In view of the recent Charlottesville VA White “Supremacist” get together and its predictable consequences — including Donald Trump’s (predictable) non-response to the disgusting tactics of a major segment of his “base” — I thought it might be appropriate to post again the substance of a New York Times editorial I first ran across (and posted here) in early March, 2015. It speaks eloquently of the undercurrents which drive events such as those last weekend in Charlottesville, undercurrents made clear in the editorial’s title, “The Danger of American Fascism.” The bottom line is a simple one; it says that when we speak of ‘movements’ including White Nationalists, White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and what’s come to be known recently as Alt-Right, we are speaking of various aspects — definitions, in fact — of Fascism.
Following are excerpts from said lengthy editorial, but which collectively summarize the essence of its thesis.
The Danger of American Fascism
“On returning from my trip to the West in February, I received a request from The New York Times to write a piece answering the following questions:
1. What is a fascist?
2. How many fascists have we?
3. How dangerous are they?
“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.. . . 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.
[. . .]
“If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. . . . They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.
“American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.
“Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. . . .
“The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. . . .
“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy . . . to conceal their own selfish imperialism. . . .
” . . . Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.
[. . .]
“Democracy to crush fascism internally must . . . develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as . . . this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.
[ . . .]
“It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction.”
It’s interesting to note that when the author points out that “American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact; Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism; They use every opportunity to impugn democracy . . . to conceal their own selfish imperialism,” he could clearly be referring to situations that haunt the country this very day. But since the essay was originally published by the New York Times on April 9, 1944, that’s clearly not the case. It was written by then Vice President Henry A. Wallace at the request of the Times who asked him to, as Wallace noted, write a piece that answered the questions “What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?” I first ran across word of the Wallace essay in a 2004 Common Dreams article by Thom Hartmann. A google or two later, I located the complete essay entitled The Danger of American Fascism from which the excerpts above were chosen.
April 9, 1944 to August 12, 2017: Seventy-three years plus 125 days later, and the only thing that’s changed is that the situation has worsened by orders of magnitude. Back then, Franklin Roosevelt was President and Henry Wallace was Vice President. We all know where they stood. Today, Donald Trump is President and Mike Pence is V.P., and we all know where THEY stand. Today, this day, for the very first time the Fascist movement defines the electoral base of the President and his V.P. Donald Trump is and long has been, clearly, one of them, and Mike Pence forever remains too much of a wimp to admit it or point it out.
But still, the fact remains: IF America is to survive, if her goal is for “Democracy to crush fascism internally . . .” then “It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy,” but rather we must work “to spend [sic] up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.”
Will we as a people ever learn? Wallace was spot-on correct way back then, and his words ring even more true today than perhaps they ever have. The time has come, in other words, and that time is NOW. Donald Trump must be removed from the office of the Presidency whether by impeachment or via the 25th amendment, and the Republican Party must either recreate itself by disavowing any, each, and all of its current fascistic premises, or be disbanded entirely.
Or we could, of course, accept the Fascist alternative. Irrational hatred and fear coupled with greed and the quest for power have, after all, always worked so well as motivational memes . . . at least for those who find comfort in such nonsense.
Charlottesville residents excepted, thankfully.
Personally, I prefer that other approach, the one easily summarized in a simple slogan: