Reposted from Medium
How Fascism Hardens into National Socialism, and What it Means
It was the cruel and shocking summer which overwhelmed us with collapse. When our worst fears were realized. A nightmare summer, when all the direst warnings came true. Camps. Kids. “Family separations.” Genuine Nazis in government. Russia. Indictments. The stench of betrayal. In the end, a weird, surreal truth emerged, something like this: animosity was cleverly stoked by an old enemy, to hurl a supremacist demagogue into power. Kleptocratic oligarchs were using fascists as a chainsaw with which to rip asunder the house of democracy. Would you agree with that much?
All of which raises the question: will this autumn be America’s last chance? If Americans don’t reject all the above, will this be the end of American democracy? Do I exaggerate? I’d bet you ask yourself that too — only maybe to bat it away in anxiety — as much of American discourse appears to do. I think it’s failing to ask the real questions at all. What’s really at stake this autumn, for America?
What we’ve seen so far this summer is the grim reality that America isn’t immune from the worst diseases of the body politic. Genuine fascism and authoritarianism bit. People, thankfully, were horrified and aghast. But that does not change the reality of power. The warning weren’t taken seriously, and so soon enough America found itself faced with …the real thing. When there are bona fide Nazis in government, flaunting their ideologies, there’s no other way to put it, really. Decent societies and working democracies do not allow such a thing.
So this summer taught us this — if we’re ready to learn, that is: When we think of the classical sequence of fascism — it goes something like this, demonization, scapegoating, dehumanization, deportation, camps, expropriation, ghettoes, extermination — at this point, America’s already about halfway through it. The scale, of course, is still relatively small. But the scale matters little when it comes to fascism. Why is that?
Each of these steps represents a kind of fracture, a shattering. The ripping apart of several things. Norms. Values. Codes. Laws. When a society, for example, begins to allow dehumanization to proceed, first what happens is that people are culturally stigmatized, then socially excluded, then politically erased — their citizenship is revoked. That pattern is already emerging in America. So each step of the sequence of fascism, while it can be reduced to a single word, contains within it a society’s fundamental elements shattering, like glass. The fascists deliberately transgress norms, values, codes, and then laws — in order to push society to breaking point. Because only a broken society can then be remade in their image. That is exactly what is happening in America now.
So the question “is this America’s last chance?” becomes, if we think about it, something more like this: “if Americans don’t take this last chance to reject fascism and authoritarianism, what happens next in its sequence?”
The answer is that fascism get institutionalized — hardened into formal structures of government — and becomes bona fide National Socialism. What do I mean by that? I’ll give you the example that I sometimes do.
There was Hitler. Demonizing and scapegoating the Jews, until at last their homes, property, and belongings were seized. They were sent into camps and ghettos. Who was to live in the fine home of the Jewish merchant, professor, lawyer, with nice furniture and art, in an affluent neighborhood? The good SS officer — a dolt, most likely, who found himself surrounded, now, with finery. HIs thuggish loyalty was rewarded this way, with state-sanctioned mass theft. Do you see how that is “socialism”, of a kind, too? Not Marxist socialism, perhaps — but the redistribution of assets and possessions, by the state, to be sure? Only to the pure, the loyal, and the true, hence the “national” in “socialism”?
Now. Let’s come back to America. It is far away from such a thing. Or is it? After all, we’re here in two years, aren’t we? So you can judge for yourself how distant such a thing might be. I want to make the point in a smaller — but no less true way.
There is a person who becomes an “agent” for any number of government agencies focused on “enforcement.” What is their job? Perhaps it’s to put kids in camps. Break up families. Perhaps it’s to revoke citizenship. Maybe to monitor social media feeds for subversive views. Maybe it’s to plan all the above, manage it, monitor it. Maybe it’s to lead, plan, and schedule it.
Remember the steps in the sequence of fascism? Dehumanization, expropriation, and so forth? All these “jobs” are essentially institutionalizing it. And the people that take such jobs gain something that’s in short supply in a wrecked, stagnant American economy, where 80% live paycheck to paycheck. They get a comfortable, stable living, with benefits, upward mobility, and career security.
