Newsweek magazine, which has given us many of the most damaging deceptions about America in recent years (remember the “Koran-Down-the-Toilet” hoax?), now weighs in with a pretentious and embarrassingly ignorant cover story, “We Are All Socialists Now.” To be sure, the basic theme–that the huge “stimulus” and the big big big TARP is leading once-capitalist America down the dangerous road to socialism–is not limited to the skinny weekly. You hear it all over the place, from Right to Left, from talk radio to the evening news (or so I am told; personally, I haven’t watched an evening news broadcast since 1987).
There’s a element of truth to the basic theme (although not to the headline): the state is getting more and more deeply involved in business, even taking controlling interests in some private companies. And the state is even trying to “make policy” for private companies they do not control, but merely “help” with “infusions of capital,” as in the recent call for salary caps for certain CEOs. So state power is growing at the expense of corporations.
But that’s not socialism. Socialism rests on a firm theoretical bedrock: the abolition of private property. I haven’t heard anyone this side of Barney Frank calling for any such thing. What is happening now–and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article–is an expansion of the state’s role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business. Yes, it’s very “European,” and some of the Europeans even call it “social democracy,” but it isn’t.
It’s fascism. Nobody calls it by its proper name, for two basic reasons: first, because “fascism” has long since lost its actual, historical, content; it’s been a pure epithet for many decades. Lots of the people writing about current events like what Obama et. al. are doing, and wouldn’t want to stigmatize it with that “f” epithet.
Second, not one person in a thousand knows what fascist political economy was. Yet during the great economic crisis of the 1930s, fascism was widely regarded as a possible solution, indeed as the only acceptable solution to a spasm that had shaken the entire First World, and beyond. It was hailed as a “third way” between two failed systems (communism and capitalism), retaining the best of each. Private property was preserved, as the role of the state was expanded. This was necessary because the Great Depression was defined as a crisis “of the system,” not just a glitch “in the system.” And so Mussolini created the “Corporate State,” in which, in theory at least, the big national enterprises were entrusted to state ownership (or substantial state ownership) and of course state management. Some of the big “Corporations” lasted a very long time; indeed some have only very recently been privatized, and the state still holds important chunks–so-called “golden shares”–in some of them.