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Neoliberalism and Fascism: The Stealth Connection

Neoliberalism and Fascism: The Stealth Connection

William E. Connolly

Neoliberalism is not fascism. But the fact that many famous neoliberals have been moved to support fascism to protect a regime from social democracy or socialism does give one pause. Hayek, Friedman, von Mises, among others, took such a turn under duress. They also had highly expansive views of what counted as a “socialist” threat.


Excellent analysis, except Connolly omits how Clinton and the DLC engineered a neoliberal take-over of the Democratic Party, which helped immensely over the following 25 years to pave the neoliberal road to fascism in the USA.

It would be great if voters had an actual opposition party to vote for this November. The neoliberal corporate collaborationists of the Democratic Party are certainly preferable to the overt fascists of Trump’s Republican Party, but they in no way offer a confrontation with the forces that brought us here, or point to a path toward genuine democracy and ecological accounting.


i would say: “Cue the small gang of Democratic apologists who will be here shortly to smear me as a Trump-lover and Putin stooge,” except that small gang generally avoids articles like this that cut too close to the truth about what neoliberalism is and what it leads to. We’ll see.


WHAT a writer. He describes the thing as well as Giroux. Too bad such perfect description has to be about a so-far-successful coup on American institutions and values. VERY ENCOURAGING, though, that someone can look it in the eye.


i don’t necessarily think fascism and neoliberalism are any different, fascism is simply what naturally occurs after the democratic and regulatory fabric are removed by neoliberalism. The less of that fabric neoliberalis start with, the faster fascism takes root. Had none existed in the first place the transformation would be instant.


I think it would be more accurate to say that the donors behind them engineered the neoliberal takeover of that party, and they were the politicians willing and able to do it. If they weren’t, if there were better options available at the time, they would have been chosen instead of the Clintons, but those donors would have been there regardless. They are still there, controlling things, as the country and their party crumbles.


Fascism is a complex subject. I, personally, think that it is the breakdown of liberal democracy (corruption, ideological rigidity, policies that benefit a small minority at the expense of the majority, the inability of the system to solve society’s largest problems, often making them progressively worse), capitalism, and the absence of a true left wing counter current. In Italy, in the early 1920’s, there was a period called the “two red years”, where workers took over factories and set up socialist institutions. That was beaten back by a combination of big money, large landowners, establishment social democrats and the fascists. In Germany, the economy was ruined by WWI debts, there was a socialist revolution that almost won, but it was beaten back by big money capitalists, social democrats and ultimately the fascists. Those societies were also breaking down, which you would expect. Fascists don’t take power in societies going well, and in every country where fascists are really growing, the economy and those democracies are also not working for most people. Economics doesn’t explain all of this, but it is insane to deny its central importance. There was a reason that Germany went from being a very developed, cultured country to killing millions of innocent people within a matter of decades, and economics played a huge role there, especially in regards to how the Nazis actually took power.

Here is Trotsky on fascism. He had some interesting things to say:


Italian fascism was the immediate outgrowth of the betrayal by the reformists of the uprising of the Italian proletariat. From the time the [first world] war ended, there was an upward trend in the revolutionary movement in Italy, and in September 1920 it resulted in the seizure of factories and industries by the workers. The dictatorship of the proletariat was an actual fact; all that was lacking was to organize it and draw from it all the necessary conclusions. The social democracy took fright and sprang back. After its bold and heroic exertions, the proletariat was left facing the void. The disruption of the revolutionary movement became the most important factor in the growth of fascism. In September, the revolutionary advance came to a standstill; and November already witnessed the first major demonstration of the fascists (the seizure of Bologna).

True, the proletariat, even after the September catastrophe, was capable of waging defensive battles. But the social democracy was concerned with only one thing: to withdraw the workers from combat at the cost of one concession after another. The social democracy hoped that the docile conduct of the workers would restore the “public opinion” of the bourgeoisie against the fascists. Moreover, the reformists even banked strongly upon the help of King Victor Emmanuel. To the last hour, they restrained the workers with might and main from giving battle to Mussolini’s bands. It availed them nothing. The crown, along with the upper crust of the bourgeoisie, swung over to the side of fascism. Convinced at the last moment that fascism was not to be checked by obedience, the social democrats issued a call to the workers for a general strike. But their proclamation suffered a fiasco. The reformists had dampened the powder so long, in their fear lest it should explode, that when they finally with a trembling hand did apply a burning fuse to it, the powder did not catch.

