Fascism is bad, mmmkay? Any questions?
How about “what the heck is it?” Words and their use are important, and correct – or at least agreed-on – definitions are vital to reasonable communication and understanding. All too often, though, words get tossed about as labels, incorrect labels, and communication and understanding become impossible. So let’s look for a definition of “fascism.”
The Google definition is unsurprisingly slanted: “An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.” Did you catch the “right wing” part? As though the left cannot be fascist? Sure they can’t.
I prefer the Meriam Webster online definition: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
Notice the lack of any wings. The Left is generally not comfortable with that being pointed out, of course, since its fascism is clearly for the common good, and thus is – as evil generally is when committed by the Left – excusable. The very epitome of the group over the individual, as it were.
But what is this “neo-fascist” whereof I speak? Well, it seems that “neo-” is now an appendage attached to any noun or adjective describing something that is almost, but not quite like, the original. Makes it sound worse, I suppose. In a classical sense, I suppose that Arthur Dent was drinking neo-tea on the Heart of Gold. As usual, I digress.
Let’s take a moment to deconstruct a bit of Left wing verbiage on the topic. This bit was extracted from Global capitalism and fascism over on al Jazeera. We will note some serious labeling problems, point out other areas which appear to fit standard definitions, and maybe draw a conclusion as to whether we actually need this neo-word – or whether this particular writer has a clue.
21st century fascism in the United States
“Fascist,” “neo-fascist,” whatever. Can’t quibble with the title, really, but it’s the analysis that leads to that conclusion that will be interesting.
I don’t use the term fascism lightly. There are some key features of a 21st century fascism I identify here:
Lack of any opening definition is not a good sign – it presumes that everyone just knows what the word means (which may well be the case) but when one is choosing to label a group or groups with a seriously incendiary term then the least a competent writer can do is offer his readers the definition.
The fusion of transnational capital with reactionary political power
“Reactionary.” I guess we have to presume that’s not a good word either. But I have to wonder if the writer, if being subjected to a severe beating, would get all “reactionary” about his preference for a status quo where he had remained unbeaten, rather than presume that the beater must have a good reason for performing the beating and living with it.
This fusion had been developing during the Bush years and would likely have deepened under a McCain-Palin White House.
And that Nice Mr. Obama shut down trans-national financing? Also, “would likely have deepened under our boogeyman” is not a particularly strong argument.
In the meantime, such neo-fascist movements as the Tea Party
Really? A preference for lower taxes is fascist? I’ll agree, though, that in a nation that was founded by smugglers and tax cheats it’s pretty reactionary to want to go back to founding principles. As we all know (well, those of us who are Good People Who Share The Writer’s Dream) “reactionary” is not good. Unless, you know, it’s an effort to get back to or improve the New Deal, which would make it “progressive,” even though it’s going back to That Which Was Before (a standard definition of reactionary in politics).
as well as neo-fascist legislation such as Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB1070,
I wonder if the writer has ever tried to immigrate into, say, Sweden? Since a welfare state cannot long coexist with open borders, something’s got to change. Arizona’s law was not anti-immigrant, it was anti-ILLEGAL-immigrant, and one really has to question the odd combination of a federal government requiring Arizona to provide services to illegal immigrants, while at the same time refusing to enforce its own laws against illegal immigration.
have been broadly financed by corporate capital. Three sectors of transnational capital in particular stand out as prone to seek fascist political arrangements to facilitate accumulation: speculative financial capital, the military-industrial-security complex, and the extractive and energy (particularly petroleum) sector.
Militarisation and extreme masculinisation
Because, you know, SEIU is altruistic in its demands and the UAW’s “Buy American” campaign is not nationalistic in the slightest.
As militarised accumulation has intensified the Pentagon budget, increasing 91 per cent in real terms in the past 12 years, the top military brass has become increasingly politicised and involved in policy making.
True enough, and thank you for that keen observation Captain Obvious.
A scapegoat which serves to displace and redirect social tensions and contradictions
In this case, immigrants and Muslims in particular.
Very true. Since it became politically incorrect to target The Usual Suspects, new scapegoats needed to be found. It is astonishing how many Americans who’ve never met a Muslim in their lives, nevertheless seem to equate them with the Devil himself, despite the fact that over 1 billion of them did not do anything to harm an American today, nor would they – as best I can tell – be terribly interested in doing so. So long as American troops aren’t marching down their main streets.
Of course, defending your nation is a privilege not granted to others so far as most Americas are concerned. We’re there to help, and we’re going to help, even if we have to kill every person in the country while helping them.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre recently reported that “three strands of the radical right – hate groups, nativist extremist groups, and patriot organisations – increased from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 in 2010, a 22 per cent rise, that followed a 2008-9 increase of 40 per cent.”
Am I the only person who’s suspicious of a group of “Americans” that is intolerant of patriots?
A 2010 Department of Homeland Security report observed that “right wing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on the fears about several emergency issues.
Says the agency whose budget and very existence depends on playing on fears about emergency issues, so I suppose they know what they’re talking about. H.L> Mencken was spot on when he said, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for right wing radicalisation and recruitment.” The report concluded: “Over the past five years, various right wing extremists, including militia and white supremacists, have adopted the immigration issue as a call to action, rallying point, and recruitment tool.”
Pretty much how the Nazis came to power in Germany, post-Weimar. But they were socialists.
A mass social base
In this case, such a social base is being organised among sectors of the white working class that historically enjoyed racial caste privilege and that have been experiencing displacement and experiencing rapid downward mobility as neo-liberalism comes to the US – while they are losing the security and stability they enjoyed in the previous Fordist-Keynesian epoch of national capitalism.
Essentially correct. Displaced people who are economically disadvantaged are prime recruiting grounds for rabble rousers, more so if those disadvantaged had advantages – or perceived advantages – at a previous time.
A fanatical millennial ideology involving race/culture supremacy embracing an idealised and mythical past, and a racist mobilisation against scapegoats
Not sure how “mythical” the past was, but otherwise fairly correct. The US in the past had higher levels of immigration control (and lower), lower levels of taxation and welfare-statism, and has long had some serious race issues. Sounds like “history,” not “myth.”
The ideology of 21st century fascism often rests on irrationality – a promise to deliver security and restore stability is emotive, not rational. 21st century fascism is a project that does not – and need not – distinguish between the truth and the lie.
I’m a firm believer in the irrationality of any promise to deliver security, particularly when that promise is made by the State. But how is a promise of stability irrational? America has had plenty of periods of stability in the past, so it’s do-able. Now if the writer is suggesting that the methodology might be a problem, then he’s correct. But even that said, fascism can provide stability. For the favored parties. And the survivors.
A charismatic leadership
Such a leadership has so far been largely missing in the United States, although figures such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck appear as archetypes.
AND here’s where he seriously betrays his personal politics, making his analysis suspect, at best. Surely he is not going to contend that Obama’s election was based on experience and competence?
The writer, while making a number of good points, nevertheless allows his affections for All Things Considered Progressive to color his observation and discussion. That coloration detracts from what could otherwise have been an interesting and powerful review of the growth of 21st century fascism in America.