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The New Fascism: Coopting the Nationalist Meme for Globalist Ends

10:35 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

Events in different parts of the globe strongly suggest that we must revisit 20th century history. We think of Fascism as a passing phenomenon that was vanquished in the Second World War, leaving us to cope with the equally dangerous threat of Communism. Alas, we must put that illusion to rest, for only by realizing that fascism never died can we make sense of today’s news.

A crowd in Euromaidan in Ukraine, with Ukrainian flags. One faces the camera.

Euromaidan: The new face of 21st-century fascism?

I had begun to suspect this last summer when it became clear that the United States was supporting ‘pro-capitalist’ Islamists. The crisis in Greece added another brick to my as yet small edifice: why was Germany making out inordinately well from bailing out that country? Following on Wikileaks revelations about private security firms such as Blackwater, whose techniques recall those of Stormtroopers, Edward Snowden’s leaks exposed the electronic tracking of the world’s communications that make the Gestapo (and Stasi) look like amateurs.

But it is with the Ukrainian ‘revolution’ that we have the  most blatant proof that globalization and fascism go hand in hand. Europeans wonder how Bruxelles can afford to bail out a non-member of the Union when Spain, Portugal and Greece are still mired in 20-50% unemployment. The answer discloses a painful reality: Western governance is not about striving for the best possible life for the most people, but about securing Louis XIV lifestyles for the global elite.

Seen in that light, the determination to draw Ukraine into the EU (first as a long-term guest) is about enrolling its citizens’ delusions of (European) grandeur in the NATO effort to prevent Russia from posing a serious threat to U.S.-led globalization. It’s as if the West had had to take a detour on its path to global, fascist domination to deal with the Soviet Union, and is now picking up where it left off after defeating its competitor on that path, Nazi Germany.

A few left-wing Europeans are warning of fascism again threatening the Old Continent, but as in the United States, their voices are drowned out by those of officialdom. The specter of socialism that gave rise to Fascism and its challenge to the ‘democratic’ West’s cornering of markets is greater now than it was in 1940, and it is compounded by the irruption on the world stage of radical Islam. Not that of Sunni Al Qaeda, but of revolutionary Shi’ism, which extends in various forms from Iran, through the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government, to Syria under the Ba’ath Party and into Lebanon with Hezbollah, and Gaza under a Sunni Hamas that is closely allied with Shi’a political ideology.

The influence of Marxism on Shi’ite revolutionary theoreticians, carefully kept from the Western public, is laid out in great detail in Alastair Crooke’s 2009 book Resistance: the Essence of the Islamist Revolution (Pluto Press) which should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand today’s world. Crooke makes clear that notwithstanding the Iranian regime’s co-optation by conservative clerics, its initial inspiration was revolutionary. It was not about ‘power to the people’ (or the Soviets), but it was about avoiding great disparities of wealth, combined with respect for even the poorest citizens. According to Crooke, the Qu’uran,

presents ‘giving’ as a redistributive mechanism to prevent excessive disparity in wealth. … It is conducive to a sense of ‘detachment’ from worldly possessions among the well-to-do; and prevents accumulations of wealth leading to monopolies and the domination of others … part of a wider purpose demanding that economic activity be viewed as one component in a human condition that is an integral part of a wider ‘being’ that encompasses the world in which we live.

Seen in this light, revolutionary Islam (as opposed to Sunni-inspired radical conservative Islam) mirrors the aspirations of progressives striving to achieve redistribution of wealth and maintain the Earth as a human habitat. And this in turn explains the resurrection of Fascism, which is concerned only with power and profit. The crisis in Ukraine (and Venezuela, and Syria) shows that it is relatively easy for a powerful alliance to manipulate popular discontent with any regime (whether more or less justified), to serve its own ends. You could say that the ultimate achievement of twenty-first century fascism, as opposed to its cruder predecessor, has been to usurp the people’s ultimate weapon – revolution – for ends which have nothing to do with popular aspirations.

