[ Proto-Fascism - seeding of the political ground for full-born
fascism, tends to move from threat to reality when principal segments
of finance capital no longer consider parliamentary democracy, their
preferred form of rule, to be a guarantor of their hegemony. That
tendency is increasingly global.] [https://portside.org/] 

 THE FASCIST THREAT AND HOW TO COMBAT IT  
[https://portside.org/2018-03-15/fascist-threat-and-how-combat-it] 

 

 Mark Solomon 
 March 10, 2018
Portside 

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 _ Proto-Fascism - seeding of the political ground for full-born
fascism, tends to move from threat to reality when principal segments
of finance capital no longer consider parliamentary democracy, their
preferred form of rule, to be a guarantor of their hegemony. That
tendency is increasingly global. _ 

 President Trump addressed troops at a Marine base in San Diego on
Tuesday. It was his first visit to California as president., Credit
Doug Mills/The New York Times 

 

Before tackling* the fascist threat, there is the challenge to define
its roots – a subject that has been, and remains, fraught with
controversy. Few, if any deny that fascism is manifested by its
anti-democratic, repressive, authoritarian, violent and racist
character. But there has been a long simmering debate over the social
forces that foment and drive it. Some argue that it is a violent
political expression of declassed, dispirited workers and lower middle
class elements stripped of economic and social viability, turning
their loss of status violently against adjacent political and/or
ethnic communities.  

The definition that holds up well in light of historical experience
remains that of the legendary antifascist George Dimitrov: “Fascism
is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most
chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital. …
Fascism is the government of finance capital itself. It is an assault
on organized labor and radical sectors of the intelligentsia. Fascism
in its foreign policy is the most brutal kind of chauvinism which
cultivates pathological hatred for other peoples.”   

That threat of fascism is borne out by the actions of the most
reactionary elements of big capital in the United States. They are
spending tens of millions through an elaborate network of ultra-right
foundations and think tanks aimed at strangling democracy and
advancing authoritarianism. Their genteel jackboots barely conceal
their fascist tendencies aimed at destroying organized labor,
stripping ameliorative social programs, despoiling the environment,
suppressing voting rights, deepening already vast inequality, building
a massive military, threatening immigrants, fomenting racial, ethnic
and gender division, aggrandizing and strengthening their chosen
vessel of arch reaction – Donald Trump. 

Proto-Fascism, the seeding of the political ground for full-bore
fascism, tends to move from threat to reality when principal segments
of finance capital no longer consider parliamentary democracy, their
preferred form of rule, to be a guarantor of their hegemony.  

That tendency towards fascism is increasingly global. It seeks to
redirect discontent with neoliberal globalization’s worldwide
assault on democracy and working class standards into reactionary
channels. Neoliberalism has spawned endless wars, economic stagnation,
uprooting of vast populations into migratory waves and religious,
racial and ethnic conflict. Those menacing circumstances have spurred
the most right wing of rulers to fan bigotry and cultivate
authoritarian movements that have taken power or experienced
significant growth in Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Turkey
Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Greece, France, Germany and other countries.
 

Proto Fascist movements are vehicles spurred by finance capital to
redirect the pain and grievance engendered by neoliberalism into
racist, anti-Semitic and ultra-nationalist channels. With shameless
demagogy, proto-fascism will rail against “elites” while upholding
the interests of the super rich.  

Donald Trump is the vessel of proto-fascist authoritarianism that
paves the way to fully developed fascism. His racism has a long
history and serves as the driver of “alt right” white nationalism
that in turn becomes the crucial force putting racism more than ever
at the heart of US capitalism – hurtling the entire system to the
repressive far right. The Southern Poverty Law Center has pointed to
Trump’s ascendance to the White House as the crucial factor that
gave sustenance to the torch-bearing “good people” at
Charlottesville, Virginia and accounts for the recent growth of a
variety of alt right, white nationalist, racist and ant-Semitic
organizations.  

Trump at bottom appears to be a hustler “petty bourgeois
imperialist.” He is angered at the European Community for not
granting licenses swiftly for building his golf courses. He uses his
presidential brand to fill his hotels and leverages his presidency to
obtain Chinese permission for his daughter to produce her myriad
products. With all that, Trump has turned out to be a mendacious
pliable billionaire for the coterie of billionaires that essentially
control him. 

In a larger sense, Trump’s hustling proclivities are of little
significance. His huge tax cuts for the rich and his massive military
buildup alone are enough to get the approval of the largely Republican
establishment as well as denizens of finance capital. Politicians of
both parties along with major media rarely publicly denounce Trump’s
extreme reactionary policies. Many condemn his style, settling on his
crude violations of the “norms” of the presidency – his
rudeness, his bumbling of ceremonial functions, his lies and
blathering tweets, etc. Big business has little complaint with
Trump’s presidency – unless he wanders too far off the political
reservation.  

Fascist threats have been around for a long time, exerting pressure
upon dominant ruling elements that have sought compromises with
opposing progressive political forces. During the Great Depression of
the 1930s, key elements of big capital under immense strain entered
into an historic compromise with the Roosevelt New Deal to recognize
unions and accept collective bargaining.  

That triggered a pushback at the extremes. Father Charles Coughlin and
his Social Justice movement set a record for demagogy – demanding
nationalization of railroads and major industries, defending labor
while criticizing Roosevelt for being too cozy with banks. However,
Coughlin had telegraphed his latent far right reaction, his virulent
anti-communism and his growing admiration for fascism. His disdain for
bankers morphed into hatred for “Jewish bankers,” taking him down
a monstrous anti-Semitic path of fascism. Ultimately, Coughlin’s
movement, along with William Dudley Pelley’s Silver Shirts and more
mainstream Charles Lindbergh’s “America First” neo-isolationism
never gained traction to challenge for power and never won support
from major sectors of finance capital that ultimately joined the
struggle against fascism in World War II.  

In July 1944, capitalist powers gathered at Bretton Hills New
Hampshire to create the architecture for postwar world capitalism
under US hegemony. Forging international rules regarding commercial
and financial relations, the US dollar was designated to serve as the
foundation for global monetary activity while the newly created
US-dominated International Monetary Fund and the World Bank locked
weakened and/or emerging economies into the capitalist world order.  

In the political sphere, postwar International organizing principles
reflected the bipolar reality of capitalist and socialist blocs. The
US-led capitalist bloc preferred stable parliamentary governments
based on formal electoral rules. However, potentially transformative
movements were subjected to subversion and/or violent suppression.
Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Haiti, Venezuela, Grenada, Panama, Honduras,
Cuba, Libya, Chile, “color revolutions” in Eastern Europe over
time represented a growing list of countries under assault for not
conforming to the requirements of the capitalist world system
fortified by its NATO military bloc and a massive US military
machine. 

However, an integrated capitalist order requires modestly binding
trade and regional security arrangements. Those obligations to global
capitalist order have traditionally been resisted by the most
chauvinist and nationalist sectors, largely situated in domestic
capital. That group manifests manic hostility to the United Nations,
rails against non-existent “world government” and “globalism,”
claiming that global commitments savage the country’s independence,
making it subservient to a vague but nefarious world order. The
“anti-globalists” are stridently opposed to reciprocal trade and
despite supposedly isolationist views, demand the massive buildup and
projection of military force all over the world.  

Domestically, the “anti-globalists” are determined to destroy the
last vestiges of New Deal protections for labor and the impoverished,
have contempt for environmental science and relentlessly peddle
anti-immigrant and other racist ideologies as primary vehicles to turn
the anger of alienated white workers away from the systemic sources of
their discontent. That is the basis for Trump’s assault on Mexicans,
Muslims, African Americans and others buttressed by an implied promise
to reclaim the fading dream of a “white man’s country.” 

Such outlooks rarely attained hegemony in the past. The situation
today is qualitatively different and more ominous with Donald Trump
occupying the White House. His “America First” doctrine has been a
potent pseudo-populist brew of promises to end the alleged humiliation
and neglect of “forgotten Americans.” Trump’s pledges to reverse
the supposed gulling of the United States by other countries’ trade
policies, resuscitate bygone manufactures and rebuild an already
bloated military are framed by an authoritarian guise that has even
targeted the FBI (itself the historic paragon of anti-democratic
repression) and other agencies of the alleged “deep state.”  

Trump’s tariff on steel and aluminum is a major salvo threatening to
sunder the unstable alliance of establishment “free trade”
right-wingers and the hard right “America First” contingent. While
the fissure over tariffs holds a prospect for weakening the white
nationalist-establishment alliance, there is little basis for
considering that break to be decisive. At root, the building of the
broadest, most united alliance of anti-fascist organizations and
individuals is the soundest road to defeating Trump and right wing
assaults on democracy and equality. 

The massive women’s marches at the start of the Trump presidency are
striking examples of the power of mass mobilization and of the unity
of diverse progressive forces. Resistance on such a massive scale,
resistance that reverberates in the streets and at the ballot boxes
– is a basic requirement for defeating the fascist threat and
setting the country on an irreversible progressive course.  

Recent battles have yielded a number of crucial needs in defeating the
fascist-tinged right. Below are a few that by no means exhaust the
list. 

·       There is an urgent need to link non-electoral
issue-focused movements with electoral challenges. The two modes of
struggle are inseparable and inter-dependent. It’s time to put to
rest old arguments that have only debilitated movements in both
arenas. The guiding principle should be mutual respect and cooperation
wherever possible. 

·       Electoral reform is a vital need. Most, if not all
components of the resistance should work against voter suppression and
gerrymandering. The racist and reactionary nature of voter suppression
should be exposed while the crucial role of the African American,
Latino and other oppressed nationality voters should be underscored. 

·       The movement for progress and against the fascist
threat needs to cohere and strengthen through “universalized
resistance” consolidated through mutual support among single-issue
and multi-issue formations. That mutual support has to embrace the
“me too” and “times up” phenomena as well as reproductive
choice organizations, environmental activists, human rights workers,
LGBTQ movements,  anti-poverty activists, the Movement for Black
Lives, the Poor People’s Campaign, single payer advocates, anti-war
activists, labor organizers in unions and communities, disabled,
senior and youth activists. All are objectively arrayed against the
fascist threat and all need to be valued and supported.  

·       The organizing principles of the Poor People’s
Campaign led by Rev. William Barber and the Movement for Black Lives
need to be studied and emulated. Those movements are committed to
fight the inseparable evils of inequality, racism and militarism. With
that perspective, they tear down political silos and eliminate the
needless tension between advancing economic struggles of largely white
workers and the specific struggles for liberation of women and
oppressed nationalities. 

·        Further, those movements challenge the relative
silence of progressive organizations on issues of war and empire.
Peace is an urgent, pivotal issue that can energize masses and is
essential to the survival of domestic social programs and to
eliminating the existential threat of thermonuclear war.  

·       The movement against the fascist threat needs to appeal
to white labor based on shared interests and shared struggles. The
experiences of the 1930s are instructive when white and black labor
joined to build the industrial union movement.  

·       The unity of left and center forces is essential to
combating the fascist threat. Within electoral politics, that unity
requires cooperation between the left represented by the Sanders
movement and centrist forces represented by the Clinton camp.
Admittedly, that is a complex challenge. The left, while seeking joint
efforts to defeat the far right, must not forsake its independent
positions – advocating its advanced programs as the surest path to
victory. While not forsaking that independence (and a commitment to
independent candidacies where possible) the left need not
simplistically attack Democratic centrists as neo-liberals hell-bent
on exacerbating inequality. The crucial task is to build a progressive
majority within the context of ending the Trump nightmare.

Ending the threat of fascism and defeating Trump is one of the most
important challenges in the country’s history. Progressives can be
inspired when it is noted that at crucial turning points – the Civil
War and the struggle against slavery, the Great Depression and the
building of industrial unionism, global unity to defeat of fascism in
World War II, the civil rights movement, the anti-Viet Nam war
movement – the vast majority made the right choices. Difficult
challenges can be faced with optimism and hope. Peace and equality
will win.

 

_* Adapted from a talk at the Deerfield (Florida) Progressive Forum,
January 27, 2018 _

_[Mark Solomon is a past national co-chair of the Committees of
Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and is an associate at the
W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at
the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. His latest published
writing is “After Sanders: Electoral Politics and Universalizing
Movements,” in Charles Derber’s “Welcome to the Revolution:
Universalizing Resistance for Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous
Times.” (Routledge 2017)]_

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