Curtain Descending: Fascistization of America

When does a qualitative change occur in the course of a nation’s history, particularly when traces of the New appear steadily and throughout in the Old? Gradualism is deceptive. We conveniently think, e.g., of the Nazi Revolution, when in Germany, especially its Bismarckian side, exhibited an authoritarian bent that led to the cartelization of capitalism, from which internal hierarchy poisoned—from a democratic standpoint—social structure, ideology, political values, the people ground down into a uniform massive congealment of consciousness. The folk, its mystical antecedents in the distant past (Wagner’s creative energies did not arise in a vacuum), enveloped in fog, created a disposition to mythologize, under strong leadership, its mission in the world. Enter Hitler. If he didn’t exist, he would have had to be invented.

But he did, and the 20th century would never be the same. Weimar was part holding action, part churning out the social forces of the future (despite its astonishing gifts in literature, painting, architecture, etc.). Creativity is not a sure sign of democracy. Primordial structure and political economy roll again, perverting and taking hostage of whatever they touch, everything in their grasp. Germany could not escape its destiny, nor transcend its past.

Nor could America, a lineal pattern of development founded on capitalism (the relative absence of feudalism, but the presence of plantation slavery, made over however to ensure that itself was an adjunct of capitalism) which denied from the outset the equitable distribution of wealth and power, and thus foretold a future, not unlike that of Germany: homogenization of thought feeding into its own self-serving mythology of exceptionalism and national greatness. Both the US and Germany had vital labor movements—consensus, for America, quite meaningless until following World War II, political consciousness in Germany always facing a tough uphill battle.

Analogies abound where they are not expected, the appearance (only!) of freedom in America. its at best adulterated form in Germany. A convenient test of reality in this respect would be the prevalence of MILITARISM in the respective histories/political cultures, and here both pass with flying colors, America’s the more deceptive (though just as accentuated) because aligned with a “free world” (aka, entrepreneurial) mindset. Among the world’s most uncomplicated and intensive capitalistic formations—what I term its purist foundations—the US, one notes, provides the ideal social laboratory for testing the salience of capitalism, whether as alienation or the consolidation of industry and banking, or, a proclivity to military advancement.

One can perhaps only guess the reasons for the historical and societal alignment of capitalism and militarism, but if not divinely attributable it is possible to trace their close relationship to a demiurge of profit maximization, intracapitalist rivalry, and, since 1917, the fear of socialism. On these counts alone, even subtracting for cultural differences, America and Germany are not that far apart. But let’s leave Germany, and focus on America. (Japan, in its own way, would duplicate some of the features of the other two, particularly the genesis and mode of industrial organization.)
These preliminary observations are a way of saying, America today, under Trump, is not something new to its own internal history. We demonize Trump, when in reality he stands on the shoulders of American presidents, their parties, their policies, and their practices—in sum, government itself—going back in recognizable form to McKinley (Open Door), T. Roosevelt (battleship navy), and Wilson (liberal internationalism, i.e., antiradical global stabilization). To experience qualitative change, which I think Trump does bring on, because of its visibility and overtness, does not make light of the past, simply acknowledges the accretive details as making possible the turning of a corner long in the making. Trump is the face of capitalism approaching its undisguised capacity for inflicting harm. As a total social system we can expect more Trumps down the road, provided not interrupted by a nuclear holocaust.

The firing last night of the acting AG, the invitation to dissident State personnel to get lost, the obduracy on the immigration issue, the plutocratic underside of federal appointments, these are but straws in the wind. It can only get worse, and perhaps never better, as the Constitution becomes a freely interpreted document of political gangsterism and hatred for the “softness” of human rights. Capitalism has robbed Americans of compassion. The present crew will have it its own way, because the polity knows of no other way than showing deference to the sources of power, an elite structure combining capitalism and the state, the latter organized first and foremost to expanding the advantages of the former. Trump brings back the Social Darwinian features of the earlier capitalism (circa 1880s-90s) while projecting forward its totalitarian attributes looking to a dystopian future of further concentration, manipulation of the people, and war-provoking tendencies.