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Hollande in Washington and Fascism’s Revenge

8:44 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

Who could have imagined at any moment during the last half century, that fascism would again become a major force in the world?  The image of history as a relentless forward march has blinded us to the equally powerful truth that it often repeats itself.

A little-noticed reason for the return of fascism is that since the Second World War, Western Europe has remained an American vassal, its individual nations hardly more independent than those of Eastern Europe that until 1989 were part of the Soviet sphere of influence for forty years.  I know because I lived in both.

In Une autre Europe, un autre Monde, published in France on the day the Berlin Wall fell, I foresaw the reunification of the old continent as well as the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I chastised Western Europe for accepting the stationing of American Pershing missiles intended to prevent Soviet tanks from completing their ‘takeover’ of the old continent, instead of working for its reunification.  I argued that an enlarged Europe had nothing to fear from the Soviet behemoth, because in reality that country was merely one of several giants on the Eurasian continent: China, India and the Middle East being the others, along with Europe.

A quarter of a century later, three of the five Eurasian giants (Russia, China and India) form the backbone of the BRICS countries, which account for 40% of the world’s GDP. But although it is whole again and has the second largest economy in the world, Europe has been ravaged by the financial system based on Wall Street. The single currency that went into effect in 2000 could have guaran-teed its independence, however without a political union, the welfare system which had been its pride and joy was overcome by austerity.

Meanwhile the fifth giant, the Muslim crescent, is experiencing an upheaval comparable to that of the Christian Reformation that embroiled Europe in conflict for a hundred and thirty years (1524-1648). What I call the Muslim Reformation, and the nexus between Europe and Africa, both play a crucial role in the current rise of fascism. Post-colonial Africa’s 1.772 billion people account for more than a fifth of the world’s 7 billion inhabitants, and the continent is in a state of upheaval that may not have been equalled anywhere at any time in history.  Govern-ments of fifty-five separate states, relatively new at ruling, must weave antagonistic tribal groups into national entities, even as outsiders – former colonial masters as well as newcomers like China and imperial America – compete for its riches, including not only minerals, but forests and agricultural land.  (Saudi Arabia is particularly interested in the latter…).

Africa’s challenges spill over into Europe as unwelcome migrations of the upheavals’ victims as well as of those who simply believe they can do better in the North. Al-though in the United States, white people will be a minority by 2050, or even sooner, the northern and southern American hemispheres are both Christian. Very differently, in Africa, three major religious traditions interact: Christi-anity, Islam and a myriad of tribal religions. For their respective white majorities, the prospect of a mainly Latino/Black/Asian United States is nothing, compared to that of a brown, Muslim Europe.  That ‘threat’ has revived the spirit of the anti-Muslim crusades of the Middle Ages, as Europe sees in Islam a threat to its 2000 year Christian culture.

In the country I’m most familiar with, France, the National Front Party has been off bounds even to most conser-vatives for the virulence of its anti-Semitism and racism, yet today it is drawing support from right-wing voters of all classes, especially in the provinces where closing factories leave workers unemployed and rising crime worries the middle-class. The voters who in a recent report on France 24 expressed their intention to back the National Front in up-coming municipal and European elections tacitly acknowledged the opprobrium that attaches to a Neo-Fascist party in a country that was occupied by Nazi Germany, apologetically describing it as their only hope.

Hitler too, was Germany’s only hope in 1933, as it strug-gled to meet the financial burdens imposed upon it after the first world war.  And just as the Germans began to see the Jews among them as responsible for their difficulties, today’s Europeans see the Muslims among them as contributing to the state’s burdens and the lack of jobs.

In Africa, Christians, Muslims and traditionalists also reciprocally condemn each other, however the fact that in Europe all parties are legal masks the threat of fascism, its parliamentary ups and downs making it seem no different from other parties.  But fascism IS different in that it does not rule out the use of force to impose its will.  This has been particularly evident in Greece, with the rise of the fist-raising, immigrant attacking Golden Dawn Party (while ironically, Greece’s  left-wing parties see Angela Merkel as a new Hitler because of the painful conditions Germany imposed on Greece as part of its bailout).

