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May 17, 2019, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil visited Dallas. Activists here were able to mobilize a hundred or so protesters and get major statements from political and labor leaders against the visit.

What Is Fascism? What Do We Do About it?

Afterward, the conversations are turning toward really important topics such as “What Is Fascism?,” “How Does It Take Hold?,” and “What Do We Do About it?”

“What is fascism but capitalism in its death agony?” —The Journal of Albion Moonlight

To begin with, fascism is not an economic system nor a stage of economic development. It’s not a religion nor an anti-religion. It isn’t cultural tastes or outlook. It is a form of rule.

Do We Have Fascism in America?

The form of rule that we have in America is limited democracy. It is not as limited as it was before, say, the Civil War, nor even as limited as it was before Roe V Wade or Brown V Board of Education. One might notice that it’s more limited now than it was before the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United. But democracy in America is limited and always has been. We may have fascists in America, but we don’t have fascism. They haven’t taken over. At least not yet.

Democracy Opposes Fascism

When limited democracy just isn’t working well for the people in charge, they are left with fascism as their next option. The only other option would be to stop being the people in charge. In other words, fascism is a choice that desperate rulers make.

From their point of view, fascism is not as efficient as limited democracy because their workers in general willingly support them, but, from the the rulers’ point of view, it’s a lot better than giving up power.

If the corporate rulers of America decide that limited democracy isn’t working well for them any more, they will try to institute fascist rule.

Hitler Made a Deal

In Germany after World War I, the limited democracy imposed by the victors was called the Weimar Republic. It had so much debt and so many problems that it was weak. The communists and socialists, on the other hand, were on a roll. Hitler and his Nazis offered the German ruling class a way to maintain power by killing off the activists and destroying the democratic forces. In desperation, the rulers bought it.

The great powers of the day — United States, England, and France — liked the idea well enough because they had their own problems with socialists and communists. They allowed Hitler to take power, re-arm, and, just for practice, destroy the Spanish Republic.

Bolsonaro Made a Deal

Recently in Brazil, forces based on the trade union movement brought a flourishing democracy to replace the military dictatorship. It was working out great for the working people, but not so well for the capitalists. Using their control over the judiciary, they were able to jail the leaders of the democratic movement and put Jair Bolsonaro into power. Like fascists before him, he spews a lot of very divisive hatred.

They call him the Tropical Trump, and he’s a special friend of the White House here.

What’s All the Confusion?

The confusion about fascism is deliberate.

Ronald Reagan said that liberals were fascists. In one of the greatest examples of doublespeak of all time, Winston Churchill said that anti-fascists are fascists!

The Underlying Reason for Fascism

Capitalists do not prefer fascism. They prefer the efficiency of limited democracy for their rule. But they are doing something that they cannot help doing — piling up wealth for themselves at the expense of working people. Since the end of the Vietnam War, rich capitalists have taken an astonishing percentage of the world’s wealth. This year, 24 capitalists own more wealth than half the people on the planet!

It should be obvious that they can’t count on the cooperation of the people on the losing end. If we aren’t cooperating with them, then limited democracy isn’t working. The capitalists see that even better than we do.

Incipient Fascism At Home

A lot of really nasty people with billions of dark dollars are already working to establish fascism in the United States. Like their co-thinkers in Europe, they have seized on immigrants as their “threat from the other,” just the same way that Hitler and Mussolini used Jews.

In order to keep the democratic forces divided, they also throw in a lot of homophobia, religious intolerance, nationalism, and racism. The institutions of democracy such as freedom of information and the right to organize are their special targets. It worked for Hitler and it works for them. Since 1980, when the capitalists recognized that their hold was slipping, they have made a lot of progress. Mr. Trump makes a fairly good figurehead for them.

How Close Are We to Facism?

As this is written, the fascist forces have already provoked a phony constitutional crisis by refusing to recognize American law and democracy. In our ignorance, a lot of Americans support them. What they need now is the same thing that Hitler and Mussolini needed to smash democracy and establish fascist rule — a war.

