The New Fascism:
I shall begin by doing a very unpopular thing that does not fit today's intellectual fashions and is, therefore, "anti-concensus": I shall begin by defining my terms, so that you will know what I am talking about.
Let me give you the dictionary definitions of three political terms: socialism, fascism, and statism:
Socialism - a theory or system of social organization which advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, etc. in the community as a whole.
Fascism - a governmental system with strong centralized power, permitting no opposition or criticism, controlling all affairs of the nation (industrial, commercial, etc.) ...
Statism - the principle or policy of concentrating extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty.
It is obvious that "statism" is the wider, generic term, of which the other two are specific variants. It is also obvious that statism is the dominant political trend of our day. But which of those two variants represents the specific direction of that trend?
Observe that both "socialism" and "fascism" involve the issue of property rights. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Observe the difference in those two theories: socialism negates private property rights altogether, and advocates "the vesting of ownership and control" in the community as a whole, i.e., in the state; fascism leaves ownership in the hands of private individuals, but transfers control of the property to the government.
Ownership without control is a contradiction in terms: it means "property," without the right to use it or to dispose of it. It means that the citizens retain the responsibility of holding property, without any of its advantages, while the government acquires all the advantages without any of the responsibility.
In this respect, socialism is the more honest of the two theories. I say "more honest," not "better" - because, in practice, there is no difference between them: both come from the same collectivist-statist principle, both negate individual rights and subordinate the individual to the collective, both deliver the livelihood and the lives of the citizens into the power of an omnipotent government - and the differences between them are only a matter of time, degree, and superficial detail, such as the choice of slogans by which the rulers delude their enslaved subjects.
Which of these two variants of statism are we moving toward: socialism or fascism?
To answer this question, one must first ask: Which is the dominant ideological trend of today's culture?
The disgraceful and terrifying answer is: there is no ideological trend today. There is no ideology. There are no political principles, theories, ideals, or philosophy. There is no direction, no goal, no compass, no vision of the future, no intellectual element of leadership. Are there any emotional elements dominating today's culture? Yes. One. Fear.
A country without a political philosophy is like a ship drifting at random in mid-ocean, at the mercy of any chance wind, wave, or current, a ship whose passengers huddle in their cabins and cry: "Don't rock the boat!" - for fear of discovering that the captain's bridge is empty.
It is obvious that a boat which cannot stand rocking is doomed already and that it had better be rocked hard, if it is to regain its course - but this realization presupposes a grasp of facts, of reality, of principles and a long-range view, all of which are precisely the things that the "non-rockers" are frantically struggling to evade.
Just as a neurotic believes that the facts of reality will vanish if he refuses to recognize them - so, today, the neurosis of an entire culture leads men to believe that their desperate need of political principles and concepts will vanish if they succeed in obliterating all principles and concepts. But since, in fact, neither an individual nor a nation can exist without some form of ideology, this sort of anti-ideology is now the formal, explicit, dominant ideology of our bankrupt culture.
This anti-ideology has a new and very ugly name: it is called "Government by Consensus."
If some demagogue were to offer us, as a guiding creed, the following tenets: that statistics should be substituted for truth, vote-counting for principles, numbers for rights, and public polls for morality - that pragmatic, range-of-the-moment expediency should be the criterion of a country's interests, and that the number of its adherents should be the criterion of an idea's truth or falsehood - that any desire of any nature whatsoever should be accepted as a valid claim, provided it is held by a sufficient number of people - that a majority may do anything it pleases to a minority - in short, gang rule and mob rule - if a demagogue were to offer it, he would not get very far. Yet all of it is contained in - and camouflaged by - the notion of "Government by Consensus."
This notion is now being plugged, not as an ideology, but as an anti-ideology; not as a principle, but as a means of obliterating principles; not as reason, but as rationalization, as a verbal ritual or a magic formula to assuage the national anxiety neurosis - a kind of pep pill or goofball for the "non-boat-rockers," and a chance to play it deuces wild, for the others.
It is only today's lethargic contempt for the pronouncements of our political and intellectual leaders that blinds people to the meaning, implications, and consequences of the notion of "Government by Consensus." You have all heard it and, I suspect, dismissed it as politicians' oratory, giving no thought to its actual meaning. But that is what I urge you to consider.
