The American ruling class has not yet had to play the fascism card because it doesn’t have to. There is no immediate threat to it. Unlike in 1933 in Germany, there is no mass socialist party. There is no large coherent Black movement. There is no powerful union movement. There is no economic crisis, as of yet.
Because it is easier and cheaper, capitalism prefers to rule with the charade of democracy, which is precisely what we have in the two-party system. Both parties are capitalist parties. Both are funded by large capitalist interests and in fact the Democratic Party receives more dark money than the Republicans. One party poses as a better one. Some people vote for it as the lesser of two evils. But it reality, in the words of the late Glen Ford, The Democratic Party is “the more effective of two evils.“
Even though fascism is not an immediate threat that is not to say that it is not picking up steam. It is. Fascism is inherent in capitalism and its forces have been gaining more power starting with the neo-liberalism of the Reagan era, then spreading through to the Clinton, Carter, Obama and Biden administrations. Biden had promised the ruling elite that “nothing will fundamentally change” and it hasn’t. This is a recipe to encourage the unfolding of American fascism.
We have seen more overt signs of fascism culminating with Trump with his racist white nationalism, extreme nationalism, his anti-woman opposition to their need to control their own bodies, the use of the big lie alleging that the election was stolen, his threatening of the press as “the enemy of the people“, his overt cruelty, his anti-immigrant policies, and the attack on voting rights.
The right wing controls 22 state legislatures and governorships as compared to 15 by the Democrats. In addition to gerrymandering, they have changed the election laws in a number of states by both limiting where people may vote, when they may vote, and have given authority to officials to ignore the vote altogether.
The ultimate attack on democracy was the January 6 attempted coup to keep him in power. The attempt was a political effort to legitimatize and normalize white minority rule. It has recently been revealed that Trump had a 38-page plan to overturn the vote in order to stay in power but Vice President Mike Pence would not go along with the plan. Eleven people have been indicted for seditious conspiracy, so far. But Trump did not have the necessary support for a coup in the military, amongst the corporate ruling class, in the national security agencies, or in the media.
As Noam Chomsky has stated, the January 6 events show that the “limited political democracy that still exists is hanging by a delicate thread.“ “The lines between democracy and authoritarianism are collapsing “ as Henry Giroux has observed.
The Republicans have rejected democratic, with a small “D”, politics. They have greenlighted violence. Which, as H. Rap Brown, now Jamil al- Amin, the political prisoner and former head of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, has observed, “Is as American as cherry pie.“ The American form of authoritarianism has been revealing itself. Henry Giroux has commented, “there is no single version of fascism“. The great French anarchist scholar Daniel Guerin, who wrote the classic “Facism and Big Business“, demonstrated that there are many fascisms. The American form is distinguished from the fascism that developed in Germany or Italy or Spain by its white Christian nationalism.
Violence is endemic to fascism. The Democratic Party cannot be trusted to do a good job in defending us. As Sheldon Wolin has said about them, they are the “inauthentic opposition“. The Democratic Party has been supine. They will not mobilize the American population in its own defense. Instead they are playing around with a congressional inquiry over the events of January 6th. Their inquiry is now over a year old and has been remarkably unproductive. Biden did not even mention it in the state of the union speech.
The only effective way to fight fascism is through a political program that appeals to the needs of the masses of the American people and the development of a political organization to advance that program.
This cannot and will not be accomplished by working in the Democratic Party. The demands that such a movement would put forward would likely be community control of the police, a huge reduction in the military budget, a cancellation of the student debt, and end to mass incarceration, well paying jobs for all, a guaranteed annual income, socialized medicine, free education through college, adequate housing for all, drastic policies to avert the unfolding climate catastrophe, the closing down of American military bases around the world, and the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Social change as we all know comes from below. We know along with Frederick Douglass that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did. It never will.“ But to harness the power from below we need an effective leadership. We need to create our own political party. The potential for American resistance was most recently and powerfully revealed in the 20,000,000+ demonstrations of people both Black and white, against racist police violence. Before that we had the Occupy Wall Street movement popularized the notion that one percent of the population is a ruling class.
We will certainly see more of this activity in the streets. Our challenge is to pull it together, harness its energy, and lead it to victory. After all, we only need to win once.
Michael Steven Smith