Can Sanders' campaign connect the dots on racial justice and economic inequality?
“I’m just old enough to have heard a number of Hitler’s speeches on the radio,” Chomsky said, “and I have a memory of the texture and the tone of the cheering mobs, and I have the dread sense of the dark clouds of fascism gathering” here at home. “The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my lifetime,” he said.
Many scholars discount the possibility of fascism, per se, taking hold in the United States. They tend to define fascism as a mass-based, racist, ultranationalist movement, often centered in the lower middle class, which extols the nation over the individual and relies on the use of paramilitary violence to transport the country to a mythic place. Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany are the classic cases.
“I don’t think there’s any chance of fascism coming to America,” says UCLA sociologist Michael Mann, author of a 2004 book entitled Fascists. “Nowadays, fascism is really dead. The word has become just a term of abuse to throw at anyone we don’t like.”
In an e-mail, Mann draws what he considers to be a crucial distinction between the current rightwing movement in America and traditional fascists. “The extreme right in the U.S. is anti-government, whereas fascists were very pro-government, believing that government coercion can solve all problems,” he says.
But if many of the tea party people, as I suspect, actually despise not big government but “liberal” government, especially one that is led by a black man, then there is false comfort in the claim that this resurgent rightwing movement is largely libertarian. For it’s conceivable that a segment of this constituency might readily abandon its surface libertarianism and march behind an ultra nationalist leader who promises to restore America’s mythic honor.
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This is a short excerpt of this story that is in the June issue of The Progressive magazine. To read the entire piece, subscribe now for $14.97.