Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Barry Weisberg

The Fascist Menace in the United States and How to Fight It

Chapter VI: The American Road to Fascism

You mought be rich as cream
And drive your coach and four horse team.
But you can’t keep de world from moverin’ round
Nor keep Nat Turner from gainin’ ground.

And your name it mought be Caesar sure
And got you cannon can shoot a mile or more,
But you can’t keep de world from moverin’ round
Nor Nat Turner from gainin’ ground.

Slave Song

Right-wing, reactionary trends in American life have always existed, promoting white supremacy, interventionism and anti-people policies. The discrepancy between the promise and reality of dollar democracy has been sharp, no more so than in 1922 when the dedication ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial were strictly segregated. With the growth of fascism in various European countries, American monopolies offered considerable support. Wall Street built up the German cartels, the Rockefeller oil empire contributed mightily to I.G. Farben, General Electric bankrolled Hitler and I.T.T. funded both sides during World War II.

The American monopolies’ support for fascists has never been limited to foreign adventures, however. Countless fascist trends in American life have received large support, often secret, from the Rockefellers, the Hunts, Mellons, Fords and others. This is necessary to point out because the class character of the fascist movement in the U.S. is monopoly capitalism. While it often parades behind an anti-monopoly, or anti-big business facade, its real political nature is decidedly pro-big business.

Ever since the defeat of fascism in World War II, American fascists have been preparing for a new offensive. Since McCarthy, the fascist movement has not had a single center, that is until the presidential candidacy of Ronald Reagan. Instead, it has been organized along several independent, but interconnected lines. What has most united them has been vehement anti-communism and the support of many large monopolies.

The Old Right has in general represented the classical liberal, or conservative thinking in America, which found connections to similar currents in Europe, such as Burke and Hayek. In the period following World War II, the Old Right found its most ardent advocates in organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Legion and the Chamber of Commerce. Finding the mood of the country not suited to their thinking, various distinct political currents in the Old Right emerged. They included the classical liberals or libertarians, the new conservativism espoused by Russell Kirk, and the various anti-communist crusades that emerged. Organizations such as the Young Americans for Freedom, the National Review, the Christian Crusade and the Libertarian Party were founded. The main voice of the Old Right evolved from William F. Buckley, through Barry Goldwater and M. Stanton Evans and Ronald Reagan. Its main attention has been toward virulent anti-communist and anti-labor policies. In the main, it confined its movement to education and propaganda, with notable exceptions. The Old Right cast itself in traditional capitalist cloth and presented itself as a defender of the capitalist class.

The New Right, on the other hand, grew in response to the events of the 1960’s and emerged full-blown in the 1970’s. Its success can be measured by the fact that today, three out of four conservative organizations have appeared in the last half-dozen years. Aggressive in education, and advocates of direct action, the New Right represents an attempt by monopoly capitalism to appeal to a new audience, feeding on the current unrest and discontent in society. While it has grown in response to the democratic and anti-imperialist movements of the past two decades, it has been nurtured by elements of the Old Right as a means to marshall those forces who have defected from the Old Right and from the bourgeois political parties. While the New Right may appeal to the “common man”, or the small producer, its class alignment remains with monopoly capitalism.

The main currents within the New Right are centered around these figures: Richard Viguerie, who publishes the Conservative Digest and New Right Report and is the wizard of computer direct-mailing; Paul Weyrich, who formed the Committee for Survival of a Free Congress, and later, the Heritage Foundation; Howard Phillips, who set up the Conservative Caucus; and Terry Nolan, who runs the National Conservative Political Action Committee. Behind these, there are dozens of other important organizations which focus on single issues such as the Equal Rights Amendment, “right-to-work” and abortion. They have elected a large number of national and local officials and constitute a major force within both the Republican and Democratic Parties. They have managed a revival in academic and professional circles, spawning everything from the supply-side economists to the creationists. They represent a powerful ideological, economic and political force which is rapidly gaining influence.

The Religious Right is an important component of the right-wing, fascist forces in the country. Centering upon issues such as affirmative action, abortion, school prayer, busing and the ERA, the Moral Majority, Christian Voice and lesser lights have taken up a fundamentalist ideological crusade to win the hearts and minds of those unhappy with the decay and decline of America. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Robinson have given new fervor to the inscription on the dollar, “In God We Trust”. The Religious Right has become a powerful ideological tool of reaction, linking ever more closely the church and state, with the aim of recovering the flocks that the state has lost. Spiritual health and economic wealth are closely linked in the defense and resurrection of the existing order. The fundamentalism and moral certainty, together with the virulent tone of the crusade, are important components in the foundation for fascism.

