'Night and fog: Disturbing resonances between regime and reich'
You think it's not true, you think it's not coming, you think "it can't happen here." But it can, and it is, right before your eyes.
George Bush's United States is clearly in a proto-fascist condition. Of course, there's no such thing as direct equivalence between historical events. The same dangers never come around again -- not in the same form nor with precisely identical content. At every point in time, a new set of elements and circumstances coalesce to create the unique reality of that particular historical moment.
But if you take the general definition of fascism provided by its founder, Benito Mussolini -- "the merger of corporate and state power" -- and apply it to the elements that are coalescing in America at this historical moment, you could hardly find a more apt description of the Bush Regime. Couple that with the Bushists' radical transformation of party politics into a quasi-religious cult of militarism and leader worship, and you have not an equivalence but certainly an ever-deepening resonance with the malevolent spirit that swept Germany and Italy during the first half of the 20th century.
The Bushist convention in New York -- an unprecedented belching forth of bile, mendacity and bootlicking -- gave ample proof that Republicans now "claim to be far more than a political party; they [are] a movement, sweeping up the ... people and carrying them unstoppably to a better future," as historian Richard Evans described a similar ugly metamorphosis in his excellent new book, "The Coming of the Third Reich." "The vagueness of the [party's] program, its symbolic mixture of old and new, its eclectic, often inconsistent character, to a large extent allowed people to read into it what they wanted and edit out anything they might have found disturbing," he wrote of the Nazis. Evans also notes: "What the [party] did not offer, however, were concrete solutions to [the nation's] problems, least of all where they were most needed, in economy and society."
Again, the resonances are striking. Like the Nazis, the Bushists are not interested in actual policies, actual governance. They are not even interested in politics as such, i.e. the pursuit of effective government through open debate and honorable compromise with fellow citizens of opposing views. No, what drives their "movement" is a lust for raw power: the power to impose their brutal vision of unbridled state corporatism -- which Bush calls "the single sustainable model of national success." Policies, programs, grand ideological crusades ("family values," "national security," "war on terror," "defense of marriage," "ownership society") are all just empty blather to the Bushists, false fronts to be shuffled, twisted or dropped as necessary to mask the rapacious (and unpopular) nature of their ultimate goal.
Bush's state corporatism entails the destruction of government as an instrument for social good and civic life; any possible fetters on the desires of the powerful for more money and more privilege must be removed. The only "legitimate" functions of government in such a system are dividing the spoils of power among favored interest groups (Bush's loyal cadre of Christian extremists, for example), and maintaining a gargantuan military machine to "project dominance," grab loot and provide fat contracts for arms dealers, servicing companies, mercenaries and other corporate war profiteers. Everything else can be privatized, outsourced, sold off to cronies -- or simply eliminated in "forced" cutbacks blamed on deliberately engineered budget deficits.
The Bushist movement also entails the destruction of ordinary politics. Any opposition to the "single sustainable model" -- even the timid deviations offered by the thoroughly corporatized Democrats -- must be crushed, and relentlessly demonized as an "attack on America from within," as the Bushists declared at their convention. Even the democratic process itself -- the Constitutionally mandated presidential election -- was scorned from the podium as nothing more than a "manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief." Thus the very idea of free, contested elections -- "the consent of the governed" -- is now openly dismissed as a dangerous notion, a sign of mental illness.
There are more sinister resonances between Reich and Regime, of course. One is the penchant for aggressive war based on false premises, in the name of protecting the sacred "Homeland" from imminent attack by godless evildoers. Another is the brazen use of the "Big Lie," such as Bush's repeated public assertions that he was "forced" to invade Iraq because "Saddam wouldn't allow the inspectors back in" -- an extraordinary perversion of reality on a par with any of Hitler's delusionary propaganda.
Finally, as in earlier fascist movements, the faith of Bush's adherents has been sealed in blood: a proven method of binding followers to a ruthless leader. With his illegal aggression, Hitlerian in principle if not yet in scale, Bush has made his followers -- and by extension, his nation -- complicit in mass murder. The terrorist horrors of Beslan have been replicated 70-fold across Iraq, where an estimated 35,000 noncombatants have been killed. As in Beslan, this slaughter of innocents was often deliberate. For example, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld personally approved every bombing raid likely to kill 30 or more civilians -- and there were more than 50 such willful mass terror killings in all, The New York Times reports. No wonder Bush's zealots swallow his lies so readily; otherwise they would have to acknowledge the blood dripping from their own hands.
You think it's not happening, because the crudities of yesteryear -- brownshirts, goose steps, shattered glass -- are absent, because the targets of wrath and fear are different. But the Bush Regime is the form that state corporatism -- fascism -- is taking in this particular historical moment. It is happening. The night and fog are coming.
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