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Book Review: Hedges, Chris, “American Fascists. The Christian Right and the War on America.” Free Press, New York, 2006

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“When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross”

sometimes attributed to the author Sinclair Lewis and sometimes to Louisiana Governor Huey Long

I appreciated this Dallas Public Library book more than I enjoyed it. I really liked his examination of the underlying precepts of radical right evangelism and his historical comparisons to the thinking and strategies of earlier fascists. On the downside, I think he credited televangelists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson too much and blamed fascist financiers like the Koch brothers too little. I think Hedges understands a lot more about the ideology of fascism than he does about the reasons for it.

Hedges was a top-level foreign correspondent. He really knows how to do research and how to present it. He focused his research on the section of protestant evangelism in the United States that he names “dominionism.”

From page 11: “Dominionism, born out of a theology known as Christian reconstructionism, seeks to politicize faith. It has, like all fascist movements, a belief in magic along with leadership adoration and a strident call for moral and physical supremacy of a master race, in this case American Christians.”

I was interested in faith and fascism because of callers to my radio talk show “Workers Beat” today, March 31, 2018. One of them said that the current pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Robert Jeffress had said that everything President Trump does is okay because it is “ordained by God.” Another caller said that Jeffress, a few years ago, had called President Obama “the anti-christ.”

Another book, “’White Metropolis” charges First Baptist with far-right racist politics in the past. Hedges doesn’t mention Jeffress in his 2006 book, but he hits hard against Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, both of whom are presumably in Heaven now.

Long-time unionists know that Americanism is often evoked against its own people. Labor writer Len DeCaux tells us about a 1913 strike organized by the Industrial Workers of the World, employers tried to use the American flag as a strike breaking device. Declaring March 17 “Flag Day,” they draped flags over mill gates with signs calling for a return to work. The silk workers, makers of flags themselves, retorted with a huge American flag across Main Street bearing these words: “We wove the flag; we dyed the flag. We live under the flag; but we won’t scab under the flag!” –Excerpted “The Living Spirit of the Wobblies”

During a speech delivered in 1918, labor leader Eugene Victor Debs made a similar statement: 3No wonder Jackson said that ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.’ He had the Wall Street gentry in mind or their prototypes, at least; for in every age it has been the tyrant, who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both.”

Can They Be Stopped?

Author Chris Hedges thinks that the radical Christian Right should be repressed. He thinks that the liberal approach of extreme tolerance for varying points of view will lead to the destruction of America. He points out that Hitler could have been stopped if Germans had been less pathologically tolerant. On page 202, Hedges says, “Debate with the radical Christian Right is useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want a dialogue. It is a movement based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion…. This movement is bent on our destruction. The attempts by many liberals to make peace would be humorous if the stakes were not so deadly.”

I agree with Hedges. Tolerance cannot be extended to include intolerance. Where the book goes wrong, though, is in implying that these unscrupulous and opportunistic evangelists can, on their own hook, bring fascism to America. Hitler, working alone or with his ideological compatriots, couldn’t have done it either. The ideologists are not that powerful nor persuasive. Fascism is a form of rule chosen deliberately by rulers. That’s the danger.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas 9-10AM Central Time every Saturday. From the home page, hit the “events” tab to hear the last two programs. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal site

Republicans continue the countdown on democracy with their plans for the 2020 census. African American and Latino organizations are trying to stop them.

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The NAACP’s lawsuit says that the last census seriously undercounted African Americans, and preparations, or lack of preparations, for the 2020 census threatens to do the same. Latinos are especially upset by the Trump Administration’s plan to ask if they are citizens or not.

If the Republicans get away with it, they will be able to seriously diminish Black and Brown representation in government. Their anti-democratic redistricting would be made even easier for them.

Historical Context

This is not the first time that the parties in power have used counting as a way to undermine democracy. Bear in mind that the first constitution counted slaves as 3/5’s of a person so that slaveholders could amass more electoral clout, even though the slaves had no say about anything.

Political Context

The fight for a fair census is another part of the larger fight for democracy and against incipient fascism. Voter suppression laws from state governments are rampant. Redistricting has undercut the “minority” vote. Big money has won Supreme Court backing and is now free  to dominate all elections without even revealing who they are. The Voting Rights Act has already been eviscerated.

