October 1, 2022

Heroes of 3P: Lawrence Dennis

There is perhaps no-one better suited to represent an American Third Position than Lawrence Dennis. 

From a child evangelist to an army commander to a diplomat in the foreign service––Dennis had a wide range of experience taking on leadership roles in a number of different fields. Dennis’ mother was also African-American, although he spent his life trying to pass as white (taking advantage of the fact that he had relatively light-skin). With that being said, apparently when he had died in 1977, he was sporting an afro as a gesture to his African heritage. Nonetheless, Dennis was a staunch isolationist and a strong believer in Fascism as a Third Position to Communism and Capitalism. 

It was when Dennis served in Nicaragua that his political outlook started to form. Dennis was stationed in Nicaragua during the Rebellion of Augusto César Sandino, who was a patriotic populist who opposed U.S. occupation and took up a popular cause against the ruling family of Nicaragua. It is from the legacy of Sandino that the Sandinista group formed (famously known as the enemies of the Contras). Dennis, being sympathetic towards the Populist uprising, was disgusted by the way the U.S. tried to squash the Revolution. 

By the time of the Second World War, Dennis had travelled to Italy and Germany and experienced Fascist regimes in Europe firsthand. He was convinced that they represented the way forward for nation-states as Liberal Democracies crashed under the conflict between labour and capital, a conflict that could only be reconciled by the State. This was a conviction that Dennis was willing to take with him to the grave, and he was even tried for sedition in 1944. 

Herein lies the premise for Dennis’ first book Is Capitalism Doomed?, where he outlines the problems of Capitalism; and herein lies the premise for his second book The Coming American Fascism, where he outlines how Fascist Corporatism was the solution for the problems of Capitalism. Dennis was one who explicitly understood that “The feudal lord of the manor was quite as much a property owner as the millionaire under modern capitalism.” 

On Fascism as a solution, Dennis had the following to say in The Coming American Fascism

“Fascism insists that property or capital and private economic enterprise must be called to the colors as well as conscripts in time of war. And fascism insists that the term of service for both capital and labor is not for an emergency but a new and permanent scheme of social organization and operation.”

Here we see an understanding of Fascism that is very much akin to Ludendorff’s War Socialism, which was also adopted by Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, and FDR. Comparisons could also be drawn to the Dirigisme of Charles de Gaulle. But Dennis’ understanding goes deeper than mere economics, as he was one to understand the need for a heroic ideal in society. 

In “Dynamics on War and Revolution” (the sequel to “The Coming American Fascism”), Dennis touches upon this distinction between Heroism and Liberalism. 

“A civilization must exalt a tradition of heroism. This it may do in war or pyramid building. Liberalism never glorified heroism in theory but, in its frontier empire-building days, it exemplified heroism in its practice.”

Where The Coming American Fascism elaborates on the substructural or economic elements of Fascism, Dynamics of War and Revolution goes into the superstructural or social factors of Fascism. 

Perhaps one of Dennis’ most interesting positions is in “The Coming American Fascism” when it comes to the nature of monopolism within the economy. On one hand, Dennis praises monopolism, claiming that “some of the best things in our civilization we owe to the technical achievements of monopolies — achievements which small-unit enterprise could never have realized.” Yet on the other hand, Dennis noted how “monopolies arise and perpetrate great abuses” . 

Ultimately, Dennis comments on how Fascism solves this problem where he claims:

“A strong authoritarian, executive state, commonly called fascist, has the merit not of eliminating monopolies or trading in the market, but of exercising, with adequate instrumentalities, an ample power over monopolies and the market to enforce a workable scheme of national interest. The authoritarian state can say “Stop” to business or in the market, as the liberal state cannot do.” 

Dennis’ solution is best described in “The Dynamics of War and Revolution”, where he notes how:

“The Fascist-Nazi method of transition from capitalism to socialism was obviously more humane for the capitalists and business executives and far better for the community than the communist way of sudden liquidation of one system with its managing personnel, and the inauguration of a successor system without adequate experts.”

An American Third Position would be at a loss to not consider Dennis’ comprehensive analysis. Dennis had a masterful understanding on the economics of mid-stage Fascism. Dennis was a radical-thinker and a courageous figure, who even faced a federal trial for charges of sedition on account of his devotion to his views. 

For too long he has been a dusty-gem and a lost-treasure within the Third Position outlook, and his works deserve to be rediscovered by us all. 

3 thoughts on “Heroes of 3P: Lawrence Dennis

  1. Absolutely fantastic! I first read ‘The Coming American Facism’ some 35 yeats ago, and followed that with ‘The Dynamics of War and Revolution’ shortly afterwards. Tremendously enlightening writings that have guided my political development ever since!

    1. Thanks it’s a really great book and brings much hope for the future of politics in America. We are looking to publish the whole collection at some point. “Is Capitalism Doomed” is his first book which I’m very interested in reading.

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