The first in an occasional series exploring the amalgamation of political and financial interests between Government legislators and the world's biggest industries.
To know what Fascism really is and why we must fight it and destroy it here in America, we must first of all know what it is we are fighting, what the Fascist regimes really are and do, who puts up the money and backs Fascism in every country (including the United States at this very moment), and who owns the nations under such regimes, and why the natives of all Fascist countries must be driven into harder work, less money, reduced standard of living, poverty and desperation so that the men and corporations who found, subsidize and own Fascism can grow unbelievably rich.

~ George Seldes, 1943
Now more than at any other time in history are we unwitting fodder in the merciless growth of corporate conglomerates. Tacitly accepted and often even championed as a necessary ingredient for the 'progress of civilisation', the globalisation of today's corporate captalism is something its Founding Fathers in 1930s Italy and Germany could only dream about. While it's debatable that large profit-making enterprises are necessary in providing affordable and essential products and services to a growing population, the unabated merging of political and financial interests between Government legislators and the world's biggest industries is arguably one of the biggest problems facing humanity today. It has led to corruption, greed, nepotism and 'moral hazard' on an absolutely gargantuan scale. It has brought obscene levels of prosperity to the minority of wealthy insiders while the majority of planet earth's inhabitants have fallen victim to economic disparity, extreme poverty, cultural disintegration, environmental catastrophe, pollution, sickness and a plethora of accompanying negative social issues.

Maybe Francis Fukusyama was right about 'free market' capitalism heralding the end of history (as we know it), except that there's nothing free about it because the markets are rigged.

This of course brings us to the F-word. One description of fascism is attributed to Benito Mussolini1:
"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."
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The merger of State and corporate interests has never been more apparent in the US and Western 'democracies' of today. Nefarious bilateral relationships within government and corporations syphon wealth for personal interest and as such is not distributed equally to society as a whole. Well, let's get real here: wealth has never been distributed equally, but the rate of distribution, measured in terms of real wages and other socio-economic indicators, has been steadily worsening since the 1960s at least. The fabled notion of the 'trickle down effect' is used to justify rampant global corporate expansion and is quite rightly satirised as a 'trickle-on' effect for a majority that has seen its share of wealth and standards of living deteriorate. Conglomerates influence legislation that is favourable to their private interests through political contributions and political support, hiring powerful and well-funded lobby groups, and taking advantage of weak - often deliberately weakened - regulatory oversight of industry.

The term 'industrial complex' gained popularity with the immortalised words uttered by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation on January 17th 19612. He specifically referred a 'military industrial complex' to warn the U.S. population of the dangers of a closed, symbiotic relationship between private industry and the nation's armed forces. In the context of exponentially growing demands for returns from shareholders, a profit-driven military needs wars to sell its products. This presents a fundamental obstacle in the way of world peace, as identified even earlier by Smedley Butler. To disguise this 'racket', media propaganda plays its part in vilifying mythical enemies to ensure taxpayer dollars are successfully diverted away from projects that would improve the welfare of the nation to those that would militarise it.

Whilst the military industrial complex is the first business activity this concept was applied to, we can see the effects of the merger of corporate interests with Government in almost every industry today. Big Oil conglomerates like Total SA using slave labor to build pipelines, Chevron destroying the environment in Ecuador and BP destroying the Gulf of Mexico; Dick Cheney's Halliburton procuring billions of dollars in Government contracts following an Iraq invasion he cheer-led; Big Agriculture and chemicals giant Syngenta pollutes the world with pesticides; Monsanto, the least ethical conglomerate of them all, is genetically modifying crops against the wishes of millions of informed protesters. The fraudulent Cancer Industry profits from ineffective treatments based on bad science and turning a blind eye to discovering the underlying causes of disease. The machinery and engine manufacturer Caterpillar Inc destroys livelihoods in Europe and Palestine.

Prison industrial complex
© n/aPrison Industrial Complex
There are countless other examples where companies act with blatant disregard for human welfare in their efforts to maximise shareholder returns. Less publicized, there is the murky black-market underworld business enterprises of drugs, prostitution, smuggling, slavery and the deplorable black market in body parts, which are only able to flourish thanks to the complicit lack of oversight (and occasionally direct involvement) from those we elect for public office.

Popular culture has derived several sub-categories of 'industrial complexes' to identify and highlight specific Big Industry/Big Government relationships that feed on, and are fed into, the war machine.

