“Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior
marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline,
humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of
unity, energy and purity, in which a massed-based party
of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but
effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons
democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence
and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal
cleansing and external expansion.”
-- Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism --
"Fascism is the pursuit of a transcendent and
cleansing nation-statism through paramilitarism."
-- Michael Mann, Fascists --
Fascism is "an ideology that strives to forge social rebirth
based on a holistic-national radical Third Way, though
in practice fascism has tended to stress style, especially
action and the charismatic leader, more than detailed
programme, and to engage in Manichean demonisation
of its enemies."
-- Roger Eatwell, "On Defining the ´Fascist Minimum´:
the centrality of ideology" --
Fascism is a regime that is simultaneously
"authoritarian," "social" and "popular."
-- Benito Mussolini, in R.J.B. Bosworth, Mussolini´s Italy:
Life under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945 --
“Fascism is a form of political and social behavior
that arises when the middle class, finding its hopes
frustrated by economic instability coupled with
political polarization and deadlock, abandons
traditional ideologies and turns, with the approbation
of police and military forces, to a poorly-defined
but emotionally appealing soteriology of national
unity, immediate and direct resolution of problems,
and intolerance for dissent.”
-- Chuck Anesi --
Trump or Hillary -- take your pick:
In one way or another, all of the above definitions apply to each of them.
As George Orwell observed, fascism is a word with manifold meanings. I would add that many of them are unconscious, which is why the more you try to define fascism, the more it slips away.
Every language has words like that.* Middle class, organic food, service sector, pornography, national security, sanity: everybody knows what those things are. On close analysis, however, their definitions melt in the hand.
Almost anything you say about fascism can be right -- and wrong.
For instance, the above definitions of fascism do not, in my opinion, emphasize sufficiently the corporatist state factor, i.e., corporatocracy. Decisions made by a fascist government are often not decisions made by a fascist government; they are made by that government´s partners, viz., big private enterprises. In Hitler´s Germany, the Krupp and IG Farben conglomerates were major players in public affairs. To a certain extent, a fascist government is left to advise and consent.
The key role payed by private enterprise in American fascism would account for why, among other things, a president does not consult first with experts on Syria about what to do in Syria. Instead, he calls Bill Gates.
If you believe it can´t happen here, please see this blog´s post "The Specter Haunting America: A Constitutional Dictatorship" (November 11, 2014). That article is read widely in the American heartland.
The constitutional dictatorship is the perfect governmental form for the new system ruling America.
As for what that system is...
Regular readers know our core tenet. Censored by the mass media and academia, you will find it only here:
"The First American Revolution, 1776-1789, transformed the political system from a monarchy not into a democracy but rather a ´политей´ or polity, i.e., a middle class-moderated, oligarchy/democracy hybrid inclined toward democracy.
The Second American Revolution, 2008-2009, changed the polity into an oligarchy with democratic residues, accessories. That change was normal, predictable; Aristotle analyzed it 2000 years ago.
The Third American Revolution will resurrect the polity but with greater power for democracy, less for the oligarchy." (The Big Movida: The Third American Revolution).
The Second American Revolution in 2008-9 ushered in an oligarchic system. Gigantic qualitative change was produced by quantitative addition:
American oligarchs stepped out from behind the curtain, held out their hands and, under the blazing lights of TV cameras worldwide, demanded taxpayer money. They received it.
The biggest economic crisis since the 1929 Great Depression provided the cover story. The federal "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act" of 2008 authorized up to $700 billion for the private sector. In reality, a trillion dollars were obligated out of a $13-trillion dollar economy.
What took place under the Bush and Obama administrations was a revolution in the true sense of the word, i.e., a change of, not in, political systems. It was so deep, it went unnoticed.
But not entirely.
* * *
America´s second revolution of 2008-9 was neither unprecedented nor unforeseen.
As noted above, 2,000 years ago, Aristotle analyzed the replacement of the polity -- the oligarchy/democracy hybrid moderated by a large middle class, which tends toward democracy -- by an oligarchy.
He warned that the cause of a polity´s demise is neither an outside enemy nor the poor nor the middle class, but the wealthy who want to convert the polity into an aristocracy:
"[Forgetting the claims of equity], they not only give more power to the well-to-do, but they also deceive the people [by fobbing them off with sham rights]. Illusory benefits must always produce real evils in the long run; and the encroachments made by the rich [under cover of such devices] are more destructive to a constitution than those of the people."[i]
Not only can it happen in America -- it did. The American polity created by the Founding Fathers in 1789 and admired throughout the world, is dead.
