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.
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: