Fascism or Bourgeois Democracy [and a heretic conclusion]?
Mohammad J Alam
alam.m at neu.edu
Wed Feb 13 22:42:43 MST 2002
First of all, let me declare my respect for Crde. Stainsby's take on this
matter. For reasons outlined below, I disagree with his assessment, but
none of my mentioning of liberals in this article is directed towards him.
And I state at the outset, that I do think defining whether or not we are
in a fascist stage is pretty significant; after all, if terms had no
meaning, and no implications, we would not use them.
It is a tendency of the progressive and liberal circles, especially on
places like www.counterpunch.org, to mention a few horrors of recent
state-sanctioned laws in passing, in order to promote a view that the
spectre of fascism is upon us. A few civil liberties are curtailed,
patriotism reigns supreme, and the [un]elected leader is pretty stupid. The
writers in these circles mention all this in a deft and stylish manner, but
none of that really proves that we are in a fascist environment. Certainly,
a title like "Theocratic Fascist RIP" or similar nonsense is a sign of
As Marxists, is it not best to ground ourselves in the arena political
reality, historical events, and a materialist analysis? Because from this
perspective, it is clear that Mussolini's "corporatism" does not exist in
America. The consolidation of capital in the hands of the state or directed
through the state by its corporate arms is not the situation we face.
Historically, fascism appears only after some kind of failed revolutionary
situation. We are not at this juncture either. But of course, this is all
very basic. Let us prod further. Stainsby says:
"The essential features of fascism are the eliminations of whatever
room there was under a bourgeois democracy to actually organize resistance
that capitalist order."
But this measure would only appear in reaction to an attempt by those using
the breathing room to try and organize resistance to the capitalist order.
Why would they bother doing this? It is most unnecessary: there is no
resistance here anyway. Which brings me to my second point. This juncture
in America is not defined by a period of resistance followed by a period of
reaction; it is defined by capitalism taking advantage of the *lack* of
resistance to accelerate its exploitation and further its aims.
"The reasons there are no pitched battles in the streets is because our
position is so much weaker, not that the politics of the imperialists are
any less reactionary."
Something about this kind of approach is certainly awry. It seems to fly in
the face of Marx's famous statement about man and his response to
surroundings: can it really be that the workers are so blinded by false
consciousness and stupidity that they simply do not see the open
reactionary, fascistic nature of their country; have they just skipped over
the revolutionary stage because we are so pathetic? And if the measures
really are reactionary, they must only be reactionary in relation to the
progressiveness desired by the working class, or they are not reactionary
at all--so again, why do our workers fail to mobilize against it?
This situation makes Stainsby's further apocalyptic statements about how we
need to fight imperialism heatily as in the 30's, entirely untenable. Who
the hell is going to be fighting imperialism, if we are pathetically weak
and there is no real class-grounded opposition to it here? Are we facing
some dire situation where the working-class has just dissolved as a
political class with political power into the mist, leaving us real
fighters to be martyred? Or is this just a theoretical error on the part of
one isolated thinker? I'll take option B.
"Fascism allows the interests of war to be the primary interests of the
>From this analysis incorrectly flows the idea that all capitalist states at
war are fascist. Besides, America's primary interest for the last 50 years
has *already* been war: economic, political, and military, against the
entire world and across all continents.
"Fascism in America means that the imperialist aims of the state no longer
take into account the intertests of fellow imperialist states."
This is certainly an odd definition. In Lenin's Imperialism, we learn that
inter-imperialist rivalry is the hallmark of imperialism at his time. But
he did not construe this as "fascism", but as the natural order of
imperialism. Of course this does not even seem true anymore, as Kautsky's
"ultra-imperialist" idea of imperialist cooperation has, scarily enough,
proved true insofar as Europe and America have been concerned for the last
few decades. Point being, either way, the cooperation or non-cooperation of
capitalist states does not make a state fascist by any previously known
I think that what Stainsby is pointing out, but drawing incorrect
conclusions about, is the lack of class consciousness in the West and in
America specifically. So far as the relations between the First and Third
worlds are concerned, the situation does indeed look fascistic. Most of the
measures he points to as fascistic really concern immigrants, Arabs,
Muslims, etc. But the alternative implications I am tempted to draw from
this situation are really no less scarier:
Unlike in fascism in Berlin-Rome, the trade union struggle has not fought
hard and been defeated; the American leadership has been co-opted and the
rank and file unwilling or unable to fight at all. There is no fighting
from barricade to barricade as the masses starve; instead we have fancy
metropolis environments complemented by serene suburbia, where the poorest
of us suffer not from starvation but from eating too much of the wrong type
of food. There has been no ideological fight for supremacy; the bourgeois
ideas have won by default as no one considers the alternative. The class
struggle in the West has been subordinated to the world struggle *of* the
West against the poor countries. The class inequalities in America are
dwarfed by the much more profound inequalities between nations.
This explains why Stainsby's "fascism" is such a one-sided affair, where
the state and capitalists enforce all these reactionary measures, but there
has been no struggle against them: because it is not fascism at all, but
Western class conciliationism towards the goal of super-exploitation in the
Third World. That is why the imperialists' "reactionary" measures face no
opposition here: in international terms, they are reactionary really in
relation to the Third World, and not reactionary enough in relation to
domestic workers to be considered *really* reactionary by them.
Perhaps it is time to recognize that imperialism, by its very nature, means
some nations will grossly dominate other, and consequently the
advanced-nation proletarians, who are proletarians in relation to their own
bourgeoisie, are, in an international sense, "bourgeois" in relation to the
proletarians and peasants of poor nations. Perhaps not bourgeois in the
sense that they actively dominate and exploit the Third World directly, but
certainly without their support this could not take place.
Nor does this concept necessarily have anything to do with dogma or
contempt; Lenin used to call the first signs of this trend "opportunism"
and cited Engels as saying that the English working-class was becoming
"more bourgeois". Anyway, at the very least, it means that--in so far as
Western workers fail to break with their own bourgeoisie in favor of the
international proletariat, or insofar as they are not forced to do so by
graver objective conditions--it must be admitted that they are not engaged
or interested in large-scale struggles of revolutionary significance.
I am not suggesting that we are in a Malcolm X type "field negro" and
"house negro" situation. Indeed I think only further chaos and ultimately
barbarism will follow if the working class does not internationally unite.
But until and unless some looming crisis or grave problem critically
affects our proletariat and forces them into solidarity with workers
elsewhere, we must recognize the status quo. Class conciliationism in the
oppressor countries for the purpose of sucking the life out of the
oppressed countries is the order of the day; its purpose is to postpone the
final day of reckoning for the big capitalists, or perhaps, make the final
day of reckoning the doom of not only the big capitalists, but humanity as
"oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another,
carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each
time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large,
or in the common ruin of the contending classes."
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