Most people in the United States have been trained to recognize fascism in movements such as Germany’s Third Reich or Italy’s National Fascist Party, where charismatic demagogues manipulate incensed, vengeful masses. We rarely think of fascism as linked to the essence of monopoly-finance capitalism, operating under the guise of American free enterprise. But, as Michael Joseph Roberto argues, this is exactly where fascism’s embryonic forms began gestating in the United States, during the so-called prosperous 1920s and the Great Depression of the following decade. Drawing from a range of authors who wrote during the 1930s and early 1940s, Roberto examines how the driving force of American fascism comes, not from reactionary movements below, but from the top, namely, Big Business and the power of finance capital. More subtle than its earlier European counterparts, writes Roberto, fascist America’s racist, top-down quashing of individual liberties masqueraded as “real democracy,” “upholding the Constitution,” and the pressure to be “100 Percent American.”
The Coming of the American Behemoth is intended as a primer, to forge much-needed discourse on the nature of fascism, and its particular forms within the United States. The book focuses on the role of the capital-labor relationship during the period between the two World Wars, when the United States became the epicenter of the world-capitalist system. Concentrating on specific processes, which he characterizes as terrorist and non-terrorist alike, Roberto argues that the interwar period was a fertile time for the incubation of a protean, more salable form of tyranny—a fascist behemoth in the making, whose emergence has been ignored or dismissed by mainstream historians. This book is a necessity for anyone who fears America tipping ever closer, in this era of Trump, to full-blown fascism.
Marx taught us that it is impossible to deal effectively with the problems of the present without understanding how they evolved out of the past. This would seem to hold in spades for what most people see as the surprising rise of fascism in the U.S. today. Yet, while early European versions of fascism never lacked for the attention of its critics, our homegrown variety, which flourished between the two World Wars, has been almost entirely forgotten. No more, thanks to this absolutely essential contribution by Michael Roberto. Highly Recommended.
In this carefully researched study of what contemporaneous US Marxists had to say about 1930s fascist processes, Michael Roberto argues that the essence of fascism—capitalist dictatorship—is entirely compatible with liberal democracy. His thesis not only illuminates Depression-era politics and economics but also carries profound implications for our time.
The Coming of the American Behemoth is an expertly researched analysis with a startling proposal—that even as conventional fascism took hold in Europe during the roaring 20’s, the Great Depression, and subsequent recessions, a different but no less insidious form of fascism was taking hold in America. This American fascism involved the extreme concentration of money and power in corporate monopolies, bent government policy to serve the nation’s wealthiest citizens, contributed to the suffering of the Great Depression, and also included fascism’s characteristic efforts to control public perception. Author Michael Joseph Roberto claims that the driving emphasis of American fascism was fueled by the wealthiest and most powerful interests, a claim that resonates today. Notes and an index round out this salient, disturbing political piece.