The March on Rome: A precursor to the Trumpsurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, just about 100 years ago.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Unknown authorUnknown author) Details Source DMCA
"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)
Along with numerous others, I have been writing about the Trumpian-fascist menace for quite some time now. Political observers, from the former right-wing Republican Joe Scarborough (who, as he tells us, would still be one if there were such a "small government/no-deficit-spending-balanced-budget[!]" party in existence [although who knows what exactly their policy/problem-solving program would be --- always the problem with "traditional" Republicans]) to the liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, have been using the adjective "fascist" to describe the current Republican Party, as well as Trump (who often also gets the adjective "authoritarian" attached to him) with increasing frequency.
Following Trump's loss in 2020, Trump, and increasingly the Republican Party which is increasingly becoming wedded to his persona in particular, and to his program (as limited as it is: the Dems. are commies; "immigration-along-the-Southern-border"-is-the-most-serious-problem-the-country-faces; "the COVID-19 pandemic has been blown all out-of-proportion-and-anyway-I-brought-it-under-control-with-operation-Warp-Speed;" and most important, "I-won-and-it-was-stolen-from-me-by-the-Blacks (while the last is never said out loud, the meaning of "The Steal" is clear)," is becoming increasingly anti-democratic. That is, it is opposed to the institutions of U.S. electoral politics, to the extent that they represent traditional liberal democracy, to the extent that it can exist under capitalism.
As just about every Trump-critic says on a regular basis, Trump won the Presidency once, but then became the first incumbent President to fail re-election since Jimmy Carter (and before him, Herbert Hoover). Along the way, as is well-known, the Trumpublicans lost control of both the House (by a very slim margin, to be sure) and the Senate (by a hairs-breadth, to be sure). And is also well-known, the Dems. maintain their fragile hold on the Senate only through the courtesy of the Center-Rightists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
So, if the Repubs. ran on any kind of a traditional U.S. right-wing program, while stopping as many of Pres. Biden's initiatives as they possibly can (and in a remarkably candid interview Sen. McConnell told us that is exactly what he wants to do, as his only current objective) they might easily take back control of the Congress in 2022 and, with a candidate other than Trump, the Presidency in 2024. But, again as is well-known, the Party is increasingly wedded to Trump. Which means that, as numerous knowledgeable observers such as Presidential historians Jon Meacham and Michael Beschloss have noted, before, during, and after his Presidency, Trump is, in his heart of hearts (as noted), wedded to authoritarianism. The Trumpublicans know that, and increasingly it is alright with them.
And so, the Trumpubs. Continue their clamoring that the "election was stolen," that "voter fraud was wide-spread," and that the first thing that must be done is implement a wide array of future voting restrictions, aimed especially at minority voters of course. (Even though they don't come right out and say that, it is clear that that is what the intent is.) But beyond that, given that Trump is their leader (even from the band-stand at Mar-a-Lago), they have got to also move in the direction of persisting in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 elections (as is now going on in Arizona, under the direction of someone who has been associated with QAnon). In fact, the Republican Party's national program/platform has been reduced to: voter suppression, present and future; (Southern) 'border control;' opposing deficit spending (except when it leads to lower taxes for the wealthy) and any tax (re-) increases on the very wealthy, and fighting the Biden/Commies at every turn, even if that means that fragile bridges in their own districts will eventually collapse.
The authoritarian tendencies of Trump and his acolytes have been well-noted, and not just by progressives like myself. When a former Republican campaign-director, Stuart Stevens ("Morning Joe," May 6, 2021), and a former Democratic Campaign Director, David Plouffe (on "Deadline White House," May 6, 2021), both issue very stern warnings about oncoming Trumpublican authoritarianism/fascism, one definitely needs to get even more worried that one already is. David Plouffe put it succinctly: "If the GOP wins it all in 2024, the U.S. will be[come] an autocracy."
And then here is what one traditional, far-right wing Republican had to say about the situation:
"Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this. The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. In the immediate wake of the violence of Jan. 6, almost all of us knew the gravity and the cause of what had just happened we had witnessed it firsthand."
That far-rightist would of course be Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney, and owner of a 95% approval rating from the American Conservative Union (at least up to now). So, what is going on here? For me, as I say in the column's title, the central question that we now have to move on to consider is what is the role of the U.S. ruling class in all of this?
Traditionally, that is in terms of the principal 20th century fascist powers, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Hungary, fascism followed this model (or some reasonably similar version of it):
"There is a single, all powerful executive branch of government, in service of a capitalist ruling class that controls for the most part the functions of production, distribution and exchange. There is no separation of powers [one of James Madison's signal contributions to the then-unique form of government established by the Constitution]. Thus, there are no de facto independent judicial or legislative branches, at any level. There is no independent media. There is a single national ideology, based on some combination of racism, misogyny, religious bigotry and authoritarianism, homophobia, and xenophobia. There is a state propaganda machine using the big and little lie techniques. There may be a full-blown dictatorship, a charismatic leader, engagement in foreign wars, and the use of the mob/private armies."
