There are two distinct strains of fascism. The first, what I call blackshirt fascism, comes about in the face of economic distress. This variant of fascism isn’t pathologically racist, inasmuch as minorities are willing to go along to get along and do as they are told there’s no problem. You can see this in Franco’s Spain or Mussolini’s Italy, as (respectively) Moroccans and Ethiopians were vital parts of both regimes’ militaries. That’s not to say that blackshirt fascists aren’t racist, but they aren’t genocidally so. The second, what I call brownshirt fascism, comes about in the face of national humiliation, which is where the Nazis came from. These fuckers are eliminationist when it comes to race and aren’t willing in the least to abide diversity, even when minorities are obsequious to the majority.
The difference comes in the nature of stress applied to a society. In a capitalist society suffering under severe economic dislocation that applies the kind of uncertainty that the working poor usually cope with to groups that don’t usually have to face it, like the educated and middle class, it causes society to turn to alternative perspectives on existing politics. The middle class usually breaks towards fascist narratives for a couple of reasons. It’s a vision that’s far more compatible with conventional systems of government than the end goal of leftist thought. It maintains (and strengthens) the state, plays on patriotism, and retains the existing economic power dynamic by retaining the capitalist mode of production. This compatibility reassures the middle class, who are by and large not used to facing these kinds of economic pressures the way the working class is. This desire for reassurance is also the root of why these groups are willing to cast away their right of self-determination and support a totalitarian form of government, as fascist societies always create rigid roles and boundaries for the people who exist within it. To this way of thinking, people who are fucked over by these boundaries deserve it for breaking these boundaries.
All of this applies to a capitalist country that has been humiliated as a nation, as economic stress usually follows a national humiliation. However, the difference comes from the motive for seeking reassurance. In blackshirt fascism, the motive is to feel secure again. In brownshirt fascism, the motive is to feel secure again by making the nation strong once more. This retrenchment towards ethnic and national identity takes the latent nationalism that is a feature of all fascism and makes it far more malignant. By binding the reassurance that a fascist society provides to national and ethnic identity, it virtually eliminates a fascist society’s already low level of pluralism, and reduces its tolerance of subjugation of those who share its ethnic identity: a German in 1927 might not give a fuck about the Sudetenland, but the same German in 1937 sure as hell does.
Which brings me to the Golden Dawn, a fascist party on the rise in Greece. From where I sit, they are a brownshirt fascist group. This is interesting because the economic uncertainty came before the national humiliation, as Papademos’ coronation as PM by the EU, the continual scapegoating of Greece for the eurozone crisis, and the damage to Greece’s sovereignty those two things represent occured long after the economic crisis set in. Their rise is extremely worrying and depressing. It’s worrying because they will likely not be tolerant of Turkish Cyprus or the way ethnic Greeks are treated in Turkey proper, which could lead to further instability in Europe as shipping to and from the Black Sea through the Med becomes uncertain. It’s depressing because Greece fought the Italians and then the Nazis long and hard during the Second World War, with people like Archbishop Damaskinos showing true courage in the face of such malevolence.
Some of this is the fault of the establishment left. PASOK is like most “socialist” parties in Europe: neoliberal shills who aren’t willing to take a stand for the average person. The KKE has been actively working against the trade unions, left-communists, and anarchists who are trying to fight the ruinous cuts being inflicted on the people of Greece. By not standing up, fighting back, and providing a genuinely left alternative to the existing neoliberal order, both PASOK and KKE are treading dangerously close to proving Walter Benjamin right: “Behind every fascism, there is a failed revolution.”
I can only hope that the other leftists in Greece are able to do what the KKE and PASOK aren’t willing to.
One thing that is absolutely inevitable about any empire is that once it stops growing externally, it turns inward to expand its control over the people already living within its sphere of influence. In some ways, the overseas territories end up getting used as a laboratory by an empire for effective methods of control. For example, twenty seven years ago when Margaret Thatcher’s government was facing down the Miners’ Strike, it used riot control techniques developed in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and informers on MI5′s payroll as well as wiretaps by that spy agency against Arthur Scargill and the National Union of Miners. This is part of the pathology of empire, and it’s true of every imperial state.
