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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/15/22

The Nature of U.S. Fascism: A View from 25 Years Ago

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, Aug. 2018)

Donald Trump in Reno, Nevada. Actually, what Trump is looking for is the Fourth Reich: HIS!!!
Donald Trump in Reno, Nevada. Actually, what Trump is looking for is the Fourth Reich: HIS!!!
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Introduction:

As some of my readers know, about 25 years ago, I published the first version of a book which is now entitled "The Fifteen Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S. 1981-2022." It was purported to have been published on the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of Constitutional Democracy in the United States, in 2048. The book was purportedly written by an academic named "Johnathan Westminster" (a play on the name "Jack London," who wrote the first book that presciently described the fascist state, "The Iron Heel," published in 2008). In its 20 chapters I described the fictional history of the rise and fall of U.S. fascism between 1996 and 2023.

There are also eight appendices, 6 of which were written by another fictional character, "Dino Louis." (Yes, they are mine.) That name is a play on the name Sinclair Lewis, who wrote a great future-fictional book on U.S. fascism entitled "It Can't Happen Here" (1935). (The old Sinclair Oil Company, from whose pumps I filled up my gas tank many times when I was much younger had a dinosaur as its symbol. Its successor corporation trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "DINO.") "Dino's" contribution to the book consists of essays which I wrote which did not conveniently fit into the narrative of the book itself. This one, Appendix II, is an essay on "The Nature of Fascism and Its Precursors," purportedly written in 1998. (I actually wrote it sometime in 1994-95.) And so, here 'tis.

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From "The 15% Solution:"

In our time (2048; this is text "written" by Jonathan Westminster), when describing the economic and po litical system which exist ed throughout the period 2001-2023, first in the old United States and then in the New American Republics, the words "fascist" and "fas cism" are general ly used. However, it should be understood that, with few excep tions, the Right-Wing Reactionary leadership in both the old United States and the New Ameri can Republics vehemently denied that they were fas cists, and strongly shied away from ever using the term to describe them selves or any of their activities.

Even at the height of the NAR's racist oppression of the non-white peo ples of the Second, Third, and Fourth Republics, and violent repres sion of dissent and resistance within the White Republic itself, even at the time of the most extreme concentration of pow er in the hands of the Executive Branch of the NAR and the substitution of the rule of men for the rule of law, and even with the perpetuation of one-party (ACNP) government, the Right pursued the fic tion that it was following the pre cepts of Democracy and was the protector of traditional American free doms.

Even after it had used the amendment process in the most grotesque way to make the original U.S. Constitution a mere shadow of its original self, the Right-Wing Reactionaries claimed that they were doing nothing more than protecting the traditional "American way of life." And they shunned the use of the term "fascism" at the risk of alienat ing some of their strongest, and most vio lent, sup port ers from the Far Right, groups and organizations that proud ly labeled them selves "Fas cist" and "Na zi."

But the ACNP leadership persisted in this policy to the very end. It was the natural outgrowth of a fashion broadly used by Right-Wing Reaction dur ing the Transition Era, of racists claiming they were not racists, anti-Semites claiming they were not anti-Semitic, misogynists claiming they were not anti-female, xenophobes claiming they were not xenophobic, and homophobes claiming they were not homophobic.

It was a peculiar tactic bred of a time just before the commencement of the Transition Era in 1980 when in fact prejudice of most kinds was con sid ered by most people to be nasty stuff. The tactic served a very useful purpose for the Right-Wing Reactionaries because many of their opponents were drawn into useless, distracting, no-win "yes-you-are, no-I'm-not" arguments, rather than discussing and exposing the true policies and desired social outcomes advocated by the Right-Wing forces, regardless of how they characterized themselves.

In our time, the phrase "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck" characterizes the approach of most historians to the study of the period 1980-2022. Thus, we use the terms "racist," "anti-Semite," "homophobe" and "fascist," regardless of whether or not the Right-Wingers of the time accepted them as appropriate to describe themselves. But nevertheless, it is important to define terms. To do this, I once again draw upon the work of Dino Louis, and present his essay, "On the Nature of Fas cism and Its Precursors," written in 1998.

