Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The 1980 Elections and the Fascist Menace

First Published: Unite!, Vol. 6, No. 8, May 1, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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It is not uncommon today to hear talk of the “conservative swing” in the country, of the emergence of the “New Right”, or the growth of the KKK and Nazi Party. But as important as these developments, is the almost certain nomination of Ronald Regan as the Republican candidate for President.

The outcome of the November election will be among the most important reflections of the extent to which the capitalist class has agreed on the advance of fascism in the United States. The actual importance of the election is not to determine which representative of the capitalist class will become chief of staff of the capitalist state for the purpose of exploiting and oppressing the working people, but what the election reveals about the pace of the growing fascist menace.

Fascist Forms of Rule Already Present

Fascist reaction is already widespread in the U.S., that is, the utilization of massive open terror by the State against the people. In the large cities of the U.S., against the national minorities, against the strike movement, in the South and Southwest, the police and the fascist gangs display no hesitation to unleash their counter-revolutionary violence. The strengthening of the repressive apparatus of the state machine, such as the local police, the CIA, FBI, and other agencies, the steady erosion of legal democratic rights, the centralization of power in the executive, the growing monopolization of the economy, the expansion of the KKK, Nazis, and the New Right, these and other developments are all reflections of the growing menace.

But today in the United States, a fascist state has not yet emerged. There, remains a bourgeois democratic state. Fascism in power would mean the open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capitalism.

How rapid the fascist menace will consolidate its hold over the state machine will depend upon both the objective and subjective factors of the class struggle: the extent of capitalism’s economic and political crisis, the workers’ resistance to it, and their struggle for liberation.

Fascism in a New Costume

Reagan has a long history of anti-communism, right wing and fascist reaction. In Hollywood, Reagan stood at the forefront of decades of anti-communism, in close association with Joseph McCarthy. Elected Governor of California in 1966, he accumulated a record of repression and reaction. Since 1968, he has been campaigning for President of the United States. Today, he appears closer to that objective than ever before.

Reagan is born of the same mold as Nixon, Goldwater, and Wallace. He is building on the support given to these representatives of the capitalist class. Already he has surpassed the popularity of either Wallace or Goldwater.

Reagan is the most recent representative of the bourgeois class’s fascist solution as they try to extricate themselves from the economic and political crisis they face. Reagan is quite able to gain the backing of the finance capitalist class because he fronts for their program: imperialist war, smashing the workers’ movement, and placing the burden of the crisis on the backs of the working class, particularly women and minorities.

Reagan has grasped well the use of fascism to the capitalist class. Though fascism assumes different forms in different countries and rises in accordance with the specific features of the class struggle in each country, fascism remains one of the classic forms of counter-revolution in the period of decaying capitalism, of propping up a dying system. The rise of fascism reflects the growing economic and political crisis, the instability of the capitalist state machine and claims to provide a way out of the crisis.

Playing to the Audience

But Reagan has a particular role and a particular talent gained from his years as an actor. His role is to make fascism appear to be a solution for the problem of the working man, instead of the terrorist rule it really represents. He does this in three ways. First, by appealing to the loss of national pride, by appealing to chauvinist jingoism, Reagan prepares the groundwork for imperialist war.

“Most of you remember,” says Reagan, “a United States of America where even when an American citizen was on business or vacation or wherever and got caught in a war, all that American had to do was to pin to his lapel a little American flag and he could walk right through that war and no one would lay a finger on him. Well, I want to see that United States back in the world again.”

For Reagan this is a matter of mobilizing the reactionary patriotism that marked the Hollywood screen in the years following the second World War. It is a sentimental ploy to recount the days when Americans on “business ” were often installing dictators like the Shah of Iran in power, when U.S. imperialism “vacationed” around the world by super-exploiting the world’s peoples. Reagan believes that such patriotism can be mobilized to back an imperialist war.

For Reagan there is a clear and simple solution to the “crisis” in Iran. “Well, there comes a time when a government has got to be willing to set a date for their release and let them know privately what the option will be if they are not released on that date.” Reagan acts as if ushering the American people into imperialist war were just another gunfight at the OK Corral. Favoring the doctrine of “massive retaliation”, Reagan supports the production of the most destructive and dangerous of weaponry, the B-l bomber, the Trident submarine, neutron bombs, the MX and Cruise missiles.

Reagan: “A Man of the People”?

Reagan also draws on another of the classic themes of fascist reaction, the defense of the “little man”: “We have a group of elitists in Washington who have no faith and trust in the American people, and they think that they must control our destiny, make all the rules, tell us how to run our lives and our business. And it is time to have a President who will take the government off the backs of the people and turn the great genius of the people loose once again.”

In a pattern unmistakable from fascism in Germany, Regan draws upon the fertile soil of suffering and indignation of working people who feel the weight of the capitalists’ executive committee, our present government. Hiding the role of its capitalist backers, Reagan poses the government as a thing in itself, parading against big government and preaching such simplistic solutions to the effort to balance the budget as massive cuts in support payments. “There comes a time to say no.” Never mind that 30 to 40 million people in this country rely on some sort of support payment to save them from starvation.

In his efforts to win the working people to his disastrous program, Reagan will play any role. Following the lead of Nixon, Reagan will play the simple western “practical” man struggling against the eastern intellectuals. But each of these roles is simply a mask for the real actor, the representative of the capitalists’ fascist solution to their crisis. He is no man of the people; he is a man of the ruling class.

Finally, Reagan poses himself as a symbol of law and order, against the anarchy and confusion which is a product of the capitalist crisis. This role provides the cover for his attack on the workers’ movement.

To the tune of “God Bless America” Reagan’s fascist program is summed up by the jingle “Let’s make America great again”, but it is capitalist America he is speaking of.

Reagan is Building the Fascist Movement

In many regards, Reagan has chosen the classic path of fascist mobilization, drawing upon the basic sentiments and sorrows of the masses.

But Reagan does not yet represent a well defined fascist movement. The situation in the U.S. cannot be compared to that in 1930 when the Nazis appeared on the stage of national politics in Germany, let alone 1933 when the Nazis seized power in Germany. Nor has Reagan yet urged a new fascist party, or a substitution of fascist state domination for bourgeois democracy.

The Reagan road today is to permeate the present state with fascism, and to utilize the Republican Party, drawing upon disgruntled Democrats.

But behind the scenes it is obvious that classic fascist forces, such as the Readers Digest, the American Legion, and others, have actively worked at laying a fascist foundation. Richard Viguerie, editor of Conservative Digest, center of the New Right and nameless author for various KKK publications, has joined the Reagan staff. Reagan has found the key to unlocking their long-dormant instincts.

The rise of Reagan over 15 years is itself a chronicle of the sharpening fascist danger in the United States. What Reagan represents is not the imminent threat of fascist rule, but the sharpening of fascist reaction. The ideological soil for fascism has been well-tilled by monopoly capitalism in the United States. The strength of state monopoly capitalism, the increasing concentration of power in the hands of the executive, the deep divisions within the working class and the mounting assault against the living standards and democratic rights of the people are all warning signs, signs which Reagan has learned to utilize with skill.

In such a situation, fascism is highly unlikely to emerge exactly as it did in Germany. But this is all the more reason to consider seriously the candidacy of Ronald Reagan and what it represents about the motion of the capitalist class today.

In such a situation, there will no doubt be cries of “vote for the lesser evil”, a refrain familiar in the Johnson-Goldwater election. In reality, whether Carter, Kennedy, or Reagan is elected, each in turn is searching for a way out of the crisis of capitalism, and that road is bound to lead to imperialist war and fascism.

The only road to fight against imperialist war and fascist reaction is revolution. Come November, the proletariat has no stake in any candidate of monopoly capital, let alone their social democratic or revisionist helpers, whether the Citizens Party, the CPUSA or the Socialist Workers’ Party.

The great importance of the 1980 election, then, will be what it reveals about the pace of fascization in the U.S. today.

Only revolution can prevent the advance of fascist reaction in the U.S. Revolution can only be advanced by the consistent education, organization, mobilization and leadership of the working people in opposition to the capitalist elections in November.