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Is Trump Bringing Fascism, Or Removing the Liberal Facade From It?
by Jonathan Nack
Sunday Aug 19th, 2018 1:56 PM
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
File photo: Wikipedia

Is Trump bringing fascism to the United States? That is a very legitimate question. However, there is another legitimate question. Is Trump merely taking the facade off, and making more overt, a system that was already fundamentally fascistic and deeply racist?
“The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.... Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.” - President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936

The power of gigantic corporations has been steadily growing in the 82 years since FDR said this. It is likely, based on this quote, that FDR would not recognize the United States of today as deserving of the term democracy (former President Jimmy Carter doesn't), and instead FDR would see it as more deserving of being called fascist.

The coming to power of President Donald Trump has many people talking about, and worrying over, the rise of fascism, or neo-fascism. There’s good reason for that. Trump’s constant hate speech makes use of classic fascist rhetorical devices. His nationalist appeals to “make America great again;” demonization of immigrants; attacks on corporate media outlets which oppose him; huge increases in spending on the military and the police; and his contempt for even the extremely limited protections provided by bourgeois democratic government institutions; are straight out of the fascist playbook.

Trumps fascistic discourse has also given comfort to hardcore fascist forces. These forces, openly racist, some proudly declaring their allegiance to fascism, have existed in the U.S. for a very long time. They are now emerging from the shadows to try and claim legitimacy and space in public. Just days ago, there was the effort by fascist forces, under the relatively innocent sounding “Unite the Right” slogan, to occupy public space in the nation's capitol.

There have been many examples of this recently, including fascist rallies in Portland and Berkeley, with the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, being the most outstanding.

There has also been a rash of reports of attacks on, and murders of, people of color, especially Black people. Is this phenomenon really something new, or is it something that has been going on for a very long time and is only now getting reported more? Is it mainly the result of the rise of overtly fascist forces, or the result of a much deeper systemic and institutional racist problem?

Is Trump bringing fascism to the United States? That is a very legitimate question. However, there is another legitimate question. Is Trump merely taking the facade off, and making more overt, a system that was already fundamentally fascistic and deeply racist?

Let’s go back to FDR’s quote, “...the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power...”.

The U.S. has been ruled for many decades by a system of control by gigantic multinational corporations. I call it Corporate Capitalist Fascism.  You may prefer to call it something else, like Corporatism, or Corporate Democracy. What you call it is much less important than recognizing its characteristics. Here is an outline of those characteristics.

* A system in which corporations, particularly multinational corporations, and their super rich benefactors (the 1 percent), dominate all aspects of life.  

This is very different from the 20th Century iterations of fascism in Europe. Rather than the state controlling everything, or seeking to control everything, there is corporate control of everything, including the state.  

* The candidates backed by corporations in both major parties win just about every election of consequence. The higher the office, the more this is true.  Money dominates elections. Where does this money come from? Corporations and the shareholders and private owners who reap the profits from them.

Corporate lobbyist set the political agenda. The state is used to lavish welfare onto corporations and to pursue policies, foreign and domestic, in the interests of corporations.  This system operates on a global scale, mainly riding on the back of U.S. economic and cultural imperialism, and the U.S. military.

* Corporations control the mass media.  A mass media that is at least a hundred fold more powerful than what existed during 20th Century iterations of fascism. This is, I believe, a key feature.  This enables them to control how most people think. When the ruling classes control how people think, there is less need for heavy handed repression.  Individual freedoms, such as freedom of speech and freedom to organize are tolerated as long as they don’t really threaten corporate dominance of the mass media. Noam Chomsky’s writings have done much of the heavy lifting regarding the manufacturing of consent.

* Racism, sexism, and every divisive “ism” there is are systematically used to keep the people divided and distracted. Above all else, the masses must be preventing from seeing that their common struggle should be against their corporate masters.

* Despite all the manufacturing of consent, there is still extensive physical repression as evidenced by the huge population in prison and on parole.  The welfare of much of the population is completely ignored, or ignored as much as possible. Thus they must be controlled by police repression and incarceration, including brutality and murder. The prison system is dominated, ever increasing so, by a prison industrial complex, for the benefit of for profit corporations.

* Increasing militarism is another feature. This is driven both by the international interests of multinational corporations, but also by a for profit military industrial complex run by and for corporations. It's no coincidence that the most profitable corporations are in the armaments industry.

* The legal system has been completely warped by corporate power.  Corporations, entities not even mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, have far more legal rights, and far less responsibilities than people do.

* Finally, and obviously, corporations dominate the capitalist economy. There is no free market, if there ever was.

With the advent of Trump, we are living in a a much harsher form of what I call Corporate Capitalist Fascism.  The rhetoric is more overtly racist, xenophobic, sexist, nationalist, and aggressive. Substantive civil political discourse is replaced by personal attacks. A new level of meanness and selfishness is sweeping the country due to the example set by the first President in our history with a public persona of a smug self-centered arrogant asshole.  

Grassroots fascist organizations, always present in the U.S., are taking as much advantage of this situation as they can. Trump appears to wink and nod at them, accept when he's absolutely forced to distance himself from them - well sort of denounce them.

20th Century Fascism historically rose when the ruling classes felt the need to smash a growing threat from the left. We are seeing something of that today, but Corporate Capitalist Fascism is also different. It rose to dominate all political points of view: left, right, and center.

There is a portion of the ruling classes, perhaps about half, probably less, which is opposed to this harsher form of corporate domination. It may offend their sensibilities, but this is not the real reason they oppose it. They believe this harsher brand of rule not only threatens their wealth and power, but that it could bring down the entire system of corporate control. They would much rather hide behind a facade of democracy. This is why some gigantic multi-national corporations, such as those that own NBC, CBS, and CNN, are engaged in a propaganda war with Trump and the Republicans. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed such mass media giants attack virtually every utterance and action of a sitting President.

Before I send everyone rushing to jump out of a window with this dystopian view of reality, let me conclude by saying that I believe that there are possible alternatives to the harder and softer brands of corporate control.

There is a growing fight back.  While I can not say that I’m optimistic about the trajectory of the U.S., I still believe that a better world is possible. A world not dominated by multi-national corporations.  A world with there is heart and solidarity. A world of much less inequality. A world of real and deep democracy. I think it was was Antonio Gramsci who said, “pessimism of the mind, optimism of the spirit.”

A better world is possible, but we’re going to have to fight like hell to give birth to it. We’re going to have to fight like our lives, and the lives of our children, and their children, depend on it. We’re going to have to be creative and fight in new ways. This fight, the struggle of our times, will never be won through elections alone. It’s an uphill struggle against long odds to be sure, but it isn't over. We can still win it. We have to win.
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