by Shelby Willaims
During the “Fascism & Anti-Fascism” presentation at the Diaspora Multicultural Society in New Britain, retired veteran Rodger Benham discussed in detail the chronological order of Fascist ideological movements in American political discourse.
Held on Jan. 10, Benham presented a talk that articulated the social, political and economic impacts the institution of fascism has on a contemporary society in front of about 40 people, with the majority of the audience consisting of local political and communal organizations.
The political tone of the conversation was heavily influenced by the Industrial Workers of the World, an international labor union founded in 1905. In accordance to the presentation, the political tone of the IWW pertains to a far left Socialist-Democratic alignment that further amplifies the bias of the presentation.
In the beginning of the presentation, Benham depicted a picture of a Ku Klux Klan rally where members held signs that made demands for free speech, rights of the constitution and separation of church and state. Throughout Benham’s talk, he expressed what he believed was the intent of the KKK at the rally, saying that he believed they conducted public rallies and displayed white supremacy propaganda for the use of declaring white nationalism.
He further elaborated on this idea by stating that the public projection of white supremacy is to define the underlying foundation of the American system, which can be interpreted as fascism.
As the presentation continued, Benham defined each era within American history and its transitional attitudes of fascism and how it is applied and transferred within the decades of political unrest. He then made the argument that the American economic and political system can not survive without the use of fascism.
“A mechanism that is the under layer of the American capitalist system,” Benham said. “A system that empowers the elitist groups at the expense of the oppressed.”
To further his argument, Benham introduced events within the decades of political unrest that had either ignited or have furthered the development and integration of fascist ideas.
For starters, the Bonus Army in 1933, which was a large group of unemployed World War I veterans that had been promised a bonus check for their service in the coming year of 1945. During the Great Depression, many veterans had returned home to a lack of social services and employment. As a result of this, many veterans were upset with the conditions that they were placed in by the state and chose to retaliate by holding a march on Washington that led to a human wall barricade surrounding the capital.
According to Benham, this event was the onset for socialist ideas and demand for political reformation that required a more liberal state. He credited the event for also being the result of the first fall of the American capitalist system, which Benham made the point of being the initial sign of weakness within the American capitalist system. In the historical context of the presentation, the chronological order of events that Benham introduced to the audience consisted of many public outbreaks which defined important statements in his argument as to how fascism operated in the states.
Major fascists groups similar to the KKK mentioned were present actors in the ideological and militant development of fascism, such as the German American Boon, the American Nazi Party, the Silent Brotherhood, the National Bolshevik Party, the Red-Brown Alliance, and the New Right Movement. Historically, fascists groups as listed have varied in militancy, ideological beliefs and forms of practice all of which have major generational differences.
Benham also made the claim that as fascists movements continue to evolve throughout American political discourse, it will become more centralized within police institutions as well as embraced by the state.
However, in an effort to gain different perspectives on this claim, Benham invited members of the audience to share their interpretations.
Veteran and citizen Steven Phil shared his interpretation on the protection of fascism by law enforcement.
“The reason I had attended this event was to understand how deeply rooted this idea was,” Phil said. “Cops are showing interest on how to support alt-right movements and support the Blue Lives Matter movement, but why?”
Central Connecticut State University alumni and activist Ben Harvey shared his views.
“It really is up to the individual,” Harvey said. “It’s up to ourselves as individuals to stay away from the ‘fascist creek.’”
To further elaborate on his statement, Harvey made the argument that in knowing of the capitalistic endeavors of the state and evils of fascism or white supremacy, it is ultimately an individualistic obligation for each person to stray away from the ideological pattern.
That fascism, which Harvey said is one of the many functions underneath the American system that is tailored to either invite or attack citizens within the state.
As the discussion concludes, Benham made a few choice statements in regards to the longevity of the fascism and how important it is to dismantle it. According to Benham, it is up to collective work and the impact of unionization to bring reformation.