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America: The Incipient Fascist State

By Bill Weintraub

There is a continuing misunderstanding about what happened in the United States on December 12 and was confirmed first on January 6 and then February 1 – and that is the coming to power of a one-party government, a government whose aims and methods are rapidly moving it – and the country – perilously close to fascism.

In certain respects, the Bush administration would seem to simply represent an intensified form of rule by the corporate oligarchies whose influence has been growing steadily in the US since WW II – that is, a government whose primary purpose is to benefit very wealthy corporations and their elites, and stave off any social changes (e.g., national health insurance, truly progressive taxes) that might reduce corporate profits and income inequities.

But two very frightening elements have now been added to this business-first formula. The first is the domination of the Republican Party by the radical right; the second is the selection and endorsement of the new regime by the Supreme Court, which heads an increasingly ultra-conservative federal judiciary.

It was that hellish mix – the greed of corporate oligarchies, a lunatic, right-wing movement that had gained legitimacy through years of propaganda and social agitation, and the acquiescence of powerful individuals and institutions in the previously democratic German government - that produced Hitler's Third Reich.

And that's what we are now dangerously close to seeing in America – a fascist state. And although this regime may not mimic any one fascist state of the last century in every detail, it is safe to say that like those states it will, as it gains power, seek to exalt the nation, the military, and the “American race,” produce an increasingly centralized autocratic government led either by Mr. Bush as dictator or by a dictatorial clique, impose severe economic and social regimentation, forcibly suppress opposition, and persecute vulnerable minorities.

Most commentators who are critical of the new administration miss the potentially cataclysmic nature of this change in our national life. They assume that America is still a functioning “democracy,” and that, for example, there is an opposition party that will be able to refuse to confirm unsuitable (that is, far-right) judicial nominees.

But that isn't what's been happening – not even remotely. On three critical occasions – the illegitimate Supreme Court decision of December 12, the January 6 deadline to challenge the patently illegal Florida electors, and the confirmation of John Ashcroft on February 1 – there's been no effective opposition to the Bush takeover of the government.

On the first two of these, there was no meaningful action whatsoever. On the last, despite having the votes needed to sustain a filibuster that would have prevented the confirmation of a radical right zealot and liar to the nation's most powerful law enforcement post, 42 Senate Democrats voted opposed, but then let the nomination itself be confirmed.

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This lack of effective opposition is, historically, typical of non-fascist forces in the period immediately following a fascist coup d'etat, the result of a combination of shock, disunity, timidity, ideological weakness, and very often, corruption and vulnerability to blackmail.

Of equal concern are the fascist elements of the new Republican government, which make plain its affinity to the numerous fascist regimes of the last century.

One of the clearest of these indicators is the authoritarian structure of the Republican Party itself. The Republicans move in a virtual lockstep. What little disagreement exists among them that becomes public has to do with how far to the right they can, at any given moment, push the nation.

Another indicator is the willingness to use force to promote political ends. As is often the case in fascist takeovers, the Republicans use force by proxy, as they did in Florida, and as they've done repeatedly over the last 20 years, through “extremist” groups like the posses and militias, to which they usually deny any connection though the connections are often blatant, and also through shadowy quasi-governmental operatives like Oliver North.

In time, following the fascist pattern, it can be expected that they will simply incorporate members of the militias, spy organizations, and pseudo-governmental task forces into federal, state, and local police forces, making certain that they have leadership positions.

Another sign of the fascist mentality is the constant use, by both rightwing politicians and their pundits, of open and brazen lies for political ends.

These lies, which have come forth in an incessant stream for the last 20 years and been given enormous circulation through talk radio and evangelical TV ministries as well as more mainstream corporate-controlled media, should not be confused with politics as usual, and nothing could be more dangerous than to discount the damage done by this sort of never-ending propaganda.

bushfuhrer.jpg - 10.85 K The great British historian AJP Taylor has described German fascism as the result of “a civilization of loose talk.” We've had far too much of that now for two decades; and, in point of fact, an examination of John Ashcroft's lies during his confirmation hearing shows that they were typical of Republican lies over the last 20 years, making them indistinguishable, in their depth, intent to deceive, disregard for the record, and complete contempt for the truth, from those of any fascist official of Nazi Germany, Falangist Spain, and so forth.

Finally, the Republican Party has four easily identified and classically fascist policy goals:

1. Economic policies that are designed to strengthen the stranglehold of the rich in all areas of the economy, and thwart any diminution of income inequalities. The Republican tax-cut plan, which has been growing larger daily, and to which the “opposition” Democrats now agree in principle, and which includes the abolition of the estate tax, is a classic example--as is the anti-ecology stance of the party, taken primarily to protect the interests of a wealthy few, and as are regressive “reforms” aimed at Social Security and other current wealth-redistribution methods.