* * *
The Fourth Reich
Any serious discussion of the political system governing America today must include Alexis de Tocqueville.
If I could rescue only one book on American politics, I would pick his Democracy in America, volumes 1 and 2 (1835 and 1840). So would a lot of other people.
You won´t find the word fascist anywhere in Tocqueville´s writings. The word originated in Italy 1921. That fact makes him even more prescient in his portrayal of the phenomenon that would later be known as fascism.
Especially astonishing is the fact that portrayal focused on the United States, not Germany, Italy or Spain.
Tocqueville feared for the future of America. “I think that the type of oppression which menaces democratic peoples will be unlike anything that has come before it.”
He eloquently depicted an Orwellian, 1984 Big Brother society:
"I can imagine the new traits with which despotism could reproduce itself in the world:
I see an immense crowd of men all alike and equal who turn around themselves ceaselessly, in order to acquire small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill up their souls. Each one, marginalized, is a stranger to the destiny of all the others…, and although he may still have a family, it can be said that he has no country.
Above all of them is an immense, titular power, which designates itself to be the sole provider of their joys and to look over their fate. That power is absolute, detailed, regular, attentive, and soft. It would be like a paternal power if it had as a purpose the preparation of men to be adults; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them irrevocably in infancy. It wants its citizens to be joyful, as long as they dream only of being joyful. It works willingly for their happiness; but it wants to be the only agent and arbitrator of happiness. It provides for its citizens’ security, anticipates and takes care of their needs, facilitates their pleasures, takes in hand their major affairs, directs their industry, regulates their successions, divides their inheritances. Can it not take away entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?
Thus, with each day that passes, the titular power renders less useful and rarer the work of an independent arbitrator;…it does not break people’s wills, but it softens them, bends them, directs them. It rarely compels people to act, but it endlessly opposes their actions. It does not destroy, it stops from being born; it never tyrannizes, but it bothers, it upsets, it snuffs out, it creates problems, and it reduces in the end each nation to being a herd of timid and hardworking animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
I have always believed that sort of servitude, controlled, sweet and peaceful, which I have depicted, could combine itself better than is generally imagined with some of the exterior forms of liberty, and that it would not be impossible for it to establish itself in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people."[ii]
Trump or Hillary? Oligarch I or Oligarch II? Gross versus gentle violence?
Regardless who wins, the creep of fascism will continue: that is what matters. From small potatoes during McCarthyism in 1950-56, to Sarah Palin´s vice presidential bid in 2004, what was latent is now becoming manifest at logarithmically-increasing speed.
Whatever happens next week, fascists from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters will study Trump´s/Hillary´s mistakes, and make appropriate corrections. They have trainloads of money, and they know something: there is a next time.
Trump or Clinton, 2016 will be remembered as the year oligarchs made a landmark breakthrough. They converted the race to the White House into their favorite game:
Heads we win; tails, you lose.
Like it or not, knowingly or not, over a hundred million Americans will touch a screen or pull a lever, and play the game on November 8.
Update, November 8. It is election day, 8:28 a.m.
We will go ahead and call the election 53%-47% for Hillary. The two minor candidates are discounted. 53-47 is The Locker Split named for Art Locker, a close friend and outstanding legislation draftsman who passed away circa 1992.
We first wrote about The Locker Split on this blog four years ago; see our post of October 9, 2012 ("The Victory of Hugo Chávez: Post Mortem").
"The Locker Split holds that in Western nations, when election results are unknown, the best guess is 53% - 47%. To test the split, I will go ahead and call the American election next month 53%-47%.** For that matter, having no idea who the candidates will be, I will do the same for the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- assuming there is one.
The reasons for the Locker Split are complex. He and I discussed them at length. They boil down to the consummate political manifestation of the socio-economic correlation of forces in Western societies. That correlation is what makes them Western in the first place."
In summary, with the 53-47 Locker Split election call you will be right over 90% of the time within a plus-or-minus 2% margin of error.
The Locker Split merits more than one book. Let it suffice for now to note that in 2016, all the screaming, lies, accusations, sexism, threats, Trump sex tapes, racism, taunts, Clinton missing emails, insults, WikiLeaks revelations, clumsy and naive FBI intrusions, candidate bullying, and presidential yapping about the end of the world did nothing to change fundamental dimensions of American voting that have existed for decades.
