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
We recently had an exchange on another listserve among Marxist philosophers on a new book, “Made in Texas” by Michael Lind which we would highly recommend for a deeper understanding of the nature of extreme conservatism of the Bush administration in Washington. As you will see, we were particularly impressed with the analysis which reveals the ideological, political and class line of Bush not only represents but is very much the leader rather than one who is being influenced. What it reveals is a combination of Southern slave owner mentality coupled with corporate control of government – a combination much more threatening than I had expressed in a position paper on the fascist like developments coming to a head in the Bush administration and the danger posed by a “reelection” in 2004. We are attaching Terrence’s original document and the exchange which followed.
In the last few days, new thoughts have been gushing. Why have decent minded Republicans been leaving the administration like Ambassadors or CIA and FBI leaders, Senators who switch parties, groups of Republican leaders who express differences with Bush on domestic economic policy as well as taking a more moderate position on working with the UN rather than following a unilateral course towards war with Iraq or the incarceration of thousands of Muslims without legal aid or failure to deliver on commitments to Mexico to ease relations with immigrants, and extreme penalties for minor theft while the Enronizers go scott free having robbed the workers and middle class of their savings. The drive to war smacks very much of Germany’s Third Reich, even as Bush sacrifices Blair, his only major ally. Today, Bush’s effort to get a second resolution from the UN has been abandoned in favor of unilateral decision, a major blow towards destruction of the UN and abrogation of US commitments to the UN charter.
We must become more vocal about the nature of this administration as an extreme threat to our liberties and self-determination and integrity of the rights of all nations.
Someone wrote recently that there are in fact two superpowers, the USA and the mass movements around the world. The mass movements are developing in our own country. That is the only hope of maintaining our sanity and democracy. As we join in mass protests, respecting particular interests among the groupings that are coalescing, we must begin to expose the fascist character of what is happening to our own country. Our manner should not isolate us but raise this as a serious question, making comparisons between a Hitler and a Bush who were both appointed and hand picked by the far right in their respective countries.
Sidney J. Gluck
PS: This is a capsulized expression of where we’re at:
Our hope is in moving with the masses for democracy – revealing the face
of the real enemy – insipient fascism.
Subj: Review: Made in Texas
Date: 3/4/2003 9:25:06 AM Eastern Standard Time
I write to recommend the book “Made in Texas” by Michael Lind, which I have just finished reading. I picked up the book at the local public library, hoping to find some social-cultural background on Bush which might illuminate his (backwards) way of thinking and his ability to resonate with a substantial portion of the American population.
What I found here was not only an erudite and satisfying social, cultural and political analysis but much more. Lind gives us an explanation of the Bush phenomenon on every level: economic, historical, cultural, ideological, religious and political. This is not just the usual patchwork of anecdotes and statistics crafted into a plausible political position statement. Lind persuasively places Bush in the context of the social/political/cultural structure of the Old South, the south that has battled for hundreds of years now to perpetuate a social system that is fundamentally different from, and antagonistic to, that of the North. The Bush II presidency and the triumph of the Republicans in the last election is only the latest chapter in that long American story of class warfare–the chapter in which the once apparently defeated southerners are now on top.
I find the title of the book misleading, for it emphasizes the connection of Bush with Texas, which in turn is connected in the popular conception (including my own conception prior to reading this book) with the West, ranching, cowboys, etc. The subtitle I think is more apt: “The Southern Takeover of American Politics,” for Lind makes clear that the culture and history of Texas is divided, and Bush represents not the Texas of the West and the cowboys, nor of its modernist trends represented by L. Johnson and Perot, but that part of Texas which is and has been for two centuries a part of the Deep South, the south of the confederacy, the plantation system, slavery, racism, the bitter fight against Reconstruction, the peonage of immigrant labor, rape of the land and minerals, genocidal removal of the Indians, Protestant fundamentalism, etc.
