TPP: The “Fascism” Issue

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Yves here. As much as creeping fascism is a real issue in the US and arguably even more so in Europe, making it a central theme of a post runs the risk of encouraging readers to make Godwin’s Law violations. So please be mindful as to whether your use of historical comparisons is merited or sensationalistic. And perhaps even more important, be mindful of the thrust of Firestone’s observations: that fascism describes a very specific type of social and political arrangements. It’s tempting to cry “fascist threat” to overcome complacency. Over time, that strategy loses its potency, particularly if the warning is sounded on too little evidence or simply incorrectly.

By Joe Firestone, Ph.D., Managing Director, CEO of the Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI), and Director of KMCI’s CKIM Certificate program. He taught political science as the graduate and undergraduate level and blogs regularly at Corrente, Firedoglake and New Economic Perspectives. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

If the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement will, if implemented, and as I’ve argued elsewhere, result in the death of national and state sovereignty, constitutional separation of powers, and democracy, then what system and what principles will replace these things? Eric Zuesse answers that it will be Fascism. And implicitly, that we are going through an evolution from representative democracy to fascism and that trade deals like the TPP, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) mediate the transfer “. . . of democratic national sovereignty to international fascist bodies that represent global corporate management. . . . ”

The motivation behind U.S. President Barack Obama’s trans-Pacific trade-deal TPP, and his trans-Atlantic trade-deal TTIP — the motivation behind both of these enormous international trade-deals — is the same, and Democratic U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown are correct: it is not at all progressive. It is instead to transfer political power away from the public in a democracy, and for that power to go instead to the international plutocracy (i.e., to go as far away from any national democracy as is even possible to go).

This is to be done by switching the most fundamental thing of all: the global power-base itself. Instead of that power-base being democratic votes of the national publics, who elect their political representatives who determine the laws and regulations, that national democratic political system becomes instead the exact opposite: the global aristocratic stockholder votes of the international plutocracy who elect the corporate directors of international companies, who will, in their turn, then be selecting the members to the international-trade-panels which, in TPP and TTIP, will, in their turn, be determining the rules and enforcements regarding especially workers’ rights, product-safety, and the environment.

And later . . .

This transfer is called Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS. It is really an emerging, and distinctively fascistic, world government. It is not at all democratic, and it is a creeping form of international government which, to the extent that it becomes imposed, reduces national sovereignty.

I dislike the TPP, the TTIP, and TiSA, at least as much as Zuesse does, and I think he is right that it will facilitate an evolution to fascism at the national level. But, still I think one needs to use the term “fascist” carefully and not apply it to the wrong things.

First, as obnoxious and damaging to national sovereignty, and other very important things we value the ISDS tribunals may be, I don’t think they are a government as much as they are a regulatory mechanism over national and sub-national governments limiting the sovereignty of the nation states and sub-national areas they govern, and constraining their legislation to laws and implementation rules that will benefit multinational corporations only.

Second, and this function of constraining national and sub-national governments is actually anti-fascist relative to the world government level of analysis. In fact, it leaves the world governmental system in a state of anarchy in which political authorities are weak enough to allow multinational corporations scope for continuous looting of the net financial assets of all nations.

Third, consider the characteristics of fascism: nationalism, (emotional commitment to one’s nation and its leader as a single, unified organic entity, superior to all others and deserving of absolute loyalty); totalitarianism (including continuous top-down mobilization of the population accompanied by intense and constant surveillance, continuous propagandizing by mass media hewing to a party line defined by the State, its leader, and a single party intertwined with it, and denial of zones of privacy; planned collaborative state-controlled economy in which productive disciplined people of all classes work together against the parasitic elements in society to achieve the economic goals set by the state (including autarky); respect for the capitalist profit motive and for the primary role of productive privately owned corporations and businesses in a command economy; support for social welfare programs serving social integration with the national organic unity; opposition to egalitarianism; direct, often violent action, supported by an ideology of social darwinism directed against opponents of the state, both external and internal; militarization of the police; external militarism; emphasis on youth and its role in direct action; strong commitment to traditional male/female roles, and to “non-deviant” heterosexual behavior, accompanied by strong opposition to “homosexual and other behavior it deems “deviant;” commitment to purging of decadent behavior and forms of modernism regenerating the “moral character” of the nation. Even though all would not agree with this specification of fascism in all its particulars, I claim that students of fascism and totalitarianism would agree that the specification of it as a social science cluster concept requires the heavy majority of these characteristics, and that excludes an ISDS regime from the world-wide fascism category.

So, at the level of the international political system the ISDS tribunals do not constitute a fascist government. Nor, does their delivery of a veto power over national and sub-national legislation make them a fascist government. Nor does the combination of the ISDS tribunals with an informal system of corrupt international elites constitute a fascist government, or even an emerging fascist system.

Why not? Because an emerging fascist system must be able to call on nationalism as its fundamental support, capable of driving the emergence of most of the other attributes of fascism I’ve listed. And the world we live in is very far from one in which a world-wide nationalism emotionally devoted to a world-wide political system and a world government can emerge.

It will never happen in the near future. Nor can an ISDS-based regime make such an emotional unity emerge, since it offers no ideological basis for such a unity, but only a basis for quasi-feudal rivalries among multinationals in their looting of national social systems.

Fourth, the conclusion that the ISDS tribunals constitute fascism at the international level is wrong, but that doesn’t imply that an ISDS regime greatly broadened and extended by the TPP, TTIP, and TiSA are unrelated to the death of democracy, and its replacement by national level fascist systems all over the world. Indeed, I agree with Zuesse that these “trade agreements” and the ISDS are instruments that will make the world’s nations turn to fascism even faster than present trends indicate that they are doing under the pressure of corrupt campaign financing practices, self-imposed government austerity and deference to financial and big business interests.

Ask yourselves, assuming that the ISDS tribunals work as intended, what then will the governments of nation states be exposed to? The answer is long-term habituation to their constant regulation by the decisions and potential decisions of these tribunals.

That habituation will result in national decisions that take great care to implement as small an impact on the profits of multinationals as possible. This result will be especially acute for those nations whose ability to create net financial assets is limited by their status as currency users rather than currency issuers. So, the nations of the Eurozone will be particularly hard hit, as will other nations who have large debts in currencies other than their own.

In order to avoid damaging settlements against them, governments at all levels will increasingly cease to legislate to solve national problems as long as the solutions may impact multinational profits. Since that will include solutions to environmental and climate sustainability problems, problems involving development of new energy foundations, and to problems involving sustainability of social safety nets, the net effect will be to undermine the adaptability of national governments on one hand, while, on the other, they become increasingly committed to satisfying the interests and desires of the multinational corporations in preference to the desires and interests of most of their citizens.

These results will bring them closer to the model of fascist governments that favor corporate interests disproportionately over the interests of other elements of the State. It will also create a tendency for States to try to maintain political integration by using extremist ideology and the other elements of fascism I’ve listed above, which many nations, including the United States have been turning toward anyway to prevent and suppress dissent, while attempting to mobilize anger and frustration toward outgroups including other nations and their multinationals.

These tendencies toward fascist totalitarianism are likely to accelerate at the national level for awhile without interfering the impetus provided by the ISDS regime. But eventually, national fascist elites will find it expedient to reject the “free trade” trade treaties because the constraints they impose on national sovereignty will seem increasingly inconsistent with the goal of glorification of the nation, and the ideal of survival of the fittest that motivates fascism.

The more successful the ISDS tribunals become in looting nation states, the more likely it is that states will, in the longer run, reject the “trade” treaties and dethrone the ISDS tribunals. So, the ISDS regime, insofar as it encourages fascism at the national level, contains the seeds of its own destruction and that of the treaties that underly them.

The end result will be the restoration of unrestricted competitive trading, and given the logic of national fascisms, renewed competitive struggles for markets and the resurrection of protectionism in a renewed search for empires and autarky. Where this will lead no one can now say.

But, it is clear that competitions governed by a survival of the fittest ethic are dangerous for the world and its inhabitants. And, following on a period of paralysis in which the ISDS regime will prevent any progress on the environmental and climate change crises ll nations and peoples face, this result may spell disaster for humankind – the final result of serial follies after many decades of following where the ideology of the Washington Consensus leads.

