Somehow this oft-published, increasingly iconic war-protest photograph seems appropriate as a lament for the United States. Tech data: Nikon F w/105mm f2.5 Nikkor; Tri-X at 800 ASA for development in D-76. (Photograph by Loren Bliss copyright 1971)
A READER WHO is a friend, a fellow professional writer and therefore also a trusted critic says my otherwise accurate portrayal of the present-day United States as a “fascist nation” is incomplete without a formal definition of “fascism.”
Then as I was contemplating my response, synchronicity provided me an all-too-typical example of U.S. fascism in action. Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland had just postponed city council consideration of a proposed minimum-wage hike, thereby stuffing a procedural gag down the throats of about 200 workers who had intended to testify in favor of higher pay.
The hearing was later added to the council's July 7 agenda. But Max Hyland, a spokesperson for 15 Now Tacoma, says the tactical intent behind the surprise agenda-change was to nullify the energies evoked by a pro-wage-hike demonstration and simultaneously minimize the number of its supporters who would be able to address the council. Many had taken time off work to participate in the rally and testify at the June 30 meeting.
“A lot of these people,” said Hyland, “can't afford more time off their jobs – and Strickland damn well knows that.”
Having witnessed Strickland in action, I don't doubt Hyland's contention. Though she ran for mayor as a progressive, in office she has proven herself an obedient servant not of the public but rather of her masters in the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, even unto her refusal to use the city's legal authority to protect residents from the chamber-supported radical downsizing of local bus service imposed by openly racist white suburban voters in 2011 and 2012. (Scroll down to the paragraph beginning “Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland...”)
By design, Tacoma city council meetings are already difficult for people with jobs to attend. As I know from my years covering local governments for various daily and weekly newspapers (1959-1981), U.S. municipalities that encourage Working Class participation in decision-making schedule their relevant public meetings during evening hours, typically at 7 or 7:30 p.m., as exemplified here, here, here and here.
But such meetings in Tacoma start at a deliberately exclusionary 5 p.m. – never mind State Rep. Laurie Jinkins has told me nearly 60 percent of the seaport town's 200,000 population is officially lower income – that is, below the federal standard of a family of four earning less than $45,000 per year.
U.S. Census figures show that in 2013 – the most recent year for which data is available – fully18 percent of Tacoma's households eked out their existences with incomes below the official federal poverty line, $24,250 for a family of four. That makes Tacoma the second most poverty-stricken municipality in the state of Washington.
The tiny difference between the Tacoma poverty figures given by the census bureau and the University of Washington, 18 percent versus 17.7 percent respectively, is probably due to when the data was collected. Despite the claimed “economic recovery,” ongoing cuts in social services are forcing many Tacomans, especially those of us who are elderly and/or disabled, ever deeper into inescapable poverty.
Thus chamber-of-commerce vassal Strickland's rescheduling of the minimum wage discussion adds a new and obviously premeditated class-war injury to a deliberately inflicted and long-festering class-war wound – a topic to which we shall return.
Meanwhile, here are two points apropos last week's OAN edition: one, the incipient racism and class hatred in the comment thread attached to the Strickland/minimum wage story (linked again for ease of access) is yet another exemplar of the bigotry I described in “Fascist Nation”; two, the individual installments of this blog have become too long and too topically diverse for me to call them “columns” anymore. Hence “edition,” in acknowledgment of how OAN has evolved into a mini-journal.)
MY FIRST REACTION to my friend's criticism was surprise.
That's because I cannot count the number of times I have defined fascism as the relentlessly logical, mature form of capitalism, which in turn is the direct, eventually extinction-level debacle thrust on us by what capitalism actually is: the morally imbecilic elevation of infinite greed into ultimate virtue.
Hence capitalist governance – absolute power and unlimited profit for the One Percent and its Ruling Class vassals, total subjugation for all the rest of us. That's the core reality of fascism, whether in today's United States and its imperial conquests, Ukraine included, or in fascism's earlier manifestations via Mussolini, Hitler and Franco.
Nor does it matter how the subjugation is imposed. In the U.S., with its ignorance-opiated electorate, it's done more often by political sleight-of-hand (as in Strickland's last-minute rescheduling of the minimum-wage discussion) than by the brute force routinely employed elsewhere. But there's brutality aplenty whenever exceptionally brave U.S. citizens dare resist capitalist tyranny.
And not only is such brutality a defining characteristic of fascism in action. It's also an expression of what has long been the uniquely USian form of Nazism, the antique but eerily Hitlerian philosophy of the U.S. as the Christian god's global übermenschen. Since World War II it has morphed into mainstream U.S. politics – probably with encouragement by all the Nazi war criminals embraced by the government and private industry after 1945 – and it is now regurgitated as “exceptionalism”: the belief the U.S. has the divine right to conquer and rule the entire planet.
