Many people think of Fascism and they think of Nazis and the Gestapo and concentration camps. That concept, while accurate as far as it goes, is not the only perspective on Fascism. There are other thoughts that should come into your mind very quickly these days so that you understand our current Neo-Fascism, i.e., the new version of Fascism. Think, for example, of what the German government was before it was Fascist and before the Fascist government became a totalitarian dictatorship. Were there always gangs of thugs running about, beating up Jews? Was there ever an actual majority of Germans who were Nazis, e.g., Fascists?
It may be more dangerous in fact to think of Fascism as the Nazis or even the smaller but totalitarian governments of the Falangists in Spain or Mussolini’s authoritarian governments in Italy. We remember them often at the end, in the war. But, you see, long before that they were Fascists. But they were not always in control. In fact, like many of our current politicians, they were thought to be either stupid or slightly nuts. Almost cartoon characters.
Long before Nazi opponents were beaten in the streets, or imprisoned or harassed, there was a small group of dedicated, anti-Semitic, race-focused people who formed a political party, so dedicated in their hatred of others, so sure that their pure strain of ethnicity was superior that when they took power they caused a calamity that ended the lives of 50 million people, often in the most horrific ways. What some of us see in current politics and against which we urge caution is the resumption of an early-stage of what is a New Fascism, (Neo-Fascism,) far more subtle and with a propaganda arm that moves over our culture like a slow, dark cloud.
The first thought with which our society must come to terms is the idea of totalitarianism. Here in the United States we tend to believe that totalitarian rule cannot happen to us because we have free and open elections—the will of the People succeeds. Today, one political party has already created a system to circumvent that traditional democratic system. They have been working for many years on a slow, steady takeover of government. First, they found allies in the old Segregationist South, the old Confederate states. They found ways to empower the remnants of the old Segregationist groups using the lack of education in these primarily rural states, with statistically the worst educational systems in the country. They substituted a false “patriotism” and subliminal racism, such as phony concepts like that of the virtually non-existent “welfare mother” driving a Mercedes and living in a mansion. They appealed to the worst elements in society and took as heroes people like Strom Thurmond, the unabashed, unreconstructed racist. Corporations found within the Republican Party a group who would work tirelessly for whatever entity would finance them and soon were rewarded with vast sums of money from political “pacs” funded by the major corporations. They succeeded in converting all the old slave states to the newly developed Neo-Fascist agenda.
By the end of the Reagan and first Bush Presidency, men like Lee Atwater had created a bigoted, largely white, affluent political party, quietly appealing on low tax, non-regulation platforms to the Southern block of old Confederate states, while silently coding the message that Blacks were not allowed in the Party. (But messages were always delivered in code, like the “lazy” poor whom everyone identified with the old racist stereotype of black men in the South.) Only now have we seen the return of black men beaten, threatened, shot at and shot, even by police for no reason. Most recently one black man was found hanged, perhaps lynched, in his own back yard. Not only do these things happen but in a disgusting show of acquiescence some racists, even killers, like George Zimmerman receive donations from rich Right Wing supporters to help in their legal defense or simply to support white supremacist activity. These people are racists, but many are also Fascists.
The Republicans began the next phase with the more rural less educated areas of border states, planting the seeds of religious and racial bigotry, fear of new ideas, fear of other races and religions, fear of government….fear, fear, fear. And with the less educated, more rigid thinking citizenry, they gained a foothold. And then the money from the rich, taxed minimally, and now able to afford huge contributions to those who would—as they have—worked tirelessly to reduce their taxes even further. Beginning with the owners of major oil and gas producers, Texans, long the most bigoted of the world’s corporations, they began to buy governorships, Senate seats and entire state legislatures. They bought media and media propagandists, like Rush Limbaugh, who worked tirelessly among the Southern rabble to create hatred of the policies of Bill Clinton, even though his presidency was one of the most successful in our history. Friends of the oil rich bought radio networks and hired failed disk jockeys and Right-Wing commentators at outrageously high salaries (Rush Limbaugh made $20 million a year and today makes $40 million a year, merely to spread their lies. They recruited horrible, disgusting, sociopaths like Michael Savage (who is banned even from visiting England) or Mark Levin, so far to the Right that he dislikes even the Fascists as being too lenient on society. This man, a Jew, has finally turned on all the traditions of compassion and rational thought of Jews everywhere to become himself a very prominent Neo-Fascist. (He assumes, apparently, as the Quislings always do, that his association with the rich and powerful will protect him when the time comes.) Those who spread hatred will always suffer the effects of their actions.
Hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps billions, have gone to Republican candidates, to Republican-founded and managed Think Tanks and to Right Wing media, like former GOP Party head Roger Ailes’ Fox “News.” The Republicans have created a gigantic wave of propaganda to indoctrinate what they consider “the hicks” with the ideas of wasted welfare, not taxing billionaires, or the “job creators,” of making war on countries in the Middle East and how sending jobs overseas is justifiable. They rationalize outrageously high prices on gasoline and food and housing and health insurance and even cable TV monopolies.
That propaganda has worked. Recent Republican victories in lower middle class areas show citizens voting directly against their best interests. They have sent to Congress representatives of the very Party that is working against them and for the giant corporate interests. Income inequality has never been worse in this country, even during the era of the Robber Barons and yet the Right Wing propaganda has succeeded in winning out over those who merely seek to give the less fortunate an even break in society.
In the meantime, a most telling move towards Neo-Fascism was the active use of a national corporate lobbying organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to seek out and purchase the loyalty of state legislators. In return, these turncoat legislators would abandon the needs of their constituents in return for money and political campaign contributions to make them almost invulnerable to regular citizen-candidates. They would then introduce legislation, now on the books in many states, that, for example, prohibits product lawsuits against corporations even in cases of death from the product, or repeals legislation against corporations that pollute (like the Koch Brothers, the largest polluters in U.S. history) so that local communities have to pay for the cleanup of polluted water and land, or legislation that reduces taxes on corporations and high incomes (one of the first pieces of legislation in almost every state. Then there is the increase in building private prisons. Why would you need more private prisons? Think about that for a while. And of course, the privatization of schools, particularly in these Southern states, where privatizing has worked out for the wealthy, and, as was pointed out earlier, has reduced the educational rank of these states to the lowest in the nation.
Until the early part of the last century, Fascism had never existed because governments had not been technologically advanced enough, nor had most governments, until after the First World War been so broadly democratic. Consequently, by the early part of the 1930s when Fascism began to develop, the people had insufficient time to understand the implications of such powerful political movements. Political parties were able to amass huge numbers of votes and focus their messages on specific issues that affected the people. In several countries of Europe, because of the pressure of worldwide Depression, reduced opportunities, severe poverty and limited space, the political pressure on governments began to weaken the democratic process. In Spain, Italy and Germany, and several other countries, one political party, promising jobs and a restored economy, gained control of the government. They gained power through a variety of political activities, demonstrations, rallies, meetings, posters and speeches—not to mention frequently violent confrontations. But after gaining power, the Fascists suspended freedoms and civil rights and created autocratic governments. And the penalties for not joining were severe—certainly lack of opportunity, occasionally arrest, sometimes prison or even death. That was the political system that they self-styled, arrogantly, “Fascist” and the rule they espoused was absolute obedience to the state.
In the United States, with its vast open spaces and large immigrant populations, the characteristics in the Great Depression era did not align themselves in the same way as Europe. The entrepreneurial spirit and the desire for free expression created many more options for the very mobile and growing U.S. society. The result here was a wide variety of political movements, Democratic, Republican, Communist, Socialist, and a dozen other smaller groups, each with its own solution to a depressed economy. Fortunately for the U.S., Franklin D. Roosevelt came along and eventually restored the economy to some semblance of what it had been before.
In totalitarian states, however, the central government assumed total control of most aspects of life. Modern society remembers the disastrous wars that resulted from the desire of the totalitarian governments to expand their national borders. Today, this kind of approach…warlike, nationalist, single minded, harshly judgmental of those who do not agree with government policy—in other words—Fascist…is considered not only outdated but reckless and dangerous. Most advanced nations actually prohibit inhibit this kind of political system in some way.