And finally, there are a variety of para-military terror forces such as the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis, Posse Comitatus, Soldier of Fortune and others, who are training as the shock troops of the fascist tide, the present-day brown shirts.

At the service of all these forces are the “think tanks” such as the Hoover Institute, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation which receive funding from the largest monopoly corporations in the country, such as Exxon, Coors and the Hunt family.

If the class character of this movement is clearly capitalist, the social basis of the movement is drawn largely from the middle classes or the petty bourgeoisie. While the actual number of overt fascist forces is relatively small at this time, the social base that will support various aspects of the fascist program is much larger. For example, the known contributor base of the conservative movement is about 6 to 7 million. The television audience of the Moral Majority is estimated at 15 to 20 million. And Ronald Reagan received 43 million votes.

The social character of the Reagan vote is a good description of the potential social base for the fascist movement. It is comprised largely of white, middle-class shopkeepers, farmers, small businessmen and skilled workers. While the main reserve of the fascist movement is the middle class, it must be recognized that this movement is capable of drawing support from sections of the working class as well, particularly the higher paid, skilled workers. The rallying call for all such forces is “Make America Great Again”.

This social basis for the fascist movement represents an intermediate stratum between monopoly capitalism and the working class. Its class position is in flux, being on one hand forced toward the working class through its own oppression, and on the other, toward the capitalist class by promises of a better future and the call to “get the government off our backs”.

The significance of the nomination and election of Ronald Reagan is that monopoly capitalism has called forth a personality capable of uniting at this time, the various right-wing, fascist forces required to solidify the movement. It is not Reagan who is leading the fascist menace, but the magnates of Wall Street who are directing Reagan to unify the fascist forces. The triumph of Reagan, long identified with the most pro-imperialist, most reactionary sections of capital, represents their hegemony on Wall Street and the consolidation of the monopoly capitalist class on a new road to try and extricate itself from the crisis of American imperialism. The programs of Ronald Reagan do not yet constitute a full-fledged fascist program, but rather a groundwork for fascism. The economic, political, social, military and ideological program that Reagan is unfolding has a definite class content. It is designed to enrich the capitalist class and impoverish the working people.

The economic program of fascization promotes the illusion of American self-sufficiency through an economic recovery. This is paraded as a “New Beginning”. At the heart of this plan is the attempt to utilize the state apparatus in new and more efficient ways to make the rich richer. The budget cuts will save capital that can be utilized by the state for militarization of the economy for international aggression. The deregulation of major industries such as energy and transport promotes massive profit-taking by the monopolies. The various tax “reforms” introduced by Reagan will maximize the burden of federal income tax on the working people and minimize the burden on the monopolies. At present the corporations pay a mere 12.4% of the total income tax, down from 23% in 1960. Reagan’s plan will drop this figure to 7.7% by 1986.

Through various economic revitalization schemes floated by various sections of capital, Wall Street aims to greatly accelerate the accumulation of capital, streamline the economy to rid it of bothersome competition (like the elimination of Chrysler) and introduce a new round of profits.

In essence, the economic program of fascization strengthens the hold of the monopolies over the economy as a whole, strengthens the interests of the rich and introduces an international economic order to insure the complete self-sufficiency of American imperialism. Translated, this means insured U.S. control over all vital resources without the threat of competition or interruption.

Politically, the fascization process is aimed at strengthening the coercive and persuasive apparatus of the state machine on all fronts, by centralizing power in the hands of the executive, utilizing the federal budget as a means to determine economic growth, through elimination of many democratic rights won over the last few decades and by strengthening the local police, national guard and secret police agencies of the state. The goal is to politically insure the ability of the state to rule over all competing interests, in the event that distrust with dollar democracy requires abandonment of the shell of bourgeois democracy and the introduction of a reign of fascist terror. Toward this end, both the coercive and persuasive apparatus of the state are required.