Even without such (often censored) information, or so I said in mental response to my critic, surely everybody who took eighth grade civics remembers the working definition provided us by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – “ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling power.”
Moreover, you don't get out of junior high school – or “middle school” as they call it today – without passing civics. Right?
Wrong. Critics Left, Right and center express grave concern about the abysmal ignorance of the U.S. citizenry, particularly its younger members. Which of course I should have recognized – not the least given my frequent condemnations of Moron Nation (scroll down to “Understanding Media”). Nor can I count my denunciations of the dumbing-down that imposed Moron Nation, the induced intellectual deterioration I damn as “moronation.”
Indeed I had seen and recognized the results of moronation as far back as when I was teaching photography and journalism – mostly the former – at a couple of public colleges in Washington state. That was 1975 through 1981, truly another era. But already the induced political ignorance of my younger students exemplified the post-Vietnam, post-Civil-Rights-Movement, post-Counterculture curriculum-changes forced on U.S. public schools to ensure that never again would there be another era of protest and resistance as had erupted during the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.
Don't teach the kids their legal and constitutional rights – or so the Ruling Class reasoned – and then they won't know when those rights are violated or abolished.
Thus my older students, people who had graduated from high school well before the U.S. was routed from Vietnam, were well enough versed in the democratic principles embodied in this nation's founding documents to see the infuriatingly vast and hypocritical difference between text and reality. As had I, they had been required to memorize the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution and the Gettysburg Address, and to be enough familiar with the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, the 14th and 19th amendments and President Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech to be able to discuss each in accurate detail.
But most of my younger students, the kids who got out of high school after about 1974, couldn't even summarize the First Amendment – this in an introductory class about newspaper reporting.
I should have remembered this, if only because at the time of discovery it was so disturbing to encounter journalism students who didn't know their signature quest for information was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Sometimes though I get so focused on the proverbial trees – some of which were in this instance growing bitter-sweet seeds of memory and previously unexpressed emotion – I'm blinded to the metaphorical forest. And that's precisely what happened when I was writing “Persistent Racism Defines U.S. as Fascist Nation.”
My critic is therefore correct. (It's an aside, but that's why I so appreciate cogent critics and competent editors: they are often an oracular expression of my own subconscious, verbalizing that which I know or at least sense but have somehow ignored.) At the very least I should have included FDR's definition, which I have always cherished both for its get-to-the-point minimalism and its obviously prescient understanding of what the United States has become today. Here it is in full:
The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
Note how the late president's definition embodies the elements present in what I label “capitalist governance.” Indeed I use that term at least as often as “fascism” because the former does not always immediately evoke Moron Nation's (Pavlovian) closed-mind reflex.
STRICKLAND, FOR WHOM I voted in two successive mayoralty elections and about whom I was originally enough enthusiastic I successfully pled her case to a number of neighbors, has turned out to be another example of what all (real) Leftists should by now in the era of Obama the Orator and his shape-shift into Barack the Betrayer recognize as a standard Ruling Class tactic.
A ploy Niccolo Machiavelli and even Sun Tzu would admire, it calls for recruiting a minority person who now as capitalism herds us into the age of inescapable poverty and de facto enslavement has special voter appeal because of his or her ethnicity.
Its false promise, though usually unspoken, is that because of minority ethnicity – Strickland is African-American and Korean – the candidate can readily empathize with the sufferings of all of us who are being crushed by capitalism, whether the oppression dealt us by the downpresser man takes the form of joblessness, racism, sexism, class-ism, able-ism, ageism or the genocidal austerity by which such malevolence is enforced.
The tactic – yet another proof of the diabolical cunning possessed by our capitalist overlords – is enough effective at the ballot box to overcome the deep-seated racial animus that simmers beneath the (alleged) consciousness of four-fifths of the nation's white majority. Hence the deceptive anomaly of a black president as chief executive of nation that's murderously racist not just in the Charleston sense but also and far more often in the official, federally militarized context of Ferguson-type atrocities.
(For a brief but pointed discussion of our most revealing index to the extent of carefully closeted but nevertheless unreconstructed white racism in the U.S., see “Fascist Nation,” linked again here for convenience, and scroll down to the last section, the graf beginning “In this context, the passage...”)
Hence too Mayor Strickland's little war of attrition against Working Class folk who wished to speak to the Tacoma City Council in favor of wage-hike measures that could literally enable us to vote ourselves a raise.
