Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.
George L. Jackson
To the world the rise of figures such as Donald Trump has brought talk of fascism to the forefront. While comparing U.S. Presidents to Hitler is certainly nothing new–both Obama and W. Bush were regularly characterized as such by their haters–Trump’s emergence on the national political scene comes at a very peculiar moment in U.S. history.
Under a neoliberal agenda that has dominated the political landscape since Reagan, capitalism has been unleashed like never in history, leading to massive inequality, obscene amounts of wealth being transferred from public coffers to private hands, and an overall destruction of the Third World economies which affects everything from medical care and debt to education and public utilities.
To the colonized and racialized people, how could this not be their version of fascism?
The most famous articulation of the relation among those concepts is that of Aimé Césaire’s declaration that fascism was “colonialist procedures … applied to Europe”. With this formulation, fascism’s character struck a different chord. We know that this was not the first articulation of this idea, but rather one voice among many. Césaire’s avowal in 1950 meant that the Allied powers could not walk away from fascism so easily. Nor can any of us, wherever we live, now.
With this in mind it is important that we analyze fascism from a socialist/communist/third world perspective.
The core tenants of fascism are:
- Anti-socialism, rejecting economic principles based on socialist frameworks.
- Exclusion of certain groups, often through violence.
- Nationalism that seeks to expand the nation’s influence and power.
Each one of these core tenants can be found within American society , throughout every era.
- 1917–20 Red Scare — a nationwide anti-radical hysteria provoked by a mounting fear and anxiety that a Bolshevik revolution in America was imminent—a revolution that would change Church, home, marriage, civility, and the American way of Life. As a response to World War I, Congress passed the espionage act of 1917 to prevent any information relating to national defense to be used to harm the United States or aid her enemies. The Wilson administration used this act to make anything “urging treason” a “nonmailable matter” .
- 1947–57. By the 1930s, communism had become an attractive economic ideology particularly among labor leaders and intellectuals. By 1947, Fearful that his weak record in the Senate would prevent his reelection, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy cast about for an issue that would shore up his image to voters. He seized on communism. Many were killed, blacklisted or falsely imprisoned.
- In at least 20 countries, U.S. allies employed the intentional mass murder of civilians in the construction of a U.S. backed authoritarian capitalist regime and it became known as the Jakarta Method.
- Jim Crow — these laws were a collection of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation. Named after a black minstrel show character, the laws—which existed for about 100 years, from the post- Civil War era until 1968—were meant to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education or other opportunities. Those who attempted to defy Jim Crow laws often faced arrest, fines, jail sentences, violence and death.
- The New Jim Crow — segregation has only ended under the pretext of out right racism. All that has been done is that the racial caste in America has been merely redesigned. By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. As of July 2021, the United States had the highest number of incarcerated individuals worldwide, with almost 2.1 million people in prison. In 2018, black Americans represented 33% of the sentenced prison population, nearly triple their 12% share of the U.S. adult population.
- Nationalism in the US is the epitome of fascism. For example: Nuremberg Laws were crafted in an atmosphere of considerable attention to the precedents American race laws had to offer. German praise for American practices, already found in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, was continuous throughout the early 1930s, and the most radical Nazi lawyers were eager advocates of the use of American models.
Capitalism and State Repression
Understanding fascism as the inevitable systemic conclusion to Americanism is crucial. Only then can one realize that Trump was not “bringing fascism to America,” but rather that fascism was built into the American project from day one. The most reductive way to view fascism as a process is to gain an understanding of the social and economic systems that breed not only extreme hierarchies, but also extreme forms of domination and subjugation within these hierarchies. In the United States, the most influential system is capitalism. It exceeds all else, including politics and government, because it is rooted in the one thing that dominates all else–money. Capitalism concerns itself with two goals: growth and profit. In its narrow-minded pursuit, things like humanity, democracy, freedom, liberty, Earth, and the environment cannot be considered. They are nuisances to be co-opted or destroyed. And, the late stage of capitalism that we are living through is the culmination of this co-optation and destruction.