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  1. david

    I find this particular case below interesting in other contexts that could be promoted using the same logic for other decisions. For example, In NYC there are rent stabilized rent / controlled apartments that come up for rent increases approved by a city agency. These approvals are based upon review of costs of individual buildings – in some cases – and in other general indexes for inflation. These buildings could be bought by offshore corporations and file claims based on the limited rent increases – a public taking – without subsidy – and therefore prospective “lost profits” requiring compensation. This would bring down the entire rent control regime in NYC and turn over the entire population of 1 million units.

    you can fit these past decisions as you read them into many prospective situations – differentials in property taxes by class (office buildings vs single family homes for tax rate schedules / electric rates differentials for home vs commercial). It becomes clear it is all a disaster ready to happen once PPT is in place.
    TCW v. Dominican Republic
    Electricity – Case settled (investor received $26.5 million)

    In 2007 TCW Group, a U.S. investment management corporation that jointly owned with the government one of the Dominican Republic’s three electricity distribution firms, claimed that the government violated CAFTA by failing to raise electricity rates and failing to prevent electricity theft by poor residents. The French multinational Société Générale (SG), which owned the TCW Group, filed a parallel claim under the France-Dominican Republic BIT.

    TCW launched its claim two weeks after CAFTA’s enactment, arguing that decisions taken before the treaty’s implementation violated the treaty. TCW took issue with the government’s unwillingness to raise electricity rates, a decision undertaken in response to a nationwide energy crisis. TCW also protested that the government did not subsidize electricity rates, which would have diminished electricity theft by poor residents. The New York Times noted that such subsidization was not feasible for the government after having just spent large sums to rectify a banking crisis. TCW alleged expropriation and violation of CAFTA’s guarantee of fair and equitable treatment.

    TCW demanded $606 million from the government for the alleged CAFTA violations, despite having spent just $2 to purchase the business from another U.S. investor.

    The company also admitted to having “not independently committed additional capital” to the electricity distribution firm after its $2 purchase in 2004.

    After a tribunal constituted under the France-Dominican Republic BIT issued a jurisdictional ruling in favor of SG, allowing the case to move forward, the government decided to settle with SG and TCW. The government paid the foreign firms $26.5 million to drop the cases, reasoning that it was cheaper than continuing to pay legal fees

  2. Fair Economist

    Important points and thanks for standing up against the extremely common misuse of the term “facism”.

    The most critical issue for me is that in a “fascist” society the political organization is running the show and corporations friendly to the regime, while richly rewarded, must obey. One of the first thing Hitler did after taking over was have some of his most powerful industrialist supporters killed to make sure they couldn’t challenge him. TPP would create a very different kind of regime where the corporations give the order and the political organizations, whatever they are, must obey. A nasty world, but not a fascist one.

    In general we need pejorative words other than “fascist” to describe regimes that while deplorable, are not even as close to real fascist regimes in evil. Cheney and W are evil men and had terrible plans, but if you’re even passably familiar to the unbelievably horrible deeds of true fascists like Franco, Mussolini, or Pinochet, calling them “fascist” rings empty. Never mind Hitler, who was kind of a “fascist’s fascist” and made even true fascists look not so bad. A TPP regime is even farther than they were from fascism because Cheney and W were at least planning to be running the show, and not just be lackeys doing the bidding of multinational corporations.

    1. LifelongLib

      Don’t have a link handy, but there’s some interviews with a WW 2 German general posted on-line. In the middle of the war he was unable to get a car factory converted for tank repair, because German industrialists wanted to be able to manufacture cars once the war was over. So even Hitler left a lot of power in the hands of corporations.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        lifelonglib – I think this was less to do with the power of the corporations than Hitlers (probably correct) assessment that the German people would only support his war project if they could be persuaded that it could be run without a full mobilisation of the population. In other words, using normal taxation to pay for the military and using a largely professional army. It was not until 1943 or so – significantly after the US and the UK, that Germany opted for full mobilisation and militarisation of the economy. Arguably, they might have defeated the Soviet Union in 1942 had they done so.

        It is ironic of course that one of the fundamental beliefs of fascism was that they would always defeat democracies because democracies could not maintain war efforts at the intensity of a fascist (or communist) state (although I believe Hitler believed this did not apply to the UK because he didn’t consider the UK to be a democracy). The belief is ironic because of course the main democracies actually did prove themselves much better at gearing up for war and maintaining a long term war effort than any of the fascist/nazi states.

        1. Lexington

          The belief is ironic because of course the main democracies actually did prove themselves much better at gearing up for war and maintaining a long term war effort than any of the fascist/nazi states.

          I think this is highly dubious.

          The USSR made the largest contribution to defeating Nazi Germany, and it was emphatically not a democracy.

          Conversely, if Germany had access to resources comparable to those of the US and USSR a respectable argument could be made that it would NOT have lost the war.

          The fact the fascist powers lost was in the first instance predicated on the fact they had a much narrower resource base and therefore in a war of attrition they were going to run out of resources first. It had nothing to do with politics.

    2. different clue

      How about terms like “global plantationist”? Or corporate global feudalist?

        1. different clue

          Stan Goff at the Feral Scholar wrote about that. His term for it was “exterminsim”.

    3. Jacob

      “The most critical issue for me is that in a ‘fascist’ society the political organization is running the show and corporations friendly to the regime, while richly rewarded, must obey.”

      In a fascist system, corporations are part of the government. A fascist system is one in which corporations, government and labor unions collude to protect profits and keep wages and public sector costs under control. In Mussolini’s Italy, for example, the Grand Council of Fascism, rather than an ordinary state central government, was the governing body of the state. Leaders from academia and business, such as radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi, were members of the Fascist Grand Council. Mussolini gained many admirers in the American business community, such as William Randolph Hearst, an avid Mussolini supporter who published favorable articles about Il Duce’s regime in his newspapers and magazines.

      1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

        They are part of the government, as, increasingly, they are part of ours, especially under Bush and Obama. However, under Mussolini, and Hitler, they were still subordinate to the Party and the State. Their voice was heard, but they weren’t the decision makers.

      2. bh2

        “In a fascist system, corporations are part of the government.”

        In a communist state, the government operates all large enterprises directly. A meaningless distinction.

        Tyrannical governments substantially differ little because they are all deeply corrupt. Put the other way, all deeply corrupt governments necessarily drift into tyranny.

      3. JCC

        Not only William Randolph Hearst, but Preston Bush, Joseph Kennedy, Charles Lindbergh, Allen Dulles, Andrew Melon and other prominent businessmen and American Corps (to include DuPont, Ford Motor Company, GM, US Steel, Standard Oil and others which continued to do business with Germany and Italy after the War started).

        Here is another take on the definitions of Fascism –

        Although I think Mr. Firestone’s definition reflects – and expands – on the original philosphers’/poly Sci’s (Mussolini and Gentile) description, based on the various American entities that supported it before (and some during) WWII, it seems to me that we could safely modify that definition a little for two reasons 1) few Political Scientists are in complete agreement of an absolute definition anyway, and 2) American based multi-nationals as well as European-based multi-nationals have learned a lot of lessons over the last 70 years or so and have discreetly dropped the “extreme nationalism”, social “women stay home” and “queers not allowed”, and limited religion portions to get social buy-in. They did, however, dump the Labor Union portion completely.

        Mussolini himself said, ““Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” From what I see, Corporate Power is apparently trying to overwhelm the State but in many other regards is all on board with many parts of the old, classic, definition. They’ve just learned their lessons well.

        Fascism is a bad descriptive word, no doubt about it, and I think this is because most people who get their history from movies about WWII have no clue about the history of the Political and Social Science Movement behind it and immediately think of jack-booted soldiers and NAZIs. But I firmly believe that the original idea of Fascism is still alive and well, and like most political and economic philosophies like Capitalism, for example, it has evolved.

        1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

          All that may be true and is certainly sensible. But the question that arises is what characteristics of this cluster concept are central to it, so that a case must have those to be an instance of fascism and what characteristics are less important and no really part of the specification of the idea. To people in the 1930s, the moral, anti-gay, anti-woman, militarism, anti-labor, and extreme nationallist aspects are all essential to fascism, and a movement that doesn’t have these characteristic has to called something else.

          1. Paul Tioxon

            There is an academic approach to this that is not pedantic, or semantics, another weasel word to avoid, deny and just throw your hands up in the air like you just don’t care! Sticking with the main criticism that this is not fascism, not because we like to split hairs or argue for the sake of argument, but because we want to act in the arena of public policy. We are dealing with capitalism directly and its fallout since its 2nd Great Financial Collapse of 2008. When fascism became a political movement it was because capitalism and liberalism was seen as bankrupt due to the worldwide great depression. The 2 competing systems, whether or not you think there is a dimes worth of difference between them was fascism and communism. European social democracies owed a lot to the social relationship, longstanding in the history of Europe due to feudalism. The market did not maintain the social order, social relationships were defined by the overall feudal order of life. It did mean that kings and nobles were obligated to the peasantry in a clearly defined social arrangement where everyone understood their place and had to live up to a mutual process for civilized life to go on.