A Definition of Fascism (the text from here onwards is that of "Dino Louis")

Fascism is a political, social, and economic system that has the following baker's dozen plus one of major defining charac teristics:

1. There is complete executive branch control of government policy and action. There is no independent judicial or legisla tive branch of govern ment.

2. There is no constitution recognized by all political forces as having an au thority beyond that claimed, stated, and exerted by the government in power, to which that gov ern ment is subject. The rule of men, not law, is supreme.

3. There is only one political party, and no mass organizations of any kind other than those approved by the government are permitted.

4. Government establishes and enforces the rules of "right" thinking, "right" action, and "right" religious devotion.

5. Racism, homophobia, misogynism, and national chauvinism are major factors in national politics and policy-making. Religious authoritarianism may be part of the package.

6. There is no recognition of inherent personal rights. Only the government can grant "rights." Any "rights" granted by the government may be di min ished or removed by it from any individual or group at any time with out prior notice, explana tion, or judicial review. Thus, there is no pre sumed freedom of speech, press, religion, or even belief, automatically accom panying citizenship. There are no inherent or presumed protections against any violations of person al liberty committed by law-enforcement or other government agencies.

7. Official and unofficial force, internal terror, and routine torture of cap tured opponents are major means of governmental control.

8. There are few or no employee rights or protections, including the right of workers to bargain collectively. Only government-approved labor unions or associations are permitted to exist, and that approval may be removed at any time, without prior notice.

9. All communications media are government-owned or otherwise gov ern ment-controlled.

10. All entertainment, music, art, and organized sport is controlled by the gov ernment.

11. There may or may not be a single charismatic leader in charge of the gov ernment, i.e., a "dictator."

12. The economy is based on capitalism, with tight central control of the dis tri bution of resources among the producers, and strict limitations on the free market for labor (as noted above).

13. The fascist takeover of the government of a major power always leads to foreign war, sooner or later.

14. Built as it is on terror, repression, and an ultimately fictional/delusional representation of historical, political, and economic reality, fascism is inherent ly unstable and always carries with it the seeds of its own destruc tion. To date, such seeds have always sprouted within a relatively short historical peri od of time.

The Economic Precursors of Fascism in the United States

Fascism does not arise when things are going well in a country. It arises only when a capitalist country faces either (a) a sig nificant threat of left-wing takeover of the government or (b) a socio/economic crisis with which the conventional democrati cally elected government is unable to effectively deal. It is likely that within the next few years the United States will face scenario (b).

As is well known, the United States' economy is in decline. Public and private debt is at all-time highs, as is the foreign trade deficit. Deindustrialization is occurring at an accelerat ing pace, as are the export of investment capital for productive resources and the resulting permanent loss of manufacturing jobs. There is an accelerating dis-accumulation of labor around productive resources, as the latest technological revo lution proceeds apace.

The national economic infrastructure is decaying, as gov ernment invest ment in it is at an all-time low compared to that of other developed countries. The country faces enormous costs for the clean-up of previous private and governmental degradation of the environment. Finally, and this is a critical precursor to fascism: the "free market," currently glorified by the Right as the solution to every problem from health care to incarceration, from education to poverty, has been allowed to run rampant on a field of utter individualism.

These developments have taken place in the context of a pattern of imperi al rise and decline observed in a number of countries over the past 500 years brilliantly analyzed by the Yale University historian Paul Kennedy over ten years ago now (1987). Prof. Kennedy described a pattern of overseas expan sion/military expenditures, unwillingness to self-tax, dependence on borrow ing, the creation of an ever-expanding national debt, all leading eventually to finan cial, political and diplomatic disaster. This is the pattern being followed almost to the letter by the U.S. at the present time.

There is serious social dislocation as well. Due primarily to capital disin vestment, many central cities are dying. At the other end of the geographical spectrum, the institution of the family farm is dying as well, with formerly self-employed farmers becoming rural wage-workers. The impact of global warming on water supply, agriculture, and weather patterns is beginning to become evident, with no national program to respond to it in sight. The edu cation and health care delivery systems are failing. The supply of affordable housing is decreasing and the incidence of homelessness, even among intact families, is increasing. Racism and homophobia are on the rise, both in the thoughts and actions of many.

