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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 28-05-2021 14:00

What are you talking about folks?

This has always been fascism, but with different costumes and masks...

In multiple television interviews, a 'select" group of colleagues calling themselves "liberals" insist that Argentina's historical development problem is rooted in the socialist and communist policies the country has followed. In the first place, we must assert that these colleagues do not possess even an ounce of "liberalism," at least not in its correct Smithonian conceptualization.

In general, and because of the speeches that are repeated daily, they appear to be very dogmatic followers of the Austrian School of Economics (Menger, Mises, Hayek), inspired also by a “libertarian” philosophy that may be identified in the ideas of Robert Nozick (even if they have studied this author or not). All these perspectives of thought are  obviously contrary to real and more up-to-date liberal philosophy, which besides Smith and Stuart Mills may be inspired by John  Rawls, the contemporary counterfactual of Nozick at the same Harvard University.

I do not intend to debate with these folks their philosophical and economic ideas; it is simply enough to point out that there is no developed country where these “libertarian” policies are applied in the way they present them – obviously not in United States or the European Union, neither in other successful economies as Japan, Korea, Singapore, Israel or Taiwan.  

The reason for this column, however, is to refute emphatically their silly nonsense description of the political, social or economic system prevailing in Argentina during the last 90 years, as something close to socialism, communism or anything similar. This misnomer should be corrected by calling “things by their name”… folks, even with varying costumes and masks it has always been fascism in different degrees.

Soucy (1) remarked that there is a considerable disagreement among historians and political scientists about the nature of fascism; while some regard it as socially radical, others see it as extreme conservatism  against the ideals of the Enlightenment. From my point of view, it is clear that notwithstanding the many clothing fascism has adopted in different periods, societies and regimes (even disguised as movements of right or left), it is always possible to identify common policies and strategies followed by fascists to perpetuate themselves in autocratic governments. 

All kinds of fascism have in common an open contempt for political and cultural liberalism and plurality of ideas, as well as an open or hidden intention to suppress (or at least "control") the electoral democracy under the belief that it is natural to be ruled by a leader that “knows better” the “true needs” of the “people’s community” (Volksgemeinschaft).

Any individual interests should be always subordinated to an ideal ”nation’s wellbeing”; either voluntarily or thanks to the "support" of “struggling militants,” it supersedes all other societal needs and subsumes people´s interests and businesses for the vision that the priority should not be on human beings and what benefit them, but this delusional “common good” – i.e. the Volk.

The socioeconomic unrest arising from economic crises, the frustration caused by a very regressive distribution of income, and difficulties in access to goods and services are the most common triggers. In other cases, fears regarding potential changes in the social status quo due to threats of war, mass immigration, the closing of industries and loss of jobs etc. may drive and push these movements forward.

In a very synthetic way, there is a need to prove the hypothesis of the title of this article by evaluating the key concepts that can define fascism in their social, economic and political facets. 

As a social practice, fascism implies the need of a mental and active mobilization of groups in an effort to identify, stigmatize and harass some population groups based on different races, national origins, religions, and cultural or political thoughts; the idea of ​​"them" and "us" must be constructed.

In the Nazi regime, the Jews represented the ideal construct by capitalizing old popular anti-Semitic prejudices; in Italian fascism, the enemy was primarily communism and liberal democratic institutions. On the other hand, the Spanish Falangist proclaimed down with the bourgeois and parliamentary democracies! Stalinism (as Nazism) used mass violence, concentration camps and large executions, and while the Nazi racism was openly expressed, the comrade Stalin xenophobia and persecutions were disguised as a “defense” against "socially harmful" elements (which include different nationalities or religious minorities and thousands of Russian intellectuals).

When analyzing the economics of fascism, we may understand a system in which the government influences company owners to work for the national interest (and also in the private interest of the government´s leaders, of course); it is a strict policy of “buddies’ capitalism.” Authorities exercise (or try to do so) controls over the private entities that own factors of production, and in other cases they simply nationalize the companies and put their followers to run them. Other corporations such as unions and professional associations often play a leading role in sustaining the system and receive their pro quo share of benefits.

In Germany and Italy, fascists came to power through democratic elections but once in power, worked to destroy the democracy from within in order to create an autocratic dictatorship. In Spain, a military uprising and civil war allowed fascism to take power.

Even if insisting that fascism is more than that, Finchelstein (2) maintains that “Argentina is the first country in the world where populism came to power from fascism, from a dictatorship…to a Argentine brand of populism… It is practically a new political configuration of a dictator, i.e. the strong man of a military junta, which is General Perón, who is going to create a new form of democracy, an authoritarian democracy, an illiberal democracy, but a democracy... Peronism has fewer programs, but it has a belief in an almighty messianic being, an almost religious leader who knows better than all of us what all of us should do.”

I have to agree that Peronist governments never chased social groups in such a bloody way other fascist regimes did (except maybe for López Rega’s AAA). However, in their early stages they used multiple forms of social coercion and constructed the notion of "gorillas" to describe enemies with different political ideas that had to be defeated (not political adversaries to argue and negotiate with).
The persistent economic “buddies’ capitalism” in our country and the recurrent meaningless speeches praising for a closed economy with a strong domestic market and surplus of exports – rather than a development driven by high added value and high-tech export – shows that these economic fascist or pseudo-fascist ideas are still prevailing in our neighborhood.

Last but not least, there is no doubt that since the 1930s revolution, Argentina has been mainly led by fascist governments of different kinds (military or ex-military transformed into "democratic autocrats"). In this period, one can highlight just a few frustrated attempts to create something different – especially we should point to Frondizi, Illia, Alfonsín and perhaps the first term of the Menem government. Others did not even try to change the mentality that still dominates us – the fascist dwarf according to Feierstein (3) – and in reality, most of them took advantage and somehow communed with it.

Now finally, dear "libertarian" colleagues: if you properly identify the real observed behaviors, please do not repeat once again this nonsense that Argentina has ever implemented any socialist policy... it has always been fascism but with different costumes and masks.

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Martín A. Morgenstern

Martín A. Morgenstern

Dr. UBA Economía. Profesor e Investigador en Economía de la Salud.

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