THE SECRET ARMY DEFINITION OF FASCISM
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
An Italian, when asked to define Fascism, answered, “Fascism is Mussolini – he is the only Fascist.”
The Fascists did not repudiate the amoral profit motive or the class distinctions: they incorporated the classes into fasces; they were friendly to big industrialists and unfriendly to communists. Observers declared fascism to be either the perfection or the perversion of capitalism. An open friendship between Italian Fascists, German Nazis, and capitalists eventually became politically incorrect hence capitalists formally disassociated themselves with the label if not with the operating principles, and proceeded to muddy the water by equating fascism with their arch-enemy: communism. That was easy to do when both fascism and communism had taken the totalitarian form convenient to all-out war.
Today fascism is loosely defined as any form of right-wing authoritarianism. It is not Bolshevism or left-wing authoritarianism. Yet fascism is still difficult to define except in contrast to democracy. The United States is a democratic republic, yet its citizens like to think of their country as a political democracy, and it would be one if people cooperated in effecting radical reforms instead of tweaking the status quo. Of course democracy differs very much from the authoritarian public and private corporations many Americans work for. Corporate executives are frequently referred to as “fascists.” Figuratively speaking, of course, for fascism is usually associated with aggressive nationalism during hard times, with pre-emptive wars on other nations, waged to divert attention from economic problems, and, hopefully, to achieve full domestic employment. The fascist war is sometimes justified as a war to liberate inferior people so they can have the benefit of a superior culture. We do not see the economic and political power elite collaborating to that end in the United States today – after all, the United States fought two wars to end all such wars. Its citizens should have a general idea of what fascism means and how to avoid it.
The U.S. Army made an effort to define fascism towards the end of WW II, but the definition was repudiated by political authoritarians. According to Henry Hoke, author of It’s a Secret (1946), the fight to make the world safe for democracy took a terrible beating in 1945 when a Congressional investigating committee wrecked the Army Orientation Course, a study program designed to counteract disruptive propaganda and to teach men and women in the Army and Navy what the war was all about. In the chapter entitled, ‘Who Investigates the Investigators?’ Hoke discusses the suppression of a certain pamphlet, Piece No. 64.
“I’ve been around to Army camps and I’ve lectured before Orientation classes. I think I know some of the problems of the officers who conducted these classes. I’ve loafed around with them during the evening after work discussing their problems… hearing the tales of how intolerance and planned propaganda had upset some of their best laid program…. The individual officers in the camps became more demanding in their requests for definite information on tolerance and on Fascism. The men and women in the service were mixed up in their thinking too. They wanted to have definite answers to definite questions on the subject of Fascism and on what we were really fighting for…. So finally, during the early part of 1945, the Army Orientation officials… prepared ‘Piece # 64″ on the subject of Fascism. It was prepared by top ranking Army officials.”
Piece # 64 was distributed to military personnel at home and abroad. Hoke provides us with these excerpts from the top of the release:
“Note For This Week’s Discussion:
“Fascism is not the easiest thing to identify and analyze: nor, once in power is it easy to destroy. It is important for our future and that of the world that as many of us as possible understand the causes and practices of Fascism, in order to combat it. Points to stress are: (1) Fascism is more apt to come to power at a time of economic crisis; (2) Fascism inevitably leads to war; (3) it can come to any country; (4) we can best combat it by making our democracy work.
“If we don’t understand Fascism and recognize Fascism when we see it, it might crop up again – under another label – and cause another war.
“Fascism is a way to run a country – it’s the way Italy was run, and the way Germany and Japan are run. Fascism is the precise opposite of democracy. The people run democratic governments, but Fascist governments run the people.
“Fascism is government by the few for the few. The objective is seizure and control of the economic, political, social, and cultural life of the state. Why? The democratic life interferes with their methods and desires for (1) conducting business; (2) living with their fellow-men; (3) having the final say in matter concerning others, as well as themselves.
“The basic principles of democracy stand in the way of their desires; hence – democracy must go! Anyone who is not a member of their inner gang has to do what he’s told. They permit no civil liberties, no equality before the law. They make their own rules and change them when they choose. If you don’t like it, it’s T.S.
“The maintain themselves in power by use of force combined with propaganda based on primitive ideas of ‘blood’ and ‘race’, by skillful manipulation of fear and hate, and for false promises of security. The propaganda glorifies war and insists it is smart and ‘realistic’ to be pitiless and violent.”
Copies of Piece # 64 were sent over to Congress – the members were indignant! Congressional investigators were dispatched to discover who was responsible for the outrageous publication. Hoke reports that Congressman John Rankin of Mississippi – the notorious racist who sat on the Veteran Affairs Committee and accused black soldiers of causing high fatalities in the war – was particularly rankled by the orientation piece. Hoke sat through the hearings of the Veteran Affairs Committee, and reports that, under Rankin’s guidance, it “sounded like a Nazi tribunal.” He also mentions in passing Martin Dies’ special Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities – precursor of the standing House Committee on Un-American Activities -and its witch-hunters who were doggedly determined to pin a communist label on every liberal in private and public life. Hoke declines to go into the sordid details of the Dies Committee, but he provides us with considerable information on one H. Ralph Burton, chief counsel for “the worst committee of the House” – the Military Affairs Committee.
“At some point in his training something must have happened to turn his emotions toward a rather pointed Red-baiting, to venomous anti-Semitism and anti-Negroism… and to thoroughly reactionary and garbled economic, political and social thinking,” reports Hoke. Burton had served as special counsel for William Ludicke, the number-two Nazi in the United States, and had been counsel for the DAR during its blatant Red-baiting days, and he had also been counsel for the Coalition of Patriotic Societies, an umbrella organization for numerous Tory organizations. Burton was intimate with Walter Steele, editor and publisher of the fascist publication – ‘National Republic.’ Furthermore, he was general counsel in Maryland for Father Coughlin’s National Union for Social Justice – the enormously influential Father Coughlin was a pro-Nazi priest who entertained Nazis in his home. H. Ralph Burton’s partner and son, Robert Burton, carried credentials authorizing him to represent the Military Affairs Committee, frequently visited the Japanese Embassy, consorted with and was attorney for certain Nazi sympathizers under investigation by the F.B.I.
Hoke recounts that, in 1939, H. Ralph Burton was an investigator for the WPA Sub-Committee of the House Appropriations Committee. His objective was to discredit and harm the Federal Theatre and the Federal Writers Project. Without any proof whatsoever, he accused people of being communists, ruining their reputations. He was determined to show that the WPA was dominated by Jews, Communists, and persons of foreign origin. A number of politicians in those days believed the New Deal was a communist conspiracy, and that the Army had been infiltrated by Jews, communists and other “undesirables” – Burton’s investigators asked Army executives to supply lists of employees with Jewish names.
Burton was definitely a powerful man – Army big-shots flew soldiers in from the front lines at his behest to be questioned by him. Hoke supposes Burton and his colleagues thought the pamphlet against Fascism was Communist propaganda and did not want controversial issues such as, “What are we fighting for?”, discussed by soldiers. Piece # 64 was pulled and military personnel were transferred or were separated from the service. Thereafter vigorous protests were made by Army personnel concerning a radical change for the worse in the entire Army Reorientation Course. Hoke does not tell us everything about the incident because he was still bound by secrecy at the time – fortunately the restriction on Piece # 64 had been lifted, permitting Hoke to quote it. “I will not mince words,” Hokes writes. “This should be clearly understood. H. Ralph Burton, Chief Counsel of the House Military Affairs Committee, forced the removal of Army Reorientation personnel and forced a change in Orientation courses because he, Burton, didn’t like what the Army had to say about Fascism.”
Hoke mentions another item suppressed by the Military Affairs Committee: Races of Mankind, an impartial analysis of the race question written by anthropologists. Hoke speculates that H. Ralph Burton was behind that too, probably making sure his investigators would find some Communistic slant to it.
Apparently the ruling elite of the United States were reluctant to define American fascism and to identify prominent fascists within the American government according to that definition. George Seldes in Facts and Fascism(1943), writes:
“The Office of War Information published millions of words… intended to inspire the people and raise the morale… but it is also a fact that to the date of this writing the OWI did not publish a single pamphlet, poster, broadside, or paper telling either the civilian population or the men and women in uniform what Fascism really is…. Certainly when it comes to relating foreign Fascism with native American Fascism there is a conspiracy of silence in which the OWI, the American press, and all the forces of reaction in America are united…. The real Fascists of America are never named in the commercial press. It will not even hint at the fact that there are many powerful elements working against a great democracy…. I call these elements Fascists…. You may substitute Tories, or Economic Royalists, or Vested Interests…. Their main object was to end the civil liberties of the nation, destroy the labor unions, end the free press, and make more money at the expense of a slave nation.”
Have they succeeded? Have fascists in disguise taken over our government? Are fascists presently engaged in a vast right-wing authoritarian conspiracy to subvert the democratic principles the United States is founded on? Of course not. The very supposition is ridiculous if not seditious. At least patriotic Americans think so. Still, perhaps everyone should go over the Army definition now that it is no longer classified.