gallery of tough guys: Mussolini, Hitler, Franco (Spain), Sir Oswald Mosley (England), Stalin, Joe McCarthy, Milošević, Marcos and Duterte (Philippines), Chávez, Erdoğan, Orbán (Hungry), Putin, and the list, unfortunately, could be much longer. Learning about the motives and methods of these men, it won’t be lost on readers how Donald Trump seems to be drawing from these authoritarians’ playbooks. The message here is quite clear, forcefully laid out for all but the blind and addled to see: we like to believe that American democracy and our republican governmental checks and balances afford us protection against such strong men overwhelming our way of life, but we may be much to optimistic.
Back in the dim days of the Great Depression, when fascism rose in Italy and Germany, American author Sinclair Lewis saw clearly that we too could succumb to the siren song of order and national chauvinism. It’s well worth taking a look at his novelistic toppling of our government, It Can’t Happen Here (1936), both about fascist revolution and American populism manifested by Huey Long.
Again, with Albright’s book, we have yet another red flag volume that Americans should read, and that, alas, most, especially those who should, will not. w/c