• Lebanon
  • August 14, 2006
  • 11 minutes read

Welcome to Neo-Fascism 101

Neo-conservatives decided that World War III is to be waged against “Islamic-Fascists” or “Islamo-Fascism.” 

Who is reading from the new script?  William Kristol, Bill O’Reilly, Christopher Hitchens, Michelle Mankin, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Nick Cohen, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Daniel Pipes, Glenn Beck, Oliver North – even George W. Bush, prompting legitimate complaints from Muslim-Americans.

Middle Eastern powers include pan-Arab socialist dictatorships (Syria), monarchies (Saudi Arabia), constitutional theocracies (Iran), and assorted fundamentalist movements.  None are “fascist.”  For three decades of political scientists, “fascism” is a phenomenon of industrialized societies and exhibits features alien to the Middle East. 

Classical fascism was evident in inter-war Italy, Germany and Japan, and full-blown fascism exhibits three dimensions: economic, political and cultural.

1. Economic fascism is based a merger of big business and big government.  Sometimes, a formal corporatism emerges; other times, the private sector (monopolies and oligopolies) simply pass over into the public sector (as in the US), capturing the state and using it to wage that most profitable of activities: war.  This later scenario is what happened in the United States, and the incestuous relationship between Big Business and Big Government ushered in a new Gilded Age of cronyism and corruption.  Benito Mussolini was clear: “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power.” 

For the Middle East, the preconditions of mature capitalism (and thus fascism) simply do not exist.

2. Political fascism normally includes, as it did for Italy and Germany, a retreat from already-existing democratic practices – an erosion of democracy.  The political class begins to express a disdain for human rights and international treaties, lashing out at pillars of civilization like France.  Power is increasingly centered on the executive branch, and elections become less transparent, even fraudulent.  Civil liberties are restricted, and constitutions are ground under the hobnailed boot. 

Political fascism always depicts dissent as treason, and there is an obsession with scapegoats and plots.  There are frequent mixed messages about the enemy:  the enemy is strong, then weak; the enemy is important; then irrelevant.  Today, the Party depicts Hezbollah as having unlimited funds from Iran and, simultaneously, selling pirated DVDs and fake Viagra in your town.    

Political fascism is based on militant nationalism, pseudo-populism and an adoration of military power.  As Huey Long said, former Governor of Louisiana: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the American flag.”  For different reasons, these values tend to resonate among economic elites at the top and the lower middle class at the bottom.  In the United States, however, it appears that the lower and working classes are now questioning their leadership – or losing themselves in End of Empire entertainment: pan y circo (bread and circus).

In its advanced stages, political fascism depends upon mass surveillance and, more crucially, eternal war.  Italy’s mad adventures in Ethiopia and Germany’s insane and unwinnable two-front war were nursed by the ideology of eternal war. 

The only ingredient of classical political fascism missing in the United States is a charismatic leader – but not for lack of trying.  In Red States, billboards of George W. “Our Leader” arose, and fundamentalists synchronized Morning Prayer to those of the White House.

Middle East powers – particularly the movements neo-cons describe as “Islamofascist” – are emerging in non-democratic systems.  They are also pushing for more, not less, political democracy because the popular classes will catapult them to power and keep them there. 

Hamas, for example, won in an election.  Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood would very much like to go to the polls in more transparent elections.  Shia Muslims in Iraq are also keen on voting.  Iran’s president won an election handily.  And when the dust settles in Lebanon, the next sure winner at the ballot box will be Hezbollah, when Lebanese Christians, Sunnis and Druze will surely wait in lines for hours to endorse this radical Shia group.  Democracy, it seems, is about to flourish in the Middle East – it’s just not yielding the puppet regimes hoped for in Washington, London (Airstrip One) or Tel Aviv.  Tony Snow claims “they hate democracy.”  Don’t be snowed.

Islamic fundamentalist groups compete at the national level, but Islamic fundamentalism is a transnational movement inherently opposed to the pseudo-nationalism necessary for fascism. 

3. Cultural fascism is based on a reaction against science, modernity, the arts and intellectualism.  It distorts science to accomplish political aims.  Cultural fascism always includes strong doses of homophobia. 

