Reinventing Fascism


Johan Galtung

The atrocious Second World War left behind lasting damage by lowering our standards for what is marginally acceptable.  War is bad; but if it is not nuclear, the limit has not yet been reached.  Fascism is bad; but if it does not come with dictatorship and the elimination of a category of people, the limit has not yet been reached.  Hiroshima, Hitler, Auschwitz are deeply rooted in our minds, distorting them.

Hiroshima makes us disregard the state terrorism against German and Japanese cities, killing citizens of any age and gender.  And Hitler and Auschwitz make us disregard fascism as the pursuit of political goals by means of violence and the threats of violence.  It takes two to make a war, by whatever means.  But it takes only one to make fascism, against one’s own people, and-or against others.

What is the essence of fascism?  A definition has been given: coupling the pursuit of political goals and of massive violence.  We have democracy exactly to prevent that, a political game for the pursuit of political goals by nonviolent means, and more particularly by getting the majority, as demonstrated by free and fair elections or referenda, on one’s side.  A wonderful innovation with a logical follow-up: the use of nonviolence when the majority also oversteps lines or limits, for instance as written into the codes of human rights.

The strong state, able and willing to display its force, also as capital punishment, belongs to the essence of fascism.  That means absolute monopoly on power, also the power that does not come out of a gun, including nonviolent power.  And it means a view of war as a normal activity of the state, normalizing, and even eternalizing war.  It means a deep contradiction with an omnipresent enemy, like Aryans against non-Aryans, or Judeo-Christianity against Islam, glorifying the former, demonizing the latter.  Fascism anywhere builds dualism, Manicheism and the final battle, Armageddon, into a consistent whole.

That it means unlimited surveillance of one’s own people and others comes without saying; postmodern technology making it possible, or at least credible.  What matters is fear; that people are afraid and abstain from protests and nonviolent actions lest they are singled out for the ultimate punishment: extrajudicial execution.  Less important than really checking everybody’s email, web activity and listening to telephone calls is people believing that it is happening.

The trick is to do so indiscriminately, not focusing only on suspects but making people feel that anyone is a potential suspect; making them play safe out of fear, turning all potential activists into governable passivists.  Leaving politics to the Big Boys, with muscles at home as well as abroad.

The even more basic trick is to make fascism compatible with democracy. A piece of news comes to the attention:  “Admitting that British forces tortured Kenyans fighting against colonial rule in the 1950s–the government would compensate 5,228 victims.” (IHT 07 June 2013). A staggering number, more than 5,000–for sure there were more.  Where was the Mother of Parliaments during this display of fascism?  One senses a formula, “for the security of Britons in Kenya”, security being the bridging word between fascism and democracy, sustained by that academically institutionalized paranoia “security studies”.

There are other ways.  First, a reductionist definition of democracy to multi-party national elections.  Second, making the parties close to identical in matters of “security”, ready to use violence internationally or nationally.  Third, privatizing the economy under the heading of freedom, the other bridging word, leaving to the Executive Power essentially the judiciary, the police and the military–issues on which there is already manufactured consent.

To arrive at a permanent crisis with a permanent enemy ready to hit is useful, but there are other approaches.

Just as a crisis defined as military catapults the military into power, a crisis defined as economic catapults capital into power.  If the crisis is that the West has been outcompeted in the real economy, then it is the finance economy, the huge banks, handling the trillions under the formula of freedom.  To corrupt some politicians by banking their campaigns is peanuts, and may not even be needed given the consent.

There is a way out, and sooner or later it will be traveled.  People pay around 20 percent, half in the USA, in tax to the state when they buy goods or services in the real economy–for end consumption–but the finance economy effectively lobbies against even 1% or .1%.  Even a compromise like 5 percent would solve the problem of Western states that the real economy does not generate a surplus sufficient to run a modern state beyond force; one day not even that, at current levels.

If freedom is defined as the freedom to use money to make more money, and security as the force to kill the designated enemy wherever he/she is, then we get a military-financial complex, the successor to the military-industrial complex in deindustrializing societies.  They know their enemies: peace movements and environmental movements, threats to security and freedom respectively by casting doubts not only on killing, wealth and inequality but also seeing them as counter-productive.  Both movements say that you are in fact producing insecurity and dictatorship. Both operate in the open, are easily infiltrated with spies and provocateurs, thereby eliminating badly needed voices.

So, here we are.  Torture as enhanced investigation, de facto concentration camps as Guantánamo, habeas corpus eliminated.  And a US president up front for the gullible, telling progressive tales he never enacts, whether he is a hypocrite or is put up by somebody as a veil over fascist reality.  Those who pull the veil aside, an Ellsberg, an Assange, a Manning, a Snowden are criminalized; not those building fascism.