A significant clue to that meaning was given in an article by Tom Wicker in The New York Times (October 11, 1964). Referring to "what Nelson Rockefeller used to call 'the mainstream of American thought,'" Mr. Wicker writes:
That mainstream is what political theorists have been projecting for years as "the national consensus" - what Walter Lippmann has aptly called "the vital center."
Political moderation, almost by definition, is at the heart of the consensus. That is, the consensus generally sprawls over all acceptable political views - all ideas that are not totally repugnant to and do not directly threaten some major segment of the population. Therefore, acceptable ideas must take the views of others into account and that is what is meant by moderation.
Now let us identify what this means. "The consensus generally sprawls over all acceptable political views." Acceptable - to whom? To the consensus. And since the government is to be ruled by the consensus, this means that political views are to be divided into those which are "acceptable" and those which are "unacceptable" to the government. What would be the criterion of "acceptability"? Mr. Wicker supplies it. Observe that the criterion is not intellectual, not a question of whether certain views are true or false; the criterion is not moral, not a question of whether the views are right or wrong; the criterion is emotional: whether the views are or are not "repugnant." To whom? "To some major segment of the population." There is also the additional proviso that those views must not "directly threaten" that major segment.
What about the minor segments of the population? Are the views that threaten them "acceptable"? What about the smallest segment: the individual? Obviously, the individual and the minority groups are not to be considered; no matter how repugnant an idea may be to a man and no matter how gravely it may threaten his life, his work, his future, he is to be ignored or sacrificed by the omnipotent consensus and its government - unless he has a gang, a sizable gang, to support him.
What exactly is a "direct threat" to any part of the population? In a mixed economy, every government action is a direct threat to some men and an indirect threat to all. Every government interference in the economy consists of giving an unearned benefit, extorted by force, to some men at the expense of others. By what criterion of justice is a consensus-government to be guided? By the size of the victim's gang.
Now note Mr. Wicker's last sentence: "Therefore, acceptable ideas must take the views of others into account and that is what is meant by moderation." And just what is meant here by "the views of others"? Of which others? Since it is not the views of individuals nor of minorities, the only discernible meaning is that every "major segment" must take into account the views of all the other "major segments." But suppose that a group of socialists wants to nationalize all factories, and a group of industrialists wants to keep its properties? What would it mean, for either group, to "take into account" the views of the other? And what would "moderation" consist of, in such a case? What would constitute "moderation" in a conflict between a group of men who want to be supported at public expense - and a group of taxpayers who have other uses for their money? What would constitute "moderation" in a conflict between the member of a smaller group, such as a Negro in the South, who believes that he has an inalienable right to a fair trial - and the larger group of Southern racists who believe that the "public good" of their community permits them to lynch him? What would constitute "moderation" in a conflict between me and a communist (or between our respective followers), when my views are that I have an inalienable right to my life, liberty, and happiness - and his views are that the "public good" of the state permits him to rob, enslave, or murder me?
There can be no meeting ground, no middle, no compromise between opposite principles. There can be no such thing as "moderation" in the realm of reason and of morality. But reason and morality are precisely the two concepts abrogated by the notion of "Government by Consensus."
The advocates of that notion would declare at this point that any idea which permits no compromise constitutes "extremism" - that any form of "extremism," any uncompromising stand, is evil - that the consensus "sprawls" only over those ideas which are amenable to "moderation" - and that "moderation" is the supreme virtue, superseding reason and morality.
This is the clue to the core, essence, motive, and real meaning of the doctrine of "Government by Consensus": the cult of compromise. Compromise is the pre-condition, the necessity, the imperative of a mixed economy. The "consensus" doctrine is an attempt to translate the brute facts of a mixed economy into an ideological - or anti-ideological - system and to provide them with a semblance of justification.
A mixed economy is a mixture of freedom and controls - with no principles, rules, or theories to define either. Since the introduction of controls necessitates and leads to further controls, it is an unstable, explosive mixture which, ultimately, has to repeal the controls or collapse into dictatorship. A mixed economy has no principles to define its policies, its goals, its laws - no principles to limit the power of its government. The only principle of a mixed economy - which, necessarily, has to remain unnamed and unacknowledged - is that no one's interests are safe, everyone's interests are on a public auction block, and anything goes for anyone who can get away with it. Such a system - or, more precisely, anti-system - breaks up a country into an ever-growing number of enemy camps, into economic groups fighting one another for self preservation in an indeterminate mixture of defense and offense, as the nature of such a jungle demands. While, politically, a mixed economy preserves the semblance of an organized society with a semblance of law and order, economically it is the equivalent of the chaos that had ruled China for centuries: a chaos of robber gangs looting - and draining - the productive elements of the country.
