About My “Facilitation of, and Collaboration with, Fascism”

A Response to the Lying Slanderers of the RCP

I notice that a recent column of mine (Aug. 13) has occasioned the posting of a rebuttal (of sorts) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and some of its supporters including a few CounterPunchers.

My column was titled, “The RCP, Fascism, and Chairman Bob’s Endorsement of Biden for President.” In it I discussed the rather remarkable fact that the historically Maoist party was for the first time urging supporters to both participate in a bourgeois election, and to vote specifically for Biden. I reviewed their logic, which boils down to: This time is different, because Trump is a fascist!

I noted that the RCP has referred to Trump as a “fascist” from his first day in office, and that it has used the term more as an epithet than analytical category.

I had the temerity to make some historical comparisons between the contemporary U.S. and fascist states, noting especially the role of WAR in German, Italian and Japanese fascisms and Trump’s record as the least warlike president since Carter. I noted that Biden has a long record as a warmonger and questioned whether there was truly a clear choice here between fascism and something else.

The RCP reply was: “A Letter on Gary Leupp’s ‘ The RCP, Fascism, and Chairman Bob’s Endorsement of Biden for President.'”

It begins boldly: “Lies, slanders, distortions, and ad hominem attacks don’t constitute substantive discussion, debate and controversy – they prevent it.” They thus charge me from the outset with a slough of sins.

But the authors—“people from different perspectives,” but led by longtime RCP writer Larry Everest—don’t in fact identify any “lies, slanders, distortions or ad hominem attacks” in my piece. Their main problems involve respectful protocols.

I referred to Avakian as “Chairman Bob.” I’m told the party doesn’t call him that. So I guess that was an ad hominem attack? And I’m informed that Avakian hasn’t “endorsed” Biden. I figured that since he’s telling people to vote for Biden, that’s sort of endorsement by definition. But maybe that was a distortion?

In fact there is nothing in the Everest letter to rebut. It’s just an attack on me for criticizing the RCP, like it’s an attack on the revolution that only they can deliver. The RCP believes that the “body of work” of their chairman embodies the “science of Marxism” and so people like myself raising questions are not helpful. Part of the Avakian cult involves the notion that he has produced a “new synthesis of communism” but when you ask them to summarize what that means they’re likely to refer you to Avakian’s body of work and ask you to “engage” it personally.

But please (if interested) look at the column yourself. The RCP used it mainly as the opportunity to insist that Counterpunch post-Avakian’s original statement. An insistence, as it were, for equal time.

If the Counterpunch piece is vapid, the RCP website features a longer response. It accuses me of being “actively complicit in Trumpian fascism.” Talk about “lies, slanders, distortions, and ad hominem attacks”!

“Leupp’s apologia for—indeed, his facilitation of and collaboration with—fascism would be a
joke if it was not so dangerous, downplaying the danger of fascism consolidating in the U.S. with the fascist Trump/Pence regime, and the stakes for humanity. Leupp’s screed in a progressive site is aimed to “calm the masses” and rationalize paralysis and inaction. As such, it is morally bankrupt. Methodologically, by saying that one historical phenomenon must literally track another in every aspect, Leupp would make it impossible to draw lessons from things with similar dynamics that would obviously and naturally differ in certain particulars.”

The RCP is accusing me of “active collaboration” with Trump. Because I wrote that I wouldn’t vote for Biden, I am an “apologist for fascism.” That’s slander, surely.

I am accused of trying to “calm the masses” (that’s a first for me!) and rationalize “paralysis” (in the form of not voting?). More lies and slander.

Did I say “one historical phenomenon must literally track another in every aspect”? No, that’s not something any historian would say. That’s a lie, surely a distortion of my nuanced piece.

Why does any of this matter? The RCP is a tiny party. But the point is not the group, rather the issue of fascism as deployed by the group. In this case, the advocacy of voting specifically to prevent or defeat fascism.

Bear with me as I explain my thinking.

It seems to me quite likely that Joe Biden will be elected in November. He has stated that Ukraine will be at the top of his foreign policy priorities. He continues to focus on Ukrainian corruption. Why? And why was he so involved in that issue as vice president? Because a too-corrupt Ukraine can’t join NATO! The plan is: clean up corruption, get Ukraine into NATO, and then (as is the norm) join the EU.

The planned inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO was announced in 2008 but since delayed, mostly due to rational German hesitation to provoke Russia. Biden is a major proponent of expansion.