2. Military policies designed to build up, glorify, and maintain a huge “defense force” despite the absence of any credible military threat.

3. Social policies designed to strengthen and advance the agendas of ultra-conservative, state-financed religious groups and cults, which can then be used as instruments of social control.

4. Cultural policies designed to homogenize society, discredit cultural diversity, and stifle and where possible reverse egalitarian advances in the areas of race, religion, gender, and sexuality. These policies may eventually include official persecution of disfavored groups such as homosexuals, but whether it's official or unofficial, these policies will inevitably result in high levels of harassment, including murder, of the members of such groups.

Historically, it should be noted that the first two of these goals are of most importance to the people actually calling the shots in fascist regimes, but that the last two really matter to the rank-and-file and to the party intellectuals, on whom the regime depends to shape public opinion.

So we can expect the Bush government to pursue all four goals.

And, of course, some of these policy goals, despite their clearly fascist roots, have long been enshrined in our national consciousness by members of both Democratic and Republican parties.

gwbushgreenspan.jpg - 10.13 K Mr. Bush and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan At present, it must be emphasized that all three branches of the federal government are now controlled by Republican fascists, as is the military, most of the national guard, most of the state police organizations, and most of the financial (e.g., the Federal Reserve, stock exchanges, banks), manufacturing, and other large business elements of American society.

Local governments, local police forces, and small businesses are less vulnerable to fascist control, but since there are fascists distributed throughout society, it can be expected that they will attempt to infiltrate local concerns, and, with the help of the fascist leadership, bring them to heel.

The public needs to also understand that just because the Bush government has a measure, even a large measure of public support, does not make it any less fascist. It's typical for fascist regimes to start life with about half the populace approving of what they are doing. That number may even go up in the short run if the regime has economic successes or is seen as bringing fractious social elements under control.

Inevitably, however, economic stagnation, military adventures, and social cruelties create a degree of resistance to the regime, which then institutes more brutal methods of control. Those methods are usually effective, and fascist regimes are notoriously difficult to dislodge – usually revolution from within is not enough, and the intervention of a foreign power is required – a doleful reality that first became apparent to Athenian democrats in 514 BCE, and that continues to the present.

Given these dire facts, what can be done?

There can be only one answer: we must have an immediate and effective broad-based national resistance, centered on a recommitment to democratic activism.

Such a resistance must be UNCOMPROMISING, relentless, and omnipresent in its opposition to the regime. Florida's Oral Majority, run by veteran gay activist Bob Kunst, is a good example of that sort of resistance. But when an organization like, which in general has been doing a good job, tells its members to thank those Senators who merely voted against Ashcroft, it needs to seriously rethink its strategies.

The only possible response to a Democratic Senator's failure to filibuster is to throw the bum out. Each new “compromise,” like those of January 6 and February 1, will strengthen, sooner or later fatally, the Republican stranglehold on power.

This means that we need:

1. Candidates to come forward NOW to oppose all 50 Senate Democrats – all of them, including Kennedy, Biden, Kerry, Boxer – doesn't matter how liberal they've been in the past, they've failed the people miserably and have to pay a price – or we'll be paying it for the rest of our lives.

The Democrats in the Senate have got to understand NOW that they weren't elected to stand around decoratively and make pretty speeches, they were elected to fight for the people. If they won't do that, they've got to go – and if we can't find credible candidates to oppose them, we can use the recall against them.

One way or the other though, they must be held accountable. This crisis is in part of the Democrats' making – they didn't act when they could have, and they've got to understand that we will not tolerate any more dithering or self-serving compromises.

2. Street demonstrations, including nonviolent civil disobedience, at every public appearance by Bush and his cronies, including individual members of the Supreme Court

3. Creative civil disobedience that can be done at home – for example, we should find a federal tax, such as a tax on long distance calls, that people can refuse to pay. This form of protest was effective as a consciousness-raising device during Vietnam.

4. Law suits challenging the legality of everything the Bush government does.

5. Congressional Democrats ready to start today on the process of legally removing Bush, and impeaching Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist. Democratic Representative Alcee Hastings and other members of the Black Congressional Caucus appear to have the vision necessary to that task. We should be helping and supporting them.

 It's late in the day, but fortunately, as philosopher Arthur Evans, one of the founders of Gay Liberation, has observed, “the longstanding historical force of American democracy still lives to some degree, which wasn't the case in Germany. That force must be invoked with intelligence and vigor, to thwart the possible emergence of fascism here, and to return the country to its best democratic potentials.”

Arthur is right. And remember this: Fascists are bullies. Bullies are cowards. They feed on appeasement. They shrink from resistance. We must start resisting, effectively and meaningfully, NOW.

February 5, 2001
Bill Weintraub says he is indebted to Arthur Evans for critiquing this article and suggesting changes.

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