Rush Limbaugh Has His Fascism All Backwards: Mussolini Sent Out Blackshirts To Attack Unions

Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show today: Limbaugh: Folks, this is Mussolini-type stuff. This is the President of the United States -- who cannot dea

Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show today:

Limbaugh: Folks, this is Mussolini-type stuff. This is the President of the United States -- who cannot deal with opposition, there will not be any, he is going to silence it -- sending his union thugs out to physically assault, and in some cases to, in all cases, intimidate average Americans who just want some answers.

Actually, Limbaugh has historical references exactly reversed. "Mussolini-type stuff" involves organizing gangs of thugs on behalf of established business interests to assault and intimidate union organizers. At least, that was what happened when Mussolini did it.

I'll let Robert O. Paxton, in The Anatomy of Fascism (pp.60-64), explain it more precisely:

Above all Mussolini bested D'Annunzio by serving economic and social interests as well as nationalist sentiment. He made his Blackshirts available for action against socialists as well as against the South Slavs of Fiume and Trieste. War veterans had hated the socialists since 1915 for their "antinational" stance during the war. Big planters in the Po Valley, Tuscany, Apulia, and other regions of large estates hated and feared the socialists for their success at the end of the war in organizing the bracianti, or landless laborers, to press for higher wages and better working conditions. Squadrismo was the conjunction of these two hatreds.

Following their victory in the first postwar election (November 1919) the Italian socialists had used their new power in local government to establish de facto control over the agricultural wage-labor market. In the Po Valley in 1920, every farmer who needed workmen for planting or harvesting had to visit the socialist Labor Exchange. The Labor Exchanges made the most of their new leverage. They forced the farmers to hire workers year-round rather than only seasonally, and with better wages and working conditions. The farmers were financially squeezed. They had invested considerable sums in transforming Po Valley marshlands in cultivable farms; their cash crops earned little money in the difficult conditions of the Italian postwar economy. The socialist unions also undermined the farmers' personal status as masters of their domains.

Frightened and humiliated, the Po Valley landowners looked frantically for help. They did not find it in the Italian state. Local officials were either socialists themselves, or little inclined to do battle with them. Prime Minister Giolitti, a true practitioner of laissez-faire liberalism, declined to use national forces to break strikes. The big farmers felt abandoned by the Italian liberal state.

In the absence of help from the public authorities, the large landowners of the Po Valley turned to the Blackshirts for protection. Glad for an excuse to attack their old pacifist enemies, fascist squadristi invaded the city hall in Bologna, where socialist officials had hung up a red banner, on November 21, 1920. Six were killed. From there, the movement quickly spread through the rich agricultural country in the lower Po River delta. Black-shirted squadristi mounted nightly expeditions to sack and burn Labor Exchanges and local socialist offices, and beat and intimidate socialist organizers. Their favorite forms of humiliation were administering uncontainable doses of castor oil and shaving off half of a proud Latin moustache. In the first six months of 1921, the squads destroyed 17 newspapers and printing works, 59 Peoples' Houses (socialist headquarters), 119 Chambers of Labor (socialist employment offices), 107 cooperatives, 83 Peasants' Leagues, 151 socialist clubs, and 151 cultural organizations. Between January 1 and April 7, 1921, 102 people were killed: 25 fascists, 41 socialists, 20 police, and 16 others.

The same pattern adhered with the Brownshirts and the rise of the Nazis in Germany: The SA regularly attacked socialists and union organizers, and did so in the defense of established capitalist interests.

If Rushbo really wants to start drawing the analogies with fascism, he's going to find it's not exactly a winning proposition. Because we're all starting to see just who's looking like the fascists these days.

About David Neiwert

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