And, regrettably, it seems true of the United States now, as natural gas drilling companies hire psychological operations experts fresh from operating in Iraq and Afghanistan to deal with ‘insurgents’, i.e. people who don’t want the water coming out of their taps to be flammable.
Marcellus Shale gas drilling spokesmen at an industry conference in Houston said their companies are employing former military counterinsurgency officers and recommended using military-style psychological operations strategies, or psyops, to deal with media inquiries and citizen opposition to drilling in Pennsylvania communities.
Matt Pitzarella, a Range Resources spokesman speaking to other oil and gas industry spokespeople at the conference last week, said the company hires former military psyops specialists who use those skills in Pennsylvania.
For those that don’t know, psychological operations, or psyops, is the updated term for psychological warfare. Psyops specialists attack the morale of their targets by trying to get them to question their motives, their beliefs, and their trust in their cause. Through the use of both white (truthful and nonbiased) and black (an unending torrent of lies) propaganda, psychological operators seek to undermine the moral and logical foundations of the groups they are targeting and by doing so make it easier to wipe them out by reducing their numbers and marginalizing strong voices for the cause being targeted.
That the gas companies are hiring these sorts of people to engage with antifracking advocates in the court of public opinion is seriously one of the more terrifying next steps taken by corporate power recently. Unlike the other techniques reimported from Afghanistan and Iraq for use by those in power, like law enforcement getting access to unmanned drones, it isn’t the government hiring these people, it’s Corporate America. This is significant because it represents a removal of a layer of restraint on corporate power.
In the past, when something like military force was needed by the wealthy for use against the poor, it had the police and the National Guard to serve their needs. This was true at Ludlow, at Blair Mountain, and at every major strike during the Great Depression. This meant, in theory, that elected officeholders could exert some oversight on the actions of these bodies while they defending the employing class. In practice, such oversight rarely, if ever, got brought to bear, but it still remained as a minor institutional barrier to excesses.
In this case there is no institutional restraint applied by the government, and given the ongoing flow of disinformation and lawsuit threats that are emerging from the fracking companies, there’s no such restraint from within the companies. This is a scary development, one that will continue to subvert democracy in the name of corporate profits and can be traced directly back to our imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We will be reaping the consequences of our overseas wars for a very long time. People talk about the war after the war. That phrase usually refers to wounded veterans coming home and having to cope with physical and psychological trauma, but it seems an appropriate term to use about this situation, where the former implements of a war are getting used against us in the name of corporate profit. It looks like our war after the war is one against democracy by the wealthy, and it is a tragic turn of events.
A short post today since I have a lot of things to do. Oakland PD spent most of its time in front of the press lying by omission and commission about Occupy Oakland’s camp in Ogawa Plaza. In probably the most egregious example, OPD and Mayor Quan hid the fact that crime rates dropped by 19% during the camp’s active operation.
When Jordan received an update that crime was actually down 19 percent in the last week of October, he wrote an email to one of Mayor Jean Quan’s advisers.
“Not sure how you want to share this good news,” he wrote. “It may be counter to our statement that the Occupy movement is negatively impacting crime in Oakland.”
Police and the city said Occupy has had an ongoing impact on their ability to respond to crime.
This isn’t any real shock to those who are living in Oakland and those who participated in the protests, but it should serve as a warning to left-liberals and
concern trolls others who, “would totally support the Occupy movement if not for these questionable problems with police,” that you can’t trust a single word that comes out of the mouths of the cops when it comes to mass protests. These are people working for organizations whose primary remit is to maintain order in society by virtually any means required. Once you start doing things like marching or camping out in a public square to demand significant change to society, they will put a set of crosshairs on your back. This is because doing these things is outside of the electoral process, which is the Establishment-acceptable route that change is to take.
Remember that all change ultimately comes from the people taking action, and that the cops will lie through their teeth about the people taking action if it threatens the status quo. This point is especially important to remember on this day especially, because bastards like Bull Connor and George Wallace lied through their teeth about Dr. King’s courageous actions like the Selma-to-Montgomery Marches, the March on Washington, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Don’t believe what the Establishment says about an Occupy camp. Go down, talk to the people there, and make a decision for yourself.