Working families have to fight on every front to preserve the partial democracy that we have won over the centuries. Every front includes economic struggles as well as electoral.

— Gene Lantz 

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you look in the “events” tab of knon.org, you can find programs from the last two weeks. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

I feel that I should explain, especially to those people who avoid me. It’s true that I’m incapable of cordial conversation. In no time, I turn almost every conversation into an “ask” for this or that. Sometimes I’m after contributions to the retiree cause, sometimes I want people to come to something, sometimes I ask them to “make a few calls.”

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Here’s my excuse: I have an urgent sense of history unfolding.

We Think We’re in Normal Times

In normal times, things go on pretty much as they have. There are no sharp changes in normal times. We think it’s “just the way things are,” and the inference is that they have always been that way.

But there are no normal times. Nothing is static, everything is constantly changing. When little, barely noticeable, changes start to accumulate, then giant, sudden changes occur. I saw one of those little changes in my e-mail today. It said that Republicans are proposing another $492 million cut in the Social Security Administration’s budget. It’s just one of many relatively “little” changes that undermine the American standard of living. It’s been going on since 1980.

I also saw, today, that the latest Texas Voter Suppression law is going into effect. I saw that President Trump is saber-rattling, again, against North Korea. He added Iran this past week.

These little changes undermining our standard of living and taking away our democracy so that we can’t fight back, are likely to add up to a big change. It’s impossible to predict when, but it’s foolish to ignore the truth that the big change is looming more likely.

Two Big Changes Ahead

If the coalition of big-money funders and ignorant reactionary pawns continues to get its way, America is going fascist. Who would deny that incipient fascism is already upon us? Who would fail to admit the direction they are taking us? Who would fail to notice that fascism, the total extinction of democracy with working people completely under the thumbs of corporate masters, is exactly what they intend?

The other big change that might occur is a defeat of the big money funders and ignorant reactionary pawns. An enlightened and activated populace may yet join together into an irresistible progressive force that will regain the upper hand for democracy and begin a new path to peace and progress.

Pick One

Those with an urgent sense of history know that one of those big changes is coming. You can have one or the other but you can’t have neither. You can’t have “normal times.”

That’s why I ask people to study and to get active in the most meaningful way. That’s why I’m such a pain in the butt.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you want to know what I really think, check out http://lilleskole.org

 

Socialism has become a popular topic for liberal discussion. Thousands of young people are joining moderate socialist organizations such as SP, DSA, or one of the Bernie-ite electoral groups.

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It is wonderful to see so many people committing to a better world, but I’m not sure how serious they are. It would be good to take a look backward to see how this discussion was conducted over the ages.

Socialism was a suitable subject for tea parties and Utopian literature for a couple of centuries before the 20th. There were even some harmless experiments, including one here in North Texas in the 1850s. The draft law of the Confederacy ended the Texas experiments with guns and terror.

The hippies of the 1960s recapitulated that early period and did some more harmless experimenting with communal living, counter-cultural institutions and what they called the “land trip.” Almost all of them either gave it up or moved to Costa Rica or both.

In 1917, though, the talk got serious. Since then, serious advocates of socialism have realized that an opposition exists and it’s not just arguing politely. Millions died in the civil war after that first socialist economy was established.

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The “arguments” of the opposition then took the form of fascism. In Italy, Germany, and Spain, the socialists were put down with guns and terror.  No sooner had the Nazis been defeated than the “arguments” of the opposition began killing millions in Korea, Vietnam, Guatemala, Iran, Chile, South Africa, Angola, and Indonesia. Sorry if I left some out.

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Here in the United States, only a few of the advocates of socialism actually died and a few, not a whole lot, were imprisoned. But an awful lot of them lost their jobs and suffered blacklisting. Many Americans are still terrified of socialism because the terror that began in 1947 worked rather well for the anti-socialists. If it hadn’t, they would have gone much further, as they did in other nations.

Socialism is serious business. It’s not enough to discuss and advocate it. We need a plan.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on http://knon.org/workers-beat at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you’re interested in what I really think, look at http://lilleskole.us

 

Movie review, “Churchill,” Directed by Jonathan Teplitzk, 110 minutes

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I can only think of one good reason to go and see the new biopic, “Churchill.” It’s an opportunity to see the great Miranda Richardson, who plays his wife.