In order to understand the systemic fascism that is rising before our eyes, we must understand the historical seeds of Americanism that have provided it with a fertile breeding ground. George Jackson understood this better than most, as laid out in his two prominent works, Blood in My Eye and Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson. The authoritative nature of capitalism, which relies on inherently dominant mechanisms of private property and labor exploitation, is key in this development, as has been seen in four major phases: (1) capital accumulation that has produced a completely unchecked capitalist class, (2) a formation of the corporate state through the literal purchasing of governmental institutions by the capitalist class, (3) increasing economic hardship for a majority of Americans, and (4) a complete reliance on state violence both home (militarized policing) and abroad (imperialism/war) to control working-class angst and develop new markets outside of the United States to replace living-wage labor.
The Only Real Resistance to Fascism is Socialism
In discussing the emergence of monopoly capitalism, Jackson echoed the later theoretical developments of Malcolm X by recognizing an inevitable war between the oppressed of the world and their oppressors. “To fight effectively, we must be aware of the fact that the enemy has consolidated through reformist machination the greatest community of self-interest that has ever existed,” Jackson tells us. While the forces of monopoly capital, white supremacy, and imperialism gained strength, an “opposite force was also at work, i.e., ‘international socialism’–Lenin’s and Fanon’s–national wars of liberation guided not by the national bourgeois but by the people, the ordinary working-class people.”
As capitalism matures in form, fascism can only be effectively countered by socialism–the development of radical democratic economies where the people own the means of production and operate them in a way that benefits all of society, eliminating the brutal competition for basic human needs for which capitalism has thrived on for so long. And socialism must develop in a way that represents a formidable attack against the absurd levels of capitalist brutality we are witnessing, which include an arsenal of weaponry and resources, and the will to cause mass environmental and human destruction like never before. In other words, as the default conclusion to capitalism, fascism can only be countered with deliberate, conscious, and forceful organizing. Jackson elaborates:
“At its core, fascism is an economic rearrangement. It is international capitalism’s response to the challenge of international scientific socialism. It developed from nation to nation out of differing levels of traditionalist capitalism’s dilapidation. The common feature of all instances of fascism is the opposition of a weak socialist revolution. When the fascist arrangement begins to emerge in any of the independent nation-states, it does so by default! It is simply an arrangement of an established capitalist economy, an attempt to renew, perpetuate and legitimize that economy’s rulers by circumflexing and weighing down, diffusing a revolutionary consciousness pushing from below. Fascism must be seen as an episodically logical stage in the socio-economic development of capitalism in a state of crisis. It is the result of a revolutionary thrust that was weak and miscarried–a consciousness that was compromised.”
Understanding the systemic nature of fascism, while certainly daunting, should not be disheartening. It provides us with the truth behind the dark days we are witnessing. It allows us to uncover the roots to our current place in history. And, most importantly, it gives us a material perspective on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re heading as a people–replacing the hopelessness of confusion with the purposefulness of understanding. George Jackson is one of many revolutionary prophets who dedicated his life to passing on the insight needed to take control of our collective future–a future that will be determined by our conscious, deliberate actions from this point forward, and ours alone. A future that must be won through a hardened attack against powerful people guarding centuries-old systems of oppression. Cowardice, inaction, apathy, and infighting may ultimately be our downfall, but George Jackson and others like him made sure that ignorance is not.
The foundation of this empire rest on the pillars of patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism and has used these pillars to justify and assert its independence and political power. We see these same pillars reflected in present-day policies that are designed to undermine others’ rights, their political and economic power, and their nationhood. We cannot celebrate freedom until we recognize that not all of us experience the same freedoms or rights.
“When a nation can’t admit to the process through which it builds hegemony, how can anything but delusion be a reality?”
George L. Jackson, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson
Fascism is as American as apple pie.