Saturday, March 18, 2017
A Tutorial For Millennials On Fascism/The American Parallel
I am addressing millennials here about Fascism because I see scant evidence that your history and world affairs studies have familiarized you with this horrific political system that is quickly being instituted in your country and mine. The Trump regime, with complicity from most of the Republican party and much of the unengaged electorate, seems not to care about its implications for the great American Experiment with democracy and your future. People often seek political power in order to enhance both their wealth and their prestige and when they see a segment of the population who might support an authoritarian approach to governance, they create strategies to alienate that segment from the mainstream and offer them quick solutions to their frustrations and outlets for their alienation.
While Trump appears to shoot from the hip, behind him, both in the White House and in the shadows of his still very active campaign organization is a group with the intellect, cunning, tools and money to advance the fascist cause. This is not the first time in America, my millennial friends, that we have flirted with Fascism. It was very alive and well in the thirties with a group of mostly industrial titans who worked very hard to keep us out of WWII and were sympathetic to the Third Reich. Compared to the admirable grassroots organization of the Bernie campaign still very much in play at this writing, the people behind Trump are dangerous, very rich and way ahead in mobilization tools to advance their despicable notion of government by the elite.
Germany had a history of unrealized domination of Europe with their defeat by neighboring countries, supported by both the U.K. and the U.S.A. in WWI. This defeat was followed in about twenty years of rebuilding with a crushing economic depression. The people of Germany were economically devastated and looking for help from their government. That help, over time, evolved from a tiny minority of right wing revolutionaries who promised a renewed national pride and economic solutions. These were the fascists ultimately led by Adolph Hitler. The Third Reich emerged and built a war machine and national movement to support it.
What caused America to mobilize a war effort to help defeat the fascist Third Reich? What was so threatening to us to upend our struggling nation's effort to dig out from the Great Depression and go into another world war? First, our allies, with agreements formed after WWI, pleaded with our reluctant nation for help, particularly Britain. We had a very strong America First movement going because of our struggling economy with still many out of work and with depleted family savings lost in the Great Depression, economic crash. It took a lot of convincing to get us reengaged with the world, but the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan's hyper aggressive desire for domination of much of the eastern part of the world gave us both no choice and the motivation to mobilize world wide. We saw huge threats from both the east and west for our very existence. Germany's domestic policies and authoritarian suppression of their own people was not our motivation, nor their treatment of Jews and other minorities. Their invasion of neighboring countries and threats to the U.K. was the driving issue to engage them militarily.
My generation, those of us born in the Great Depression, were forever changed when our fathers and mothers joined a national effort, not out of choice, but out of dire necessity to fight the fascist regimes of Germany and Italy in the early 1940's. My father, well over draft age, in his thirties, signed on as a commissioned officer to go to the UK and work in the allied forces to help launch the invasion from their shores. My mother volunteered with my grandmothers to prepare wound supplies for the red cross's support for our wounded. As a family we experienced terrifying air raid blackouts and very inconvenient food rationing as food supplies became depleted from military use. The whole U.S. economy converted consumer manufacturing from goods of convenience to goods for war making. It was a crisis in this country with the the threat of potential German and Japanese invasions on either U.S. coast. Many of my peers lost a parent in that war giving their lives to preserve the American Experiment in democracy. It was perhaps the only fully supported war our nation has fought since the Civil War, though that support was slow to develop.
What I want you to understand, point by point, are the similarities between the Trump administration and, as a specific example, the fascist government of Germany under Adolph Hitler. I will highlight some of those more than coincidental similarities which unmistakably mirror the rise of fascism. Fascism was historically not limited to Germany and Italy. Spain, Chili and other south American countries have adopted fascist policies and embraced strong men leaders in their histories.
The militarized police state
I begin with the German police state so often depicted in film. You know the drill. The SS or Nazi police invading the home of an accounting clerk accused of violating some dubious law as a ruse to justify said home invasion to look for evidence of some other crime against the state. This parallel here in America we cannot blame on Trumpism. It started back in the 60's with the War on Drugs. It evolved through both Republican and Democratic administrations to the full militarization of our local police departments which used to be called Peace Officers. Now they are full blown war officers with home invasions looking for drug evidence and massive shows of military force on the streets with peaceful protests consisting of people armed with signs and maybe a bullhorn or two. We are now the most militarized officers of the peace on the planet, rivaling the policing excesses of the Third Reich. Trumpism has brought more retired military into civilian federal positions compared to other recent federal administrations in my opinion.
As governed people in democratic countries become frustrated with the slow adoption of change by competing groups in the governing process, they are sometimes exploited by ambitious politicians
promising that they alone can bring solutions and change. The Third Reich and the strong man Adolph Hitler presented themselves in that fashion with extreme nationalism and singling out groups they contended were the cause of gridlock and economic stagnation, while undermining their democracy. Trumpism exploited elements of our society in an identical fashion by promising that a businessman could govern more effectively than the political class, claim that only he possessed the answers to gridlock and stagnation. Gridlock is not caused by the typical slow bi-partisan sausage making for solutions to our economic inequality; our current legislative impasse is the result of one party abandoning the task of creating alternative solutions in the legislative process and simply saying no to everything the other party proposes.
