Saturday, September 27, 2008



"Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them."
-George Santayana

Back in the Vietnam War era, I remember hearing members of the "New Left" referring to the United States as being a "fascist" state. They did so for our having waged an imperialistic war, for the benefit of our military/industrial complex, in a small Asian country whose people we looked down upon, using a large number of poor white and minority soldiers to do the job, with Wall Street profiting handsomely off the venture. They claimed the government was lying to the people, withholding and distorting information on the war. Though much of the New Left's claims were borne out with the publication of "The Pentagon Papers" in 1971, I still regarded the allegation that we were a fascist country as having been a bit over the top. But events in our country over the past 8 years have now led myself and others to begin asking: Has the United States of America now become, or is it now becoming, in actuality, the Fascist States of America? There is disturbing evidence to suggest we may, in fact, be undergoing, a troubling transformation.

In a recent study entitled "The Puzzle of Fascism", Eric Williams examines the possibilities we may indeed be sliding into fascism. He lists the definition of fascism as being, " authoritarian and nationalistic system of government, intolerant, vicious in practice..." The World Book Encyclopedia defines fascism as "...a form of government headed, in most cases, by a dictator. It involves total government control of political, economic, cultural, religious, and social activities...Fascism allows industry to remain in private ownership, though under government control. Other important features...include extreme patriotism, warlike policies, and persecution of minorities."

Laura Dawn Lewis, a one-time writer for the L.A. Business Journal, is a devout Lutheran who founded the Couples Co., Inc., has lived here, in the United Kingdom, and in Saudi Arabia. She has written a number of pieces on the Middle East and is the author of "Laid Off, Now What?" She has also published a piece called "What Is Fascism?" which outlines and defines it very succinctly. She lists several characteristics of a fascist country, beginning with its REACTIONARY nature (it responds to current circumstances rather than making policy to prevent problems. It puts lies on top of repeated lies until truth becomes unrecognizable, changed, or forgotten altogether). We see ample evidence of this all around us with deceptive advertising in business as well as continual Bush administration and Congressional spin. Specific examples of these are far, far too numerous to mention here, but you and I both know they are plentiful. Another characteristic is CHAUVINISM, where the state has a two-tiered legal system whereby one group receives preferential treatment or more rights than the other, often based on matters of race, creed, or origin. We have seen a number of examples of this over the years. To this criteria I would also add economic standing, as in our system, clearly there is one set of justice for the haves and yet quite another for the have-nots. Another characteristic of these countries is IMPERIALISM, establishing a nation's authority by territorial acquisition or by setting up economic and political domination of another state. Definitely, our recent history in Iraq falls under this heading. After all, we blatantly conquered the country without having been attacked by it, destroyed its infrastructure, and then rebuilt it OUR way with OUR contractors so as to ensure we would always have access to and/or influence over its oil. This nifty little plan was first conceived and developed under the auspices of an extreme right-wing think tank, The Project for a New American Century, whose charter members included none other than war criminals Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, and a number of other diabolically familiar faces.

Ms. Lewis also lists a number of conditions which foster and nurture fascism within a country. Included among these is INSTABILITY OF CAPITALIST MARKETS. Surely our recent mortgage crises and capital meltdowns fit this bill. Also included is the STRIPPING OF RIGHTS AND WEALTH FROM A SEGMENT OF SOCIETY. Bush and the neocon Republican Party's huge tax cuts for the wealthy, their exporting of good paying American jobs overseas, and their push for tort reform (weakening or removing the public's right or ability to sue major corporations or the government for damages) have all wrenched wealth and rights from the middle class and especially the poor and have given them to the rich. Another condition we have present in abundance is GREED. The trend toward cutting workers' benefits, freezing or lowering wages, exporting jobs, encouraging illegal immigration to keep wages low, the skyrocketing CEO salaries and benefits packages, as well as the fraudulent excesses by corporate giants like Enron, Tyco, World Con, and especially the mortgage meltdown are ample proof of the corruption and greed inherent in our business and government today. Then there is the phenomenon of ORGANIZED PROPAGANDA. We saw and heard mounds of manufactured "evidence" we were barraged with to get us to go to war in Iraq. FOX "News" has become the de facto propaganda arm of the Bush White House, parroting its every pronouncement. Major oil companies and mortgage bankers have all deluged us with widespread ad campaigns to push public opinion in their favor. Need I say more?