A mixed economy is rule by pressure groups. It is an amoral, institutionalized civil war of special interests and lobbies, all fighting to seize a momentary control of the legislative machinery, to extort some special privilege at one another's expense by an act of government - i.e., by force. In the absence of individual rights, in the absence of any moral or legal principles, a mixed economy's only hope to preserve its precarious semblance of order, to restrain the savage, desperately rapacious groups it itself has created, and to prevent the legalized plunder from running over into plain, unlegalized looting of all by all - is compromise; compromise on everything and in every realm - material, spiritual, intellectual - so that no group would step over the line by demanding too much and topple the whole rotted structure. If the game is to continue, nothing can be permitted to remain firm, solid, absolute, untouchable; everything (and everyone) has to be fluid, flexible, indeterminate, approximate. By what standard are anyone's actions to be guided? By the expediency of any immediate moment.
The only danger, to a mixed economy, is any not-to-be-compromised value, virtue, or idea. The only threat is any uncompromising person, group, or movement. The only enemy is integrity.
It is unnecessary to point out who will be the steady winners and who the constant losers in a game of that kind.
It is also clear what sort of unity (of consensus) that game requires: the unity of a tacit agreement that anything goes, anything is for sale (or for "negotiation"), and the rest is up to the free-for-all of pressuring, lobbying, manipulating, favor-swapping, public- relation'ing, give-and-taking, double-crossing, begging, bribing, betraying - and chance, the blind chance of a war in which the prize is the privilege of using legal armed force against legally disarmed victims.
Observe that this type of prize establishes one basic interest held in common by all the players: the desire to have a strong government - a government of unlimited power, strong enough to let the winners and would-be winners get away with whatever they're seeking; a government uncommitted to any policy, unrestrained by any ideology, a government that hoards an ever-growing power, power for power's sake - which means: for the sake and use of any "major" gang who might seize it momentarily to ram their particular piece of legislation down the country's throat. Observe, therefore, that the doctrine of "compromise" and "moderation" applies to everything except one issue: any suggestion to limit the power of the government.
Observe the torrents of vilification, abuse, and hysterical hatred unleashed by the "moderates" against any advocate of freedom, i.e., of capitalism. Observe that such designations as "extreme middle" or "militant middle" are being used by people seriously and self- righteously. Observe the inordinately vicious intensity of the smear-campaign against Senator Goldwater, which had the overtones of panic: the panic of the "moderates," the "vital-centrists," the "middle-of-the-roaders" in the face of the possibility that a real, pro- capitalism movement might put an end to their game. A movement, incidentally, which does not exist, as yet, since Senator Goldwater was not an advocate of capitalism - and since his meaningless, unphilosophical, unintellectual campaign has contributed to the entrenchment of the consensus-advocates. But what is significant here is the nature of their panic: it gave us a glimpse of their vaunted "moderation," their "democratic" respect for the people's choices and their tolerance of disagreements or opposition.
In a letter to The New York Times (June 23, 1964), an assistant professor of political science, fearing Goldwater's nomination, wrote as follows:
The real danger lies in the divisive campaign which his nomination would provoke.... The result of a Goldwater candidacy would be a divided and embittered electorate. ... To be effective, American government requires a high degree of consensus and bipartisanship on basic issues. ...
When and by whom has statism been accepted as the basic principle of America - and as a principle which should now be placed beyond debate or dissension, so that no basic issues are to be raised any longer? Isn't that the formula of a one-party government? The professor did not specify.
Another letter-writer in The New York Times (June 24, 1964), identified in print as a "Liberal Democrat," went a little farther.
Let the American people choose in November. If they choose overwhelmingly for Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats, then once and for all the Federal Government can get on, with no excuses, with the job millions of Negroes, unemployed, aged, sick and otherwise handicapped persons expect it to do - to say nothing of our overseas commitments.
If the people choose Goldwater, then it would seem the nation was hardly worth saving after all.
Woodrow Wilson once said that there is such a thing as being too proud to fight; then he had to go to war. Once and for all let us have it out, while the battle yet can be fought with ballots instead of bullets.
Does this gentleman mean that if we don't vote his way, he will resort to bullets? Your guess is as good as mine.
