Do fascists exist in the U.S.? If they did, how would they behave? Could you spot one in power? (No, I’m not talking about guys who dress up in Nazi regalia.)
Henry Wallace, writing in 1944, when fascism was engulfing the world in terror, made these timeless remarks about fascism in the U.S.:
The Danger of American Fascism
Henry A. WallaceAn article in the New York Times, April 9, 1944.
From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 259.A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party….The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.
How might such a person pursue such a goal?
One might scare the public with dire warnings about barbarian hordes just over the horizon, say by magnifying some petty dictator into our generation’s equivalent of Hitler and calling for war as a way of avoiding…war! In such a case, the threat will always be imminent. Iran, you may note, has been “one year away” from developing nuclear weapons for at least a decade. Or one might exploit, indeed exacerbate, a terrorist threat from some gang of extremists and, conducting the extremists’ propaganda campaign for them, continually warn the people of strikes that are imminent. The occasional real terrorist attack will do wonders to help the people forget that, in reality, attacks occur seldom, while the empire-building adventures they are used to justify are vigorously pursued even though they do not address and indeed may exacerbate the terrorist threat.
But waving the bloody shirt is not the only way fascists can pursue their goals of acquiring “more money or more power.” A recession works well, too, and has the advantage of fitting the American fascist preference for avoiding violence (I will not argue with Wallace on this point, though his belief that American fascists prefer to avoid violence may be a bit dated now).
How is one to differentiate between politicians legitimately responding to crisis (or, in the case of Iranian nukes—which of course still do not exist, the possibility of a future crisis) and politicians exploiting crisis to amass power and wealth for themselves?
In the case of an alleged foreign threat, legitimate responses will include genuine offers of concessions that carefully take into account possible security concerns of the adversary. Negotiation will not be confused with brutal demands for unilateral concessions. Care will be taken to ensure that the adversary is held to a common standard, not subjected to discriminatory rules.
In the case of a recession, legitimate responses will focus on ensuring the availability of good jobs that have social value (e.g., “rebuilding Main St.”), rather than padding the pockets of the rich. If government regulators were amiss and thus in part to blame, legitimate responses will include clear criticism of those regulatory failures and new, transparent regulatory rules. If intention violations of regulatory procedures by the financial world is suspected, it will be investigated rapidly and intensely. Financial institutions found guilty will be eliminated, not bankrolled and trusted anew.
You be the judge.