            When liberalism with its market order collapsed and brought the devastating consequences of unemployment, hunger, homelessness, there was no proper response to the economy to restore a tolerable sense of order and normalcy. Fascism provided a solution by commanding economic activity, not waiting for interest rates, demand, supply, and other capitalist lever pulling. It was direct action without the hemming and hawing over iron laws of natural economic workings.

            From a more intellectual standpoint, you can reference fascism in THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY and find not much there other references to Sorel. Mussolini’s writing were more polemics with not much substance. Eventually, it became an empty word associated with Hitler and Mussolini and other East European Fearless leaders allied with the Axis, such as Romania. George Orwell in his essay on “WHAT IS FASCISM” got to this conclusion:

            From the Orwell Essay: “It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.”


  3. Dan Lynch

    We already have a totalitarian, militaristic, corporatist government. Whether you call it fascism or something else is a matter of semantics.

    The main difference between fascism and neoliberalism is that fascists advocated protected, managed trade while neoliberalism advocates so-called free trade.

    1. washunate

      Well said. It would be interesting to hear Firestone’s thoughts on this.

      It seems to me the alphabet soup of trade treaties isn’t (primarily) about targeting us. At this point, it’s largely just semantics whether we call our system fascism or something else.

      The authoritarian pacts, instead, are about placing foreign systems more tightly under American influence, whatever name exactly we give to our own domestic system. Perhaps neo-colonialism is the best general description for NAFTA et al? After all, the benefits of colonialism were not evenly distributed amongst the general population of the colonizing powers.

      1. different clue

        That would appear to be a mistaken analysis born of lingering American Exceptionalism Free Trade agreements wouldn’t be about the upper class of all countries conspiring against the lower class of all countries, would it? America’s upper class wouldn’t conspire with Mexico’s upper class against America’s lower class! That would be UnAmerican! And upper class Americans are American! Right?

        Well, no. The American members of the International Free Trade Conspiracy are just as anti-majorityAmerican as the foreign members of the International Free Trade Conspiracy. This isn’t about primarily benefiting “America” with all Americans benefiting, just some not as much as other ( “the benefits not evenly distributed”) This is about making most Americans as worse off as most other people. So “neo-colonialism” doesn’t name it properly.

        1. washunate

          I agree it’s an interesting question of whether the Americans view it as a partnership of roughly equal global elites or a hierarchical system where they are superior to the vassals and jostling in competition with the elites from the other major powers. I happen to think efforts like NAFTA are explained better by the latter view.

          Thought you might like this link (PDF warning) from a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) paper this spring. A couple choice quotes:

          The congressional role in sustaining a successful U.S. grand strategy toward China is manifested primarily in three areas: giving the president trade-promotion authority so
          that he may quickly conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) freetrade agreements now being negotiated in Asia, reforming and providing the defense budgets necessary to maintain U.S. power projection and a credible Asian alliance system, and continuously holding U.S. administrations accountable for the implementation of their response to the rise of Chinese power.


          Although, of course, the TPP will not erase China’s asymmetrical economic advantages with respect to the nations of Asia, it will be a vivid demonstration that the United States is determined to compete on the Asian economic playing field. By the same token, U.S. grand strategy toward China will be seriously weakened without delivering on the TPP.

            1. different clue

              The Grand Strategy is one of misdirection and psy-ops against the American Public.

              China is again being offered as a “strategic reason” for pursuing TPP. This was only written in order to be over-the-shoulder-read by bunches of the public who would then think . . .”aha! the secret reason for TPP is to contain a rising China! Perhaps our rulers are more geo-strategically wise than we have given them credit for”. That is to get us to lower our guard about TPP and forget that the real goal of TPP is Corporate Globalonial Plantationism against the American public and every other public. “China” is just a diversionary excuse.

              That whole article about “China and TPP” is just a diversionary disinformational psy-op.

    2. Brindle

      Neoliberalism is far more sophisticated than fascism when it comes to the effect on the psyche and behavior of its intended victims/citizens. The atomization of the populace and the propaganda to create individual “freedom seeking consumers” is more complex than the nationalistic hooks that traditional fascism used.

    3. MaroonBulldog

      Totalitarianism is a practice; Fascism is only one ideology, one theory, of how totalitarianism should be packaged and sold.
      I started shopping for the groceries for the family in 1958, when I was ten years old. One of the first things I learned to understand was lunch meat: no matter how you package it, it’s still baloney.

    4. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Hi Dan. First, I don’t think the “free trade” agreements are free trade agreements, whatever their proponents advocate. The trade agreements very carefully manage trade to ensure that corporate interests are served, and various signators sign the agreements know that they will be violating them immediately, and they insist on provisions in the agreements that allow them to violate them with impunity. The agreements are concluded in this manner, so that they don’t interfere with the ability of elites to loot most of the people in all the signator nations. That are “free looting” agreements not “free trade” agreements.

      Second, We do not have a totalitarian government yet. If we need, most of us who frequent this site would be in prison. The level of manipulation and repression in the United States currently and in other “western” societies is significant and growing, but it does not compare with what we saw in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Soviet Russia, or Maoist China.

      1. washunate

        …it does not compare…

        So we can only call the government totalitarian, militaristic, and corporatist when the authoritarianism is so advanced that to merely speak of it results directly in arrest?

        We are free because we can choose between talking back to the police and not being arrested? We are free because we can afford to pay the tickets issued by cameras tracking our movements? We are free because we are kept ignorant of Suspicious Activity Reports and National Security Letters and so forth? We are free because the TSA is there to make air travel safe? We are free because whistle-blowers are protected and fraudsters are arrested? We are free because only the movements and communication of traitors are tracked by the government? Good, honest Americans never have their things searched or conversations monitored, right?!?


        This mindset sounds rather more similar to than different from social developments in places like Italy and Germany where ever so slowly more and more direct forms of social control were unveiled, so gently that the more comfortable and educated members of society didn’t even feel the totalitarianism. It was just second nature to go along – and to participate in the ostracization of those at the margins of society who refused (or were incapable) to go along. National socialism wasn’t about everybody doing something evil together. It was mostly about educated people simply agreeing to not get in the way, to not do anything, to not even be aware anything was happening.

        At any rate, how is your standard not an exact description of Occupy and Ferguson and so forth? The police literally target journalists simply trying to report what is happening. The police literally arrest people for violating curfews and orders to disburse. That is elemental first amendment stuff: press, assembly, redress of grievances. The direct consequence of noncompliance is arrest. That’s not hyperbole. Actual people are actually arrested. And pepper sprayed. And tear gassed. And groped.

        And then of course there is the more low level pervasiveness, from the drug war to slave labor in prison to trying teenagers in adult courts who aren’t even allowed to vote or serve on juries. Young black men are already more likely to be arrested than graduate from college. How much more totalitarian does it need to get before we can call a spade a spade?

      2. hunkerdown

        Joe, is the party system a component of the government, or merely a symbiont? I’d like to call attention to the distinction between the government (the officials) and the state (the posts of authority in which they sit). In light of the decades-durable, broad agreement of the coalition government on the proper order of society, and taking FDR liberal-socialism as a class war cease-fire designed to preserve the host for the parasites (and unilaterally broken by the Powell memo, apparently), I suggest that composition is more concordant with the facts and dynamics in evidence than symbiosis, even if obscured. Since either member of the coalition each has their own excessively detailed vision of society and culture and seeks to impose it judicially, and extra-judicially such as through exile (Brendan Eich, anyone?), it’s not incorrect to say we have a totalitarian government, even if we don’t have a totalitarian state on paper.

        Treating politics and government as if they were one and the same, or to conflate politicking and politics, impresses me as an error when discussing matters of policy and power, in that politicking is not a cause, but an effect of or reaction to policy outcomes.

  4. Chibboleth

    ISDS is going to make it completely impossible to do anything about climate change. So as fascinating as it is to point out the likely impact on workers’ rights or argue about whether the coming TPP regime will be fascist or not, it seems kind of moot in view of the fact that essentially all of us will be dead.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      I take your point, but my point is that if we are not yet dealing with fascism, it will be much easier to block the agreements, or failing that, to withdraw from them.

  5. Ned Ludd

    Martin Luther King, Jr. compared the actions of the U.S. government to Nazi war crimes in Beyond Vietnam: “What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe?” The New York Times ridiculed him for the comparison.

    Furthermore, Dr. King can only antagonize opinion in this country instead of winning recruits to the peace movement by recklessly comparing American military methods to those of the Nazis testing “new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe.”

    Mike Godwin, a libertarian and contributing editor to Reason since the mid-1990’s, constructed “Godwin’s Law” to preempt such comparisons. Godwin devised his “memetic engineering” to curtail historical comparisons to Nazi Germany, and made any comparison taboo since nothing contemporary can compare to “the Holocaust and the social pathology of the Nazis”.

    In time, discussions in the seeded newsgroups and discussions seemed to show a lower incidence of the Nazi-comparison meme. And the counter-meme mutated into even more useful forms. (As Cuckoo’s Egg author Cliff Stoll once said to me: “Godwin’s Law? Isn’t that the law that states that once a discussion reaches a comparison to Nazis or Hitler, its usefulness is over?”) By my (admittedly low) standards, the experiment was a success.

    Nowadays, instead of dealing with the merits of Beyond Vietnam, “Godwin’s Law” allows one to dismiss the entire speech. As a previous commenter noted: “Godwin’s Law is actually a feature of a rhetorical firewall designed to preclude any lucid contemplation of fascism.”

    1. MaroonBulldog

      Contemplate totalitarianism. “Fascisim” and “Nazism” are fighting words, introduced to arouse passion and prejudice and so preclude lucid discussion. You are so correct, Ned, so correct.

    2. hunkerdown

      Godwin’s own usefulness to the discussion is over, as is the cheap nationalism at his eponymous law’s core that Westerners are supposed to never talk about.

  6. tawal

    I am going to set up a NZ corp. to harvest kidneys and livers from US persons. Should be ton of lost profits there. Next I’m going to set up a US corp. to transfer all US nuclear waste to Japan…

  7. guest

    There is a typo here:

    their status as currency users rather than currency users.

    There are two aspects I miss in the article:

    1) Fascism — Italy, Spain, Portugal, as well as other odd imitators like Argentina and Lithuania, and the very specific Nazi Germany — all relied on popular mass organizations, unions and parties, which were essential in conquering and securing power.

    2) Fascist regimes were always decidedly for a strong state in control of key economic sectors — nationalizing them if need be — and that could also serve to distribute jobs, contracts and material advantages on a large scale, thus securing the continued loyalty of business owners and party members on every level of the society.

    I do not see (1) taking place nowadays: political disaffection is widespread, no mass political movement on the horizon.

    The various trade agreements that give power to organizations detached from national contingencies, diverting all economic benefits to a minuscule cosmopolitan elite instead of the wide national patronage networks typical of fascism, go against (2).

    I believe a traditional regime of compradores devoted to the international “free trade” based plutocracy, and relying internally upon standard police and military repression is more likely. After all, this has been more or less the situation of Central and South America since the 19th century.

    1. James Levy

      Yes, we seem to be in search of a word, something to concretize our fears and insights, and the only one that comes to mind is the inapt word fascism. What we’re headed for is really an authoritarian oligarchy staffed by unelected judges and lawyers and largely at the disposal of plutocrats and their political agents. Their agenda is to create a system where the extraction and exploitation of the masses and the environment can take place in a neat, organized, systematic, and de jure legal manner without popular interference. In some ways it reminds me of the so-called “Tudor revolution in government” without the singular sovereign; wildcards in the system like the Church and the Aristocracy once had been needed to be swept away in order for the real work of extraction to get going. Popularly elected representative bodies and “free” institutions like schools and the press are in the elites’ gun sights the way that Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas More were 500 years ago. Being a different age no one need lose their head. People and institutions will be bought off or pushed out or made irrelevant via new rules like the TPP. It’s a variant of the theory of Inverted Totalitarianism, and I think it is what they have planned for us, if only inchoately.

      1. MaroonBulldog

        No one needs to lose their heads because everyone’s assets will be reduced to electronic or optical digital money, in an account that can be turned off at any time. Rather than Godwin’s law, we have an illustration of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s principle: “Once you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

      2. ChuckTurds

        I agree completely. Historically, fascist regimes have been ushered in on a wave of near euphoria by large portion of the populations they rule. That seems impossible in our current situation given the political apathy that is so widespread in our society.

        There is a vacuum of political enthusiasm in many western countries. That vacuum is being filled, not suprisingly, with the interests and money of the financially powerful. If the masses refuse to pay attention and stop this slide towards serfdom under the self-crowned corporate overlords, that future is unavoidable.

        That said, we have been slowly trained for generations to focus on superfluous events (sports, celebrities etc) and each subsequent generation is being intellectually crippled to a greater degree by an education system that has been absolutely gutted. This is all by design of course. Corporations and the sycophants who run them don’t need to win immediately. Indeed, any efforts to do so may rouse the population from their slumber. They have learned from the mistakes made by would-be world conquerors of the past. Like the ancedotal frog in a pot of sufficiently slowly boiling water, we will not notice our doom until we are cooked.

      3. dingusansich

        Nicely put. Welcome, citizen consumers and consumed, to Wolf (of Wall Street) Hall.

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Thanks! Yes, I agree with your comments. I did miss including those very essential aspects. The typo, corrected in the NEP version, should say: “… their status as currency users rather than currency issuers.” Perhaps Yves or Lambert will correct it here.

  8. Les Swift

    Mussolini’s fascism–or corporatism–was an alliance between the government and powerful financial and corporate interests, and was promoted here in the U.S. by elements of our elite. It took the form of nationalism, but it also had a strong element of imperialism, with the state serving not just national but also international private interests. The horrors of the Hitler regime destroyed the fascism brand, but support for the underlying concept remained. George W. Ball reintroduced the idea in 1968 under the moniker “world company,” claiming that the nation-state was an archaic political structure which should be replaced by corporate management techniques. What we see today as globalism and the progression of sovereignty-limiting trade agreements, is the effect of that intent. It is based upon the same general principle as Mussolini’s corporatism, but has adapted to changes in the world–including in technology–which facilitate global financial and corporate operations. This shift toward corporate management (called “governance”) is relentless, advanced by a combination of technological advances, the crisis-reform process, and the growing power of the financial elite. The U.S. has become a good example, with a powerful national government operating on behalf of private interests such that the wishes of the public are often subsumed to the wishes of the elite. It is neither Mussolini nor Hitler, but a modern expression of corporatism.

  9. sd

    Fast Track is very much totalitarian in nature. It appears to be a symptom and not the disease itself.

    What is worrying me is that too much emphasis is being placed on TPP and not enough is being placed on Fast Track. TPP almost doesn’t matter if Fast Track passes becuase at that point the President has been given unitary executive authority to negotiate any and every trade deal the executive wants. As I understand it currently, Fast Track if passed will be in effect until 2018. Unfortunately, the House Ways and Means and Finance Committees will have the legislative ability to extend Fast Track until 2021.

    Every single effort should be going into defeating Fast Track. Its what comes after TPP that could be far far worse.

    1. different clue

      Yes, Fast Track is the laxative designed to speed the Obamatrade Agreements through the legisfecal process.
      So Fast Track would be the place to constipate the House and Senate to keep Obamatrade from passing through them.

      Can we feed the Congress more Lomotil than the amount of ExLax which the Obamatraders are feeding Congress?

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Fast Track should be the focus. But we can’t get people concerned about Fast Track without also taking about the danger we see in where Fast Track may lead. To tell people that we risk terrible outcomes is to motivate them to oppose Fast Track, especially if they know that the proposed agreements will probably fade away if Fast Track is defeated.

    3. tiresoup

      Fast Track as you describe it is Congress again acquiescing to its own impotence. Also the way the TPP text can’t be read by staffers, or studied – no notes – read and remember only. I don’t really understand why Congress has let its power leak out like a punctured balloon, but it is no longer a body that wields power as a co-equal branch to the executive.
      We seem to be creeping towards ever concentrated power at the executive, which will then be able to deal with other corporate entity executives who also have power. I think this already goes on. Corporations have a lot of global clout, and they certainly have clout in the present US government structure. I believe this is done both formally and informally – informally as crony capitalism – they know who to call and just what kind of pressure to apply – and formally it turns up as this kind of bullying secrecy where our Reps have to pass the bill before they know what’s in it.
      I believe nationalism is a dead in the governing class – the ones who have the serious money and really run things are not loyal to the nation-state. But they depend on a whole legion of wanna-be bigs who have to buy into the globalist vision and must get on board with the extraction model of the multi-nationals. These are perhaps the up and comers who get elected and want to do the right thing but are going to side with the people in power every time. Might does make right, for a while at least. Certainly if you want to get re-elected.
      So far, I believe propaganda – for example, that globalism is good and inevitable – has worked quite well. And political correctness creates self censorship. The young, brought up with zero tolerance and the thought police on campus, are not even going to notice the water they are swimming in.
      I do believe we are slouching towards totalitarianism. Could take a number of different forms but it’s top down control in service of keeping power in the same hands. Obama has down a rather good job of keeping the status quo going and once you see that IS his job, what he does makes more sense. His big lie was that he was a change agent.
      It’ll be interesting to see how long the globalists can keep their current game going, and what they will do if they feel threatened. I believe they are feeling pretty good right now. The trouble is they’ve hollowed out the productive capacity of this country, without paying enough to keep us buying the knick-knacks from China. We’ve got a parasitic arrangement. I don’t know how long it lasts but not forever.