The New York Times, which had been a conspicuous advocate of "Government by Consensus," said some curious things in its comment on President Johnson's victory. Its editorial of November 8, 1964, stated:
No matter how massive the electoral victory - and it was massive - the Administration cannot merely ride the crest of the popular wave rolling along on a sea of platitudinous generalizations and euphoric promises . . . now that it has a broad popular mandate, it has the moral as well as the political obligation not to try to be all things to all men but to settle down to a hard, concrete, purposeful course of action.
What kind of purposeful action? If the voters were offered nothing but "platitudinous generalizations and euphoric promises," how can their vote be taken as a "broad popular mandate"? A mandate for an unnamed purpose? A political blank check? And if Mr. Johnson did win a massive victory by trying "to be all things to all men," then which things is he now expected to be, which voters is he to disappoint or betray - and what becomes of the broad popular consensus?
Morally and philosophically, that editorial is highly dubious and contradictory. But it becomes clear and consistent in the context of a mixed economy's anti-ideology. The president of a mixed economy is not expected to have a specific program or policy. A blank check on power is all that he asks the voters to give him. Thereafter, it's up to the pressure-group game, which everybody is supposed to understand and endorse, but never mention. Which things he will be to which men depends on the chances of the game - and on the "major segments of the population." His job is only to hold the power - and to dispense the favors.
In the 1930's, the "liberals" had a program of broad social reforms and a crusading spirit, they advocated a planned society, they talked in terms of abstract principles, they propounded theories of a predominantly socialistic nature - and most of them were touchy about the accusation that they were enlarging the government's power; most of them were assuring their opponents that government power was only a temporary means to an end - a "noble end," the liberation of the individual from his bondage to material needs.
Today, nobody talks of a planned society in the "liberal" camp; long-range programs, theories, principles, abstractions, and "noble ends" are not fashionable any longer. Modern "liberals" deride any political concern with such large-scale matters as an entire society or an economy as a whole; they concern themselves with single, concrete-bound, range-of-the-moment projects and demands, without regard to cost, context, or consequences. "Pragmatic" - not "idealistic*' - is their favorite adjective when they are called upon to justify their "stance," as they call it, not "stand." They are militantly opposed to political philosophy; they denounce political concepts as "tags," "labels," "myths," "illusions" - and resist any attempt to "label" - i.e., to identify - their own views. They are belligerently anti-theoretical and - with a faded mantle of intellectuality still clinging to their shoulders - they are anti- intellectual. The only remnant of their former "idealism" is a tired, cynical, ritualistic quoting of shopworn "humanitarian" slogans, when the occasion demands it.
Cynicism, uncertainty, and fear are the insignia of the culture which they are still dominating by default. And the only thing that has not rusted in their ideological equipment, but has grown savagely brighter and clearer through the years, is their lust for power - for an autocratic, statist, totalitarian government power. It is not a crusading brightness, it is not the lust of a fanatic with a mission - it is more like the glassy-eyed brightness of a somnambulist whose stu-porous despair has long since swallowed the memory of his purpose, but who still clings to his mystic weapon in the stubborn belief that "there ought to be a law," that everything will be all right if only somebody will pass a law, that every problem can be solved by the magic power of brute force....
Such is the present intellectual state and ideological trend of our culture.
Now I shall ask you to consider the question I raised at (he beginning of this discussion: Which of these two variants of statism are we moving toward: socialism or fascism?
Let me submit in evidence, as part of the answer, a quotation from an editorial that appeared in the Washington Star (October 1964). It is an eloquent mixture of truth and misinformation, and a typical example of the state of today's political knowledge:
Socialism is quite simply the state ownership of the means of production. This has never been proposed by a major party candidate for the Presidency and is not now proposed by Lyndon Johnson. [True.]
There is, however, a whole series of American legislative acts that increase either government regulation of private business or government responsibility for individual welfare. [True.] It is to such legislation that warning cries of "socialism!" refer.
Besides the Constitutional provision for Federal regulation of interstate commerce, such "intrusion" of government into the market- place begins with the antitrust laws. [Very true.] To them we owe the continued existence of competitive capitalism and the non- arrival of cartel capitalism. [Untrue.] Inasmuch as socialism is the product, one way or another, of cartel capitalism [untrue], it may reasonably be said that such government interference with business has in fact prevented socialism. [Worse than untrue.]As to welfare legislation, it is still light years away from the "cradle to grave" security sponsored by contemporary socialism. [Not quite true.] It seems much more like ordinary human concern for human distress than like an ideological program of any kind. [The last part of this sentence is true: it is not an ideological program. As to the first part, ordinary human concern for human distress does not manifest itself ordinarily in the form of a gun aimed at the wallets and earnings of one's neighbors.]
