The Peronist in the White House
“Obama is a Marxist,” Mark Levin, my favorite talk-show host, proclaims. Levin is probably the smartest guy on radio. But when it comes to Obama, even this smart guy doesn’t quite get it.
Obama is not a Marxist. He is a fascist of the left, a Peronist. And that is not an academic hair split. To understand this distinction is to understand what Obama is and why he is so dangerous.
Since the seating of the Estates General on the eve of the French Revolution, the terms right and left have been synonymous with the social basis of politics, the idea that generally there is a relationship between one’s place in the class system and one’s allegiance to a political party.
But what if the extremes of politics could be further partitioned according to their social base? The distinguished political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset took fascism and divided into right, left, and center, depending on from which social elements a fascist party drew its support.
The Peronists became the fascists of the left, and the Nazis became the fascists of the middle class.
Lipset’s insight was marred in one regard. He ignored the role of the political periphery, the non-participants, in Hitler’s surge to power. Hitler’s fascism was more of the left than the center, more of the dispossessed than of those who belonged. Hitler organized “masses not classes,” in the sense that the masses occupied Germany’s social periphery.
As Obama learned, when the “masses” enter the political system, they want to hear a different, more radical, message. Obama’s base is not only the far left; it is also those on the margins of the economy.
Juan Peron had been the Argentine representative to Italy during the period of Mussolini’s fascist regime. Mussolini’s fascism, like Hitler’s, was based on the left, but with in one particular difference. Mussolini pursued a concept of syndicalism, the mobilization of trade unions that were given power in exchange for allegiance to a strong state. Where the Nazis totally took over all competing organizations, Mussolini yielded independence to the unions in exchange for their support, as he had done in his infamous concordat with the Vatican.
Peron was impressed by Italian fascism. After his ascendance to the presidency of Argentina in 1946, he implemented a social revolution based on support from the trade unions and working classes, a form of government modeled after Mussolini’s regime. His popular second wife, Eva (Evita), was an advocate for his reforms. Eva often walked through the streets of Argentina dispensing cash handouts to the poor.
Early in his first term, Peron nationalized the banks and passed out huge Christmas bonuses. He pursued legislation favorable to the unions and when the legislation was resisted, the unions, with Peron’s support, went out on massive and violent strikes, not totally unlike the recent scenes from Wisconsin. The General Conference of Labor (CGT) in the first four years of Peron’s regime went from a membership of 500,000 to two million. Peron’s support for the CGT made Argentina the most highly unionized economy in the world.
Predictably, Peron’s reforms led to a bloated government bureaucracy that drained resources from the private sector. Universal health care and high social security benefits further increased the bureaucracy and monetary liquidity. Pumping money artificially into both social programs and wages caused an inflation rate of 52%, by 1951, coupled with a massive trade deficit -- as money chased foreign goods.
As workers’ purchasing power declined because of inflation, the CGT turned on Peron. And Peron retaliated, transforming Argentina into a dictatorship with repression and torture and promulgating intense class warfare. Life reached such a boiling point that when Eva contracted cancer, the political opposition wrote graffiti that praised the disease.
Peron’s nationalization of industry was limited. He was more than willing to incorporate into his regime industrialists who shared his view of “social justice” and were willing to contribute to Eva’s charity, which had a fund equivalent to 1% of GDP. So, too, Obama has had no problem with crony capitalism and the maintenance of corporate welfare.
When Peron was ousted from power in 1955 by a military coup, price inflation had reached 500%. Still, the classes that supported him point to the working conditions he changed, the medical and social security benefits he delivered, and the infrastructure he built -- without acknowledging the overall disaster that became Argentina’s economy.
So we are now faced with similar economic policies in the Obama administration. Peron knew his base, so too does Obama. The president was elected by the counties with the greatest crime rates, largest rates of unemployment, those most in need of government handouts, and those which would and did most benefit from administration’s redistribution of wealth. Obama mobilized the electoral periphery, those who don’t usually vote. And he nurtured the unions -- not just the SEIU, but also the United Auto Workers, who were put at the head of the line, over the bondholders in the GM bailout. (Now Obama’s National Labor Relations Board is preventing Boeing from moving to right-to-work South Carolina.)
Nationalized health care is a program designed to improve the lot of the fifteen percent of the population without health care at the expense of the eighty five percent that are satisfied with it. But those fifteen percent are Obama’s base -- just as are the forty-seven percent who don’t pay federal income tax.
Obama is not going to nationalize the means of production. Marxists do that. Peronists build relationships with workers, unions, and the people who will riot in the streets. Peronists use those mechanisms to force compliance from those who oppose them.
Similarly, in Obama’s world, where there is opposition to the policies of labor, the SEIU (Sevice Employees International Union) will be out in force. The administration and a compliant media will be attempting to provide these bullies with both legitimacy and symbolic affirmation. This is what Peron did for the bullies of the CGT.
Marxism is about ownership. Peronism is about control, sometimes through ownership but more often through pressure. If you want to understand pressure, talk to bankers who didn’t want to make marginal loans under the Community Reinvestment Act or those who had almost no subprime mortgages and refused to accept TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money. In both cases, the FDIC exerted enormous pressure to force compliance to decisions banks saw as inimical to their interests.
Obama the Peronist is more insidious, more difficult to fight, because he is not a Marxist. A grab for ownership stares you in the face. It is as blunt as it is obvious. But control is incremental and surreptitious.
Every day we awake to more and more government control, not by ownership, but by unaccountable czars, ukases, and bureaucratic organizations dictating how we conduct our lives.