Nor is fascism in Europe limited to the southern, poorer tier: Norway’s welfare state is so advanced that it runs a unique prison offering comforts and opportunities to inmates in a relatively successful rehabilitation program. Yet the avowed fascist Anders Brevik killed 70 young socialists on a vacation island two years ago in protest against the country’s immigration policy.  (Africans make up less than 2% of Norway’s population, but there has been a significant rise in their numbers since 2000.)

Across the EU, Africans only account for 1.5% of the population, however Muslims account for 10%, and the number of mosques is increasing. (In France, which has the largest Muslim population, there are over 2000).  What is most significant is that about a third of Muslims actually practice their religion compared to only 5% of Christians, meaning that attitudes promoted by religion are far more prevalent among the former than the latter. (Conservative Christians cannot admit that they share Muslims’ rejection of women’s liberation and non-traditional sexual life-styles.)

From anti-Muslim sentiment to a grass roots fascism, embodied in hyper-nationalistic, racist political parties is but a short step that conveniently dovetails with the so-called ‘war on terror’ being waged by governments. In the U.S., and increasingly in Europe, that war justifies the most far-reaching surveillance of citizens ever seen, the visible part of the corporate/fascist governance that is replacing government of, by and for the people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may be using KGB methods to spy on his own citizens, but the Soviet Union lost over 20,000,000 in the conflict with Nazi Germany, leaving its people with a lasting rejection of fascism. Even capitalist Russians value the socialist commit-ment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Rather than going to war against islamic terrorism, Putin encourages gradual modernization among Russia’s Muslim neighbors, while supporting religious values both there and in Russia, as evidenced by the sentencing of the Pussy Rioters who desecrated a cathedral, and the law against the proselytization of gay lifestyles to youth.

Very differently, American leaders claim that negotiation is useless because ‘the enemy’ is by definition in bad faith (see the conflict with Iran). And any country that is not a bona fide ally is painted as a potential enemy. Presented as a righteous attitude toward the responsibility to defend the homeland, this is an indispensable part of corporate/government fascism, which is about profit: war is good for the bottom line, as is the rebuilding of devastated lands.

By making a state visit to Washington, French President Francois Hollande may be hoping that a rapprochement with the United States will lure France’s right-wing voters away from the fascist temptation. But by clinging to its Cold War status as an American vassal, Europe risks coming full circle with 1940, when Nazi Germany occupied the entire continent.

 

 

 

Re the Olympics: “Do Not Trust Your Friends”

4:45 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

Russia Today (RT): With such biased Western reporting about the Sochi Olympics, never was an ancient Greek saying from the Trojan War more apropos: “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”, “Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.”

I’ve been watching Russia’s English language television channel, RT (Russia Today) for several hours a day for about a year now, and this has given me a picture of Vladimir Putin’s presidency that casual watchers miss. When you have seen dozens of interviews by American educated Russian Oxana Boyko, or French educated Georgian Sophie Schevarnadze, Americans Abby Martin and Max Keiser, or Briton’s goof-off John Brown exploring the farthest reaches of this vast country – or even the American ‘Resident’ who poses short questions to New Yorkers on the street, you realize that Russia‘s President is searching for something that is neither Western style capitalism nor Communism. That puts him on the same wave length as grassroots movements around the globe, whether we’re talking about the demonstrators in Muslim Turkey’s Taksim Square, Spain’s ‘Indignados’ or the Occupy Movement.

While taking every opportunity to reveal America’s problems at home and abroad, the ‘Voice of Russia’ seeks out movers, shakers and thinkers from around the world who have something useful to say about the possibilities of combining equity with development for humans in the throes of religious upheaval on a planet that challenges their survival as a species. American dissidents like Tom Hartmann or Peter Lavelle have been joined by Larry King, who prefaces his interviews with the slogan ‘Does the Media Abandon Us or Do We Abandon the Media?’

The sound bites that have accompanied the Sochi Winter Olympics, whether about security or the meaning of the low-level official US delegation (headed by the former head of Homeland Security, Janet Napoletano, while a U.S. warship stands ominous guard in the Black Sea over an anticipated terrorist threat), are part of an American campaign to persuade the world that alas, although the Communist Soviet Union has been succeeded by a capitalist Russia, the largest country in the world is still not an acceptable partner on the international stage because it is not a democracy but an ‘autocracy,’ ruled by a  former KGB operative, Vladimir Putin. (Never mind that President George H. W. Bush was a former head of the CIA.)

This campaign is made more difficult by RT’s message that according to a recent article in the Buenos Aires Herald is seen by 630 million people around the globe: cooperation is better than competition and confrontation. The new motto of France’s English language channel, France 24, ‘Understand the World’, is equally subversive, and both define the growing divide between official America and the rest of the planet. After a century of anti-Communism, it is almost impossible for an American politician or diplomat to see anything other than political maneuvering in Russia’s behavior, a lamentable continuation of the Cold War, when the turn to capitalism of a re-baptized Russia fails to signal its alignment with everything we represent. Washington’s antagonism toward the Soviet Union was based on its theoretic espousal of redistribution as opposed to ‘a level playing field.’ But the reasons for its current antagonism vis a vis Moscow are the same as those which drove us to war against Germany and Japan: commercial interests, which have only been heightened in a world scrambling for the last resources. And in that confrontation, resource rich Russia is seen as a threat to Washington.

Beyond that, while ‘the West’ (or ‘Global Corporatism’) seeks to maximize profits, Russia and China, harking to other traditions, see capitalism as the latest tool for achieving humanistic solutions to the problems of a post-industrial world, placing people above profits. And whether we are talking about the much-derided ‘harmonious society’ being touted in China, or Putin’s emphasis on traditional values evidenced in RT’s choice of investigations and conversations, both continue to believe that solutions require dialogue, negotiation and coopera-tion, while the now old ‘new world’ mindlessly touts naked power and confrontation.

Many Americans are prevented from understanding what is going on by a permanent background noise that goes something like this: “The ‘other side’ claims to want ‘peace,’ but it really wants to take over the world.” The dominant theme of the Cold War interpreted the slogan ‘Workers of the World, Unite’ to mean that the Soviet Union – the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ – wanted to conquer the world in the same way that Hitler did. This misapprehension is enabled by ignorance of both the fascist and socialist ideologies. Incapable of defining either political system, the American people have been taught to fear only one thing: lack of ‘freedom.’ The Nazi dictatorship having been defeated, we do not need to fear fascism: however, the Soviet Union having imploded without undergoing Western directed regime change, can still not be trusted under the name ‘Russia’ for notwithstanding elections, it is still an ‘authoritarian regime,’ meaning one in which the people are not ‘really free.’

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Salami Tactics Then and Now

2:43 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

As the Ukraine descends into armed combat between the police of a legitimate government and Neo-Nazi thugs with European backers, it’s none to soon to be talking about fascism.

Munich - Adolf Hitler and NSDAP treasurer Franz Xaver Schwarz. Hitler and Schwarz at the dedication of the renovation of the Palais Barlow on Brienner Straße to the Brown House.

Deena Stryker invokes Godwin’s Law by comparing Hitler’s Germany to the rise of modern American fascism.

After defeating German, Italian and Japanese fascism that threatened American power in the mid twentieth century, Washington turned against its former ally, the Soviet Union, and then China, when the Communists won their struggle for power there in 1949 – for Communism was the real enemy of corporate power! Sixty-five years later, fascism is resurgent, overtly in Europe, covertly in the United States. And yet, when left-leaning American intellectuals utter the F word, it is with lowered voice, perhaps fearing accusations of irresponsibility, or a lack of academic rigor, should they  compare what is happening in the United States with the process that took place in Germany in the nineteen twenties and thirties, culminating in the Second World War, and ultimately, the banalization of ethnic cleansing. The events in Ukraine require Americans and Europeans to review that history, unless we want to relive Nazi Germany.

