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American Fascism: What It Is, How To Fight It

December 19, 2009

By Nick P

Black Sun Gazette

Fascism is more than a nationalist, authoritarian, right-wing political movement. It has certain characteristics which are specific to it, and do not exist in every right-wing political movement. Fascism, so far as I am concerned, is not a cohesive political ideology. Rather, it is a grab bag of “everything and the kitchen sink, too” that serves the needs of the ruling class in utterly destroying independent political and social movement by the working class. Much of my analysis of what fascism is and how it works is lifted directly from Leon Trotsky’s Fascism: What It Is and How To Fight It. I hope to, in my small way, concretize Trotsky’s work for America in 2009. While it is always dangerous to throw around the word “fascism” like a political curse word, make no mistake about it: there is a definite move toward fascism in America. It is very real, it is very dangerous, and the existing liberal parliamentary institutions and the rule of law will not protect you.

In a sense, fascism is the necessary outgrowth of a capitalist economy. Marx illustrated in the 1800s that capitalism has a finite degree of potential growth, and is constantly beholden to a boom-bust cycle where the booms become increasingly fewer and more shallow, while the busts become more frequent and deeper. It is a means by which the ruling capitalist class seeks to resolve “the contradictions,” as Marxists call them. Put simply, the dialectic in question works thusly:

  1. Bosses attack workers. This can mean attacks on wages or democratic liberties, but it frequently means both.
  2. Workers fight back. Even if it takes very crude, rudimentary, and politically limited forms, history shows again and again that people are not just going to lay back and think of England while plutocrats repeatedly fuck them.
  3. Bosses attack harder to crush workers fighting back. In a sense they have to do this. The workers’ movements to protect themselves simply cannot go unanswered by the bosses. This has little to nothing to do with “mean people suck” type analysis. It’s simply how things work.
  4. Workers are either A) crushed or B) continue to fight back. The smart money is on the latter, because even as they retreat, workers prepare for another battle.
  5. Bosses are forced to stamp down on workers even harder than before.

There are basically one of two ways that this cycle gets resolved. The first is through social revolution, though there are sadly few examples of this actually taking place. The second is through the bosses utterly crushing and atomizing the working class with fascism. But the drive is ultimately toward one or the other- that or world war, which is always reinvigorating for capitalism. Nothing opens up new markets quite like bombing your rivals to hell and forcing them to buy new money off of you.

The drive toward fascism and the drive toward war are not quite one and the same, but they are rather intimately related to one another. Despite right-wing myths, Americans (and working class people world wide) generally don’t support wars until the bombs start dropping and popular support is manufactured by a compliant media. In particular, it’s hard to imagine Americans complying with a military draft which is all but certain as the Obama Administration commits more American forces to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and soon Iran. The “War on Terror” has a certain logic to it, and that logic is more and more troops in more and more places. Conscripting American citizens would almost certainly require utterly crushing any working class resistance.

Fascism arises when the normal parliamentary forms are no longer sufficient for crushing working class resistance. It achieves critical mass, historically speaking, under conditions of extreme distress in the capitalist system. In both the period preceding Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Phalangist Spain, and other fascist states, mass unemployment and social unrest led to a perfect political storm. We are seeing those conditions arising in America right now. We are also seeing a shift away from normal democratic procedure by the far right in favor of naked political thuggery and the beginnings of political terrorism. Of particular concern is the racist rhetoric employed against Barack Obama during the 2008 election and the corporate financing of reactionary mobs. Finally, there is the presence of the Coughlinesque Glenn Beck who goes on television every night to stoke the anxieties of impoverished layers of working class and middle class people into a white hot rage with the occasional faux populist crocodile tears about banks. Indeed, the parallels between the United States in 2009 and Weimar Germany are striking, particularly when one considers that Germany was, much like the United States, a declining imperialist power. So the threat of a fascist movement in the United States is very, very real.

PROTIP: They probably aren’t going to look like this guys below. See the quote on the image at the beginning of this article. American fascists will carry a cross and be so fucking All-American that they’ll be sweating apple pie from every pore. There will be lots of vague, trans-class rhetoric about “the promise of the American Dream” and other fantastical conceptions of what the 1950s (the standard issue “good old days” of America) were like- i.e. a place where people of color weren’t quite so uppity, women knew their place, homosexuals were nonexistent, and workers were a happy and compliant part of Team American Capitalism.

So now that we’ve established to some degree what fascism is, how do we fight it? Well, first and foremost, we do not fight it by begging the Democratic Party to “move to the left” and “get tough.” That’s been, historically speaking, a recipe for disaster. Organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which rely upon the cops and courts have a woefully inadequate analysis of what fascism is, and thus are completely unprepared to fight it. Fascism cannot be fought using cops and courts. In the first place, there is a long-established link between far right organizations and hogs. There is also the small problem of the cops going out of their way to protect Nazis from counter-demonstrations. Anyone who has ever been to an anti-war demonstration knows that the filth are totally disinterested in protecting the free speech of the working class and the left. Yet they bend over backward time and again to protect a handful of fascists from teeming mobs of counter-demonstrators. Why? The questions answers itself.

It must always be remembered that anyone who is worried about protecting the free speech of fascists isn’t your ally. The platform, tactics, and strategy of fascists have absolutely nothing to do with free speech. They have everything to do with political terrorism. They cannot, and should not be debated or provided with a platform to spew their filth. They should be met with overwhelming physical force and run out of town on a rail. The early days of the Anti-Nazi League in Britain (before they were co-opted by the Socialist Workers’ Party of Great Britain- the co-thinkers of the grotesque, pro-cop reformists of the International Socialist Organization) provides a great example of how to respond when the fascists- of whatever brand- want to show up in your city. A better model are Labor/Black Mobilizations against the Klan and, more recently, the Minutemen.

Because fascism is, in the final analysis, a cowardly movement. But like a coward, it needs to be confronted with sufficient force to get it to crawl back into the slime-filled hole from whence it came. A thousand screaming trade unionists, Black activists, and militant anti-fascist youth (possibly armed with such rudimentary and legal weapons as small baseball bats, bike chains, and sawn off pool cues) should be sufficient to spook any mob of racist thugs right the fuck out of town. But, unfortunately, this is only enough to deal with the foot soldiers on the ground. Defeating fascism ultimately means building a political movement to destroy the economic and social system which makes fascism a viable alternative in the first place.

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