We’ve already seen these characteristics in more attenuated form (although Vietnam certified the cruelty and go-for-broke mental set energizing the momentum forward). Those looking back years from now may see in Trump the moderate or liberal fascist, so terrible what is yet, or maybe yet, to follow in his wake. All bets are now off. Let’s hear it for torture, for stripping the social safety net of significant protections, for a world of conflict (an ingrained doctrine of permanent war already on the table thanks to Obama, as a transitional figure), and for Fortress America solidified, thrown back on itself, when it becomes clear to the leadership in business and government that undisputed world dominance is no longer within reach. Plow on, Ship of State; take pride in the consistency of American capitalist development.

More articles by:

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

Weekend Edition
April 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Omar Shaban
Gaza’s New Conflict: COVID-19
Rob Urie
Work, Crisis and Pandemic
John Whitlow
Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Strange Things Happening Every Day
Jonathan Cook
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus
Paul Street
Silver Linings Amidst the Capitalist Coronavirus Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Control of Nature
Louis Proyect
COVID-19 and the “Just-in-Time” Supply Chain: Why Hospitals Ran Out of Ventilators and Grocery Stores Ran Out of Toilet Paper
Kathleen Wallace
The Highly Contagious Idea
Kenneth Good
The Apartheid Wars: Non-Accountability and Freedom for Perpetrators.
Andrew Levine
Democracy in America: Sorry, But You Can’t Get There from Here.
Ramzy Baroud
Tunisia Leads the Way: New Report Exposes Israel’s False Democracy
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the State-of-Emergency Pandemic
Matthew Stevenson
Will Trump Cancel the Election? Will the Democrats Dump Joe?
Ron Jacobs
Seattle—Anti-Capitalist Hotbed
Michael T. Klare
Avenger Planet: Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Mother Nature’s Response to Human Transgression?
Jack Rasmus
COVID-19 and the Forgotten Working Class
Werner Lange
The Madness of More Nukes and Less Rights in Pandemic Times
J.P. Linstroth
Why a Race is Not a Virus and a Virus is Not a Race
John Feffer
We Need a Coronavirus Truce
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”: the Ultimate Floating Signifier
Victor Grossman
Corona and What Then?
Katie Fite
Permanent Pandemic on Public Lands: Welfare Sheep Ranchers and Their Enablers Hold the West’s Bighorns Hostage
Patrick Bond
Covid-19 Attacks the Down-and-Out in Ultra-Unequal South Africa
Eve Ottenberg
Capitalism vs. Humanity
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 2: Panic On the Streets of Tehran
Jonas Ecke
Would Dying for the Economy Help Anybody?
Jeff Mackler
Capitalism is the Virus!
Andrew Moss
Incarceration, Detention, and Covid-19
Farzana Versey
Prayers, Piffle and Privation in the Time of Pandemic
Will Solomon
In the New Dystopia
Dean Baker
The Relative Generosity of the Economic Rescue Package: Boeing vs. Public Broadcasting
Dr. Leo Lopez, III
We Need a Lot More Transparency From the CDC
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Reflections on a Glass of Homemade Cider
Rashid Nuri
Homegrown Crisis Response: Who Grows Your Food?
Mark Luskus
Worst Case Scenario: Healthcare Workers Need Masks, ASAP
Volker Franke
The Virus That May Bring us Together
Mitchell Zimmerman
A Q & A on the GOP’s Call for Elder Sacrifice
Olfat al-Kurd
COVID-19 Could Be Catastrophic for Us: Notes From Gaza
Eileen Appelbaum - Roesmary Batt
Hospital Bailouts Begin…for Those Owned by Private Equity Firms
Nabri Ginwa
Jill Richardson
Efficiency vs. Resilience
Lee Ballinger
Eddie Van Halen and the Future of Humanity
David Yearsley
Beset by Bach
Robert Koehler
Developing a Vaccine Against War