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

From: William Mandel (
Date: Wed Jun 14 2000 - 21:43:41 CUT

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    I disagree fundamentally with Parenti. I qualify on every one of
    his counts to be one of those who should agree. I am not
    affluent. My views do not fit into the mainstream (and my views
    on what constitutes fascism have not changed in the slightest in
    65 years). I have rich experience with repression: twenty-seven
    years of blacklisting from academic employment, 1947-1969;
    eighteen years of blacklisting from publication of my books,
    1946-1964; a dozen years of blacklisting from professional
    lecturing, and most of a lifetime of blacklisting from salaried
    journalism, 1945 to date. To continue with his list of
    qualifications: I was under surveillance for decades and, for all
    I know, may still be.
        Why, then, do I disagree? In Saying No To Power, I describe
    correspondence in 1982 with a prisoner in Folsom who listened to
    my KPFA broadcasts: "Despite the clarity of the sentences I
    quoted, part of his letter made comparisons between this country
    and Nazi Germany. This gave me the chance to state a point of
    view that I find very pertinent when people confuse the
    appearance of militias, the destruction of the Oklahoma City
    federal office building by terrorist bombing with hundreds of
    deaths, the Ruby Ridge shootout, and the government's own
    military assault and burning out of a religious sect at Waco,
    Texas, with fasism. I wrote hom:
        "'U.S. "book-burning, union busting, arming, hysteria..."
    etc., to quote you, are extremely mild, except for the arming,
    compared to Nazi Germany. No prisoner of the Nazis would be
    allowed to write a letter like yours, or receive one like this.
    Don't oversimplify'." (p.499)
        Overestimation of the danger of fascism and misreading of the
    actual situation in the country has done great damage. In the
    late 1940s, the Communist Party, of which I was a member, and
    which was then by a very wide margin the most important Left
    organization in the country (100,000 members in 1944), concluded
    that fascism was around the corner. (I did not agree.) It sent
    its best members underground for years, and thereby cut them off
    from any possibility of mass influence when that was of utmost
    importance in fighting Truman's Loyalty Oath hysteria and the
    McCarthy years that followed. CRYING WOLF IS SELF-DESTRUCTIVE.
        If this country were fascist, or remotely like it, today,
    this discussion via e-mail would be out of the question. The
    academic 60s veterans who comprise most of this list would not be
    holding professorships. No friendly movie would have been made
    about Abbie Hoffman, Stew Albert, Jerry Rubin. No sympathetic
    documentary, "KPFA On the Air," would be shown on the public TV
    network, as will occur on Sept. 19th. There would be no need for
    the president to have the Washington police deal with A16 in a
    manner enabling them to say that the dissidents held their
    protest yet the meetings of the world organization of finance
    capital went ahead as scheduled.
        Parenti describes the horrendous oppression of militant
    Blacks and their leaders. We do not know at this moment whether
    Mumia will live. But we do know that it has been possible for him
    to be heard on the air from his prison cell, for his books to be
    published, for his tapes and those of his supporters to circulate
    nationwide. Of course that took struggle. But most of the
    strugglers, including Parenti and myself and my son who organized
    the formal teach-in on Mumia in the Oakland schools, have faced
    no reprisals, although several individuals have.
       I have broadcast the last few years on an illegal, pirate,
    unlicensed, "undocumented" radio station, and have challenged the
    authorities to go after me. Thus far they haven't. The reason has
    to do with the difference between fascism and bourgeois
    democracy. Under the former I would have been taken care of one
    way or another long since. But in the present society they have
    to count votes. They know that elections are often won by
    exceedingly narrow margins. And they know that in Berkeley, where
    this low-power (but enough power to cover the city) station is
    located, they would be stirring up a hornet's nest, with
    repercussions far beyond that city, to go after a man of
    eighty-three who enjoys a degree of public standing.
                                 William Mandel
                                                William Mandel

    radman wrote:
    > Forwarded message:
    > 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
    > life.
    > 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
    > alarm.
    > 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
    > percent.
    > 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
    > believe).
    > 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
    > democracies.
    > 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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