Obviously – as I have said repeatedly in recent weeks – the era of charade democracy is over, and the era of unapologetic tyranny is upon us.
BUT IS IT really fascism?
Based on FDR's definition, it most assuredly is: private, for-profit greed vastly stronger than the democratic state, ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power, specifically the One Percent and its Ruling Class of executives, politicians, bureaucrats, generals and commanders of the federal and federalized police whether uniformed or secret.
The definitions given by Wikipedia – the one best compendium of definitions of fascism I have yet encountered on-line (its link repeated here for convenience and clarity) – mostly elaborate on the words of our late and still lamented president.
Since Wiki material is all in the public domain, I have copied and pasted herein some of its most relevant parts. Italic type indicates the material is copied word-for-word, complete with the variances in punctuation that distinguish computer-age texts from earlier works.
In his 1995 essay “Eternal Fascism”, Umberto Eco lists 14 general properties of fascist ideology. He argues that it is not possible to organise these into a coherent system, but that “it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it”. (Emphasis added.)
Six of Umberto's 14 properties are as follows, copied and pasted as above with my comments in parentheses:
“Disagreement Is Treason” – fascism devalues intellectual discourse and critical reasoning as barriers to action; (Note the thoroughly documented cult of USian anti-intellectualism.)
“Fear of Difference”, which fascism seeks to exploit and exacerbate, often in the form of racism or an appeal against foreigners and immigrants; (Self- explanatory; see again “Fascist Nation.”)
“Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class”, fearing economic pressure from the demands and aspirations of lower social groups; (Note in particular the envy and hatred methodically churned up against immigrants, union-protected workers and minimum-wage workers who dare organize to seek higher pay.)
“Contempt for the Weak” – although a fascist society is elitist, everybody in the society is educated to become a hero; (Note the official, tacitly genocidal hostility expressed in austerity policies that victimize impoverished and/or disabled people.)
“Non-truths & Lying/Spread of Propaganda”. (Situational synonyms include Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine.)
The Communist Third International in 1935 published the first definition of fascism I learned as a: child: “the open, terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinistic, the most imperialistic elements of finance capitalism”.
Leon Trotsky wrote: “The historic function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery.” (Emphasis added.)
Stanley G. Payne created a list of characteristics that identify fascism:
Positive evaluation and use of, or willingness to use violence and war...
The goal of empire, expansion, or a radical change in the nation's relationship with other powers...
Extreme stress on the masculine principle and male dominance...
Exaltation of youth above other phases of life, emphasizing the conflict of the generations...(Note how today's youth are conditioned to scapegoat seniors for the dystopian state of human society.)
Emilio Gentile describes fascism as the “sacralization of politics” through totalitarian methods and argues that it has ten constituent elements:
These include: a police apparatus that prevents, controls, and represses dissidence and opposition, even by using organized terror... (For example the murder of Fred Hampton and the slaying of protesters at Kent State University and Jackson State College.)
(A) foreign policy inspired by the myth of national power and greatness, with the goal of imperialist expansion... (Precisely as mandated by USian exceptionalism).
The definition of fascism by Ernesto Laclau includes implacable hostility to feminism and socialism (as in the bipartisan war against women and Obama's Janus-faced embrace of the formerly Republican demand to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority ).
Significantly, Laclau's work explains why a fascist nation grants marriage equality and permits the legalization of marijuana: Fascists are pushed towards conservatism by common hatred of socialism and feminism, but are prepared to override conservative interests – family, property, religion, the universities, the civil service – where the interests of the nation are considered to require it. Fascist radicalism also derives from a desire to assuage discontent by accepting specific demands of the labour and women's movements, so long as these demands accord with the national priority. (Emphasis added.)
Then there is Robert Paxton, a professor emeritus at Columbia University, who defines fascism in his book The Anatomy of Fascism as: A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion. (Emphasis added.)
All of which brings us back to the definition of fascism articulated by the man who, at some time in the future (if indeed capitalism does not reduce us all to extinction), will surely be honored as our greatest president ever: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
I rest my case.
*** *** ***
Time for Recalcitrant Whites to Admit Slavery's Horrors
ROBERT PARRY'S DENUNCIATION of white Southern recalcitrance prompted a lengthy discussion thread in which I made two contributions, each in response to other posters with whom I was generally in agreement:
When franpryor speculated on what might happen were the Germans to resurrect the Swastika, I noted:
The Swastika is being resurrected not by Germany but by the United States via its arming and financing of the U.S./Nazi conquest of Ukraine.
Moreover the U.S. puppet government that now rules the Ukraine flies not only the Nazi banners but also the Confederate battle flag and the flag of the Ku Klux Klan.