Ms. Lewis goes on to list a number of fascism's defining characteristics. First is the meshing of government and business. We see that not only in Iraq but also in the way corporations dominate and work with our government, getting preferential legislative and judicial consideration, lobbying and effectively blackmailing much of Congress, and in some cases even authoring legislation itself, for its own benefit. The recent attempt by Bush and his Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is another case in point. The demand that Paulson receive an immediate $700 BILLION to spend as he sees fit to prop up the economy WITHOUT CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT OR LEGAL REVIEW is the height of arrogance. It was designed to benefit big business and shut the people out of the process altogether. It was a clear present-day attempt to tax WITHOUT REPRESENTATION for the benefit of the few at a cost to nearly all. Another characteristic of fascism is creating or identifying scapegoats to unify a cause. In recent years, Muslims and liberals have been the Bush regime's favorite whipping boys for this purpose in the misleadingly named "war on terror". Yet another is the disdain for human rights. Clearly Bush's excessive Patriot Act allowing for illegal wiretaps and the eventual suspension of habeas corpus easily fit this category. Habeas corpus, the right of an accused to know charges brought against him, and to receive adequate defense and a fair trail, has been a fixture of western law since England's King John first granted it back in 1215. Bush and his paranoid neocon Republican followers (and even that "independent" turncoat Joe LIEberman) have effectively trashed the concept. Their use of torture as well as the unlawful kidnapping and detention of foreign nationals, as well as their decision to implement provisions of the Geneva Convention arbitrarily as they see fit, are glaring examples of their authoritarian nature and total disregard for human rights. Still another characteristic is obsession with national security. We have heard Bush and his cronies use this excuse dozens of times in attempts to withhold information or obstruct justice. One more characteristic is the protection of corporate power. Bush's insistence of retroactive immunity for telecom companies who illegally supplied the government with wiretapping and private email data fit in nicely here, as does Bush's attempt to privatize the Iraq War by awarding non-bid contracts worth bilions to murderous corporate campaign donors like Halliburton, KBR, and Blackwater, and then allowing them free reign in Iraq. Another defining characteristic is the suppression of labor power. Bush's and the Republicans' advocacy and support of tort reform and outsourcing jobs cripple labor, as do Bush's support and encouragement for illegal immigration. Still another one is a controlled mass media. Bush tried his best to shut down PBS, declaring it to be too liberal. His White House has issued nothing but spin throughout his tenure and has even distributed talking points to its ever-friendly propaganda arm, FOX "News". Then there is the characteristic of corruption. It has been abundant in our federal government all throughout Bush's tenure. There has been rampant cronyism in the White House itself, with the appointments of Alberto Gonzales and Mike Brown to positions where they had no business being, in addition to the blatant ideological litmus tests in evidence over at Bush's Justice Department. But the most dangerous characteristic of all is fraudulent elections. There is strong evidence to suggest that Busah stole both the 2000 and 2004 elections. In 2000, it was "hanging chads", roads to polling places in heavily black and Democratic sections in Florida being closed down, and Bush's brother's Florida Secretary of State Kathleen Harris hurriedly certifying election results before all recounts had been completed. In 2004, it was the removal of voting machines in heavily black and Democratic areas of Ohio to new locations in the more Republican areas. This caused extremely long lines and therefore a falloff in voting in the Democratic areas. In both cases Bush "won" election by very narrow margins.

The classic example of a fascist state is Nazi Germany, with its strong authoritarian government, its arrogant nationalism, secret police, press censorship, persecution and murder of Jews and political opponents, collusion between Hitler and the Krupp industrial empire, and its aggressive war against Poland and the rest of the world. Thankfully, we in this country have not yet seen murderous excesses like those of Nazi Germany. But disturbing parallels between our government and industry are beginning to emerge. We must not slide into fascism, even if our variety of it IS milder than that of Hitler's Germany. There is a dangerous new militarism and intolerance of dissent creeping into our national psyche. These are unhealthy developments which must be reversed. There is a tendency for us to act unilaterally regarding other nations. There is a school of thought which says the President must have almost unlimited power and that the Legislative and Judicial branches of government should be subordinate to him. That paternalistic and authoritarian attitude must be rejected altogether, and is one in a growing list of reasons why the blustery, trigger-happy and militaristic John McCain must NOT be elected President November 4!!!


CouplesCo said...

Actually I Laura D Lewis wasn't a journalist with the Los Angeles Business Journal. I worked in Advertising. My journalism career began after. Thanks for the notes on your blog.

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