LOS ANGELES (CN) – A man who spent 20 years in prison for a drive-by killing he did not commit says he was framed by “a known neo-Nazi, white supremacist police gang” within the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, known as the “Lynwood Vikings.”
Francisco Carrillo Jr. also sued Craig Ditsch, the sheriff’s deputy who allegedly fingered him for the drive-by shooting and murder of Donald Sarpy in early 1991. Carrillo was 16 at the time.
“Mr. Carrillo spent 20 years in prison as a result of the actions of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies. The deputies’ created a false identification of Mr. Carrillo which was adopted by each of the six eyewitnesses. Without the deputies’ wrongful, unconstitutional conduct, Mr. Carrillo would not have been arrested or convicted for the Sarpy murder; he would not have spent 20 years in prison. The deputies’ conduct violated Mr. Carrillo’s civil and constitutional rights.
If anyone is wondering why trust in the cops is at all-time lows and declining, remember this story. Mark my words: situations like this are more prevalent amongst the police than any one of us wants to admit, and it would be very difficult to pull such groups up from the roots within the police. The kind of power that we’ve invested within the police as a function of the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism combined with the traditional Blue Wall of Silence makes serious oversight of law enforcement extremely difficult.
How fucked is this nation when you have literal neo-Nazis running around with badges and guns framing minorities for crimes they didn’t commit?
I’ve gotten a couple of questions on what I mean when I say “protofascist”. In other words, what exactly is the difference between protofascism and fascism? Let me give you a couple of examples, one fascist and one protofascist and articulate the difference between the two. To some extent, it’s a Miller test kind of thing in that it’s fairly ambiguous. Generally speaking, for an act to be fascist, it requires both the act to be authoritarian in nature and must have intent towards that end. If the act is authoritarian in nature but has no specific intent behind it, it’s protofascist in my opinion.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich showed no sign Sunday of letting up on his assault on “activist” federal judges. During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Gingrich suggested the president could send federal law enforcement authorities to arrest judges who make controversial rulings in order to compel them to justify their decisions before congressional hearings.
When asked by host Bob Schieffer how he would force federal judges to comply with congressional subpoenas, Gingrich said he would send the U.S. Capitol Police or U.S. Marshals to arrest the judges and force them to testify.
Independent journalist John Knefel, whose work has appeared in Salon, was arrested December 13 for the crime of filming police actions during an Occupy protest. Knefel and a majority of the sixteen others arrested with him were held in prison for more than thirty-six hours. Several members of the Occupy 17, as they’re now called, were punished with extended detention times after they refused en masse to submit to an eye scan.
Along with methods like fingerprinting and mug shots, the NYPD now uses iris scanners as part of an effort to “improve security and safeguard identities.” Jailed individuals are given the option to decline such an eye scan, but warned that doing so may slow down their processing. Knefel told me a couple of the Occupy 17 had to get out of jail quickly to go to their jobs, so they submitted to the scans. The rest of the Occupy 17, however, were held in prison for the full thirty-six hours.
I consider the latter example to be protofascist for a couple of reasons. It represents the sort of creeping expansion of police power that has marked the post-9/11 era. It’s unnecessarily intrusive and probably doesn’t do anything to actually improve security or safeguard identities, and keeping those who refused for the full thirty-six hours is a way of punishing people who have exercised a legitimate refusal of this intrusion. However, there’s no evidence that it’s being used specifically as a way to stifle dissent from Occupy, and it’s likely that anyone who is arrested by the NYPD is probably confronted with the same decision on whether to consent to the iris scan. That said, this kind of intrusion isn’t benign, but it isn’t actively malignant and could turn into something very nasty if the wrong kind of people are running the show. In that regard, I call it protofascist because the actual act could be used in a way that strangles dissent but doesn’t necessarily have that intent behind it.