I believe that the expansion of NATO since 1999, with the ultimate design of encircling Russia, is the most likely trigger of another world war. The organization’s relentless expansion, contrary to the promise that George H. W. Bush had made to Mikhail Gorbachev (that NATO would not expand “one inch” eastward after 1989), can only be seen by Russia as threatening. This is why the Russians invaded Georgia in 2008 (recall how John McCain urged war at the time) and re-annexed Crimea to secure its Sevastopol naval base in 2014.

The Trump period has seen further expansion of NATO (to include Montenegro and Northern Macedonia) and a substantial increase in European spending at Trump’s insistence. But he began his term dubious about NATO’s ongoing “relevance.” (Recall how that panicked all mainstream commentators. How could any U.S. politician question the “Atlantic Alliance” and the diplomatic architecture that has “maintained security and peace” in Europe since 1945?)

Trump has treated his European allies as ingrates ripping off the American taxpayer, and is withdrawing thousands of troops from Germany, for whatever reasons. He has avoided conflict with Russia, even while boasting that he has applied the toughest sanctions ever against Moscow. He even flirted at one point with recognizing Russian sovereignty over Crimea.

Biden on the other hand is an ardent NATO supporter. I can envision, after the election, a changed, progressive atmosphere for a time. Statues of racists falling all over the U.S. and progressive new laws being passed—while Joe Biden and Secretary of State Susan Rice push for Ukraine’s membership, the Donbas region requests Russian annexation, Moscow (which has been denying the requests) annexes the Donbas prior to NATO admission and the U.S. is involved in a war that would make Iraq look like a picnic. And I can see war leading to a massive crackdown on dissent in this country, and yes, maybe fascism. Real fascism.

The darkness of these times may cause us to forget the horror of past administrations, at least that inflicted abroad. Barack Obama following Hillary Clinton’s counsel led in the destruction of Africa’s most affluent country, Libya. The country has been in chaos and misery since 2011. The destruction of Libya was a towering crime. What action of Trump anywhere in the world can rival it?

What if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016? What if she had done what she threatened to do—declare a “no-fly” zone over Syria to obtain regime change—and Russian planes had shot down the invading aircraft? The eternal “Goldwater Girl” had advocated the use of NATO to destroy Serbia between 1995 and 1999 (the first such use of NATO in warfare ever!) and had been an energetic supporter of the Iraq War based on lies. Would the U.S. be occupying Damascus now and shooting Syrian kids?

I was shocked by Trump’s victory in 2016. But my strongest reaction was relief that Hillary Clinton would not be in power and in a position to invade Syria. What if she had started a full-scale war in Syria, like Iraq, like Afghanistan? “Well, at least she’s not fascist,” would you say?

What if Biden does it? “Well, he’s a decent man, anyway,” you say? “He’s compassionate and empathetic; he’s known pain.” So?

I realize that many Biden voters are “lesser evil” voters and planning to push for a progressive agenda, despite him, after his victory. But they are not necessarily thinking in global terms. There are very “progressive” politicians who talk all the right talk on race and gender in this country and yet swallow whole the bipartisan articles of faith: Russia is for some reason our main “adversary,” China another “adversary,” the NATO alliance and that with Japan are the pillars of international stability.

One can be passionately anti-racist and maybe anti-fascist and yet convinced that Iraq War vets somehow “fought for our freedom” when they did no such thing, such that we should tell them: “Thank you for your service.” That is, you can be progressive and confused at the same time.

Confusion about what fascism is (and is not) is dangerous. Fascism remains a question for discussion, which is why I bother to write this.

But you see, the RCP already had the answer the day after the election, when it already announced that the Trump administration was fascist. Why should any further analysis be necessary? Shouldn’t the party at the time have lamented Hillary’s loss—her being non-fascist and all? And summed up that the people should have voted for her—like Avakian says we should all vote for Biden now, to prevent fascism?

When Condi Rice announced in 2008 that the U.S. was recognizing Kosovo, a province of Serbia wrenched from it by NATO in 1999, she called it a “sui generis” thing, that is, a totally unique case. The fact is it was a violation of international law and likely to be repeated. Perhaps the RCP thinks the 2020 election is a sui generis thing, after which the party will return to its historical position of rejecting elections as a “trap.” Or who knows, perhaps Avakian himself will run.

Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu