Charles, I am no expert on this, but I imagine it depends largely on the definition of fascism we use.
Fascism in the economic sense—corporate socialism, neo-mercantilism, state capitalism—does seem to fit the US political economy pretty well. About 20 years ago, Bob Higgs called the system “participatory fascism” since there was still an element of democratic participation and not as much racial or other social persecution of the type associated with the Nazis.
The element of political violence is one that many lefties I know say prevents the US from being properly called fascist. They think that rightwing militia groups are more fascist than the government, because they imagine fascism being a sort of grassroots political violent movement that culminates in, or is propped up by, the fascist state.
I don’t know if this emphasis is correct. And after all, while not to the same extent as under Hitler or Mussolini, the state does use violence against individuals to terrify them, as do “private” groups allied with the state or factions within the state.
As for another distinction people make between America and a truly fascist country—that of the level of persecution of minorities. Well, the fedgov of these 50 states has succeeded in far more violence and persecution against certain minorities than some people, even libertarians, fully acknowledge. The drug war alone, which has put hundreds of thousands of peaceful people in cages to be abused, raped, socially engineered, and churned out as greater burdens and threats to society than when they went in, proves the point. It doesn’t matter what one thinks of drugs. The dehumanization of drug users in our society has been going on for so long that even some libertarians shy away from the full implications, thinking instead that it’s some sort of side issue. But it would have horrified the good guys of the Old Right, or the better Founding Fathers. We’re talking about caging and beating innocent people here because of a peaceful lifestyle, behavioral or other difference. And with the current unjust laws, the “privatization” of the prison system threatens to further make this a fascist aspect of American political culture. Already we have private contractors who lobby for more drug laws. Ick.
There have been high profile politicians who have called for murdering people for using drugs, for the state to shoot them as traitors or poison their drugs. This might not be genocidal, but it is closer than some may realize. When the state begins locking up too many people to support and there are calls ro resort to prison labor, we’ll see the move toward full blown fascist persecution accelerate. After all, the 13th amendment didn’t make slavery of prisoners illegal, even ones who shouldn’t be prisoners. (Although I believe strongly in restitution, that has nothing to do with what the state is doing.)
Yes, other people are persecuted. But drug users make up the biggest demographic of the prison population, and caging people is one of the worst forms of oppression.
Add this to the constant imperialism and aggressive wars, the supreme leader with his power to detain, spy on, or execute anyone at his whim, the hordes of state partisans and American supremacists who shrug off the Haditha massacre as if it was less than cold-blooded, murderous terror, the corporatization of markets whereby risk is socialized and profit privatized, and I can’t wince anymore when someone warns against a fascist America. What would a fascist America look like, if not what we’re seeing? More government thugs in the streets loading innocent people in prison? We already have more innocent people in prison than any other country. More state-sponsored murder? In foreign policy, the US is hard to beat. And although America is certainly not the worst place to live for the average chum by a long shot, neither was fascist Italy when compared to hellholes the world over. Fascism is, after all, more economically efficient than communism, allowing the parasitic state to be more aggressive in certain ways but also allowing people to eat better than the Soviet model does.
I used to worry about a leftwing social democracy replacing American liberty. Hah. Canada is starting to look free compared to the American nationalist socialism on the march. And the worst of it is, when Bush is done, Americans might go and replace him with someone worse. I’m starting to think that Higgs’s note about the participatory nature of American fascism isn’t any reason to be the least bit reassured.
Incidentally, if I get anyone complaining that this in unpatriotic, I will consider it another sign of America’s increasingly fascist culture. It used to be you could love America and not its government and be a patriot. I remember this well and I’m not that old. I do love America, so do I hate the fascism that’s tearing it apart.2:01 pm on June 2, 2006 Email Anthony Gregory