Posts Tagged ‘Nazism’


(We ran an earlier, considerably shorter version of this post in September 2013. As you might have noticed, things have changed a bit since then.)

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REFERENCES TO FASCISM abound in American political discourse. Unfortunately, most of those using the term wouldn’t recognize fascism if it bit ’em on the butt, and use it as a catch-all pejorative for anything or anyone they dislike. But the term does have a specific meaning.

Very briefly, as exemplified in Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, fascism is an extreme right political-economic system (which Mussolini dubbed “the corporate state”), the key features of which are strident nationalism, militarism and military worship, a one-party state, a dictatorial leader with a personality cult, a capitalist economic system integrated with state institutions (to the mutual benefit of capitalists and fascist politicians), suppression of independent unions, suppression of civil liberties and all forms of political opposition, and an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy.

The racism, racial scapegoating, and racial persecution that permeated German fascism are not part of fascism per se, unless one wants to classify extreme nationalism as racism. There’s a case to be made for that, but for now let’s consider them as separate maladies. As well, since the topic of this post is the comparison of Nazi Germany to the U.S.A., we will consider racism as well as fascism in the comparisons.

Getting to the headline topic, just how similar is the present-day U.S. to Nazi Germany? Let’s look at specifics:

Nationalism

  • Nazi Germany: Deutschland Uber Alles
  • US.: “American exceptionalism,” “God Bless America,” “Manifest Destiny,” etc.

Corporate Capitalist Domination

  • Nazi Germany: The German industrialists (notably the Krup armaments company) were key Hitler backers, and benefited handsomely from his rule.
  • U.S.: Trump has filled his cabinet with people from the fossil fuel industries (Rex Tillerson, et al.) and big banks, notably Goldman Sachs (Steven Mnuchin, et al.); Obama’s primary 2008 backers were Wall Street firms and the pharmaceutical companies; Bush/Cheney’s were the energy companies’ boys, etc.

Militarism

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis  constructed the world’s most powerful military in six years (1933-1939).
  • U.S.: U.S. military spending currently accounts for approximately 43% of the world’s military spending; the U.S. has hundreds of military bases overseas; and Trump wants to increase military spending.

Military Worship

  • Nazi Germany: Do I really need to cite examples?
  • U.S.: “Support our troops!” “Our heroes!” “Thank you for your service!” Military worship is almost a state religion in the United States. Tune in to almost any baseball broadcast for abundant examples; this worship even extends to those on what passes for the left in the United States: Michael Moore, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow.

Military Aggression

  • Nazi Germany: “Lebensraum”–you know the rest.
  • U.S.: To cite only examples from the last half century where there were significant numbers of “boots on the ground,” Vietnam (1959-1973), the Dominican Republic (1965), Cambodia (1970), Grenada (1983), Panama (1988-1990), Kuwait/Iraq (1991), Afghanistan (2001-present), Iraq (2003-2011). And this doesn’t even include bombing campaigns and drone warfare.

Incarceration Rates

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis built concentration camps holding (and exterminating) millions, and employing slave labor.
  • U.S.: In comparison, the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world, far outstripping China, with only Russia’s incarceration rate being anywhere near that of the U.S. Slave labor is routine in America’s prisons.

Justice System

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis had a three-tiered “justice” system: one for the rich and powerful (who could get away with virtually anything); a second for the average citizen; a third for despised minorities and political foes.
  • U.S.: There’s also a three-tiered “justice” system here: one for the rich and powerful (who can get away with virtually anything); a second for middle-class white people; and a third for everyone else. It’s no accident that America’s prisons are filled with poor people, especially blacks and hispanics. At the same time cops routinely get away with murder of blacks, hispanics, and poor whites. Obama’s “Justice” Department never even investigated the largest financial fraud in world history that led to the 2008 crash, let alone charged those responsible; prosecutors routinely pile on charges against average citizens to blackmail them into plea bargaining and pleading guilty to charges of which they’re not guilty; and the Obama Administration (and now the Trump Administration) viciously goes after whistleblowers and reporters, who have exposed its wrongdoing–Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, James Risen, et al.

