Fascism is More than Rallies and Street Brawls: January 6 and Fantasies of Amerikan Democracy

German American Bund rally in Madison Square Gardens, February 20, 1939. True, red-blooded Amerikan patriots.

By Comrade Redbeard

Today marks the first anniversary of the Gastropub Putsch, also known as the Capitol Riot, or to those that really want to emphasize the point that it’s bad to threaten the u.s. government, the Capitol Insurrection. In the days and weeks leading up to January 6, 2022, much of the capitalist press, liberal talking heads, bourgeois academics, and Democratic politicians have spilled much ink and spent considerable airtime raving about the coming end of Amerikan democracy. They speak of creeping authoritarianism, civil war, and daggers pointed at the throat of democracy. Former president and perennial frontrunner for the “he’s still alive?” championship, Jimmy Carter, warns that “our great nation is teetering on the brink of a widening abyss.”1 Even the Canadians, whose blood runs red with the love of freedom, (but don’t tell the First Nations!) are joining in!2 To them, January 6 represents a terrifying break with the noble if imperfect ideals and traditions of the united states, the pounding drums of fascism closing in on the citadel of liberty. They look in disbelief at polls that show tens of millions of Amerikans believe that the 2020 election was a fraud. They hold Donald Trump, his followers, and the increasingly unhinged Republican Party uniquely responsible for this, with only slight variations. What they don’t understand, or understand perfectly well and choose to ignore, is that Amerika is a fascist country. It’s been fascist for decades.

It doesn’t matter that dissenters aren’t immediately rounded up and locked up or executed when they open their mouths, or that the State occasionally loses in the courts. It certainly doesn’t matter that there are elections where different parties (well, two of them) compete for power. We are taught to look for fascism only on the surface level, as a series of cartoonish cliches lifted from our pop culture understanding of what happened in Germany and occasionally Italy in the 20th century. But fascism isn’t simply uniformed thugs fighting and goose stepping in the streets, bloodcurdling rallies, or some Great Leader declaring that democracy is dead on such and such a day at such a such a time. It’s much, much more.

The supposedly democratic characteristics I mentioned above have no bearing on Amerika’s fascist nature. Setting aside the fact that these things have never nullified the vicious, open violence Amerika inflicts on colonized people, the poor, and the meaningful revolutionary left, they don’t touch the core of fascism: as George Jackson taught us, fascism is an economic (re)arrangement, a capitalist response to capitalist crises. It is the suffocating, totalized marriage of the political elite and the economic elite, the “expansion of monopoly capital into the giant cartels, corporations, and interlocking trusts3.” The less blatantly violent institutions of the capitalist government, like the welfare agencies and public schools, are linked in the same project of deception, exploitation, and control as the outwardly repressive police, military, and intelligence apparatus. They are extensions of the corporate order in every meaningful sense. This is true of the domesticated unions and pet media networks as well. Elections are the political equivalent of shopping for cereal in a supermarket. Formal legal rights for the public exist, but push the envelope too far, and you’ll see how long the slaveholder’s Constitution holds up.

At best, the occasional spasms of “democracy in action” represent superficial contradictions in the system, the results of the power structure stretching to accommodate and incorporate pressure from below, or different class/ideological interests. More to the point, they are useful shrouds to cover up the fundamentally anti-democratic structure of Amerikan society. Amerikan fascism is much more subtle, sophisticated and flexible than what developed in countries like Germany, Italy and Japan in the 1920s and 1930s. It’s capable of shifting a little bit here and a little bit there to maintain its long term stability. For example, women, LGBTQ+ people, and colonized people rise up demanding rights, so the State “grants” them limited rights, incorporating some of them into the ruling class apparatus. Each reform “that perpetuates ruling-class hegemony has to be disguised as a positive gain for the upthrusting masses.” As long as these shifts don’t alter the heart of fascism-the corporatist state and economy- the ruling class can live with them.

For these reasons, it’s nothing but foolishness to wring our hands and bemoan the supposed descent of the united states into fascism, because fascism is already here. The seeds were planted over the centuries of slavery and genocidal settler colonialism, the establishment of monopoly capitalism and modern imperialism in the 19th and early 20th century, and the crops harvested in the 1930s and 40s. Amerika has been a full-fledged fascist state since the New Deal and World War II. What we’re seeing now, most obviously in the Republican Party’s open embrace of deranged cultishness and abandonment of even the pretense of bourgeois democracy, is Amerikan fascism straining against its self-imposed, fraying straitjacket. The conjoined and escalating crises of ecological collapse, social disintegration, and economic implosion make the appearance of democracy unnecessary if not inhibiting. What was acceptable, even desirable, in the so-called Golden Age of postwar capitalism-imperialism is not so in the increasingly chaotic 21st century.

When it takes place, the transition from a hidden fascism to an open one, would indicate a certain kind of weakness-the failure of the old system, for example, and the collapse of the current regime. That does not mean we should welcome or stupidly call for it. For starters, there is no strong, militant and popular Communist Party in the united states right now, nor an equivalent popular front movement. At best, we have an incoherent potpourri of liberalism and tiny Left grouplings, and a brave, but disjointed and outgunned collection of anti-fascists. We are not in a position to take advantage of an honest and open dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

Second, the shift from hidden to open fascism means an increase in the already brutal violence of Amerikan life. It’s important to understand that this would be a qualitative change more than a quantitative one. In other words, the intensity of Amerikan fascism will increase, but the essence will remain the same. Democracy or the free republic will not die, because they never existed. That said, this will be of little comfort to the oppressed and vulnerable people who will face an escalation in violence from the State and allied right-wing paramilitaries and vigilantes.  

The voices squawking and wailing about the battle for Amerika’s soul and a fascist future don’t care about all of that, of course. The bourgeois press needs to keep its clicks and subscriptions up. With midterms coming up, the Democrats need to distract from the tattered, bloody remains of their shot-up feet. Bourgeois scholars of fascism and democracy, while more inclined than the previous two groups to make sincere arguments and acknowledge the historical crimes and failures of the united states, are also limited by their privileged class (and often racial) position5. These forces, and the reformist solutions they put forward, cannot save us. We must realize that only the mass mobilization of the working class and Black, Brown, and Indigenous nations, the immediate construction of a revolutionary communist party and movement, and the struggle for total liberation by any means necessary can do that.

As Brother Jackson said:  A BLADE IN THE THROAT OF FASCISM! All power to all the people!

  1. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/01/06/jimmy-carter-says-partisanship-distrust-threaten-us-democracy/9114464002/
  2. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-american-polity-is-cracked-and-might-collapse-canada-must-prepare/
  3. George Jackson, “Blood in My Eye,” 1972, pp. 167.
  4. Jackson, pp. 118.
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/22/america-fascism-legal-phase and https://www.newamerica.org/political-reform/statements/statement-in-support-of-the-freedom-to-vote-act/.

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