The Arizona Murders and the Political Culture of Fascism


Let me start by saying that the CPUSA’s statement correctly links the shootings to the political climate engendered by the ultra-right – not supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans at all – but hypocritically encouraged by “respectable” right-wing politicians like Palin, Tancredo, etc. is at the center of what has happened.

Let me now express my own preliminary views. First, is this the work of a lone psychopath? Even if it is, psychopaths are nurtured in social situations where appeals to violence are ordinary and acceptable, where people can parade around as storm troopers, hooded KKK members, and “militia men” and get their 15 minutes of fame in mass media, not to mention the smiles of “respectable” right-wing politicians and funding from business interest

Let’s use the F word—fascism, because that is the only word which makes sense in understanding these events. Fascism is about these sorts of acts for its shock troops, not necessarily for the businessmen and politicians who use such shock troops  to sustain and/or augment their power.

As an historian, I've read a great deal of Nazi and other fascist publications and media. The best definition for fascism as a mass phenomenon (not its class basis) is what a German Social Democrat in the 1920s said about the Nazis before they came to power: it appeals to a “pseudo masculine cult of violence,” meaning use force to restore order, break the law in the name of “tradition,” “think with your blood,” as Mussolini once contended, and be ready to spill the blood of the “enemies within” whoever they may be, against whom you are at war.

In the U.S. we are bombarded with a kind of “fascist talk radio” filled with assertions about Communist-Socialist control of the Obama administration, that President Obama himself is a “Muslim” or “Communist” or some mixture of the two, that there are “death panels” waiting to round up senior citizens under the new health care law, and that the administration is aiding and abetting millions of illegal immigrants to enter the U.S and take jobs and benefits away from citizens

And on the Internet of course, where you don’t need commercial sponsors,  it is much worse. It is populated with ugly fascist websites dedicated – whether they know it or not – to the old Nazi slogan "dolchstoss von hinten," meaning stab in the back, compiling lists of “Communists,” “socialists,” organizations dedicated to gay rights, civil rights, environmentalism, etc., as all part of a conspiracy to stab the nation in the back and destroy it.

These fascists, and many are fairly crude even by European fascist standards of the past, call themselves “patriots” and the media even compliments them as representing a “patriot movement.” But patriotism in its best sense is selfless love of country, not hatred of the great majority of the people as they really live in the country today or blind fear of people from other countries.

The appeals of these groups, including the so called “Tea Party,” to America’s revolutionary past are no more honest than Mussolini’s attempt to identify his reactionary movement with the socialist Garibaldi and other 19th century Italians who established the Italian Republic.

You fight irrationality with reason; lies with truth. You also expose the liars, especially those who encourage the political climate that nurtures fascism the way German industrialists and bankers did in the 1920s, or plantation and mill owners in the segregationist South did for generations after the defeat of Reconstruction.

There and in other places where the “respectable right” was in power, when KKK men or Nazis in Southern Germany or various fascist groups in interwar Eastern Europe committed some atrocities, the politicians in power (like Palin today) would issue statements “deploring” the events and denying that their statements and policies were intended to bring about such events. Sometimes, they would even tone down the vilification, defamation, and guilt by association demagoguery for a while, until the events blew over and they would get back to business as usual.

We can and must stop the Palins and their ilk from going back to business as usual, not only because it encourages psychopaths to act out their political fantasies, but because the policies they push are based on rejecting reason, modern science, and social reality. They are more dangerous today because the Obama administration is not, like its predecessor, humoring them. The more we see them even as “extremists” not the legacy of 30 years of reaction, which President Obama was elected to get our country away from, not a potential not so friendly American fascism, the more we fail to understand the threat that they pose and prepare to take action against them.

Photo: Sarah Palin's political website encouraged violent rhetoric against members of Congress with whom she disagreed.

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  • Lest there be misunderstanding about my writing that fascism is nothing new in the U.S.,-of course we do not have fascism now nor have we ever,in the U.S.,as t h e political formation in the U.S.-thank God. Norman Markowitz can certainly write for himself-but he did not write that nor mean to write that.
    The present writer,in agreeing with his article,whole heartily,did not mean to write nor suggest that either.
    However,writing that "all police forces"have fascism present in them,misstates my case. I should have written something like- the overwhelming historical tendency in the U.S. is to have police forces at all levels which practice brutality on workers,and use deadly terrorizing force,especially on the poor and workers of color,to repress dissent,supporting the ruling classes.
    In truth,fascist actions and incitement have been mainstays of our political landscape and as brother Markowitz writes-it is especially virulent American fascism-"...the legacy of 30 yrs of reaction..."which threatens democracy,safety and freedoms at its very foundations today.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 01/12/2011 12:46am (12 years ago)

  • This clear view from historian Markowitz gives us an impetus to take direct action,in Arizona and everywhere to combat this very real fascism in the United States of America.
    It may come as a surprise to some of us,but fascism is nothing new in the U.S. It was here with the Brownshirts,the KKK,the white citizens councils,the FBIs, and the CIAs and all police forces.
    If we do not organize against this repression,gun violence, fascism and American apartheid,there will be more Arizona atrocities.
    If we do not educate and organize against Citizens v Federal and Holder v Humanitarian,this fascism will gain steam and truly a decimate democracy and civilization.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 01/11/2011 12:38pm (12 years ago)

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