“The Southern ruling class is not, and never has been, bourgeois. The wealthy families who for centuries have dominated politics and the economy in the South, from Virginia to Texas, have roots in Britain, not among the civic burghers but among the rural aristocracy.” (p. 162) Lind, a Texan himself, clearly draws out the differences in values, thinking and culture between these latter-day feudal-like aristocrats and the capitalist values we are more familiar with. I will not go into detail here, but what is most satisfying about Lind’s analysis is that it goes all the way down to the roots of the quite different economic structure of the South. Dramatizing some of those differences he writes: “Running out of oil and gas? Don’t make car engines more efficient or power vehicles with hydrogen or electric batteries; drill in wildlife preserves and conquer oil-producing countries in the Middle East . . . . Is there a tight labor market? Don’t invest in a machine that permits one worker to do the work of three; hire illegal aliens, while lobbying the government for guest-worker programs and increased immigration quotas.” (p. 95) Lind argues that the Southern economic system differs essentially from that of the North because of its principal reliance on super-exploitation of labor (slavery, near-slavery, illegal aliens peons) and rape of the land (wasting of agricultural soil, seizure of minerals, strip mining, conquest of foreign lands), rather than on the development of industry, technology, machinery and skilled labor. The ideology corresponding to this is Christian fundamentalism, a form of Puritanism, that does not value hard work, but believes in pre-destination, millennialism (things will get worse until the next coming of Christ), and its own superiority to every other form of thought or religion. After reading this book, I think the Arabs are on to something when they call Bush a Crusader.
Lind is not an economist, nor am I, and I am sure there are things that some of you better educated than I can criticize about his analysis. If so, I certainly would like to hear what your criticisms are, for this book is a serious and quite worthy attempt at a holistic social understanding of the current political situation. It was for me highly informative, and the some of the best writing I have read about current events. This is not a dry academic exercise. Lind is partisan and passionate, and repeatedly insists on the imperative of defeating Bush, Delay, Armey, Wolfowitz and the Republican party they have taken over as the only way to return to a progressive agenda. I wholeheartedly join him in those sentiments, and am glad to have found someone in the intellectual establishment who so clearly understands the social phenomenon that Bush represents and the urgency of defeating it. I urge you also to examine him as a possible ally in your ideological struggles, or at least take his work as a starting point for a more complete critique of the present Republican regime. Comments please.
Subj: Re: Made In Texas
Date: 3/10/2003 1:11:41 PM Eastern Standard Time
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
File: Bush statement.doc (28672 bytes) DL Time (50667 bps): < 1 minute
I just got round to reading your Made In Texas critique this weekend and cannot find the words to thank you enough for your initiative and insights. I have just ordered the book so my reactions are based on the very clear presentation of Lind’s thesis. Some years ago, a book titled, “North, South and West,” whose author I do not remember and which I loaned to someone who never returned it, developed a corollary thesis of the relationship within geographic sections of the capitalist class which revealed the dominance of Wall Street (Northern capital) over the development of capital accumulation and investment in the West (California in particular) and in the South. It did not indicate the duel character of developments in Texas and its ties and roots in slavocracy, though lumping Texas with West and South as it related to Northeastern capital. Northeast capital dominated the political scene in Washington, so much so that it ordered the Bank of California as late as 1940 to split up, since it had become the single largest bank in the country, and only two years later, under pressure of production for WWII, allowed Western capital to dominate aluminum and aircraft since it was the most likely area for such production. Until now, I understood the nature of Western and Southern capital joining politically to capture the power in Washington, starting with the 1948 Republican party program to develop candidates for state and national office that would ultimately achieve their purpose through capturing their party. They succeeded through compromises with Eisenhower as President, tucking in Nixon, who had succeeded in defeating Helen Gahagan Douglas in a vicious campaign for Congress in 1948. The same Western Republican groups built up Reagan. They did not succeed with Nixon in the White House because of opposition to the Vietnam War. However, they achieved their purpose with Reagan in the White House. This put conservatism and the right wing into dominance within the Republican party and they