I should not be surprised, but I am shocked that Bill Mandel, an old hand in the fight against fascism should say, “What makes fascism distinct is that it comes to power via citizen organizations whose members are willing to use violence of their fellow citizens to deprive them of civil rights and liberties. . . . So long as they do not gain control of the central government, the country is not fascist. . . . As American experience with the Ku Klux Klan shows, that remains true even if such an organization dominates a part of the country.” This definition puts the cart before the horse. This misses the point. The hate groups take over on the ground when the state power is in the hands of the most reactionary elements in the country. The hate groups are a mechanism for suppression. The state power is tied up with the economic and political control of government. The style or specifics of reactionary state control which uses the hate groups varies in different countries because the class structure has variations in each country. The existing democratic forms in each country determine the style in which the reactionaries will assault the democratic structures, but in all cases in the 20th century, it was corporatism that was the basis of fascist states, that is, to quote Mussolini again, corporations in control of government is fascism. One must, however, add to this that the most reactionary, most conservative, most chauvinist, most imperialist corporations in control of government make fascism possible because they will protect the hate groups. But each country witnesses various ways in which the relationship between destructive groups are nurtured, condoned and released by the masters of state power. In the USA, the Ku Klux Klan was defeated by the Southern Poverty Law Center under Morris Dees in a lawsuit which resulted in a huge financial penalty that bankrupted the KKK. But that was possible before the reactionary politicization of a good part of the federal judiciary since Reagan has encroached on Constitutional rights. Would that be the same if Bush appoints a few more federal judges for lifetime? Just read the literature from the Southern Poverty Law Center on the number of hate radio stations and groups that dot the country in the hundreds. Are these being shut down by the federal government today? McVeigh was represents a historic moment which may be passed at the rate that Ashcroft is moving to destroy the Bill of Rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Would you not call the military action in Iraq imperialist and colonialist at its worst? Read the front page of the NY Times today and you must shudder at the style and manner in which the Bush administration is steadily eroding the democratic rights first established and then improved in our country over centuries. The Supreme Court ruled to prevent the use of RICO conspiracy by the hate forces which destroy abortion clinics, giving them federal protection. Keep your eye on the ball. It is true we have a history of democratic rights but it is also true that they are eroding very, very rapidly. Again, the key to fascism is reactionary, corporate stranglehold on government.
Is there a comparison with the McCarthy period when the struggle to expand and defend democracy succeeded at a different moment in history? Internationalism was on the rise; fascism had been defeated; the reactionaries started the Cold War in 1947; they got Nixon into Congress in 1948. They attached Nixon to Eisenhower as Vice-President in 1952, but the reactionary corporate core which started its moves from the West Coast to capture the Republican Party had only begun. The forces for democracy were relatively stronger and well funded. The Southern Democrats hadn’t moved over to the Republicans. The balance of power between the pro-democratic forces and the ultra reactionaries was different. The far right politically married with the Southern religious fundamentalists and the hate groups are a combination of the reactionary political leaders with a mass base. They could not succeed with Nixon who was confronted with mass movements to end the Vietnam War and was caught with his pants down and impeached. But, with Reagan’s victory, we have seen a steady move to hand over the centers of governing through Congress and the executive branch to the CEO’s who robbed the decent workers of their pensions, their health benefits and are responsible for an increase in poverty within 1/3 of the population and uncertainty for the rest of the working population. Face it, fascism is capitalism at its worst. It is economic triage and suppression. That is what we are facing today with the government in the hands of our country’s worst reactionary elements. If they succeed in appointing reactionary judges and controlling three branches of the government, fascism is coming from on top as distinct from your definition that fascism depends upon the rise and control by hate groups. There would be no hate groups if corporate America wanted to stamp them out. Those who criticize the administration are thrown off television and radio or off the stage where they are prominent. This is not McCarthyism. This is the real thing, unless the democratic forces realize what they are fighting against and get the people to see the real nature of present day Republican party control. They control the information highways, though it is true we have an alternate press reaching specific sections of the population. But try to get on a major network. Try to write a story about what is true about what happened in Iraq as a correspondent and lose your job.
The basic principles of democracy, the struggle for civil liberties and civil rights, the victory against the Vietnam War, all remain in the national consciousness. Do not however assume that the constant pounding and directing and manipulating of issues does not confuse the population. German fascism was built on a slogan of national socialism. US style differs. It is built on the slogan of “expanding democracy”, though truly it is at the point of a gun and loss of liberties. I could see the possibility of being persecuted by the current administration by insisting that they are developing an American form of fascist control. How many people are in jail in our country now because they are immigrants and critical and not terrorists and being denied legal protections. How much of a step is it to take it to the yellow or the black face and smear it onto the whites. Even most democrats do not go head on with Bush for fear of losing corporate-controlled contributions.
If we follow this intellectual debate and nitpicking on a definition of fascism, we will soon be at a time when it is irrelevant and impossible. We are at a very serious juncture. We must find a way to work with all political forces which will coalesce to elect representatives and to support leaders who clearly go against the friendly-faced, white-gloved, compassionate, incipient fascism of the Bush administration. It is the main issue which would be understood by masses in the population if it is clearly presented as a main danger both in political and economic terms. We must use all of the alternate press and mass media and the mass movements to electrify the 2004 elections. The Republicans already are trying to circumvent a traditional election campaign by announcing that they will run a short sprint campaign beginning September 11, 2004, and with the hoopla of September 11, leave just a few weeks for any real political adversarial debate. We usually have months of such debate and confrontations which they will seek to avoid or deflect. This too is a USA fascist tactic, as was the Florida recount judicial machinations that resulted in a Supreme Court designation of a president rather than a true count reflecting the majority of voters. Subtly, even as we write, the government is working feverishly to introduce electronic voting machines which are flawed, can be rigged, and have no way of retracing the accumulation of votes (if you are interested in more details on this, we will send this to you in another communication).
I go with those who disagree with Bill, especially the notes about the chauvinist character of our prison system and the reactionary character of the use of our military and would like to see an outcry against the forms of surveillance which Mr. Ashcroft has proudly installed.
It just occurs to me Bill that one might say your definition of fascism is a condition in which the hoodlums take over. Who lets the hoodlums take over? What about the lesson that state power is in the control of the army, the police, the courts and the prisons? The hoodlums don’t control the elements of state power. It is the political military leaders who have control of state power and it is they who can exercise the prerogative who can let the hoodlums come out or be repressed. Send a note to Morris Dees and get a copy of his list of hate groups and hate radios throughout the country and you will see what is NOT being suppressed while decent people who criticize the administration and its military and anti-democratic policies are being deprived of their livelihood. Where is the real theory? Don’t take activity for essence.
Let’s call a spade a spade. Wake up America. It can happen here – and is.
Sidney J. Gluck