McCarthyism, Fascism, Buchanan
Louis N Proyect
lnp3 at columbia.edu
Tue Feb 20 06:53:32 MST 1996
I'm not sure that this got through yesterday, if it did, my apologies.
On Sun, 18 Feb 1996, Bradley Mayer wrote:
> The problems with the "right wing populist" position are 1) It regards
> Buchanan in abstraction from the historical and material context within
> which this phenomenon appears. Seen in this way, of course Buchanan
> appears as identical to Wallace, Long, etc. Buchanan, in his own mind,
> may even think he's just another rightwing populist. But that is not what
> should matter to us. What matters is the role Buchanan plays in the
> present conjuncture, and I say that he acts as a transit point for the
> crystalization of a mass fascist movement in the electoral arena in the
> US, on a national scale. His campaign is creating a very broad
Louis: I have made some headway in my research into fascist movements of
the 1930s and 1940s and hope to submit a longish piece on McCarthyism,
Fascism and Buchanan in a couple of days or so. Now that I have dislodged
myself from that PCP insanity, I should be able to focus more on the
business at hand: fascism.
I want to tentatively suggest 3 important factors in understanding the
1) Fascism, above all, is about action. It is the equivalent of civil
war. When class tensions rise to a fever pitch, the police are stretched
thin and the army, with its working-class composition, becomes
unreliable. The fascist gangs are used to violently suppress
working-class political and trade-union activity.
Is anything like this indicated in the militia movement? What instances
can we point to of militia attacks on the worker's movement? What is the
"worker's movement" today in a place like Michigan? Are the militias
being prepared in advance as a weapon against proletarian militancy? What
percentage of workers in Michigan vote socialist? How many members of
left groups are auto-workers?
2) What explains the emergence of militias, with their working-class
composition? What explains the popularity of the retrograde nationalism
of the Nation of Islam?
This, comrades, is reflective of the left's inability to reach the
American people when the last opportunity was offered to us in the 1960s.
One sector of the left remained mired in electoral, piece-meal reform. The
other sector went off into cloud-cuckoo land dreaming of Soviets or
"people's war". Reformism and sectarianism derailed us, just the way it
did to the left in Germany in the 1920s.
The militias and the NOI represent deep grievances held by working-class
and middle layers in economically ravaged areas of the nation.
Instead of being able to join a militant, class-struggle oriented
socialist movement, the white militia members and the NOI gravitate to
the most militant sounding thing around. This tendency does not reflect
fascism, but the confused, tentative efforts of the politically
unsophisticated to connect with a movement that might remedy their suffering.
3) There will always be incipient fascism. George Lincoln Rockwell was
incipient fascism. The militias and Pat Buchanan can evolve in a fascist
direction. This is not excluded. What we should be paying attention to
however is not the status of a particular right-wing movement or
politician at a moment in time.
The important thing that is needed is an accurate reading of the
objective conditions of the class-struggle in the United States today. If
we get that straight, then it will be much easier to understand the
proximity of fascism. Nobody on the left has even come close to doing
this. Such an analysis would have to take into account:
1) Is capital in crisis?
2) What is the status of the working-class? In the Nation magazine last
week, Jeremy Rifkin made a convincing case that within a decade
"blue-collar" jobs will have dwindled to a tiny percentage of the
economy. What impact does that have on the traditional
capital-proletariat struggle over the disposition of surplus value? Daniel
Guerin's analysis was based on the significance of heavy industry in the
German economy. The Krupps, etc. needed a docile work-force to compete in
the global economy. The fascists were used to tame the proletariat. Does
the American proletariat need "taming" today?
Furthermore, what is the significance of the growing "third world" and
female composition of the work force, especially the white-collar sector?
This sector supported fascism in the 1930s, while seems prepared to fight it
And what about the emergence of trans-border solidarity? A "fault-line" can
be traced from the maquiladora zone into Los Angeles that consists of
Latino workers with growing political consciousness. What are the
consequences of that for the left.
3) What strategy is needed to combat ultra-rightism. Fascism is simply
one variety of ultra-rightism. We are confronted by ultra-rightism today.
What can we appropriate from past history to help us in our fight today?
If anybody thinks that fascism is on the agenda, should we be discussing
"workers defense guards" as Trotsky proposed in France in the mid 1930s?
At any rate, these are the issues I am exploring now and should be
reporting on in a few days.
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