The old adage: when democracy is most needed, abolish it.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgment and link to the source, TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS, is included. Thank you.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Jun 2013.

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13 Responses to “Reinventing Fascism”

  1. satoshi says:

    The editorial this week is probably one of the most important ones that I have read on the TMS website recently. Thank you, Prof. Galtung.

    Let me discuss the arguement in the above editorial in relation to the constitutional law (hereafter, “constitution). Sometimes, the constitution contains the seed of fascism. Note, however, that the constitution that contains the seed of fascism does not necessarily mean the fascism constitution as far as the constitution was drafted and enacted through democratic procedure. Unfortunately, history tells that such constitution could be a legal tool for fascism at any time, especially when it is abused by politicians (or by any rulers regardless of their official titles are) who have fascistic tendency.

    For instance, the Article 31 of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan (1989/90 – 1947) stipulates, “The provisions contained in the present Chapters [i.e. RIGTHS AND DUTIES OF SUBJECTS] shall not affect the exercises of the powers appertaining to the Emperor, in times of war or in cases of a national emergency. In addition, the first paragraph of the Article 8 of the same constitution stipulates, “The Emperor, in consequence of an urgent necessity to maintain public safety or to avert public calamities, issues, when the Imperial Diet is not sitting, Imperial ordinances in the place of law.”

    The Article 31 of that constitution above is called, “emergency prerogative” that declares “state of emergency” and that ceases the substantial part of legal effects of pertinent laws . One of the most obvious effects is the cease of most part of the legal effects of human rights.

    Emergency prerogative, however its necessity is argued, is tend to be abused. When some Japanese officials began to abuse the Article 31 in 1930, that country began to tread its path one by one toward the suicidal war, WWII/Pacific War (1941-1945).
    For those interested in abuse of emergency prerogative, see, for instance, .

    Some members of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (the LDP = the ruling part of Japan) prepared the draft of a “de facto” completely new constitution and announced it in April 2012. That draft contains the Article 98 (State of Emergency) and the Article 99 (Effects of Declaration of State of Emergency) in the CHAPTER IX: STATE OF EMERGENCY. Note that the abuse of the above mentioned Articles 31 and 8 had seriously begun in 1930, forty years after its enactment of that constitution. It is argued today that the article on state of emergency is necessary in the constitution as a lesson of the massive earthquake in the northern part of Japan in March 2011 (during which a large amount of radioactivity leaked from Fukushima Daiichi,) teaches. The same draft stipulates that the National Defense Forces may conduct the “internationally coordinated activity to ensure peace and security of the international community” and the activity “to maintain public order or to protect lives and freedom of the people”. In Afghanistan, the US-led NATO is “conducting the international coordinated activity to ensure peace and security of the international community”, for instance. In Syria, for instance, the government forces are “conducting the activity to maintain public order or to protect lives and freedom of the people” [but which side of the people?]. It is very often, if not necessarily always though, that state of emergency is declared. Also note that the Article 21 (Freedom of Expression) in that draft constitution stipulates “Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press and all other forms of expression are guaranteed. (2) Regardless of the provision in the preceding paragraph, neither activity that aims to damage public interest and order nor association for that purpose shall be permitted.” It might be interpreted by relevant authorities that any peaceful expressions against the government policy can be “aimed to damage public interest and order” and any peaceful associations that express views against the government policy can be “the association for that purpose”. What will be the future of the LDP’s draft constitution if enacted? Future history will tell.

    It might not be a futile effort for people to check the constitution of their country. By doing so, they might find or detect the seed of fascism.

    May peace, freedom and democracy be with you always.

  2. satoshi says:

    Correction: The 11th lines from the bottom in the third paragraph from the bottom. The sentence “It is very often, if not necessarily always though, that state of emergency is declared.” should be corrected as “It is very often, if not necessarily always though, that state of emergency is declared during war or other armed conflict.”

    I am sorry for your confusion or inconveniece if any.

