(Photo credit – Wikipedia)
No state currently assumes a Fascist identity by being run by a Fascist or National Socialist (the official name of the Nazi Party in Germany) Party. Nevertheless, there are perhaps as many as a dozen de facto Fascist states in the world in 2022, depending on how rigorously we want to apply our criteria.
First and foremost, there is Putin’s Russia. The brief summer of hope following Gorbachev’s tenure in the crumbling Soviet Union rapidly slid into near anarchy, and was only redeemed by the advent of the Strong Man of charisma, Vladimir Putin, backed by an underworld oligarchy willing to invest enormous amounts to propel him into and keep him in power.
The invasion of Ukraine now underway is the “great unmasking” on the world stage of Putin Russia as the predatory fascist eagle. Fascist states in Europe have had an historical fascination with the eagle in all its emblematic forms. It is the quintessential bird of prey, king of the sky. Mussolini’s Italy turned to the Roman eagle and the consular “fasces” for symbolism. Hitler’s Third Reich adopted its own near-Aztec form of the great bird. Russia has long had a two-headed eagle as a national icon – facing east (Asia) and west (Europe) at the same time.
As noted in a previous post, Fascism is adaptable to the particular milieu in which its proponents operate. It has taken on a distinct Russian tinge by adopting Russia’s historic self-identification as the lords and guardians of all Slavdom. The collapse of the Soviet Empire has never been truly accepted by Mr. Putin and the hardliners who held sway there. They are on a quest to reassert Panslavism, bit by bit. Hitler’s playbook of making piece by piece claims while disavowing the true agenda of total annexation has so far worked well to lull the materialist and comfort-addicted West into somnolence, just as Hitler knew it would for the Western democracies in the 1930s until it was nearly to late to recover.
Only yesterday did I finally hear a prominent European leader openly call Putin a “Fascist Dictator”.
Let us compare President Putin’s remade Russia with Signor Mussolini’s eight Native Characteristics of Fascism:
- Strong nationalism/Sense of special national mission: Ask Ukraine and Russia’s other nervous neighbours. Russia has historically seen itself for centuries as “The Third Rome” and the anointed (imperial) protector (Lord) of all Slavs.
- Centralized and exclusive political authority = Putin as a life-term President. Main method of eliminating tiresome and really challenging opponents – assassination. We are witnessing in live-stream the arrest of masses of Russian opponents of Putin demonstrating their outrage to Russia’s blatant aggression. Over the years there have been a number of (not-so) mysterious deaths of key opposition leaders since Mr. Putin took over the Kremlin permanently. We are still waiting for his “Fuhrer”-style moniker, though.
- Police State, arbitrary justice: those who defy the regimes have little chance of getting off once taken before a kangaroo court. The KGB (of which Putin was once the Director) has re-emerged with new (and greatly feared) initials – the FSB for internal affairs and the GRU for foreign spying.
- Centrally controlled economy: There is a translucent façade of Capitalism covering massive corruption and underworld collusion with enormous kickbacks to the government and many top insiders. The West has known about this for decades and done nothing to stop the enormous exportation of robbed state funds to money-laundering bank accounts and property investments. Only with the Ukraine crisis is there talk of freezing these proceeds of massive crime at the expense of the long-suffering Russian people. Putin is as personally rich as any Tsar ever was, and his henchmen and their families are as rich as any of the old Tsarist princelings and archdukes.
- Racism and xenophobia (can be manifested in various ways): once more, ask Russia’s neighbours. NATO is the Big Bad Wolf, but ask internal dissident religious groups, or independent writers and thinkers, or militants on the LGBTQ2+ spectrum about the scorn and abuse directed their way.
- Militarism: the whole world can see this one on massive and horrific display. Even the nuclear sabre is being rattled to intimidate the soft-bellied West.
- Persecution and oppression of excluded minorities, however defined: see above, and doubtless more to come.
- The elimination of individual rights and constitutional protections of the lives and property of both non-citizens and citizens who forfeit the tolerance of the government for any reason: As noted.
Nominal opposition groups are closely watched. They are allowed to continue on sufferance for show. Elections are completely rigged.
(References – https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/is-putin’s-russia-fascist/
Our second extant case is the People’s Republic of (Red) China, an ally of Putin’s. Still nominally a Communist state, the reality is that China stopped being such an entity thirty years ago. Instead, it has moved remorselessly into an operating Fascist system, while still seeking to fool the rest of the world and its own people that it can continue to plausibly claim to be a great Socialist “People’s Democracy”. While there is still a tightly run state system of social programs and benefits, Nazi Germany also did all that very well for citizens in good graces with the government.
Key economic sectors are still run by close government supervision and sometimes very heavy direct government funding – just like Mussolini’s “Corporate State” and Nazi Germany’s closely monitored supervision of Germany’s major corporations. But the management and oversight are contracted out to carefully licenced entrepreneurs whose job is to corner markets and channel huge profit-shares back to the State. The parallels to Hitlerian Germany and Il Duce’s Italy are startling.
Chairman-President Xi has become less and less accountable to any controlling body and more and more independent in control and power to decide on his own what will be done and by whom. “Red” China has become more and more like a model Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler would recognize as kin.
Taiwan is on China’s radar, and the course of events in Ukraine will be closely watched to see the extent of the West’s will to resist flagrant aggression with open war. Taiwan has made it clear that if attacked it will fight. The West (and Japan, South Korea, and Australia) will be sorely tried when this happens, just as they are now being greatly tested in Europe.
China’s historical national identity is that of the “Middle Kingdom” and the “Kingdom of Heaven” (its Emperors were “Sons of Heaven”) – in Western theological terms, “the elect of God”. More prosaically, China sees itself as the natural overlord of Asia. Over the centuries, China has periodically attempted to assert this assumed sovereign right. Although overrun by outside barbarians several times, China has always absorbed its conquerors and re-emerged culturally stronger than ever.
Since the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the only real check on Chinese expansionism has been the presence of the United States in Japan, South Korea, and South-East Asia – notably Taiwan and the Philippines. With China’s emergence as the #2 World Superpower, some sort of showdown over South-East Asia will come.
China plays a wily long game, counting on the gradual wearying of Western (US) resolve to pay the price to sustain democratic regimes so far from their home shores. The transformation of the Chinese state-run economy and political scene from any real form of Marxism to a unique form of Fascism geared to their culture has been carefully managed to reinforce the nation’s long-term goals of obtaining regional hegemony and global dominance.
Fascism is always a dangerous ideology, remarkably flexible so as to play into the specific environments where its ambitious power-seekers hope to win control. For this reason, vigilance is required in detecting it for what it is, and for knowing when it is not really there despite wannabe imitators who are just dabbling with particular parts of its appealing racial and supremacist dogmas. Wisdom is found in knowing the major typical characteristics of the system and watching for their coalescing around a charismatic populist demagogue with a tight coterie of fanatical followers who have a talent for stirring up unrest among the disaffected and disenchanted segments of the population, especially when those segments become a major force because of bad and weak government and oppressive circumstances.
To see the patterns, read and study the history of the pre-World War 2 twentieth century.