Economic Decay Leading to Political Change

Given the underlying gradual disintegration of the economic base of Ameri can life as we know it, domestic dissatisfaction and unrest are on the increase. Presently, many of the country's economic decision-makers support at tempts to moderate the economic decline by liberal democratic means and policies. However, no U.S. government, not even a "liberal" one of the Clinton vari ety, has been able to effectively deal with the un derlying cause of US econom ic decline: a fundamentally flawed capital investment policy.

To do that would first require recognizing the fact that the market for capital investment is different than the one for the production, distribution, and sale of goods and services. A "free" market for the latter, if properly maintained, has many obvious benefits to consumers in terms of price, availability and quality.

A "free" market for capital investment policy on the other hand leads to the situation which intensified during the Rea gan-Bush era: increasing capital ex port; increasing use of new capital to buy existing productive resources, not create new ones; increasing use of capital for speculative purposes and invest ment in non-productive resources such as real estate; the increasing tendency of companies to use new capital to buy non-related businesses, rather than invest ing in expansion of their own.

Second, to be effective, the Administration would have to actively intervene in that market, through what is usually called "industrial policy," following the example of the world's two most successful economies, those of Germany and Japan. Even if it wanted to do this, however, no U.S. Administration would ever be able to get such a program through Congress, whether Republi can- or Democratic-controlled. (Just consider what happened to President Clinton's very modest 1993 "stimulus package" and his much more ambitious, but still basically conservative health care reform proposals in the 103rd Con gress.)

The economic policies that Clinton-type governments attempt to implement (not always with success) are: modestly raising taxes on those who can afford to pay; changing tax and fiscal policy to encourage worker retraining and technological development; strengthening the educational system; reforming welfare to put some of its beneficiaries to work; modest investment in rebuild ing the infra struc ture; cleaning up the environment; 'civilian conversion' in the arma ments industry; and so forth. Such reforms, even if implemented, howev er, will not be able to solve the basic underlying economic problem: the short age and diversion of domestic private investment capital.

(The primary function of the export of investment capital to cheap labor markets is to boost the profitability of that capital. But it has a secondary function as well: to attempt to maintain for some period of time the relative standard of living of U.S. workers, as their per capita incomes fall, by provid ing for them a plethora of relatively inexpensive consumer goods such as elec tronic products and clothing.)

People cannot "be put back to work" if there are no jobs to put them to work in. Even if people are properly trained and retrained, they cannot "work at good jobs" if there are no good jobs to work at. Infrastructure rebuilding and environmental repair does provide jobs, but not permanent ones, and again, as with military spending, new productive capacity is not created direct ly. On top of all this are, of course, the intensification of technological change, increase in automation, and the decline in the need for human labor input.

It is likely that the present downward trends in employment security and incomes will continue and intensify. A highly likely outcome of all this is in creasing domestic unrest. This will eventually be expressed in more than the random violence of the 1992 L.A. and 1997 Houston riots. And it will even tu ally occur in certain highly oppressed white communities as well as black ones, as among the Appalachian coal-miners, and possibly even among such other remnants of the once-powerful American labor movement such as the auto workers or the steel workers, which have at least a family memory, if not an actual one, of what resistance in the face of misery was like.

(From the end of the Second World War onwards, the once powerful Amer i can trade union movement has gradually been destroyed. Among the signal events in this process was the ban on communists in union leadership provided for by the so-called "Taft-Hartley" Act of 1947. Whatever else might be said about them, it was U.S. communists who provided the most militant and effective trade-union leadership during the heady organizing days of the 1930s.)

(At the other end of the downward spiral of the power of organized labor in the old U.S. was the firing of the striking air traffic controllers by Pres. Rea gan in 1981. The legal use of permanent scabs that gradually spread fol lowing this event sealed the doom of American organized labor. By the 1990s, work ers who had once routinely demanded better wages, shorter hours, and im proved working conditions, have been reduced to begging their employers just to let them hold onto their jobs, even if that means taking less in pay and bene fits.)

