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The Essential Hypothetical in US Political Discourse

Permeation of the Fascist Mindset

by NORMAN POLLACK

Fascism in America is neither pure conjecture nor irresponsible name-calling. Its presence is manifest in numerous ways, from the Executive Power of a president to fight a two-front war on behalf of global domination, at home, unprecedented massive surveillance on the American people (with the chilling effect, slowly taking form, of silencing or narrowing the bounds of dissent), and abroad, itself two-pronged, a geopolitical paradigm, backed by (also unprecedented) military power, designed to weaken drastically both Russia and China through encirclement, containment, finally, economic and diplomatic neutralization as a factor in world politics.

Preeminence/hegemony has never been enough, since perhaps the conclusion of World War 2, for this global status had to be enjoyed unilaterally AND in a way that is intended to humiliate all potential or actual challengers, conveniently set against each other in a political-ideological dichotomization of the international system. The Cold War is largely America’s creation to achieve these purposes, inaugurated in the Pacific, months earlier, with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan (itself a warning to Russia in Manchuria and indigenous Left forces in China), and, in Europe, as set against a nearly prostrate Soviet Union amidst a Continent of devastation and rubble, the politicized use of food aid and economic assistance, culminating in the Marshall Plan two years later, to defeat indigenous Left forces in that region.

By 1950 America like previous Imperial historical ascendancies entered its own Age of Counterrevolution as the logical and necessary step to its consolidation of power, a reactive/defensive posture integral to seemingly progressive determinants of growth. Trade-and-investment expansion, cultural-ideological influence, a reputation for democracy, freedom, and social justice (never earned or justified in practice), all combined—the shadow of military prepotency hanging over the whole, except for the Korean War and countless smaller-scale interventions bringing it into the open—to give the impression of dynamism so often linked in popular thought with liberalism and Progress. A reverse dynamism is more like it, as though to be active is per se to be on the side of humanity (and deeper still, dynamism conveys force), which prejudges the content of action, assisted by the numbing and authoritarian consequences on the public mind that force induces in the personality, what Adorno and others showed in The Authoritarian Personality (1950) to be the character of authoritarian submission. The timing is significant, a prescient analysis in the take-off period, where liberalism wraps around an increasingly fascistic industrial-military structure, giving it democratic credentials and a clean bill of health as it seeks world dominance.

In this regard, McCarthyism and generalized anticommunism (which includes xenophobia and, with Taft-Hartley, the assault on labor organization) during the period and carried forward to the present under various guises, causes, and labels, is secondary and reinforcing to the main stem of repression and ideological closure in America, liberalism, loosely construed to embrace corporatism in American finance and industry, while the Right, thoroughly unsophisticated in the ways and needs of advanced capitalism, rebels at the regulatory framework monopoly capital erects for its protection via government-business interpenetration.

Today, Obama is the liberal champion of fascism, American-style. Massive surveillance is a surrogate for the concentration camp. Glenn Greenwald in No Place to Hide states what should have been said at the start in the reporting of Snowden’s disclosures: the chilling effect of surveillance on the American people as perhaps the primary intent of the NSA program, with counterterrorism a pretext for immobilizing the will for authentic democratic social change.
POTUS provides the rug under which is swept every noxious element of public policy, from deregulation, wealth concentration, and protection of business illegality and worse, in domestic affairs, and in foreign affairs an aggressive world posture of confrontation, intervention, regime change, and assassination, coupled with or accompanied by commercial-financial agreements for the maximization of US capitalist expansion. Pacific-first strategy and TransPacific Partnership, shoring up EU/NATO and precipitating conflict in Ukraine, these are the more obvious pursuits of a unitary policy of the militarization of the political economy for the totalization of America’s global power.
***
To illustrate the essential hypothetical, permeation of the fascist mindset in America, permit me to indulge in conjecture (itself the essence of hypothetical reasoning) in which, I believe, the foregoing is an accurate historical base from which the projection of fascist trends in society and the body politic is not unreasonable. My purpose is not satire (an easy escape from hard analysis) but an imaginative scenario of what portends if the military-financial trajectory of American capitalism is followed, as now seems to be the case.

American youth appear bewildered, clueless about the enforced compartmentalization of foreign and domestic policy, and even on the latter, beguiled by a POTUS incapable of treachery to working people, minorities, and youth (the newly-announced policy on making student loans less onerous will still fill the coffers of the banks), for an African-American would NEVER side with ruling groups, including military and intelligence elites, against the poor and currents of societal democratization in all facets of life. In foreign policy, the same: humanitarian interventionism is taken largely at face value, and even when not, hardly as important an area of well-being to American and world society as being politically correct on the culture wars (on which Obama fails even there, given his obsequious accommodation to Rightist views on gun control, abortion, etc.), not to say the nuts-and-bolts of hegemony itself, from Treasury policy to paramilitary operations, nuclear modernization, and prosecution of whistleblowers.

I confine my speculation to youth, basking in a self-imposed blissful ignorance, trained in the finer points of consumerism, chained to their assorted means of contact with the outside world, affording neither the room for interior emotional and intellectual development nor the satisfaction of intimate human contact. Privatism confronts a world of strangers; no wonder the indifference to the fate of others. The killing of children through collateral damage; the money and arms to overthrow elected governments; saturation bombing, as in shock and awe, to soften the Enemy—all of this happens to the other guy, miles away, no concern of ours. I envision then, a decade from now, as the summation of trends I have described, of the youth organized, wholly contrived, yet with the aura of spontaneity, of the YFA, Young Fascists of America, ages 14 through 22, with younger age groups internalizing more subtly the goals of nationalism, militarism, capitalism, ideal preparation, step-by-step, for entrance into the world of global leadership.

This need not be under government sponsorship, but rather at one step removed, the increasing role of NGOs in conducting state business (affording government deniability) while benefiting from off-budget appropriations from delegated government agencies, probably State, Treasury, CIA, and for absorbing or quelling workers’ discontent abroad, Labor and DOJ. YFA would find friends in high places, ranging from (based on existing sources) such organizations as Freedom House (and multiple think tanks similar in purpose), the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Federalist Society, to the Democratic National Committee and the revitalization of ADA. The key to youth ideological regimentation, as for society at large, is to keep liberalism front and center, what one might term, the liberalization of militarism, in order to salve injured consciences (if any there be) and disarm world opinion as the troops, private contractors, and investment bankers march in.

Obama is a prime signifier of what the future, even in the near-term (say, a decade) holds, for his Pacific Rim, West Point, and D-Day European trips already suggest, America is maneuvering into confrontation with China (his emphasis) and Russia (that of the foreign-policy establishment), awaiting the first pretext offered for a still unspecified level of military engagement which neither he nor his national security advisers shies away from, including nuclear war. Yes, 2014, not 2024, for staring into the ABYSS. For now, every means is taken to humiliate Putin (Ukraine) and Xi (cyber-espionage), in the hope they will take the bait. Whether the “soft footprint,” short of large-scale intervention and war, or preemptive nuclear strikes, Obama stays on talking point, recognizing that liberal internationalism (for the century past, beginning with Wilson) is the ideological paradigm of choice for waging armed conflict, enlisting the support on the home front while obfuscating the aims and purposes of foreign engagement to friend and foe alike.

Regrettably, this is true only up to a point. Unlike in Wilson’s time, despite the slogan of making the world safe for democracy, or maybe because of the thought behind it, that the world is worth saving, a cataclysmic social vision had been ruled out—and that, not because nuclear weapons were not present, but because utter nihilistic thinking, even were the prospect of the decline of capitalism imminent (which it was not), was still rejected as unworthy of Western civilization, philosophy, and geostrategic planning. Spengler was conspicuous for his failure. Now, Spenglerians cum Strangelovians are high in the saddle; thermonuclear obliteration of all perceived adversaries seems a more permanent solution to capitalist difficulties and emotionally captivating.

This is today, epitomized in the dystopian phenomenon of drone assassination. (In the recent prisoner exchange, Kerry hinted that the five Taliban members released could be subject to this fate.) Not even a decade hence. Do our political leaders, intelligence experts, military commanders play too many video games, confusing life in real time with personal amusement, or are the games meant to collapse the two (“bombers” sitting in air-conditioned comfort in Nevada, pressing a button and vaporizing an individual 8,000 miles away), so that war, murder, rapine become so impersonalized as to completely trivialize the killing of human beings? Have simulations of absolute destruction inured us to dangers of annihilation? It is wrong to assign causative value to the instruments we create; unlike Marx’s commodity fetishism they do not tyrannize over us. It is we who press the button.

