"A Letter to a Friend Concerned About Fascism"
If a fascist government is one that lies most of the time and manipulates its citizens all of the time, then all governments are fascist. Of course on the Great Scale of Governments some are still more destructive than others, more life-destroying than others. In our present world, neo-liberalism is god, and the governments that are most enchanted with neo-liberalism are the most destructive, the least interested in the future, except the immediate future and its prospects for riches. Since neo-liberalism is the most destructive force on earth at the present, those governments that advocate rampant, devil-may-care free enterprise are the most dangerous. And, of course, neo-liberalism along with extreme military power—and they usually go together—makes a deadly, life-destroying force, quite literally with the fact of man-made climate change. And what are the two most obvious candidates for this dubious distinction? You guessed it: USA and China, with the USA still the most powerful country in the world the present winner of the race.
Aspects of fascism probably apply—at least in some of the signs—to any government, but on the Great Scale, clearly the USA is distinguished with more signs than, let’s say, the countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia. But I am sure you have noticed that even in Western Europe the death-hand of neo-liberalism is starting to take over. France is raising the retirement age; Britain is cutting back on social-welfare programs; Denmark has a conservative government. And the cry goes out everywhere, “We don’t have the money!” But there is still a lot of money; it is just becoming more and more concentrated among the few, who, of course, are getting richer and richer. In the USA there is so much money that those who have most of it have no idea how to spend it, except apparently to invest it to make more money (the stock market booms), but not, equally apparently, to create jobs. We have plenty of money to wage endless wars, but god forbid we improve and fix our infrastructure, extend unemployment benefits, or create an affordable health care system for all the people.
Ah, but the USA is more subtle than China. China’s human rights abuses are the good, old-fashioned kind: blatant speech and press repression, restriction of human mobility, rules about family life. In the USA the people think they are free: free press, free elections, unrestricted social and employment mobility. (Of course the Tea Partiers think they are enslaved by a Nazi socialist who happens also to be black. Their idea of freedom is to have no government except for the military. That is the (white) government they want to “take back.”) Apparently Americans have no idea they are living in an oligarchy that controls the “government,” the elections, the press, and now even social and employment mobility. (These latest Wikileaks should not shock anybody: deception, lying, hypocrisy, and power.) The great thing that American corporations have done with the help of the politicians whom they pay off is to convince the American people that they are free, and any government that restricts corporate growth is trying to take their freedom away. And of course taxation is slavery. And so any attempt to tax the super-wealthy who are running the show is an attempt by the government to take away our freedom. (In the 1950s the income tax rate on the wealthy was as high as 90%, and, believe me, the wealthy still lived well. I know; at one point in his working life, my father was in that high tax bracket, and we lived well indeed.)
Perhaps “The People” (always run, my friend, from people who speak on behalf of “The People”) suffer from thought disorder. No taxes except for war means no roads, no bridges, no schools. But who needs schools anyway? Good schools teach kids to think, but thinking leads to subversion. Better to teach to a universal standardized test with no thinking required. Then we can train our kids to do as they are told and stop questioning why they can’t get by on their salaries, if they even have a job. Just do what the corporate world tells you to do.
The corporate world is our model. That is why Mayor Bloomberg feels that a corporate worker who knows nothing about education is the best choice to run the NYC school system, a system that is plagued by inadequate funding, kids from all manner of socially destructive environments, and exploited teachers (even those who—god forbid—are in an evil union). It is no surprise that Bloomberg’s choice to run the school system is an executive in some magazine corporation: since most magazines are just propaganda engines for big business and big banks, she is a perfect choice to make sure no child is left behind in the fight for the scrapings at the bottom of the barrel.
Ultimately, I am sad to report, I become more and more aloof. I see nothing to be done short of organizing an insurgency and storming the castle. Of course I am too fucking scared and lazy to do that but mostly too aware of revolutionary end roads: the French wound up with Sarkozy, the Russians with Putin, the Cubans with Castro, and we Americans began our own “New Morning in America” with Ronald Reagan.