Dear Whole Foods CEO, This Is What a Fascist Looks Like
Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco gives a speech in Bilbao in 1939. A top judge, Baltasar Garzon, is charged with exceeding his powers on the grounds that the alleged crimes committted by the Franco regime were covered by an amnesty agreed in 1977 as Spain moved towards democracy two years after Franco's death.
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Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, doesn’t know what a fascist is.
Speaking with NPR this week, multimillionaire Mackey tried to express how much he hates Obamacare. Back in 2009, he hated Obamacare so much that he called it “socialism.” But now, in 2013, Mackey thinks Obamacare is “fascism.”
“Technically speaking, [Obamacare] is more like fascism,” he said. “Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it, and that’s what’s happening with our healthcare programs and these reforms.”
Mackey has since walked back this description saying he “regrets using that word now” because there’s “so much baggage attached to it.”
But, whether Mackey meant to or not, it’s about time someone injected the word fascism back into our political debate. Especially now that corporations wield more power today than they have in America since the Robber Baron Era.
First, let’s take on Mackey’s definitions of socialism and fascism, which he likely procured from the Google machine after typing in, “What are the differences between socialism and fascism?”
Yes, socialism encourages more democratic control of the economy. Or, if Mackey insists, more government ownership of the economy – in particular, ownership of the commons and natural resources.
Fascism, on the other hand, is something completely different. Reporter Sy Mukherjee, who blogged about this story over at ThinkProgress.org notes, “Although fascist nations do often control their ‘means of production,’ Mackey seems to have forgotten that they usually utilize warfare, forced mass mobilization of the public, and politically-motivated violence against their own peoples to achieve their ends.”
The 1983 American Heritage Dictionary defined fascism as: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." Fascism originated in Italy, and Mussolini claims to have invented the word itself. It was actually his ghostwriter, Giovanni Gentile, who invented it and defined it in the Encyclopedia Italiana in this way: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."
In other words, fascism is corporate government – a Libertarian’s wet dream. It’s a government in which the Atlas’s of industry are given free rein to control the economy, just how they’re regulated, how much they pay in taxes, how much they pay their workers. It should be noted here that, ironically, John Mackey describes himself as a Libertarian.
In 1938, Mussolini finally got his chance to bring fascism to fruition. He dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the "Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni" - the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Members of the Chamber were not selected to represent particular regional constituencies, but instead to represent various aspects of Italian industry and trade. They were the corporate leaders of Italy.
Imagine if the House of Representatives was dissolved and replaced by a Council of America’s most powerful CEOs – the Kochs, the Waltons, the Blankfeins, the Dimons, the Mackeys, you get the picture.
Actually, that’s not too difficult to imagine, huh? But, that’d be similar to what Mussolini defined as fascism.
As we know, fascism was eventually defeated in World War 2. But just before the end of the war, with the fascists on the ropes, the Vice President of the United States at the time, Henry Wallace, penned an op-ed for the New York Times warning Americans about the creeping dangers of fascism – or corporate government.
He defined a fascist as, “those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.”