The Coming of the American Behemoth:
The Origins of Fascism in the United States, 1920–1940
By Michael Joseph Roberto
463 pages / $25 / 978-1-58367-731-5
Reviewed by Andy Scerri for Socialism and Democracy
As then, and today, the primary objective of American fascist movements is to undermine the democratic impulse that threatens concentrated wealth. Roberto’s detailed recovery of once well-known but now largely forgotten empirical analyses demonstrates clearly that the American form of fascism is a latent tendency of the market economy, which liberal-democratic political institutions allow to manifest at certain critical junctures. Between the 1920s and 1940s, Marxist and non-Marxist scholars alike clearly understood this fact. American fascism threatens when those in charge of the political system shift gears, from growing profits in a ‘boom’ to defending income in a “bust.” For this reason alone, Roberto’s resuscitation of work by Corey, Carmen Haider, A.B. Magil and Henry Stevens, Mauritz Hallgren, and Robert A. Brady is an invaluable resource for readers in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
Yet, there is more…..
Once more, as in the 1920s, 1930s and today, political elites and the mainstream commentariat portray politics as a confrontation between “good” versus “bad” forms of capitalism. This draws attention away from the kinds of knowledge that citizens require if they are to act upon the democratic impulse, and build a republic committed to sustaining equal liberty for all. Perhaps more importantly, the mainstream commentariat must be faulted for drawing citizenly attention away from oligarchic efforts to use this rule of law and these institutions of representative government and individual rights to defend and expand concentrated wealth against the democratic impulse.
What Michael Roberto’s book clearly shows is that the present crisis of liberal-democracy is not an aberration but a structural feature of that political system.
Roberto’s book deserves a wide audience, not only among students and scholars of American Studies and History, but among the many lay readers who I suspect will agree with him when he suggests in closing that “the gangster state that Franz Neumann saw…” as the objective of fascist agitation (408) has today arrived.
You can access the full review at Taylor and Francis