In this context, if the economic decision-makers follow the pattern fol lowed in many other countries at many other times, eventually, to remain in control of the economy and their assets, they will abandon liberal democratic attempts at reform and turn to the use of government as a repressive force. They will also use racism to re-split the black and white forceful rebellion against the declin ing standard of living. (Both the use of physical force and of political racism are prime features of fascist government, of course.) Indeed, during the twen tieth century, a frequent national response to economic decline and increasing social unrest in a country with a democratic form of government has been a fascist takeover, through either constitutional or extra-constitutional means.

The Advent of Fascism in the United States

It thus can be postulated that fascism, as defined above, will come to the United States, perhaps as soon as during the next five years or so. As civil unrest and violent disorder spreads, given that there is no organized Left in the United States, the situation will be blamed on many factors: the blacks, the gays, the foreigners, the "liberals in Congress, the courts, and [if applicable], the White House," the media, "permissiveness," the "cultural elite/children of the 60s," taxation, and so forth.

Since it is none of the above but rather their own policies which will bring the country to its highly disrupted state, in their quest to re-establish law and order, the economic decision-makers will have no choice but to turn to fas cism. The next question is, "how will that happen, by force or by political means?"

In the political arena, the "respectability" of racial politics (as shown by the German Nazi experience, an important his torical precursor of fascist politics), was restored by the Reaganite-Bushists in the 1980s. Fascist-type thinking, as defined at the outset of this article, is already prom inent in mainstream Ameri can politics. It was prominently featured in the speech-making at the 1992 Republican National Convention, in the 1992 Re publican Party Platform and the 1994 Republican "Contract on America," in the political campaigns of various Republican and independent candidates. It will not be necessary for some new fas cist party to gain re spect ability first, and credibility second. Its precursor al ready exists.

Proto-Fascist Politics

In this scenario, there will be an ever-intensifying tendency for Right-Wing politicians to propose solutions to the problems facing the country in the sim plistic terms the country came to know so well during the Presidency of Ron ald Reagan. As has been the pattern of every Republican Administration since that of Richard Nixon, these answers will increasingly focus on solutions which require/facilitate the concentration of govern mental power in the hands of the executive branch (Lind), and in variably will involve limitations upon individual free dom and liberty. Increasingly heard will be calls for "law and order" on the one hand and punishment/separation/quarantine of the "perpetra tors" on the other.

Increasingly (as is already happening), the media will be accused of fanning the flames of civil unrest simply by report ing on it (and to a limited extent on its true causes). The judi ciary will more and more be described as favoring the "victims of crime," and of irrelevance. Into this mix will step the "di rect prob lem-solvers," for whom the public has been prepared for some years.

They will promise to: "fix things," "in place of government, put God back into American life," "establish or der," "get Congress out of the way of the people, make the Courts responsive, and bring the me dia under control."

Doing so, they promise, will "restore law and order and revive American greatness." Without saying in so many words what they are planning to do, at the end of this politico-histor ical process, once in power the forces promoting this line will have created a fascist state. One can only hope that warnings such as this, which I have made on more than one occasion in the past and which sadly have attracted little at tention, are heeded before it is too late.

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Author's [Westminster's] Note: Obviously, Louis' repeated warnings, and those of others at the time as well, were not heeded. If they had been, this book would never have existed. And that would have been a good thing.

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References:

Kennedy, P., The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Econom ic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, New York: Random House, 1987.

Lind, M., "The Out-of-Control Presidency," The New Republic, August 14, 1995, p. 18.

(Article changed on Jun 15, 2022 at 7:35 PM EDT)

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY). As well as having been a regular political columnist on several national websites for over 20 years, he is the author/co-author/editor/co-editor of 37 books Currently, on the columns side, in addition to his position on OpEdNews as a Trusted Author, he is a regular contributor to From The G-Man.  In the past he has been a contributor to, among other publications, The Greanville PostThe Planetary Movement, and Buzzflash.com.  He was also a triathlete for 37 seasons, doing over 250 multi-sport races.  Among his 37 books (from the late 1970s, mainly in the health, sports, and health care organization fields) are, on politics: The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022; A Futuristic Novel (originally published 1996; the 3rd version was published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, Brewster, NY, sadly beginning to come true, advertised on OpEdNews and available on  (more...)
 

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