The 'military-industrial-media complex' needs little explanation: it's Eisenhower's MIC plus the complete cooperation of corporate media in promoting militarism for the benefit of the war machine. The 'prison-industrial complex' accounts for the rapid expansion of the prison population in the U.S., where over 2 million inmates manufacture basic military supplies. The 'politico-media complex' has replaced the profession of journalism with outright collusion between politicians and the media to manipulate rather than inform people. The 'surveillance industrial complex' is the fastest growing branch of this fascist network, where profit-driven implementation of advanced state surveillance systems comes at the expense of privacy and civil liberties. There is even a 'celebrity-industrial complex', a kind of bilateral income-generating relationship between media companies and celebrities, along with many other areas of commerce the 'industrial complex' notion applies to, such as: medical, climate, food, education, finance, internet, energy, consumerism, even religion and other powerful industries yet to have their corrupt operations assigned to a Wikipedia entry.

FührerTM Brands: The new Face of Fascism

Hitler WW2
© Drastic PlasticsCorporations have unleashed a new proto-fascist ideology packaged in a thin non-glossy, 'matte laminated', transparent plastic film
Over the past couple of decades, the United States of America has embraced, thanks to enabling technology, the kind of utopia envisioned by the Nazis. Alongside technological advances such as facial recognition, data mining and security scanning, the U.S. administration uses 'obscure laws' that allow the president and the military to quell any form of domestic protest.

We really should not be surprised that this has happened. The only surprising thing, perhaps, is just how smoothly this sophisticated technofascist3 take-over has been. The manipulation of the masses to accept the removal of their rights 'for their own safety' has occurred with barely a whimper. It has in fact been achieved with willing, flag-waving obedience.

Most analyses on how Hitler became master of the Third Reich focus on how he manipulated the desperate social and economic circumstances that German citizens faced at that time. However, it is possible to argue that Hitler's rise would never have been possible without the support of wealthy industrialists4.

80 years later, we can see it is the wealthy industrialists and corporations who have taken control of Western society, unleashing a new proto-fascist5 ideology packaged in a "thin non-glossy, 'matte laminated', transparent plastic film"6.

21st Century global corporatism doesn't have an identifiable dictator at the helm; instead we have the 'FührerTM brands' of Monsanto, Syngenta, BP, Chevron, Total, Halliburton, XE, Royal Dutch Shell, Goldman Sachs, GlaxoSmithKline, JPMorgan Chase, Exxon Mobile, Pfizer, Bayer and Google, to name a few.

In the book Facts and Fascism by George Seldes, published in 1943, the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany is directly attributed to private industrial interests. The business interests of steel giant Thyssen was particularly instrumental in Hitler's rise to power:
The true story of Hitler-Germany is the real clue to the situation everywhere. In 1923, after his monkeyshines in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler received his first big money from Fritz Thyssen. January 30, 1933, Hitler came into power after a deal with Hindenburg and the big Prussian landlords (Junkers). Since then, and in all of vast occupied Europe, Hitler has been paying off the men who invested in Fascism as a purely money-making enterprise. A personal dispute put Thyssen out, but his brother and the thousand biggest industrialists and bankers of Germany have as a result of financing Hitler become millionaires; the I. G. Farbenindustrie and other cartel organizations have become billionaires.[...]

It requires neither integrity nor courage today to say that Hitler was made the Fuehrer of Germany by the biggest industrialists of his country. (It does require integrity and courage even today to relate the German men and forces to those in America, to point out the equivalents, and that is why no commercial newspaper or magazine has ever done so.) But as early as Summer, 1933, in the Week-End Review, a light which shows up Fascism as nothing but a military-political-economic movement to grab all the money and resources of the world was already focused on Germany by the man who wrote under the name of "Ernst Henri." [...]

The secret, continues Henri, "must be sought in the hidden history of Germany's industrial oligarchy, in the post-war politics of coal and steel. . . . Not Hitler, but Thyssen, the great magnate of the Ruhr, is the prime mover of German Fascism." [...]
In Nazi Germany the big industrialists were the steel, auto manufacturers and the omnipresent banking industry. Along with Thyssen, there are written accounts that Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company were also involved in assisting the German war effort. Today the major industries may have different logos and slick public relations but their influence in shaping political decision making, foreign policy and crushing workers' rights is stronger than ever:
What's followed was a continual triumph of the capitalistic interests of the Thyssen group. The National Socialist Government of Germany today carries out Thyssen's policy on all matters, as though the entire nation were but a part of the Steel Trust. Every step taken by the new Government corresponds exactly to the private interests of this clique; Stinne's days have returned.

