Sunday, June 25, 2017

Americanism Personified: Why Fascism Has Always Been an Inevitable Outcome of the American Project

So important to shed our attachment to American exceptionalism, which can be so blinding that the lived reality we experience is denied, distorted, minimized. May we be brave enough to awaken. Now. - Molly

Since the inevitability of American fascism is deeply rooted in both capitalism and white supremacy, any resistance against this fascist tide must be focused on destroying these two systems. (Photo: AnubisAbyss / Flickr)

As a settler-colonial project steeped in white supremacist domination, the US has always been a breeding ground for fascists.

"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." This quote, which has often been misattributed to Sinclair Lewis, is wise in its recognizing the authoritarian potential of both nationalism and organized religion. In slight contrast, Professor Halford E. Luccock of the Divinity School of Yale University said in a 1938 interview, "When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled 'made in Germany'; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, 'Americanism.'" Luccock's view was that of a Christian theologian during the height of Nazi Germany, likely meant to not only downplay the role of religion but perhaps more so warning against the false idolatry of nationalistic reverence.
Despite the tidbits of insight offered, both quotes underestimate Americanism as a highly-authoritative and dominating national project in and of itself. At the time of both quotes, America had already cemented strong elements conducive to fascism: an economy based in capitalist modes of production, a geography created through mass extermination of Native American populations, white supremacist ideals rooted in both dominant culture and pseudoscience, and aggressive expansionist and imperialist projects throughout the Western hemisphere. It should come as no surprise that Adolf Hitler studied, admired, and was inspired by the US genocide of Native Americans as well as its subsequent reservation program. "Hitler's concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history," John Toland wrote in his book, Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography"He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America's extermination -- by starvation and uneven combat -- of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity."
This notion of American fascism is certainly nothing new. As Steve Martinot explains in his invaluable essay on "Fascism in the US," this discussion has been around for a long time:
"In an early, now canonical discussion of racism in the US, Pierre Van den Berghe (1967) pointed out that a prevalent racial despotism coexisted with constitutionality, a confluence he characterized as 'herrenvolk democracy' -- 'democracy for white people.' In his book, Friendly Fascism, (1980) Bertram Gross argues that the US under Reagan began moving toward a form of governance closely analogous to 1930s European fascism; he compares the social consequences of corporate influence to Mussolini's 'corporate state.' George Jackson finds no better word than 'fascism' to describe the psychotic use of power and violence by which white prisoners relate to black, or by which the prison administration maintains its hierarchical system -- -- and which he sees mirrored in white -- black relations outside the prison."
As a settler-colonial project steeped in white supremacist domination and capitalist ideals, America is and always has been an ideal fascist breeding ground. The current rise of Donald Trump, the "alt-right," neo-Nazism, and white nationalism is nothing new, it is merely Americanism becoming further personified through the vulnerabilities opened by the failures of capitalism and the weakening of liberal democracy -- systems that were constructed on shoddy, hypocritical foundations to begin with.
Fascism as a Capitalist Phenomenon
"People that are more concerned with the trappings of this pseudo mass society and its spectacular leisure sports; parades where strangers meet, shout each other down and often trample each other on the way home will never see the ugly reality of fascism. Amerikkkan fascism is so effective in emotionally appealing to people's desires and fears that when we point out to them that Amerikkkan capitalism has had 200 years to disguise and refine its face, and 50 years to consolidate fascist control of the country, they would simply dismiss us."
Fascism, as a conscious and working ideology, was intentionally constructed to serve as a polar opposite to the materialist conception of thinking that scientific socialism (Marxism) was based in. Benito Mussolini, a former socialist, specifically noted this in his Doctrine of Fascism, which he wrote with Giovanni Gentile. Fascism is a collectivist ideology, much like socialism; however, fascism calls on a societal tie that differs greatly from that of socialism. While socialist collectivism is rooted in an inclusive, communal responsibility to have basic material needs met for all, fascist collectivism is rooted in an exclusive, nationalistic responsibility to dominate and conquer peoples who are viewed as not belonging. While socialist collectivism is based in worker-control of the means of production, fascist collectivism is based in a natural adherence to corporatism, which takes form in concentrated control of the means of production (mimicking that of capitalism). While socialism seeks to undermine and ultimately destroy the capitalist system, fascism seeks to fortify the late stages of capitalist accumulation by merging corporate power with the State.
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