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American-style Fascism

As quoted in an earlier blog post, in 1944 Henry Wallace, Vice-President under FDR, defined American-style fascism in this way:

“…(T)hey can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups. … (They) are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity. … They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective … is to capture political power so that using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

Regarding the Trump administration, I am grateful for one thing: that its audacious greed and lack of subtlety have stripped the mask off the corporate fascism that is bent on looting and strangling our republic. But if the recent midterm elections seemed to be a setback for its program, recall that the corporate coup of our democracy has occurred under the watch of both parties. Neoliberal leaders like Macron, Trudeau, the Clintons, and President Obama have been merely the smiling face of the same corporate fascism. Their kowtowing to corporate power and their failure to address real economic inequalities helped set the stage for a Trump. Ralph Nader has written an important article about this in Common Dreams.

The only remedy is to get corporate money out of politics and to elect leaders who are not beholden to corporate interests– radical, systemic change that’s not going to be easy. Yet the difference between a corporate Democrat and a corporate Republican is the difference between ketchup and catsup. At the end of the day, they both spell the end of our republic. Throw in the urgency of climate change, and what we face as the voting public is a choice between radical change or the certain death of our democracy and civilization. Even if the majority of Americans prefer the latter, the rest of us must at least go down fighting.

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Henry Wallace on “What Is a Fascist?”

In April, 1944 FDR’s Vice-President Henry Wallace wrote this op-ed (“The Dangers of American Fascism”) for The New York Times. In that year the U.S. was still fighting the Axis powers in Europe and the Pacific. But he might as well have been thinking of us today, since so much of it resonates startlingly like a prophecy from the past.

  1. On returning from my trip to the West in February, I received a request from The New York Times to write a piece answering the following questions:

    1. What is a fascist?
    2. How many fascists have we?
    3. How dangerous are they?
  2. A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.

  3. The perfect type of fascist throughout recent centuries has been the Prussian Junker, who developed such hatred for other races and such allegiance to a military clique as to make him willing at all times to engage in any degree of deceit and violence necessary to place his culture and race astride the world. In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.

  4. The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

  5. If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.

  6. American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery…

  7. …Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.

  8. Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after “the present unpleasantness” ceases:

  9. The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups. Likewise, many people whose patriotism is their proudest boast play Hitler’s game by retailing distrust of our Allies and by giving currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.

  10. The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

  11. Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

  12. It has been claimed at times that our modern age of technology facilitates dictatorship. What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini’s vaunted claim that he “made the trains run on time.” In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler’s claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.

  13. Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to “make the trains run on time.” It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outrun our ability to devise social mechanisms to raise the living standards of the people, we may expect the liberal potential of the United States to increase. If this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.

  14. The worldwide, agelong struggle between fascism and democracy will not stop when the fighting ends in Germany and Japan. Democracy can win the peace only if it does two things:

    1. Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique.
    2. Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.
  15. The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny. This dullness of vision regarding the importance of the general welfare to the individual is the measure of the failure of our schools and churches to teach the spiritual significance of genuine democracy. Until democracy in effective enthusiastic action fills the vacuum created by the power of modern inventions, we may expect the fascists to increase in power after the war both in the United States and in the world.

  16. Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.

  17. It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and “with malice toward none and charity for all” go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.

 

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“Let the Record Show”

A worthwhile read from an honest pastor here in NC. Wish there were more like him.

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Stick a Fork in Me, I’m Done!

As more than half of this country is still reeling from the blow of last week’s election, I wonder just what the church has become. Trump could not have won without the help of white evangelicals, 80% of whom voted for him. All I can ask is, “Who are these people, really, and what do they want with us?”

One thing I keep hearing lately, from white people, is “Thank God it’s over!” What a selfish thing to say, but oh so revealing! Sure. It’s over for you. You’re white, and you probably voted for that guy, which means you really don’t give a tinker’s damn about the people of color in this country, or the immigrants, who are scared right now, really very scared. It’s not over for them, not by a long shot. In fact, the nightmare is just beginning. You have no idea what you have done.

No, you voted for a candidate who hates just about everything Jesus loves. You cast your vote for a guy who is openly racist, who was endorsed by the freaking KKK, for goodness sake (which, incidentally, held a victory celebration in Raleigh this past weekend)! What does that say about him? Moreover, what does that say about you and what you value? You voted for an unabashed racist, so what does that make you?

Yes, it sickened me that, living in a battleground state, I was forced to vote for someone like her just to keep someone like him out of the White House. But no matter how poor and corrupt a candidate Hillary Clinton was, and I agree she had major flaws, huuuuuge, please don’t set up that false equivalency, comparing her with that man. And please don’t use any religious language or the Lord’s name to cover up what you’ve done, stabbing your African-American and Latino and Muslim brothers and sisters in the back. A massive betrayal of everything Jesus has taught us, to love the poor, the oppressed, the stranger.

Abortion, Roe v. Wade? If you really cared about the unborn, you would see clearly that abortion rates have never declined under Republican administrations: they rose under Reagan and Bush 1, declined under Clinton, sort of flatlined under Bush 2, and resumed their decline under Obama. That’s not an endorsement of the Democratic party (I’m not a member of either), but it shows us that if we really want to curtail abortion, we need to strengthen programs that address the underlying issues, like poverty, education, and health care, not gut them. But in the end, it’s never really been about abortion, has it? All along, it’s been about white power: you’re losing it and you’re mad.

I’m sorry, there is just no excuse for this, ever. No, at the end of the day it was that old American racism that won the day. That and the promise of power. Although if you’d read your history, you’d know that outcome is never good. The church should never seek political power. It ought to content itself with having influence, a voice. Seeking power only makes us more hated (if that were now possible).

It’s been happening gradually, O white evangelicalism, this parting of the ways between you and me. Now here is the final rupture. Like many Americans, I spent 30 minutes last Wednesday morning vomiting the remains of my breakfast into the sink. Perhaps I was eliminating the last vestiges of you in my system. The mask has fallen and the world can now see your true face. You have chosen your path; I have chosen mine. May God forgive you and grant you repentance and peace. No, none of us is perfect, and yes, we’re all hypocrites in some way, but I cannot worship nor raise my biracial child in a church that is so apostate, one that worships power and cruelty, war and wealth, selfishness and…well… whiteness.

No, I’m not abandoning Jesus Christ or Christianity or the church as a whole, just one expression of it, one that I find painfully, inexpressibly horrid. So I am embarking on a journey to find something of real Christianity and real Christians, if they exist. Who knows what I may find.

But as for now, stick a fork in me, I’m done.

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