Soft Fascism

Stephen Greene notes that the current political and business climate in Europe represents a kind of "soft fascism".

I call it "soft fascism." Europe doesn’t have any concentration camps – but who needs those, when it’s just as easy to simply ban "offensive" speech, as France has done? Who needs to vest all power in one man, when one million men (bureaucrats, really) in Brussels can make the trains run on time? Who needs to wage war for resources, if you can buy off Middle East dictators for their oil? Who needs lebensraum when populations are declining? Who needs Joseph Goebbels, when you’ve got the BBC? Who needs a single political party, when all the many existing ones pretty much all agree that the way things have been done, is the way things should be done? (If there’s a difference between Germany’s Social Democrats or Christian Democrats worth more than a dozen regulations or five points off the income tax, I sure as hell don’t know what it is.)

Indeed, looking at Greene’s line of argumentation, he is on to something here. Europe meets many of the criteria for fascism,although in a now benign form.

The European system is one where the idea of competition is given lip service but is rarely practiced. Business exists not in a competitive sphere, but at the suffrance of government. Businesses that attempt to do anything other than "play by the rules" are quickly swatted down. It’s a form of moderate regulatory socialism – it ensures that business and politics are essentially one. Businesses cannot expand without large government subsidies, and political back-scratching is endemic. Large European businesses such as Elf/Aquitaine, Vivendi, and Deutsche Telekom have all been involved in political payola scandals with major European leaders – and those are just the ones who got caught. Both Jacques Chirac and Gerhardt Schroeder have been involved in allegations of corruption or outright bribery between politicians and major European corporations. This sort of tight web of money and special interest between government and certain businesses in Europe is rarely talked about, but has become an entrenched feature of European politics.

Europe is exactly what the left accuses America of being – a deeply corporatist state. Aerobus would be nowhere near as competitive without significant government bailouts. (While this is done occasionally here in the US, Boeing hardly recieves the kind of public subsidies that Aerobus does.) Many European corporations exist under a kind of regulatory monopoly, which means that consumer choice is severely limited. Europe has flirted with privatization, but often the former state-run corporations are given healthy subsidies to keep them solvent.

It’s a situation that virtually ensures both a lousy business climate and lousy government. Businesses can’t expand their labor supply due to Europe’s massive regulation on the labor markets. European corporations cannot hire workers easily in good times, nor can they shed them in bad ones, meaning that they tend not to hire at all. The politically powerful union system ensures that this system stays exactly as it is, keeping those in power in power and excluding any hope of real reform. That means that many Europeans have the choice of either working for the public sector or one of the European megacorporations – unless a small buisness was started in a more opportune year and grandfathered in, a European does not have the same opportunities to start a small enterprise that their American counterparts would have.

As Steven Den Beste point out all of this is a recipe for economic collapse. The EU is trying to become a superpower based on an economic system that is calcified and inflexible, and gives entrenched business interests far more power than the citizenry. One of the worries of this is what happens when the house of cards finally does collapse – will Europe be seized in another wave of destructive fascism?

It’s instructive to note that both World Wars of the 20th Century began in times of economic downturn when European governments were practicing a form of crony capitalism and cementing centralized government control while decrying the free market as oppressive and dangerous – thus justifing their power grab.

Today, the same thing is happening. Granted, there has been a massive psychological shift in Europe towards a form of pacifist absolutism where war is always a de facto immoral act, yet the seeds for another outbreak of fascism are still there. It is not out of the question that within the next century such a thing could happen again. Already the rumbles of more radical movements such as Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National have appeared in Europe. With an ever-declining birth rate, increasing immigration, and deep economic troubles, a new rise of fascism in Europe is not unthinkable. While certainly Europe seems to be an essentially demilitarized zone, if trends continue, in the next few decades that could change. Europe has painfully taught the world how people who would never support the idea of death camps and blitzkrieg on their face can end up supporting a system that does. To borrow a phrase from Hannah Arendt, they become part of the "banal face of evil" – often without realizing that they have.

The solution to these problems is to significantly reform Europe into a competitive system rather than a cronyist one. That would mean massive deregulation, true privitization, and a system that eschews centralized planning for the free market. It would also mean that the entrenched corporatism that permeates European politics would have to be ended. Unfortunately for the future of Europe, and the future of the global economy as a whole, it may take another major disaster for the old order to be cast away.

5 thoughts on “Soft Fascism

  1. Can’t you just take silent pleasure at the hundreds of Europeans dying in the current heat wave instead of pissing in their caskets right away? Do you suppose the lectures can wait until next week when they quit burying their dead? There’s plenty of time to make ridiculous accusations of European fascism and telling them they’re fools to believe in global warming after they finish digging holes to bury their grandmothers who died from heat exhaustion. Europe showed enough integrity to keep from spewing anti-American invective after 9-11. Wouldn’t it be simple manners to show them the same respect as a natural crisis befalls them?

  2. From Robert Anton Wilson:

    “The Perils of Cocaine Abuse”

    Two recent political leaders allegedly had this nefarious habit.

    Both came to power after dubious elections, by non-electorial and irregular methods.

    Both nations immediately experienced attacks on famous public buildings.

    Both blamed an ethnic minority before forensics had any evidence.

    Both led “witch-hunts” against the accused minority.

    Both suspended civil liberties “temporarily.”

    Both put the citizenry under surveillance.

    Both maintained secret and clandestine governments.

    Both launched wars against most of the world.

    One had a funny mustache. Can you name the other one?

  3. Comparing a tornado in Texas to infernos raging across the European countryside is like comparing a firecracker to a hydrogen bomb. Europe has a far bigger problem on their hands right now that “smoking out the fascists.”

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