The movie takes place in the last few days before June 6, 1944, when Allied forces invaded Normandy. Sir Winston is portrayed as a greatly flawed hero, but a hero all the same. It’s all dialogue with, it seems, millions of closeups of the old gentleman’s kindly and concerned face. The real Churchill looked exactly like a bulldog. Compassion is the last thing one would associate with him.

But in this movie, he tries to stop Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery from invading France out of his overwhelming compassion for young soldiers. The reason given is his sense of guilt over the massacre at Gallipoli during World War I. He has been blamed for that and it’s inferred in this movie.

To give credit where it is due, Sir Winston’s rhetoric helped inspire and organize the Britons through extreme duress. We still listen to his speeches, and one of them is the high point of this film effort. But that is no excuse for boring moviegoers for nearly two hours and presenting one of the least-admirable characters of British history as someone to love.

Far from compassion, Churchill burned with elitism and anti-semitism. He helped make anti-communism a world religion. Among the many world figures who allowed Hitler to gain enough power to threaten the entire world, Churchill is a standout. Hitler came to power in Germany because he was seen as the best way to overcome German communism, and Churchill was a co-thinker. Instead of stopping the fascists in Spain, or earlier or later, the “great powers” allowed him to build his great war machine in hopes that he would throw it against the Soviet Union first.

I find it impossible to associate Churchill with compassion for soldiers for one main reason: he advocated for war after World War II was over and done. It was Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech that popularized the cold war.

Try an internet search for “Churchill and anticommunism.” Here are a few of the things that pop up:

“…His deep early admiration of Benito Mussolini was rooted in his shrewd appreciation of what Mussolini had accomplished (or so he thought). In an Italy teetering on the brink of Leninist revolution, Il Duce had discovered the one formula that could counteract the Leninist appeal: hypernationalism with a social slant. Churchill lauded “Fascismo’s triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism,” claiming that “it proved the necessary antidote to the Communist poison.” From “Churchill Extols Fascismo for Italy” New York Times, January 21, 1927. Churchill even had admiring words for Hitler; as late as 1937, he wrote: “one may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.” James, “Churchill the Politician,” p. 118. On the conditions of the Fascist takeover in Italy, see Ralph Raico, “Mises on Fascism and Democracy,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 12, no 1 (Spring 1996): 1-27.  https://mises.org/library/rethinking-churchill

Churchill is credited with having begun the cold war:

http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/05/winston-churchills-iron-curtain.html

He is credited with helping the Nazis take power outside Germany:  http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2015/01/winston-churchill-anti-communist-who.html

He is credited with sharing Hitler’s anti-semitism:

https://jodebloggs.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/winston-churchill-and-the-rise-of-bolshevism-1917-1927/

If you think I say outrageous things, you might check out my weekly radio show on KNON.org or 89.3FM in Dallas.  –Gene Lantz

 

I have two reasons why we aren’t fit to govern, one reason why we are, and a firm belief as to whether or not we ever will.

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Why Americans Can’t Govern Themselves

The first reason is obvious: Americans aren’t even trying to govern ourselves. In my town, we just finished critical local elections with about 5% turnout of eligible voters. “Eligible voters” is the electorate plus the large percentage who didn’t even register.

The issues were really big and really clear. The establishment was lined up on one side and the people on the other. Everybody had a big stake, but hardly anybody responded.

The other thing against our ability to govern ourselves is the crippling divisions between those few of us who have shown that we give a damn. Example: my group called a rally last Friday, then had to try to reconcile with two other groups calling conflicting activities. We were able to come together with one of them, but the other wouldn’t budge. Here’s a laugh for you, the two groups most divided, most sectarian, least concerned about building a unified movement, were factions of “Indivisible!”

The divided progressive organizations make little effort to work together. They may call for “unity” all the time, and they do, but their idea of “unity” is “everybody follow me!” Very few of our disparate groups have a coherent strategy that makes any sense.

Hardly any of us recognize the central role of the working class in any effort to make progress against the 1%. If we did, we’d be working hard to stop Congress and the State Legislatures from undermining organized labor, but we aren’t.