  10. jrs

    dogwin’s law, no I don’t even mention the word in quotes in the title or anything closely related to it, or my post gets sent to moderation limbo until it’s approved. Code is law!!!

  11. ira

    As tawal suggests, if God forbid TPP goes through, the only antidote might be to initiate YESMEN-type lawsuits under ISDS, to show the absurdity of the situation. Years ago, at a Wharton Business School conference, they posed as representatives of the WTO, and suggested slavery as a solution to some of Africa’s economic problems. They were taken seriously.

  12. TG

    Yes, but the TPP is not just about transferring power to corporations – it is about transferring power to the executive.

    In Germany’s enabling act of 1933, the legislature gave up it’s power to write and amend laws, and thereby made itself irrelevant. The TPP would appear to be a ‘living document’, whereby the executive (in consultation with the big corporations) can amend and extend it to probably an arbitrary degree, and with basically no ability of Congress to have any influence on the process. If that’s not fascism I don’t know what is.

    Yes to Godwin’s law. Yes comparisons to Nazis are overused. But. The Nazis did exist. And there have been, and will be, others that will seek to gain unaccountable power and they will use similar mechanisms.

    Even paranoids have real enemies. And sometimes there really are Nazis.

  13. tim s

    Agreed – symantics. Call it what you want. Almost nobody will care.

    But be sure to tell them that whatever it is, it has been drafted in secret by corporate lobbyists, for the benefit of corporations. Add to it that our elected representatives have been forbidden from adequately reviewing it, and may be forced to vote yes or no only on it. If passed, it will have powers over national governments in private tribunals run by individuals not accountable to the public, to which there will be no recourse. – THAT they will care about, if there is any life left in them.

  14. Sufferin' Succotash

    TPP and suchlike agreements could very well lead to fascism, though not in the way that most of us envision.
    The net effect of globalization has been to render national governments increasingly impotent and to disfranchise electorates (“elections don’t change anything”). The contradiction here is that the architects of globalization have to rely on these selfsame national governments to sustain this intricate structure of transnational rentier finance. Passive complicity isn’t enough; as that noted socialist thinker George F. Will once pointed out, “capitalism is a government project”, and active state interventions have to be an essential component of the “unabashed triumph” (F. Fukuyama’s term) of economic liberalism.
    The problem is that when current governments are weakened to the point when it really is possible to drown them in a bathtub–and given the short-term thinking chronic among the world’s financial elite that’s a high possibility–then what will take their place? Sub and/or transnational warlordism combining the features of drug cartels and ISIS is one possibility. Another and IMO more likely possibility would be furious nationalistic reactions combining nativist racism and economic protectionism with at least a dash of populism. In other words, Fascism. The Western world stumbled into this before out of sheer political and economic incompetence. I see absolutely nothing standing in the way of a repeat performance.

  15. John Mc

    I appreciative of this conversation in general. From Godwin’s Law to Eric Zuesse’s work over at Washington’s Blog. I suspect there are (like Bill Murray describes in his laundry) many subtle levels which preclude the binary of dirty/clean or fascist/totalitarianism.

    However, I do think there is a “you know it when you see it” element, despite Hannah Arendt’s thesis post-Nuremberg. And if one spends enough time considering surveillance, financial predation, corporate ascendency, racist policing-incarceration institutions, polluting food sources and the ecology indifference to crapification, health/peace, and inequality, the covert amplification of neoliberalism is equally an effective tool for fascists than the traditional levers of a fascist apparatus.

    To a native who does not know how to process the colonizing fleet coming to our shores, this brand of neoliberalism finds its host and makes the individual/community complicit in its own destruction, and allows the colonizer to blur a neutral line/lie, unscathed. I am not convinced the one of the main tenants of the neoliberal movement (arising from Mont Pelerin) is a long term view of control, power, and seizure.

    If we look at most of the long-term ways our culture, population, and resistance is dying (healthcare, education, indebtedness, food webs, ecological/species die off, resource extraction, financialization, and idiocracy/racism), elites can divide and conquer in ways, like the destruction of money(Keynes), in which 1 in 1000 men or women could detect. For me, it always comes back to a paraphrased idea from Tony Benn: “If we can find ways to harm people, then we can certainly find ways to help them.” It is clear, helping people is the furthest thing from the global elites’ mind (they see us as competitors for their resources).

    Where else is this headed other than some form of fascism?

    1. John Mc

      Too many errors in my writing – apologies:

      Correction #1 – I am appreciative (paragraph 1)
      Correction #2 – I am convinced (paragraph 3)
      Correction #3 – could not detect (Keynes reference – debasement of money) – (paragraph 4)
      Correction #4
      *** Probably should have cited Hedges’ recollection of Sheldon Wolin’s work — inverted totalitarianism. It need not be the same flavor of ice cream to have the same chilling effect on people. The analogy I make is that this is the difference between chocolate or vanilla fascism and kitchen-sink 31 flavor swirls. One has a history, tradition and a brand, while the other is shoves all the sugared ingredients into taste moments of propaganda and consent.

  16. Alejandro

    The deluded but nonetheless vile persistence of commodifying human existence, through the degradation of what Polanyi rightfully referred to as the fictitious commodity of labor.

  17. Jim

    What we are talking about is mass bureaucratization (merger/blending of the powerful players in both the public and private sectors) until they are largely indistinguishable.

    As David Graeber (The Utopia of Rules) has recently pointed out “the gradual fusion of public and private power into a single entity rife with rules and regulations whose ultimate purpose is to extract wealth in the form of profits—does not as yet have a name.

    The traditional left has been unable to squarely critique this evolving monolith because it refuses to recognize the intimate involvement of their cherished State in helping to perpetuate this new planetary bureaucratic monster which is creating increasing structures of international administration.

    1. jrs

      Yea the claim that governments will be too weak to do anything strikes me as inaccurate. Governments will be strong enough to enforce Property. There may be an attempt to (de)-evolve beyond this to pure corporate rule with corporate enforcement, but it’s not here yet. And as long as that’s true it’s not anarchic at all, not even using “anarchy” as a pejorative. And what will enforce the payouts to corporations? Won’t governments? Won’t they tax or excuse me create money to pay them? How is that anarchy? Corporatism. Yes, that it is.

      What it isn’t is government run in the interest of the masses to be sure or that even cares If the masses LIVE OR DIE, they are superfluous. But could this scheme even work without states? If so why have the TPP (an agreement of states) at all?

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I understand why people, with no where to turn to, have come to believe the State, the government, is the new omnipotent divinity.

      There is another way of seeing this – that we are all, united together, divine individually. We can empower ourselves, to confront this private/public hybrid leviathan.

      1. hunkerdown

        Effective parasites need to withstand the defenses of their hosts. Learned helplessness, in the form of submission to authority, is what makes parasitic inequality possible.

  18. cr

    The author applies a tortured definition of fascism. Mussolini described fascism succinctly.

    “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”
    ― Benito Mussolini

    Since 2008, it should be obvious to anyone that the US has become a fascist state.

    1. Vatch

      As far as I can tell, Mussolini never said that, but maybe I just haven’t seen the correct source. See:

      Also see:


      Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.

      This misunderstanding of the meaning of ‘corporazione’ spread rapidly in the United States after appearing in a column by Molly Ivins (24 November 2002). It is repeated often and sometimes attributed to the “Fascism” entry in the 1932 Enciclopedia Italiana, but does not appear there. See “Mussolini on the Corporate State” by Chip Berlet which discusses the corporazione – councils of workers, managers and other groups set up by the Fascist Party to control the economy and everyone in it.

      Corporazioni equals craft-guilds and it is a form of union grouped by professions. This was originally a way to “protect” workers from strong economic powers, and it worked well in this, but subsequently evolved in a political instrument to control worker’s mass.