"Thyssen had six main objectives: (1) to secure the Steel Trust for his own group; (2) to save the great coal and steel syndicates, the basis of the entire capitalist system of monopolies in Germany; (3) to eliminate the Catholic and Jewish rival groups and to capture the whole industrial machine for the extreme reactionary wing of heavy industry; (4) to crush the workers and abolish the trade unions, so as to strengthen German competition in the world's markets by means of further wage reductions, etc.; (5) to increase the chances of inflation, in order to devaluate the debts of heavy industry (a repetition of the astute transaction invented by Stinnes in 1923); and finally (6) to initiate a pronouncedly imperialist tendency in foreign politics in order to satisfy the powerful drive for expansion in Ruhr capital. All these items of his programs, without exception, have been, are, or will now be executed by the Hitler government." (The reader must remember that this prediction was written in early 1933, within a few months of Hitler's triumph.)

It is with especial interest that one reads Henri's conclusion and prediction a full decade after he made it. He said in 1933: "The trade unions have been destroyed. Thyssen can dictate wages through the new 'corporations' and thus reduce still further the prices of export goods in the face of English and American competition. Armaments are being prepared; Thyssen provides the steel. Thyssen needs the Danube markets, where he owns the Alpine Montan-Gesellschaft, the greatest steel producers in Austria. But the primal objective of this new system in Germany has not yet been attained. Thyssen wants war, and it looks as though Hitler may yet provide him with one."

In all instances, however, history shows us that when the latter take over a country with a fascist army they may give the middle class privileges, benefits, a chance to earn larger profits for a while, but in the end monopoly triumphs, and the Big Money drives the Little Money into bankruptcy.
Today's corporations have similarly unleashed global attacks on workers rights, the middle class and are actively weakening the trade unions who pose a threat to the implementation of so-called 'austerity measures' and wage cuts. Americans, and much of the rest of the global population, are now witnessing the greatest wealth transfer in history:
No class or ruler, not Roman emperors, not British and French monarchs, not even Popes have been able to fleece their people in the way the American Federal Reserve and Wall Street bankers have in recent years. [...]The entire system has become completely incestuous. Goldman Sachs and other banks provide the campaign contributions for their politician friends, many of whom went to the same Ivy League schools and even share similar backgrounds, and in return receive preferential treatment from the government. In the rare instance that this insider trading comes to light, the regulators, who also share similar backgrounds and answer to the politicians, protect the bankers.
At an extreme level, as in the case with military spending, decisions to invest in military hardware and infrastructure have tragic repercussions. Waging war on other nations provides lucrative profits for defence contractors, resulting in the loss of millions of innocent lives and the destruction of soverign nations. The Bush II administration's Big Oil and war industry-sponsored decision to invade Iraq on faulty intelligence reports are a haunting example of profit bonanzas for private firms at the expense of millions of innocent victims:
Private or publicly listed firms received at least $138 billion of U.S. taxpayer money for government contracts for services that included providing private security, building infrastructure and feeding the troops.

Ten contractors received 52 percent of the funds, according to an analysis by the Financial Times that was published Tuesday.The No. 1 recipient? Houston-based energy-focused engineering and construction firm KBR, Inc, which was spun off from its parent, oilfield services provider Halliburton Co, in 2007.The company was given $39.5 billion in Iraq-related contracts over the past decade, with many of the deals given without any bidding from competing firms, such as a $568-million contract renewal in 2010 to provide housing, meals, water and bathroom services to soldiers, a deal that led to a Justice Department lawsuit over alleged kickbacks, as reported by Bloomberg.
The Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University has attempted to quantitatively measure the economic as well as the human, social and political costs a decade after the Iraq invasion:
The United States invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003 on the pretext that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The mass destruction of the invasion, occupation, and civil war followed, and amplified the societal and health disintegration caused by the previous decade of sanctions. Iraqi lives and communities remain war-devastated ten years on. American military and contractor families struggle with the loss of loved ones as well as the emotional and economic burdens of living with long-term injuries and illnesses. Total US federal spending associated with the Iraq war has been $1.7 trillion through FY2013. In addition, future health and disability payments for veterans will total $590 billion and interest accrued to pay for the war will add up to $3.9 trillion.
Western democracies are utilising tactics usually reserved for totalitarian regimes, i.e. regimes in which a centralised state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behaviour and asserts its authority through the use of force and/or fear of punishment. What hundreds of respected current affairs commentators have for the past 6 years been calling "creeping fascism in Western democracies" is today being revealed as overt totalitarianism, with the USA leading the charge.