Iranians are being demonized. There is an aircraft carrier task force in the Persian Gulf….

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

Book Review:

Taylor,F. Jay, “The United States and the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939,” Introduction by Claude G Bowers, United Printing Services, New Haven, Connecticut, 1956.



Fascist General Franco had a lot of help from his friends

The parents of monsters are not usually examined. Thus it is with the progenitors of World War II, who were in Spain. But if the fascist monster persists, and threatens world havoc again, such an examination is in order. I set out then, to read about the Spanish Republic, Mussolini, and Hitler in the few years leading up to the fascist holocaust.

Historians like to present unassailable facts and feign objectivity. Thus, this author reports only that the Spanish Republic attempted to assert democracy after centuries of monarchy and dictatorship. They were set upon by General Franco and his Moorish troops from Morocco while the “great powers” sat on their hands.





The Abraham Lincoln Brigade is still celebrated with their U.S. magazine

A few thousand untrained internationalists, as many as 3,000 from the United States, joined the fight for democracy. Fascist Italy and Germany supplied tens of thousands of trained soldiers along with modern tanks and aircraft to defeat them. England, France, and the United States went to great lengths to pretend neutrality. Thus, fascism found its military and psychological advantage in its first great step toward taking over all of Europe. The great war became inevitable.

Author F. Jay Taylor cannot completely avoid the same conclusion. On page 189, he says: “In any event, although Roosevelt had some misgivings concerning American Spanish policy, he refused to act and so must share responsibility with Britain and France in contributing to the advent of the Second World War by appeasing Fascist aggressors in Spain.”

The books’ introduction is by the American Ambassador during the period.

Claude G. Bowers is more generous with conclusions. He says that the purpose of the Spanish Republic was “aimed at wiping out the lingering feudalism in the land and the raising of the status of the workers to that of human dignity.” He also says, ““It is a sad commentary on human weakness that while the totalitarians made no secret of their purpose, we democrats did our best to cover it up.”

Having read the book 70 years after its publication, and having read other important sources about the fascist invasion of Spain, I am explicit in my conclusion: The great capitalist powers, including the United States, nurtured European fascism in its infancy because the fascists offered to destroy the socialist bogeyman for them.

They embraced fascism over democracy then and have done it since. Examples include Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Congo, Their current target is Venezuela.

Can one conclude anything else?

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

Stage West Theater in Fort Worth Texas sold all their tickets for the last matinee performance of “Are You Now, Or Have You Ever Been…” by Carlyle Brown. It’s about one of poet Langston Hughes’ testimonies to the McCarthy anticommunist committee in 1953.

“Are You Now…” in Ft Worth

People who attended because they wanted to get more insight into the great poet and his poetry, or people who just like to see a well-done one-man performance, were probably quite pleased.

Those of us who wanted to see an uplifting portrayal of America’s fight against fascism, or at least wanted to gather insight into what happened during the McCarthy period so we can avoid it now, were severely disappointed.

There were two acts. Djore’ Nance performed alone and made an effort to give an insight into Langston Hughes, his times, and his work. In other words, it was essentially a lecture. It was a very good lecture and well performed, but still a lecture.

In the second act, Christopher Dontrell Piper played Hughes’ lawyer and sat beside him while off-site questions came from, supposedly, Senator Dirksen, anti-communist spokesperson David Schine, top anti-communist prosecutor Roy Cohn, and the infamous McCarthy himself. Piper had about two lines, so the second act was about like the first, all Nance. The responses to the investigators were, apparently, mostly taken from the actual testimony in 1953.

Hughes did not stand up to Mc Carthism. He avoided any kind of confrontation. He didn’t defend his rights or anybody’s. He ended his testimony with a loving endorsement of the entire process. Yes, he probably had to. Dozens of otherwise good people caved in to McCarthyism and hardly anybody opposed it. But why make a play about it?

