All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. All that is required for extremism to fail is to stand up to hate. Stand up and refuse to hate, stand up and refuse to fear. Do this, and the extremists of whatever brand, cannot win.
Hatred is not unique to fascism, indeed the Crusades established early in Christian thought that the use of hatred against an external threat was a useful tool in building unity in a troubled and divided political landscape. Hatred is of course one of the most famous tools of Fascism, and indeed successful fascism requires two elements to march in lock step; fear of the other, and hatred of the other. Fear justifies the internal controls and suspension of freedom that the concentration of power of the corporative state requires, and hatred allows the whole of the people to be brought together in a common cause that they are not only willing, but eager to place above their own self interests.
I hear people ask rhetorical questions all the time about where was the last time the Fascists were stopped with words? I really laugh at this one, I do. I come from a long line of soldiers, and my grandfather taught me early to study history, so that I would understand when we are repeating it and understand what comes next well enough to preserve my family through it. I have lived long enough to see this pattern through a few cycles, and judge my grandfather and father had the right of it.
The question is not a rhetorical one, or rather it shouldn’t have been. My grandfather along with his brothers and sisters soldiered long and hard to put the Nazi nations on the scrap heap of history, but they did not defeat fascism. Spain and Argentina remained proudly fascist for a long time. The second world war was not the battle against fascism, it was the clean up after it.
France had the militant Croix de Feu (Cross of Fire), the French Action Group, and the Francist movement that pushed to the point of civil war, and indeed the street fights between left wing and right wing extremists were part of the politics of France for decades between world wars. The Fascists in France were enough in strength to provide a strong basis for support for VIchy France pro German government after conquest. France did not fall to Fascist control because its citizens would not give in to the hatred and surrender their freedoms for a release from fear. It took the Blitzkreig and the resurgent German military to bring Fascim to power in France. Words defeated its attempts to take control of France from within.
Belgium had the Rexists, violent ultra nationalist monarchist fascists who again failed in their bid to take control of Belgium as the Belgian people did not give in to the fear, did not choose hatred as the simple answer to the real problems that were dividing their nation. They chose to deal with complicated matters of economics, of multiple ethnicities in an imperfect sharing of union rather than simply giving into fear, and choosing hatred over the vastly more difficult compromise and dialog.
In the United States, Father Coughlin’s National Union for Social Justice boasted over one million members, while the more radical Christian Party formed its Silver Legion of street thugs like the Blackshirts of Musulini or the Brownshirts of Nazi Germany (later to develop into the SS). The depression and the struggle not only against immigrants from abroad but from immigrants from other regions of the US whose economies had totally collapsed had left fertile ground for such hate and fear mongering as is required for Fascim to grow and it grew well. The strong anti-union bias of the most wealthy class along with the soul deep dread of Communism that was whipped to a fever pitch during the New Deal era of Roosevelt gave almost perfect conditions for Fascim. The racial divisions of the United States presented a very real and visible axis along which to draw us and them lines for internal division, even as the traditional Isolationism of the United States made turning the citizens against the external other easy.
Yet they lost.
In 1945, British, American, and French divided up the occupation of the western portion of the former Nazi empire, while the Soviets held the east. The clean up of European Fascim was the second world war. Those that lost the battle are easy to identify. Spain, Italy, Germany. These nations fell to Fascism. Two turned external imperialist, and were defeated on the battlefield. Spain did not seek external conquest, and when the forces of Western Democracy strode from Dover to Dusseldorf, the Spanish Falangist still ruled.
Fascism is defeated by a people who stand against hatred. Fascism is rendered impotent by a people that stand against fear. Fascism was never defeated in battle. We broke Germany and Italy, but we could not and did not touch Spain because they did not give us pretext for war. Had Germany and Italy not turned their armies on their neighbors, our arms would have freed no one from Fascism.
Every country in the Western World had a fascist movement. From the South American Integralism to the Rumanian Iron Guard, every single nation gave rise to at least one such movement of ultra nationalist fascism. Many countries gave in to fear, allowed themselves to be terrified of their internal enemies, and in turn begged to have their freedoms taken from them in the name of security. Fear made them trade freedom to choose for freedom from the threat of the dreaded other.
Many countries chose to stand up. Many countries like England, Canada, and the United States chose to not permit fear of internal enemy or external threats to justify surrendering our sovereign rights. We chose to accept the costs, the never ending screaming debates, marches, and occasional strikes if that is what it took to preserve our rights to speak, to believe, to worship, and to vote as we choose. We chose freedom, untidy, unquiet, unhappy freedom over surrendering to a single vision that promises us freedom from fear, only if we give up all other freedoms in submission.
We are asking people today to stand up to hate. Let me be clear about this, we are asking you to win the battle against fascism, not to clean up after it. The battle against fascism is won in the workplace, in the market, in the school, on the street corner. The battle against fascism is won when you chose not to look at the person across from you who is other and hate and/or fear them for being different. There are those who will be compelled to stand up physically and denounce those who spread hatred, and we applaud those who do. These are champions, but not everyone is or needs to be. It is enough to simply not give in to hate, not surrender to fear. Stand up, and stand together.
When hatred against any one group is espoused, we stand with them. There is no them and us within our borders. We are one folk We are one nation. We are because we do not let others divide us with hate, or teach us to fear. We will not surrender our freedom simply because we do not understand our neighbor. We do not have to understand them, we merely have to understand they are our neighbor and that they either have the same rights that you do, or no one’s rights are safe at all. We stand together not because we necessarily love them, but because we love our freedom, and that is not something that only some may hold.
We ask you to stand against hatred, against fear, because while you stand, Fascism cannot rule. While you stand, so will freedom.
John T Mainer
Redeman of The Troth