Suppression of Unions

  • Nazi Germany: In Nazi Germany, the government tightly controlled the unions, and used them as arms of the state.
  • U.S.: In the U.S., the government merely suppresses strikes when “in the national interest” and allows corporations to crush union organizing drives through intimidation and by firing anyone who dares to attempt to organize. (Admittedly, the sell-out, visionless AFL-CIO unions bear considerable responsibility for this sad state of affairs.)

Free Speech

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression of free speech; direct government control of the media.
  • U.S.: There’s near total corporate control of the media, and suppression of free speech when it shows the faintest sign of threatening, or even embarrassing, the government or the corporations that control the government. Obama’s war on whistleblowers and reporters — and now Trump’s — is only the latest example. Of late, Trump has upped the ante, routinely attacking journalists who report anything even slightly embarrassing to him, or who point out any of his almost innumerable lies.

Other Civil Liberties

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression.
  • U.S.: Suppression when individuals exercising those liberties show the faintest sign of threatening the government or the corporations that control the government. The coordinated suppression (by the FBI, local governments, and corporate security agencies) of the Occupy Movement nationwide is the latest large-scale example.

Government Spying

  • Nazi Germany: The government had a massive eavesdropping operation. No citizen was safe from government scrutiny.
  • U.S.: The FBI, DHS, and NSA make the Nazis look like amateurs.

Free Elections

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression
  • U.S.: U.S. citizens have the opportunity to vote for the millionaire representatives (over half of congress at last count) of the two wings of the property party: one wing being authoritarian, corporate-servant, crazy theofascists (yes, they meet the definition), the other wing being merely authoritarian corporate servants who routinely betray those who elect them. It’s also pertinent that the Republicans are doing their best to destroy what passes for American electoral democracy through egregious gerrymandering and voter suppression on an industrial scale.

Racism

  • Nazi Germany: Do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: (We’ll restrict ourselves here to the present.) The “justice” system imprisons blacks at a rate over five times that of whites, and hispanics at a rate about 30% higher than whites. Cops routinely get away with murdering poor people, a disproportionate number of them blacks and hispanics. Median household wealth for whites is 13 times that of blacks. And median household income for whites is 60% higher than that of blacks and hispanics. Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and racial scapegoating of Mexicans is merely the cherry atop this merde sundae.

Personality Cult

  • Nazi Germany: Again, do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: Trump worship is rampant on the evangelical right, who see this steaming pile of hypocrisy and narcissism as the means to their vicious ends. And Trump encourages sycophancy. The cringe-inducing filmed cabinet meeting a couple of months ago in which the cabinet secretaries heaped fulsome (in both senses of the word) praise and thanks on the dear leader is but one example. Another example: Yesterday, presidential aide and Trump toady Steven Miller said on Fox “News” that Trump — who would likely flunk a fourth-grade English test — was the “best orator to hold that office [president] in generations.”

Yes, there are very significant differences between Nazi Germany and the U.S. But they seem to grow smaller with every passing day.

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Sheldon Wolin

“The crucial element that sets off inverted totalitarianism from Nazism is that while the latter imposed a regime of mobilization upon its citizenry, inverted totalitarianism works to depoliticize its citizens, thus paying a left-handed compliment to the prior experience of democratization. Where the Nazis strove to give the masses a sense of collective power and confidence, Kraft durch Freude (or ‘strength through joy’), the inverted regime promotes a sense of weakness, collective futility that culminates in the erosion of the democratic faith, in political apathy and the privatization of the self. Where the Nazis wanted a continuously mobilized society that would support its masters without complaint and enthusiastically vote ‘yes’ at the managed plebiscites, the elite of inverted totalitarianism wants a politically demobilized society that hardly votes at all.”

–Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision, quoted by Chris Hedges in “Shut Down the Democratic National Convention


Donald Trump

 

by Chaz Bufe, co-author The Anarchist Cookbook

 

In recent days, many leftist commentators have suggested that Donald Trump is a fascist. Neglecting that both leftists and rightists routinely and grossly misuse the term — applying it as a pejorative to anything or anyone they dislike — and that most of them have no more understanding of fascism than a dog does of calculus, is there any merit to such accusations?

Before answering that question, we’ll need to look at what fascism actually is. Here, we’ll take the examples of Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

  • the government’s stock in trade was patriotic and nationalist appeals, sometimes but not always targeting minorities (Hitler did; Mussolini only did so under intense pressure from Germany);
  • the head of state was a demagogue, a megalomaniacal, narcissistic, pathological liar who attempted to present a folksy image (more so in the case of Hitler than Mussolini);
  • the demagogue frequently cited the nation’s past glories, and promised to restore it to greatness;
  • the economic system was capitalist and dominated by big corporations;
  • the government operated for the benefit of big business (Mussolini proudly referred to fascist Italy as a “corporate state”);
  • civil liberties were systematically suppressed in the name of national security;
  • the government routinely used brutal means to maintain itself in power;
  • the mass media was subservient to the government and  big business;
  • the nation’s wealth was squandered on a huge military machine;
  • military worship was practically a state religion;
  • the nation had an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy;
  • small, helpless countries were the objects of invasion;
  • a majority of the people enthusiastically supported those military adventures;
  • there were huge disparities in the distribution of wealth and income;
  • the rights of working people to organize were severely restricted;
  • the unions served to preserve the status quo;
  • the government routinely intruded into individuals’ private lives;
  • abortion was outlawed;
  • the government embarked on a massive prison-building spree, while locking up millions of its own citizens (far more in Germany than in Italy);
  • and logic, skepticism, and rationality were ridiculed, while mysticism, “spirituality,” and “patriotism” (blind support of the government) were considered the highest virtues.

(Readers interested in the nature of fascism would do well to consult Daniel Guerin’s Fascism and Big Business, William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism.)

Neglecting the many disturbing parallels between fascist Italy and Germany, and the present-day United States, is it fair to label Trump a fascist? He does use patriotic and nationalist appeals; he does target already persecuted minorities; he does routinely cite America’s past glories and promises to make it “great” again; he is a megalomaniacal, narcissistic demagogue; he is the personification of big business and the huge disparity of wealth and income in the U.S.; he’s in favor of an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy; and he’s in favor of exceptionally brutal use of government force (waterboarding those he considers enemies and murdering the families of ISIS members).

But how much does this distinguish him from the other presidential candidates? Almost all of them, Democrats and Republicans alike, use patriotic and nationalist appeals. By definition, they’re almost all narcissistic megalomaniacs–you’d almost have to be to seek the office. Almost all of them–including, very much so, Hillary Clinton–are business-as-usual types backed by the big corporations and by billionaires, who expect–and will receive–something for their money. Almost all of them, with the exceptions of Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul, are in favor of curtailing civil liberties in the name of security. Virtually all of them worship at the altar of the military. All of them, with the notable exceptions of Rand Paul and, to a lesser extent, Bernie Sanders, are in favor of an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy. All of them are in favor of government intrusion into the private lives of individuals (except for Rand Paul, they at least tepidly support the “war on drugs” and, including Paul, but not Sanders or Clinton, oppose reproductive rights). And virtually all of them, with the exceptions of Bernie Sanders and, one suspects (though they don’t dare say so) Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton, are confirmed religious irrationalists.

So, taking away Trump’s bigoted comments about Mexicans and Muslims, what is there to set Donald Trump apart from the other candidates? What is there that marks him singularly as a fascist?

Not much. Trump is simply more open about his views than the other presidential candidates. They’re horrified not because they disagree with Trump, but because he’s let the cat out of the bag.

Back in the ’80s, there was a book called Friendly Fascism. It’s an apt term. If you go by the support for, passive acceptance of, or participation in most of the matters mentioned in the bullet list, it’s fair to describe almost all of the Republican and Democratic candidates as “friendly fascists.”

Trump is different. He’s an unfriendly one.