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Murray Dobbin's blog

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Murray Dobbin is a guest senior contributing editor for rabble.ca. Murray has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for 40 years. A board member with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, he has written five studies for the centre including examinations of charter schools, and "Ten Tax Myths." Murray has been a columnist for the Financial Post and Winnipeg Free Press and contributes guest editorials to the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and other Canadian dailies. He writes a regular "State of the Nation" column for the on-line journal TheTyee.ca which is published simultaneously on rabble.ca. His blog is murraydobbin.ca.

The frightening face of American fascism

| March 28, 2010

The violent reaction both before and after the historic vote on health care in the US Congress is truly unnerving. There has always been a virulent right-wing in the US but until now it has always been marginal – in part because the Republican Party, however conservative it was, actively marginalized violent elements which purported to be part of the political mainstream.

All that has changed. As US writer Sara Robinson said in her excellent article, Fascist America: Are we there yet? when elements of the right-wing political elite begin to wink and nod at grass roots violence, or actually encourage it, you have the beginnings of fascism. The tea partiers, some of whom brought guns to rallies outside Obama appearances, are reminding a lot of people of the Nazi Brown Shirts. They haven’t started shooting yet – but I expect someone in Germany brought guns before they fired them, too.

Robinson quotes a prominent authority on fascism, Robert Paxton:  ”The most important variables…are the conservative elites’ willingness to work with the fascists (along with a reciprocal flexibility on the part of the fascist leaders) and the depth of the crisis that induces them to cooperate.”

That, says Robinson…“…sounds eerily like the dire straits our Congressional Republicans find themselves in right now.”  She went on to say (this was in September last year): “America’s conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country’s legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America’s streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won’t do their political or economic bidding.”

In the days before the recent vote, Democratic Congressmen were harassed, threatened and subjected to   racist taunts. An American Press story stated:  “Representative Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat, told a reporter that as he left the Cannon House Office Building with Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights era, some among the crowd chanted “the N-word, the N-word, 15 times.” Both Mr. Carson and Mr. Lewis are black. It was like going into the time machine with John Lewis,”

It got worse after the vote – now Democrat’s offices are being vandalized and members of Congress are getting death threats over the phone. If you want a taste of these scary events take five minutes to listen the Rachel Maddow show. Republicans are not-so-subtly encouraging this behaviour and when confronted by their words, refuse to retract them – or to take any responsibility for the actions they foment.

One such incident featured Republican House Minority leader John Boehner “warning” his fellow Cincinnati Democratic Congressman Steve Driehaus not to vote for the reforms. If he did? “He may be a dead man. He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati.”

It’coming. The question for Canadians to begin asking themselves is what do we do as American moves inexorably towards fascism?

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Comments

re Sara Robinson's article -

Ah yes, Common Dreams. It's a fantastic site, but one I can live without. It's only a clearinghouse for articles from all over, so I can find those articles elsewhere. I don't visit Common Dreams anymore. They one day disappeared me. Dozens of emails and phone calls by me, seeking an explanation, were ignored. I couldn't rejoin for my email address was on a blacklist or something. 'Once' someone phoned me back. I told her what had happened and she said she'd give the info to the appropriate person who would get back to me. Maybe she died before she could complete her mission. I don't know. It's all very mysterious and something that prompts me to think about...gatekeepers.

Gatekeepers are people - like the rightwingers who show up in public places, down south, packing guns - who have the 'right' view of matters and so are given lots of freedom. They are people who lack principles and are intolerant of those who think differently than they do. They roam around, infiltrate good organizations (where, supposedly, they are not 'tolerated' so much as 'hiding', which they see as okay) and are rife in bad organizations. And they break written and unwritten rules in their dealings with people who interact with those orgs, supporting those they like and simply causing trouble for those they don't like. What would elites do without them? I suspect that I 'met' a gatekeeper or two at Common Dreams. Or else Common Dreams' management is a gatekeeper? I have no way to know.

Murray is right about one thing. The violence and threats of violence by unthinking, uncaring rightwingers, and the attitude toward it by unethical rightwing politicians, is the frightening face of fascism. Will it prompt people to look into it, to see below the ugliness of the monster and into what makes it tick? Will people want to ask how it came to be? I might answer with other questions: When will brutal capitalist work culture be tamed so as to free up the energy and time of the working class, so that people who wish to will be able to think critically about matters affecting them and their communities? When will the corporate owned media be tamed, and the alternative media get stronger, so that people are not bombarded with pro free market (anti people) propaganda? And when will correct propaganda start to turn around thinking in capitalist societies until people feel less inclined to focus all their energy on working hard enough and long enough just to be able to shop long and hard?

It's a monstrously big problem, composed, of course, of a zillion little problems. I personally don't think we can fix it. But I do believe that we should care about it.

Corporatocacy - corporate rule, corporatism, fascism, neoliberal capitalism or whatever you want to call this lawless money system which operates on exploitation and oppression - deserves to be exposed and condemned. It also deserves to be destroyed, which it will be one day.

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