Is America Becoming Fascist?
by ANIS SHIVANI
Since mainstream left-liberal media do not seriously ask this question, the analysis of what has gone wrong and where we are heading has been mostly off-base. Investigation of the kinds of under-handed, criminal tactics fascist regimes undertake to legitimize their agenda and accelerate the rate of change in their favor is dismissed as indulging in “conspiracy theory.” Liberals insist that this regime must be treated under the rules of “politics as usual.” But this doesn’t consider that one election has already been stolen, and that September’s repeat of irregularities in Florida was a clear warning that more such thuggery is on the way. If the “f” word is uttered, liberals are quick to note certain obvious dissimilarities with previous variants of fascism and say that what is happening in America is not fascist. It took German justice minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin to make the comparison explicit (under present American rules of political discourse, she has been duly sacked from her cabinet post); but at the liberal New York Times or The Nation, American writers dare not speak the truth.
The blinkered assertion that we are immune to the virus ignores degrees of convergence and distinction based on the individual patient’s history. The Times and other liberal voices have been obsessed over the last year with the rise of minority fascist parties in the Netherlands, France, and other European countries. They have questioned the tastefulness of new books and movies about Hitler, and again demonized such icons of Nazism as Leni Riefenstahl. Is this perhaps a displacement of American anxiety onto the safer European scene, liberal intellectuals here not wanting to confront the troubling truth? The pace of events in the last year has been almost as blindingly fast as it was after Hitler’s Machtergreifung and the consolidation of fascist power in 1933. Speed stuns and silences.
Max Frankel, former editor of the Times, quotes from biographer Joachim Fest in his review of Speer: The Final Verdict: ” . . .how easily, given appropriate conditions, people will allow themselves to be mobilized into violence, abandoning the humanitarian traditions they have built up over centuries to protect themselves from each other,” and that a “primal being” such as Hitler “will always crop up again.” Is Frankel really redirecting his anxiety about the primal being that has arisen in America? When Frankel says that “Speer far more than Hitler [because the former came from a culturally refined background] makes us realize how fragile these precautions are, and how the ground on which we all stand is always threatened,” is this an oblique reference to the ground shifting from under us?
The proposed Iraqi adventure, which is only the first step in a more ambitious militarist agenda, has been opposed by the most conservative warmongers of past administrations. If the test of any theory is its predictive capacity, Bush’s extreme risk-taking is better explained by the fascist model. Purely economic motives are a large part of the story, but there is a deeper derivation that exceeds such mundane rationales. Several of the apparent contradictions in Bush’s governance make perfect sense if the fascist prism is applied, but not with the normal perspective.
To pose the question doesn’t mean that this is a completed project; at any point, anything can happen to shift the course of history in a different direction. Yet after repeated and open corruption of the normal electoral process, several declarations of world war (including in three major addresses, and now the National Security Strategy document), adventurous and unprecedented military doctrines, suspension of much of the Bill of Rights, and clear signals that a declaration of emergency to crush remaining dissent is on the way, surely it is time to analyze the situation differently.
Absent that perspicacity, false diagnoses and prescriptions will continue. It is fine to be concerned about tyrannous Muslim regimes, and surely they need to set their own house in order, but not now, not in this context, and not under the auspices of the American fascist regime. Liberals don’t yet realize, or fail to admit, that they may have been condemned to irrelevance for quite some time; the death blow against even mild welfare statism might already have been struck.
The similarities between American fascism and particularly the National Socialist precedent, both historical and theoretical, are remarkable. Fascism is home, it is here to stay, and it better be countered with all the intellectual resources at our disposal.
American fascism is tapping into the perennial complaint against liberalism: that it doesn’t provide an authentic sense of belonging to the majority of people. And that is a criticism difficult to dismiss out of hand. As the language of liberalism has become flat and predictable, some Americans have become more ready to accept an alternative, no matter how ridiculous, as long as it sounds vigorous and muscular.
America today is seeking a return to some form of vitalism, some organic, volkisch order that will “unite” the blue and red states in an eternal Volkgemeinschaft; is in a state of perpetual war and militaristic aggression targeting all potential counters to hegemony; has been coercing and blackmailing its own victims and oppressed (justified by anti-political correctness rhetoric) to return to a mythical national consensus; has introduced surveillance technology to demolish the private sphere to an extent unimaginable in the recent past; and fetishizes technology as the futuristic solution to age-old ills of alienation and mistrust.