Over the past decade we have witnessed the steady decent of the US into fascism under the Bush and Obama administrations. The removal of constitutional freedoms, justified by the fictional 'Islamic terror threat' that is 'made real' by contrived terror plots and the occasional false-flag bombing, is indistinguishable from Hitler's invocation of a "Communist threat to Germany's national security". The Reichstag Fire of February 1933 was blamed on 'the Communists' and was followed by the Enabling Act, replacing constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency. The 9/11 attacks ushered in the USA Patriot Act and gave rise to indefinite detention, torture, assassination, expanded state surveillance, and search and seizures.

The British government was quick to label the recent knifing of a soldier in London as a 'terror attack' and is capitalising on this incident to justify increased surveillance ("particularly for protest movements...") through the Communications Data Bill. To make matters worse, we see a complicit media demonizing Muslims in circumstances that are eerily reminiscent of the Nazis demonizing Jews in the 1930s. In the USA much of these monitoring proposals are already in place. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) highlights how, post-9/11, new technologies have enabled civil liberties to be seriously eroded. Electronic communications, internet browsing history and social network activity are all tracked, monitored and stored. The ACLU says: "Things we once thought could only happen in far-away enemy states or distant dystopias are suddenly happening here in America". They're not "suddenly happening"; they have been happening for as long as the technology has existed. The current Prism-NSA 'scandal' is merely a way to 'inform' the people that this is the way it is, and the way it has always been.

How to win profits and influence politicians

The world's largest industry in terms of revenue is the food industry, with conservative estimates putting it at $4.5 trillion and accounting for a tenth of the global Gross Domestic Product. The other leading (public) industries are motor-vehicle, oil, banking, insurance, IT, telecommunications, aerospace, defence and medicine. The following table shows it is exactly these industries who are spending the most money in lobbing Congress to influence legislation and maximise revenue7:
lobbying spending
© opensecrets.orgTop industries lobbying spending 2012
There is a sinister, symbiotic ('you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours') relationship between business leaders and politicians. In order to maximise profits, big business needs favourable legislation to advance their products and services, limit competition, lower the amount it 'wastes' on paying labourers to do their dirty work, and to minimise resource costs. Politicians receive financial support to fund their political campaigns and businesses in turn receive direct political approval for government spending of revenue streams from taxpayers. Not surprisingly, just under half of current Congress members are millionaires, while many of their own constituents are living on food stamps.

politicians and corruption
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Companies spend hefty amounts on ensuring they are financing the political candidates who will support their endeavours. In many instances companies support both sides of an election to guarantee their money is backing the 'winning horse'. In the federal election cycle in 2008, a total of $5.2 billion from all sources was spent. The 2012 Election was the most expensive election in U.S. history, costing more than $6 billion.

In 2010 Supreme Court ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections, despite resistance from opponents who said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), in a statement submitted to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. wrote, "over the course of our 26-year history of monitoring the confluence of money and politics, we have seen time and time again that corporations and unions have the appetite to use their financial largess to wield control over politics and elections. It stands to reason that some, if not many, organizations will take advantage of this new loophole." As if they haven't found enough loopholes to exploit already!

Senator John McCain was one of five senators accused of corruption in 1989 in the Savings and Loan (S&L) crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s. McCain and four Congressmen pressured Congress not to take action after fraudulent financial activity of his friend Charles Keating was unveiled. The company in question, Lincoln, continued operations for two more years until its collapse in 1989, at a cost of $2 billion to the federal government. It transpired that after McCain's election to the House in 1982 (that Keating raised money for), he and his family made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, three of which were to Keating's Bahamas retreat. Senator McCain was never prosecuted.8

Corporate interest groups have also taken over the State Supreme Courts. In the event of legal challenges to illicit corporate practices, the interest groups that desire a certain outcome have donated money to judges, and the same judges have then interpreted the law in a manner that achieves their corporate donors' desired outcome.

This institutionalised corruption results in improper use of taxpayer money that is often wasted on non-essential projects that could have been better spent on improving living conditions, health, welfare and local services. A fitting example is the ongoing production in Ohio of unwanted Abrams tanks. In 2010 lawmakers from both parties allocated nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams tank. Incredibly, the recipients of the hardware, senior army officials, explicitly said the tanks were not needed and not even wanted. The Abrams production line was in the politically important constituency of Ohio and in congressional districts where the tank's suppliers are located. The allocation of funding to keep the Abrams production line rolling came at the request of Congressmen seeking to win voters with the promise high-paying jobs.