      1. Lexington

        Thanks for clarifying that. I’ve seen that quote kicked around a lot but never with a reference to a source, which should be a huge red flag. These “too good to be true” quotes usually turn out to be just that, but like urban legends they take on a life of their own because talk is cheap if the story is good. Then they gain credibility in the popular imagination through endless retelling.

        Besides that, Mussolini said a lot of things, and there are moments when some if it almost seems lucid.

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      See, the quote from Mussolini above! People often over-simplify when looking for a sound bite. Mussolini makes it quite clear that Fascism is much more than he says it is in your sound bite! And, also it operated that way!

      1. cr

        Thanks for that. My mistake. I apologize for the misquote. The substance isn’t oversimplified. It is clear.
        Take the definition.
        (sometimes initial capital letter) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

        Let’s evaluate each part.

        1. We essentially have a dictatorship. The two party lock on power is unassailable and owned by corporations. How many Bushes and Clintons have been in power and how little have policy trends toward the destruction of economic and civil liberties progressed since Kennedy (or Wilson) was president?
        2. Forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism. Yes. Corporations own the major media outlets and their messages are obviously propagandized and uniform that they have become almost sickening. Whistleblowers are arrested, maybe sometimes murdered and/or exiled while the corrupt have been protected and rewarded.
        3. Regimenting industry. Definitely. There are some many regulations and the rules are so tilted to favor those in power it ought to be obvious. Taxes act as a major barrier to entry as well. Healthcare as a percent of GDP is off the charts because of this corporate capture.
        4. Aggressive nationalism. How much flag waving do we get? On local news, sporting events… We are at war or base military capacity in how many nations? We practice financial warfare, lawfare and military warfare across the globe via direct action and through surrogates.
        5. Racism. Oh yes. How much divide and conquer racial reporting do we witness? Every day. Look at the economic plight of African Americans. Trade agreements, wars on drugs and poor welfare policies have deprived these neighborhoods of jobs and a chance at the American dream.

        We are dealing with Fascism. Do not run from the truth. In some ways it is intellectual cowardice.

        1. hunkerdown

          Explanatory power is important. The unitary executive doesn’t quite apply to the US (yet); an ostensibly representative government cannot, by definition, be a dictator. The five-point version applies to many states, not just the US — Japan, for example. Had you referred to Umberto Eco’s less superficial research on Fascism, it would be possible to show that American Exceptionalism is a Fascist ideology: (Eco cribbed from Wikipedia, sorry)

          “The Cult of Tradition”, combining cultural syncretism with a rejection of modernism — our infallible Founders

          “The Cult of Action for Action’s Sake”, which dictates that action is of value in itself, and should be taken without intellectual reflection — “ready, fire, aim” was the mantra of executives in dotcom bubble 1.0. Also, consumer culture, from Nike to Yoda, embraces this principle. The regimentation of industry is a knock-on effect of this and other traits, I think.

          “Disagreement Is Treason” – fascism devalues intellectual discourse and critical reasoning as barriers to action — we have not one, but two totalizing ideologies in the two-party system, each of which, being totalizing, offers a prescription to questions in interpersonal, cultural, and nearly any other department of production, consumption, and reproduction, from the mundane to the numinous

          “Fear of Difference”, which fascism seeks to exploit and exacerbate, often in the form of racism or an appeal against foreigners and immigrants — one party displays this quality directly; the other deems the socialist a “foreigner” to their Bed Bath & Beyond and snubs accordingly

          “Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class”, fearing economic pressure from the demands and aspirations of lower social groups — does any politician even talk about the proletariat anymore by whatever name?

          “Obsession with a Plot” and the hyping-up of an enemy threat; This often involves an appeal to xenophobia (such as the German elite’s ‘fear’of the 1930s Jewish populace’s businesses and well-doings, see also anti-Semitism) with an identification of their being an internal security threat — partisan bickering and the rotating Heel of the Week in foreign policy seems to be largely based on this line of narrative

          “Pacifism is Trafficking with the Enemy” because “Life is Permanent Warfare” – there must always be an enemy to fight (this principle leads to a fundamental contradiction within fascism: the incompatibility of ultimate triumph with perpetual war) — the target-manufacturing behavior of the USG since the end of WWII, and particularly in SW Asia since the Seventies, and even more particularly in its ongoing rebalancing of the proxy-of-the-month war against the Syrian government, suggests US foreign policy is influenced by this trait, and its corrosive effect on public life and peer relations is profound, ubiquitous and well-documented.

          “Contempt for the Weak” – although a fascist society is elitist, everybody in the society is educated to become a hero; “weak” or unwanteds were eliminated — the condescension toward the working class is in part an expression of this trait; the broad obsession with competitive contests is another.

          “Selective Populism” – the People have a common will, which is not delegated but directed by a dictator. This casts doubt upon a democratic institution, because the leader and government “no longer represent the Voice of the People” — the culture war, in general, seems calculated to give both parties what they want to hear out of it: a permanent war (see anti-pacifism, above), an adversary, an unworkable, arbitrary ruleset, self-righteousness, the normalization of unfairness (see above) and an excuse to personally wield it.

          “Newspeak” – fascism employs and promotes an impoverished vocabulary in order to limit critical reasoning — the pornography of MBA-speak seeping into everyday personal words and letters is frighteningly far along.

          “Non-truths & Lying/Spread of Propaganda” — any nation that repeals anti-propaganda laws and whose press so suddenly becomes a mouthpiece of the Administration as to cast reasonable doubt on any explanation besides collusion is, at the very least, strongly suspect here.

          While you could also make the point that trade promotion authority is a Fascist policy (action’s sake, disagreement is treason frustrated middle class, life is permanent warfare); the agreements themselves may not be so, nor do they necessarily need to be particularly so. It could be argued that explicitly encoding Fascist political economy into the agreements proper would render them unpalatable to other nations and their designated authorities, whose citizens and soldiers may not be disposed to tread a cultural course so well-mapped and whose authorities may determine themselves under more threat of extrajudicial lobbying, shall we say, by signing on than by not.

          Fascism is just one variety of authoritarianism. There is no advantage to be conferred on elites by enforcing a self-limiting global aesthetic forever. They’re far more interested in maintaining their position vis-a-vis the working class, and with that sort of power and “executive protection” given quite some latitude to operate, they can deniably order in for violence as if it were take-out. From their standpoint, far better to let the people and leaders negotiate among themselves what sort of authoritarian government and political economy will serve the transnational elites best.

  19. Oregoncharles

    1) It’s important to be clear what we’re talking about – that is, to use concrete definitions that cohere with normal usage (which, BTW, in the case of “fascism,” is extremely loose.)
    2) Beyond that, arguing over semantics is a waste of time. In this case, we seem to wind up with no word for the evil we’re dealing with. I suggest we concoct one (“Globalization”?).

    1. jrs

      corporate dictatorship suffices IMO. It’s accurate enough, even if the law will be made in trade courts rather than by any governing body. But whether or not it has enough emotional force I don’t know.

      I guess the question is: do we want to live under a corporate dictatorship in which we have no say whatsoever at any level of government, only the corporations do?

    2. Oregoncharles

      On further thought: My problem with the essay is that it insists on a definition of “fascism” so tightly tied to the original examples that it can’t be applied in the modern world. WWII was a lifetime ago – mine, precisely, as it happens.
      The “10 stages” definition that Naomi Wolf andothers were promoting is more useful.
      I do se the point, thought: that the ISDI mechanism, and others, tend to dsempower governments without providing a larger onein their place. I assume that’s what he meant by “anarchy.”

  20. casino implosion

    The globalized, rational neoliberal network of governing bodies is the anti-fascism, in every possible way.

    1. John Mc

      Inverted more than anti (against). What most capitalists of all sorts readily admit, that to enact policy, there leaders are more effective when they use totalitarian/fascist means. Dictators can guarantee that profits are:

      1. Predictable, accessible
      2. Flow to the Elite classes across the globe

    2. jrs

      leftism is the opposite of “fascism”, historically. Any form of corporatism is closer to it.

  21. tommy strange

    Ordinarily I wouldn’t bother, except that NC is such a varied and intelligent site, and Firestone’s articles (and his description of fascism) are fascinating, I found this sentence …uhhh…very silly for these times. ‘
    ” it leaves the world governmental system in a state of anarchy in which political authorities are weak enough to allow multinational corporations..” Just use the word chaos instead ok? Anarchism is now the most dominant political and economic and social form of organizing the world over bottom up. …whether people wave black and red flags or not. Wiki even has a balanced and truthful definition these days. If you use the word ‘anarchy’ to describe capitalist chaos, you might as well call Stalin a ‘socialist’.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      I’m not sure you see the point. In the world system under the TPP/TTIP we will begin to see nations reacting against the international globalist regime in very nationalistic ways favorable to success of Fascism at the national level. The spread of Fascism on the other hand, pits one nations against others because of the survival of the fittest element in the ideology. As Fascism is played out to its logical conclusion, “there can be only one:” the leviathan that supercedes the state of nature among competing fascist states. Of course, the Hobbesian state of nature is the ideal type of “anarchy,” which is why I thought the term was apt.