Newt looking to call in the Marshals on “activist” judges, though, is as fascist as fascist gets, because you KNOW Gingrich only considers judges that disagree with his political agenda to be “activist”. The neutering of independent judiciary has happened in literally every fascist government in the history of the world, from Italy to Spain to the Third Reich to Chile, and make no mistake that this is Gingrich’s intent. The name of the game is tearing down any institutional impediment to his agenda. An independent judiciary is a strong firewall to intrusions on individual rights and can be a defender of fair elections (it can also retard legitimate political change and do sweet fuck all to defend fair elections, but that’s another topic entirely). By trying to intimidate it through use of police power and impeachment (a legislative act that removes a judge from the federal bench but requires the commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” of which disagreeing with Newt Gingrich shouldn’t count as), Gingrich wants to geld the American judiciary. In that respect, it is fascist in orientation, because it is an act that strangles dissent while centralizing power in a very real and very scary way and it is intended towards that end.
As an aside, I had called Newt Gingrich a protofascist in my earlier piece on the topic, but reading about this has me rethinking that. Part of the Republican Party’s dogma is a near-religious veneration of the Constitution and the men who wrote it. By calling for the impeachment of judges who have committed no crimes, it violates that dogma by going against what’s in the Constitution but in a way that benefits them. This is also a feature of fascism: a selective embrace of tradition. By Gingrich calling for this, he’s moved towards being more fascist than protofascist in my opinion, and that none of his fellow candidates have yet excoriated him for this idea shows the US is in a very scary place politically.
Yeah, it’s been a bit. I swear I’m going to start writing more frequently.
One of the popular conceits of the post-war era in the West is that fascism died with Hitler. I would disagree, and so would my homeboy Umberto Eco. This piece pretty much reads like a history of post-9/11 America, and there’s one part in particular that I’m going to focus on. In Eternal Fascism, Eco says this:
6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration.
That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old “proletarians” are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.
Combine that with a quote from John Steinbeck:
“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
And I’d say you have the most incisive social commentary about America in 2011, and I’m going to use it to build a point.
Right now we find America in a place where the culturally ‘middle class’ (i.e. those who self-identify as middle class) is larger than it has ever been because of the expansion of what it meant to be ‘middle class’ during the 1950s and 60s. Taking Eco’s statement at its face value, that fascism finds its first supporters within the middle class during times of economic crisis and/or national humiliation, it’s no wonder that you start to see authentically fascist forms of thought coming about in the polity because what’s considered middle class nowadays is so damn big and the economy is so damn fucked. The anti-immigration movement, the anti-gay groups, the anti-women groups, the sort of dolchstoss rhetoric that’s flying around about Iraq and Afghanistan from the ultra-hawks, the ongoing war against science, the NDAA and SOPA just recently passed…it’s almost like Eco’s essay is a checklist for most federal politicians nowadays.
Without any doubt I think it’s fair to say there’s genuinely protofascist politicians in office in the US right now, primarily on the hard right party (the Republicans). Rick Perry is certainly an example of one, Newt Gingrich, too, but it’s not just limited to the GOP. The soft right party (the Democrats) aren’t immune: Joe Lieberman, Carl Levin, and even President Obama have their authoritarian moments. You can see it reflected in the crackdowns in Los Angeles and Oakland and New York and Seattle and Portland and Denver against the Occupy movement, most with Democratic mayors. You can see it in a SWAT deployment against a squat in Chapel Hill, ordered by a Democratic mayor. You can see it in the imprisonment of Tim DeChristopher and the trial of Bradley Manning. All of these are all tied to the same kind of authoritarian attitude that colors our politics.
It’s not too late to reverse course, but it won’t be easy. You basically have to convince a fair chunk of Americans that they aren’t, in fact, temporarily embarrassed millionaires, but genuinely exploited workers whose labor is being stolen to buy some shithead in SoHo a Maserati and a $10 million dollar condo. And moreover, you have to convince them to actually do something about it by organizing in the workplace and demanding their fair share of the profits from their labor. It’s this kind of mobilization that will make the difference and not political mobilization because…well, look at how mobilized Obama got people and look at how little good he’s actually done. But once that kind of mobilization happens, strap in folks, because then things will really start to change.
There’s one question that remains for me, and that’s why do working class people support policy that is hand-built to bugger them, and why is it so common in the US? Or put another way, why exactly did so many people start to self-identify not just AS the middle class, but WITH the middle class? More on that later.