[sixties-l] Fwd: Fascism In a Pin Striped Suit - Dr Michael Parenti

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Wed Jun 14 2000 - 18:25:59 CUT

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    Fascism in a Pinstriped Suit

    by Dr. Michael Parenti

    If fascism came to America, some say it would be an unbearable nightmare
    drastically disrupting the everyday pattern of our lives. And since our
    lives seem to retain their normal pattern, it follows that fascism has not
    taken over. In actuality, however, the fascist state, like all states, has
    no need to make nightmarish intrusions into the trivia of every citizen's

    The Orwellian image of Big Brother commanding an obscure citizen to do his
    morning exercises via two-way television leaves us with a grossly
    exaggerated caricature of the authoritarian state. Rather than alerting us
    to more realistic dangers, novels like1984 cloud our vision with fanciful
    horrors of the future, thereby making the present look not all that bad in
    comparison, and leaving us the more convinced that there is no cause for

    The dirty truth is that many people find fascism to be not particularly
    horrible. I once asked some Iranian business people to describe what life
    had been like under the Shah's police state. "It was perfect," they
    responded. Workers and servants could be cheaply procured, profits were
    high, and they lived very well. To be sure, fascism is not perfect for
    everyone. Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany inflicted a great deal of
    intentional hardship upon working people, including the destruction of
    labor unions, the loss of job benefits, and a shift in national income
    from the lower and middle classes to the upper class. Many among the petite
    bourgeoisie in Germany, who generally supported the Nazi party, suffered
    the loss of their small businesses and the dread slippage into working
    class ranks - with jobs in the armaments factories, when they were lucky
    enough to find employment. The number of Germans who lived in poverty and
    want increased substantially as wages were cut by as much as forty

    Those who equate fascism with the horrors of Auschwitz are correct in
    their moral condemnation but mistaken in their sense of sequence. The
    worst of Auschwitz did not come until the war years. As late as 1939, the
    Nazi state was still pursuing a policy of encouraging, and more often
    forcing, the emigration of Jews to other lands. Mass liquidation as a
    "final solution" was not seriously considered and was in fact opposed
    until Hitler's order came (sometime after March, 1941, most historians

    The concentration camp was never the normal condition for the average
    gentile German. Unless one were Jewish, or poor and unemployed, or of
    active leftist persuasion or otherwise openly anti-Nazi, Germany from 1933
    until well into the war was not a nightmarish place. All the "good
    Germans" had to do was obey the law, pay their taxes, give their sons to
    the army, avoid any sign of political heterodoxy, and look the other way
    when unions were busted and troublesome people disappeared.

    Since many "middle Americans" already obey the law, pay their taxes, give
    their sons to the army, are themselves distrustful of political
    heterodoxy, and applaud when unions are broken and troublesome people are
    disposed of, they probably could live without too much personal torment in
    a fascist state - some of them certainly seem eager to do so. Orwell's
    imaginings to the contrary, what is so terrifying about fascism is its
    "normality," its compatibility with the collective sentiments of
    substantial numbers of "normal" persons - though probably never a majority
    in any society.

    We might do well to stop thinking of fascism as being a simple either-or
    condition. The political system of any one country encompasses a variety
    of uneven and seemingly incongruous institutional practices. To insist
    that fascism does not obtain until every abomination of the Nazi state is
    replicated and every vestige of constitutional government is obliterated
    is to overlook, at our peril, the disturbingly antidemocratic,
    authoritarian manifestations inherent in many states that call themselves

    Selective Repression

    It is sometimes argued by those who deny the imminence of American fascism
    that we are more free today than ever before. One's ability to accept such
    reassurance partly depends on the class conditions and life chances that
    one confronts. The affluent individual whose views fit into that portion
    of the American political spectrum known as the "mainstream" (from
    rightist Republican to centrist Democrat) and whose political actions are
    limited to the standardized forms of participation - informal discussion,
    television viewing, newspaper reading, and voting - is apt to dismiss the
    contention that America is fascistic. But those who oppose the existing
    political orthodoxy and who find themselves under surveillance and
    subjected to the intimidations, harassments, and sanctions of the U.S.
    national security state have a less sanguine view.

    Over the last several decades just about every African-American protest
    leader who achieved any local or national prominence eventually ended up
    either under indictment, in jail, on appeal, in hiding, in exile, or
    murdered by the forces of "law and order." Most of the killings have gone
    unreported in the national press. Few, if any, of the law officers
    involved have ever been convicted of murder by the predominantly white,
    middle American juries that pass judgment on these matters.

    The leniency displayed by authorities toward those on the right side of
    the political spectrum stands in marked contrast to the relentless,
    punitive justice meted out to people of color, the poor, and radicals of
    all stripes. While the guardians go unguarded, political activists are
    arrested on trumped-up charges and end up serving astronomical sentences
    for crimes they never committed or for relatively minor offenses.

    The last decade or so has seen a growth in reactionary and racist groups.
    Yet the government does little about them. In the first half of 1995
    alone, a county employee in California who refused a demand by rightist
    anti-tax activists to remove an IRS lien imposed on one of them, was
    beaten by two men and slashed with a knife. A judge in Montana was
    terrorized, threatened with kidnapping, and had a murder contract put out
    on her by a militia group that claimed she had no jurisdiction over them.
    A federal wildlife worker received a threat that his wife and children
    would be bound in barbed wire and stuffed down a well. During a forum on
    Capitol Hill, government workers, environmentalists, and abortion rights
    activists described incidents of harassment, intimidation, and violence
    perpetrated by paramilitary groups (<M>Washington Post, July 13, 1995). A
    number of these groups are financed by shady individuals of affluent
    means. In 1995 the Republican-controlled Congress refused to hold
    congressional hearings on these paramilitary groups. Meanwhile, the
    Justice Department has done next to nothing about the menacing arms
    caches, threats, and openly violent actions these organizations have
    delivered upon others.

    At the same time, however, the government's repressive mechanism is geared
    up against leftist dissenters. The FBI and local police Red Squads are
    once again spying, burglarizing, disrupting, and otherwise targeting
    various organizations that work for social justice, peace and disarmament,
    or environmentalism. During the 1980s almost two hundred organizations
    were labeled, not communist fronts as during the repressive McCarthy era
    of the 1950s, but "terrorist fronts," including Martin Luther King Jr.'s
    own Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and various church and
    student organizations. President Clinton lifted not a finger to undo this
    new round-up list, and in 1995 he supported a repressive counterterrorist
    act which gives the president power to arrest and detain without benefit
    of evidence or trial or even formal charges, individuals deemed to be
    aiding any group designated as "terrorist" by the President.

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