After the Nazis were defeated, the Soviet Union took over Eastern Europe. One local leader boasted of destroying his country’s non-Communist parties by ‘cutting them off like slices of salami’, re-baptizing what Hitler had called his ‘piecemeal strategy’. Today we talk about frogs allowing the water they are in to be gradually brought to a boil until it is too late to jump out. Efforts by right-wing parties to lure Ukraine, whose Western half fought with the Germans, into the EU, suggest that it may be too late for Europe to avoid another fascist takeover: thanks to genuine political freedom that affords all parties the same protections, fascist parties are on the ballot in every country, with between ten and twenty percent of the vote.

American fascist parties are not on the ballot, and yet Americans are seeing their freedoms being cut away, slice by slice, by the government, and with each slice, we dispose of fewer means to prevent the next cut. The corporate media condemns Hitler-worshipping hate groups, but appears not to notice that the NSA, PRISM, FISA, facial recognition, police drones, etc. are technologically embellished equivalents of the means Hitler used to consolidate power with the backing of Germany’s industrialists.

The German excuse for territorial aggression was ‘Lebensraum’, literally, ‘room to live’. Today, the world military/industrial/financial complex headquartered in Washington is determined to secure the raw materials that will enable the 1 percent to maintain itself on a dying Earth until it can colonize another planet. If you think I’m imagining things, I’m not alone. See Neil Bloomkamp’s Elysium, in which two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made planet called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, dying Earth. Bloomkamp probably isn’t far off: government research on space colonization has been going on for years and is now also being carried out by private companies. Implementation of the project will require the acquiescence of the 99%, who in fact are just now emerging from McCarthy’s closet to demand the rights, benefits and personal freedoms that have been enjoyed for decades by workers in the European Union. This awakening makes it doubly necessary to take down the welfare state, which not only ensures a decent living for all, but is a major economic competitor. If the economic crisis of 2008 created by Wall St. turns out to have dealt it a fatal blow, it will not, I believe, be an unintended consequence.

On the surface, what is happening in 21st century America looks nothing like when took place in 1930‘s Germany. However, it is still about the fundamental question of equity whether it be between the few and the many, or between governments. American determination to topple the Syrian president is the latest example of the latter: Since its independence in 1946, Syria has been the only secular Arab state, and under the Arab Baath Socialist Party it has maintained that distinction. It has been the contention of this writer for many months that the current world crisis is at bottom about equity, as illustrated by the array of religious, secular and progressive forces vying for power in the Arab world. And we cannot understand this if we are ignorant of the historical conflict between fascism and communism.

The fact that fascism developed precisely as a nationalist competitor for workers’ allegiance in the years following the victory of the many in Russia is largely ignored today. The fact is that the Russian Revolution led to brief takeovers in both Germany and its former ally Hungary by Communist and Socialist governments, creating a veritable Red Scare across Europe. After a turbulent two years, Germany’s first ever parliamentary system, the Weimar Republic, was created.  As a sign of the times, it was led by democratic socialists, and opposed by conservatives, monarchists, communists, as well as Hitler’s so-called ‘national-socialist’ party.

The 1918 armistice had formalized the loss of Germany’s African colonies, excised part of its homeland to create new nations and condemned it, as the aggressor, to huge reparations. Hitler’s career took off in the early twenties with charismatic speeches that stoked resentment over this punishment among farmers, war veterans and the middle class. Hitler and his friends tried unsuccessfully to take over the country in 1923, in what was called the Beer Hall Putsch.