…At the moment that the “normal” police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium – the turn of the fascist regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat – all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.

From fascism the bourgeoisie demands a thorough job; once it has resorted to methods of civil war, it insists on having peace for a period of years. And the fascist agency, by utilizing the petty bourgeoisie as a battering ram, by overwhelming all obstacles in its path, does a thorough job. After fascism is victorious, finance capital directly and immediately gathers into its hands, as in a vise of steel, all the organs and institutions of sovereignty, the executive administrative, and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the co-operatives. When a state turns fascist, it does not mean only that the forms and methods of government are changed in accordance the patterns set by Mussolini – the changes in this sphere ultimately play a minor role – but it means first of all for the most part that the workers’ organizations are annihilated; that the proletariat is reduced to an amorphous state; and that a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses and which serves to frustrate the independent crystallization of the proletariat. Therein precisely is the gist of fascism.

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Murkin fascism operates on two fronts:

  1. The GOP/Trump front that appeals to a base that would be even more pleased with it if jack boots and other Goebbelian displays were part of the program, and

  2. Neoliberalism that greenwashes, bluewashes and otherwise disguises fascism, enhancing the disguises with a few social advances like same sex marriage.


Same sex marriage plays an extremely negative role. On the one hand it placates the liberals, making them endorse the neoliberals as legitimate representatives. which they defenitely are not, but at the same time in this case, it facilitates the neoliberals in achieveing the endorsement of the religious community for their right wing extremist half. their broadest voting base. Both of those are easily more destructive of the progressive cause than whatever is gained. The same effect killed the ERA in the seventies, which was near passing until the gay movement endorsed it. and the right picked up on it and turned the religious fanatics against it.

Sounds almost like were already there. Union busting has been a favorite pastime in America of the right, and today union power is almost completely gone, except interestingly in government jobs, but in the private sector it is history. The municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the co-operatives are all under severe stress in America and in particular the workers’ organizations are annihilated. A system of administration that unified the two political parties into a two headed neoliberal dragon has been created which penetrates deeply into consciousness of the masses, serving to frustrate the independent crystallization of the proletariat, generating severe apathy and feelings of helplessness and disenfranchisement. Therein precisely is the gist of fascism and the current American political reality.

webwalk: you hit ALL the nails squarely on the head! The Corporate Duopoly gave us Trump and Trumpism, now a neofascist government.

Thanks for your succinct summary,

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"Fascism is a complex subject. I, personally, think that it is the breakdown of liberal democracy "
Certainly more complex than what Connolly expresses and Liberal democracy can breakdown into all sorts of authoritarianism which are not necessarily ‘Fascist’. ‘Fascism’ was historically more in particular a breakdown or bastardization of ‘socialism’ than a devolved form of ‘liberalism’. Remember that Mussolini was a former member of the Italian Socialist Party and editor of the Party’s newspaper ‘Avanti’, recent research (see ‘The Trial of Adolf Hitler’ by David King) has discovered that Hitler was not employed by the Army to spy on ‘subversive’ groups (as he claimed in ‘Mein Kampf’) but undertook for the Bavarian State socialist government a serious of lectures on the benefits of Socialism to young men being discharged from the military (which is how he came to the ‘German Workers Party’). The founder of the ‘British Union of Fascists’, Oswald Mosely was a junior minister in the first British Labour Party government who resigned to form his own party when his plans for ‘national reconstruction’ to solve the problem of mass unemployment where too radical for the Labour Party leadership. We also know what Stalin and the like did with ‘socialism’ on the way to achieving ‘communism’.