At the same time that the state is prepared, the appropriate social forces are mobilized or destroyed in accord with the needs of fascism. On the one hand, the forces of reaction are being unified and organized. Paramilitary forces are being trained in large numbers. Even a shadow government is being prepared, commonly referred to as a shadow cabinet, in the event that the existing legislative, executive and judicial branches of government prove unnecessary for fascist rule.

On the other hand, an attack against the organizations of the workers has been mounted, aimed at sowing class collaboration and completely gutting the workers’ ability to fight through no-strike clauses, co-determination schemes to place labor leaders on the boards of directors of major corporations and repression of rank-and-file movements. Obviously, where this is unsuccessful, popular leaders will be assassinated, as in the past on many occasions.

Socially, the fascization which is occurring is obliterating many of the improvements in the standard of living won in the course of struggle over many decades. On all fronts, housing, health care, education and nutrition, the well-being of the majority of working people is deteriorating. In this way the fascization program aims to reduce the majority of working people to the conditions of the subsistence level, to discourage social protest of any kind, and open a door for the promise of recovery by a fascist leader.

Militarily, fascization of the state goes hand-in-hand with the most massive military build-up since World War II. The new “defense” budget demands that $ 1.4 trillion be spent over the next five years for weapons of mass destruction. Within five years, the projections call for the present 24.1% of the budget which goes for military spending to soar to 36.8%. New exotic weapons of mass destruction, and new military bases in all corners of the globe are being unveiled. Rapid deployment forces for instant intervention have been established. By equating resistance against U.S. imperialism’s international designs with “international terrorism”, a case is being made to justify the U.S. military build-up. The pace with which the new space shuttle has been developed is an indication of the eagerness of the Pentagon to conquer not only earth, but space as well. Registration for the draft and beefing up of the police are further signs of the growing militarization of monopoly capitalism.

Ideologically, the much to do about the “New Beginning” of the Reagan regime represents an ideological offensive designed to create a philosophy or theory to combat the basic world theory behind the anti-fascist struggle, which is Marxism. This ideological offensive is a pre-requisite for fascism, and an important sign which indicates the reality that the groundwork for a fascist state is still being laid in place. Hitler pointed out that “every attempt to combat a world theory by means of force comes to grief in the end, so long as the struggle fails to take the form of aggression in favor of a new intellectual conception. It is only when two world theories are wrestling on equal terms that brute force, persistent and ruthless, can bring about a decision by arms in favor of the side which it supports.”

Today, the ideological fascization has at its center the renewed calls for racial purity and a new wave of racial inferiority theories, aimed primarily against Black Americans. The sharp rise in anti-semitic propaganda, the fundamentalist religious theory of “creationism” and the “born-again” movement, the rise of pornography and anti-women propaganda, the jingoist patriotism and anti-communism, and the various theories introduced into the working class such as co-determination and partnership with the capitalist class, and the false theories of supply-side economics, are all part of the ideological arsenal of fascism. The protracted campaign of violence and terror on television and in the movies is part of the accommodation of violence and terror which is being promoted. In no other country in the world is it possible to turn on the television and constantly view your oppressors – the police “good guys.”

Today the front line of fascization is on the ideological level, to win a large section of the people to the new policies, in order to insure their successful implementation.

The measures taken today for the all-round fascization of society are similar in many ways to those that emerged prior to fascism in Italy and Germany. They rely upon the same economic, political, social and ideological principles. They are likely to be all the more successful precisely because the U.S. represents the epitome of capitalist development, in which all the main features of imperialism have developed to their fullest expression. The American road to fascism will certainly not follow all the same channels required elsewhere. Nor will it appear in the same form as it did in other countries. The massive accumulation of capital will likely mean a more rapid road to a fascist state than elsewhere. The extent of the development of state monopoly capitalism in the U.S. also indicates this.

Therefore, it may not be necessary that a large fascist movement and fascist party appear in the U.S. before a fascist state arrives. It is fashionable among many academics to talk about an electoral path to fascism, suggesting that fascism may be voted into power. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that a fascist state will arrive without violence or brutality: they speak of a “friendly fascism.” While it is not possible now to predict what road fascism may take to power, given the history of violence and terror in this country, the chances are far better that the move from the present dollar democracy to a fascist state could only occur as a result of violent civil conflict. Whether this occurs overnight or as a result of a civil war is not possible to foresee. What is most unlikely, however, is that a fascist state would evolve as a result of some peaceful transition from the present form of state, almost unnoticed and unopposed.

Given the growth and development of the U.S., and its recent political history, the large number of presidents from the South, Texas or California, there are many indications that the cultural configuration of fascism in the U.S. will not arrive in a goose step, brown shirt or even white hood. It is likewise unlikely to parade itself in a three-button suit from Brooks Brothers. More likely, it will come clad in cowboy boots and hat, parading as the de-tender of the common man, cloaked in the myth of the pioneer, the rugged individualist, defending the frontier traditions of the past against the twin evils of big government and communism.

In considering the American road to fascism, it is not enough to discuss what direction we believe it will take. It is also important to consider those wrong views which hold back the struggle against fascism. In the past, there have been both those who cry fascism at every instance of repression, and those who belittled the danger of fascism when repression grew dramatically. It should come as no surprise that clear thinking on the question is at a premium.

First and foremost, there is the need to combat the dominant illusion among the workers that ”It can’t happen here.” Our discussion of dollar democracy demonstrates that incipient fascism exists within the shell of democracy, and is its natural compliment. That it has not yet happened here is no insurance that it won’t happen here.

Second, the position of some “left”-appearing forces that the real danger of fascism comes from the Ku Klux Klan or other relatively small, military gangs, and not big business, is another illusion. Within the left today, this illusion is dominant. It is reflected in the fact that the anti-repression forces concentrate their attention against the Klan and not against capital itself. Naturally this incorrect approach is fostered by Wall Street and their media, who give inordinate attention to the Klan but hardly ever to the forces behind the Klan. This ultra-left position is extremely dangerous, for it serves to delude the people that to fight fascism is merely to fight a few fascists. Furthermore, it generally takes the course of negating the danger that fascism presents to the majority of the working people, and instead, only the immediate – though real – danger the Klan presents to the Black people of the country.

Third, there is the mistaken tendency to equate all repression with fascism, and to exaggerate the pace of the fascist menace. Some go so far as to suggest that a fascist state has existed in the U.S. for many years! This delusion negates the struggle to defend the remaining democratic rights of the people and abandons the struggle to mobilize the people to prevent fascism from becoming the form of rule.

Fourth, is the mistaken illusion that those in the “left wing” of the Democratic Party, or to the left of the Democratic Party, such as Harrington Winpisinger or Hayden. will constitute a genuine force to oppose fascism. There is already ample evidence to demonstrate their conciliation with fascism, as they jockey to secure themselves seats within the Democratic Party, not fight fascism. The Democratic Party will not become an anti-fascist fighter, because fascism is nurtured in the womb of capitalism itself. Those who rely upon the Democratic Party conciliate with, and lay the basis for the victory of fascism.

Fifth, is the incorrect view that the trade union bureaucrats who run the unions, and other reformists, will play an important role in the anti-fascist struggle. Today Fraser of the United Auto Workers and Kirkland of the AFL-CIO conciliate with the fascist menace. The heads of the reformist unions have long ago sold out the interests of the rank and file for a few crumbs from the monopolies – it is not an accident that Chrysler is so happy with Fraser’s performance on its board of directors.

In the struggle to fight the fascist menace countless obstacles and mistaken views will emerge. Some will argue tor unity with a section of the capitalist class, a non-monopoly section, others will ignore the danger. History has demonstrated that while fighting the fascists, we must also fight the incorrect and opportunist ideas which mislead and misdirect the struggle itself.

Finally, if any doubt remains about the real danger of fascism in the U.S., and the necessity to fight it now, we need only refer to history once more and draw a proper conclusion. To reap the vast profits of cotton, untold crimes were committed against millions of African people; to try and prevent the shorter work day innocent men were hung; to try and prevent strikes to obtain a minimum increase in wages and benefits women and children were beaten and shot; to reap the vast superprofits of the Southwest, the capitalist class murdered and raped thousands of Chicano, Mexicano and Indian people; to try and stop peaceful protests against the invasion of Cambodia students’ were murdered; to try and stop the struggle for the democratic rights of the Black masses Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were assassinated. To fill the coffers of the coupon clippers, American imperialism murdered over one million people in Indochina.

These crimes of enormous proportions were committed when American imperialism was climbing toward its zenith, when its interests were not truly challenged as they are today. If these acts were committed without a real challenge to its existence, what can we expect when a real challenge to the future of U.S. imperialism arrives?