This editorial did not mention, of course, that a system in which the government does not nationalize the means of production, but assumes total control over the economy is fascism.
It is true that the welfare-statists are not socialists, that they never advocated or intended the socialization of private property, that they want to "preserve" private property - with government control of its use and disposal. But that is the fundamental characteristic of fascism.
Here is another piece of evidence. This one is less crudely naive than the first and much more insidiously wrong. This is from a letter to The New York Times (November 1, 1964), written by an assistant professor of economics:
Viewed by almost every yardstick, the United States today is more committed to private enterprise than probably any other industrial country and is not even remotely approaching a socialist system. As the term is understood by students of comparative economic systems and others who do not use it loosely, socialism is identified with extensive nationalization, a dominant public sector, a strong cooperative movement, egalitarian income distribution, a total welfare state and central planning.
In the United States not only has there been no nationalization, but Government concerns have been turned over to private enterprise. ...
Income distribution in this country is one of the most unequal among the developed nations, and tax cuts and tax loopholes have blunted the moderate progressivity of our tax structure. Thirty years after the New Deal, the United States has a very limited welfare state, compared with the comprehensive social security and public housing schemes in many European countries.By no stretch of the imagination is the real issue in this campaign a choice between capitalism and socialism or between a free and a planned economy. The issue is about two differing concepts of the role of government within the framework of an essentially private enterprise system.
The role of government in a private enterprise system is that of a policeman who protects man's individual rights (including property rights) by protecting men from physical force; in a free economy, the government does not control, regulate, coerce, or interfere with men's economic activities.
I do not know the political views of the writer of that letter; he may be a "liberal" or he may be an alleged defender of capitalism. But if he is this last, then I must point out that such views as his - which are shared by many "conservatives" - are more damaging and derogatory to capitalism than the ideas of its avowed enemies.
Such "conservatives" regard capitalism as a system compatible with government controls, and thus help to spread the most dangerous misconceptions. While full, laissez-faire capitalism has not yet existed anywhere, while some (unnecessary) government controls were allowed to dilute and undercut the original American system (more through error than through theoretical intention) - such controls were minor impediments, the mixed economies of the nineteenth century were predominantly free, and it is this unprecedented freedom that brought about mankind's unprecedented progress. The principles, the theory, and the actual practice of capitalism rest on a free, unregulated market, as the history of the last two centuries has amply demonstrated. No defender of capitalism can permit himself to ignore the exact meaning of the term "laissez-faire" - and of the term "mixed economy," which clearly indicates the two opposite elements involved in the mixture: the element of economic freedom, which is capitalism, and the element of government controls, which is statism.
An insistent campaign has been going on for years to make us accept the Marxist view that all governments are tools of economic class interests and that capitalism is not a free economy, but a system of government controls serving some privileged class. The purpose of that campaign is to distort economics, rewrite history, and obliterate the existence and the possibility of a free country and an uncontrolled economy. Since a system of nominal private property ruled by government controls is not capitalism, but fascism, the only choice this obliteration would leave us is the choice between fascism and socialism (or communism) - which all the statists in the world, of all varieties, degrees, and denominations, are struggling frantically to make us believe. (The destruction of freedom is their common goal, after which they hope to fight one another for power.)
It is thus that the views of that professor and of many "conservatives" lend credence and support to the vicious leftist propaganda which equates capitalism with fascism.
But there is a bitter kind of justice in the logic of events. That propaganda is having an effect which may be advantageous to the communists, but which is the opposite of the effect intended by the "liberals," the welfare-statists, the socialists, who share the guilt of spreading it: instead of smearing capitalism, that propaganda has succeeded in whitewashing and disguising fascism.
In this country, few people care to advocate, to defend, or even to understand capitalism; yet fewer still wish to give up its advantages. So if they are told that capitalism is compatible with controls, with the particular controls which further their particular interests - be it government handouts, or minimum wages, or price-supports, or subsidies, or antitrust laws, or censorship of dirty movies - they will go along with such programs, in the comforting belief that the results will be nothing worse than a "modified" capitalism. And thus a country which does abhor fascism is moving by imperceptible degrees - through ignorance, confusion, evasion, moral cowardice, and intellectual default - not toward socialism or any mawkish altruistic ideal, but toward a plain, brutal, predatory, power-grubbing, de facto fascism.