All that is the beginning of national socialism, my friends. Those rare few opportunities left are for the loyal — but only by doing the dirty work of excluding the impure, the weak, and the unwanted. What’s really happening here? Well, socialism is: the people doing this work are employed by the state — or at least contracted by it. But they are not being employed as doctors, teachers, engineers, and so on — this is hardly social democracy. They are being employed to intimidate, bully, subjugate, harm, and abuse. Not everyone, though, or those who have broken the law, in the sense that a police force might — they are essentially cleansing a society. That is what puts the “national” in “socialism.”
Now, this is a very, very real and genuine danger. I warned you years ago of fascism, and now I will warn you, just the same, of National Socialism. I want you to really understand why, though.
There are very few paths out for an economy as stagnant and ruined as America’s. And of the paths there are, the easiest, fastest, and simplest, by a very long way, is National Socialism. Employ people as bullies and thugs and enforcers, put tactical body armour on them, give them machine guns, hand them badges and uniforms, and send them to hunt down little kids. Bang! How proud they feel. See how easy that is? If I’m the government, that’s the easiest thing of all for me to accomplish — I can do it with a snap of my fingers, because such jobs take no skill apart from cruelty and indifference and rage. Much, much harder for a society to develop doctors, professors, engineers, artists, and writers. Creating vigilante armies of uniformed men takes months. But making people something better, worthier, and truer requires time, creativity, unwavering purpose, genuine commitment.
So National Socialism is easy because it’s far, far easier to create systems of repression than it is to create systems of liberation — it always has been, that’s why human history is the story of kings and lords subjugating peasants and serfs for millennia, and only recently did any of that really change. Building a working healthcare, education, financial, retirement, childcare system — those are difficult, demanding things, which take real investment. But to create what National Socialism is made of — Gestapos and SS’s and so forth — is far simpler by comparison. Just find the weakest-minded, those with emptiest souls, filled up with the bitterest resentments, and the most rage — and give them a little bit of power. Band them together. Rally them with a hateful speech. The rest takes care of itself.
What happens when we give people like that power? They use it, savagely, don’t they? And they become loyal soldiers in the moral crusade against the weak and impure, too — they adore the demagogue for the chance to exact vengeance, and build a prosperous life doing so. Who would have imagined such a thing! To get paid and have a home and a life, for taking out one’s rage, envy, and hate?
National Socialism is the institutionalization of fascism, and in that way, it is the wildest dream of the aggrieved — which is everyone else’s nightmare — come true. It is the creation of institutions which are designed to codify, formalize, and routinize the steps of the fascist sequence — dehumanization, expropriation, expulsion, and so on. That is already happening in America now. But that also means that armies of people — soldiers, managers, enforcers, accountants, lawyers — are then employed to do it. While we might see that as horrific, we don’t often see how it reshapes socio-economics. Now dehumanization, demonization, etcetera has become “work.” The more you do, the higher you rise, the more power you accrue, the more wealth you gain, as you climb the ladder of the systems of subjugation. Now that it’s “work”, you can get paid for hate, by the state, whose primary role has become not to invest in prosperity for all, but to ration personhood for some. Doing the work of subjugation and repression is one of the few paths to a decent life left. That is why economies turn to National Socialism.
Do you think it can happen here? No? Ah, but did you think this could? History teaches us that in a stagnant economy, as America’s is, any kind of growth is cheered on, by the downwardly mobile classes. All too often, people who are falling downwards are willing to be thankful for any improvement in their own living standards — even if it comes at the expense of others, democracy, and civilization itself. That is why even Germans who viewed Hitler with reluctance came to revere him, later. He genuinely improved their lives, even though it was based on hurting others, and so they felt grateful — in the same way that those people, and their families, employed by a rising National Socialism in America, probably do already, to its demagogue. National Socialism has a powerful, seductive allure for broken societies, and weak-minded people, because subjugation is far easier and faster than liberation.
All that is what American democracy will be testing this autumn. If it matters to you, my friend, make your voice, as small and wavering as it might be, heard.
A ringing and thoroughly justifiable characterization of the threat we are facing, but this presents half the problem as if it were the whole problem. The other half is that the corrupt, corporate, elitist Democratic Party is no more a reasonable alternative than “Brave New World” is a reasonable alternative to “1984.” The Green/socialist vision that offers a truly humane alternative has been all but shut out of politics and the media by “the power elite,” to use C. Wright Mills’ still applicable phrase, leaving us with no good choices. In this situation, the only way out seems to be breakdown, and that’s no fun either.