Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fascism by State

I think I get it. Some US states are fascist, the way some US states used to be slave states. Fascism, in the sense of that Paxton, Griffin, and Berlet defined it:
Fascism. Modern political ideology that seeks to regenerate the social, economic, and cultural life of a country by basing it on a heightened sense of national belonging or ethnic identity. Fascism rejects liberal ideas such as freedom and individual rights, and often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures, and other elements of democracy. Despite the idealistic goals of fascism, attempts to build fascist societies have led to wars and persecutions that caused millions of deaths. As a result, fascism is strongly associated with right-wing fanaticism, racism, totalitarianism, and violence. (Griffin)

This, I think, explains a lot. It seems to the left, back in the 1950s, that fascism would come to America. Sinclair Lewis wrote a whole novel about it back in 1935. But it never took everywhere, and the federation recovered.

So we have a situation where places like Kansas and Wisconsin are dominated by rulers who their majorities hate, while California and New York are sort of getting along. The national government is still up for grabs, though we have two years of a fascist majority in the Congress and who knows how long in the Supreme Court.

So maybe it's time to dust off the old states rights rhetoric, and turn it against its inventors. Looks like the Roberts Court is going to bring it back; it's the way they will trash the ACA and drastically weaken marriage.

So we tough it out, and wait. It would help if some national leader or other would actually speak up. It would help if at least one national news outlet would admit that this is not politics as usual. (Well, maybe Comedy Central is doing that. But they're not news—are they?)

I'm not holding my breath.


john_burke100 said...

Not at all by way of dismissing the danger, all the same I think it's worth asking why the 50s Left, and George Jackson in 1971, and plenty of others, have warned of impending fascism but been regularly shown to have been premature, alarmist, or whatever. And I think Paxton (I haven't read the others) offers a clue (and the same argument can be found in Hannah ARendt): Fascism properly so called relies crucially on a mass party, both conventional (i.e. running candidates) and irregular--street fighting, mass rallies, a paramilitary force etc.; and this party, with its allied organizations (youth, veterans, women, etc.) deliberately creates itself as an alternate civil society which, with the seizure of power, becomes civil society as such. The paramilitary squadrons merge with the army, the fascist popular organizations merge with their pre-Fascist counterparts. And the Party--and this, as Paxton says, was a conscious and explicit mimicry of the Bolsheviks--becomes the State, and the "leading role" of the Party in all social organizations is made a matter of law. If the much-abused term "totalitarianism" still means anything, I think this is it: not merely repression, not merely the suspension of constitutions and laws, but the project (never 100% successful, even under Hitler and Stalin, but close enough) that the mass party will become both State and civil society. This model depends in part on a political culture in which that kind of mass party can thrive; the US, so far, isn't one of those. So even the very scary rightwing vets' organizations in the McCarthy era never set themselves the goal of taking power or replacing the military; McCarthy's Republican party also had room for Eisenhower and even Robert Taft, a reactionary SOB but no Fascist. Again, I don't mean to suggest democracy is safe and sound, just that Fascism, and the history the word brings with it, may not be the most useful parallel when we try to understand where we're at.

The Blog Fodder said...

The more I read, the less difference I see between Stalin's USSR and Hitler's Nazi Germany. Both totalitarian states to the nth degree yet people insist on calling them left and right. I don't care what political ideology you call it by but America is headed down the slope to totalitarianism, even without doing away with "elections". The 0.01%, and the remainder of the 1% have no intention of losing their privileges to liberal social democracy. The NSA is not about international security but about domestic control. The militarization of all police organizations is not about crime in USA anymore than in Putin's Russia. It is about controlling the population.

Raven Onthill said...

John, I agree. My response, though, is implicit in what I wrote. The USA never became entirely fascist for the same reason it never became entirely slave: the USA is a federal republic, not a nation-state, and so far authoritarianism has not taken all the states, only some of them. The republic is much weakened, but endures.

Still, there is much cause for concern. The Federal government in the 1850s was heavily influenced by the slave states, though never completely controlled by them. I believe we are in a parallel period; like Timothy Burke observed (, Barack Obama seems to have hoped to be Lincoln, but instead seems to have become Buchanan.

As for who might be Lincoln, oh, isn't that the question?

Raven Onthill said...

John, consider also that, in many US states, the merger of the authoritarian party with state has occurred. Is this not the meaning of the gerrymandering and brutal policing in Republican-dominated states? At the local level, the reality is sometimes more starkly brutal: consider the St. Louis suburbs.

It continues to astonish me that more of the older white factions that supports such uses of power do not consider that they themselves are subject to it.

Raven Onthill said...

Blog Fodder, the NSA doesn't seem to be a domestic power; that is one of its oddities. It could be a terrifying force, but it doesn't actually do very much domestically beyond making our electronic communications insecure.

A surveillance state which depends on electronic surveillance seems to be a very different animal from one which depends on informers within the population, like the old East Germany. There, part of the power is the pervasion of society with informers, so that personal betrayal is routine. Instead we have…what, exactly? No-one seems to know for sure.

I do not look forward to finding out!