No, we have not reached that stage. But we are certainly not "an essentially private enterprise system" any longer. At present, we are a disintegrating, unsound, precariously unstable mixed economy - a random, mongrel mixture of socialistic schemes, communistic influences, fascist controls, and shrinking remnants of capitalism still paying the costs of it all - the total of it rolling in the direction of a fascist state.
Consider our present Administration. I don't think I'll be accused of unfairness if I say that President Johnson is not a philosophical thinker. No, he is not a fascist, he is not a socialist, he is not a pro-capitalist. Ideologically, he is not anything in particular. Judging by his past record and by the consensus of bis own supporters, the concept of an ideology is not applicable in bis case. He is a politician - a very dangerous, yet very appropriate phenomenon in our present state. He is an almost fiction-like, archetypical embodiment of the perfect leader of a mixed economy: a man who enjoys power for power's sake, who is expert at the game of manipulating pressure groups, of playing them all against one another, who loves the process of dispensing smiles, frowns, and favors, particularly sudden favors, and whose vision does not extend beyond the range of the next election.
Neither President Johnson nor any of today's prominent groups would advocate the socialization of industry. Like his modern predecessors in office, Mr. Johnson knows that businessmen are the milch-cows of a mixed economy, and he does not want to destroy them, he wants them to prosper and to feed his welfare projects (which the next election requires), while they, the businessmen, are eating out of his hand, as they seem to be anxiously eager to do. The business lobby is certain to get its fair share of influence and of recognition - just like the labor lobby or the farm lobby or the lobby of any "major segment" - on bis own terms. He will be particularly adept at the task of creating and encouraging the type of businessmen whom I call "the aristocracy of pull." This is not a socialistic pattern; it is the typical pattern of fascism. The political, intellectual, and moral meaning of Mr. Johnson's policy toward businessmen was summed up eloquently in an article in The New York Times of January 4, 1965:
Mr. Johnson is an out-and-out Keynesian in his assiduous wooing of the business community. Unlike President Roosevelt, who delighted in attacking businessmen until World War II forced him into a reluctant truce, and President Kennedy, who also incurred business hostility, President Johnson has worked long and hard to get businessmen to join ranks in a national consensus for his programs.
This campaign may perturb many Keynesians, but it is pure Keynes. Indeed, Lord Keynes, who once was regarded as a dangerous and Machiavellian figure by American businessmen, made specific suggestions for improving relations between the President and the business community.
He set down his views in 1938 in a letter to President Roosevelt, who was running into renewed criticism from businessmen following the recession that took place the previous year. Lord Keynes, who always sought to transform capitalism in order to save it, recognized the importance of business confidence and tried to convince Mr. Roosevelt to repair the damage that had been done.
He advised the President that businessmen were not politicians and did not respond to the same treatment. They are, he wrote "much milder than politicians, at the same time allured and terrified by the glare of publicity, easily persuaded to be 'patriots, perplexed, bemused, indeed terrified, yet only too anxious to take a cheerful view, vain perhaps but very unsure of themselves, pathetically responsive to a kind word. ..."
He was confident that Mr. Roosevelt could tame them and make them do his bidding, provided he followed some simple Keynesian rules.
"You could do anything you liked with them," the letter continued, "if you would treat them (even the big ones), not as wolves and tigers, but as domestic animals by nature, even though they have been badly brought up and not trained as you would wish."
President Roosevelt ignored his advice. So, apparently, did President Kennedy. But President Johnson seems to have got the message.... By kind words and frequent pats on the head, he had had the business community eating out of his hand.Mr. Johnson appears to agree with Lord Keynes's view that there is little to be gained by carrying on a feud with businessmen. As he put it, "If you work them into the surly, obstinate, terrified mood of which domestic animals, wrongly handled, are capable, the nation's burden will not get carried to market; and in the end, public opinion will veer their way."
The view of businessmen as "domestic animals" who carry "the nation's burden" and who must be "trained" by the President "to do his bidding" is certainly not a view compatible with capitalism. It is not a view applicable to socialism, since there are no businessmen in a socialist state. It is a view that expresses the economic essence of fascism, of the relationship between business and government in a fascist state.
