History Shows That the US Is No Stranger to Fascism

In the United States, a persistent belief suggests that Americans possess a special type of resilient, individualistic mentality, making them immune to fanaticism and anti-democratic authoritarianism. But if placed under a historical microscope, this romanticized view quickly falls apart.

Just look at today’s political climate. It’s becoming extremely hard to deny the fact that radical right-wing activism and neo-fascism are making a major comeback in the U.S. The violent demonstration in Charlottesville earlier this year that left a counterprotester dead should have served as a rude awakening.

The prevalent attitude regarding these groups is that they are merely fringe actors who exist far outside of the mainstream. If U.S. history is anything to go by, though, Americans have been far more welcoming of fascism — including Nazism, nationalism and authoritarianism — than we might like to admit.

In fascism’s heyday, the political movement found support around the world, including in the U.S. after emerging from the ruins of World War I in countries such as Spain, Italy and Germany.

While many readers might be aware of groups like the Ku Klux Klan and various industrialists who expressed their sympathy for Europe’s fascists, the political movement had its own home-grown fascists in the U.S. too.

In the early 1930s a militant group called the Silver Shirts – modeled off of Hitler’s Brownshirts and Mussolini’s Blackshirts — was formed with the intent of leading a coup and installing a dictator in Washington. But that was hardly the only group of its kind during this period. The Black Legion and the Khaki Shirts formulated similar plans, though the German-American Bund became perhaps the most infamous.

Though some public commentators, including Sinclair Lewis, expressed concern over the emergence of these U.S.-based fascist groups, the media by and large treated them with modest indifference. Authorities only began taking action against them after the U.S. entered World War II against the Axis, considering many of them to be traitors.

However, these groups viewed themselves as supreme patriots determined to preserve their way of life. This world view was steeped in American jingoism, anti-Semitism, white supremacy and the desire for a strong, authoritarian leadership. Those who favored globalism and multiculturalism were, in their eyes, the true traitors to America and a threat to the nation’s existence.

Does this sound at all familiar?

Today far-right groups regularly hold rallies across the country, wielding torches — well, tiki torches — and chanting such slogans as “Hail victory!” — which is English for the Nazi motto ‘Sieg heil” — and “We shall not be replaced,”ť a denunciation of multiculturalism.

And yet the discourse tends to sit in the center, with pundits suggesting that these people – who, it should be remembered, actively seek a white, Christian ethno-state — are merely expressing their right to free speech.

Worse, it could be argued that the modern, revitalized fascist movement has already had far more success than any of the groups that date back to the 1930s. After all, a man sympathetic to their goals managed to take the White House despite losing the popular vote.

This use of populism to make fascism mainstream is not something that will merely dissipate through inaction. Believing that “it couldn’t happen here” is not only baseless arrogance, it is dangerous apathy.

Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes/Flickr

55 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo R9 months ago

ty

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo R9 months ago

ty

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Annabel B
Annabel Bedini9 months ago

Freya H. and Beverly s. You both mention one Martin H. but I can find no trace of a comment posted by him. Does this mean that not all posts are available for all readers? This worries me....

Another question while I am at it: do green stars get delivered? I send them in the hope that they do but whereas I used to receive some occasionally, I haven't for ages (ok this may be because I haven't deserved them!)


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Debbi W
Debbi W9 months ago

With his German grandparents, the Drumpfs, Herr Dumpfutz must be very familiar with Sieg Heil. They were fans/admirers of Hitler and the Nazis.

We must get more democrats out to vote while we still have a semblance of a country left to defend.

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Liliana Garcia
Liliana Garcia9 months ago

Even though left and right in political science tend to be terms somewhat confusing the crux is not control but the distribution of wealth. For example when people defend the idea that there are too many people in the world but they are OK with the billionaires that's quite telling since it suggests wealth is supposed to be accumulated because some people are more apt w/o considering the material factors which had been operating historically. In essence if no analysis is made it is a racist idea...

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Winn A
Winn Adams9 months ago

noted

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Jim V
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks for sharing

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