began the process of turning the country over to the corporate elite. Within that process it is now revealed in Michael Lind’s remarkable analysis (I am relying at the moment on your presentation) that the old slave Southern bourbons used their influence in the Republican party to turn it beyond the mere question of controlling “normal” politics in Washington but to change the whole philosophy to ultra-right wing fundamentalist conservatism. The threat of corporate control of government functions, in itself, according to Mussolini or Palmero Tagliati, who both characterized fascism as corporatism, that is corporations plus government equals fascism. This is the core of the danger of the current Bush administration. We have witnessed, and note the horror of another Southerner, Senator Robert Byrd, that the country is being turned into (though he does not use the word) a fascist-type state, if they can get away with it. Trace everything that is happening around us in small or large increments, fascist-like moves and recommendations that come from the Administration way beyond the struggle against terrorism or the pressure to go to war without full justification and in complete disregard of allies and international commitments. This is imperialism at its worst with a potential of greater destruction than we witnessed in WWII where we fought the fascist Axis. If Bush succeeds in 2004 to be reelected ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, I feel sorry for the next two generations as it struggles to bring this country back to decency. The combination of Lind’s analysis of the nature of the Bush administration and the knowledge of the struggle within the capitalist class itself, resulting in the sad stealing of an election in 2000, requires the strongest mass movements in this country to put an end to the pressure for war and fascism on our soil.
Subj: Made in Texas: Website available
Date: 3/11/2003 8:06:32 AM Eastern Standard Time
Hi Sidney and others,
Since posting the description of Lind’s book I have discovered that he has published an abundance of political essays over the past few years. These are available free, on-line to anyone interested at the website www.newamerica.net . I have read two of them and find them incisive and provocative. He is sponsored by an organization named New America Foundation, which evidently is some kind of think tank. Does anyone out there know anything about this organization and their general orientation? Would appreciate a comment.
In “Made in Texas,” Lind draws a parallel between present American imperialism and that of Germany, Japan, England, etc. The analogy lies in the capture of the modern capitalist productive engines by social forces representing largely pre-capitalist or neo-feudal formations–the Junkers in Germany, the samurai-style in Japan , etc. “In these countries, various landowning military and political castes, threatened with irrelevance and extinction by industrial progress and democracy, managed to retain political power and to enlist the new techniques of science and industry to promote premodern aristocratic goals of plunder [Marx's 'primitive accumulation' of wealth?] and martial glory ….” (p. 166) and resulting in the undermining and reduction of the position of the working classes.
I think you are correct in your view of the threat posed at this moment. It is no less than that posed by that of fascist Germany, indeed may be much greater in view of the military and economic predominance of the U.S. in 2003. I believe that the situation calls for the widest possible alliances with any democratic and pro-capitalist groups, for the danger now is to that we will be swept back into neo-feudalism. There has already been a severe loss of democratic rights that will take generations to correct, in view of the appointments to the federal courts, the Patriot’s Act, etc. The group that is in power now represents a (mainly Southern) point of view that not only did not accept the outcome of the Civil War, but also resented such Constitutional institutions as the Bill of Rights and the counting of slaves as partial (3/5) people. If it is not quickly defeated it seems clear that we and the World will have to re-fight all those battles that we assumed were settled hundreds of years ago in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, and perhaps to do so from a position of political and legal inferiority. I think there are very few Americans who as yet see the enormity of what is at stake, though thankfully many are at last seeing that this administration stands for naked imperialism and suppression of civil liberty. I think it is difficult for the public at large to comprehend that this administration, and the turn that the Republican party has taken in supporting it, represent a point of view that is breathtakingly different in its attitudes towards democracy, economics and religion from anything that has preceded it in our life times; the Republicans’ thin veiling of their position through such words as “compassionate” and “security” has of course had much of the desired effect on the electorate. I think your piece on fascism is on the right track and wish you well in publication.