John T. Flynn on American Fascism

The growth of fascism in America was noted by Robert Higgs in the post Participatory Fascism. Prior to this, American journalist John T. Flynn – like Friedrich A. von Hayek – warned near the conclusion of WWII how this state of events might transpire:

American Fascism Fascism will come at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans, as violently against Hitler and Mussolini as the next one, but who are convinced that the present economic system is washed up and that the present political system in America has outlived its usefulness and who wish to commit this country to the rule of the bureaucratic state; interfering in the affairs of the states and cities; taking part in the management of industry and finance and agriculture; assuming the role of great national banker and investor, borrowing billions every year and spending them on all sorts of projects through which such a government can paralyze opposition and command public support; marshaling great armies and navies at crushing costs to support the industry of war and preparation for war which will become our greatest industry; and adding to all this the most romantic adventures in global planning, regeneration, and domination all to be done under the authority of a powerfully centralized government in which the executive will hold in effect all the powers with Congress reduced to the role of a debating society. There is your fascist. And the sooner America realizes this dreadful fact the sooner it will arm itself to make an end of American fascism masquerading under the guise of the champion of democracy.1

Flynn predicted the ominous effect of unlimited government spending over time:

Continuing this policy will no longer run with the great current of desire in America. Regulating business, cutting in as the partner of industry, repressing the labor unions that were encouraged to action, satisfying the aged who were lured on to dream of abundance—all this will present a problem that will call for such drastic impositions upon every section of the population that nothing short of a totalitarian government supported by the weapons of ruthless coercion and the will to use them will bring compliance from the people. We shall presently be presented with the final crisis—the necessity of taking the last few steps of the last mile to fascism in some generated crisis, of ending the prologue and running up the curtain on the swelling theme—or of calling off the whole wretched business in some costly, yet inescapable, convulsion.2

What were Flynn’s intentions? According to Ronald Radosh,

Flynn was trying to warn Americans of a basic point—that the seeds of fascism lay within the United States; and they could not be eradicated merely by winning the fight against Nazi armies abroad. Sensing the need to elaborate upon this theme, Flynn wrote what was to be his most important book. Until publication of this paperback volume, As We Go Marching has remained neglected and relatively unknown. Yet it was Flynn’s most informed and perceptive contribution to discussion about the nature of American society. Its purpose, he explained, was to define the meaning of fascism and “then to search for its elements in America” . . .

It was Statist institutions solidified by the New Deal, he argued, that produced an American version of fascism—a “good” fascism rather than the “bad” kind all Americans detested in Nazi Germany. The elements of fascism had been planted in corporatist institutions such as the N.R.A. People liked the term “planning,” but New Deal planners thought “of a change in our form of society in which the government would insert itself into the structure of business, not merely as a policeman, but as partner, collaborator and banker.” The economy would be planned and coerced rather than free, “in which business would be brought together into great guilds or an immense corporative structure, combining the elements of self-rule and government supervision with a national economic policing system to enforce these decrees.”

These corporatist tendencies reached fruition with the New Deal. World War II further consolidated the new business collectivism, which was based upon “an economy supported by great streams of debt and an economy under complete control, with nearly all the planning agencies functioning with almost totalitarian power under a vast bureaucracy.” The New Deal also tried to extend this system into the realm of foreign affairs. Government spending was most prolific for military systems. Neither Congress, business or labor found fault with spending for national defense. ‘Thus militarism,” Flynn wrote, “is the one great glamour public-works project upon which a variety of elements in the community can be brought into agreement” . . .

America, Flynn maintained, had become an Empire. Like any other Empire, it would not be exempt from the rules of imperial decline. Having gained its wartime goals, the large nations sought only preservation of the status quo. They appealed for support to well-meaning idealists who hoped to create a peaceful world. But their own goal was to build an order “in which they, all leagued together, will preserve a world which they have divided among themselves and in which the combined forces and might of the allied aggressors will hold for each what they have.” Imperialism would be disguised under “phrases of benevolence and as a dream of world peace.”

Thus, Flynn predicted, Americans”will do what other countries have done. We will keep alive the fears of our people of the aggressive ambitions of other countries and we will ourselves embark upon imperialistic enterprises of our own.” There was no doubt that the germs of a vigorous imperialism are here among us . . . the moral germs. And if the economic problems of the nation should seem . . . to lead us off into some imperialist adventures, the moral support of such ventures will not be lacking.”3

Sources:

  1. As We Go Marching. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1942. 252-253.
  2. Ibid. 257.
  3. Ibid. ix–xii.

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  1. frankg’s avatar

    Glad to see this post.

  2. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks frankg.

  3. Shane’s avatar

    Excellent!

    Another great book to reference: The End of America, by Naomi Wolf.

    It’s a great reference for the comparing the creeping symptoms of fascism in our nation today with Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Chile under Pinochet.

  4. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks Shane – it’s also listed in the Believe All Things store.

  5. Shane’s avatar

    Hey Greg, I quickly browsed through the store and there are some great selections! I noticed you have one of Andrew Bacevich’s titles; have you read The New American Militarism? It really helped me understand our modern thinking when it comes to the justification of force. Also there was a book by John Pontius, but I didn’t see his new one: The Triumph of Zion. It’s a great reference for anyone personally trying to move closer to Zion.

  6. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks for the tip on the book by Bacevich. I haven’t read it yet and will have to add it to the list.

    The Triumph of Zion is a wonderful book. Look for more quotes coming on this important topic in the near future. I need to add the title to the store.

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