No matter what the verbal camouflage, such is the actual meaning of any variant of "transformed" (or "modified" or "modernized" or "humanized") capitalism. In all such doctrines, the "humanization" consists of turning some members of society (the most productive ones) into beasts of burden.
The formula by which the sacrificial animals are to be fooled and tamed is being repeated today with growing insistence and frequency: businessmen, it is said, must regard the government, not as an enemy, but as a "partner." The notion of a "partnership" between a private group and public officials, between business and government, between production and force, is a linguistic corruption (an "anti-concept") typical of a fascist ideology - an ideology that regards force as the basic element and ultimate arbiter in all human relationships.
"Partnership" is an indecent euphemism for "government control." There can be no partnership between armed bureaucrats and defenseless private citizens who have no choice but to obey. What chance would you have against a "partner" whose arbitrary word is law, who may give you a hearing (if your pressure group is big enough), but who will play favorites and bargain your interests away, who will always have the last word and the legal "right" to enforce it on you at the point of a gun, holding your property, your work, your future, your life in his power? Is that the meaning of "partnership"?
But there are men who may find such a prospect attractive; they exist among businessmen as among every other group or profession: the men who dread the competition of a free market and would welcome an armed "partner" to extort special advantages over their abler competitors; men who seek to rise, not by merit but by pull, men who are willing and eager to live not by right, but by favor. Among businessmen, this type of mentality was responsible for the passage of the antitrust laws and is still supporting them today.
A substantial number of Republican businessmen switched to the side of Mr. Johnson in the last election. Here are some interesting observations on this subject, from a survey by The New York Times (September 16, 1964):
Interviews in five cities in the industrial Northeast and Midwest disclose striking differences in political outlook between officials of large corporations and men who operate smaller businesses. . . . The business executives who expect to cast the first Democratic Presidential vote of their lives are nearly all affiliated with large companies. . . . There is more support for President Johnson among business executives who are in their 40's and 50's than there is among either older or younger businessmen. . . . Many businessmen in their 40's and 50's say they find relatively little shifting toward support of Mr. Johnson on the part of younger business executives. Interviews with those in their 30's confirm this. . . . The younger executives themselves speak with pride of their generation as the one that interrupted and reversed the trend toward more liberalism in younger persons. ... It is on the issue of Government deficits that the division of opinion between small and large businessmen emerges most dramatically. Officials of giant corporations have a far greater tendency to accept the idea that budget deficits are sometimes necessary and even desirable. The typical small businessman, however, reserves a very special scorn for deficit spending. ...
This gives us an indication of who are the vested interests in a mixed economy - and what such an economy does to the beginners or the young.
An essential aspect of the socialistically inclined mentality is the desire to obliterate the difference between the earned and the unearned, and, therefore, to permit no differentiation between such businessmen as Hank Rearden and Orren Boyle. To a concrete- bound, range-of-the-moment, primitive socialist mentality - a mentality that clamors for a "redistribution of wealth" without any concern for the origin of wealth - the enemy is all those who are rich, regardless of the source of their riches. Such mentalities, those aging, graying "liberals," who had been the "idealists" of the 30's, are clinging desperately to the illusion that we are moving toward some sort of socialist state inimical to the rich and beneficial to the poor - while frantically evading the spectacle of what kind of rich are being destroyed and what kind are flourishing under the system they, the "liberals," have established. The grim joke is on them: their alleged "ideals" have paved the way, not toward socialism, but toward fascism. The collector of their efforts is not the helplessly, brainlessly virtuous "little man" of their flat- footed imagination and shopworn fiction, but the worst type of predatory rich, the rich-by-force, the rich-by-political-privilege, the type who has no chance under capitalism, but who is always there to cash in on every collectivist "noble experiment."
It is the creators of wealth, the Hank Reardens, who are destroyed under any form of statism - socialist, communist, or fascist; it is the parasites, the Orren Boyles, who are the privileged "elite" and the profiteers of statism, particularly of fascism. (The special profiteers of socialism are the James Taggarts; of communism - the Floyd Ferrises.) The same is true of their psychological counterparts among the poor and among the men of all the economic levels in-between.