All of this is in keeping with the evil nature of capitalism, which – with its morally imbecilic ethos of infinite greed elevated to maximum virtue – inevitably matures into Nazism.
In this context, we see at last why the U.S. perpetually speaks with the proverbial “forked tongue,” claiming to defend liberty while in fact seeking global conquest to impose the zero-tolerance tyranny of a Fourth Reich on all the peoples of the world.
Which reveals the true (and truly horrific) reason behind the persistence of the Confederacy's emblems of slavery and genocide: they express the horrific truth of what the U.S. – or more specifically the U.S. Ruling Class – actually believes and intends.
Later when Granny Weatherwax wrote there is a “significant difference” between fascism and Nazism, I said:
Actually there's not. As Marx and Engels clearly understood, capitalism requires an “üntermenschen” – an allegedly inferior group – to maximize its profits and otherwise rationalize its savagery.
While the definitions of that “üntermenschen” often vary from country to country – Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people and Communists in Nazi Germany; communists and socialists in Fascist Italy; communists, socialists and non-Catholics in Fascist Spain; blacks, Hispanics, First Nations peoples, females of all races and ethnicities, lower-income elderly and disabled people plus all other lower income people in the “exceptionalist/under God” United States – the psychodynamic and socioeconomic reality is everywhere the same.
*** *** ***
No, Michael, It's Not 'a New America,' Not Yet
When Michael Moore claimed, “It is a New America,” I was almost as outraged as I am by Hillary Clinton's ongoing, astoundingly dishonest effort to position herself – a war-hawk and an austerity advocate – as a latter-day Eleanor Roosevelt. Hence I responded accordingly:
Mr. Moore's ignorance of history and the insufferable arrogance he shares with his fellow “Americans” whether Right or Left are surely on display in the above.
In the first place, the U.S. Working Class has NEVER been as impoverished – and as powerless – as it is now. In terms of the quest for economic democracy, there was never a better era than the New Deal and its immediate aftermath. Nor – without the total overthrow of capitalism – will there ever be again.
Secondly, ALL of the gains of the Civil Rights and Women's Liberation movements have either been abolished or are methodically being undone. Meanwhile the Environmental Movement, which might have saved our species from extinction, has either been co-opted by the capitalists or is paralyzed by its refusal to acknowledge the realities of the class war.
Thirdly, it is dishonest for Mr. Moore to claim “we have never been so free” merely because a wealthy, mostly white and often notoriously conservative minority has gained the right to marry. Though I applaud marriage equality, I also recognize it as a feel-good distraction that contributes nothing to the resistance against capitalism.
Lastly, the U.S. is not “America” and we are not “Americans.” We the People are USians, a people who unlike any other has wantonly discarded the potential of liberty and embraced the opiate of ignorance instead.
Thus to call ourselves “Americans” insults the inhabitants of every other nation on the American land mass.
Two post-expostulation points: one, the sentence “we have never been so free” appeared in Moore's original piece and was later changed, obviously in response to my criticism (for which thank you, Mr. Moore, as your revised version is much more accurate); two, my use of the inappropriate loudness of capital letters, a technique I normally deplore, is an index of just how much anger the original form of the comment evoked. (Yes, Moore is apparently at least an occasional reader of OAN.)
*** *** ***
Important Note to Readers on OAN Schedule Change
LIFE CHANGES, ALL positive, keep pressuring me to modify OAN's self-assigned schedule. Thus the blog's gradual but relentless transition to a Monday publication date.
But the most substantial change arises from the monthly newsletter I write, photograph, edit and produce as a volunteer for the 51-unit apartment complex in which I reside.
I began the newsletter project three years ago as a two-page, four-hours-per-month favor to the resident community, but it has expanded into a publication of at least eight pages with some color photography, a growing volunteer staff and readership that – because I make a point of including only stories of relevance – has come to depend on each month's edition of Community Chronicle for vital information as well as entertainment.
As a result its editorship has, throughout the second week of each month, become the equivalent of a full-time job. (As I have many times said, and not always approvingly, journalism is like organized crime in that you don't ever really get to retire.)
But that means there's not enough time left over for all the research that normally goes into OAN.
Hence starting this month and from now on, OAN will not – save as maybe a photograph or two or with such breaking news as in olden times would have demanded a daily newspaper print an extra edition – be published on the third Monday of each month.
Apropos the photography, thanks to the generosity of a friend, I now have a digital single-lens-reflex, a Canon Rebel T-5, so maybe – once I get past the mental mine-field of learning its computer-operation procedures – I can maybe at long last recover some of the passion for photography I lost after that 1983 fire destroyed all my life's work.
LB/28 June-6 July 2015