By Robert A. Vella

One of the great lessons of World War II was learned in the hardest way imaginable.  As fascism was rising in Europe, the democratic nations of the West sat on their hands in idle anxiety fearful of another devastating war.  That war did come, though, and it was far more costly than it would have been otherwise.  The triumphant image of Neville Chamberlain at Munich is poignantly juxtaposed with the subsequent futility of trying to appease the hunger for absolute power.

The only major nation that had made a substantial effort to stop the rise of fascism was ironically the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin when it supported Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War.  I say “ironically” because Stalin was just as totalitarian as was Nationalist leader Francisco Franco, Benito Mussolini in Italy, and Adolf Hitler in Germany.  However, Stalin – as a communist – was ideologically opposed to fascism.  He correctly saw it as an existential threat.  The allies in the West struggled to reach that conclusion.  They hoped that peace would prevail.  They hoped that civility would reemerge among peoples gripped by fear and anger.  But, they were wrong.

Last night on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl did a brilliant exposé on 99 year-old Ben Ferencz – the last surviving prosecutor of the WWII Nuremberg Trials who is still working against war crimes and atrocities today as the specter of fascism rises once again.  I strongly urge everyone to watch the episode or at least read the transcript.  There are two elucidations to pay particular attention to:  1) the fallacy of labeling perpetrators as “evil,” and 2) the courage it requires to remain strong in the face of great uncertainty.

From:  What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know

All 22 defendants were found guilty, and four of them, including Ohlendorf, were hanged. Ferencz says his goal from the beginning was to affirm the rule of law and deter similar crimes from ever being committed again.

Lesley Stahl: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?

Benjamin Ferencz: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite–

Lesley Stahl: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?

Benjamin Ferencz: He’s not a savage. He’s an intelligent, patriotic human being.

Lesley Stahl: He’s a savage when he does the murder though.

Benjamin Ferencz: No. He’s a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.

Lesley Stahl: You don’t think they turn into savages even for the act?

Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.


Lesley Stahl: We’ve had Rwanda, we’ve had Bosnia. You’re not getting very far.

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, don’t say that. People get discouraged. They should remember, from me, it takes courage not to be discouraged.

Now, I ask you to consider those thoughts as you read the following stories.  Fascism is with us once more, and it is growing.  We will have to fight it again sooner or later.  The longer we wait, the costlier it will be.  Looking forward, communist China may play the same role somewhere in the world that the Soviet Union played in 1936 Spain.  This time, however, the fascist adversary might be the United States of America.  I wonder if the democratic leaders and peoples of the West will choose appeasement as they did in 1938 at Munich.

From:  This Trump critic’s cartoon went viral on social media. Within hours, he no longer had a contract.

Within hours after an anti-Trump cartoon proved popular on social media, its creator, Michael de Adder, was released from his freelance contract with Canada’s Brunswick News company.


The immigration cartoon gained popularity after such celebrities as George Takei and Mark Hamill noted it on social media.

News of de Adder’s canceled contract comes shortly after the New York Times ended its contracts with two political cartoonists, including longtime contributor Patrick Chappatte, whose work appeared in the Times’ international edition. The Times’ announcement followed controversy and an apology from the publisher for an overseas cartoon mocking Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

From:  Keanu Reeves Among Hollywood Stars to Condemn Alt-Right Attack on Italian Film Group

Keanu Reeves was among the 19 Hollywood actors and filmmakers who signed their names to a statement condemning an attack by fascists on the Italian cinema group Piccolo America.

According to Italian media reports, the attack occurred in the Rome neighborhood of Trastevere during a June 16 outdoor screening of Paul Schrader’s film “First Reformed.” Four members of the group were attacked for wearing the film collective’s shirts, which the attackers were reported as believing  were “anti-fascist.” Five men have been detained in connection to the assault, with at least one of them being connected to the youth wing of Italy’s neo-fascist political party CasaPound.

From:  Conditions at El Paso border station so bad agents feared riots, DHS report says

WASHINGTON — The government’s own internal watchdog warned as far back as May that conditions at an El Paso, Texas, border station were so bad that border agents were arming themselves against possible riots, countering Friday’s assertion by a top Trump administration official that reports of poor conditions for migrants were “unsubstantiated.”

In an internal report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General and obtained by NBC News, inspectors noted during a May 7 tour of a border station in the El Paso sector that only four showers were available for 756 immigrants, over half of the immigrants were being held outside, and immigrants inside were being kept in cells maxed at over five times their capacity.

Border agents remained armed in holding areas because they were worried about the potential for unrest, the report said.

From:  Federal judge: Let doctors into child migrant detention centers, quickly

A federal judge has ordered US Customs and Border Protection to permit health experts into detention facilities holding migrant children to ensure they’re “safe and sanitary” and assess the children’s medical needs.

The order encompasses all facilities in the CBP’s El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors, which are the subject of a lawsuit.

Last week, lawyers asked US District Judge Dolly Gee to hold President Donald Trump’s administration in contempt and order immediate improvements at the facilities.

Today’s other news

‘The enigma of the entire Mueller probe’: Focus on origins of Russian investigation puts spotlight on Maltese professor

Protesters force their way into Hong Kong legislative building on anniversary of China handover and occupy it

The lawsuits that could bankrupt the opioid industry

The Nonprofit Hospital That Makes Millions, Owns a Collection Agency and Relentlessly Sues the Poor

10 thoughts on “Monday Kickoff: We will have to fight fascism sooner or later

  1. In Italy where fascism was created as a
    Italian national-chauvinist movement, you still find a museum honouring and worshipping Benito Mussolini. And more bizarre: a grand-daughter of this dictator is a member of the European Parliament for Italian Neo-Fascists. Lessons learned from history?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so unnecessary and frankly quite frightening. It all comes back to benighted beliefs and bogey men. Fear has mead them the very people they hate.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In 1905 and through to Word War 1, the Bolsheviks led by Lenin did not want to participate in the war. They actually hoped all the working class people would refuse to be conscripted to fight in the war, but workers in Western Europe didn’t see it that way, and now see where we are

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lenin died in January 1924, and Stalin took over control of the Soviet Union. When that happened, most of what the Bolsheviks had fought for (i.e. worker rights, democracy, etc.) was lost. It is a perfect example of Lord Acton’s maxim about absolute power corrupting absolutely.

      Blaming workers in western Europe for the cause of World War I strains credulity, IMO. I hope that’s not what you’re suggesting. That conflict arose from aristocratic infighting over ethnic tensions in the Balkans (primarily between Russia and Austria-Hungary), and from dangerous military alliances which escalated the situation out of control. When Germany declared war against Russia on August 1st 1914, France and Great Britain were compelled by treaty to enter the fray.


      • Not at all. Not blaming them for causing the war. No no. Participating in the war. Lenin and his party were opposed to the Austria- Russian war and even WW1. The Mensheviks and the Social Democrats(?) supported the war party.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, the Mensheviks were moderates who understandably had little hesitation about supporting emperor Tsar Nicholas’ war plans. Russia then was a monarchy based on the royal House of Romanov. Nicholas reacted angrily when workers and peasants called for the establishment of a Russian constitutional monarchy even though he himself admired the British system. His intransigence on political reforms was one of the many factors in the 1917 revolution.

          The political situation in western Europe was quite different. Great Britain and France were rudimentary democracies. They had to rely on propaganda to drum-up domestic support for war – which wasn’t too difficult considering the nationalist fervor that was sweeping across Europe at that time.

          When war broke out, Russian workers had little choice but to obey whereas British and French workers were initially eager (they would lose their eagerness very quickly, however). But, regardless of how these common people felt at the time, the cause of WWI rests solely on their governments’ shoulders. They acted arrogantly, impulsively, and without much regard for the millions of soldiers and civilians who ended up paying the ultimate price for that folly.


        • I agree with you totally. Responsibility for the war and it has always been the case rests on shoulders of govt types who most often fight from boardrooms when the rest die in the field

          Liked by 1 person

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