      1. Jill


        I think that nationalism is simply a technique employed to get people to do the bidding of the world oligarchy. It’s just like how the USG whipped up hatred against Muslims after 9/11 to get people on board with tyranny of everyone, passing the “Patriot Act” and instituting a police state. It’s how Democrats use hatred of Republicans and Republicans use hatred of Democrats to hide their real agenda–they work for the oligarchy.

        Nationalism is useful to the ruling elite. Anything that pits people against each other is useful. It keeps people looking at the wrong thing, working against the wrong thing. It’s been extremely effective as far as I can see.

      1. tommy strange

        Anarchy is not just the ‘absence of gov’t’. It would represent the most highly organized anti capitalist system possible, direct democracy, participatory economics…and could not co exist with capitalism, except at total war with that system in no matter what form. And no, it won’t happen …but it is the necessary goal to achieve. (insert commie Gramsci quote here) But sorry, you both got better things to do then argue with me!!!! …take care..

        1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

          You have to distinguish different levels of analysis. At the national level there is no anarchy. The anarchy would exist at the world system level.

          1. Student

            I think that the problem in this argument is that an anarchical system would be one were there are no authority structures (sometimes institutionalized by laws)? I think it is safe to say the absence of national power over corporation does not imply that there are no new authority structures. The very fact that there is an international system with trade laws favoring a certain group of actors (who already happen to be very powerful) seem to me to create a new power-structure that is not at all comparable to a state of anarchy.

            Additionally, the very essence of the hierarchical structures in non-democratic corporations (unlike Mondragon etc.) seem to me to reduce the value of the word anarchy as a useful term in describing how a world dominated by corporations might appear, even if the world lacked a international framework of laws, beyond the internal structure of the corporations. Is the international stage anarchical simply because corporations are free to fight it out on the international stage (if that were to be the case)? That would almost be like saying that the national stage is anarchical if the financial elite were free to fight about control over groups of society that were entirely dominated by said elites.

            Evidently for someone from the left, anarchy or social libertarianism often implies that there is a certain amount of personal freedom, at least in the positive sense of the word freedom.

            This second part of the argument (or that is that corporations existing beyond governance implies anarchy) does become a discussion about the definition of the word anarchy in the end. Can there be anarchy if someone is using negative freedom? If someone because of a lack of power is not able to oppose an authority figure?

          2. student

            Anarchy is a state where there is no government? There is no governance? there is no authority structure? there is no dominant actor? there is nobody making choices for others? there is freedom? there is no organization? there is no government but there are large multinational non democratic organizations dominating world politics? There are international structures that see to that powerful actors become even more powerful?

            I think Chomsky would fall towards a definition of the word with that there is freedom, while the right would probably think of it more as that there is no organization. Perhaps one could use it for the last definition but I feel the word simply becomes a world where: The powerful do what they like, and the rest do what they must (or whatever it was Thucydides wrote, and Chomsky likes to quote). Well if that is anarchy, then I am happy to say that we have it already.

            I would like to believe that anarchy does mean positive freedom.

            1. jrs

              There are rules passed by governments (the trade agreements) that enable these non-government bodies. In the U.S. those rules are even the highest laws of the land. Yea I don’t think you can use the word anarchy to describe that by any definition of anarchy.

              It is a fairly complex relationships of States to even characterize (it might be a feature not a bug, for things to be come more and more detached, abstract, unfathomable) but to use the word anarchy doesn’t seem to add anything regardless of how we are defining it. And how will IP be enforced by this “anarchy” anyway?

              1. Student

                I am not sure that it will look that much different from today. Essentially these organizations do need strong undemocratic governments (the average American has near zero influence on policy in the United States, when corrected for the top income bracket [see Gilens and Page issue 3 vol 12 of Perspectives on Politics]) to enforce property laws. If Lazzarato, in The Making of the Indebted Man, is correct that the creditor-debtor relationship is the essential characteristic of capitalism, then the government systems, though perhaps powerless in certain instances in comparison to international bodies, will have to be able to keep populations in check so as not to lose the legally defined property that allows for the creditor-debtor relationship to exist in the first place.

                Some of the most important aspects of the creditor-debtor relationship is that governments will be acting on behalf of trade interest, which equal financial interests. As for example the is the case when it is argued in the recent report by people close to the US government (Revising US Grand Strategy Toward China by Blackwell and Tellis [ironically a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace acc wikipedia] where they argue for upgrading the Japanese military in order to reduce Chinese power in Asia, despite the US previously having removed that same military.

                So what they want is something close to what we have today where it is close to impossible to get out of the dept relationship (the average American has negative net value, and Greece is getting further into debt despite voters clearly asking for a stop to the troika controlled plan) and where governments are willing to impose similar laws on others through militarization if necessary. Of course that does not mean that it always goes as planned. New conflicts in eastern Europe, or potential conflicts in Asia with new militarization could of course destroy all creditor-deptor relationships in one go.

  22. digi_owl

    Swap nationalism with brand loyalty (or just call it tribalism), and you may wonder if we already have corporate fascism already.

    Never mind that once that switchover has been made, what comes to mind is the company loyalty found in Japan (and maybe also South Korea). There supposedly workers will only drink brands of beer affiliated with the company they work for etc.

  23. JohnT

    A stunningly good article in the sense that it arouses/invites intelligent response as reflected in the comments and should be read with the comments section as a whole. Read this way it provides a concise (considering the complexity) overview of how the world is evolving.

  24. MaroonBulldog

    The emerging totalitarian world order will be characterized by oligarchic empires with oligopolistic cartelized economies. Instead of using the powers of the ubiquitous surveillance state to punish and break up monopolies and oligopolistic cartels, the oligarchs will use those powers to enforce them. Disputes among the oligarchs and oligopolists will be resolved in their own systems of private tribunals, whose proceedings and judgments will be kept strictly secret from everyone but the oligopolists and oligarchs themselves.

    Some progressive will write an thesis exposing this: “Surveillance State Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Crony Capitalism.” This thesis will be roundly mocked as disapproved belief.

    1. MaroonBulldog

      Probably not much. What do you suppose constitutional lawyers actually do, and where do you suppose they practice?

      Half the time, constitutional lawyers are found defending actions that might be unconstitutional. The other half of the time, they attack them.

      To me, the constitutional lawyers who matter are the small segment of lawyers who brief and argue cases in the United States Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court decides what it’s docket is going to be–most cases go up on petitions for discretionary review, and it takes 4 votes from 4 justices to get a case on its docket. It takes five votes to decide a case. So getting a case on the docket is not tell you how it will come out–The Supreme Court might do anything.

      Now the President appoints the justices, and the Senate confirms them, and the justices know who sent them. The TPP is only going to get on its docket if 4 justices want it there.

  25. Marko

    We need a new word to describe the system our overlords control. Something that evokes its dark , ugly , and evil nature.

    The only thing I can come up with is “Cheneyism”.

  26. Gee

    Well, I must say, that was a bit overwhelming to read through. At the start of the comments, I thought up a word I would use. By the end of the comments, it had not quite been said, but almost been said. And it was Inverted Fascism. Regardless, I think global corporatocracy sums it up as well.

  27. Paul Tioxon

    Joe is correct to make the use of the fascist label an irrelevant and not very useful part of any discussion about our current global capitalist system. The treaty deals are trans-national commensurate with transnational capital flows. Fascism is exclusively a nationalistic response to the transnational infringement of some hegemony, in the past, the British Empire and its banking system. Today, the fading hegemony of the USA is making its most recent military setbacks compounded by economic setbacks into a negotiated institutional arrangement reflecting a multi-polar world. These arrangements, economic in this instance, is to reaffirm the critical need for alliance if dominance can not be assured. A move required by the abject failure of The New American Century Project and the military failure in Iraq. When the militarism faction of capitalism fails to maintain, much less project and expand power, try diplomatic maneuvers. This of course is a good thing, diplomacy that is, not these specific trade pacts and the opposite of the violent capture of power, the hallmark of fascism.

