Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mussolini was a teacher

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group,”                                                                  
Franklin D. Roosevelt 
I saw that quote, a long time ago, on sites opposing the imposition of Industrial Wind Turbines on unwelcoming communities; an action seen as deliberately facilitated by Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEGEA).  I explored the quote, and FDR, and soon realized the quote not only wasn’t a great definition of fascism, but FDR was considered a fascist, an opponent of fascists, a facilitator of fascist …   Opinions of FDR appear to communicate more about the opiner than FDR.  Strangely, or not, the speech the quote kicks off deals with corporatism, and the distribution of income – both might be more relevant (and almost totally ignored) issues today, and both are only tangentially connected to the European Fascism generally associated with the term.   

Fascism is not very well defined.  Recently I read an essay titled, “The Five Stages of Fascism,” by Robert O. Paxton of Columbia University.  I’m going to build this blog entry around my understanding of Paxton’s essay. I’m going to attribute characteristics of Fascists to many people - vitriol which generally disqualifies people from being heeded where I come from, but a couple of things have pushed me to explore this.   
My favourite texts in university were existential texts – the same ones Fascists tended to have read.  Awkward.
I’ve got a German name – which I didn’t really consider often until being required to read Gunter Grass’ work as he tried to come to terms with the horrifying period of the Nazis.   The Nazis were people from the area my ancestors had left, over a century before - but still, stikes me as very similar genetic material.... Awkward.[i]

I assume seemingly good people did, in the past, become fascists.  People not unlike me.
I noted, in a recent blog post, some Germans who had intervened in Ontario energy policies – despite the overwhelming evidence from their country that their policies do nothing to reduce GHG emissions.   I also implied, in using the term “will to power’ a philosophy that championed will (Nietzsche).  Related to theories of will is Wittgenstein’s Weltanschauung concept, which has been cited almost as widely as the term ‘fascist.’   Our core, first, principles, shaped by our language and our experience, are instrumental in the way we view the world.  I refreshed my memory on the concept of Weltanshauung, and found the Wikipedia entry for ‘world-view’ ends with a reference to a Michael Lind, and his organization of American politics into five categories:  Neoliberal Globalism, Social Democratic Liberalism, Populist Nationalism, Libertarian Isolationism (those all sound historical), and Green Malthusianism (that doesn’t).   Perhaps as the world gets smaller, these core principles get more abstract.  The combination of a will that the world should become something different, and the world-view that shapes the perception of all things, and events, to that will, is both inspirational, and worrisome.

Paxton’s essay,  “The Five Stages of Fascism,” presents 7 “mobilizing passions’ that function ‘to recruit followers and ‘weld’ the fascist’ tribe to its leader.  Key elements are “the primacy of the group,” a sense of victimization, “closer integration within a brotherhood (fascio),” drawing self-esteem from the “grandeur of the group,” and the importance of the will when devoted to the “group’s success in a Darwinian struggle.”  

Many of these mobilizing passions are apparent in two groups notably behind Premier McGuinty this election.

Working Families is a group that is working Ontario families like pimps are working Ontario
women.  It is comprised primarily of our teachers’ unions – the Premier being the spouse of a teacher, or early childhood educator.  The Working Families group utilizes ‘mobilizing passions’ including; the primacy of their group, the recurring theme of victimization under any other than their chosen leader, the enhanced sense of importance in building themselves up by disparaging opponents of their leader, and the raison d'ĂȘtre  of the group is putting their leader into power.

That doesn’t make them fascists.

The other group is the Green Energy Act Alliance.  Names in this group include folks from York, Pembina, CANWea, OSEA and Sierra – essentially, the ENGO’s. Many had independent agendas at one point but have gathered under a ‘green’ energy banner. They draw inspiration directly from Germany’s push into renewables – without noting that Germany’s electricity generation has a far greater emissions intensity than Ontario’s, and a performance in reducing their emission levels well below that of Ontario.

That doesn’t make them fascists, but, like the teachers, it does mean their appeal is in utilizing the same “mobilizing passions’ that fascists did.

Whereas the teachers have identified their ‘indispensible enemy’ – as former Premier Mike Harris and anybody who can be associated with him or his party (the PC’s)- the green alliance has, I think, chosen NIMBY’s as their ‘indispensible enemy,’ a theory the premier picks up and runs with as long as the NIMBY group isn’t in a densely populated urban riding. In this election campaign, the Green Energy Act Alliance has rather comically aligned themselves with the leader, Premier McGuinty, over the greener-than-green Green Party, and an NDP that not only has some plausible environmental policies, but appears to be heavily influenced by a former Greenpeace executive, Peter Tabuns.

This malleability of actionable belief is a characteristic of Fascism.
The creation of a fascist, however, requires a situation that allows for the blossoming of fascism.