Why not, instead, make a play about Paul Robeson or Dashiell Hammett, or one of the others who fought back as well as they could and suffered the consequences?

The audience rose to their feet and applauded as the play closed, but they also headed for the door. I could hardly wait to get out of there. There was far more information, and more meaningful content, in the playbill than there was in the play. YouTube has dozens of more worthwhile works.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, see my personal web site.

Movie Review: “The Photographer of Mauthausen,” Directed by Mar Targarona. 1 hour, 50 minutes. In Spanish and German with subtitles

Spanish Democracy in Shreds

In the news, we see that President Trump’s new best friend, the fascist President of Brazil, is involving himself in world affairs as part of Trump’s amen chorus. At the same time, the movies keep bathing us in the horrors about the last time the world lurched this close to fascism.

The 2018 Netflix film from Spain tells about a horror camp with a 50% survival rate. As in all of these many films, the Nazis humiliate, torture, gas, and otherwise murder an endless stream of victims throughout the film. The main protagonist is one of the fighters from the Spanish Republic who sought refuge after the fascist General Franco, thanks to the generosity of Mussolini and Hitler, ripped up democracy in his home country.

Some of the inmates of Nazi concentration camps, we already know from previous movies, were spared the worst of the hardships because they had a particular skill that the fascists valued. Francisco, or Franz as they call him, was a photographer.

As the inmates become aware that the German army is losing on the Eastern front, Franz convinces his fellow communist inmates that they must preserve the record of the horrors of Mauthausen. The Nazis order all incriminating photos and negatives destroyed, but Franz starts hiding them so that, he hopes, justice may someday be served. You can guess what images they select for the ending scenes of the movie.

There is a graphic novel and a movie sharing this story. I first heard about them in a review in a magazine, “The Volunteer,” about the Abraham Lincoln Brigades – the Americans who went to Spain in a hopeless attempt to preserve democracy. They appreciated both the graphic novel and the movie, even though they had some criticisms about what actually happened and yearned, as I do, for some stronger way to convey the truth. Graphic novels and movies, after all, are mostly entertainment. I think they preferred a documentary book, “Spaniards in Mauthausen,” by Sara Brenneis. She says that 10,000 who fought for the Republic ended up in Mauthausen. By now, those of us interested in fascism yesterday and tomorrow aren’t impressed even by numbers. Ten thousand tortured? Sixty million dead? How can we even imagine it?

The new movie teaches its lessons well. We learn what people have gone through and how the survivors survived. All the while, as I watched these Spaniards suffer for their heroism, I kept thinking that the most horrible of the horrors of fascism boils down to one main thing: it wasn’t necessary. There was nothing in the stars or the affairs of humankind that brought us to the holocaust. People, a few people, made it happen and other people, a few other people, were complicit because they could have made it stop.

I’m also reading a book about the United States and the Spanish Civil War, even though it wasn’t a civil war at all, and I look forward to reviewing it here. If I am too preachy, then I defend myself because this is a time for preaching.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time ever Saturday. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal web site

At a rally in Dallas on the first day of early voting, congressional candidate Colin Allred said “We have two weeks to save democracy!”

allred-cwa-earlyvote

Soon afterward, the election in Brazil sharpened world concern for democracy’s future. Jair Bolsonaro openly welcomes a return to military dictatorship. He threatens all his political opponents with using the military and government sanctions militias to carry out “a cleansing never before seen.” Women, gays, landless peasants, and the homeless are targets named in a New York Times article.

Almost immediately after the election, military units began raiding student organizations to confiscate any “anti-fascist” or “pro-democracy” materials, according to @castriotar on Twitter.

