Wolfgang Karrer

Fascism and the United States (Notes)

 The relations between the United States and the Fascist regime in Italy are complex. They contain many aspects: economic, political, social, and cultural. My main interest is in the cultural and, more specifically, the literary relations. Here we can distinguish three phases: the US propaganda for Mussolini before 1945, his disappointed admirers after the war, and those who take fascism and Mussolini as a distorting mirror for US politics after 1960.

All three phases merit a new look. Among the writers (or publishers) who openly support Mussolini before 1945 are

Henry Luce,

Randolph Hearst,

Richard Washburne Child.

Writers who mourn or ponder the Fascist regime after 1945 are

Thornton Wilder,

Robert Penn Warren, 

Wallace Stevens.

Finally, among writers, who have compared the US to Fascist Italy (or Nazi Germany), are

Thomas Pynchon,

Joseph Brodkey,

Toni Morrison.

I have complied notes on these and other writers, I have looked at some of the economic connections, and I would like to explore these relations some more. There are a number of antifascist writers before the the third phase and they will be mentioned, too.

It seems useful to distinguish "fascism" and "protofascism," as defined by Fredric Jameson in 1979. In his book on Wyndham Lewis, entitled Fables of Aggression he writes:

"Protofascism may be characterized as a shifting strategy o class alliances whereby an initially strong populist and anticapitalist impulse is gradually readapted to the ideological habits of a petty bourgeoisie, which can itself be displaced when, with the consolidation of the fascist state, effective power passes back into the hands of big business." 60
Of the constitutive elements of protofascism, outlined by Jameson, many writers would only support the first three, the populist impulse (mainly anti Marxist, sometimes anti capitalist) and its elaboration as a petty bourgeois ideology to mask these inconsistencies.  Fewer writers under scrutiny here would support the creation of a mass ideological party and even less the consolidation of a fascist state in the USA. Some would prefer to think of fascism as the spontaneous rise of a charismatic leader, a kind of Caesarism, clearly to be distinguished from protofascism (Jameson 1979, 61).

Rather than classifying these various streams of right wing ideologies, I would try to locate these floating ideas and their mixture in different writers.