Paxton’s essay notes that a ‘first-stage’ facism is a ‘novel mixture of nationalism and syndicalism’ – one that had found little room in the 19th century between Left and Right. Syndicalism sent me to Wikipedia ... and if you are familiar with the systems ‘Working Families’ and the Green Energy Alliance have created, under the pretext of making Ontario a leader (in stamping diplomas/credentials, and creating needless energy at unnecessary times) – it’s another decent fit.

An unsettling aspect of the leader, Premier McGuinty, in this election campaign is he abandoned the use of a ‘team’ (key Ministers, so visible over the past 4 years, seem hidden the past 3 weeks), but is generally pictured with many unknown faces in all publicity shots. It seems an intentional technique. The Premier also appears to have donned, for this campaign, a uniform of sorts – it appears to be a tailored, stylish for his tall frame, athletic jacket. It is a good look. Castro probably wishes he had switched to track suits years earlier. Regardless of fashionability, it does send a signal of some sorts.

Paxton’s second stage of fascism, is ‘rooting’, which is the formation of a political body “capable of acting decisively on the political scene,” establishing a foothold somewhere, and most probably in the nationalistic countryside.  

Ontario is not there, nor is the McGuinty cabal likely to ever be there – because he is not a fascist.

He may, however, be creating the conditions for fascists to appear.

They won’t be the other party personalities people have attached the label to either.

One cannot adopt so many characteristics of Fascists without risking the introduction of the philosophical foundations for fascism into that culture. The advertising campaigns of the teachers’ front is something ‘our’ laws did not intend to condone, and the system of funding ENGO’s that in return will provide both endorsements and advertising for your re-election is also something ‘we’ never intended to program into our government.

The second stage of fascism would require a rump party, neither left, nor right – probably akin to Lind’s Populist Nationalism (perhaps a tea party?). Populism is the expected response, as McGuinty’s policy is to govern via elites – including the groups already noted here. Real wages hadn’t budged much for decades (people forget it took over a decade for real disposable incomes to recover from the period of the GST introduction), and the Green Elites cheer on every increase in energy costs at every opportunity.  As livestock inventories hit new lows, farmland continues to be abandoned, or taken over by official provincial plans (such as Barrie's expansion), and grain prices soar, the conditions for a populist body to appear should grow.

A greater threat may be the rewarding of neighbor at the expense of other neighbours. In my part of the world, one drives down highway 12 and can see homes on 2-3 acre lots with SUVs stacked in the asphalt driveway and twin solar paneled trackers on concrete pads carefully positioned in the clear cut. If my envelope-math serves me correctly, those folks will get about $900 a month to produce as much electricity as they consume – they’ll only pay $150-$200 bucks to consume it though. In less lucky locales, land owners get revenue from the same Industrial Wind Turbines (IWT’s) that devalue adjacent properties.

Paxton argues that for the ‘rooting’ to take place, conditions that need to be in place involve political deadlock, a Right willing to work with the Fascists, and a government ineffectual at imposing order. Paxton notes that in both Germany and Italy (and elsewhere), Fascism first succeeded, on a small scale, in the countryside, but pivotal moments in Germany included vigilantes breaking up strikes by agricultural workers in east-Elbian Germany, and Mussolini’s squadristi putting down strikes in the Po Valley and Apulia. The situation could come to pass in Ontario where a disenfranchised, patriotic, countryside could cheer on vigilantes who took actions an impotent government was unwilling to undertake.

All of which still remains very unlikely to create unpleasantness in a jurisdiction lacking in a history of mainstream disobedience, but people like me could start talking about what the collective ‘we’ recognizes to be true.
Maybe we could start up a new movement based on that, and not on Left or Right, but on an inspiring destiny-driven world-view reflecting the true basis of what we are.
Wouldn't that be great?

[i] Luft is German for ‘air’.  I reside in the village of Coldwater ... the moniker ‘Cold Air’ is a play on that.  I guess it might be more accurate to refer to myself, air in cold water, as ‘bubbles’, but ....


  1. Perhaps Cold Air places too much emphasis on philosophy at the expense of psychology. Other peoples' money is to Premier Dad what drugs are to addicts and liquor is to alcoholics. He just can't get enough of it. The use to which it is to be put is of secondary significance. This is evident from the ill-defined priorities and lack of performance standards. What is interesting is that people with compulsive disorders are often idolized by the public at large. There are libraries full of exposes of artists (musicians, painters and writers) who were either drunks, addicts or both. In the movies, thieves become heros if they are sufficiently audacious. Even the Prime Minister became less unappealing as his naked thirst for power became more and more evident. It's a puzzlement. Sociology anyone?

    October 6, 2011

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