Why Americans Can Govern Themselves

It’s all relative. I just made a couple of points explaining why the American people can’t govern ourselves, but I didn’t mention that we are far better prepared than the people who are running things now. One could start clicking the days off the calendar before the rich capitalists destroy all of us, including themselves, with their wars and pollution!

So the American people may not be very fit to govern, but we’re miles better than the present rulers!

Who Will Win the Contest?

Our side will win. It’s only a matter of time. Human history can be thought of as a struggle between knowledge and ignorance, between reason and superstition. In the long arc of history, knowledge and reason are the winning side.

In my fifty years of activism, I’ve seen extremely hopeful trends developing. People are better educated,  smarter, and more capable than before. Much more! Major organizations like the AFL-CIO have re-invented themselves and now promote progressive unity. Old divisions like racism and homophobia are much less effective than they were.

Folks worry today that the capitalists will soon choose to govern through fascism rather than the time-honored American method of limited democracy. I’m one of those worried people, but even a dreadful period of fascism would be temporary. The capitalists cannot solve the problems they caused that way or any other way.

Given time, the people will prevail. I just hope we live that long.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still broadcasting on http://www.knon.org/workers-beat/ at 9 Central Time every Saturday. Join me and call in 972-647-1893.

Germans embraced the Nazis, not because they were tired of freedom, but because they believed they had found a cure for capitalism.

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From the time it began to take over the world, mid 17th century, until the late 19th century, capitalism provided a better life for its subjects. That is, it was better than serfdom. Serfs were landless farm workers, one step above slaves, who had to take whatever their lords dished out. “Free” labor could leave one employer for another and, to some extent, dicker over conditions of employment.

Capitalism Works Best With Limited Democracy

If workers believe they have a voice in government, they don’t have to be guarded, guided, and pushed to do everything. They don’t run away or deliberately smash the equipment, the way slaves or serfs might. They can be educated for the higher forms of labor that capitalism needs. Consequently, the more successful capitalist economic systems use a limited democracy form of government.

From the beginning of the Republic until after World War II, American struggles made good improvements in our democracy.

What Went Wrong, When Did It Go Wrong?

Capitalism stopped benefiting workers after it conquered the world. When there were no new markets, the capitalists had to turn against one another to fight for the markets they had already saturated. That’s not what they called it. They called it “The war to save democracy,” and “The war to end all wars.”

But WW I was really a bloody turf war between gangsters. For a short period, the winners enjoyed their spoils, but it didn’t last very long because  the basic problem of saturated markets and international competition was still there.

So, they decided to have another world war. This one was complicated for workers, because the Soviet Union, try as they might, couldn’t stay out of it. After they began to fight the invading Nazis, they were incorporated into the same side the United States was on. The U.S. ended the alliance as soon as the Nazis were defeated, of course.

No More World Wars

After the U.S. nuked Japan, actually, after the Soviets and other nations showed that they could do the same thing, world wars lost their appeal as a temporary solution to the capitalist crisis. Even the gangster capitalists weren’t crazy enough to blow up their only planet. So, since the late 1970s, capitalist nations have gotten by on small regional wars, lowering their production costs by attacking their workers, and carrying a whole lot of debt. I recently read, in an investment newsletter, that all growth in the United States since 1980 basically came from debt!

Did the Nazis Solve the Capitalist Crisis?

To Germans between, say, 1933 and 1939, it appeared that fascism was the right way to go. Unemployment dived from 25% into low numbers. Lots of infrastructure was rebuilt. National pride was soaring.

But they had only changed their form of government from limited democracy to fascism, they hadn’t changed their economic system. It was still capitalist and it was still in crisis. The only real way toward a temporary solution was war. Even then, as long as they were winning, fascism still seemed pretty good to the Germans. After that, not so much.

What Looks Good to You Right Now?

To a lot of Americans, the Trump Administration and Republican political domination look pretty good. They think there will be more and better jobs. They think they’ll be making a better living and that the steady abatement of basic democracy isn’t too high a price to pay.

But we are still living in an economic system that has provided all the good it is going to provide, and things are only going to get worse if we can’t save and expand our democracy.