In the United States, we have created our own political monster. Through inattention, through religious paternalism, through a failure of our public education system, through a campaign system that accepts contributions that are the next thing to bribes—and through political sloth–we have allowed one political party to become the tool of a segment of the corporations and their owners. Here are the basic arguments that the Republican Party has become a Neo-Fascist organization.
First, corporate power is enhanced and union power is diminished. Why? Corporations and corporate political power are the moving forces behind a reactionary or Fascist movement. Corporations, as a natural force in democratic societies, tend towards control, the alignment with one political party that will help them move business forward. They do this naturally because they do not have votes. They cannot influence employees or other corporate employees effectively in a system with a secret ballot. They have only one weapon. That weapon is money.
But unions have money, too. More importantly, they have large memberships who can be activated easily to demonstrate or work to gather votes for issues that involve civil rights, particularly workers’ rights. So the clear objective of a corporate-aligned political movement is to work for the disenfranchisement of unions. In all Fascist movements, though not in all totalitarian movements, corporations seek politicians who have a natural antipathy, for whatever reason, to unions.
A political party need not be Fascist to be aligned with corporation. The old, pre-Reagan Republican Party of Taft, Coolidge, Harding, Hoover, Eisenhower, and even Nixon was a political party that locked horns with Democrats to gain an upper hand for corporations. But they were not Fascists. In other words, they did not see their Party as working exclusively for corporations in a movement towards total domination of the people. And the factions within the Republican Party in those days included many more progressive elements, like those of Robert LaFollette, Teddy Roosevelt, and later Dwight Eisenhower. Even in the 1960s, and up to the election of Ronald Reagan, there were prominent progressive Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Cabot Lodge, William Scranton, George Romney (father of Conservative Mitt Romney) Jacob Javits, John Lindsay, and even in a slightly earlier period, Senator Prescott Bush, the father of Conservative President George H.W. Bush.
But how do we really know that the Republicans are moving towards Fascism? The answer is that, like most things, it can be defined. Take a look at a common list of Fascist political characteristics and see if they match up with what is happening today.
1. An appeal to nationalism, the idea that your country is superior to others and should be treated that way. The use of slogans and symbols to put that idea forward. Of course, there are many but we will simply use the overriding Republican attitude of “American Exceptionalism.” The one single thing that the United States is exceptional in today is—incarceration of prisoners.
2. The conscious removal of civil rights—in other words—losing your freedoms. Well, “rendition” or the removal and torture of suspected (merely suspected) terrorist sympathizers would be one indication. The other would be the severity of the Patriot Act, namely that the CIA or FBI can investigate your personal records without a warrant, including your library records or video store rentals and that it is a crime for those librarians or retail store clerks to reveal that fact to you.
3. Rampant sexism, or the idea that women should be paid less, given less respect, and treated as second-class citizens. We all remember the Hobby Lobby decision, withholding birth control from employees, or the Sandra Fluke incident, in which she was ridiculed, scorned and humiliated by Republican radio commentators and Republican committees in Congress. In every new Republican (Fascist) state, laws against abortion have been instituted and laws against rape have been relaxed.
4. Dominance of the military and the military industrial complex, which of course refers to the eagerness of some in Congress to attack other countries at the drop of a hat. When 47 Republican Senators wrote a letter to a foreign country, attempting to undermine the negotiating position of a duly elected President of the United States, this was clearly a Neo-Fascist obstructive move, not to mention one that violated basic legal tenets of the Constitution.
5. Control of the media, which is easy to prove, and control of the message being delivered to the American people, so that only one point of view, that of the political-corporate-military alliance, ever reaches the majority of the people. At present, 90% of all non-musical, non-news, radio content, in other words, commentary is clearly identified, openly and publicly, as Right Wing Conservative. We know from contract records that in excess of $100 million each year goes to paid Right Wing political spokesmen, such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the entire Fox News Channel staff, who are given written memoranda on lies to be told the American people, every single morning.
6. An identification of conservative religious groups with government, which invokes God, in this country meaning largely Protestant Christian or Catholic clergy as the patron of the country and assumes the lack of Christian charity or morals on the part of anyone who disagrees. This includes false doctrines that deliberately create immoralities where none exist, or false premises on matters of birth, death and sexuality. All of it is designed merely to move the political fortunes of the Right Wing, the Fascists in other words, forward.