The particular form of economic organization, which is becoming more and more apparent in this country, as an outgrowth of the power of pressure groups, is one of the worst variants of statism: guild socialism. Guild socialism robs the talented young of their future - by freezing men into professional castes under rigid rules. It represents an open embodiment of the basic motive of most statists, though they usually prefer not to confess it: the entrenchment and protection of mediocrity from abler competitors, the shackling of the men of superior ability down to the mean average of their professions. That theory is not too popular among socialists (though it has its advocates) - but the most famous instance of its large-scale practice was Fascist Italy.
In the 1930's, a few perceptive men said that Roosevelt's New Deal was a form of guild socialism and that it was closer to Mussolini's system than to any other. They were ignored. Today, the evidence is unmistakable.
It was also said that if fascism ever came to the United States, it would come disguised as socialism. In this connection, I recommend that you read or re-read Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here - with special reference to the character, style, and ideology of Berzelius Windrip, the fascist leader.
Now let me mention, and answer, some of the standard objections by which today's "liberals" attempt to camouflage (to differentiate from fascism) the nature of the system they are supporting.
"Fascism requires one-party rule."
What will the notion of "Government by Consensus" amount to in practice?
"Fascism's goal is the conquest of the world."
What is the goal of those global-minded, bipartisan champions of the United Nations? And, if they reach it, what positions do they expect to acquire in the power-structure of "One World"?
"Fascism preaches racism."
Not necessarily. Hitler's Germany did; Mussolini's Italy did not
"Fascism is opposed to the welfare state."
Check your premises and your history books. The father and originator of the welfare state, the man who put into practice the notion of buying the loyalty of some groups with money extorted from others, was Bismarck - the political ancestor of Hitler. Let me remind you that the full title of the Nazi Party was: the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany.
Let me remind you also of some excerpts from the political program of that party, adopted in Munich, on February 24, 1920:
We ask that the government undertake the obligation above all of providing citizens with adequate opportunity for employment and earning a living.
The activities of the individual must not be allowed to clash with the interests of the community, but must take place within its confines and be for the good of all. Therefore, we demand: ...an end to the power of the financial interests.
We demand profit sharing in big business.
We demand a broad extension of care for the aged.
We demand ... the greatest possible consideration of small business in the purchases of the national, state, and municipal governments.
In order to make possible to every capable and industrious [citizen] the attainment of higher education and thus the achievement of a post of leadership, the government must provide an all-around enlargement of our entire system of public education. . . . We demand the education at government expense of gifted children of poor parents. . . .
The government must undertake the improvement of public health - by protecting mother and child, by prohibiting child labor ... by the greatest possible support for all clubs concerned with the physical education of youth.
[We] combat the... materialistic spirit within and without us, and are convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only proceed from within on the foundation of 'The Common Good Before the Individual Good'
There is, however, one difference between the type of fascism toward which we are drifting, and the type that ravaged European countries: ours is not a militant kind of fascism, not an organized movement of shrill demagogues, bloody thugs, hysterical third-rate intellectuals, and juvenile delinquents - ours is a tired, worn, cynical fascism, fascism by default, not like a flaming disaster, but more like the quiet collapse of a lethargic body slowly eaten by internal corruption.
Did it have to happen? No. Can it still be averted? Yes.
If you doubt the power of philosophy to set the course and shape the destiny of human societies, observe that our mixed economy is the literal, faithfully carried-out product of Pragmatism - and of the generation brought up under its influence. Pragmatism is the philosophy which holds that there is no objective reality or permanent truth, that there are no absolute principles, no valid abstractions, no firm concepts, that anything may be tried by rule-of-thumb, that objectivity consists of collective subjectivism, that whatever people wish to be true, is true, whatever people wish to exist, does exist - provided a consensus says so.
If you want to avert the final disaster, it is this type of thinking - every one of those propositions and all of them - that you must face, grasp, and reject. Then you will have grasped the connection of philosophy to politics and to the daily events of your life. Then you will have learned that no society is better than its philosophical foundation. And then - to paraphrase John Gait - you will be ready, not to return to capitalism, but to discover it
1. These definitions are from The American College Dictionary, New York: Random House, 1957. 202
2. Der Natlonalsozialismus Dokumente 1933-1945, edited by Walther Hofer, Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Bucherei, 1957, pp. 29-31.
For many more quotations of this kind, revealing the altruist-collectivist base of the Nazi and fascist ideology, I refer you to The Fascist New Frontier.
3. Ayn Rand, The Fascist New Frontier, New York: Nathaniel Branden Institute, 1963, p. 8.