  3. […] This article was originally published at Transcend Media Service. […]

  4. satoshi says:

    One more correction: “1989/90” (the first line of the third paragraph from the top) should be corrected as “1889/90”. Note that it means that the Constitution of the Empire of Japan was announced in 1889 and came into effect in 1890. Note also that it is debatable, especially among jurists, whether the legal effects of that constitution lasted until 1947 (i.e. until the Constitution of Japan came into effect in 1947). It is because, due to Japan’s acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, the substantial part of that constitution ceased its legal effect. Nonetheless, however, the Imperial Diet was convened according to the procedure stipulated in that constitution even after the acceptance of the Declaration. Furthermore, the Constitution of Japan was enacted as the result of the amendment of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan whereas both constitutions are fundamentally different so that it is actually impossible to consider that the Constitution of Japan came into effect as the result of the amendment of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. Prof. Toshiyoshi Miyazawa (1899 – 1976), professor of constitution and a member of the Matsumoto Commission that involved with the preparation of the Constitution of Japan, called it the “legal revolution”. The same or similar thing can be said of the difference between the Constitution of Japan and the LDP’s draft constitution of 2012 as mentioned in the above comment. It is because both of them are fundamentally different so that it can hardly be said that the latter, if enacted, will be the result of the amendment of the former. Therefore, the LDP’s attempt (to amend the Constitution of Japan) might be called “another legal revolution”.

    Gandhi’s policy of nonviolence, however it is appreciated today, was ridiculed even by his followers when he was working for the independence of India. The Constitution of Japan, aka the Peace Constitution, has also been ridiculed over the decades. Now, though, the ruling party of Japan, the LDP, is attempting to amend it (actually, however, to enact a completely new constitution as mentioned above) by limiting human rights and by transforming the existing Self Defense Forces into the National Defense Forces to perform “the internationally coordinated activity to ensure peace and security of the international community” and “the activity to maintain public order or to protect lives and freedom of the people” as discussed above. See whether Japan will change itself from a dove to a hawk or it will stay as a dove. Some polls show that a bare majority of Japanese people agree to the LDP’s draft, while some other polls indicate that a bare majority of Japanese people disagree to that. In any case, it is a test for Japanese people to answer the following questions: “Are Japanese people not wise enough to understand what is truly valuable until they lose it? Or are they wise enough to aware of what is truly valuable before they lose it?” They will answer to those questions in the foreseeable future.

  5. satoshi says:

    In 1986, when a Serbian newspaper reported the secret plan of the future Greater Serbia, prepared by the Serbian Science and Art Academy, almost all people in the then Yugoslavia laughed at the plan because the plan seemed too unrealistic then. However, five years later, in 1991, Yugoslavia was dissolved and wars began in Slovenia (although it lasted only for ten days) and in Croatia in 1991, and then in Bosnia in 1992, and later, in Macedonia near the border of Kosovo (although it was not reported by major international mass media), and in Kosovo in 1999. It is highly debatable whether Serbia really intended to implement that plan through the wars in the Balkans during the 1990s. Perhaps, even without that plan, the blood-shed in the Balkans could have occurred, but it can be said that the plan accelerated the blood-shed.

    When the LDP’s draft of the de facto completely new constitution was announced one year ago, in 2012, it was not reported as a big news. One of the main reasons for that was that the LDP was not the ruling party then. See Now, however, the LDP is the ruling party, declaring the realization of the enactment of the de facto completely new constitution, meaning that the LDP-prepared new constitution might replace the Peace Constitution that stipulates, “… the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes”.

    So, what are Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDF) doing now, guided by the ruling party LDP? See Does this training relate to the conflict over the Senkau/Diaoyutai Islands? To solve an international conflict by military power (violence)? Unfortunately, there is little evidence that Japan today is seeking for a peaceful means of solution – including international mediation, legal solution through the ICJ or establishing an ad hoc tribunal for that, or any other peaceful means of solution. (It seems that the same thing can be said of China as its military power is growing remarkably. Is China seeking for a peaceful means of solution over the conflict with Japan?)

    Learn a lesson from the Balkans. Do not laugh but watch what they are doing even if how much their plan seems unrealistic now. Whatever and however it seems today, time will tell what and how their plan will (or will not) become. The same thing can be said of fascism as Prof. Galtung discusses in his editorial above. Besides, fascism and militarism go hand in hand.

  6. […] Media Service,, Traduzione dall’inglese di Alessandro Castiello D’Antonio, grazie a per la […]

  7. […] Media Service,, Traduzione dall’inglese di Alessandro Castiello […]

  8. […] Media Service,, Traduzione dall’inglese diAlessandro Castiello […]

  9. […] originale: Reinventing Fascism – TRANSCEND Media […]

  10. […] by Johan Galtung, 24 June 1013 – TRANSCEND Media Service […]

  11. Leonid says:

    Reading the reinventing fascism I have asked myself a question what would be the reinvention of the word fascist, both are used often as insults to individuals, institutions, religions, states etc.

    Godwin’s law is actually a “theorem” dealing with the inflationary use of the term. But already
    George Orwell criticized the use of the term during the Mussolini and Hitler times:

    “It would seem that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox hunting, bullfighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.” George Orwell

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