It’s not just Brazil. The Week news service says, “Right-wing populist and nationalist governments are in power in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, and they share power with left-wing populists in Italy. Established right-wing parties in Britain, Canada, and Australia are busily adapting to the populist trend. Japan’s Shinzo Abe has taken his conservative Liberal Party in a notably nationalist direction. And with Angela Merkel announcing her intention not to run for re-election, and her party anxiously watching the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany, it’s likely her conservative coalition will also begin sounding right-wing populist themes.”

What’s “Populism?”

In American history, the populists were always considered the representatives of the downtrodden, primarily farmers and sharecroppers who were being squeezed out by urbanization. Populism was associated with being pro-democracy, according to Wikipedia.

Today, newspersons and pundits use the term to mean anybody who claims to oppose the status quo. They’ve invented the term “right-wing populism” to include politicians who are virulently against democracy. Others just call them fascists.

What’s “Left,” What’s “Right?”

On the democracy scale, “left” is usually associated with more democracy while “right” is associated with less. The meaning of both terms is so thoroughly distorted as to make them generally useless. “Pro-democratic” or “anti’” is more accurate.

President Trump’s recent claim that he can overturn the American constitution’s birthright guarantee by executive order is a good example of anti-democratic activity.

What’s “Democracy?”

Historically, we associate democracy with the ancient Greeks. The idea was government by the will of the people. Through the ages, we have never seen anything close to a complete democracy. The Greeks, of course, excluded their slaves. In America, democracy has grown a lot since slavery days but has never included the people’s control over basic economic nor foreign policy.

Of especial importance is the people’s lack of control over the machinery of elections. We may get to vote, but we have never controlled the elections.

During economic or military emergencies, democracy is always diminished. Wartime presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt were often called dictators.

Socialists have held out the promise of great extensions of democracy, but have never completely delivered because of the extreme tactics of capitalist opposition. The best that socialists have been able to deliver was “wartime democracy” similar to what Lincoln and Roosevelt practiced.

Who Is “Shifting to the Right?”

Commentators are scrambling to explain the anti-democratic global changes. They ask why people have been voting away their own democratic powers. The answer is that we aren’t.

Our democracy, even American democracy, is not complete and never was. The struggle between the poor and the rich, the 1% and the 99%, the employees and the employers, the workers and the owners, is being played out in elections that are ignored by many on our side. The elections are  being manipulated by the rich and distorted by incredible rivers of dark ugly money.

As a world crisis of international competition shrinks their opportunities, the wealthy are increasingly choosing to give up all pretense of government by the people. They are throwing their considerable wealth and power behind reactionary anti-democracy politicians who are willing to carry us all down an obvious path of total destruction.

Only our side can save democracy.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

Notes:

Ny times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/world/americas/jair-bolsonaro-brazil-profile.html

Brazil Election: How Jair Bolsonaro Turned Crisis Into Opportunity

Mr. Bolsonaro’s broadsides against women, gay people, Brazilians of color and even democracy — “Let’s go straight to the dictatorship,” he once said as a congressman — made him so polarizing that he struggled to find a running mate until early August. Traditional parties and politicians considered him too extreme.

President Trump called on Sunday to congratulate him on his victory, following up with a tweet on Monday morning that said, “Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won the race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!”

In 1993, he delivered a fiery speech before the lower house of Congress urging its demise, calling the emerging version of democracy in Brazil a lost cause.

“I am in favor of a dictatorship,” Mr. Bolsonaro thundered. “We will never resolve serious national problems with this irresponsible democracy.”

rc‏ @castriotar Oct 26

rc Retweeted Folha de S.Paulo

More than 20 Brazilian universities were invaded by the military police in the past 2 days. They confiscated material on the history of fascism, interrupted classes due to ‘ideological content’, removed anti-fascist banners and posters claiming that it was electoral propaganda.

@castriotar

Many other student movements and organizations reported military police forces inside classrooms, student units, academic directories, confiscating any sort of materials with ‘anti-fascist’ or ‘pro-democracy’ content.