What follows is a rough comparison between the rise of fascism in Germany (where it was known as Nazism, the German contraction of ‘national socialism’), and contemporary America, where a globalized economy is rewarding the 1% while imposing hardships on the majority, as happened in post World War I Germany:

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What Do 1914, 1917 and 1517 Have to Do With 2014?

8:48 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

Two weeks ago, an office I was calling was already having their Christmas party, so I figure it’s not too soon to be talking about 2014.

Next year’s date probably doesn’t remind most on-line readers of anything in particular, whether we’re talking about the millennial generation or the baby-boomers. But for someone who was a child during World War II, 2014 inevitably calls up 1914, when the presumptive heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated in Sarajevo, setting off World War I. Today, we associate that city in the former Yugoslavia with the mass killing of Muslim men and boys by Serbs, as the country invented after that war fell apart.

A hundred years ago the killing of one person started a war so savage that it ended with a shared vow: “Never again!”  And yet, that senseless butchery of thousands of young men in trenches by the newly invented machine gun merely paved the way for the use of other new technologies to assassinate Jews, Gays and Communists by the millions in Hitler’s crematoria.  This was followed by the dropping of two atom bombs in Japan, the Khmer Rouge killing by starvation or assassination between one and two million people, and on and on.

As the American media focuses tirelessly on the mid-term elections that will determine whether the needle on the political spectrum moves slightly left or right, it continues to turn its back on the struggle for equity marked indelibly by the milestone that followed 1914, 1917, the date of the Russian Revolution.

In the hundred years since 1917, notwithstanding two world wars and countless “minor” wars resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths, humanity has failed to solve the problem of equity. Coming at the height of robber baron capitalism, the Russian Revolution gave rise to capitalism’s most extreme incarnation, fascism, the alliance of state and oligarchy to squelch popular demands for economic justice. Although Russian peasants were still living under a form of feudalism, the workers and peasants in Eastern Europe were scarcely better off, and the October Revolution spread briefly to Hungary and to heavily indebted post-war Germany, allowing Hitler’s rise.

In response, resigned to the fact that World War I had not been ‘the war to end all wars’, the liberal democracies banded together to protect their interests against those of a resurgent Germany. They sided temporarily with the Soviet Union in order to achieve this (nor could they have succeeded otherwise). However, the two sides in the alliance had different aims: the capitalist world didn’t want its pursuit of wealth subservient to Germany’s, while the communist regime didn’t want Hitler to turn back the clock to the time when oligarchs ruled. Given that dichotomy, the postwar world could only lead to a full fledged standoff between two systems that competed for the allegiance of third world client states.

Several important things happened over the next fifty years: the number of client states increased as Third World countries achieved independence from their colonial masters, Eastern Europe came out from under the Soviet grip, and the Soviet Union itself broke apart, leaving Moscow to complete Peter the Great’s Westernization and achieve a major power status that went beyond ICBM’s. Almost simultaneously China reached a level of development that put it too in the running for major power status, and the two former communist allies which had for a time been enemies, realized they again shared a common goal: the defeat of financial capitalism in favor of worldwide development that would not throw the socialist baby out with the Communist bathwater.

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It’s Not About Terrorists, It’s About Us!

6:54 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

All the hype about Edward Snowden’s revelations misses the essential: the monumental amount of data being collected manifestly did not enable the government to avoid the Boston terrorist attack, and we have only the government’s word that it saved us from others.

The only conceivable use that haystack of data could be put to is to identify and round up every progressive in the country the day the government comes out of the closet as a fascist dictatorship.

By then it will be too late.

The Germans remember the Stasi and want no part of our project. And the Brazilians and the Turks, whose economies are growing, are motivated to come out by the thousands and even the hundreds of thousands when money isn’t providing a sane life.  That’s because they have had access to progressive history and progressive writers for generations, while Americans have accepted the pap that passes for information in this country while following the latest soap, scandal or sports event on television.

Note that Brazilians have a passion for football, but it doesn’t prevent them from understanding the real game of life.