And we are right in the mainstream of the Western philosophical and political tradition in this subtle (overnight?) transformation. Liberal democracy was replaced by Mussolini by these two Holy Trinities: Believe, Obey, Fight, and Order, Authority, Justice. These slogans seem to replace every liberal system sooner or later. Italian propagandistic slogans included: War is to man as childbirth is to woman, and Better to live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep. Sooner or later, the mob is persuaded that fascism best addresses its unfulfilled spiritual and psychological needs. Sooner or later there is a Hitler, and even if there isn’t a leader as charismatic as him, there is an anti-modernity counter-revolution.
The enlightenment everywhere has contained the seeds of its own destruction. Fascism merely borrows from the enlightenment’s credo that violence may sometimes be necessary to achieve valid political ends, and that human reason alone can lead humanity to utopia. Is Nazism an absolute aberration? Is America totally immune to fascism? Then we might as well discredit Rousseau’s “general will,” Hegel’s historical spirit, Goethe and Schelling’s romanticization of nature and genius, Darwin’s natural selection, and Nietzsche’s superman. When all is said and done, a Kant or Mill is never a match for a Nietzsche or Sorel. Industrial malaise (now post-industrial disorder), evaded by the dead-ends and delusions of liberalism, leads only to a romantic revolution, which is fine as long as it is in the hands of Byron, Keats, Carlyle, Ruskin and Arnold, but becomes eventually converted to a propaganda-saturated Third Way. Since liberalism doesn’t take up the challenge, fascism steps in to say that it offers an answer to centrifugal difference and lack of common purpose, and that it will dare to link industrial prosperity with communal goals.
How great a deviation from the roots of the enlightenment, the foundations of its self-justification, is the Manichean demonization of enemies, aliens, impure races, and barbaric others? America today wants to be communal and virile; it seeks to overcome what is presented by propagandists as the unreasonable demands for affirmative action and reparations by minorities and women; it wants to revalorize nation and region and race to take control of the future; it seeks to remold the nation through propaganda and charismatic leadership, into overcoming the social divisiveness of capitalism and democracy.
We have our own nationalist myths that our brand of fascism taps right into. In that sense, America is not exceptional. In the near future, America can be expected to embark on a more radical search to define who is not part of the natural order: exclusion, deportation, and eventually extermination, might again become the order of things. Of course, we can notice obvious differences from the German nationalist tradition: but that is precisely the task of scholars to delineate, rather than pretend that fascism occurred only in Italy and Germany and satellite states in the first half of the century, and occurs today only in Europe in minor movements that have no chance of gaining political supremacy.
It is wrong to pretend that fascism takes hold only in the midst of extreme economic depression or political chaos. (A perception of crisis or instability is indispensable to realizing fascism, however.) Fascism can emerge when things are not all that bad economically, politically, and culturally. The surprise about Weimar Germany is how well the political system was at times working, with proportional representation (almost an ideal of strong democracy theorists) providing political expression for a full range of ideologies. Germany was economically strong, an industrial powerhouse, despite having had to overcome massive disabilities imposed by the Versailles Treaty. In the early thirties, Hitler’s rise was facilitated by massive unemployment (perhaps forty percent of Germans were unemployed), but this was a phenomenon throughout the Western world.
The key point to note is that at many junctures along the way, it was possible that Hitler’s rise might never have happened. And that the elites accepted Hitler as the best possible option. All this makes Hitler and Nazism unexceptional. The basic paradigm remains more or less intact: we only have to account for variations in the American model. Capitalism today is different, so are the postmodern means of propaganda, and so are the technological tools of suppression. Besides, American foundational myths vary from European ones, and the romanticism propounded by Goethe, Schelling, Wagner and Nietzsche contrasts with a different kind of holistic urge in America. But that is only a matter of variation, not direct opposition. Liberals who say that demographics work against a Republican majority in the early twenty-first century do have a point; but fascism can occur precisely at that moment of truth, when the course of political history can definitely tend to one direction or another. A mere push can set things on a whole different course, regardless of underlying cultural or demographic trends. Nazism never had the support of the majority of Germans; at best about a third fully supported it. About a third of Americans today are certifiably fascist; another twenty percent or so can be swayed around with smart propaganda to particular causes. So the existence of liberal institutions is not necessarily inconsistent with fascism’s political dominance.
Îòðåäàêòèðîâàíî Trinity (2013-02-19 14:40:49)