Challenge to the current political order
The Third Reich displaced over time political leadership in dominant political parties and democratically instituted policies and replaced them with predatory business people and opportunists not attuned to democratic processes to forge consensus and began dismantling those policies by fiat. This is precisely what Trumpism is currently doing by installing right wing ideologues in key government executive departments to undo the current political order and policies previously forged by consensus or non-participation by Republicans. Trump is doing it with nearly complete complicity from the Party he and his white nationalist core supporters were able to take over, exploiting their core bigotry.
Set up straw men to blame for economic stagnation
The Third Reich blamed Jews, homosexuals and other minorities for Germany's economic breakdown and hardship experienced by the mainstream, Aryan population deemed the authentic Germans. Trumpism is blaming Mexican and Hispanic immigrants for America's lack of good paying jobs and Muslim immigrants for life endangering physical insecurity in our homeland. Trumpism has unleashed a latent and very real strain of bigotry, misogyny and homophobia that lies deep in some sectors of American society, utilizing very sophisticated profiling and psychographic tools to tap into it and mobilize voters. Evidence-the rust belt states and south 2016. This was no accident. This soil was tilled, the bad seeds found and brought to bloom with these tools.
The Third Reich began a propaganda campaign studied the world over for its effective impact on the mainstream population, persuading them of their geographic and ethnic racial superiority, promising a restoration of German greatness in the eyes of the world. They used fake news and fake science to delude the receptive population of their superiority. Trumpism is using identical fake news and alternative facts to persuade a gullible population of the rightness of their policies and promise to Make America Great Again.
Suppression of a free press
Over time the Third Reich managed first to discredit their free press (mostly then the written word) then eliminate their outlets, replacing them with a tightly managed state media, including print but also brilliantly produced propaganda films. Performing theater was first criticized then censored and turned into propaganda outlets. Trumpism is criticizing our media, beginning to limit its access (brazen example- limiting press accompanying him on his Asian trip), flooding it with fake news and daily lying and alternative facts. They are threatening also to defund public media outlets.
The Third Reich built a war machine the likes of which Europe at not seen since Napoleon, the Moors and ancient Rome. They sold its efficacy and value to the mainstream population as an expression of national pride and superiority, while managing to maintain a meager social services budget to pacify a very weakened populace. They used the national pride propaganda effort as a way of explaining the temporary frugality in the social services sector, with all sacrificing to build a powerful military. Trumpism is now selling a massive increase in our already bloated military budget and corresponding 20-40 % reductions in non-military federal spending.
Hitler and his regime forged alliances of silence and complicity, primarily with the German and Vatican Catholic hierarchy to blunt criticism of their policies and bigotry. Trumpism has garnered support from powerful evangelical Christian communities, largely based on his embrace of the Prosperity doctrine and superiority of those so chosen as well as his support for social conservatism regarding sexual orientation and male domination. It is also interesting to note the conservative Catholic backgrounds of many of his Alt-right core support group and a significant portion of Republican leadership.
Powerful alliances with corporations
With the promise of major leadership roles for corporatists and lucrative military contracts for the production of goods, the Third Reich integrated major corporate managers into their regime and with the military contracts, enhanced employment in weak economic sectors. They eliminated opposition from the corporate sector as a result. Trumpism has recruited mostly corporate executives into its executive administration while discrediting and diminishing the power of unions. Its promise of both huge military and infrastructure contracts with its budget proposals has largely silenced corporate resistance and criticism.
Government diminution of minorites
Hitler's regime categorized LGBTQ, disabled, Jews, Roma, International Bible Students now called Jehovah's Witnesses, non-aryans as inferior persons unsuitable for full rights as citizens of Germany. His regime capitalized on bigoted elements in German society and fueled their hatred and need to establish their superiority through both propaganda and policies of discrimination. These minority populations were either eliminated or driven deeply underground in the society. You see identical rhetoric from Trumpism leadership as well as their alt-right supporters and little or no vocal opposition from their Republican support base. Targets include non-anglo immigrants, Muslims, disabled and LGBTQ persons. They are now being discriminated against via federal executive orders and budgets.
National security policies are highest priority
The Third Reich preceded their military incursion into neighboring counties with a military build up based on propaganda about the need for German security and emphasis on perceived threats, slights or old conflicts restored from hostile neighbors. Their military incursions into most of Europe were based on fake concerns about hostility or the need for self-protection. Trumpism is in the early stages of such propaganda, particularly centered on perceived threats from the middle east and parts of Asia.
Our military build up is likely to go unchallenged, even by Democrats.
There you have it, millennial friends. I implore those readers of older demographic groups to share this widely in order to help our young citizens be spared of having to repeat our generation's need to rid our country of the threat of fascism, in this case from within. I implore you not to lose your passion for progressive change. Please understand that if we don't rid America of fascism and its Trumpian proponents, we will not have a democracy left to reform. We'll have to rebuild it from the ground up, a task it has taken us over 250 years to get us to this stage of our experiment.
Democrats have our work cut out for us to both stop this very sophisticated cancer and mobilize the massive resistance needed to tamp down, likely not end this fascist movement. The Bernie Revolution people are not able to stem this tide alone.....it will take a Democratic Party Village the likes of which political mobilization has never seen.