Thursday, March 10, 2011

American Fascism 101: Yes It Can Happen Here, EVEN Odds

Or, the alternative title: Peter King, American Fascist, Revives McCarthyism to Target Muslim Americans. Congressman Paul Broun, he of Birther conspiracies and the "Obama is a socialist" mindset warned that we must "know our enemy" and the "radicalization" of Islamic youth (no hard evidence was provided, except anecdotal testimony that proves little) is a "tremendous" threat to "national security." Rep. Broun laid out the real or perceived "crisis" in Naomi Klein's shock doctrine (fascist) capitalism. Next up, what remedies and opportunities redound to crony capitalists? And to Republican Rep. Thomas Marino of Pennsylvania: When were the Ku Klux Klan not terrorists?

Congressman Keith Ellison's tears as he told the story of a Muslim American first responder who died trying to save his fellow Americans on 9/11, and then was reviled in death as a traitor, were far more eloquent than anything that was said in this sham hearing. Ellison is one of two Muslim-Americans in the U.S. Congress.

One of the chief characteristics of the fascist state is to justify its strong-arm tactics and squashing of the people's rights by (1) invoking a crisis (real or imagined) as we have seen in previous posts re: Naomi Klein's dissertation on shock doctrine capitalism, and as we see now in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, whose Republican governors are using the cover of a ginned-up financial and debt "crisis" to crush public employee unions and destroy the autonomy of their towns and municipalities [Michigan],  effectively ghettoizing the states in advance of a corporate takeover [Koch brothers regional economic interests — see Gov. Walker spill the beans to fake "David Koch"] plundering its no-longer-public lands and economic resources [utilities in Wisconsin] — and (2) raising the specter of the "enemy within."

The "enemy within" tactic is a time-tested staple of the fascist authoritarian regime to maintain control of a quiescent, terrorized population. From fascism's inception in the early 20th century to the present time, it is illuminating to note how often both totalitarian and purportedly "democratic" states, as this one claims to be, have used this tactic as a means of advancing the undemocratic political aims of the ruling corporate elites. Or maintaining "order" outside the broad definitions of the law.

In Nazi Germany, with its poisonous racist credo, the "enemy within" was the Jew, followed by opposing political institutions and ideologies such as communists and socialists, which were also  common "enemies" of Mussolini's fascist Italy. Both of these infamous fascist states used the language of the working class while gutting the power and autonomy of unions. This is precisely what is being  done in Wisconsin and the other Republican states waging war on workers and the middle class.

During World War II, the "enemy within" in the United States became Japanese-Americans, who were interned in concentration camps for the duration, although there is no evidence they were ever disloyal to the U.S. They were American citizens whose constitutional rights were violated simply because they were viewed as threats to the state. At war's end, as the Cold War heated up, the "enemy within" became phantom communists in federal goverment. Republican Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy, an unshaven demagogue and drunk, made a short-lived career of flashing phony lists of communists in the State Department and high government office. Hollywood, with particular focus on its unions (not unlike the current assault on unions today), was the other target of that particular brand of American Fascism named McCarthyism. Then, as now, Hollywood and the unions were a source of liberal Democratic Party support and funding. Today Glenn Beck's demagogic attacks on President Obama's so-called "Czars" reap millions for his paranoid delusions on network TV.

Post-war fascism and Naomi Klein's shock doctrine thesis can be traced to the beginnings of the Cold War, a "crisis" bookended by two "hot" wars, Korea and Vietnam, which led President Truman to institutionalize the national security state and all presidents that followed to expand the scope and power of covert intelligence and the military-industrial complex. From it sprang the CIA and the many alphabet intelligence and black ops agencies that comprise the post-9/11 national security state under "Homeland" security. Even the name "Homeland" harkens back to the totalitarian state's fascist self-image as the nurturing "fatherland" or "motherland" of its population.

The 9/11 attacks ushered in the final dissolution of the largely fictitious, but at least codified, firewall that set strict limits on "domestic" surveillance in violation of our cherished constitutional rights. The "enemy within" has been a perpetual source of fuel for the fascist national security state. And in shock doctrine capitalism the 9/11 crisis has strengthened the fascist tendencies of the national security state and propelled a further deterioration of our civil liberties.

For definitional purposes, fascism is the authoritarian impulse that previously constitutional democratic states exhibit in squashing the rights and freedoms of the population, acting in brazen violation of the state's constitution and laws. This is an important clarification of the term, because sometimes people will get sidetracked by the various cultural and ├╝ber-nationalist strains of fascism, e.g., Nazism, to say, "well (whew) that's not us, we're exceptional!" (Which, by itself, the chauvinism attendant to notions of national "exceptionalism" is  a common characteristic of the fascist culture. If you think about it, logically, it may feel good to thump your chest and say "we are exceptional, we are the United States" but the claim to "exceptionalism" is wide-ranging and globalist.)