“It will be a cleansing never before seen in Brazilian history.” [referring directly to “reds,” to Workers Party leader Lula Da Silva, and to his present electoral opponent. He said they will “rot in jail.” He directly threatens to use the armed forces and civilian militias with legal sanction against enemies such as the landless peasants movement and the homeless movement.

April article From Independent about Hungary: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/victor-orban-hungary-migrant-refugees-george-soros-ngo-far-right-a8297441.html

Viktor Orban’s right-wing populist party has vowed to would crack down on organisations helping migrants and refugees, in an announcement made just a day after it won an overwhelming election victory.

The autocratic prime minister portrayed himself as the saviour of Hungary’s Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, an image which resonated with more than 2.5 million voters.”

His Fidesz party won a two-thirds super majority in the country’s parliament, which would allow it and its small ally, the Christian democrats, to push through changes to constitutional laws.

**

From Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/02/27/polands-right-wing-government-is-rewriting-history-with-itself-as-hero/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2ef44090bd99

By Mateusz Mazzini February 27

Poland is in the midst of a pitched battle over its collective memory. The ruling party has recently stirred an international controversy by passing a bill criminalizing the use of the phrase “Polish death camps.” But in many ways, those international rifts are just collateral damage. The real battle is at home and is over what counts as legitimate political authority, and who can wield it.

Poland’s government is suggesting that the present-day cosmopolitan liberals who want to acknowledge Polish collaborators in crimes against Jews are traitors, like the Communists, willing to sell the nation to the highest international bidder. And such national mythmaking has more real-world power than many understand.

From The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/its-the-right-wings-italy-now/562256/  June 6

“A new populist government came to power in Italy this week, and the right is calling the shots. It swept in on a wave of anxiety about immigration and the economy. On the economy, certain European rules could prevent Italy from going totally off the rails. When it comes to immigration, things could get rough—at least in rhetoric. In 88 days of coalition talks, Salvini, known for his strident attacks on immigrants as a threat to Italian safety, grew emboldened by the League’s rising popularity in the polls, and in the 11th-hour negotiations to forge a government, he appears to have outmaneuvered Luigi di Maio, the head of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement, which won twice as many votes as the League in Italy’s March 4 elections

From The Week: https://theweek.com/articles/804453/why-are-rightwing-populists-winning-everywhere

“Right-wing populist and nationalist governments are in power in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, and they share power with left-wing populists in Italy. Established right-wing parties in Britain, Canada, and Australia are busily adapting to the populist trend. Japan’s Shinzo Abe has taken his conservative Liberal Party in a notably nationalist direction. And with Angela Merkel announcing her intention not to run for re-election, and her party anxiously watching the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany, it’s likely her conservative coalition will also begin sounding right-wing populist themes.”

“What is the commonality in contemporary conditions, around the world, that has made people in so many countries susceptible to both emotional impulses at once, and powered the global rise of the populist right?

That’s the question that liberal democrats need to answer before they are completely swept away.”

Have you noticed the number of journalists getting killed lately?

It makes you stop and think about it. Around the world, journalists who try speaking truth to power are getting murdered. President Donald Trump isn’t helping when he tries to convince everybody that truth is fabricated, dark is light, and up is down. By constantly demonizing journalists, he’s painting a big bulls eye on their backs.

Which brings me to my letter to the editor printed today in the Dallas Morning News. It said that the recent decisions of the five anti-worker Supreme Court Justices reveal that they are opposed to democracy and would like to do away with it. The editors removed one word from my letter, “fascism.”

I equated the absence of democracy with fascism. If someone, like the Supremes, moves us away from democracy, they’re moving us toward fascism. That simple.

I try to explain things like that on my radio show every Saturday. Last Saturday a guy called to ask if I think all “conservatives” are also “fascists.” I said no, and I quoted conservative columnist David Brooks who recently wrote, “You can be a Republican or a Conservative, but not both.” He said true conservatives embrace democracy because they want freedom for all individuals.