    By switching strategies to maintain power in light of the crisis of capitalism, the routinized trade pacts will displace the market mechanism, as the principle medium of the social order among nations. A United Nations global order as set forward after WWII was to displace European colonial power. It is not United Kingdoms and their colonies and Dictatorships and nations, but NATIONS as the primary political unit of a recognized territorial authority. Recognition by other nations grants nationhood as much as desire and capacity to set up centralized territorial authority within a proscribed border. Liberalism with the individual and his property as the centerpiece of trade, creating the market system with money as the financial enabler for profit taking, wages and taxation no longer works to keep the powerful in power in the face of the currency issuing power of a central treasury of a nation as money stands today in the 21st century.

    Another form of maintaining power and the status and privileges it brings is being worked out among the powerful using these trade pacts displacing the market and the national legislative bodies to a degree. The market can no longer guarantee power flowing consistently to the same people generation after generation. The future power holders can not abide more Mark Zuckerburgs displacing Rockefellers, Dukes of Windsor and Emirs. It is the proof of American Hegemony waning and facing a growing multi-polar world. The USA must scramble to include trusted allies as it relatively loses power to the growing economies of China, India and Europe. This is what not having real hegemony looks like, you have to negotiate more to get what you want instead of just demanding it, by showing up with shock and awe. We lost in Korea, we lost in Viet Nam and we lost in Iraq. War is a failed strategy. It has failed in the 20th and now the 21st centuries.

  28. two beers

    This discussion illustrates a fundamental difference between libs/progressives and conservatives.
    Libs and progressives are earnest and literal, and use language that is prudent, precise, footnoted, referenced, descriptive, reflective, logical, and unimflammatory. Academic.

    Conservatives are angry and focused (if very, very confused). They use language that is broad, symbolic, emotional, illogical, persuasive, teleological, and inflammatory.

    Guess which one is a movement that has controlled American politics for decades, and which one is a feeble and enervated shell of what it once was?

    The TPP isn’t precisely fascism as understand it, but it has important similarities, goals, and outcomes. Jane Q Voter will know what you’re talking about when you say TPP is a dangerous step towards fascism, and you might even get her riled up to do something about it (vote, write a letter, march), but she’ll quickly lose interest if you use bloodless language that is suited for a paper but wrong for the type of public discourse that can get typically unattentive people thinking politically.

  29. makedoanmend

    Oh god of market, intervene in our behalf! O god of market work your invisible magic. Those who profess their faith have become profane. They have left the true path. We implore you! (In the meantime, since market is all powerful and ultimately self correcting when left alone by mere mortals, we can just kick back and wait for market to punish the profane and return to business as usual at some time in the future. Stay tuned while we play these messages for your enjoyment.)

  30. Maju

    Strongly in disagreement: “nationalism” is only a trait of fascism as aid to Imperialism, be it as ideology of the imperialist power or as assistant ideology for a subservient but still fascist colonial entity (“comprador” fascism, as in Spain, Greece or Chile). Furthermore, I’d dare say that fascism (which is a reactionary ideology drinking in the pre-modern past) has its precursors in very “internationalist” entities: Roman Empire, Christianity or, in a different cultural context, Islam for example. These proto-fascist entities did have a “national” or quasi-ethnic component to them: Romans vs Barbarians (even if anyone could aspire to become a Roman, not the racist kind of fascism), Christians vs Pagans, Muslims vs Kafiris, etc. There is an us vs them but the categorization is flexible enough to allow others to join us, else we’d risk becoming weak and isolated. Smart, semi-inclusive fascism.

    In our case the “national” or ethnic element is “the West” (with a White Anglosaxon core but open to various incorporations within that expansible linguistic frame, even secondary languages like German, French or Spanish are acceptable, as much as Greek or Aramean were in the Roman Empire). It’s the old “good” Roman fascism that Mussolini spoused, exactly that. And if that’s not enough, I’ll add that I know nobody who defends the USA and its imperialist frame with more ardor than my half-Italian fanatically fascist mother (she’d be a Tea Partier in the USA).

    Fascism is just the name of Naked Capitalism (not this blog of course but the real thing).

    1. Tammy

      “These proto-fascist entities did have a “national” or quasi-ethnic component to them: Romans vs Barbarians (even if anyone could aspire to become a Roman, not the racist kind of fascism), Christians vs Pagans, Muslims vs Kafiris, etc. There is an us vs them but the categorization is flexible enough to allow others to join us, else we’d risk becoming weak and isolated.”

      Jew vs. Gentile (anyone who wasn’t a Jew) can be added to your examples, which to be fair can be predated back to the roots of Zoroastrianism if I recall correctly.

  31. Tammy

    I’m utilizing Paul Krugman’s book, End This Depression Now! as an economic academic source of expertise re the context that gave rise to isms – fascism being one of those isms in the Great Depression era.

    I think “Positive Psychology” and/ or self-determination philosophy can be verified as psychological abuse when austerity is knowingly created. I think in the year 2015 we should analyze technocracy (hence my question about the OWS movement), cybernetics, trans-nationalism, and pan-nationalism.

    Frankly, I thought the third paragraph of this essay was logical but verged into gender identify, which I thought interrupted the argument you were making. I would have mentioned flash crashes and spoofing because of our global economic crash – the Great Recession, looking at financial similarities between the GD and the GR.

    Not that gender identity isn’t important; I thought it was mixing apples and oranges. Anyway, trans-humanism is a complex topic and although I practice human dignity no matter one’s gender or sexual identity I can’t say this practiced by our trans-humanism community as much as some would claim.

    I think gender studies that have been practiced on a generation (or two or three) of our kids under Social Darwinians should be investigates with youth depression and suicide up. To be clear I am not suggesting Paul Krugman’s book investigates studies I’ve mentioned. He does state, “(I told you that we’re suffering from runaway academic sociology.)”

    Anyway, I am not sure without verification what to think about George Soros funding of some of these social studies. I do think Obama should have been more objective about what his involvement with Soros would imply, especially after the situation of Soros and the London financing sector.

    (Maybe I am mixing apples and oranges but I don’t think so.)

  32. Ernesto Lyon

    The reason TPP is so dangerous is that large institutions must be run on an explicit set of rules. In order for a power structure to project itself into many places at once, manipulating many anonymous decision-makers simultaneously, it cannot depend on personal contacts passing hidden messages. There needs to be a playbook, and there needs to be a system that can enforce compliance with the playbook. That’s what TPP is about. It’s the New World Order.

    1. Ulysses

      “There needs to be a playbook, and there needs to be a system that can enforce compliance with the playbook. That’s what TPP is about. It’s the New World Order.”

      Very well said! The transnational kleptocrats are already so powerful that very few people are able to seriously disrupt their wealth extraction schemes. What this new system will do is allow this de facto power to become the de jure, predictable reality. Whenever any feeble attempt of ordinary people to challenge predatory giants, like the owners of Monsanto, gains any traction, the doctrine of “lost expected profits” will be invoked to squelch it.

      The novel trilogy of Margaret Atwood– Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MadAddams, present an all-too-plausible vision of what this New World may look like.

  33. Demeter

    When you have all finished rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic….there won’t be anyone alive who cares what you call it.

  34. Tammy

    Mr. Firestone – I’m not attempting to be obsessive about the TPP re your preceding analysis titled, The New York Times Soft-Pedals the Dangers of the TPP, in which you concluded “In my view, this trade-off isn’t in accord with public purpose, and it gives away key aspects of the sovereignty of the United States. In addition, it undermines American democracy and takes another step down the true road to serfdom. Let’s not take that step. Instead, let’s send the TPPers packing, along with their brain child and their other current proposals, the TTIP and the TISA, two more contemptible spawn of rampant neoliberalism. national sovereignty” but are you retracting your argument now stating, “First, as obnoxious and damaging to national sovereignty, and other very important things we value the ISDS tribunals may be, I don’t think they are a government as much as they are a regulatory mechanism over national and sub-national governments limiting the sovereignty of the nation states and sub-national areas they govern, and constraining their legislation to laws and implementation rules that will benefit multinational corporations only.”?

    I ask because while rereading your article yesterday I noted on your article I printed out a question asking what multinational corporation? Ironically, at that very moment David Wilson of Bloomberg radio mention, “The dollar’s reversal is poised to revive shares of companies that generate most of their sales overseas, according to Dubravko Lakos-Bujas, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s chief U.S. equity strategist.”

    Thus, I perhaps agree with you “That habituation will result in national decisions that take great care to implement as small an impact on the profits of multinationals as possible. This result will be especially acute for those nations whose ability to create net financial assets is limited by their status as currency users rather than currency issuers. So, the nations of the Eurozone will be particularly hard hit, as will other nations who have large debts in currencies other than their own.”

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