In the US, for every person with legitimate objections to immigration (objections based on public policy), there must be three people objecting to it based on race, and for them “illegal” becomes a euphemism for “Mexican.”  Xenophobia is basic to cultural fascism.    

Cultural fascism, in the West, tends towards anti-Semitism.  For now, American anti-Semitism has an anti-Arab face.  In linguistics and ethnology, the term “Semitic” includes “Arabic” and “Arabs.”  A Marriam-Webster definition of “Semite” is clear:  “A member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs.”

Thus, when neo-con pundits, politicians and even the President employ the term “Islamo-Fascist” they are being anti-Semitic. 

Middle Eastern and Islamic movements can be reactionary, but these are reactions to external powers and not to the core dimensions of their own societies, which remain traditional. 

So the economic, political and cultural prerequisites of fascism do not exist in the Middle East – but they do exist in the United States.  Our post-WWII, Information Age neo-fascism is much like the inter-war classical fascism but softer, lighter, friendlier.  Today, instead of marching, we ritually demonstrate our political will on touch-screen pads, a ceremony organized by Party-backed corporations with secret software on private servers. 

It’s a race: Will the future look like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where a “dictatorship without tears” is founded upon psychotropic drugs, false religion and biological-sexual engineering?  Or will it be a world of brute force like George Orwell’s 1984?  “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”  It will be both: A Brave New World for those who conform and 1984 for those who don’t.  American fascism will both smile and grimace.

Neo-con pundits follow a clever strategy of deflection.  They employ the term “Islamo-Fascism” when “theocracy” or “dictatorship” or “fundamentalist movement” would be more historically accurate.  Why do they do this?  Their political epithets are inspired by a subtle conditioning campaign. 

Perhaps it’s subconscious projection.  “Projection,” of course, is a defense mechanism that kicks when someone is threatened by, or afraid of, their own impulse.  So they attribute these impulses to someone else.  Do not be neo-conned.  How can you help? 

First, always replace the term “neo-conservatism” with “neo-fascism.” 

Second, always charge those who use the term “neo-fascism” with anti-Semitism (because Arabs – most of whom are Muslims – are technically “Semitic,” too).

Third, remind people who use the term “Islamo-Fascism” that the term is historically inaccurate and that the main ingredients of classical fascism – 1) monopoly capitalism; 2) erosion of democracy; and 3) militant nationalism – are coming together in the United States like a Perfect Storm.

It’s not fair to perform a vivisection of the Bush regime without pointing to what a healthier body politic might look like – a “post-crisis” body politic.

1) The restoration of the checks and balances, and limited government, of a democratic republic.  This includes voter protections and a pencil-paper-box voting system.

2) The restoration of foreign relations to open diplomacy (as envisioned by the Founders) – to the power of persuasion – unless attacked, upon which military force will be restricted to the forces demonstrably responsible.  This means no foreign aid, no weapons sales, no forward bases, and no committing political adultery by dividing loyalties between the people of the United States and any foreign power.  The American people can express their solidarity with people around the world with short-term disaster relief.

3) Challenging both Israel and Arab powers to follow the letter of international law.  Compliance means full participation in an international economy and community (the carrot); and resistance invites the atrophy of embargoes, travel restrictions, and blockages (the stick).  Under UN Resolution 181, Israel secures its right to exist according to the 1948 borders, with protection from the United Nations.  Simultaneously, Israel withdraws all of its settler colonies from the West Bank, illegal under Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”  And Jerusalem becomes the international city as intended in 1948.

4) Challenging the world’s people and states with a transformative proposal: universal nuclear disarmament.  If states do not disarm, take the proposal to their peoples.  Inspired, motivated and determined, masses of people will quickly sideline both foot-dragging politicians and terrorists.  The best weapon against terror is not the US Army; it is civilized men and women everywhere.  The world is ready to make nuclear weapons – and then war – extinct.

Thomas Paine: “We have it in our power to make the world new again.”

Andrew Bosworth

Andrew teaches Political Science and is author of an upcoming book.  American Apocalypse?  How to Reverse Tyranny and Empire.

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