To conclude: if The Locker Split holds tonight, it will mean that underneath all the noise and clutter, there lurked a very standard, predictable election.
*Another vintage ambiguous word: chingar (Spanish). The sexual act/destroy/failure/bother/succeed/violate/residue/break/excessive/-humiliate:
in his classic essay El Laberinto de la Soledad, Nobel prize winning Mexican author Octavio Paz tracked the meaning of chingar. In the end, he failed to find it. How could it have been otherwise?
[i] Aristotle, The Politics of Aristotle, translated and edited by Ernest Barker, Oxford University Press, New York, 1962, p. 186. (Book IV, Chapter XII). Brackets made by the translator.
Alexis de Tocqueville observed the same crossroad:
“Is it possible that, after having destroyed feudalism and defeated kings, that democracy will retreat before the bourgeoisie and the rich? Will democracy stop now that it has become so strong and its adversaries so weak?” (« Pense-t-on qu’après avoir détruit la féodalité et vaincu les rois, la démocratie reculera devant les bourgeois et les riches ? S’arrêtera-t-elle maintenant qu’elle est devenue si forte et ses adversaires si faibles ? » Alexis de Tocqueville, De La Démocratie en Amérique I, in Œuvres, Volume II, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Gallimard, Paris, 1992, pp. 6, 7. (« Introduction »). [My translation]
[ii] [« l’espèce d’oppression dont les peuples démocratiques sont menacés ne ressemblera à rien de ce qui l’a précédée dans le monde. »]
«Je veux imaginer sous quels traits nouveaux le despotisme pourrait se produire dans le monde. Je vois une foule innombrable d’hommes semblables et égaux qui tournent sans repos sur eux-mêmes pour se procurer de petits et vulgaires plaisirs, dont ils remplissent leur âme. Chacun d’eux, retiré à l’écart, est comme étranger à la destinée de tous les autres […] et, s’il lui reste encore une famille, on peut dire du moins qu’il n’a plus de patrie.
Au-dessus de [tous] s’élève un pouvoir immense et tutélaire, qui se charge seul d’assurer leur jouissance et de veiller sur leur sort. Il est absolu, détaillé, régulier, prévoyant et doux. Il ressemblerait à la puissance paternelle si, comme elle, il avait pour objet de préparer les hommes à l’âge viril ; mais il ne cherche, au contraire, qu’à les fixer irrévocablement dans l’enfance ; il aime que les citoyens se réjouissent, pourvu qu’ils ne songent qu’à se réjouir. Il travaille volontiers à leur bonheur ; mais il veut en être l’unique agent et le seul arbitre ; il pourvoit à leur sécurité, prévoit et assure leurs besoins, facilite leurs plaisirs, conduit leurs principales affaires, dirige leur industrie, règle leurs successions, divise leurs héritages ; que ne peut-il leur ôter entièrement le trouble de penser et la peine de vivre ?
C’est ainsi qu tous les jours il rend moins utile et plus rare l’emploi du libre arbitre ; […] il ne brise pas les volontés, mais il les amollit, les plie et les dirige ; il force rarement d’agir, mais il s’oppose sans cesse à ce qu’on agisse ; il ne détruit point, il empêche de naître; il ne tyrannise point, il gêne, il comprime, il énerve, il éteint, il hébète, et il réduit enfin chaque nation à n’être plus qu’un troupeau d’animaux timides et industrieux, dont le gouvernement est le berger.
J’ai toujours cru que cette sorte de servitude, réglée, douce et paisible, dont je viens de faire le tableau, pourrait se combiner mieux qu’on ne l’imagine avec quelques-unes des formes extérieures de la liberté, et qu’il ne lui serait pas impossible de s’établir à l’ombre même de la souveraineté du peuple.» [My translation]
Alexis de Tocqueville, De La Démocratie en Amérique II, in Œuvres, op.cit., pp. 836-8. (IV, VI).
**The official, final numbers for the 2012 presidential election: Obama 52% (actually 51.96%), 48% Romney. The Locker Split was 1% off the mark -- well within our plus-or-minus 2% margin of error.
By not doing -- and not paying for -- a poll, The Locker Split in 2012 beat the projections of numerous polling firms. Two specific cases: on election eve the Rasmussen Tracking Poll showed 49% for Romney, 48% for Obama. The Gallup Poll on the same day showed Romney with 50%, Obama 49%. To see how other polling firms fared, click here.
Conclusion: In the absence of more information, sometimes more information is not needed.