Conservatism (‘neo liberals’ are conservatives with a current greater degree of enamour of deregulation and ‘free’ markets and trade’) has inherent authoritarian tendencies and can easily succumb to participating in dictatorships with varying degrees of brutality but not necessarily the ‘totalitarianism’ claimed by the original ‘Fascism’ and ‘National Socialism’. (e.g. http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/Germany/mussolini.htm). Spain under the dictatorship of General Franco popularly regarded an example of a ‘Fascist’ regime was in fact a conservative authoritarian regime backed by monarchists, the church, the largest land owning families and rent seekers in general. The fascist ‘Falange’ which was allied with Franco during the Spanish Civil War were soon sidelined once the war was won and Spain became a brutal but routine military dictatorship supporting and supported by what had been the country’s ruling class before Spain’s democratic and other political experiments in the first 3rd or so of the 20th century.

BTW. The U.S. is more likely to devolve in ‘feudalism’ than ‘fascism’. Think about why that might be so.

From the get go America was always thus. Note that unlike Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and the U.K. for example, the U.S. has never had ‘Labor’ parties and governments affiliated with the Trade Union movement. Nothing to do with ‘fascism’ just standard ‘Americanism’ has and can do the job of protecting those with the greatest share of wealth, power, and privilege. Too much ‘greatest democracy’ triumphalist baloney has been swallowed and must be regurgitated.

The U.S. could be on its way to devolving into its constituent petty fiefdoms (states, cities, counties) many with conservative authoritarian forms of government more akin to ‘feudalism’ than the ‘big state’ totalitarianism of historical and neo ‘Fascist’ and ‘National Socialist’ movements.

See how much of the following has or might be realized from the Trump presidency and future ‘Republican’ and ‘Democratic’ administrations (the U.S. really doesn’t have governments as are understood elsewhere.) You might decide that ‘fascism’ can be used as a misdirection to what has been and is going on in the the U.S.


The above is based on the original ‘25 points’ of the ‘German Workers Party’ after it was re-badged as the ‘National Socialist German Workers Party’ https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSDAP_25_points_manifesto. (Interestingly, the current American version is more overtly racist than the original German version.)

" Fascism is a form of capitalism…" This is an incorrect statement altogether. Although, to be clear, I agree with the sentiment of the article, capitalism is an economic system, not a political system like a fascist state. If anything, the system that works best with a capitalist economic system is the Corporatist state. A Corporatist state is a form of fascim like Nationalism, and both, as well as Socialism can work with capitalism as it’s economic structure. Saying that one is a Socialist does not exclude them from being a capitalist, just like saying your a Socialist doesn’t mean you want to take what someone else already has and spread it around. Hayeo and Friedman are slightly misrepresented in this article, but explaining it is a reqsearch paper per person unto itself. But they are being misrepresented, though slightly. Fascism has no short definition. Saying that all Nazis are fascist is true, but it is untrue to say that all fascist are Nazis. I take this to point specifically because of the awareness people should have of fascism in it’s many different forms. As it was said in the military, “Close only counts in Horseshoes and hand grenades.” When something needs to be correct, like building bridges, it really needs to be correct. And as I said at the beginning, I accept the perception of the author, but I don’t agree to the analysis.

As predicted, the Democratic apologists who typically smear any critical commenters here as “Trump lovers” or “Putin stooges” have entirely avoided this article for the three days it has been on the front page of CD.

These smear artists would not be able to offer any reasonable definition of what neoliberalism is. They won’t allow this article to expand their understanding of the neoliberal project, because then they would risk the recognition that ever since their beloved Party was commandeered by DLC neoliberals to serve the looting class, it has played a terribly destructive role in producing the US slide to Trump.

The entire global slide toward populist authoritarians, nationalists, and fascists is a predicted outgrowth of the neoliberal “freeing” of the looting class from limitations, regulations, taxes, and democracy. The preposterous concentration of humanity’s looted wealth (importantly including communications media) in ever fewer hands; the immiseration and degradation of the majority; the imposition of “austerity;” all set the stage for the demonization, scapegoating, blaming, and targeting of the most powerless and at-risk among us.

We could have been building a world that takes care of ecology and people first and foremost. Instead the world has been constructed to serve the psychopathic looting class.