When did Greece become "exceptional"— when the 300 Spartans beat back legions of Persians at Thermopylae? And did it cease being "exceptional" when Socrates died? Did the Roman Empire's "exceptionalism" end after it presided over the death of Jesus Christ? Was the British Empire "exceptional"? How about fascist Italy under Mussolini or Hitler's Nazi Germany? I could go on, but you get the point. There's a word for this kind of sentiment: Jingoism. That's fascist, too.

By contrast, what makes fascism exceptional and distinct — in a perverse kind of way — is that it cannot exist absent a constitutional democratic republican state. Fascism is the ultimate perversion of constitutional democracy and republican government. Very simply, fascism draws its life-blood from the political, social, and economic institutions of constitutional democracy and republican government. Its economic foundation is monopoly capitalism. Think about it.

When CIA-backed military coups swept and toppled South American governments in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and others, the pretext was the alleged threat of communist insurgency; the "enemy within" were labor unions (outlawed), university students (murdered, tortured and "disappeared"), and any and all perceived enemies of the state, including the Catholic Church, which was so threatening to the fascist military dictatorship in Brazil that its news publications were among the few subject to censorship prior to publication. These countries had a foundation in constitutional democratic government, some more aspirational than others, that looked to the United States as a model and adopted our constituional precepts.

The ginned-up "crisis" (communist insurgency) justifying coups d'etat in Latin America was an economic windfall for plundering American transnational corporations. Most of the fascist leadership in these countries were on the CIA payroll, just as today Scott Walker and the GOP generally are bankrolled by the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a money laundering service for the corporate elites that choose to remain in the shadows, thanks to the radical fascist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court which, in handing down the Citizens United decision, authorized  the unlimited monetary theft of our democracy by corporations.

Ironically, globalization is a double-edged sword. For those countries once under the yoke of European and American imperialism eloquently described in Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of Pillage of a Continent, much delayed justice is finally done as the oppressed people of Latin America seized their political and economic destiny by the horns and ousted the corporate exploiters. It has also marked a turning point in the transnational corporate exploitation of emerging markets as once oppressed and subjugated peoples have arisen to assert their rights and freedoms.

Increasingly we see the bizarre phenomenon of the corporate predator turning on itself. Suddenly, these American-in-name-only corporate entities find themselves forging new transnational alliances to survive and remain viable as predatory capitalists. In America, where these companies were once based  (most still are but their plants and workers moved to China, Mexico, India, et al), jobs are shipped overseas, communities ravaged, entire political parties bought out, so-called "astro-turf" front groups formed to subvert legitimate expressions of the people's will —such tactics designed to undermine legitimate institutions of democracy, to Latin Americans, were well-known provocations by "La CIA" (pronounced see-ya).

Martin Luther King expressed it beautifully: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." The American people were largely unaware of the crimes committed in their name in far-off lands. Now this criminal and immoral conduct has begun to hit much closer to home, in our communities and our families. We should take heart from the experience of our Latin American brothers and sisters who rebelled against this amorphous monster from a much more precarious position and ultimately triumphed. Just as they did, we must fight back and reclaim our destiny.

Isabel Allende, whom I love and revere as a writer and as a beautiful person, wrote this in the Foreword to Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America:
On September 11, 1973, a military coup ended a century of democratic tradition in Chile and started the long reign of General Augusto Pinochet. Similar coups followed in other countries, and soon half the continent's population was living in terror. This was a strategy designed in Washington and imposed upon the Latin American people by the economic and political forces of the right. In every instance the military acted as mercenaries to the privileged groups in power. Repression was organized on a large scale; torture, concentration camps, censorship, imprisonment without trial, and summary executions became common practices. Thousands of people "disappeared," masses of exiles and refugees left their countries running for their lives. New wounds were added to the old and recent scars that the continent had endured. As Galeano once said: "it's worthwhile to die for things without which it's not worthwhile to live."
Democratic constitutional government requires eternal vigilance and proactive involvement and participation by citizens. Otherwise, as we have seen with the emergence of neo- and proto-fascist groups such as the Tea Party, the election of a Republican Congress dominated by its extremist fascist right wing, and of corrupt crony capitalist governors in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Arizona, and Florida, America will not be spared the tragic fate of fascism that other advanced and cultured Western democracies have suffered throughout our recent history.

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