If you aren’t for workers, I say, then you are automatically for corporations because their interests are opposite. Mussolini said that fascism was corporatism, and that makes sense to me.

I explore things like that all the time in my writing and on my radio show. Does that mean I’m in line to get killed? The studio is on the ground floor of an office building. Two sides are glass. Around my neighborhood, I’m always on my bicycle. Unprotected. I think that if I get to be as effective as I’d like to be in spreading the truth, I’d be in line to join the growing line of dead truth spreaders.

I thought about getting a gun, but that would kind of dilute the message, wouldn’t it?

 

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

gun

Last night I listened to an outstanding report from a participant of the 1960s-70s American student anti-war movement. The reporter really knew his stuff, and his analysis was superb.

communist-dead

At the end, though, I disagreed. It wasn’t that I don’t concede that the guy knows twice as much about the student movement as I do. It isn’t that I don’t agree that the student movement shook the world, refashioned people’s thinking, and contributed greatly to ending the Vietnam War. He’s absolutely right on that.

What I disagreed with was the emphasis. The progressive movement that we are experimenting with right now is the biggest, most important, and most potentially effective people’s movement since the American Civil War. Maybe even better than that. The student movement was nearly all college students, and mostly white draft-age males at that. Even the civil rights movement of 1954-1968 was limited to a relatively small sector of the population. The labor upsurge of 1935-1947 was great, but the union movement was split between the AFL and CIO then. The Industrial Workers of the World exceeds everything in pure romanticism, but I don’t think there were ever more than 100,000 actual members. The populist movement of the late 19th century was limited to farmers and, for the most part, didn’t even include landless farm workers. Outside Texas, the populists were infamous for their racism.

No, now is better.

Communists and Fascists Today

We had communists and fascists in the old days. We have them now.  People understand them both better now than they did when they were just “hot button” emotional topics. It is true that fascism is inching forward in America, but it is also true that people know what to do about it. More importantly, the fascists can’t use anti-communism as effectively as they did before. Anti-communism is dying out among America’s youth.

Just Look At Us!

I looked around the room while my friend was talking about our student movement. The crowd was mostly young, but not all young. In gender and race, it was diverse. When my friend talked about making leaflets for anti-war demonstrations, I realized that the people at the meeting had, in their purses and pockets, more thinking and communicating power than we ever dreamed of as students. They could make leaflets in minutes if they wanted to, but they don’t even need leaflets. They are experts at communicating. This small group could have easily reached thousands of co-thinkers before they left the room!

Labor Is Getting Past Its Isolation

Speaking of the room, it was the auditorium of the local school employees’ union, American Federation of Teachers. The president of the local union walked through and said hello to a few of us. Could you imagine, in your wildest dreams, that the student anti-war movement could have met in an AFT union hall? Albert Shanker was President of that union in those days, and he was, next to the president of the American Federation of Labor, the most fanatical supporter of the war in Vietnam.

Labor isolated itself from the progressive movement in most instances between 1947 and 1995, then they made a gigantic change toward standing for all workers.

Today’s progressive movement is warmly accepted in union halls. The Dallas AFL-CIO welcomes radical Bernie-Sanders-socialists several times a month! The AFL-CIO banner regularly appears at anti-war, civil rights, gay rights, environmentalist, and immigrants’ rights rallies. If anything, the national and state leaderships of the labor federation are even more integrated into the general progressive movement than Dallas unions.

I like studying the history of other progressive movements. There are many good things to learn, and we learned some of them last night. But don’t get carried away with the past. Now is better.

All We Have Is Now

I welcome discourse when I publish. Disagreements are welcome. But bear in mind that today’s situation is the only one we have. Romanticizing earlier situations may be fun or interesting, but all our efforts can’t go into “then.” They have to go into now! On that, last night’s reporter, and everyone else, agrees!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 Central Time every Saturday. Podcasts can be found under the “events” tab. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.