Monday, October 29, 2018

FASCISM A Warning from Madeleine Albright

The former Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright has a history under fascism that she is reminded of under President Donald Trump.  The early sections on Mussolini and Hitler have many parallels to Trump.  Although she feels America can still redeem itself the warning should be taken seriously.  Her understanding, based on personal experience is well articulated.

The term Fascism has many interpretations, but includes authoritarianism and nationalism.  In modern times started by a small group in Italy after WWI who pledged to kill or die for Italy and adopted as a symbol elm rods bound together coupled with an axe called a fasces from Roman times.  Benito Mussolini a flamboyant speaker soon became their leader.

Mussolini originated the saying "drain the swamp."  To help consolidate his power he made deals with the Papacy and the monarchy.  By 1926 he was able to ban all competing political parties and even was able to control the Mafia.  Authority was emphasized over equality.  He started wars against Albania, Ethiopia ("the greatest colonial war in all history") and Libya.  In crowds he mocked foreign journalists.  He bragged about future growth, but had a poor understanding of economics.   He didn't trust advisors, instead relied on his instincts which he felt were superior

Hitler watched from afar admiring how Mussolini took control. He had been born in Austria but fought with the Bavarian army.  He was stunned by defeat and attributed it to Bolsheviks, bankers and Jews.  Hitler seized power in 1933 and required the army not to swear allegiance not to the country or to the constitution, but to him, Der Fuhrer.  He was pleased when foreigners criticized him as he visualized himself against outsiders.

Madeleine gives a little of her personal history.  She was a young girl when World War II broke out and her father was a diplomat for Czechoslovakia who fled to England to avoid the Nazis.  After the war he had been the ambassador to Yugoslavia, but her father sensed the Russian takeover in time to flee.  She explores several other parts of modern history including the Balkans, Venezuela, Turkey, Russia and Korea on a personal scale she had many of their leaders.

She had worked with the National Democratic Institute and involved herself with problems in the Philippines, Chile and South Africa.  In 2017 the United States was downgraded by the Economist's Democracy Index, not so much attributed to Donald Trump as a loss of confidence in institutions.  Too many citizens resented that the system seemed to protect the interests of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.  Madeleine feels "in a true democracy, leaders respect the will of the majority, but also the rights of the minority.  One without the other is not enough."

Democracy is helped by model leaders.  She mentions Abraham Lincoln in the United States and Nelson Mandela in South Africa.  Both men overcame lots of obstacles, but treated everyone fairly.

Madeleine is disturbed by some of Trump's words.  America first is not offensive in itself, but he projects a competitive atmosphere when there is great need for co-operation.  NATO should not be thought of as a business as it involves sharing training, intelligence and fighting.  Trust is critical.  His remarks against Muslims, allies and poor countries open up opportunities to enemies, especially China.  As most issues are complicated would be dictators offer simplifications.  Criticizing and insulting others appeals to those who feel aggrieved.  Avoid details that leave one open to attack.
Fascism is as easy as billionaires controlling the media, using influence to pick judges and restrict voting, shift public education to private and so forth.  Fascism can also come from leftist thinking.  Conservatives fear if the Liberals gain control they will discard the second amendment.

In concluding the book Madeleine suggests a series of questions that should have been asked of any candidate for president.  It appears not enough people asked Donald Trump or enough who listened for the answers.  Her warning should be heeded while it still possible to do something.

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