A Trumpite authoritarianism would have many of these features. But the purpose of the balance of this column is not to predict exactly which of the above features would appear in such a Trumpite State and which would not. It is rather to begin an exploration of the role of the U.S. ruling class in its creation/imposition.
As noted above, under capitalism briefly, the "ruling class" is the grouping of economically dominant individual and corporate owners of the means of production, distribution, finance, and exchange. Their primary function is the production of "profit," that is excess revenue above the costs of production, both for personal use and for further investment in productive resources. In the industrialized countries in which fascism appeared in the 20th century, the dominant sector of the ruling class was the owners of industry. (This held true to a lesser extent in Hungary and Spain, which were less industrialized than Germany, Italy and Japan. Of course, in the 21st United States, the ruling class is much more complex. Just some of its elements are: manufacturing (to be sure), finance (as a means of profit-making, not just supplying capital to the manufacturing sector, as it was in the 20th century), advertising, publishing, computer-based electronic communications that is "media," transportation (goods and people), mass-retail (as in Amazon/Walmart), data-management, fossil fuels/petro-chemicals, and so on and so forth.
Now, the way a ruling class maintains its control of a nation is by gaining and maintaining control over State Power, that is the elements of government, Executive, Legislative, and Judicial, and the forces of repression/control as necessary. And so, when looking at 20th-century fascism in the three major industrialized countries in which it occurred, Germany, Italy, and Japan, understanding the ruling class and it support/installation of that system leading to control of State Power is pretty straight forward. (In Spain, a powerful Catholic Church played a major role in its instigation and in Hungary the old landed-aristocracy as well as the rising industrial class led the way.) But in the 21st century United States, the situation is much more complex.
So-called "liberal democracy," with "separation of powers" and regular elections has worked very well for the U.S. ruling class, in exerting its ownership and control of the economic system since the founding of the Republic. Control of the political system has shifted back-and-forth between two major political parties over time (each changing their identities to some extent over time), as is well-known. For most of the existence of the Republic, the working class has not made out particularly well, but there have been periods, as is well known, like that of the New Deal, during which they have made out a bit better. Since the end of World War II, with a couple of blips like the short-lived "Great Society" that moved in favor of the working class (including the oppressed minorities), State Power has been in the hands of the very-classical-ruling-class friendly Republican Party, with a major assist from a Center-Right Democratic Party under the leadership of the Clinton-/Gore-founded Democratic Leadership Council, which has been particularly partial to the fossil-fuel and military industries.
But now, both due to the reaction to Trumpite-racism which had worked so well electorally for the Republicans and to a re-birth of the classically liberal Democratic Party under the leadership of Joe Biden (surprise!), the model of State Power is moving back towards the one followed to get the nation out of the Great Depression. That, of course was the New Deal, tilting the economy somewhat more in the direction of the working and middle classes than it is presently. The Biden-led Democratic Party is also very concerned with the looming dangers of global warming (which concern greatly concerns the fossil fuel-petro-chemical industry). Nothing has changed historically for the ruling class to diminish its primary focus on minting control of State Power. What has obviously changed now in the United States is that the ruling class has split on how to best maintain that control. It is obvious that a significant chunk of the ruling class does see that, given its financial and in some cases policy support for it, following the contemporary Democratic Party/Biden path is the best way to maintain that control, for its long-term benefit.
At the same time, it is quite obvious that the Republican Party, and the elements of the ruling class that it represents, don't see it this way. At the same time, as is well-known, the Republican Party, as a political organization, sees the oncoming freight-train of demographic change as a major threat to its future existence as any other than a permanent political minority. (This despite the radical tilting of political control towards the minority that the Republicans are, as a result of political provisions that go all the way back to the writing of the Constitution and the benefits to the slave-holding states that were built into it. And yes, Rep. Lafferty [Repub., TN], the "3/5ths" rule was put into the Constitution to provide the slave states with more seats in the House of Representatives than they would otherwise have, not to provide a roadway to the eventual end of slavery.) So the Republicans have two major factors impelling them towards instituting some form of fascism: the impending demographic changes and the taxation/regulatory threats that face them under a modern Democratic government.
Since there is no politically-organized working class movement in the United States (the Republicans took care of that threat to their political control beginning with the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947) the only thing that Republicans and the ruling class sector they represent have to fear is that sector of the ruling class, which has its political expression in the Democratic Party, which has, as noted, come to the conclusion that the best way to maintain control of State Power is to give a little more to the workers, begin to deal seriously with the looming Global Warming Disaster, and try to deal in some way with the institutional racism supported by the Republican Party which threatens to tear the country apart.
The puzzle at this point in time is to figure out precisely who forms that sector of the ruling class which is supporting the Republicans and their clear drive towards authoritarian government, and which sector(s) it is for whom/which liberal democracy is just fine and actually considered to be better than the alternative. To deal further with these matters (including the role of Trump in all of this) will be the subjects of future columns.
· My friends at refusefascism.org, who have been fighting the oncoming U.S. fascist menace for much longer than most others, call it the Republi-Fascist Party. It's the same difference. I just like the sound of "Republo" better.
(Article changed on May 07, 2021 at 12:01 PM EDT)
(Article changed on May 07, 2021 at 12:07 PM EDT)