Individual corporations engaging in rigging markets and selecting politicians is bad enough, but what happens when whole industries work together as one voice, combinging their vast resources to lobby legislators and determine the fate of nations? The British Prime Minister recently admitted that "we have a problem with lobbyists" after it emerged (again) that politicians were being paid in cash to ask questions in the Houses of Parliament. In other words, British politicians are being paid bribes to ask particular questions and thus raise, or remain silent on, certain issues that suit their bribers' agendas. After talking the good talk about how 'this must stop!', Prime Minister Cameron was chauffeur-driven to the 2013 Bilderberg Conference, held this year in Watford, outside London, where he met some of the most powerful corporatist representatives of Big Business in the world to discuss 'their mutual interests'! "Oh it's just a nothing event," the corporate media tells us. Why then is Cameron, who was present in an official capacity as elected leader of the UK, discussing policy with the heads of the IMF, World Bank, etc. in complete secrecy?

No doubt about it, "Congress [and most every other 'democratic' institution on Earth] is bought and paid for," explains TV pundit Dylan Ratigan explains in this viral video outburst on MSNBC:
"We've got a real problem! This is a mathematical fact! Tens of trillions of dollars are being extracted from the United States of America. Democrats aren't doing it, Republicans aren't doing it. An entire integrated system, financial system, trading system, taxing system, that was created by both parties over a period of two decades is at work on our entire country right now. And we're sitting here arguing about whether we should do the $4 trillion plan that kicks the can down the road for the president for 2017, or burn the place to the ground, both of which are reckless, irresponsible, and stupid."
A rare slip of the truth from the corporation-owned and controlled mainstream media networks:

Conclusion: Vote with your wallet

There are striking parallels to the times in which we live now to Germany in the 1930s. Irrespective of which party is elected to office, Big Business is exerting an unwieldy influence on political decision-making. Voting at the ballot box can make no difference in a country where the range of candidates are limited to 'pro-Big Business vs Pro-Big Business'. Voting is a futile exercise in a corrupt system that we are powerless to influence through the ballot box.

propaganda poster
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In his time, Hitler appointed Joseph Goebbels as head of propaganda9: "to ensure nobody in Germany could read or see anything that was hostile or damaging to the Nazi Party" and "to ensure that the views of the Nazis were put across in the most persuasive manner possible".

The Corporations (and governments) of today hire sophisticated advertising, marketing and PR professionals using the latest technology to ensure nobody can see anything that damages their brands and to ensure we buy their products and services or support their actions.

However, if we are able to see through the slick marketing campaigns, glossy advertising and shiny packaging, we can instead make informed choices to support providers of products and services who are doing their best to leave a positive legacy on society and the environment. Granted, it is no easy task to insulate ourselves completely from manipulations and discern truth from lies.

It requires a concerted effort and deep-rooted understanding that we can make a difference. Staying informed and sharing this knowledge with others empowers us all to make important choices in our daily lives. With careful consideration of where every dollar we spend is going, we can at the very least do our best to blindly avoid feeding the corporatist machine.

Maybe bringing Eisenhower's MIC speech up to date, with the help of a little rewording10 (italicised), can provide some guidance :
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by Corporate interests. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial, technological and financial powers with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together...
propaganda poster
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Next up: The Surveillance (Cyber-spying) Industrial Complex

Foot Notes

1. The iItalian leader of the National Fascist Party from 1930 to 1943, who as well as being responsible for the deaths of over 400,000 Italians, was one of the key figures in the creation of fascism. Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN0-19-509514-6.

2. Original wording of Dwight D. Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation delivered 17 January 1961: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together". Full text and audio.

3. TechnoFascism was a word officially forged by Daryl Basarab of Free Media Productions, a third positionist site, that heavily rejects mainstream politics. To me it means technology-assisted corporate fascism, maybe technocorporatism might be more appropriate.

4. Facts and Fascism by George Seldes In Fact, Inc., 1943 - 7th edition, hard cover

5. Potentially fascist, if not explicitly so, from the article Proto Fascism in America by David Neiwert

6. Verbiage one would use to describe the packaging that Apple uses for many of its products. E100. "IPhone IPad IPod Packaging Texture." GraphicDesign. StackExchange, 23 May 2012. Web. 30 May 2013.

7. Defence contractors are also found in 'Misc Manufacturing & Distributing', such as the American conglomerate Honeywell International, which during and after the Vietnam era produced a number of products, including cluster bombs, missile guidance systems, napalm and land mines. Honeywell is in the consortium that runs the Pantex Plant, which assembles all of the nuclear bombs in the United States arsenal. GE has faced criminal action regarding its defense-related operations. GE was convicted in 1990 of defrauding the US Department of Defense, and again in 1992 on charges of corrupt practices in the sale of jet engines to Israel.

8. An informative video presentation on the Keating Five scandal is available here.

9. Goebel's official title was Minister of Propaganda and National Enlightenment; the modern equivalent is usually 'Minister of Information'.

10. ibid