7. Alignment with corporate interests is not only a key principle, but in the case of the current Republican Party, it is the essential driving force. Whereas in the 1930s the driving force was within the political parties themselves, elected politicians or military aligned with Fascist politicians, today the American billionaires and their global corporations are the moving forces. The roughly $2 billion that will be spent in 2016 to the Republican Party alone, from the huge number of unimaginably rich that this country has created since 1980 will dominate the election and attempt to remove all political power from the American Middle Class.
8. The attempted and often successful destruction of unions is not only a current feature of the Neo-Fascists, as demonstrated in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and now in Illinois has been one of the most successful programs of the Fascists. Taking a footnote from the Nazis, the Republicans have devoted a huge amount of time and money, $2 billion a year in what is called “union busting” to eliminate their strongest opposition, the organized grass roots and organizing political power of unions on behalf of all workers. The relentless Conservative-corporate propaganda machine has succeeded in continuing to reduce the influence of unions every year, now down to less than 1 worker in 10 who has the protection of collective bargaining. This may be the reason that more and more people fall out of the Middle Class and fewer and fewer good jobs are available to non-college educated workers. In the last Depression…or most recent—perhaps not the last…even college educated workers over a certain age were often never in the workplace again at anything even close to former incomes.
9. Education, philosophy, the arts an intellectual inquiry are discouraged. The Koch brothers alone have funded 150 colleges in an attempt to promote their Fascist political ambitions by promoting anti-government courses, and pro-elite corporate ideas…no taxation, no regulation. It is one thing for corporations and the rich to fund university buildings, libraries and public auditoriums. It is quite another to give tens of millions of dollars to fund Fascist ideals among the young and impressionable , using the threat of removing funds from liberal arts and business studies should they not conform to Right Wing theory, especially when it promotes policies that only benefit the rich.
10. Oppressive law enforcement has become endemic in the United States. Local police forces around the country, particularly in states run by Republican governors, are being trained by paramilitary forces like Xe, formerly Blackwater, a group identified with Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, an organization with as many as 14,000 hired mercenaries located in camps around the U.S., and a danger to the security of the country. Not since the brown shirts of Adolf Hitler has any such organization been allowed in an advanced Western country. In addition, local police forces are being given arms and equipment from the American military, unnecessary in dealing with the public. Too many Americans are being shot by police already for minor criminal or merely suspected criminal activity. Our prisons are a disgrace and our rehabilitation programs are virtually non-existent.
So is this a Fascist or Neo-Fascist organization. It has all the characteristics of one. And is that important? It is only important if you understand that there is no need for such an organization unless you intend to carry it all the way. The purpose of a Neo-Fascist organization is long-term control, even oppression, of a society. Without complete control, no government that has been democratic can suddenly suspend he rules. Society will not tolerate it. Only if the People are fooled, lied to, made to think that there is some great danger lurking around the corner will they submit to total domination by a ruling authority.
This is what is happening today. False fears about security, false information about why jobs are going overseas, false accusations against Democratic legislators that they are “too soft” on crime or “too weak” in international affairs. The Republicans deliberately crashed the economy in 2008. Tied tightly together with Wall Street, they knew what was about to happen. They sold off their bad stocks and left the mutual funds that comprise retirement incomes and pension fund holding the bag. Americans lost savings, 401k appreciation, jobs, retirement funds, homes, cars, and in some cases their entire futures. That was not an accident. And then Republicans lied to the American people and said it was our own greed that caused it. Greed? All most Americans want is a good job, good education for their kids, health care available when we get sick and a little security so that we don’t starve after we retire. Even these minimal requirements for a decent society are too much for the Neo-Fascists to allow.
That is not asking much. But it is asking too much of the top .1%, the 3 million people at the top, now controlling your lives, averaging $2.5 million in income a year, paying on average less than 20% in taxes while you look at your payroll deductions and see quickly, that these people who will never need Social Security or Medicare for that matter, are paying far less than you. We live in an age of Neo-Fascism. It starts at the top of the income ladder and works its way down. It is ruining this country, and if it continues to grow, it will cause the deaths of many millions of Americans before it runs its course.