Thursday, June 16, 2016

Giving Fascism a Chance

     Let's face it, Bernie Sanders is a lousy Socialist. Depending on how you define the elusive and squishy concept of Socialism, Bernie falls far short of any rubric or metric of it (save perhaps for Socialism being viewed as an intermediary gateway leading to actual Communism). About the most you can say about the Vermont Senator's socioeconomic philosophy is that he is merely where mainstream Democrats were in the 70's and 80's.
     In his tax form disclosures earlier this year, we found out he'd made about a quarter of a million dollars last year. That's pretty much pauper wages compared to the pelf congressmen make on the side. Still, show me one other so-called Socialist who pulls down about a million bucks or more every four years.
     Sanders is not saying that we should collectivize or even nationalize any industry. He's not saying we should all make the same amount of money. The so-called Socialist is quite happy to work within the rotten framework of our current capitalist system. His Robin Hood tax would fund his dream to make college free for everyone even if it is poorly thought out and would depress capital gains, hence capital gains taxes collected by Uncle Sam.
     He's also called for raising taxes for the rest of us, which always makes assholes on both sides of the Great Ideological Divide pucker up in unison.
     So, yeah, Bernie Sanders really, really sucks as a Socialist. He has a lot of sound ideas, some of them actually rooted in pragmatism. But he's no Eugene Debs. And we're no Socialist country and have never come close to making any meaningful strides to that end. Any doddering steps we had taken to the left were immediately stopped and this trend goes back to the beginning of the labor movement in the late 19th century.
     Yet despite the fact that several Latin American and European countries teach us of the public and private benefits of limited and pragmatic socialism, why has the United States always harbored an undeclared love affair with, or at least a tolerance of, fascism?
     What you see above is George Lincoln Rockwell, the former head of the American Nazi Party. Rockwell was practically a fixture on American television back in the 50's and 60's. While in a very reasonable sounding tone of voice he espoused odious and racist ideologies on national television while courteous commentators gave him house room in comfortable, climate-controlled sound stages with nary a peep from the audience.
     Rockwell's place in American history is so secure that the former naval officer was portrayed by Marlon Brando in Roots II, a role for which he'd won an Emmy. After Rockwell's assassination by one of his own people in August 1967, the government had originally allowed him to be buried with full military honors before his 50 mourners fucked that up by insisting on wearing Nazi regalia. (The government eventually had Rockwell's remains cremated)
     I can perfectly understand why today far right politicians espouse cryptofascist policies that resonate with the radical right wing (notably the Teabaggers) because they're all of a fascist mindset. What Rockwell said half a century ago is much the same thing that far right politicians and Teabagger candidates are saying now. As proof of this, look no further than the Trump campaign. Fascist recidivism is alive and well and still finding listeners. Millions of them, in fact. That doesn't surprise me.
     The truly surprising and distressing thing is that even so-called "liberals" and "progressives", all of them Obama and Hillary backers, claim that Sanders's policy proposals and theories are too far left and unrealistic. Which is exactly the kind of thing you'd expect from Bush backers a decade ago or Republicans from any decade within the last century. Hillary backers are about as liberal and progressive as Sanders is a Socialist.
     The plain fact is, we as a nation have always been more tolerant of fascism and fascist principles than we ever have been, and likely ever will be, of Socialism. If we ever had a Socialist leader (which would practically be an oxymoron), do you think s/he would've been put on national TV as often as George Rockwell was? Obviously, the closest whatever socialist movement we have going on has for a leader is unquestionably Bernie Sanders. And you see how roundly he and his rallies are being ignored on national TV. Instead, it seems the lion's share of TV coverage is dedicated to the ongoing spectacle of the neofascist Trump campaign, paranoid thuggery and all, backed up by official law enforcement and in spite of Trump's ever-widening banning of media outlets from those same rallies.
     America's intolerance of anything even remotely smelling of Socialism extends back to at least the 1880s and the Haymarket Square riots in Chicago in 1886. The labor movement began with unrest very much motivated, and exploited by, socialist principles. Sometimes, public sentiment swung in favor of strikers and rioters, sometimes it'd turn against them. But one would be hard-pressed to find an example of any executive who ever went to prison for hiring strike breakers who'd killed a striking laborer.
     But people such as American Socialist Party founder Eugene V. Debs (Investment- The dreams of many in the hands of one) were considered pariahs outside the labor movement. Debs had orchestrated what would become known as "Debs' Rebellion", the Pullman Strike of 1894 Chicago. The strike threatened the halt of the US mail, which was hauled on Pullman cars, prompting President Grover Cleveland to issue an injunction making the strike illegal and Debs was sent to federal prison for contempt of court in defying the injunction. 30 people were killed at the hands of federal troops sent by Cleveland during the Pullman strike and not a single public official or Pullman executive even had to answer charges of manslaughter let alone saw the inside of the jail cell.
     And the same could almost be said of Rockwell. Despite the toxicity of his fascist polemics, he was allowed to stage an antiwar protest in front of Eisenhower's White House in July of 1958 without once being molested. As far as I've been able to ascertain, Rockwell was arrested once, on July 4th 1960 after a Nazi rally had ignited a riot.
     Earlier this spring, several white supremacist groups gathered for an annual rally at Stone Mountain, Georgia and they were surrounded by police. However, the police weren't summoned to keep an eye on the rowdy radicals but to protect them against Black Lives Matter activists, who were arrested in large numbers simply for staging a counter protest. This is a perfect synecdoche of American history, of our intolerance for the power of the people, even though we are the people, and our meek tolerance, or vicious endorsement, of ultra right wing neofascism.
     One need look no further than a few years ago when Occupy Wall Street was still a viable movement. One shouldn't need a refresher course to recall how swiftly police across the nation moved in to protect Wall Street's and Corporate America's good name from peaceful protesters, beating, pepper-spraying, arresting and charging people while often literally making up laws as they went along.
     Yet, you see a conspicuous absence of law enforcement, or at least law enforcement in riot gear, when the Klan or white supremacist entities gather in significant numbers. Yet when a grand jury is about to hand down a decision regarding a police-related death, often to no effect, the massive police build up is preemptive.
     In the political arena, we see the same trends. It's much easier for a quasi fascist (today we call them Tea Partiers) to get elected to Congress than a Socialist. There are so many Tea Partiers in Congress, in fact, they had their own Caucus (now it's known, ironically, as the Freedom Caucus).
     By the same token, how many Socialists are there in Congress? There are so few, it seems, that an internet search provides no useful or factual answers because it's hardly worth asking or researching.
     Our tolerance of native fascism and intolerance or uneasiness of native Socialism is a disturbing trend that has characterized the United States over at least 130 years. Until someone conducts a study establishing a link between Americanism and an authoritarian mindset that's exploited by A type fascist personalities, it's a mystery that'll forever elude explication.
     It's understandable that right wingers would reflexively recoil at the thought of Socialism. But it's doubly disturbing that at least as many so-called left wingers would have the same repugnant reaction to Bernie Sanders' own bland brand of Socialism.

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