I have commented before on Thanatosic seizure of the American imagination as the nation experiences its evolving decline (visit Detroit today as a glimpse of the future), a Freudian instinctual wish for death now contending with and all but trumping Eros, the outcome daily—with each new intervention, each new hedge-fund billionaire, each new dozens, hundreds, thousands falling into the American underclass—shifting in favor of the former. No, hardly habituation to video games; rather, our conduct and values appear to welcome the end, just so it’s done in high definition full color accompanied by a majestic anthem, these games being only a side order in the grand banquet of militarized cannibalism. The nation’s ruling groups, joined by the people, appear to welcome a definitive resolution of the decline of America. Thanks to the sanitization of war and killing at the hands of the propaganda of patriotism and the glamour of high-tech performance, the more ghoulish the more respectable become the practices—again, drone assassination, carrying a presidential imprimateur, says it all. To vaporize human beings in high tech fashion, similar to the technological achievement that allows NSA to conduct massive surveillance on the American people, speaks volumes about the soporiferous climate created by a totalitarian context, even now, in the present-day society, which utilizes technology for geopolitical and social-control ends.

Let’s not forget my imaginative scenario: ten years from now, YFA to emulate the values of their elders and replicate the preceding history of war, intervention, surveillance, as carrying forward the fascist mindset into the American future. Come with me into the scene, for like Hitler’s “Strength through Joy” movement, aimed in this case particularly at the youth, as a vanguard group, we see fitness as a national priority, taking the form, beyond athletics, of political exercise of a more untoward kind: beginning with uniforms, arm bands, torchlight parades through working class, minority, and immigrant neighborhoods, then turned specifically to incendiary attacks on radicals, stoning of women who seek independent selfhood, and VIOLENCE as standard practice to be directed against critics, dissenters, any and all known to object to intervention, abridgment of the right of privacy, social injustice, gross class differences of wealth and power, in sum, malcontents presumptively under the control of a foreign government.

***

Our hypothetical YFA will have arrived none too soon circa 2024, because some Americans, perhaps a considerable number, still value even now the Bill of Rights, concepts of rule of law and public welfare, and what soon may become other outmoded articles of faith in democratic government, all of which must be eradicated if monopoly capital is to realize what it takes to be its consummate promise: not democracy, but hierarchy, class-defined power, status, and privilege, effected on a permanent stabilized basis which forecloses alternative forms of social organization and paths of development. Toward a future America, what shall be sought, if the present is any indication, and radicalism does not rise to the challenge, is a citizenry in which no middle way is found between the absolutisms of Good and Evil, the former identified with the status quo in its full Rightist proportions, and the latter, all else that a patriotic ethnocentric, xenophobic mind can conjure up, including but not limited to radicalism, because all dissent, libertarian, vegetarian, you name it, will be feared and wherever possible laid to rest.

The Manichaeism epistemology, you’re for us or against us, no middle ground, the dualism as certificate of good conduct or Enemy of the State, already the operable methodology of Obama and his DOJ, is the seedbed which will blossom forth over time—a relatively quick time. One can foresee—I exaggerate? perhaps—banning Emerson and Thoreau for holding up the image of the autonomous individual, giant bonfires banning Marx for exposing the foundations and inner structure of capitalism, banning even the Beatles’ records because there might be hidden meanings in the lyrics.

Satire? Call it instead a projection of existing givens—trends clear to those not already brainwashed, from escalation of war-making activities, counterrevolutionary in spirit and purpose, to the eradication of privacy of the individual on a global basis, and in-between, the stabilization of a world system of capitalism modeled in all particulars after that of America’s. GM, JPMorganChase, Boeing, Monsanto, these exemplify what the world can expect from corporate guidance in fashioning a well-regulated social order where everyone knows his/her place in a pecking order of Liberal Totalitarianism, the wave of the future! Should the world refuse this invitation to American-style happiness, contentment, and assured superiority, hierarchically arranged, by class, race, nation, then divine retribution would surely follow, God’s instrument being US military-financial-commercial power, poised On High, to vanquish all nonbelievers, via nuclear war in the face of stubbornness or ignorance. YFA, if it came to pass, would be ready and willing to aid in this enterprise, in fact, its existence would be for that purpose.

No, not hooligans, that would be too simple by half. Dressed in black suit and tie, when that knock on the door comes, even in the middle of the night, don’t be alarmed, I caution my fellow citizens of the future, its members merely out selling cookies, not the kind attached to Internet servers, but genetic modified ones baked in the famous Monsanto kitchens, in several kinds, the historical series a best-seller, named for and carrying the autograph on the box of several bygone heroes: Brennan, Clapper, Kerry, Obama the premium item, red-white-and-blue, at modest extra cost. Eat and be merry, things, I want to assure them, could be worse. If so, I’m not exactly sure how.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.