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election fraud | imperialism & war | legacies | political theory

It Can Happen Here

"In 1935 Sinclair Lewis, the first Nobel Prize winner for literature from the US, published the novel "It Can't Happen Here". In that depressing utopian novel, he described the introduction of fascism in the US.. What if this novel is read today?.."

By Erhard Crone

[This article originally published in: Blattchen, August 2, 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.linksnet.de/artikel.php?id=1273.]

Strange legal interpretations and the US presidential election discussed in a Blattchen article had echoes in the US. What has the Nobel Prize winner Sinclair Lewis to do with Bush?

In May I wrote in Blattchen about the fiasco of the imperial presidency in the US. Bush's warfare is discussed in the Hague Tribunal and judged by international law. At the end he was ascribed with a Caesar delusion. After the text was put on the website, it began to travel. First, someone from Indymedia translated it into English and put the English version on the net. Then it was taken up by several US websites and discussed. One commentator said I was an idiot. I had not understood that all these regulations of warfare and international law were no longer in effect after September 11, 2001.

This happens in a land predestined for the "rule of law" according to political science and other disciplines. The newspapers announced that General "Tommy" Franks, the old schoolmate of Bush's wife and Iraq war commander, said the freedom rights of the constitution will be annulled next time a great attack like September 11 occurs and the land will be under emergency military law because the security of the country could only be guaranteed this way. Colleagues from China replied to the question about Bush's chances for reelection. He will lose even if his friend Bin Laden does him the favor of launching a new strike right before the election. I didn't take this seriously at that time.

What can be expected from the Bush people? The new film by Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11, is being shown in over two thousand movie theaters. The film is a call to vote Bush out of office. Will it succeed? Since the "founding fathers" of the US, the presidential elections have taken place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday (thus in the first full week) in November of every leap year. These elections have never been cancelled or suspended - neither in the 1864 civil war nor during the two world wars of the 20th century. The current president brought into this office by election fraud and a coup-like intrigue will evaluate suspension of the election - naturally with reference to a "possible security situation".

After the falsified 2000 election, Mr. DeForest Soaries jr. was appointed by Bush as head of the election authority to "guarantee a functioning future logistics". Does this mean that election fraud will be impossible in Florida where Bush's brother is still governor or that a Bush count will occur in the whole country independent of how the voters voted? "They can only steal a close election", someone said after the disclosure of the machinations of the year 2000. Now the situation appears different. The suspension of the election remains as an "alternative". The rule of the Senate did not return after it was replaced by the rule of Caesar. This we know from ancient Rome, the reference point of the current US rulers.

DeForest Soaries was asked by the Justice Department how the election could be taken off the agenda. The answer was that this would be difficult in the course of law. The federal constitution and the constitutions of individual states would have to be changed. Afterwards "Homeland Security director" Tom Ridge was asked whether this would be possible through his authority in the emergency law... This will be studied, he said. The chairperson of the Homeland Security committee of the congress, the republican Christopher Cox, explained that the inquiry is part of a "wise plan".

In 1935 Sinclair Lewis, the first Nobel Prize winner for literature from the US, published the novel "It Can't Happen Here". In that depressing utopian novel, he described the introduction of fascism in the US. Most citizens are convinced that fascism could not happen in their democratic country. However it is gradually happening among US institutions. This scenario was not taken seriously in 1935. A proven democrat governed with Franklin D. Roosevelt. What if this novel is read today? A widespread rightwing nihilism is an element of this fascist project ("The idiot has not understood that the law is no longer in effect after September 11."). The explicit will to radically change the law is its presupposition ("Freedom rights must be suspended when a military state of emergency is necessary.").

To be sure, the fascism described by Lewis is the fascism according to the pattern of Hitler and Mussolini. However the derivation from middle-class orientations in the US is very instructive. Thus a pensioned general explained on the question of peace: "I want peace and declare this to the whole world. But children, be done with the moral twaddle. We have power and power has its justification in itself!" A critic is told "that freedom of speech becomes licentiousness or complete lack of restraint when it develops into criticism of the army." Are these only words from a 1935 novel or could they be said today?

The credo of neoliberalism is outlined by Lewis. People will only think of themselves "instead of helping responsible economic leaders in their hard struggle to restore prosperity! Instead there are corrupt and self-seeking unions and money-grubbers! Their only goal is forcing more wages from their unfortunate entrepreneurs. What is alarming today in the novel is the will to abolish democracy from "original middle class" positions, not the depiction of a fascism of the thirties a la the US. It will be a victory of the rights of freedom if elections occur in the US this year.

homepage: homepage: http://www.mbtranslations.com
address: address: http://www.commondreams.org

good work, Marc 21.Aug.2004 10:18


it's great that your translation of this author's piece led to more attention for the article, and to him writing a follow-up. keep up the awesome work!

Another prescient distopia from Jack London. . . 21.Aug.2004 10:21

Hal E. Burton

You might also read Jack London's "The Iron Heel."

Essentially he predicts the bombing of Pearl Harbor, World War II and "War on Terror."

Great book 21.Aug.2004 10:28


And, as you read it, you realize how little things change. Interesting summary of a bit of "It Can't Happen Here": Friends in time of struggle are mostly a liability: 25% just won't get it; 25% will "become reasonable"; 25% will die and break your heart; 25% will live to fight by your side.

btw: a later book called "It Has Happened Here" is also very good.

graphic for feature 21.Aug.2004 11:28

pdx graphics drone #6082

thanks to "-" for the great summary

like Orwell 22.Aug.2004 23:56


Lewis wrote about his present disguised as a future.